Jacob Sullum on the Ruling Against the NSA’s Phone Record Dragnet

When he issued a preliminary injunction
against the NSA’s phone record database on Monday, U.S. District
Judge Richard Leon declared, “I cannot imagine a more
‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and
high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually
every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it
without prior judicial approval. Surely, such a program infringes
on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the Founders enshrined in the
Fourth Amendment.” Surely it does, says Senior Editor Jacob Sullum,
but it is hard to see how the Supreme Court can reach that
conclusion without reconsidering the “third party doctrine,” which
holds that information loses Fourth Amendment protection when you
disclose it to someone else.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/18/jacob-sullum-on-the-ruling-against-the-n
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Uber E-Hailing Ride Service Accused of Gouging For Trying to Keep Drivers Working

Uber, market leader with a variety of ride services available
via smartphone app, has gotten a surge of bad publicity lately over
its “surge pricing” policies–a (much) higher surcharge over
typical fares. It hikes prices during bad snowstorms, and pissed off
New Yorkers for it
, with a $94 fare for a two mile, 11 minute
trip over this snowy weekend. It also does so during rush hour, and

pissed off an Angeleno for it
 with a $357 fare for a 14
mile, 49 minute trip.

Company policy is to inform riders that surge pricing is in
effect before rides are taken, though in the case of the L.A. fare
mentioned above, the passenger claims she wasn’t warned–a claim
Uber disputes. Since Uber drivers only work when they decide they
want to work, the surge pricing is largely designed, Uber claims,
to keep drivers on the road during times when they might be likely
to think the standard fares aren’t worth the trouble for them.

It’s an attempt to adjust supply to demand under changing
circumstances. It will doubtless never satisfy everyone and for
sure is going to result in retroactive regret on the part of some
passengers, which isn’t good for Uber. It’s especially not good
when it becomes a national Internet meme about how awful your
prices are.

That said, Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times

hits on what will likely be the thing to “discipline” Uber
if
it needs discipline: competition:

One other factor tends to limit gouging: fear of consumer
rage. That’s
a fear Uber hasn’t yet acquired
, perhaps because it doesn’t
think it needs to. At the moment it’s the big cheese in
ride-sharing and its typical clients can afford to shoulder the
surge (or charge it to their expense accounts), griping all the
way. But what happens when its reputation for caring nothing about
customer relations starts biting back, as it surely will some day?
There’s always room for a rival billing itself as a “kinder,
gentler Uber,” and this weekend may just have given some clever
entrepreneur an idea.

I wrote about Uber and other such e-hailing services upending
the hired driving industry
back in October as California became
the first state to try to regulate them.

Reason TV on Uber and other ride services v. city
governments:

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/17/uber-e-hailing-ride-service-accused-of-g
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Tonight on The Independents: Obama Meets Tech CEOs, Trolls Russia; Plus Gubmint Waste, 9/11 Censorship, Lottery Morality, E-Cigarettes, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

Before we get into tonight’s lineup for The
Independents
, your very favorite new cable news
program
, let’s run a clip from last night’s episode, featuring
Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum breaking down Judge Richard
Leon’s
historic ruling
yesterday that the National Security Agency’s
metadata-collection program is maybe-probably unconstitutional:

Tonight features more discussion about the NSA, vis-a-vis
President Barack Obama’s
meeting today
with the nation’s top technology CEOs, who are

p-i-s-s-e-d
about how the federal government conscripts them
into the surveillance state. Also to be chewed on by
paneistsl Jehmu Greene
and Todd
Starnes
 is the annual “Wastebook” list
of ridiculous government spending compiled by Sen. Tom Coburn
(R-Oklahoma).  

Other topics: Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Florida) will explain
why he’s trying to declassify 28 (presumably Saudi-implicating)
pages of the 9/11 Commission report. Also, people all over the damn
country are buying Mega Millions lottery tickets, hoping to win

a half-billion dollars
; can we blame government? And:
Obama totally trolls the Russian government by
declining a presidential or vice-presidential visit
to the
Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony, and sending in his
stead Billie
Jean effing King
. There will also be talk about New York’s

proposed ban on e-cigarettes
, the new class of
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees
, and more.

That’s tonight live at 9 pm ET on Fox Business Network, with
your host Kennedy, plus
co-hosts Matt
Welch
 and Kmele Foster. Tweet
at @IndependentsFBN
(#independents), and/or comment right here!

