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Politics



All Reason.com articles with the "Politics" tag.



Published: Sun, 30 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2017 08:38:33 -0400

 



When Laws Become Partisan Weapons

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 00:01:00 -0400

The political culture war briefly erupted yet again last week when Sarah Palin posted a photo of Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, and herself at the White House, mocking defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's official portrait from her years as first lady. At a guess, the eruption over the White House photo was mission accomplished for President Trump's dinner guests. Whatever their past political and musical accomplishments, the trio seemingly exist now primarily to represent their own political tribe and to provoke the opposition. That's a pretty easy gig given that Americans are not only increasingly alienated from each other's politics, but also from each other's lifestyles and cultural markers. You don't have to look too closely to see a disturbing lesson here in how this empowers the country's dominant political tribes to effortlessly taunt each other by waving cultural flags—or putting the legal screws to lifestyle choices that aren't overtly partisan. "For the first time in surveys dating to 1992, majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party," Pew found last summer. "And today, sizable shares of both Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but fear and anger." Anger? How do you get so angry at your neighbors and beer buddies over how they cast their votes? Except that they're not neighbors, they're not buddies, and many members of America's political tribes don't just think differently, they live differently. In the lead up to the presidential election, The Washington Post reported that surprisingly few Trump supporters knew Clinton voters, and vice versa. That seems bizarre until you read that the newspaper's survey "also found cultural differences between Clinton voters and Trump voters, reflected in their ties to guns, gays and even hybrid vehicles," and that "the separation here seeps into the micro level, down to the particular neighborhoods, schools, churches, restaurants and clubs that tend to attract one brand of partisan and repel the other." This continues a phenomenon noted by Bill Bishop, author of the 2008 book, The Big Sort. "Beginning in 1992, the percentage of people living in landslide counties began an upward, stairstep progression," he wrote of Americans' geographical concentration into like-minded communities. But those ideological migrants didn't necessarily check voter registration records and pick houses in neighborhoods with critical masses of Rs or Ds. Instead, they "were reordering their lives around their values, their tastes, and their beliefs. They were clustering in communities of like-mindedness." As it turns out, a preference for living in open spaces tends to correlate with voting Republican, while Democrats have a marked preference for walkable urban neighborhoods. Hobbies, tastes, memberships, and religious practices also take divergent paths. As people settle into these chosen lifestyles-and-politics package deals, they tend to become more like what they've selected and to associate contrasting choices with the "enemy," according to researchers. "When cultural tastes in turn have a reciprocal effect on personal networks, such divisions are likely to be even further exaggerated, leading to a starkly divided world of latte-sipping liberals and bird-hunting conservatives," Daniel DellaPosta, Yongren Shi, and Michael Macy of Cornell University wrote in "Why Do Liberals Drink Lattes?" a paper published in 2015 in the American Journal of Sociology. Which is why Kid Rock, Nugent, and Palin really have to do little more than show up to get opposing tribe members all upset. They're walking red flags to Team Blue. The other side plays the game, too. Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer can relieve their boredom any given day by posting something to Twitter about abortion or guns. They'll generate the usual social media storm, secure in the knowledge that there's little risk in playing to their ideologically simpatico fans. But taunting opponents is just good clean fun, right? It gets more dang[...]



New College Crime Bill Deputizes Professors as Campus Security, Further Federalizes Campus Rape Investigations, and Adds Huge Fines for Schools That Don't Comply

