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Reason Wins 5 Southern California Journalism Awards

Hardware ||| Matt WelchLast night, the Greater Los Angeles Press Club held its 59th annual Southern California Journalism Awards, honoring works prepared in 2016 by journalists and organizations working between San Diego and Santa Barbara, and handing out special honors to more national figures as well. So it was that in an evening kicked off by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and closed by longtime NBC News reporter/anchor Andrea Mitchell (with some Jake Tapper and Conan O’Brien in between), the very first professional award presentation included a large-screen image of Andrew Heaton as Captain James T. Kirk, nurturing a tribble.

This was, ladies and gentlemen, the Best Humor/Satire Writing of 2016, of any type and in any venue (“cross-platform,” for short)—”Star Trek: The Libertarian Edition,” by Austin Bragg, Meredith Bragg, and Andrew Heaton:

The judges said: “Austin Bragg is absolutely hilarious, and his satiric self-deprecating look at Libertarianism though the lens of Star Trek has gone where no other humor entry has gone before. Hysterical in any star system. We watched it several times and saved it for future views.”

Another cross-platform winner was Anthony L. Fisher, for Best Political/Government Reporting, with his “Why It’s So Hard to Stop Bad Cops From Getting New Police Jobs: Efforts to track decertified cops are stymied by police union pressure and local control.” Said the judges: “This was a remarkably diverse and very interesting field of contenders. But Anthony Fisher’s exploration of the political and governmental hurdles which can keep bad cops on the street rose to the top. It was meticulously researched and reported without being dry. The clarity of Fisher’s writing took what could have been a dense—or a sensational—topic and instead turned into a thoughtful analysis. It is a take on policing that has not received as much attention as pieces on police abuses, even though Fisher’s story certainly shed light on how an officer could escape consequences for such abuses. A clear public service to Fisher’s readers.”

A third top-performing cross-platformer was Glenn Garvin for Best Criticism on Books/Art/Architecture/Design, with “Was Patty Hearst Brainwashed? A new look at an old kidnapping case misses one of the most important elements of the story.” The judges ruled: “Garvin’s well-written and snarky criticism of Toobin’s book on Patty Hearst and questioning of conventional views as to whether Hearst became a real revolutionary or feigned being one results in his provocative observation that she may have been ‘brainwashed’ like Korean War soldiers.”

The great Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey won Best Magazine Column, for “Poverty Is Deadly: Why is the death rate for young white Americans rising?” Judges mused: “Mortality and life expectancy. By no means are they frequent topics for discussion—or even reflection. But Ron Bailey brings them to the forefront in his well-researched, thoughtful column on rising middle aged mortality rates, along with some intriguing conjecture about possible reasons for the trends. Our compliments to Ron for his fascinating column about a ‘literally’ deadly serious topic.”

And rounding out our first-place prizes was Best TV Documentary Under 25 Minutes, by Justin Monticello, Alex Manning, and Zach Weissmueller, for “This L.A. Musician Built $1,200 Tiny Houses for the Homeless. Then the City Seized Them.” It was a special treat to watch a particularly damning clip from that knowing that Mayor Garcetti and his staff might still be in the room:

“Excellent storytelling,” deemed the judges. “Presented both the city’s effort and this citizen’s effort. We enjoyed learning about this big hearted, conversation-starting, empathetic problem-solver.”

Reason also racked up five second-place finishes and nine thirds. And the silver medalists were:

* Jim Epstein, Best Educational Reporting, for “Brownstone Brooklyn’s Racial Divide: Why Are the Schools So Segregated?”

* Jesse Walker, Best Obituary/In Appreciation of an Artist, cross-platform, for “Merle Haggard, RIP: A Great American Voice Has Died.”

* Veronique de Rugy, Best Magazine Column, for “Marco Rubio’s Sweet Protectionism: The 2016 hopeful gives the feds cover to keep propping up Big Sugar.”

* Eric Boehm, Best Online Sports News/Feature/Commentary, for “The New Vikings Stadium Is a Broken Window Metaphor Come to Life: Vandalism at the Minnesota Vikings new stadium turned the $1.1 billion glass structure into a hulking metaphor about the folly of publicly-funded ballparks.”

* Jason Keisling, Best Illustration or Graphic, for “Should the U.S. Government Build a Death Star?