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/17/tonight-on-the-independents-911-censorsh
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Tonight on The Independents: Obama Meets Tech CEOs, Trolls Russia; Plus Gubmint Waste, 9/11 Censorship, Lottery Morality, E-Cigarettes, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

Before we get into tonight’s lineup for The
Independents
, your very favorite new cable news
program
, let’s run a clip from last night’s episode, featuring
Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum breaking down Judge Richard
Leon’s
historic ruling
yesterday that the National Security Agency’s
metadata-collection program is maybe-probably unconstitutional:

Tonight features more discussion about the NSA, vis-a-vis
President Barack Obama’s
meeting today
with the nation’s top technology CEOs, who are

p-i-s-s-e-d
about how the federal government conscripts them
into the surveillance state. Also to be chewed on by
paneistsl Jehmu Greene
and Todd
Starnes
 is the annual “Wastebook” list
of ridiculous government spending compiled by Sen. Tom Coburn
(R-Oklahoma).  

Other topics: Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Florida) will explain
why he’s trying to declassify 28 (presumably Saudi-implicating)
pages of the 9/11 Commission report. Also, people all over the damn
country are buying Mega Millions lottery tickets, hoping to win

a half-billion dollars
; can we blame government? And:
Obama totally trolls the Russian government by
declining a presidential or vice-presidential visit
to the
Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony, and sending in his
stead Billie
Jean effing King
. There will also be talk about New York’s

proposed ban on e-cigarettes
, the new class of
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees
, and more.

That’s tonight live at 9 pm ET on Fox Business Network, with
your host Kennedy, plus
co-hosts Matt
Welch
 and Kmele Foster. Tweet
at @IndependentsFBN
(#independents), and/or comment right here!

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/17/tonight-on-the-independents-911-censorsh
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LA Sheriff's Department Admits Hiring 80 Problem Officers; May Not Be Able to Fire Them

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has admitted
that they hired 80 officers in 2010 knowing that they had problems
in their past including 
misconduct at other law
enforcement agencies, solicitation of prostitutes, falsifying
police records and unlawfully discharging firearms. The department
is still figuring out what it will do with the officers, but

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers told the Los Angeles Times
that
they may not be able to fire these officers:

Rogers said sheriff’s officials are considering
terminating some but likely won’t be able to legally fire employees
for misconduct that sheriff’s officials knew about when they hired
them.
 What’s more realistic, he said, is moving
the problem hires to less sensitive positions, giving them more
training and putting them on administrative monitoring to limit
future misconduct.

The admission comes on the heels of a LA Times
investigation
, which reviewed taped interviews with LASD
applicants and hiring investigation files that were leaked to the
paper. The union that represents LASD
deputies 
tried
in September 2013 to stop the records from being
unveiled
 because the paper and reporter
possessed ”stolen property.”

On December 9, The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 18
officers with civil
rights and corruption violations including conspiracy, obstruction
of justice and making false statements. From the
U.S. Attorney’s Office
:

LOS ANGELES – Five criminal cases that charge a
total of 18 current or one-time deputy sheriffs of various ranks
were unsealed today as part of ongoing and wide-ranging FBI
investigation into allegations of civil rights violations and
corruption involving members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s
Department. Four grand jury indictments and one criminal complaint
allege crimes that include unjustified beatings of jail inmates and
visitors at downtown Los Angeles jail facilities, unjustified
detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation
into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.

For more on the LASD and misconduct in the department,
read and watch LA
County Sheriff’s Hassle Photographer, Trample Constitution, Get
Lauded by Bosses
:


from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/17/la-sheriffs-department-admits-hiring-pro
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LA Sheriff’s Department Admits Hiring 80 Problem Officers; May Not Be Able to Fire Them

The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has admitted
that they hired 80 officers in 2010 knowing that they had problems
in their past including 
misconduct at other law
enforcement agencies, solicitation of prostitutes, falsifying
police records and unlawfully discharging firearms. The department
is still figuring out what it will do with the officers, but

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers told the Los Angeles Times
that
they may not be able to fire these officers:

Rogers said sheriff’s officials are considering
terminating some but likely won’t be able to legally fire employees
for misconduct that sheriff’s officials knew about when they hired
them.
 What’s more realistic, he said, is moving
the problem hires to less sensitive positions, giving them more
training and putting them on administrative monitoring to limit
future misconduct.

The admission comes on the heels of a LA Times
investigation
, which reviewed taped interviews with LASD
applicants and hiring investigation files that were leaked to the
paper. The union that represents LASD
deputies 
tried
in September 2013 to stop the records from being
unveiled
 because the paper and reporter
possessed ”stolen property.”

On December 9, The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged 18
officers with civil
rights and corruption violations including conspiracy, obstruction
of justice and making false statements. From the
U.S. Attorney’s Office
:

LOS ANGELES – Five criminal cases that charge a
total of 18 current or one-time deputy sheriffs of various ranks
were unsealed today as part of ongoing and wide-ranging FBI
investigation into allegations of civil rights violations and
corruption involving members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s
Department. Four grand jury indictments and one criminal complaint
allege crimes that include unjustified beatings of jail inmates and
visitors at downtown Los Angeles jail facilities, unjustified
detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation
into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.