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:45:00 -0400

Under a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate, a vast new array of higher-education employees—including all staff and faculty at some schools—would be designated as campus security authorities. The bill would also impose new penalties on colleges and universities for failure to comply with a range of staffing, surveying, training, and outreach demands, which could cost schools millions upon an initial violation. The bill—sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dean Heller (R-Nevada), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), and Mark Warner (D-Virginia)—aims to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, specifically the section colloquially known as the Clery Act. In a press release announcing their "Campus Accountability and Safety Act" (CASA), the senators invoke the Title IX, the federal rule prohibiting sex-discrimination in education, and a need to place "higher incentives on all universities ... to empower student survivors and hold perpetrators accountable." If CASA passes, expect to see campus crime numbers—of all sorts—skyrocket. One of the more bizarre provisions of the bill stipulates that "each individual at an institution of higher education who is designated as a higher education responsible employee… shall be considered a campus security authority." Under federal code, higher education responsible employees are those required to report sexual misconduct to campus Title IX staff, even if the victim/confessor doesn't want to report the incident. But federal law is vague about who exactly falls into this category, leaving schools to develop their own more specific—and expansive—definitions. At some schools, all faculty and staff have been given responsible-employee status; many have expanded it to include all professors, or all people working with student athletics and extracurriculars. What does it mean if each of these folks is designated as a "campus security authority?" It's unclear how much effect it would have on day-to-day campus policy. But for purposes of an institution's annual security report, this change would be a big deal. Under federal law, colleges and universities receiving any federal funding must report annually on the numbers of sexual violence and misconduct incidents reported to campus security authorities or local police each year, along with numbers on a range of other incidents, from murder to burglary to hate crimes. CASA would expand sex-offense reporting requirements to include non-identifying details about each incident (such as whether the victim reported the incident to a Title IX coordinator, whether they sought disciplinary action against the accused, the number of accused found guilty, and whether force or weapons were involved). But more importantly, campus incidents are currently only included on annual security reports if they were reported to local police or campus security authorities—a category which has traditionally meant the campus police department. By drastically expanding the number of people defined as campus security authorities, we drastically expand the category of incidents included in annual security reports. Now we aren't just talking about incidents in which victims wanted to get authorities involved, or in which the offense was serious enough to warrant police attention regardless; any time a student confides in a professor, coach, drama director, resident adviser, etc., about something that could potentially be an offense—a verbally abusive romantic partner, a dorm-mate who shared an offensive web video, a classmate who made a disparaging remark about trans people, a sexual encounter fuzzily remembered—the listener would be obligated to report it to campus administrators for inclusion on the annual crime report. It's a surefire way to discourage students from talking to faculty and staff about their personal lives at all and/or artificially ramp up federal stats on campus crime data. The 2017[...]



March for Science: R&D Funding Is Not Falling - It's at an All Time High

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:35:00 -0400

On Saturday I wandered down to the National Mall to hang out with the folks who were participating in the March for Science. Despite the rain, the crowd was mostly in a celebratory and not too overtly partisan mood. The event's kick-off on the grounds of the Washington Monument was a series of short speeches punctuated by musical interludes. For instance, the crowd was amused by Thomas Dolby performing his hit "She Blinded Me With Science." Several of the speakers mentioned their worries about proposed cuts in federal R&D funding, and a couple even suggested that R&D funding had been falling for decades. "Federal support has been dropping since the 1960s," declared Lydia Villa-Komaroff, former CEO of a cell biology company called Cytonome and a co-chair of the March to NBC News. Villa-Komaroff's claim is at best misleading. It is true that the percentage of the federal budget devoted to R&D has been falling since the space race with Soviet Union abated, but the amounts in real dollars that the Feds have spent on R&D have risen more or less steadily over the past four decades. In November 2016, the National Science Foundation reported that U.S. R&D spending is at an all time high of $499 billion in 2015. As the American Institute of Physics noted, "Businesses funded $355 billion, or 69 percent, continuing a long-term trend of private enterprise financing an increasingly large majority of R&D nationwide. The federal government, the second-largest funder of U.S. R&D, sponsored an estimated $113 billion, or 23 percent of the total." "Those private sector efforts are now the dominant form of research activity in the United States, with business spending $3 on research for every $1 invested by the U.S. government. In the 1960s the federal government outspent industry by a two-to-one margin, but the balance tipped in 1980," noted Science in its report on the NSF's R&D funding study. Of course, many of the Marchers for Science are concerned that President Trump's "skinny budget" that aims to cut federal R&D funding to support his military buildup might actually happen. This seems unlikely. That being said, I share below some of the signs at the March for Science rally that I rather liked. [...]



Election Do-Over Poll Shows Gains for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 10:36:00 -0400

(image) If the people who participated in last year's election could do it all again, Donald Trump would win the popular vote this time—but he wouldn't actually get more support than before. Instead, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, many Hillary Clinton voters would now stay home or back a third-party candidate.

In the actual election, Clinton bested Trump in the popular vote, 48 percent to 46 percent. In the survey, 46 percent said they voted for Clinton and 43 percent said they voted for Trump—not the same numbers, obviously, but it's a similar margin. When those same people were asked who they'd pick if they could do it again, Trump now won, 43 to 40.