Yes, dammit, yes! ||| Reason

The nine bronze medals include Best Website, Traditional News Organization and Best Group Blog, as well as:

* C.J. Ciaramella, Best Public Service News or Feature, print or online, for “Why Are Detroit Cops Killing So Many Dogs? A Reason investigation reveals widespread, unchecked violence against pets during drug raids—including two officers who have shot more than 100.”

* Shikha Dalmia, Best Minority/Immigration Reporting, cross-platform, for “Muslim in America: A Trip to Two of the Most Islamic Cities in The U.S.”

* Robby Soave, Best Online News Story, for “Romeo and Juliet and Sexting: 17-Year-Old Faces Child Porn, Assault Charges for Consensual Sex with Girlfriend: ‘They said that all they were going to do was delete the photos from the phone, so I blindly signed a paper allowing them to access it.'”

* Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Best Online Investigative Story: for “The Truth About the Biggest U.S. Sex Trafficking Story of the Year.”

* Katherine Mangu-Ward, Best Magazine Commentary, for “Trump vs. Clinton vs. Everything Good: ‘Don’t argue about it. Build the alternative.'”

* Justin Monticello, Alex Manning, Zach Weissmueller, Best TV Human Interest Feature, for “This L.A. Musician Built $1,200 Tiny Houses for the Homeless. Then the City Seized Them.”

* Zach Weissmueller, Alex Manning, Justin Monticello, Best TV Entertainment News or Feature, for “Axanar: The $1 Million Star Trek Fan Film CBS Wants to Stop“:

Nine other Reason pieces were nominated for L.A. Press Club awards but did not medal; you can read more about them here. Our 2016 output was also honored in April with a record-for-us three first place prizes at the Western Publishing Association’s annual “Maggie” Awards.

This work would not be possible without your support, whether through loyal subscriptions, tax-deductible donations, chipper commenting, or just by exerting your eyeballs and eardrums. Not an hour goes by that we don’t scheme about how to improve the quality and reach of our journalism. Thank you for egging us on.

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Georgia’s Health Care Regulations Limit Access to Women’s Health

The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday will hear oral arguments in a case challenging state regulations that limit access to essential health care for women and babies.

In Georgia, as in other states with Certificate of Need laws on the books, health care providers have to get permission from state bureaucrats before opening or expanding their medical facilities. In theory, these laws exist to allow the state to balance the needs of the public with the interests of hospitals and other health care providers, but in reality they often allow larger providers to veto unwanted competition.

In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice issued a joint statement calling for state governments to roll back CON laws in order to free health care markets and lower prices.

“CON laws raise considerable competitive concerns and generally do not appear to have achieved their intended benefits for health care consumers,” the agencies concluded, warning that these laws have been exploited by competitors seeking to protect exclusive markets by raising the cost of entry.

That’s what Dr. Hugo D. Ribot Jr. and Dr. Malcolm Barfield, owners of the Women’s Surgical Center, LLC, say happened to them.

The two doctors perform hundreds of non-emergency outpatient OB/GYN surgeries every year. They wanted to add a second operating room—with the intention of renting it out to other surgeons who needed space—in order to serve more patients.

Three hospitals, including the Cartersville Medical Center, located across the street from the Women’s Surgical Center, objected to their CON application. The Georgia Department of Community Health sided with the hospitals and denied the application.

The two doctors, represented by attorneys from the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, a free market law firm, are asking the Georgia courts to strike down Georgia’s medical CON laws so that licensed doctors are able to offer their services to the public without first complying with anti-competitive restraints.

Lower courts have upheld the state’s CON laws, which have come under attack in recent years across the country. Many states added CON laws to their books in the 1970s, when they were mandated by Congress as part of an ill-advised effort to reduce health care costs. Congress reversed the mandate in the 1980s after the Congressional Budget Office found that CON laws often had the opposite effect on prices and the availability of care.

But more than 30 states still require medical providers to get state approval before opening new facilities or expanding existing ones. Those laws persist because of legislative inertia and because of the influence of the special interests—hospitals, mostly—that benefit from a time-consuming and bureaucratic process that blocks potential competition.

The consequences can be disastrous. In January, Reason reported on the years-long fight between two Virginia hospitals over the construction of a new neonatal intensive care unit. While the regulators were deliberating, a baby died at a hospital that had sought to build an NICU that might have saved the child. After the death, the state Department of Health still refused to grant a CON to the hospital.

The costs of CON laws aren’t always obvious. In a paper published last year by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Thomas Stratmann and Davild Wille argue that hospitals in states with CON laws have higher mortality rates than hospitals in non-CON states. The average 30-day mortality rate for patients with pneumonia, heart failure, and heart attacks in states with CON laws is between 2.5 percent and 5 percent higher even after demographic factors are taken out of the equation.

