breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Trump Deserves Some Credit for Stock Market Gains

In an era of political polarization, here’s one item that’s rapidly emerging as a rare bipartisan consensus: President Trump doesn’t deserve credit for the stock market boom since his election.

“Can we thank Trump for the stock market boom? Short answer, no,” a scholar at the center-right American Enterprise Institute, Desmond Lachman, wrote in a piece published by Newsweek.

The pollster to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and to President Obama, Joel Benenson, tweeted: “Truth about @realDonaldTrump’s ‘record’ stock mkt: he inherited from @BarackObama 2nd longest bull mkt in history.”

As with most items on which there is rare bipartisan consensus, however, this one deserves a skeptical look. To understand why, try imagining the opposite scenario. What if, after Trump’s election, the stock market’s value, as measured by indices such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Standard and Poor’s 500, and the Nasdaq Composite, had gone in the other direction? Imagine it had plunged 20 percent and eradicated $4 trillion or $5 trillion in value.

Does anyone really believe that the press, the think tank folks, and Democratic operatives would be running around explaining that really what happens in the stock market isn’t under Trump’s control, and that it’s really attributable instead to the preceding administration, the Federal Reserve, or the value of the dollar? No way. Instead they’d almost certainly be blaming Trump.

While Obama’s team now boasts about the stock market’s performance on his watch, it was singing a different tune back in March 2009. Politico reported back then, “Obama’s team has repeatedly cautioned reporters against judging him by the ups and downs – and lately downs–of the stock market, scraping 12-year lows.”

The stock market, in other words, is like a lot of things: politicians want to take credit for it when news is good, but absolve themselves of responsibility when news is bad. One might hope for a more consistent perspective from journalists or from independent research organizations. Imagine, say, an election-day to election-day presidential job-performance dashboard that included data on measures such as stock market performance, the value of the dollar, job creation, unemployment, labor force participation, and real GDP growth.

It can indeed be hard to isolate a president’s influence on all these things from other variables, such as, say, the composition of Congress. Should Obama or Bill Clinton get credit for the stock market booms in their terms? Or should the Republican Congresses under which they occurred? And how does one accurately account for the period post-election but pre-inauguration, when stock market gains may reflect anticipated improvements, but growth results measure existing budgets and policies?

In the cases of both the Bill Clinton and Obama stock market rallies, the prosperity wasn’t sufficient, or widely enough shared, to bring about the election of a successor from the Democratic Party. That is a caution for Trump. If he wants stock market gains to translate into re-election for himself or for a chosen successor, the index performance will have to translate into feelings of economic security and opportunity for individual voters.

No politician, however determined, can entirely insulate American individuals or families from the ups and downs of the business cycle or from the challenges of a competitive market economy. It’s enough, usually, if a presidential administration merely refrains from doing things that could make matters much worse. On that front, Trump has flirted with danger: protectionist tariffs, restrictions on immigration, even some trial balloons of proposed marginal tax rate increases for individuals. The stock market gains indicate that a lot of people view these as negotiating ploys, posturing, or political theater rather than as policies that will actually be enacted.

Or perhaps the view is that other steps Trump takes—reducing regulation or slowing the growth of it, reducing corporate income tax rates, allowing more energy exploration—will outweigh any negatives. In other words, there’s a decent case that Trump does deserve at least some credit for the stock market gains.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Thiel Cooling on Trump, Trump Firing Off Against Blumenthal, Diversity Fight at Google: P.M. Links

  • Peter ThielSources tell BuzzFeed that PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel’s support for President Donald Trump is cooling significantly, despite any public comments otherwise. He is concerned that Trump’s presidency has a 50 percent chance of ending in “disaster.”
  • Today in Trump on Twitter: The president is feuding with Democratic Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Blumenthal expressed concern on CNN over the weekend about the Justice Department’s efforts to track down leakers. Trump went to Twitter to point out that Blumenthal lied about serving in Vietnam.
  • Video making the rounds shows a California police officer pointing his gun at a passenger for nine minutes at a traffic stop. The police defend the actions by claiming passenger was reaching under the car seat. The passenger says he was looking for the papers the officer was demanding.
  • The ruling party in Australia continues to block efforts to let lawmakers vote on whether to legally recognize same-sex marriages.
  • There’s a great big culture war fight going on because of a 10-page document by a Google engineer criticizing the company’s diversity efforts.
  • Today in celebrity news: Dust off those gym memberships! Chris Pratt and Anna Faris are back on the market!
  • According to a post from family on Facebook, Reason supporter and Hit and Run commenter Joel “Almanian” Kimball passed away over the weekend following a two-year fight against cancer. He was a big fan of car restoration, motorcyles, and bagpipes. Check out his Twitter feed here.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily updates for more content.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Vote for Reason at SXSW Next Year!

In our eternal quest to bring the virtues of free minds and free markets to every corner of the globe, Reason has submitted a handful of session ideas to next year’s South by Southwest (SXSW), the big annual tech and entrepreneurship confab that happens in Austin every spring.

Willing to part with just a few minutes of your time to support our efforts? Register in the PanelPicker system here and cast your votes for these three proposals!