You'll note that Trump hasn't gotten any more popular—he gets 43 percent either way. But Clinton has bled support: Gary Johnson now gets 5 percent of the vote (one point higher than how the respondents said they voted last year), Jill Stein gets 3 percent (another one-point bump), and another 8 percent would either vote for someone else or not vote at all. (The remainder say they have no opinion.) The pollsters note that "nonwhites are 10 points more likely than whites to say they would not support Clinton again, with more than a third of them heading to the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson."

It's not all bad news for the Clintonites, though. When you include people who didn't vote in 2016, Clinton comes out ahead in the do-over, 41 percent to 37 percent. (Johnson and Stein are still at 5 and 3 percent, respectively.) So some nonvoters appear to wish they hadn't sat the last election out.

But when it comes to third-party supporters, we don't seem to be seeing anything like the regretful Ralph Nader voters of 2000. If anything, this poll suggests we're witnessing the opposite.

Bonus link: "Again and again this year, Americans looked at the choices before them and said, I'd prefer something else."




Scientists' March on Washington: New at Reason

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:30:00 -0400

(image) In the flush of excitement after the post-inaugural Women's March on Washington, someone in a Reddit conversation suggested, "There needs to be a Scientists' March on Washington." Sensing that a march on Washington might sound too aggressively partisan, the organizers have now renamed the event the March for Science. That march will take place tomorrow, on Earth Day, which the coordinators somehow figured would be the perfect nonpartisan date on which to muster tens of thousands of scientists and their comrades on the National Mall.

The event's mission statement proclaims that the marchers "unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest." Setting aside the fact that the march was conceived in the immediate wake of the decidedly partisan and specifically anti-Trump Women's March on Washington, how credible are these claims to non-partisanship?




Is Comedy a Form of Political Resistance? Nick Gillespie at Cato Unbound

Mon, 17 Apr 2017 17:45:00 -0400

(image) My contribution to Cato Unbound's "The Very Serious Comedy Issue" will be posted at the site tomorrow. In the meantime, catch up with standup Jeremy McLellan's opening essay, "Bombing on Stage: Comedy as Political Resistance," in which the talented performer (he emceed the recent International Students for Liberty Conference) argues

Comedy is inherently anti-authoritarian. As Stanley Hauerwas once said, "If you desire to rule the world, the incomprehensibility of the world must be denied or tamed. What cannot be tolerated are forms of humor that might make the attempt to control a dangerous world absurd." In short: You are not God, and it's the job of the comic to remind you of that.

Another standup, Lou Perez (who runs We The Internet and has performed at FreedomFest.com) offers up this:

When an online magazine like Paste poses the question, "What is comedy's role under Trump?" I have to respond, "Well, what the fuck was comedy's role under Obama?"

(image) Is Paste implying that comedians should no longer be cheerleaders for the executive branch and its party—but just for the next four years? Or is Paste saying that we should get back to that whole speaking-truth-to-power thing from now on—no matter who's in power?

And Duke University political scientist and 2008 Libertarian candidate for governor of North Carolina Michael Munger writes

[Political] humor then arises out of a logically consistent but unexpected and possibly unsettling reframing. There is twist that forces us into a change in point of view, but the twist is hidden in the setup of the joke and we could have seen it coming if we had been aware of the trick.

For political humor, the "misdirection" is the unquestioned and perhaps even unrecognized assumptions the listener or reader makes about the political world. The "incongruity theory" of humor argues that the human mind, for whatever reason, is attracted to situations where we expect one thing to happen, but what actually happens is something else. That seems a pretty apt description of the political process recently.

My rejoinder to McLellan, Perez, and Munger is infused with the spirit of the recently departed insult comic Don Rickles. Which is to say that I take a bunch of swings at each of them. Along the way, I work hard to alienate as many people as humanly possible in 1,200 or so words.

Tune in tomorrow to see how I did.




What Washington's Farewell Address Tells Us About Trump's America (Reason Podcast)