Dumping Georgia’s CON laws would allow Ribot and Barfield to expand their practice, giving women in Fulton County, Georgia, more options and greater access to non-emergency OB/GYN surgical care. If the state Supreme Court decides to keep those laws on the books, hospitals will win and women and babies will lose.

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Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch Blast SCOTUS for Refusing to Hear Major Second Amendment Case

Today the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a major case out of California that asked whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms includes the right to carry firearms in public. By refusing to get involved, the Court left in place a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that denied constitutional recognition to the right to carry.

Writing in dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, blasted the Court for its failure to act and for its “distressing trend” of treating “the Second Amendment as a disfavored right.”

According to Thomas, “the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it.” Thomas added, “even if other Members of the Court do not agree that the Second Amendment likely protects a right to public carry, the time has come for the Court to answer this important question definitively.”

Thomas offered a sharply worded case for why the Court should have taken up the question. Federal circuits, he pointed out, have reached different conclusions and are therefore irrevocably split on this pressing constitutional matter. “This Court has already suggested that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry firearms in public in some fashion. As we explained in Heller, to ‘bear arms’ means to ‘wear, bear, or carry upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in a case of conflict with another person.'” As Thomas observed, “I find it extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen.”

Today’s case, known as Peruta v. California, centered on a state law that says that conceal-carry permits will only be issued to those persons who have demonstrated to the satisfaction of their local county sheriff that they have a “good cause” for carrying a concealed firearm in public. What counts as a “good cause?” In the words of one San Diego official, “one’s personal safety is not considered good cause” in and of itself.

What this means in practice, as one earlier court ruling observed, “in California the only way that the typical responsible, law-abiding citizen can carry a weapon in public for the lawful purpose of self-defense is with a concealed-carry permit. And, in San Diego County, that option has been taken off the table.”

Despite the strenuous protest of Justice Thomas and Justice Gorsuch, that option remains off the table thanks to the Supreme Court’s inaction today.

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Supreme Court to Hear Case on Gay Wedding Cakes

wedding cakeIs a wedding cake speech? When a baker makes a wedding cake, is he or she declaring support for the couple’s marriage? Can a baker decline to bake a cake for a gay couple (and defy a state’s anti-discrimination laws) because he or she objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds?

Today, the Supreme Court announced they would be taking up a case that may answer these questions for anyone who provides services for gay weddings. This is likely to be a case with a narrow ruling about religion and compelled speech and what constitutes an artistic expression. Don’t expect a broad ruling that would change the nature of state-level public accommodation laws one way or the other.

In Masterpiece Bakeshop Ltd. Vs Colorado Civil Rights Commission the owner of a bakery in Lakewood, Colo., declined to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because he had religious objections to same-sex marriage. In 2014 he was ruled to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws on public accommodation.

He is one of a handful of similarly-minded business owners who offer their goods and services to weddings but oppose same-sex marriage recognition. We’ve seen other cases involving bakers, florists, photographers, and owners of private wedding venues.

The Supreme Court had previously turned away challenges to state-level antidiscrimination laws, but the court has been sitting on this case for months without deciding one way or another if they’d take it. Today was the last day in this session for the court to report out whether they would grant the case. After months of rescheduling, they’ve decided that they will.

The case will in all likelihood be very narrowly focused on whether the free speech and free religion rights of bakery owner Jack Phillips have been violated. The Supreme Court will have to consider whether the making of a wedding cake is a form of artistic impression and whether, therefore, laws forcing Phillips to serve same-sex couples constitutes compelled speech.

Historically, as I explained about these cases in 2015, courts have not determined cakes themselves to be expressive activity (therefore not protected speech). But text, writing, and imagery placed on the cake can be considered speech, and a bakery cannot be forced to communicate text or images they deem offensive. The question is whether the creation of a wedding cake itself is a form of speech.

Libertarians hoping for a broader ruling related to whether public accommodation laws violate the free association rights of business owners will probably be disappointed. There is zero chance this court is going to rule in such a way that alters state-level public accommodation laws. This case will mostly revolve around whether the activities of people like bakers and florists are considered artistic speech and therefore are possibly exempt from such laws.

Read more about the case itself from SCOTUSblog here.

