‘No Such Thing as a Republican Judge’ Says Gorsuch, Older Folks More Politically Polarized, How the Web Has Been Good to Mail-Order Brides: P.M. Links

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Pennsylvania House Passes Bill to Hide Cops’ Names After Shootings

A bill that would shield the release of the names of police officers involved in fatal shootings sailed through the Pennsylvania House Monday, over the objections of civil liberties groups who say it would “throw a cloak of secrecy” over serious use-of-force incidents by police.

Pennsylvania House Bill 27 would place a 30-day gag, except for district attorneys and the state attorney general, on identifying a police officer involved in a use-of-force incident that results in death or serious injury. It passed by a vote of 157-39. Supporters say the bill will protect officers from harassment and retribution after high-profile incidents, but opponents, like the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, say it keeps vital information the public.

“Let’s be very clear about what this legislation does: This bill hides police who kill,” Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. “The criminal justice system is already heavily weighted in favor of the police. This bill throws a cloak of secrecy over them at times when communities need information the most, after someone has been killed or seriously injured.”

The Philadelphia Police Department has a policy of releasing the names of officers involved in fatal shootings within 72 hours, but currently the decision of when, and if, to release officers’ names is left to the discretion of police chiefs and prosecutors.

The Pennsylvania legislature passed the same bill last year by wide, bipartisan margin, but Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed it, saying “government works best when trust and openness exist between citizens and their government, and as such, I cannot sign into law a policy that will enshrine the withholding of information in the public interest.”

“These situations in particular—when law enforcement uses deadly force—demand utmost transparency, otherwise a harmful mistrust will grow between police officers and the communities they protect and serve,” Wolf continued. “Further, I cannot allow local police department policies to be superseded and transparency to be criminalized, as local departments are best equipped to decide what information is appropriate to release to the public.”

Asked if Wolf would veto the bill again, the governor’s office responded: “The governor’s opposition to this bill remains unchanged.”

The bill is yet another salvo in the legislative battle going on in statehouses across the U.S. over police reform. In opposition to activists calling for aggressive police reform, state lawmakers have introduced numerous “blue lives matter” bills, such as ones that would make police officers a protected class under hate crime laws. Last year, North Carolina passed a bill exempting police body cam footage from the state’s public record law.

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In His Last Budget, Christie Continues to Show What Not to Do With Pensions

Gov. Chris Christie will leave office next year, and his final state budget has left a real mess for whoever succeeds him as New Jersey’s chief executive.

An analysis by S&P Global Ratings, one of the three major credit ratings agencies, says New Jersey’s budget remains “structurally imbalanced” thanks to underfunded state pension systems.

“Christie’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal might look fine in the near term, but long term, structural balance remains elusive thanks to the state’s continued deferral of full funding for future retirement obligations,” wrote David Hitchcock and John Sugden, the two S&P analysts who authored the report. “The picture looks much worse” in future years, they warned, since the current budget relies on a series of short-term fixes.

Those concerns probably sound familiar, because they’re almost identical to the reasons given for the 10 credit rating downgrades New Jersey has recieved during Christie’s tenure. The most recent downgrade came in November, when S&P cut the state’s rating to A-, the fourth lowest grade in their system.

In the new budget plan, Christie has proposed to pay about $2.5 billion into the pension fund during the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, but that’s not enough to satisfy the public retirement system’s needs. It’s not even close. New Jersey’s pension funds are facing a deficit of more than $135 billion, one of the worst shortfalls in the country. Actuaries for the funds say nearly $5 billion in state contributions would be needed next year to break even.

“We have done more for the solvency and stability of the pension system than any governor in history despite all the empty rhetoric to the contrary,” Christie said last month during his budget address.

Incredibly, he’s right. That’s how bad things are in New Jersey.

Bloomberg did the math and determined that Christie has paid more than $8.8 billion into the state pension system since he took over as governor in 2010. That’s more than double the total payments made by all New Jersey governors in the 16 years before Christie took over—so give him some credit there—but it’s less than half of what the pension system needs on an annual basis to remain solvent, according to the actuaries who make such determinations.

That should give you a sense of both how completely unsustainable New Jersey’s (and many other states’) pension mess is, and also how long it’s been ignored. Christie has paid more than three decades of pension bills in just eight years, and yet he’s still only halfway to breaking even.

And who might inherit this fiscal disaster? Possibly Reason buddy Preet Bharara, maybe.