Sun, 16 Apr 2017 10:00:00 -0400

When George Washington left the White House in 1796 and retired from public life, John Avlon explains, he wrote "this memo...to future generations in which he is consciously trying to marry the past, the present of 1796, the future, and the forces that had destroyed democratic republics in the past. The big three forces are hyper-partisanship, excessive debt and foreign wars." Avlon is the editor in chief of The Daily Beast and the author of Washington's Farewell: The Founding Father's Warning to Future Generations, a bold reinterpretation of the most widely read political speech in 19th-century America. For generations, Washington's 6,000-word long final speech was "civic scripture" that presidents and citizens alike used to steer clear of the excesses that might undermine the country. In a wide-ranging conversation with Reason's Nick Gillespie (a Beast columnist), Avlon argues that the country's only independent president created an "eerily prescient" roadmap that might allow 21st-century America to re-center itself when it comes to overseas wars and foreign alliances that serve other nations' interests above our own, ruinous debt created by entitlement spending, and moderate the excesses of vitriol that has led to a "deadlocked democracy." He also discusses his time as chief speechwriter for Mayor Rudy Giuliani and why The Daily Beast continues to gain traffic even as many legacy media outlets see shrinking audiences. Produced by Ian Keyser. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/317931784%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-8xx4b&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: John, thanks for talking to us. John Avlon: Hey, Nick. Sure. Nick Gillespie: I want to get right to it. You talked in the book about Washington's Farewell Address which is more kind of known in the abstract in the present. I want to hear you talk about why it's important that we read the whole 6,000 word bit today, but you talk about how Washington used his farewell address to proclaim first principles that could offer enduring solutions. The pursuit of peace through strength, the wisdom of moderation, the importance of virtue and education to a self-governing people, as he established the precedent of the peaceful transfer of power. I guess my first question is, how did Washington know what was going to happen in 2016? John Avlon: I'm not sure his crystal ball was that good, but John Adams famously said that there hasn't yet been a democracy that didn't die by suicide. Every attempt at a democratic republic had ended into failure and what I don't think we adequately appreciate today is that the Founding Fathers were very consciously drawing on history, an understanding of how democratic republics had failed in the past in an attempt to solve for some of those problems. They did not have perfect crystal balls. They couldn't have imagined necessarily America in 2017 of course, but they were trying to tap into deeper truths, eternal principles. That's why what's so fascinating about the farewell, it's this memo from the first Founding Father to future generations in which he is consciously trying to marry the past, the present of 1796, and the future, and the forces that had destroyed democratic republics in the past are eerily prescient. The big three forces are hyperpartisanship, excessive debt and foreign wars. We in America are a relatively young country still, but we do not exist on a plain larger than history and the larger forces [...]



What HBO's Veep Gets Right About Politics: New at Reason

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:45:00 -0400

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Oc6hzphlCi8" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">

Every television series based in the White House inevitably has to grapple with one fundamental question: what motivates politicians?

And it's HBO's hit comedy Veep, now entering its sixth season, that's actually figured it out.

Almost two decades ago, The West Wing presented one answer in the form of President Jed Bartlet, whom creator Aaron Sorkin imagined as a straight-talking statesman and public servant who transcends partisan politics and puts the common good of the American people above all else.

If The West Wing is idealistic White House fan fiction, Netflix's breakout series, House of Cards, is its dark reflection.

House of Cards imagines a Washington, D.C. in which corruption and blackmail are the murky waters in which politicians swim. In this world, only the predators survive, and Frank Underwood and his wife and co-conspirator Claire devour anything in their paths.

But it's Veep, that actually gets American politics right. It doesn't fantasize that politicians are flawed but heroic figures, nor the inverse that they are inherently sinister monsters. Veep proposes something more radical: Politicians aren't special.

Political theorists call this simple insight, that self-interest is the driving force of politics, public choice theory—a theory Nobel Prize-Winning economist James Buchanan called "politics without romance."

Watch the video above for the full explanation. Approximately 4:30. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Meredith Bragg.




What HBO's Veep Gets Right About Politics

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 13:22:00 -0400

Every television series based in the White House inevitably has to grapple with one fundamental question: what motivates politicians?

And it's HBO's hit comedy Veep, now entering its sixth season, that's actually figured it out.

Almost two decades ago, The West Wing presented one answer in the form of President Jed Bartlet, whom creator Aaron Sorkin imagined as a straight-talking statesman and public servant who transcends partisan politics and puts the common good of the American people above all else.

If The West Wing is idealistic White House fan fiction, Netflix's breakout series, House of Cards, is its dark reflection.

House of Cards imagines a Washington, D.C. in which corruption and blackmail are the murky waters in which politicians swim. In this world, only the predators survive, and Frank Underwood and his wife and co-conspirator Claire devour anything in their paths.

But it's Veep, that actually gets American politics right. It doesn't fantasize that politicians are flawed but heroic figures, nor the inverse that they are inherently sinister monsters. Veep proposes something more radical: Politicians aren't special.

Political theorists call this simple insight, that self-interest is the driving force of politics, public choice theory—a theory Nobel Prize-Winning economist James Buchanan called "politics without romance."