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Trump Meeting With India PM, Anthony Kennedy Retirement Buzz, 150 Die in Pakistan After Oil Tanker Crash: A.M. Links

  • Reports that Trump is thinking of pulling out of Israeli-Palestinian talks over a rift between Mahmoud Abbas and Jared Kushner are “nonsense,” according to an unnamed U.S. official.
  • President Trump meets with the prime minister of India today.
  • Rumors abound about the potential retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.
  • More than 150 people died after an oil tanker overturned and burst into flames in Pakistan.
  • A number of Ohio government websites were hacked and defaced with anti-Trump and pro-ISIS messages.
  • Three Jewish participants were asked to leave the Dyke March parade in Chicago because their Jewish Pride flags made others feel “threatened.”
  • The hacker group Anonymous claimed that NASA was “on the verge” of announcing the discovery of alien life.

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Detroit Council Dunks on Taxpayers, Will Use School Funds for Basketball Arena

Taxpayer-funded bonds sold to raise revenue for parks and schools in cash-strapped Detroit will instead be used to lure its professional basketball team back into the city.

The Detroit Pistons have played out in the suburbs (first in Pontiac, now in Auburn Hills) since 1977, but will relocate to a new downtown arena thanks to $34 million in incentives approved by the Detroit City Council.

Taxpayers are already on the hook for more than $300 million of the $900 million construction cost for new Little Caesars Arena, built to host the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. The additional spending will make the arena suitable for basketball and help pay for new practice facility and front office for the Pistons.

Michigan Radio reported this week that “some Detroiters are unhappy with the deal because the bonds are taxpayer funded with money originally intended for schools and parks.”

As well they should be. In a city still recovering from bankruptcy, local officials might have found better ways to use $34 million. It’s a fair question whether government should be spending money on parks and schools, but it’s certainly a more core function than throwing cash at billionaire team owners. Tom Gores, who owns the Pistons, is worth an estimated $3.3 billion.

But it gets worse. As the Detroit Free Press reported earlier this month, local activists filed a lawsuit to block the stadium spending. The city asked the judge to dismiss the case, making several laughable claims about why it was essential to spend money on the stadium project, instead of using the money to help fund the city’s public schools (which are $500 million in debt, by the way).

Stopping the project, the city’s attorneys argued, would be “devastating” to Detroit’s “remarkable comeback story.”

“Post-bankruptcy, the city cannot expect lenders to extend unsecured credit at reasonable rates, so its debt has been limited to secured transactions, tied to specific revenue streams,” the attorneys write. “The default on any of that debt would significantly affect the ability of the city to attract investors. The city is currently engaged in a bond offering to raise funds to rebuild neighborhoods. A default on DDA’s debt would certainly increase the costs and could possibly derail the plan completely.”

As Deadspin noted this week, this is disingenuous nonsense. The city’s attorneys are essentially arguing that not giving millions of dollars to the Pistons’ billionaire owner would jeopardize Detroit’s entire economic recovery.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

The next time you see a headline about how woefully underfunded Detroit’s schools are or hear about appeals for additional state and federal funding, think about how its city leaders prioritize a finite amount of tax revenue. Detroit’s rickety fiscal situation is the result of decades of poor choices, from which it appears the current leadership has learned nothing.

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The Fleeting Glory of Trump: New at Reason

TRUMP: The Complete Collection, edited by Denis Kitchen, Dark Horse Books, 184 pages, $29.99

Trump—the title of which, I feel compelled to point out, has nothing to do with the current POTUS—was an illustrated satirical magazine edited by Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman and published by Playboy‘s Hugh Hefner. Both men were young, very ambitious, and perhaps a little too idealistic. Thanks partly to a storm of unforeseen business woes that almost destroyed the Playboy empire and partly to Kurtzman and Hefner’s generosity toward their contributors, the publication lasted for only two issues, one released in 1956 and the other in 1957. The result, on display in a new collection edited and annotated by Denis Kitchen, was a tragic might-have-been, writes Peter Bagge.

View this article.

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The Fleeting Glory of Trump: New at Reason

TRUMP: The Complete Collection, edited by Denis Kitchen, Dark Horse Books, 184 pages, $29.99

Trump—the title of which, I feel compelled to point out, has nothing to do with the current POTUS—was an illustrated satirical magazine edited by Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman and published by Playboy‘s Hugh Hefner. Both men were young, very ambitious, and perhaps a little too idealistic. Thanks partly to a storm of unforeseen business woes that almost destroyed the Playboy empire and partly to Kurtzman and Hefner’s generosity toward their contributors, the publication lasted for only two issues, one released in 1956 and the other in 1957. The result, on display in a new collection edited and annotated by Denis Kitchen, was a tragic might-have-been, writes Peter Bagge.