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Why Is Planned Parenthood So Popular? Because Government Thwarts Alternatives

A provision in the Republican health care bill would bar Medicaid patients from choosing Planned Parenthood clinics for covered care. The idea, ostensibly, is to curtail abortion by driving Planned Parenthood out of business. Some folks also argue that the move is fiscally responsible. But contrary to conservative talking points, terminating Medicaid’s relationship with Planned Parenthood would neither drive down costs for the publicly-funded health insurance program nor reduce dependence on abortion, as I note in today’s Los Angeles Times.

If, as Republicans insist, patients can seek all the same services elsewhere, Medicaid costs will remain unchanged. The move won’t necessarily affect Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide abortions, since it doesn’t rely on Medicaid reimbursements for this service. At the same time, less access to contraception and family-planning services could lead to greater demand to terminate pregnancies.

Presently, the U.S. health care scene is totally ill-equipped to handle the influx of low-income, reproductive- and sexual-health care patients we would see if we simply strip Planned Parenthood from patient options. America is already experiencing a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists, many private providers won’t see Medicaid patients, and community health centers are stretched thin as it is. Meanwhile, more than half of the approximately 2.8 million patients Planned Parenthood sees annually cover their visits via Medicaid. Like it or not, Planned Parenthood—which provides everything from cervical cancer screenings and urinary tract infection treatment to emergency contraception, prenatal care, and vasectomies—is currently a crucial part of the medical care and family-planning ecosystem.

Want to reduce dependence on Planned Parenthood? Look at why it’s so popular among Medicaid patients in the first place, what alternatives currently exist (not a lot), and how we can remedy this dearth of alternatives. In many cases, government rules are to blame. But simple changes—allowing birth control pills to be sold over-the-counter; clearing the regulatory way for telemedicine; rethinking scope-of-practice rules that prevent nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and midwives from performing tasks they’re perfectly capable of; and repealing regulations that prevent non-traditional providers (like mobile or retail health care clinics) from setting up shop in medically underserved areas, for starters—could go a long way toward making it so Planned Parenthood isn’t the only OB-GYN option for many. And as I argue in the Times,

Helping bring more medical options to marginalized populations is a worthy goal for even the most ardent Planned Parenthood supporter.

Whether one’s underlying goal is ensuring access to vital reproductive and sexual healthcare, reducing women’s need for abortions, or reducing publicly funded healthcare expenditures, focusing on breaking down barriers to innovative, independent and cost-effective care in underserved areas will make a world more difference than micromanaging where poor women can get birth control pills.

Read the whole thing here.

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Oklahoma Jury Rules in Favor of Army Vet Who Died in Jail Due to Neglect

Back in October 2011, Army veteran Elliott Williams died in a Tulsa County, Oklahoma, jail cell after being denied medical care for a broken neck and left to lie on the floor, paralyzed, for days, the Tulsa World has reported.

Today, KRMG reports that a federal jury ruled in favor of Williams’ estate and called for Tulsa County to pay $10.2 million in damages and for former Sheriff Stanley Glanze to pay $250,000.

Evidence presented in the case included video surveillance of the last 51 hours of Williams’ life, which directly contradicted jail records that claimed he was eating and receiving medical care, per the KRMG report. Instead, the video revealed a horrible reality. Williams lay for days naked and paralyzed on the cell floor, with food occasionally tossed in and water kept just out of his reach. Repeated calls for help were ignored by both the prison guards and the medical personnel.

Williams was initially arrested in Owasso, Oklahoma, on a misdemeanor obstruction complaint, according to the World. Owasso officers responded to reports that he was suffering a mental breakdown, and he was taken into custody after he refused to obey police orders to remain seated. Instead, Williams reportedly approached officers and told them he wanted them to shoot him. He was pepper sprayed and taken to Tulsa County Jail, where he rammed his head into the door of a holding cell and broke his neck.

The state medical examiner ruled that Williams died of “complications of vertebrospinal injuries due to blunt force trauma” and was suffering from dehydration, per the World report.

“We believe that this prolonged and reckless neglect, in the way that they treated Elliot Williams in the Tulsa County jail, really constitutes one of the worst civil rights violations in U.S. history,” Williams’ estate lawyer, Dan Smolen, told KRMG.

Defense attorney Guy Fortney indicated to the World that he will be meeting with the current sheriff to discuss future plans, including potentially appealing the decision.