Watch the video above for the full explanation. Approximately 4:30. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Meredith Bragg.




Why Disgraced Congressman Trey Radel Went Crazy (And America Will Too)

Wed, 12 Apr 2017 17:00:00 -0400

The first rule of the Congressional Fight Club, says Trey Radel, is "don't buy cocaine from a federal agent." In January 2013, Radel came to Washington as a Republican congressman representing Florida's 19th district, an area that includes Fort Meyers and Naples. He had been a TV anchor prior to his win and he ran on a libertarian-leaning Tea Party platform of shrinking the size, scope, and spending of the government. Just a year later, Radel resigned from Congress after getting busted buying drugs and pleading guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession. Ironically, Radel has always been a staunch critic of the drug war. In his riveting new memoir about his short time in office, he documents not just his self-destruction but a political system that puts maintaining the unsustainable status quo and fattening party coffers first and philosophical ideals and good policy last. Democrazy: A True Story of Weird Politics, Money, Madness, and Finger Food is a no-holds-barred account of what it's like to come to Washington and really, really screw up. More than that, though, it reveals a system that needs radical reform if the United States is going to avert an entitlements-driven financial crisis and a drift toward even greater polarization and economic stagnation. In a wide-ranging conversation with Nick Gillespie, Radel explains the compulsions that destroyed his political career; doubles down on libertarian positions regarding the drug war, civil liberties, and foreign policy; and articulates his worries that Americans won't demand systemic change until the country has gone "full Greek." "I fear," he says, "that Donald Trump is going to slip into George W. Bush-era policy that led itself to making Republicans disaffected, which was this: Let's lower taxes, increase spending, and pray to God the economy booms. I'm afraid that's just not going to happen." Produced by Ian Keyser. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/317397506&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to Reason's award-winning print edition for just $15 a year! This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Trey, thanks for talking to us. Trey Radel: It's great to be with you. Thank you so much for having me. Nick Gillespie: You were a U.S. Congressman from the 19th District in Florida, is that right? Trey Radel: That is right. Nick Gillespie: Okay. Trey Radel: The Fort Myers-Naples area is where many of perhaps your retired grandparents live. Nick Gillespie: You entered office. You ran in 2012 as part of the last surge of the Tea Party, a professional broadcaster before that, and then you listed about a year in Congress. Tell our listeners, Reason's listeners, what happened, which I think will jog a lot of their memories. Trey Radel: Sure. The first rule of Fight Club, don't buy cocaine from a federal agent, is where I'd start. While I poke fun at myself, it sucked. I got caught up in some very bad, bad habits that ranged from drinking too much to making really stupid decisions. I paid a really serious, serious price. It's one thing to pay the price for a position that I worked very hard to get, which was a Representative in the United States Congress, and to get there and just toss it all away, but what was the hardest that I would quickly come to grips with was what it did to my family, to my wife, and really to my son, who's only five years old now but who will grow up knowing th[...]



Must We Take Sides in the 'Escalating Feud' Between Bannon and Kushner?