View this article.

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The Illusory Savings From Cutting Medicaid: New at Reason

Trump talking health care during the annual Congressional Picnic at the White HouseWhen economists talk in their sleep, they say, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” This axiom is drilled into them from day one of their undergraduate education and never leaves their minds. Any economist who tried to deny it would find herself suddenly choking in pain and unable to speak. What it means is that if the government does something that costs money, some human somewhere will bear the expense. “Free” public schools, “free” parks, and “free” roads all have to be paid for by the citizenry. Collectively, we can’t get something for nothing.

This useful insight has long been offered as an objection to costly government programs. But it applies as well to measures that extract savings from costly government programs. In their replacement of Obamacare, congressional Republicans promise to achieve greater frugality in Medicaid, which helps low-income Americans, without inflicting more hardship. The melancholy truth, writes Steve Chapman, is that it’s not gonna happen.

View this article.

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The Illusory Savings From Cutting Medicaid: New at Reason

Trump talking health care during the annual Congressional Picnic at the White HouseWhen economists talk in their sleep, they say, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” This axiom is drilled into them from day one of their undergraduate education and never leaves their minds. Any economist who tried to deny it would find herself suddenly choking in pain and unable to speak. What it means is that if the government does something that costs money, some human somewhere will bear the expense. “Free” public schools, “free” parks, and “free” roads all have to be paid for by the citizenry. Collectively, we can’t get something for nothing.

This useful insight has long been offered as an objection to costly government programs. But it applies as well to measures that extract savings from costly government programs. In their replacement of Obamacare, congressional Republicans promise to achieve greater frugality in Medicaid, which helps low-income Americans, without inflicting more hardship. The melancholy truth, writes Steve Chapman, is that it’s not gonna happen.

View this article.

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The Fleeting Glory of Trump Magazine

TRUMP: The Complete Collection, edited by Denis Kitchen, Dark Horse Books, 184 pages, $29.99

Trump—the title of which, I feel compelled to point out, has nothing to do with the current POTUS—was an illustrated satirical magazine edited by Mad founder Harvey Kurtzman and published by Playboy‘s Hugh Hefner. Both men were young, very ambitious, and perhaps a little too idealistic. Thanks partly to a storm of unforeseen business woes that almost destroyed the Playboy empire and partly to Kurtzman and Hefner’s generosity toward their contributors, the publication lasted for only two issues, one released in 1956 and the other in 1957. The result, on display in a new collection edited and annotated by Denis Kitchen, was a tragic might-have-been.

Kurtzman is best known for founding Mad, which started out as a full-color comic book satirizing other comics. As one of only two staff editors at the EC Comics company, Kurtzman was expected to write every word of the titles he edited; prior to Mad he ran the imprint’s war titles, which often featured antiwar messages. Thanks to his obsessive determination to get all his facts straight, he routinely fell into “research holes.” Mad was supposed to be a relatively easy job for him, but he soon started obsessing over it too, especially as he started to run out of comic characters to spoof and began to expand his targets into the worlds of film, TV, advertising, and literature.

Mad was a surprise hit, and it soon attracted attention from outside the marginalized, lowbrow comics world, with Kurtzman becoming a cause célèbre among humorists of all kinds. This, combined with a new industry-wide self-censorship policy (known as the Comics Code) that was threatening EC Comics’ very existence, convinced Kurtzman to ask his publisher, William Gaines, to convert Mad from a kiddie comic to an adult humor magazine. Gaines agreed, and Mad became not just more popular than ever but, eventually, a cultural institution. All this sudden and unexpected attention went to Kurtzman’s head, and he soon began making outrageous demands that the publisher wouldn’t have agreed to under any circumstances, such as 51 percent ownership of Gaines’ own company. But Kurtzman thought he had an ace in the hole: Hugh Hefner.

Like most men of that era, Kurtzman was fascinated by Playboy, with its unprecedented mixture of pornography, high-end production values, and intellectual aspirations (or pretensions, take your pick). And Hefner, who had been an unsuccessful cartoonist, was equally fascinated by what Kurtzman was doing with Mad, specifically in the way he would deconstruct—in a very pre-postmodernist fashion—his targets. Kurtzman’s commercial purpose was simply to mine humor from his subjects, but if in so doing he also revealed some heaping doses of hypocrisy and greed behind the mass media’s messages, then so much the better. (It should be noted here that Kurtzman’s parents were Communists. While he never shared their political beliefs, he certainly was raised to view American culture with a cynical eye.)