You Don’t Need Trump to Reform Criminal Justice, featuring Reason‘s Scott Shackford, the Innocence Project’s Rebecca Brown, FAMM’s Molly Gill, and Reason Foundation’s Lauren Krisai. Learn more and vote here.

Kids in Cuffs: The Trouble with Teen Sexting Laws, featuring Reason‘s Robby Soave and The Atlantic‘s Emily Yoffe. Learn more and vote here.

You Shouldn’t Need a License To Work, featuring Eric Boehm of Reason, Acting Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen of the Federal Trade Commission, and Dick Carpenter of the Institute for Justice. Learn more and vote here.

For a taste of what SXSW has to offer, click here. For all of Reason‘s coverage from previous years, click here. And for a podcast of Shackford’s panel from SXSW 2017, click here.

Open voting runs through August 25.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Mayor Bill de Blasio: The Perfect Ayn Rand Villain [Podcast]

If the GOP succeeds in making it even harder to become an American, other nations “are going to be eating our lunch,” says Reason’s Nick Gillespie. The fact is the U.S. is no longer the “default destination” for foreign talent.

On today’s podcast, Gillespie joins Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, and Andrew Heaton to discuss the latest Republican plans to restrict immigration, the recent challenge to affirmative action on campus, and why the the trial and conviction of “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli should frighten all Americans.

And Mangu-Ward explains why New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is the perfect Ayn Rand villain.

Audio post-production by Ian Keyser.

Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

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.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Trump Administration Withdraws Proposed Obama Ban on Compensation for Bone Marrow

BoneMarrowStemCellsMarrowDrives

The Office of Management and Budget has withdrawn a proposed rule banning compensation for hematopoietic stem cells. In other words, you can get paid when someone harvests stem cells from your bone marrow.

Bone marrow transplantation is used to treat a variety of ailments, including aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, bone marrow damage during chemotherapy, and blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. In 1984, Congress passed the National Organ and Transplant Act, which outlawed compensation to the donors of solid organs like kidneys and livers. Oddly, the act also defined renewable bone marrow as a solid organ.

Originally, hematopoietic stem cells were obtained from bone marrow obtained by inserting a needle into donors’ hip bones. Researchers later developed a technique in which donors are treated with substance that overstimulates the production of hematopoietic stem cells, which then circulate in their bloodstreams. In a process similar to blood donation, the hematopoietic stem cells are then filtered from the donors’ blood. The red blood cells and plasma are returned to the donors.

More Marrow Donors, a California-based nonprofit, wanted to set up a system to encourage hematopoietic stem cell donations with $3,000 awards, in the form of scholarships, housing allowances, or gifts to charity. The Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, brought suit on their behalf, and in 2012 a federal appeals court sensibly ruled that the law’s ban on compensation for solid organ donations did not apply to stem cells obtained from donors’ bloodstreams. The Obama administration reacted by proposing a regulation defining stem cells obtained from blood as the equivalent of a solid organ.

Now the new administration has withdrawn the proposal.

“Banning compensation for donors would have eliminated the best incentive we have—money—for persuading strangers to work for each other,” Jess Rowes, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, say in a press release. “Predictably, the ban on compensation for blood stem cell donors created chronic shortages and waiting lists. During the past four years, thousands of Americans needlessly died because compensation for bone marrow donors was unavailable.”

The system of uncompensated donation is falling far short of meeting patient needs. As the Institute for Justice notes:

At any given time, more than 11,000 Americans are actively searching for a bone marrow donor. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Caucasian potential donors are available and willing to donate about 51 percent of the time; Hispanic and Asian about 29 percent; and African-American about 23 percent. Caucasian patients can find a matching, available and willing donor about 75 percent of the time; Hispanic about 37 percent; Asian-American about 35 percent; and African-American patients only about 19 percent of the time. This demonstrates the huge gap between the need for compatible donors and the supply.

This is even more true in the case of solid organs from live and brain-dead donors. Right now there are more than 116,000 Americans waiting for a life-saving transplant organ. My colleagues and I at Reason have been arguing for decades in favor of compensating live donors for kidneys and pieces of their livers and the next-of-kin of brain-dead donors for other solid organs. If researchers and entrepreneurs succeed in boosting bone marrow donations by implementing various compensation schemes, perhaps that will prompt Congress to repeal its ill-conceived ban on compensation for organs donated for transplant.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Poor and Minority Neighborhoods Bear the Brunt of Asset Forfeiture in Las Vegas

When Las Vegas police seized property through civil asset forfeiture laws last year, they were mostly likely to strike in poor and minority neighborhoods.

A report released last week by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), a conservative think tank, found the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department raked in $1.9 million in asset forfeiture revenue in 2016. Two-thirds of those seizures occurred in zip codes with higher-than-average rates of poverty and large minority populations.

The 12 Las Vegas zip codes most targeted by asset forfeiture have an average poverty rate of 27 percent, compared to 12 percent in the remaining 36 zip codes. Clark County, Nevada, has an average poverty rate of 16 percent.

The 12 most targeted zip codes also have an average nonwhite population of 42 percent, compared to 36 percent in the other remaining zip codes.

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police may seize property they suspect of being connected to criminal activity. The owner then bears the burden of challenging the seizure in court and disproving the government’s claims. Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug trafficking and other organized crime by cutting off the flow of illicit proceeds.