Williams’ family meanwhile said the ruling, while satisfying, isn’t enough. “No amount of money is going to bring him back,” Williams’ brother Kevin Williams told the World. “People need to be going to jail. There needs to be criminal charges filed.”

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Julian Simon Would Tell Us America Needs More Immigrants: New at Reason

What would economist Julian Simon say about immigration?

His son, David M. Simon, writes:

The late economist Julian Simon taught us that people are the “ultimate resource.” In the short-term, population growth causes problems. It increases traffic, crowds our schools, and stretches family and government budgets. But over time, population growth pushes us to innovate and find solutions that leave us better off. Population growth drives economic expansion. It makes us richer. And it improves our health and environment.

Simon died in 1998, but he left behind decades of controversial and path-breaking work—and an unusually good track record.

In 1980, Simon famously offered a wager to back up his work showing that natural resources generally become less scarce and less expensive. Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich accepted the challenge, chose five metals, and bet that between 1980 and 1990, their prices would rise because they would become scarcer. Simon bet that the prices of the metals would fall. In 1990, Simon won the bet. Prices of all five metals fell.

I miss Julian Simon more than most. He was my father. I often think about what he would say about the economic issues we face today. On the subject of immigration, I know what he would say: The economic evidence is clear that America needs more immigrants.

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Relax: Gutting the EPA Won’t Make Your Air Dirtier and Water More Polluted

EPABudgetCutsBuilderPresident Donald Trump’s proposed cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget “will not ‘Make America Great Again’, ” asserted Conrad Schneider, the advocacy director at Clean Air Task Force activist group. “It will ‘Make America Gag Again.'” Schneider and other alarmed activists are conjuring the bad old days of the mid-20th century when America’s cities were blanketed with smog and its streams clotted with filth. In his new budget blueprint, Trump wants to cut back Environmental Protection Agency funding by 31 percent and fire 3,200 of agency’s bureaucrats.

But would such steep EPA budget cuts really unleash polluters to pump out more smoke and sewage? To get a handle on this question, let’s take an amble down memory lane to assess the evolution of pollution trends in the United States since President Richard Nixon cobbled together the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

First, with regard to air pollution, air pollution in most American cities had been declining over the course of the 20th century. Why? Many American cities had recognized the problem of air pollution in the late 19th century. Consequently they passed ordinances that aimed to abate and control the clouds of smoke emitted from burning coal in industry, heating, and cooking. For example, Chicago and Cincinnati adopted smoke abatement ordinances in 1881.

American Enterprise Institute scholars Joel Schwartz and Steven Hayward document in their 2007 book, Air Quality in America, that emissions of smoke, soot, ozone and sulfur dioxide had been falling for decades before the creation the EPA and the adoption of the Clean Air Act. For example, ambient sulfur dioxide had fallen by 58 percent in New York City during the seven years preceding the adoption of the Clean Air Act. “Air quality has indeed improved since the 1970 passage of the [Clean Air Act] CAA,” they claim. “But it was improving at about the same pace for decades before the act was passed, and without the unnecessary collateral damage caused by our modern regulatory system.”

They attribute a lot of the pre-EPA improvement in air quality to market-driven technological progress and increases in wealth that enabled households to switch from coal to cleaner natural gas for heating and cooking; railroads to replace coal-fired locomotives with diesels; more efficient industrial combustion that reduced the emissions of particulates; and improvements in the electrical grid that allowed power plants to be situated closer to coal mines and further from cities.

Even if the Clean Air Act did not noticeably speed up the rate of air pollution abatement, the air is nevertheless much cleaner than it used to be. How clean? Since 1980 the index for six major pollutants, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulates, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead has dropped by 65 percent since 1980. In the meantime, the economy grew more than 150 percent, vehicle miles increased by more 100 percent, population grew by more than 40 percent and energy consumption rose by 25 percent. And yet, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 43 percent of Americans say that they worry about air pollution a great deal.


Schwartz and Hayward persuasively argue, “The public’s interest lies in sufficiently clean air, achieved at the lowest possible cost. But federal air quality regulation suffers from incentives to create requirements that are unnecessarily stringent, intrusive, bureaucratic, and costly.” Basically, the costs of ever tightening federal air pollution controls are now exceeding their benefits. Since most remaining air pollution (except for greenhouse gases which we will set aside for a discussion at another time) is now concentrated in discrete regions rather than crossing jurisdictional lines, cities, counties and states can be reasonably expected to monitor and regulate those pollutants without much federal oversight.