This approach appealed to Hefner’s own self-image as an observant Hip Outsider, and the two men were soon conspiring with each other to create a satirical publication that would put all others to shame, sparing no expense in the process.

Content-wise, Trump wasn’t much different than the early “adult” version of Mad that Kurtzman had only just started at EC. Kurtzman also took the cream of EC’s stable of artists with him, primarily the incomparable threesome of Will Elder, Jack Davis, and Wally Wood, as well as a young Al Jaffee. (Wood quickly returned to Mad when he learned he wasn’t allowed to work for both publications, while Davis and Jaffee were welcomed back after Trump folded. Jaffee still works there 60 years later.) What separated Trump from Mad was the former’s determination to be a demonstrably “adult” publication, which meant it included (possibly at Hefner’s insistence) a lot of semi-clad young women in the art; the only nod to modesty was a rule against exposed nipples. Mad, meanwhile, slipped back into appealing to a more adolescent audience. This noticeable difference in the sexual maturity of the respective magazines’ intended readerships was recreated 15 years later with the arrival of National Lampoon.

One highly ambitious feature from the first issue was an elaborate take-off of Life magazine’s illustrated panoramas of various stages of human development over specific time periods. Trump‘s version imagined what archeologists would make of our own culture, a million years in the future, as they study such “art objects” as fire hydrants and coke bottles and marvel over such “fertility goddesses” as Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Being a fold-out feature, it also teased readers into thinking they were opening a Playboy centerfold by inserting a partial photo of a nude model just as you begin to turn the page.

This feature in particular represents the noticeable difference between Trump and Mad in terms of production. The former was printed on slick magazine paper rather than cheap newsprint, and it featured a lot of full-color art in its interiors—hand-colored art at that, which was unheard-of in comic books up until then. So while Kurtzman was generous with his artists, he also was quite demanding, expecting them to turn in the very best quality work they were capable of. Thus, the otherwise slapdashy (but always excellent) Jack Davis employed a far more time-consuming cross-hatching technique instead of his usual water-color approach, with stunning results.

Even more stunning are the incredibly detailed painted illustrations by Kurtzman’s childhood friend and lifelong collaborator, Will Elder. Their collaborations in the early Mads still stand out as that publication’s most remarkable achievements, and with Trump it was obvious that both men saw this as a golden opportunity to strut their stuff. There’s something almost harrowing in the way they would employ a Sistine Chapel–like effort simply to make fun of, say, Howdy Doody or Coca-Cola, and their work in this collection is worth the cover price alone. But Kurtzman and Elder’s obsessive, laborious approach was also why Trump (like the Kurtzman-era Mad) was rarely completed by deadline time. You have to wonder how two artists with such an it’s-done-when-it’s-done-and-damn-the-distributors attitude wound up working in the world of periodicals to begin with. Such prima donnas are more likely to be fine artists—though it’s unlikely that these two would have been welcomed in that world either.

Kitchen’s collection includes not just the complete run of Trump but also (mostly) unfinished work on what would have been the third issue of the magazine. And there are examples of work in progress from the two existing issues, which serves as a window into Harvey Kurtzman’s perfectionist mind. As was the case with the early Mads, he not only wrote and edited almost every feature but also roughed out and/or laid out each piece in great detail. The artists were expected to remain faithful to these blueprints. His sense of timing and composition is flawless, and has served as a go-to model of sorts for visual satirists ever since. The only shame in all of this is the relative lack of Kurtzman’s own finished art, since he was convinced the public didn’t care for it. (His stock response to anyone who complimented his art was “yeah, you and my mother.”) His drawing style was highly expressive and energetic, and he employed it to great effect in dramatic stories as well as humorous ones.

In a sense, Kurtzman’s entry into the world of Hefner was both the best and the worst thing that ever happened to him. Yes, it resulted in Trump, but the ultimate differences between the two men—one an unflinching realist, the other a peddler of fantasies—were bound to come to a head at some point. Still, they liked and respected each other, and they continued to work together for decades afterward on the long-running Playboy comic Little Annie Fanny. But that aforementioned conflict of sensibilities always hung over this feature, with one man attempting to enlighten the reader while the other was primarily interested in titillating him.