But a bipartisan coalition of civil liberties groups and lawmakers have been calling for the laws to be reformed, saying asset forfeiture’s perverse profit incentives and lack of safeguards leadspolice to shake down everyday citizens, who often lack the resources to fight the seizure of their property in court.

“The most troubling aspect of this practice is that the seizing law enforcement agency directly profits from the forfeitures,” NPRI researcher Daniel Honchariw said in a statement. “And in the vast majority of cases the value of the property seized is less than the likely legal fees needed to contest the seizure, making the whole process nothing more than a form of legalized theft—with the government as the perpetrator.”

The NPRI report found that more than half of all 2016 seizures were for amounts under $1,000, and 28 of those seizures were for $100 or less. The lowest amount seized was 74 cents.

The findings are similar to a Reason analysis of asset forfeiture data in Chicago earlier this year. That analysis of more than 23,000 property seizures over a five-year period found that seizures tended to focus on the South and West Side of Chicago, predominantly minority neighborhoods with high poverty rates. Likewise, the median value of a seizure was around $1,000, far from major cartel busts.

Illinois does not require an accompanying criminal conviction to begin a forfeiture action. Thanks to civil asset forfeiture reforms passed in 2015, Nevada in most cases does. But in the civil process, property owners must pay for their own lawyer if they choose to contest a seizure, and prosecutors enjoy a lower standard of evidence to win their case than in criminal court. Police can seize cash, cars, and even homes allegedly linked to illegal proceeds.

Of the 295 police seizures that occurred in Clark County that year, all but 16 were connected to alleged drug offenses.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 20 states have passed some form of asset forfeiture reform in recent years. New Mexico and Nebraska, for example, completely abolished civil asset forfeiture.

The NPRI report concludes that the evidence “supports the position that the practice of civil asset forfeiture should be abolished completely. A system of criminal forfeiture, reliant upon the same due-process protections afforded to criminal defendants, should instead become the norm.”

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Chicago Launches Legal Fight with Justice Department over Sanctuary City Threats

Rahm EmanuelMayor Rahm Emanuel says Chicago will sue the Department of Justice over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ latest attempt to punish so-called sanctuary cities—jurisdictions that typically do not ask people in their custody or who use government services their citizenship status.

At stake are $2.3 million in grants used by Chicago police to purchase equipment—including tools and weapons used to militarize the force.

Last month the Department of Justice announced a new guidance requiring cities to comply with a federal law forbidding local rules that block communication with law enforcement or city officials about a person’s immigration status. This isn’t a new fight—the Department of Justice has been pushing cities to follow this regulation since Donald Trump took office. But the July guidance added two new rules, and it clearly described the carrot and stick the Justice Department wants to wield against cities.

First, it tells states, cities, and counties that they must allow immigration officials into their detention facilities if they’re looking to determine the immigration status of anybody being held there. Second, it says jails and prisons must inform the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 48 hours before releasing somebody if the DHS or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has sent over a detainer order—a request that a local jail hold a deportable immigrant so that the feds can come take that person into custody.

Cities and states have been told they must comply with these regulations to maintain their funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants program. Chicago is suing to try to stop these new requirements. “The federal government should be working with cities to provide necessary resources to improve public safety, not concocting new schemes to reduce our crime fighting resources,” Emanuel said in a statement.

Chicago’s conflict with the feds is particularly notable because Chicago is one of the few places whose policies do in fact defy federal law on communication. (So is the surrounding Cook County.) When the Department of Justice began its crackdown under Trump, an awkward truth quickly became apparent: A “sanctuary city” is not inherently operating in violation of federal immigration law or defying the government. The Justice Department could identify fewer than 10 local governments that were actually defying the feds in any notable way.

But Chicago genuinely is one of those cities, so a challenge between them and the Department of Justice has broader implications. What are the limits of the federal government’s ability to control what information states and cities provide to them?

President Trump’s first attempt to use an executive order to force compliance from sanctuary cities ran aground in federal courts as an unconstitutional breach of separation of powers and the authorities of the states. Analyzing the new guidance over at the Washington Post, law professor and constitutional expert Ilya Somin says these new rules have the same problems:

Longstanding Supreme Court precedent indicates that only Congress can impose conditions on grants given to states and localities, and that those conditions must be “unambiguously” stated in the text of the law “so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds.” Neither compliance with Section 1373 nor the other two conditions the DOJ seeks to impose are included in the authorizing legislation for the Byrne grants. Sessions and Trump may be at odds on other issues right now. But they are united in their desire to make up new grant conditions and impose them on states and localities after the fact.

Should the administration manage to get away with this, it will set a dangerous precedent that goes far beyond the relatively small Byrne program and the specific issue of sanctuary cities. If the president can unilaterally add new conditions to one federal grant program, he can do the same thing with others. This would give presidents a massive club to coerce state and local governments on a wide range of issues.That power might still be limited by the requirement that conditions be related to the purpose of the grant. But, given the existence of a vast array of federal grants for many different purposes, this would be only a modest constraint.

Some conservatives may cheer when the current administration uses this tool against sanctuary cities. But they are likely to regret their enthusiasm if a liberal Democratic president uses the same tactic to force states to increase gun control, adopt a “common core” curriculum, or pursue liberal policies on transgender bathroom accommodations.