The EPA also regulates water pollution under the Clean Water Act of 1972. That act prohibits anybody from discharging “pollutants” through a “point source” into a “water of the United States” unless they have a permit issued by the EPA that specifies limits on what may be discharged and sets up monitoring and reporting requirements. In addition, the Clean Water Act requires that each state develop a list of impaired surface waters including rivers, lakes, and estuaries. The states also set limits on the maximum amount of each pollutant that can be present in a body of water called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).

The EPA under the Obama administration issued regulations that more broadly defined the waters of the United States to include farm ponds, irrigation ditches, intermittent streams, and prairie potholes. At least 32 states had filed lawsuits seeking to block the implementation of Obama administration’s new waters of the United States regulations. In February, President Trump signed an executive order instructing the EPA to begin the process of revising the regulations in line with former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s plurality opinion in the 2006 Rapanos vs. United States case that would limit EPA regulation of ephemeral and minor sources of water.

Regulation of non-point source water pollution in the form of runoff from agricultural fields and stormwater drainage from city streets is largely accomplished through setting TMDLs by the states. In many ways, this is just the sort of “cooperative federalism” policy that new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt says he intends to pursue. In the past EPA has provided categorical grants to state environmental agencies to help them devise water quality standards and set up scientific monitoring. The new Trump budget cuts such categorical grants to states and localities by 45 percent, falling from $1.1 billion to $597 million. Since the budget document is basically a hortatory wish list, it is not clear to what the claim that “this funding level eliminates or substantially reduces Federal investment in State environmental activities that go beyond EPA’s statutory requirements” is referring. Presumably states and localities would be expected to pay more for their own standard-setting and monitoring.

According to most recent water quality data reported by the states to EPA, about 55 percent of the 1,124,000 miles of rivers and streams assessed are considered impaired due to the presence of pollutants like pathogens, excessive sediments, nutrients, and oxygen depletion. Nearly 72 percent of the assessed 18.3 million acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds are impaired and nearly 49 percent of the 1.7 million square miles of the assessed estuaries and bays are impaired. The National River and Streams Assessment 2008/2009 reported that 28 percent of the nation’s river and stream length is in good biological condition, 25 percent in fair condition, and 46 percent in poor condition. A U.S. Geological Survey report that assessed nitrogen fertilizer runoff trends in the Mississippi River watershed found that they generally increased between 1980 and 2010. Excess nitrogen fertilizer can cause algal blooms that deplete streams, lakes, and estuaries of oxygen producing dead zones.

The sources of water pollutants are always local, but by flowing downstream they become someone else’s problem as they cross state, county, and municipal boundaries. Just last week, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Des Moines Water Works against three upstream drainage districts in three northwest Iowa counties. The Water Works utility that supplies drinking water to 500,000 Iowans claimed that the drainage districts were responsible for loading up the Raccoon River with nitrate runoff from farmers’ fields in their counties. The utility was seeking $80 million to upgrade its nitrate removal equipment from the drainage districts.

A fascinating study just published in January by Iowa State University economist David Keiser and Yale University economist David Shapiro seeks to evaluate the benefits and the costs of the Clean Water Act. Specifically, did the benefits of the 35,000 federal government grants amounting to nearly $1 trillion (2014 real dollars) given to municipalities to improve wastewater treatment plants exceed their costs? To get at this question, the researchers compiled what they claim to be the most comprehensive database on U.S. water pollution trends ever. They find that pollution measures like dissolved oxygen deficits, the share of waters that are not fishable or swimmable, the presence of fecal coliform bacteria, and the amount of sediments in streams had all been improving since 1962 and then flattened out after 1990. Overall they find that during the “period 1972- 2001, the share of waters that are not fishable and the share not swimmable each fell by 11 percentage points.”

They do, however, note that “the rate of decrease in pollution slowed after 1972” when the Clean Water Act was adopted. For example, oxygen levels in streams and lakes were improving at a rate of 3 percent per year before 1972 and fell to 1.5 percent thereafter. They suggest that the slow-down could have resulted from the fact that lots of relatively cheap water pollution abatement had been implemented before 1972 and/or that increases in harder to regulate non-point source pollution counterbalanced the improvements achieved through better wastewater treatment.