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 11:30:00 -0400

The New York Times describes an "escalating feud" between two presidential advisers: chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart News chairman, and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law. As with last year's contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton, it is hard to pick a side. I know, from the way the article is framed, that I am supposed to favor Kushner over Bannon. I just don't understand why. According to the Times, Bannon is "eager to close the nation's borders, dismantle decades of regulations, empower police departments and take on the establishment of both parties in Washington." I like half of those ideas and dislike the other half. Kushner, by contrast, wants to "soften Mr. Trump's rough edges and broaden his narrow popular appeal after months of historically low poll numbers." I do not see much advantage in that. The Times (along with The Washington Post) describes Kushner as "centrist-minded," which is supposed to be a compliment. It isn't. Notwithstanding Gary Johnson and Bill Weld's doomed attempt to rebrand libertarianism as a middle-of-the-road alternative to what the two major parties were offering, people described as "centrists" usually combine the worst aspects of left and right, united by an expansive view of government authority and a narrow view of individual rights. In Kushner's favor, the Times says he was opposed to Trump's cruel, half-baked, unnecessary, and possibly unconstitutional ban on travelers from certain overwhelmingly Muslim countries. But Kushner also is "more inclined toward intervention in the Middle East, while Mr. Bannon would prefer that the United States remain as uncommitted as possible." Bannon "has argued that American interests are better served by not getting drawn any further into the quagmire of a civil war." Trump used to say that too (it was one of his few redeeming features), until he watched the news the other day. The Times says the conflict between Bannon and Kushner is about "ideology" as well as "personality" and "ambition," but the article says very little about Bannon's views and even less about Kushner's. Bannon is an "edgy, nationalist bomb-thrower suddenly in the seat of power," while Kushner is "the polished, boyish-looking scion of New Jersey and New York real estate." Again, I know which one the Times prefers, but the preference seems pretty arbitrary, even at this superficial level. Why isn't Bannon "the wealthy former investment banker and Hollywood producer"? The Post, which describes Bannon as "an unkempt iconoclast," says the "the ultimate argument against him," according to "one person with knowledge of the situation," is that "Bannon isn't making 'Dad' look good." There's a cause with the potential to unite half a dozen people. The Post says Bannon "has cast the tensions as a confrontation between the nationalists and the liberal Democrats, whom he worries are eager to undercut the populist movement that helped lift Trump to victory." If nationalism means protectionism, a border wall, and mass deportations, I am against it. If it means a leeriness of foreign intervention, the United Nations, and the indiscriminate urge to copy the policies of supposedly more enlightened countries, that sounds pretty good to me. Populism likewise could connote suspicion of political elites, a bias toward local control, and opposition to crony capitalism, or it could mean catering to envy, ignorance, and bigotry. The difference is important. On the flip side, it would be nice if the "liberal Democrats" within the administration were pushing free trade, civil liberties, and criminal justice reform, as opposed to increased federal spending, gun control, and government-mandated employee benefits. But if their main goal is softening Trump's "rough edges" and making him "look good,[...]



Proposed Tweak to Internet Law Could Spur Seismic Shifts in Web as We Know It

Sun, 02 Apr 2017 10:32:00 -0400

A draft bill in the House of Representatives would add sex trafficking to the list of crimes excluded from the protection of the Communication Decency Act (CDA), a Geocities-era law with an important provision on internet publishing. That provision—Section 230—would prove crucial to the development of the "World Wide Web" as we know it, allowing for a world in which social networks and participatory media could thrive. The new House proposal is portrayed as a mere tweak to Section 230, one which would make it easier to catch bad guys while having little effect on online communication. Don't believe it. Simply put, Section 230 protects web publishers and platforms—from Facebook and Reddit to The New York Times to Petfinder.com—from being legally culpable for things that third parties post or upload, at least when it comes to state crimes and civil lawsuits. (Federal criminal offenses are not afforded Section 230 protection.) If you're found to be criminally harassing someone via Twitter, the company can't be prosecuted for it. If a magazine commenter makes libelous statements, the publication can't be sued for libel. If a 16-year-old meets a 19-year-old on Facebook and they begin a sexual relationship, Facebook can't be charged for statuatory rape. And so on. "It's the reason I can't sue [Snapchat CEO] Evan Spiegel for harassment if a dude sends me unsolicited pictures of his dick on Snapchat," writes Kate Knibbs in this excellent and detailed piece about adult-advertising and Section 230. "This protection has been absolutely essential to the development of the internet in this country and really around the world," the Center for Democracy & Technology's Emma Llansó told Knibbs. Without it, web providers would "be in court all the time. And they'd run up inordinately high legal bills, even if they were ultimately successful in defending a case." The new House measure, sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) and dubbed the "No Immunity for Sex Traffickers Online Act," would carve out an exception to Section 230 for sex-trafficking offenses involving minors. Supporters portray it as a way to "hold sex traffickers accountable," but we already have sufficient penalties—at the state and federal level—for people who force, decieve, or coerce others into prostitution, as well as for anyone directly involved in the prostitution (forced or not) of a minor. And nothing in Section 230 of the CDA, nor in this new proposal, affects the way we treat folks found to be sexually exploiting others. What the change would do is make it possible for states to indict any app, website, or platform that introduces an underage person to a possible sex buyer as a conspirator in sex trafficking. And it would allow any underage person who was paid for sex to subsequently sue any website or web service remotely involved in the transaction. To be very clear, the change would not merely apply to classified-ad sites like Backpage, or to sites and services specializing in escort advertising. Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and similar social platforms have all helped introduce underage sex-trafficking victims to perpetrators in recent U.S. cases. Victims often use use popular email providers, messaging apps, and text messaging to communicate with clients (police have been fond of late with charging sex workers with cell phones or laptops for felony possession of the instruments of a crime). Perhaps prosecutors won't go after these sites and services (I have my doubts), but regardless, victims can. With the proposed change, victims will have the right to sue any third-party web service that enabled their participation or exploitation in the sex trade. And in this case, victim means anyone under 18 whom someone paid for sex, regardless of whether [...]