Somin’s example at the end isn’t theoretical. Under President Barack Obama’s administration, the Department of Justice and Department of Education attempted to block North Carolina from enacting a controversial law dictating which restrooms people used in government buildings. And the feds warned that grants could be withheld (but declined to do so while the courts were still tackling the matter) on the basis that the state was defying the administration’s guidance that transgender students and employees must be accommodated.

It’s worth wondering whether this push against sanctuary cities is mostly for show, given the limits of government power. Last week the Justice Department threatened four cities that they wouldn’t be allowed to have access to a new grant program unless they proved they would comply with the guidance above. As the Los Angeles Times noted, none of the four cities who received the threatening letters even operate their own jails. They don’t even have any control over whether local county-run detention facilities cooperate with ICE.

Also worth remembering: The Justice Department’s methods of controlling city behavior might be unconstitutional, but you shouldn’t confuse concern about that with support for the underlying grants themselves. The Intercept has a new report on Chicago’s tendency to send SWAT teams to 911 calls for mental health–related matters. The funding that Emanuel is trying to protect gets used for some truly terrible practices that need to be reformed. But the Justice Department isn’t interested in those problems.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

More Evidence That Jeff Sessions’ Cannabis Crackdown May Never Materialize

Despite Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ well-known anti-pot prejudices, a broad federal crackdown on marijuana in states that have legalized it seems unlikely in light of the recommendations from a Justice Department subcommittee charged with studying the issue. The Associated Press reports that the panel, part of the DOJ’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, “has come up with no new policy recommendations to advance the attorney general’s aggressively anti-marijuana views.”

According to the A.P., which obtained a copy of the unpublished recommendations, the subcommittee does say officials “should evaluate whether to maintain, revise or rescind” the 2013 memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole that established a policy of prosecutorial restraint regarding state-licensed marijuana businesses. But the report does not settle on any of those options, and so far Sessions seems inclined to use the Cole memo as a guide to enforcement rather than scrapping it.

The memo, which Sessions has called “truly valuable in evaluating cases,” leaves lots of leeway for more vigorous enforcement of the federal ban on marijuana. It lists eight “enforcement priorities” that could justify federal action against state-licensed marijuana producers and distributors, several of which are either impossible to fully achieve (e.g., “preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal…to other states”) or so broad that they could always be used as a pretext for a crackdown (e.g. preventing “adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use”).

As Mike Riggs noted here last Friday, Sessions recently sent Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson a letter asking how they plan to address several concerns related to the enforcement priorities, including interstate smuggling, stoned driving, and underage consumption. “Please advise as to how Washington plans…to ensure that all marijuana activity is compliant with state marijuana laws, to combat diversion of marijuana, to protect public health and safety, and to prevent marijuana use by minors,” Sessions wrote. He also pointedly noted that the Cole memo “says nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution, even in the absence of any one of the factors listed above, in particular circumstances where investigation and prosecution otherwise serves an important federal interest.”

In short, Sessions could cause a lot of trouble for the newly legal cannabis industry without bothering to retract the Cole memo, which is vague and ambiguous enough to accommodate policies ranging from laissez-faire to prosecution and forfeiture threats that put many or most marijuana merchants out of business. There are several reasons to think Sessions’ approach will land somewhere in the middle.

Sessions has been in charge of the Justice Department for six months, and so far his hostility toward marijuana legalization has not gone beyond rhetorical expressions of concern. It has not resulted in prosecutions, forfeitures, or even threatening letters to cannabusinesses. Nor has Sessions signaled that he plans to challenge state marijuana laws in federal court. Instead he punted the issue to a committee, which settled on a wait-and-see position that the A.P. describes as “tepid” and “vague.” By contrast, Sessions acted swiftly to step up the war on drugs in other ways, reviving federal “adoption” of civil forfeitures initiated by state or local agencies and adopting a tougher charging policy that is apt to make mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses more common.

Sessions may recognize that a full-blown cannabis crackdown would not necessarily deliver results he would like. Since all but one of the eight states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use allow home cultivation, shutting down state-licensed cannabusinesses would undermine federal enforcement priorities by making production and distribution less visible and harder to monitor. Likewise a lawsuit that successfully challenged state licensing and regulation of marijuana merchants as contrary to the Controlled Substances Act.

Sessions also may be reluctant to further irk a boss who has been publicly castigating him for weeks over his handling of the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. Although the A.P. says the president’s personal views on marijuana remain unclear, Trump during his campaign repeatedly said medical use of the plant should be allowed and that states should be free to legalize recreational use as well (although he does not think that’s such a good idea). Abandoning that commitment would be politically risky for Trump, given that most Americans support marijuana legalization and even more—71 percent, according to a 2017 Quinnipiac poll—say the federal government should not interfere with it.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

They Won’t Stop at Backpage

Some bipartisan busybodies in the Senate are pushing a bill they claim will take aim at sex trafficking—but as usual, their lofty claims don’t square with reality. The “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” would do nothing to actually stop sexual exploitation, but it will lay waste to the legal framework that supports the internet as we know it.