Keiser and Shapiro try to get a handle on the benefits of the $1 trillion in federal grants spent on wastewater treatment plants by parsing the trends in housing values up to 25 miles downstream. Without going into the details, they calculate based on housing values that the costs of the Clean Water Act wastewater treatment grants were about three times greater than their benefits. They suspect that people value water pollution abatement considerably less than they do reductions in air pollution due to differences in the health consequences of breathing unfiltered air versus drinking water generally filtered through treatment plants. In addition, it is harder to relocate from a polluted airshed than it is to substitute between nearby clean and dirty rivers for recreation.

Nevertheless, the researchers suggest that other amenity values might justify the costs of the grants. For instance, while on a high school band trip from Southwest Virginia in 1970 I recall vividly walking down to the Potomac River at Mount Vernon to see a sign bobbing in the water warning against coming in contact with the water as it was dangerous to one’s health. I have now enjoyed many pleasant days boating and sailing on the cleaned up river. In addition, as pollution has abated American cities that once turned inward from their polluted waterfronts have transformed those areas into high rent neighborhoods and entertainment districts.

In addition, to the reductions in the EPA’s air and water pollution programs, the Trump budget would cut by $330 million the Superfund program that is supposed to clean up specific hazardous waste sites like abandoned dumps and industrial plants. The program sparks a great deal of litigation that boosts costs and slows clean up. One 1999 study estimated that Superfund remediation would on average avert less than 0.1 case of cancer per site and that the cost per cancer case averted is over $100 million. As Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler has argued, “Contamination of soil and groundwater are site-specific, rarely crossing state lines. Due to the local nature of hazardous waste problems, state governments should be given the opportunity to assume leadership of hazardous waste regulation and cleanup.” In line with that recommendation, the Trump budget document, instructs the EPA to “look for ways to remove some of the barriers that have delayed the program’s ability to return sites to the community.”

One other observation: The Trump budget would eliminate the EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. Good riddance. Billions of dollars have been spent pursuing the so-called endocrine disruption hypothesis in which trace exposures synthetic chemicals are supposedly causing hormone havoc in people. Two decades of research has comprehensively debunked it. “Taking into account the large resources spent on this topic, one should expect that, in the meantime, some endocrine disruptors that cause actual human injury or disease should have been identified,” a group of European toxicologists assert in 2013 review article. “However, this is not the case. To date, with the exception of natural or synthetic hormones, not a single, man-made chemical endocrine disruptor has been identified that poses an identifiable, measurable risk to human health.”

Of course, state and local governments will decry the proposed cuts in the EPA grants they expected to receive. Federal dollars are generally treated as “free money” enabling local officials to avoid having to make hard tradeoffs between various programs and amenities and raise state and municipal taxes to pay them. Whatever the achievements of EPA programs in the past – don’t forget that rates of air and water pollution abatement didn’t actually speed up after the creation of the agency in 1970 – we are well past the point of rapidly diminishing returns when it comes to additional pollution abatement. It is the right moment to make states and municipalities more responsible and responsive to their local citizens when it comes to handling environmental concerns and issues.

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Cop Who Put Eric Garner in Fatal Chokehold Has History of Substantiated Abuse Allegations Against Him

Documents obtained by ThinkProgress reveal that Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold after engaging him over the alleged sale of loose, untaxed cigarettes, had more seven disciplinary complaints consisting of 14 individual allegations lodged against him, four of which, from two complaints, had been substantiated by the Citizens Complaint Review Board (CCRB), which, according to ThinkProgress, had recommended disciplinary action against the cop.

The four substantiated allegations of abuse of authority yielded three penalties from the NYPD, and one ruling that rejected the CCRB’s conclusion. The allegations came from two incidents, a vehicle search in in December 2011 and a stop & frisk in June 2012. The CCRB recommended the harshest penalty available to it for each of the allegations—administrative prosecution by the NYPD. The process can end in termination. Instead, the NYPD’s Administrative Prosecution Unit found Pantaleo not guilty on one of the abuse charges stemming from the June 2012 incident, and guilty on the other, penalizing him two vacation days. The NYPD rejected the CCRB’s recommendation in the December 11 incident, going with the weakest penalty instead, mandatory training.