Turns Out Congressional Republicans Don’t Really Want to Cut Spending

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 12:16:00 -0400

In a post yesterday about President Donald Trump's record number of Congressional Review Act-enabled repeals of regulations, I tacked on a bullet-pointed list of other Trumpian moves to roll back the regulatory state. Not included was his proposed budget, despite the fact that it features impressive year-over-year cuts to the executive branch—30.4 percent from the Environmental Protection Agency, 20.7 percent from the Departments of Labor and Agriculture, and so on. So why didn't I include Trump's proposed deconstruction of the administrative state? Because presidents don't pass budgets, and congressional Republicans don't want to cut spending. Last night, in an episode of The Fifth Column, I asked the great libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) to assess the realistic possibilities that Congress this year will approve such budgetary measures as a 30-plus percent cut in the EPA. "You want me to give you odds?" Massie said. "I'd go with five percent odds." To be clear, Massie is in the lonely minority that would delight in taking a machete to the regulatory state—the man did, after all, propose a one-sentence bill last month to abolish the Department of Education. But as we lurch from the Ryancare debacle to yet another self-inflicted government shutdown deadline of April 28, congressional Republicans are already going on the record as saying Trump's cuts, as predicted in this space, ain't happening. "We just voted to plus up the N.I.H.," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), complained to The New York Times, referencing Trump's proposed $1.2 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health. "It would be difficult to get the votes to then cut it." Also balking at the N.I.H. cuts are Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) ("It's penny-wise but pound-foolish") and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who told the Washington Examiner that "You don't pretend to balance the budget by cutting life-saving biomedical research when the real cause of the federal debt is runaway entitlement spending." More GOP objections, as reported by the NYT: Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, was more blunt. "I think it is too late for this year," she said about the proposed cuts, echoing several Republican colleagues. As for a border wall, which is not well supported by American voters, "that debate belongs in the next fiscal year," she said. […] "I'm not going to spend a lot of money on a wall," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "I'm not going to support a big cut to the N.I.H. I'm not going to support big cuts to the State Department." Recall, too, that Robert Draper of The New York Times Magazine quoted a "top House Republican staff member" on Trump's agency cuts thusly: "even the cabinet secretaries at the E.P.A. and Interior are saying these cuts aren't going to happen." So these are your politics for the next calendar month: The media and various activist/constituency groups will sound a never-ending alarm about the terrible effects of Trump's heartless budget cuts, while a unified Republican Congress that cannot even pass a budget anymore blunders along toward another artificial government-funding deadline that will likely result in some kind of spending deal that does not, in fact, cut spending. Good work, America![...]



The Cure For Trump-Related News Blues

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:00:00 -0400

Immediately after the election, there was a spate of reports about Clinton voters buying newspaper and magazine subscriptions as a way to keep an eye on Trump. Now, it looks like the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction—with the elite press, amusingly, offering readers advice on how to tune out. A New York Times Magazine travel article about Hawaii carries a subheadline describing the journey as "a desperate bid to escape the news." The Times Sunday etiquette column led with a question from a reader who wrote in a letter that began, "Lately I've been feeling depressed about the news, so I decided to avoid it." The Times technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, wrote a column about how he spent an entire week in which he "didn't read, watch or listen to a single story about anything having to do with our 45th president." A Times shopping column about a store that sells men's pajamas at prices starting at $266 a pair includes this complaint from the work-from-home journalist who wrote it: "the house no longer feels like such a safe space. There are CNN and all the other news channels on my TV, alerts from The New York Times and The Washington Post on my phone screen. Anxiety is persistent." And the president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, wrote a New York Times op-ed piece under the headline, "Depressed By Politics? Just Let Go." It said, "let's be honest: Many of us consume political news and commentary in a compulsive, concupiscent sort of way, voluntarily subjecting ourselves to gratuitous information and stimuli, particularly on social media. The unhappiness results speak for themselves." It all amounts to a statement about journalism today. The press has gotten away from its traditional job of just telling readers what the news is. Its new, self-appointed role involves advising people how they should feel about the news and how to get away from it. In so doing, the Times discloses a certain set of assumptions about the ideological uniformity of its own readership. After all, there may have been some Americans who could have used all this advice about dealing with news-related anxiety and depression back during the Obama administration. It was then that the president was raising taxes on job-creators, increasing the national debt, adding mountains of additional regulations on American businesses, stalling or blocking the approval of new oil and gas pipelines, and failing to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq. It was then that the president was straining America's relations with Israel in order to provide tens of billions of dollars to the terror-sponsoring, dissident-torturing regime in Iran. It was during the Obama administration that the headlines seemed full of videos of ISIS beheading American captives. Now Obama is gone. Instead there's a president in power, Donald Trump, who says he is interested in cutting taxes (at least the ones that aren't tariffs or "border adjustment" taxes), repealing ObamaCare, loosening job-killing regulations, allowing more energy exploration, eliminating wasteful government spending, and expanding school choice. This president says he wants to rebuild relations with Israel. He's nominated a Supreme Court justice who seems to revere the Constitution. There are plenty of Americans out there who aren't depressed, unhappy, anxious, or unhappy about this. Those Americans—tens of millions of them voted for Trump—are elated. Perhaps the Times is projecting. President Trump is fond of tweeting about the "failing" New York Times. If you're an editor or even a writer at a place that recently announced plans to employ "fewer editors," anxiety, depression, unhappiness, desperation, and a desire to escape [...]