The bill (S. 1693) would amend the Communications Decency Act “to clarify that section 230 of that Act does not prohibit the enforcement against providers and users of interactive computer services” of any federal or state laws—criminal or civil— “relating to sex trafficking.”

So far, the measure has attracted more than two dozen co-sponsors, including Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), John McCain (Arizona), and Marco Rubio (Florida) and Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Claire McCaskill (Missouri). But it has also earned ample opposition from tech companies, constitutional wonks, web publishing platforms, and sex workers, as I explain in a recent piece at The Daily Beast:

Why? According to the ’80s anti-pornography crusaders at Morality In Media—recently rechristened the National Center on Sexual Exploitation—it’s because Google “supports sex traffickers,” as does anyone else opposing the legislation.

Of course no one—not me, nor Google (which contributes to and partakes in a slew of anti-trafficking initiatives), nor The Internet Association (a trade group that includes members such as Twitter, Microsoft, AirBNB, Amazon, Yelp, Reddit, and Snapchat), nor the myriad think tanks, lawyers, and tech writers opposed to the bill—is arguing in favor of forced or underage prostitution. No one is arguing that companies have a right to knowingly profit off of sexual exploitation, nor that free speech includes a right to advertise sex trafficking.

But we already have a host of remedies (criminal and civil) for punishing such activities. Federal law already bans sex trafficking, conspiracies to commit sex trafficking, and knowingly facilitating it in any way.

“The problem today is not a lack of legal remedies but under-enforcement (or slow enforcement) by the U.S. Justice Department,” suggested a group of tech scholars this week in a letter to senators. And under-enforcement is a problem the new bill would do nothing to address. Instead, it would actually “discourage online platform operators from policing their sites,” by making doing so increase the likelihood of liability, “and generally undermine America’s uniquely innovative online ecosystem.”

The new measure covers much of the same ground as legislation that attracted 98 co-sponsors earlier this year. (Law professor Eric Goldman: “it’s pretty clear Congress is on the cusp of gutting Section 230.”) It’s being sold as a way to hold the classified ad site Backpage “accountable” for its supposed role in facilitating sex trafficking.

But as I explain at the Beast, “the underlying reason why no one’s been able to pin criminal charges on Backpage isn’t a ‘loophole’ in federal law that lets Backpage knowingly profit from human trafficking but the fact that the evidence doesn’t support claims that it does so.” And while politicians and activists say that a sex-trafficking exception to Section 230 is a narrowly crafted solution, this falls apart in the face of the way U.S. sex trafficking laws are enforced in practice.

Authorities already go after all sorts of consensual adult activity…under the guise of stopping sex trafficking. And Backpage is far from the only site where this sort of activity is advertised and negotiated. As it stands, cops are already chasing down prostitution and sex trafficking cases that originate on Facebook, Snapchat, random dating apps, and more.

As web-policy folks note, the new law would mean “online platforms could be accused of participating in sex trafficking that occurs through ordinary, non-advertising use of their sites,” such as when two people arrange to meet through Facebook messenger.

With broader power to target web platforms, the financial incentives for abuse would be huge. Most of the people prosecuted for trafficking-related crimes are small-time pimps or sex workers themselves, working in a small-scale and relatively low-end manner. Their pockets are not deep. But Backpage? Facebook? Google? There’s money there, for cops with civil asset forfeiture dreams and civil-lawsuit payouts….

It seems folks like Portman and Cruz won’t rest until sex workers—and sex trafficking victims—are forced back out onto the streets and the social web as we know it is destroyed. But the only thing this grandstanding gesture might help is their political careers. Victims of sexual exploitation won’t be one iota safer when lawmakers shut down Backpage. And they won’t stop at Backpage.

Read the whole thing here.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Pence Denies Report About 2020 Run, Chicago to Sue DOJ, IED Blast at Indiana Islamic Center: A.M. Links

  • Vice President Mike Pence denied a New York Times report that he was eyeing a run for president in 2020.
  • The city of Chicago says it will sue the Department of Justice over federal grant stipulations related to assisting federal immigration enforcement.
  • The FBI says an improvised explosive device was responsible for an explosion at an Islamic center in Indiana.
  • One person was killed and seven were injured after a ride at the Ohio state fair fell apart while in motion.
  • The government of Venezuela says one of its bases suffered a paramilitary attack.
  • Two Chinese tourists were detained in Germany after photographing themselves making a Nazi salute.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Venezuela Descends Into Predictable Dictatorship: New at Reason

Venezuela’s descent into a socialist hell has been entirely predictable.

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

A thousand gleeful obituaries have been written for “Kansas’ failed experiment” with Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But if Kansas’ economy provides a cautionary tale for supply-siders on the right, then Venezuela provides an even more stark warning for socialist sympathizers on the left.

Last weekend, president Nicolas Maduro used a sham election to consolidate power, and by Tuesday armed thugs were rounding up opposition leaders. This is the all but inevitable outcome of the Venezuelan government’s economic policies, which have driven the richest nation in Latin America—a country with more oil than Saudi Arabia—into shocking destitution.

Basic necessities such as diapers, toilet paper, and toothpaste have become rare luxuries. Infant mortality has skyrocketed, and is now higher in Venezuela than in Syria. Inflation has reached an annual rate of 700 percent. The government has responded by “scrambling to print new bills fast enough to keep up with the torrid pace of price increases,” as Bloomberg noted a year ago, which of course has only made the problem worse.