Kurtzman’s later career consisted mainly of various failed or aborted projects. But this never diminished the impact his early work—including Trump—has had on almost everyone in the comedy world ever since, whether they know it or not. He sure has inspired the hell out of me. He is one of America’s all-time greatest artists, and he deserves to be a household name.

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The Illusory Savings From Cutting Medicaid

Trump talking health care during the annual Congressional Picnic at the White HouseWhen economists talk in their sleep, they say, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” This axiom is drilled into them from day one of their undergraduate education and never leaves their minds. Any economist who tried to deny it would find herself suddenly choking in pain and unable to speak.

What it means is that if the government does something that costs money, some human somewhere will bear the expense. “Free” public schools, “free” parks, and “free” roads all have to be paid for by the citizenry. Collectively, we can’t get something for nothing.

This useful insight has long been offered as an objection to costly government programs. But it applies as well to measures that extract savings from costly government programs.

In their replacement of Obamacare, congressional Republicans promise to achieve greater frugality in Medicaid, which helps low-income Americans, without inflicting more hardship. The melancholy truth: Not gonna happen.

Last year, total spending for Medicaid amounted to $533 billion. Nearly two-thirds of the funds come from the federal government, and the rest comes from the states. Some 69 million people are covered by it, up from 54 million in 2012.

The expansion was intentional. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Washington signed on to cover 100 percent of the cost of expanded coverage at the outset, with its share falling to 90 percent from 2020 on.

The health care plan offered by Senate Republicans, like the one passed by the House, would reverse the trend by giving states a certain amount per Medicaid recipient or a block grant for a fixed amount. Either way, the federal contribution would steadily shrink compared with what it would do under the ACA.

Under the House plan, the federal savings would amount to $880 billion over a decade. The Senate bill is supposed to wring out even more. Supporters say Medicaid enrollees would be better off because states would be free to redesign their programs to make them more efficient and responsive to beneficiaries.

But remember that fundamental economic proposition. Just as you can’t get something for nothing, you generally can’t get more for less.

The House changes, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, would reduce the number of people on Medicaid by 14 million by 2026. Many people who now have coverage would lose it, and many who would have become eligible would be turned away.

States could always protect the vulnerable by boosting their contribution to make up for the lost federal funds. But that would mean requiring their taxpayers to foot the bill.

Republicans say the changes would be positive because Medicaid coverage is often useless. House Speaker Paul Ryan claims that “more and more doctors just won’t take Medicaid.”

In fact, 69 percent of physicians currently accept new Medicaid patients, and the percentage has been stable for decades. It’s lower than for privately insured patients, because Medicaid provides doctors with lower reimbursements, but budget cuts would probably exacerbate that malady.

Some recipients would get cut off under the GOP plans, and some would get less coverage. That—surprise!—would leave them worse off, because comprehensive health insurance is a good thing to have. Medicaid coverage, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation, is proven to ensure “earlier detection of health and developmental problems in children, earlier diagnosis of cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions in adults, and earlier detection of mental illness in people of all ages.”

Cutting back Medicaid coverage would save taxpayers some cash, but only by taking it from others. The reduction would raise costs for low-income people and most likely degrade their health.

It would also increase the financial load on hospitals, which treat a lot of people who have no coverage. A study by scholars at Northwestern University and Columbia University figured that each new uninsured person costs nearby hospitals an average of $900 a year.

Less Medicaid coverage would strain the finances of struggling hospitals, particularly small ones in rural areas, and put some out of business—to the detriment of all patients, not just those on Medicaid. When one closes, the uninsured migrate to other hospitals, putting more stresses on them.

Economists know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, a free medicine, or a free X-ray. There is, however, such a thing as a false economy.

COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

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Let’s Dump Terrible, Protectionist State Liquor Laws: New at Reason

Liquor storeAlcohol regulations in this country could improve dramatically if more state courts would reject bald economic protectionism as a valid basis for lawmaking. That’s the conclusion of a new study published last week by the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, D.C.

The new study, Could Economic Liberty Litigation ‘Free the Booze’?, uses the hook of a recent South Carolina court case to suggest—hopefully—that we may be seeing the dawn of a new period of much-needed state alcohol deregulation.

The lawsuit in question concerned section 61-6-140 of South Carolina’s Alcohol Beverage Control Act, which stated that “[n]o more than three retail dealer licenses may be issued to one licensee[.]” The case involved national alcohol beverage superstore Total Wine, which owns three locations in South Carolina but was rebuffed by the state in its efforts to open a fourth. Total Wine sued to overturn the South Carolina law.