For more on the LASD and misconduct in the department,
read and watch LA
County Sheriff’s Hassle Photographer, Trample Constitution, Get
Lauded by Bosses
:


from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/17/la-sheriffs-department-admits-hiring-pro
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Is ADHD a Pretext for Selling Speed?

New York Times
reporter Alan Schwarz, who for the last year or two has been

wondering
what’s up with all the speed kids are taking these
days, has a
long article
 in Sunday’s paper on “The Selling of
Attention Deficit Disorder.” Unfortunately, Schwarz barely mentions
the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the organization that
identified ADD, later relabeled “attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder” (ADHD), as a disease that can be treated with
prescription stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse.
Instead he focuses on the companies that make those stimulants,
which he accuses of encouraging “overdiagnosis” to maximize
sales.

Schwarz surely is right that companies such as Shire, which
sells Adderall, and Ciba-Geigy, which makes Ritalin, have a
financial interest in pushing as broad a definition of ADHD as
possible. But none of this would be possible without the APA’s
blessing, and Schwarz pays scant attention to the problem of saying
whether someone does or does not have a disease for which there is
no objective test. Here is the sole reference to the APA in his
5,300-word story:

Like most psychiatric conditions, A.D.H.D. has no definitive
test, and most experts in the field agree that its symptoms are
open to interpretation by patients, parents and doctors.
The American Psychiatric Association, which receives
significant financing from drug companies, has gradually loosened
the official criteria for the disorder to include common childhood
behavior like “makes careless mistakes” or “often has difficulty
waiting his or her turn.”

ADHD, like every other condition listed in the APA’s
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is
whatever the current edition of the DSM says it is.
Since the official definition is broad and “open to
interpretation,” it is hard to know what Schwarz means by
“overdiagnosis.” Here is his best stab at explaining:

Few dispute that classic A.D.H.D., historically estimated to
affect 5 percent of children, is a legitimate disability that
impedes success at school, work and personal life. Medication often
assuages the severe impulsiveness and inability to concentrate,
allowing a person’s underlying drive and intelligence to
emerge.

But even some of the field’s longtime advocates say the zeal to
find and treat every A.D.H.D. child has led to too many people with
scant symptoms receiving the diagnosis and medication. 

Evidently Schwarz accepts the legitimacy of Classic ADHD while
turning up his nose at New ADHD. But since neither purported
disease can be objectively verified, it is not clear on what basis
Schwarz prefers the narrower definition. It seems to me that
Schwarz, who started his career as a sports reporter, is making a
moral judgment about when it is acceptable to use
performance-enhancing drugs: If you have a “legitimate disability,”
it’s OK, but not if you are merely
trying
to turn a B+ into an A. He dresses up this moral
judgment in the language of medical science, but it remains a moral
judgment, and a questionable one at that.

As Schwarz concedes, stimulants help many people, adults as well
as children, pay attention and perform better in school and at
work. The relevant question is not, as Schwarz seems to think,
whether all of these people “really” have ADHD (whatever that
means) but whether the benefits of stimulants outweigh their risks.
Schwarz tries mightily to magnify those risks:

Psychiatric breakdown and suicidal thoughts are the most rare
and extreme results of stimulant addiction, but those horror
stories are far outnumbered by people who, seeking to study or work
longer hours, cannot sleep for days, lose their appetite or
hallucinate. More can simply become habituated to the pills and
feel they cannot cope without them.

Notice how Schwarz mixes “rare and extreme…horror stories”
with a common, often welcome effect of stimulants, implying that
users experience suicidal thoughts, insomnia lasting for days, and
hallucinations (presumably due to the aforementioned sleep
deprivation) about as often as appetite suppression. His final
warning—that people may “become habituated to the pills and feel
they cannot cope without them”—is little more than negative spin on
a situation he elsewhere describes as taking a “medication” to
compensate for a “disability.” Schwarz’s most laughable attempt to
scare people away from stimulants is his grave warning that “these
drugs are classified by the government among the most
abusable substances in medicine.” Yes, and according to the
government, marijuana is
even more dangerous
.

I don’t mean to imply that prescription stimulants—or their
illegal counterparts, many of which, impurities aside, are
chemically very similar or identical (e.g., Desoxyn vs.
black-market meth)—carry no hazards at all. But the risks are the
same whether or not consumption of the drug has been blessed by a
doctor’s prescripton, and whether or not Alan Schwarz thinks that
prescription should have been written. People should be free to
weigh the risks for themselves, without having to obtain the
magical piece of paper that transforms crime into medicine.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/17/is-adhd-a-pretext-for-selling-speed
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New Report: How Much Money Is The Federal Government Wasting On Outrageous Crap?