This Former Congressman Is Against the War on Drugs

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 09:00:00 -0400

Editor's Note: In January 2013, Trey Radel came to Washington as a Republican congressman representing Florida's 19th district, an area that includes Fort Meyers and Naples. Radel had been a TV anchor prior to his win and he ran on a libertarian-leaning Tea Party platform of shrinking the size and spending of the government. Just a year later, Radel resigned from Congress after getting busted buying drugs and pleading guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession. Ironically, Radel was and is a critic of the drug war. In his riveting new memoir about his short time in office, Radel documents not just his self-destruction but a political system that always seems to put philosophical ideals and good policy last. Democrazy: A True Story of Weird Politics, Money, Madness, and Finger Food, is a no-holds-barred account of what it's like to come to Washington and really screw up. More than that, though, it reveals a system that needs radical reform. In this excerpt, Radel recounts the immediate aftermath of his drug bust, which was inevitably (and legitimately) tied to a vote to drug-test food-stamp recipients he had cast as part of a farm bill. During this awful time, it felt like every political pundit on the planet; every TV newscast, newspaper, and online publication; and every comedian in the world was coming after me. Although, after all those years of dreaming I'd be on SNL, I made it. Seth Meyers ripped me often on "Weekend Update." Every pundit and comedian seemed to take particular glee in my vote on the provision in the farm bill regarding food stamps and drug testing. Remember when I said that this vote would come back to bite me in the ass? It all started when the Huffington Post ran an article with the headline: "Trey Radel, Busted on Cocaine Charge, Voted for Drug Testing Food Stamp Recipients." The irony is the HuffPo reporter, in at least one of the articles, actually expounded on my view on the failed War on Drugs and my past votes focused on criminal justice reform. But, c'mon, who reads articles? At the lowest moment of my life, I was being savaged on national television for getting busted for drugs after voting to drug test food stamp recipients. After the press broke the massive farm bill down to a headline, the public boiled my vote down to one meme—a picture of me with white powder Photoshopped all over my face saying: "Republican votes to drug test food stamp recipients, gets busted for cocaine." The truth was that it had not been a single vote to "drug test these dirty dogs getting handouts!" It was part of the thousand-plus-page farm bill loaded with other provisions, and it gave states more power over how they wanted to administer their food stamps. I believe in "to each state its own," especially when it comes to addressing local issues and concerns. I thought that Washington's constant "one size fits all" mandates were doomed to fail. So while I am a Republican who is so libertarian that I could have been labeled a liberal because of my determination to end the War on Drugs and work with Democrats, it didn't matter. I was just another tea party asswipe who got busted for drugs and voted to drug test food stamp recipients. This was especially tough for me to take because I was and am such a staunch opponent of the War on Drugs. Our drug policies in the United States should be focusing on rehabilitation, not incarceration. There's a fiscally conservative argument for this because we throw away billions of dollars a year locking people up and turning our backs on them. Many times nonviolent drug offenders return to society lacking skills to get a job, or they're turned away from jobs because of their record. Worse, they come out[...]