View this article.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Venezuela Descends Into Predictable Dictatorship

A thousand gleeful obituaries have been written for “Kansas’ failed experiment” with Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But if Kansas’ economy provides a cautionary tale for supply-siders on the right, then Venezuela provides an even more stark warning for socialist sympathizers on the left.

Last weekend, president Nicolas Maduro used a sham election to consolidate power, and by Tuesday armed thugs were rounding up opposition leaders. This is the all but inevitable outcome of the Venezuelan government’s economic policies, which have driven the richest nation in Latin America—a country with more oil than Saudi Arabia—into shocking destitution.

Basic necessities such as diapers, toilet paper, and toothpaste have become rare luxuries. Infant mortality has skyrocketed, and is now higher in Venezuela than in Syria. Inflation has reached an annual rate of 700 percent. The government has responded by “scrambling to print new bills fast enough to keep up with the torrid pace of price increases,” as Bloomberg noted a year ago, which of course has only made the problem worse.

As have price controls. “The government sets price caps on some basic food items, such as pasta, rice and flour,” The Washington Post reported last month. “But those items can usually be obtained only by standing in lines for hours or by signing up to receive a subsidized monthly grocery box from the government with enough to feed a family of five for about a week. … The proportion of Venezuelan families in poverty has soared from 48 percent to 82 percent. … Fifty-two percent of families live in extreme poverty … and about 31 percent survive on two meals per day at most.”

Defenders of the government blame falling oil prices. Funny thing, though: While many nations depend on oil revenue, only Venezuela has sunk to such depths. Maybe the problem lies elsewhere.

And make no mistake: Venezuela’s government has had not just defenders, but outright cheerleaders. We’re not talking about just the usual Hollywood idiots like Sean Penn and Michael Moore, who praised Venezuela for providing “free health & education 4 all.”

Supposedly serious people, from “Shock Doctrine” author Naomi Klein and leftist heartthrob Jeremy Corbyn to Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano, also sang its praises—although they have fallen conspicuously silent of late. Not so for others: On Tuesday “Red” Ken Livingtstone, a former mayor of London, blamed the country’s current problems on one simple fact: “Hugo Chávez did not execute the establishment elite.”

It may come to that, if popular unrest continues and Maduro grows even more desperate.

Venezuela’s descent into socialist hell was entirely predictable. Friedrich Hayek predicted it three-quarters of a century ago, in “The Road to Serfdom.” And Darío Paya, former Chilean ambassador to the Organization of American States, succinctly described the metastasis of economic dictatorship to complete dictatorship just about a year ago:

“Populists and socialists destroy their societies in predictable ways. It’s not like one day a populist gets up and says, ‘I’m going to ruin this country.’ Rather, he starts out wanting to spread the wealth and finds that the easiest way to hand out cash is by simply printing lots of it. Which creates a new problem: As the currency weakens, prices rise. But the populist finds there’s an answer for that too. If bread is getting expensive, he can fix its price, and he gets to vilify the baker as a greedy capitalist.

“But then the baker stops producing bread because he can’t afford to make it, what with the rising price of flour. And so what does the populist do next? He fixes the prices of flour. When that doesn’t work, the politically expedient thing to do will be to take over the bakery and the farms and hand them to the folks in the party’s local committees, who prove to be rather less apt at farming and baking. …

“And if violence does erupt, it can be denounced as the doing of enemies of the state and used as a pretext for renewed crackdowns: ‘We’re going to tell the imperialism and the international right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in one hand and a gun in the other,’ Maduro told a Caracas crowd. And soon, Mr. Populist finds himself with a good reason to suspend the country’s constitution. Thus does a tyrannical attitude toward the shop-owner selling bread lead to a tyranny over a whole nation.”

There, in three paragraphs, is the grim history of Venezuela over the past two decades. It should be everyone’s fervent hope that the country’s socialist government dies quickly—before more of its people do.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Venezuela Descends Into Predictable Dictatorship

A thousand gleeful obituaries have been written for “Kansas’ failed experiment” with Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But if Kansas’ economy provides a cautionary tale for supply-siders on the right, then Venezuela provides an even more stark warning for socialist sympathizers on the left.

Last weekend, president Nicolas Maduro used a sham election to consolidate power, and by Tuesday armed thugs were rounding up opposition leaders. This is the all but inevitable outcome of the Venezuelan government’s economic policies, which have driven the richest nation in Latin America—a country with more oil than Saudi Arabia—into shocking destitution.

Basic necessities such as diapers, toilet paper, and toothpaste have become rare luxuries. Infant mortality has skyrocketed, and is now higher in Venezuela than in Syria. Inflation has reached an annual rate of 700 percent. The government has responded by “scrambling to print new bills fast enough to keep up with the torrid pace of price increases,” as Bloomberg noted a year ago, which of course has only made the problem worse.

As have price controls. “The government sets price caps on some basic food items, such as pasta, rice and flour,” The Washington Post reported last month. “But those items can usually be obtained only by standing in lines for hours or by signing up to receive a subsidized monthly grocery box from the government with enough to feed a family of five for about a week. … The proportion of Venezuelan families in poverty has soared from 48 percent to 82 percent. … Fifty-two percent of families live in extreme poverty … and about 31 percent survive on two meals per day at most.”