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) just released his office’s annual
report on outrageous and frivolous federal government expenditures.
The 2013 Wastebook breaks
down the details of 100 of the Feds’ most egregious expenses from
this year.  

A few highlights:

Mass Destruction of Functional Weapons: $7
billion

The military has destroyed more than 170 million pounds of
usable vehicles and other military equipment. Twenty percent of the
U.S.’s total war material used in Afghantistan wil be scrapped.
Why? Because officials fear that if the military sells used
equipment, it could drive down prices and hurt the defense
industry. 

Popular Romance Education: $914,000

The National Endowment of the Humanities awarded the Popular
Romance Project a nearly $1 million grant to build a website,
create a documentary, host an academic symposium and embark on a
nationwide library tour exploring the presentation of romance in
popular culture. So if you’re curious about the cultural
significance of Edward and Bella’s relationship
in
Twilight, you’re in luck. (Never mind that
countless
 blogs have
managed to explore the subject sans government funds.)

Sugar Industry Subsidies: $171.5 million

Through the U.S. Sugar Program, domestic sugar companies can
repay government loans with sugar rather than money. In 2013 alone,
the government lost $171.5 million
because sugar companies could not repay their loans.
Under the Feedstock Flexibility Program created in 2008, the
government is required to purchase surplus sugar and re-sell it to
ethanol producers. This fall, the Feds sold the surplus product at
a $56 million loss. 

Furloughed Non-Essential Federal Workers Paid For Not
Working: At least $400 million

During the shutdown, thousands of federal workers deemed
“non-essential” were asked to not show up to work for a few weeks.
More than 100,000 of these “non-essential” furloughed
employees receive a salary of at least $100,000. Each of these
workers was paid $4,000 for their time off work. 

Superman Propaganda: $10 million

To encourage enrollment in the military, the National Guard
teamed up with Warner Bros. Studios. The government designed a
Superman-themed ad campaign, complete with commercials, online
videogames, sports car design-wraps and a series of fitness videos,
to be aired around the release of the film Man of
Steel

Obamacare, Healthcare.gov: At least $379
million

The Wastebook has strong feelings on this one:

With nearly half-a-billion dollars in government funding put
behind promoting a product relatively few people seem interested in
purchasing from a website that doesn’t
work, Obamacare is perhaps the biggest marketing flop
since Coca-Cola introduced the world to “New Coke” in
1985. 

The cost to build Healthcare.gov is estimated at $319 million so
far. “The total amount to be spent nationally on publicity,
marketing and advertising will be at least $684 million,
according to data compiled [by] The Associated Press from federal
and state sources.”

Sen. Coburn, who’s
known as “Dr. No”
(along with former Rep. Ron Paul) for
vetoing almost all new spending initiatives, is an outspoken
opponent of much discretionary spending and an advocate of
entitlement reform. However, he is not opposed to all government
spending. He begins the Wastebook with a condemnation of the Feds
for skimping on what he considers important programs, such as
military pay and housing assistance for the disabled
elderly, while funding frivolous ones. Additionally, as a
devout social conservative, the Wastebook includes some
questionable criticisms. For example, he bemoans Nevada’s
prostitution industry being allowed to file for standard business
deductions.

Read the
full report here
.  

Watch a Reason TV interview with Sen. Coburn about how both
parties bankrupted America:

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/17/new-report-how-much-money-is-the-federal
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Monday NSA Ruling Increases Likelihood of Sen. Rand Paul Filing Suit

A class-action suit that includes every single American? A lawyer's dream.Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
has been recruiting potential plaintiffs, considering a
class-action lawsuit against the National Security Agency to try to
halt its massive phone records collection. Judge Richard Leon’s

ruling Monday
that the collections are a violation of the
Fourth Amendment may be tipping the senator’s hand toward pushing
ahead.

A staffer
spoke
with U.S. News:

The senior staffer, who spoke with U.S. News on background, says
hundreds of thousands of people volunteered online as possible
plaintiffs after Paul first floated the idea of a class-action
lawsuit in June.

The senator has not firmly decided to file suit and it’s still
possible Paul will choose to instead assist with three
already-filed lawsuits against the NSA.

If Paul does file a lawsuit it would be the fourth major legal
attack against the NSA’s bulk collection and five-year storage of
American phone records.

Read the whole story
here
.

Follow this story and more at Reason
24/7
.

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from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/17/monday-nsa-ruling-increases-likelihood-o
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