The state, the court found, “offer[ed] economic protectionism as the sole justification of this extreme business regulation.” The court determined the state’s “only justification for these provisions is that they support small businesses.” Food policy expert Baylen Linnekin explains more.

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Are Terrible State Alcohol Laws on the Way Out?

Liquor storeAlcohol regulations in this country could improve dramatically if more state courts would reject bald economic protectionism as a valid basis for lawmaking. That’s the conclusion of a new study published last week by the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, D.C.

The new study, Could Economic Liberty Litigation ‘Free the Booze’?, uses the hook of a recent South Carolina court case to suggest—hopefully—that we may be seeing the dawn of a new period of much-needed state alcohol deregulation.

The lawsuit in question concerned section 61-6-140 of South Carolina’s Alcohol Beverage Control Act, which stated that “[n]o more than three retail dealer licenses may be issued to one licensee[.]” The case involved national alcohol beverage superstore Total Wine, which owns three locations in South Carolina but was rebuffed by the state in its efforts to open a fourth. Total Wine sued to overturn the South Carolina law.

The state, the court found, “offer[ed] economic protectionism as the sole justification of this extreme business regulation.” The court determined the state’s “only justification for these provisions is that they support small businesses.”

Thankfully, the court was unwilling to accept that justification.

“The record does not contain any evidence of the alleged safety concerns incumbent in regulating liquor sales in this way,” the court ruled. “Without any other supportable police power justification present, economic protectionism for a certain class of retailers is not a constitutionally sound basis for regulating liquor sales.”

The court rightly concluded that “‘it’s just liquor’… is not a legitimate basis for regulation.”

While it may seem trite for a court to conclude this, the truth is that in the seven-dozen years since the end of alcohol Prohibition in this country, courts have held time and again that the mere fact a law regulates liquor has indeed been a sufficient basis for that regulation.

But that view began to change after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 2005 case that Michigan, New York, and other states cannot discriminate against out-of-state alcohol sellers. (Alas, I discussed “a new Michigan law that bars out-of-state retailers from shipping wine into the state” earlier this year.) More recently, in 2014, a federal court overturned Florida’s inane ban on 64-ounce beer growlers.

The message: federal courts have acknowledged that “it’s just liquor” may no longer be a sufficient constitutional basis for lawmaking. But state courts have been mostly loath to overturn alcohol laws within their borders, choosing instead to defer to state lawmakers for whom cronyism and protectionism are legitimate bases for lawmaking.

“From Virginia’s food-beverage ratio law, which arbitrarily mandates how much booze versus food a restaurant can sell, to Indiana’s cold beer law, which only allows liquor stores (but not gas stations or grocery stores) to sell refrigerated beer, the examples are legion,” the R Street report notes.

That’s why the South Carolina decision is such a big deal.

“Nearly every state in the country has oppressive alcohol laws that could be ripe for judicial review, and using a litigation-based model allows reformers to circumvent cronyist state legislatures that are often bent on protecting the status quo,” said study author Jarrett Dieterle, a fellow at the R Street Institute and editor of DrinksReform.org, in an email to me last week.

“If this model of targeting irrational alcohol regulations through economic liberty litigation takes hold in other states, it could upend the booze world as we know it,” Dieterle tells me. “The examples of protectionist alcohol laws across the country are legion and this could be one method of clearing away the antiquated post-Prohibition legal structure that the alcohol industry still labors under.”

Dieterle kindly quotes me in the piece for the proposition that the Twenty-First Amendment, which ended alcohol Prohibition, is largely rubbish.

The Twenty-First Amendment “simply shifted much of the power to prohibit and incessantly regulate alcohol from the federal government to the states,” I wrote in a column earlier this year. “The Twenty-First Amendment—particularly the language in its second section, and the way lawmakers and courts have interpreted that language—is why we have things like dry counties, happy hour bans, and a mandatory three-tier system in forty-nine of fifty states.”

All of those laws must go. And courts should overturn awful alcohol laws that state legislatures fail to repeal.

“If more courts begin to conclude that some ends—such as promoting economic protectionism—remain beyond state governments’ proper police powers, it could usher in an era of booze-related economic liberty litigation,” reads an R Street press release on the study.

Given the sheer volume of awful state alcohol laws, alcohol producers, sellers, and drinkers alike should welcome that era’s potential arrival with open arms.

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