Defenders of the government blame falling oil prices. Funny thing, though: While many nations depend on oil revenue, only Venezuela has sunk to such depths. Maybe the problem lies elsewhere.

And make no mistake: Venezuela’s government has had not just defenders, but outright cheerleaders. We’re not talking about just the usual Hollywood idiots like Sean Penn and Michael Moore, who praised Venezuela for providing “free health & education 4 all.”

Supposedly serious people, from “Shock Doctrine” author Naomi Klein and leftist heartthrob Jeremy Corbyn to Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano, also sang its praises—although they have fallen conspicuously silent of late. Not so for others: On Tuesday “Red” Ken Livingtstone, a former mayor of London, blamed the country’s current problems on one simple fact: “Hugo Chávez did not execute the establishment elite.”

It may come to that, if popular unrest continues and Maduro grows even more desperate.

Venezuela’s descent into socialist hell was entirely predictable. Friedrich Hayek predicted it three-quarters of a century ago, in “The Road to Serfdom.” And Darío Paya, former Chilean ambassador to the Organization of American States, succinctly described the metastasis of economic dictatorship to complete dictatorship just about a year ago:

“Populists and socialists destroy their societies in predictable ways. It’s not like one day a populist gets up and says, ‘I’m going to ruin this country.’ Rather, he starts out wanting to spread the wealth and finds that the easiest way to hand out cash is by simply printing lots of it. Which creates a new problem: As the currency weakens, prices rise. But the populist finds there’s an answer for that too. If bread is getting expensive, he can fix its price, and he gets to vilify the baker as a greedy capitalist.

“But then the baker stops producing bread because he can’t afford to make it, what with the rising price of flour. And so what does the populist do next? He fixes the prices of flour. When that doesn’t work, the politically expedient thing to do will be to take over the bakery and the farms and hand them to the folks in the party’s local committees, who prove to be rather less apt at farming and baking. …

“And if violence does erupt, it can be denounced as the doing of enemies of the state and used as a pretext for renewed crackdowns: ‘We’re going to tell the imperialism and the international right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in one hand and a gun in the other,’ Maduro told a Caracas crowd. And soon, Mr. Populist finds himself with a good reason to suspend the country’s constitution. Thus does a tyrannical attitude toward the shop-owner selling bread lead to a tyranny over a whole nation.”

There, in three paragraphs, is the grim history of Venezuela over the past two decades. It should be everyone’s fervent hope that the country’s socialist government dies quickly—before more of its people do.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Venezuela Descends Into Predictable Dictatorship

A thousand gleeful obituaries have been written for “Kansas’ failed experiment” with Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But if Kansas’ economy provides a cautionary tale for supply-siders on the right, then Venezuela provides an even more stark warning for socialist sympathizers on the left.

Last weekend, president Nicolas Maduro used a sham election to consolidate power, and by Tuesday armed thugs were rounding up opposition leaders. This is the all but inevitable outcome of the Venezuelan government’s economic policies, which have driven the richest nation in Latin America—a country with more oil than Saudi Arabia—into shocking destitution.

Basic necessities such as diapers, toilet paper, and toothpaste have become rare luxuries. Infant mortality has skyrocketed, and is now higher in Venezuela than in Syria. Inflation has reached an annual rate of 700 percent. The government has responded by “scrambling to print new bills fast enough to keep up with the torrid pace of price increases,” as Bloomberg noted a year ago, which of course has only made the problem worse.

As have price controls. “The government sets price caps on some basic food items, such as pasta, rice and flour,” The Washington Post reported last month. “But those items can usually be obtained only by standing in lines for hours or by signing up to receive a subsidized monthly grocery box from the government with enough to feed a family of five for about a week. … The proportion of Venezuelan families in poverty has soared from 48 percent to 82 percent. … Fifty-two percent of families live in extreme poverty … and about 31 percent survive on two meals per day at most.”

Defenders of the government blame falling oil prices. Funny thing, though: While many nations depend on oil revenue, only Venezuela has sunk to such depths. Maybe the problem lies elsewhere.

And make no mistake: Venezuela’s government has had not just defenders, but outright cheerleaders. We’re not talking about just the usual Hollywood idiots like Sean Penn and Michael Moore, who praised Venezuela for providing “free health & education 4 all.”

Supposedly serious people, from “Shock Doctrine” author Naomi Klein and leftist heartthrob Jeremy Corbyn to Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano, also sang its praises—although they have fallen conspicuously silent of late. Not so for others: On Tuesday “Red” Ken Livingtstone, a former mayor of London, blamed the country’s current problems on one simple fact: “Hugo Chávez did not execute the establishment elite.”

It may come to that, if popular unrest continues and Maduro grows even more desperate.

Venezuela’s descent into socialist hell was entirely predictable. Friedrich Hayek predicted it three-quarters of a century ago, in “The Road to Serfdom.” And Darío Paya, former Chilean ambassador to the Organization of American States, succinctly described the metastasis of economic dictatorship to complete dictatorship just about a year ago:

“Populists and socialists destroy their societies in predictable ways. It’s not like one day a populist gets up and says, ‘I’m going to ruin this country.’ Rather, he starts out wanting to spread the wealth and finds that the easiest way to hand out cash is by simply printing lots of it. Which creates a new problem: As the currency weakens, prices rise. But the populist finds there’s an answer for that too. If bread is getting expensive, he can fix its price, and he gets to vilify the baker as a greedy capitalist.

“But then the baker stops producing bread because he can’t afford to make it, what with the rising price of flour. And so what does the populist do next? He fixes the prices of flour. When that doesn’t work, the politically expedient thing to do will be to take over the bakery and the farms and hand them to the folks in the party’s local committees, who prove to be rather less apt at farming and baking. …

“And if violence does erupt, it can be denounced as the doing of enemies of the state and used as a pretext for renewed crackdowns: ‘We’re going to tell the imperialism and the international right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in one hand and a gun in the other,’ Maduro told a Caracas crowd. And soon, Mr. Populist finds himself with a good reason to suspend the country’s constitution. Thus does a tyrannical attitude toward the shop-owner selling bread lead to a tyranny over a whole nation.”

There, in three paragraphs, is the grim history of Venezuela over the past two decades. It should be everyone’s fervent hope that the country’s socialist government dies quickly—before more of its people do.

Read More on Reason

breaking, Headlines, News, Opinion, Reason, syndicated

Venezuela Descends Into Predictable Dictatorship

A thousand gleeful obituaries have been written for “Kansas’ failed experiment” with Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts. But if Kansas’ economy provides a cautionary tale for supply-siders on the right, then Venezuela provides an even more stark warning for socialist sympathizers on the left.

Last weekend, president Nicolas Maduro used a sham election to consolidate power, and by Tuesday armed thugs were rounding up opposition leaders. This is the all but inevitable outcome of the Venezuelan government’s economic policies, which have driven the richest nation in Latin America—a country with more oil than Saudi Arabia—into shocking destitution.

Basic necessities such as diapers, toilet paper, and toothpaste have become rare luxuries. Infant mortality has skyrocketed, and is now higher in Venezuela than in Syria. Inflation has reached an annual rate of 700 percent. The government has responded by “scrambling to print new bills fast enough to keep up with the torrid pace of price increases,” as Bloomberg noted a year ago, which of course has only made the problem worse.

As have price controls. “The government sets price caps on some basic food items, such as pasta, rice and flour,” The Washington Post reported last month. “But those items can usually be obtained only by standing in lines for hours or by signing up to receive a subsidized monthly grocery box from the government with enough to feed a family of five for about a week. … The proportion of Venezuelan families in poverty has soared from 48 percent to 82 percent. … Fifty-two percent of families live in extreme poverty … and about 31 percent survive on two meals per day at most.”

Defenders of the government blame falling oil prices. Funny thing, though: While many nations depend on oil revenue, only Venezuela has sunk to such depths. Maybe the problem lies elsewhere.

And make no mistake: Venezuela’s government has had not just defenders, but outright cheerleaders. We’re not talking about just the usual Hollywood idiots like Sean Penn and Michael Moore, who praised Venezuela for providing “free health & education 4 all.”

Supposedly serious people, from “Shock Doctrine” author Naomi Klein and leftist heartthrob Jeremy Corbyn to Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano, also sang its praises—although they have fallen conspicuously silent of late. Not so for others: On Tuesday “Red” Ken Livingtstone, a former mayor of London, blamed the country’s current problems on one simple fact: “Hugo Chávez did not execute the establishment elite.”

It may come to that, if popular unrest continues and Maduro grows even more desperate.

Venezuela’s descent into socialist hell was entirely predictable. Friedrich Hayek predicted it three-quarters of a century ago, in “The Road to Serfdom.” And Darío Paya, former Chilean ambassador to the Organization of American States, succinctly described the metastasis of economic dictatorship to complete dictatorship just about a year ago:

“Populists and socialists destroy their societies in predictable ways. It’s not like one day a populist gets up and says, ‘I’m going to ruin this country.’ Rather, he starts out wanting to spread the wealth and finds that the easiest way to hand out cash is by simply printing lots of it. Which creates a new problem: As the currency weakens, prices rise. But the populist finds there’s an answer for that too. If bread is getting expensive, he can fix its price, and he gets to vilify the baker as a greedy capitalist.

“But then the baker stops producing bread because he can’t afford to make it, what with the rising price of flour. And so what does the populist do next? He fixes the prices of flour. When that doesn’t work, the politically expedient thing to do will be to take over the bakery and the farms and hand them to the folks in the party’s local committees, who prove to be rather less apt at farming and baking. …

“And if violence does erupt, it can be denounced as the doing of enemies of the state and used as a pretext for renewed crackdowns: ‘We’re going to tell the imperialism and the international right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in one hand and a gun in the other,’ Maduro told a Caracas crowd. And soon, Mr. Populist finds himself with a good reason to suspend the country’s constitution. Thus does a tyrannical attitude toward the shop-owner selling bread lead to a tyranny over a whole nation.”

There, in three paragraphs, is the grim history of Venezuela over the past two decades. It should be everyone’s fervent hope that the country’s socialist government dies quickly—before more of its people do.

Read More on Reason