Unsubstantiated allegation, according to ThinkProgress, included “allegations that Pantaleo refused to seek medical treatment for someone in 2009, hit someone against an inanimate object in 2011, made abusive vehicular stops and searches on two separate occasions in 2012, and used physical force during another incident in 2013.” Experts ThinkProgress spoke to said that the number of allegations against Pantaleo at all should have raised “red flags” with the NYPD. But given the extensive protections granted cops through their union contracts as well as local and state laws, there is not much incentive for the NYPD to pursue problematic cops. CCRB data, according to ThinkProgress, shows that fewer than 5 percent of NYPD officers have more than seven complaints against them like Pantaelo, and just 2 percent (738 cops) have more than one complaint with substantiated allegations.

The New York Civil Liberties Union told ThinkProgress that the city’s decision in 2014 to stop releasing officers’ complaint histories to attorneys and reporters who requested them illustrated that Mayor Bill de Blasio “has not been good on police transparency.” A spokesperson for the mayor disputed that, but neither the NYPD nor the New York City Law Department, which represents the NYPD, officers who are sued, as well as the CCRB, responded to ThinkProgress‘ requests for comment.

Samuel Walker, a criminal justice emeritus professor at the University of Nebraska, noted to Think Progress that New York City has a lot of influence on police departments across America. “With the largest police force in the country and a robust local media presence, the NYPD can impact how officers and unions operate elsewhere,” ThinkProgress paraphrases Walker as saying. But substantive police reforms in New York will require political leaders who, unlike de Blasio, are actually committed to reform not just to re-election, and who are not ideologically sympathetic to the unions that helped produce the rules that protect bad actors.

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3 Questions for Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings this week on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gorsuch is a federal judge with admirers across the political spectrum. But his views on several crucial constitutional issues remain unclear. Here are three questions I’d like to hear Judge Gorsuch address this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

1. Congressional Power

The Supreme Court has upheld the power of the federal government to prosecute cannabis users in California under Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce. Yet the medical marijuana that was the focus of that 2005 ruling was both grown and consumed only in California.

I’d like to hear Judge Gorsuch explain his views on the limits of federal power. Does Congress have the authority to ban a local activity that’s legal under state law?

2. Executive Power

The federal courts are currently hearing arguments about the constit utionality of President Trump’s ban on travelers from a handful of majority-Muslim countries. According to the Trump administration, the federal courts have no business second-guessing the president’s authority on an issue that affects national security.

I’d like to know if Judge Gorsuch agrees that the president’s executive orders are beyond the reach of judicial review. How deferential must the federal courts be to the commander in chief?

3. Unenumerated Rights

The Constitution lists a number of individual rights, such as free speech and the right to keep and bear arms. But it also refers to rights that aren’t explicitly mentioned.

For example, the Supreme Court has protected the right to privacy, the right of parents to send their children to private schools, and the right to gay marriage. None of these rights are mentioned anywhere in the text of the Constitution.

In his 2006 book, Judge Gorsuch was critical of reading the Constitution in this way. He wrote that the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment has been “stretched beyond recognition” in the name of defending unwritten rights.

I’d like to know if Judge Gorsuch thinks the same is true of the 9th Amendment and the Privileges or Immunities Clause, both of which refer to unwritten rights. Does he believe the Constitution protects any rights that aren’t explicitly mentioned?

The American people deserve to hear what Judge Gorsuch has to say about these fundamental constitutional issues. Given all the unanswered questions about his jurisprudence, he should fully explain himself at this week’s confirmation hearings.

Written by Damon Root. Shot by Jim Epstein. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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Good News! A Court Has Ruled This Skim Milk Can Be Called Skim Milk!

milkHooray for common sense over really stupid regulatory behavior that is clearly designed to protect entrenched government interests! Skim milk is skim milk!

This calls for a more detailed explanation, obviously. A creamery in Florida, Ocheesee Creamery, has been fighting with state regulators over its skim milk. One might assume that skim milk is simply milk with the cream removed. That’s what thinking for yourself gets you. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, in order to actually call your skim milk “skim milk” in the marketplace you are required to add vitamin A to replace what has been removed from the process.

Ocheesee doesn’t want to add vitamin A (or anything else) to its skim milk and has been fighting state regulators. The state wanted Ocheesee to label its milk “imitation skim milk,” which is absurdly not true. It is actual skim milk but without added vitamin A. It even offered to label the lack of vitamin A, but it wasn’t enough for regulators.

Baylen Linnekin, who writes about food law and food policy issues weekly for Reason, had been covering the case and was even retained as an expert to explain in a report that consumers would not be misled by the fact that Ocheesee’s pasteurized skim milk was still pasteurized skim milk regardless of whether vitamin A had been added.

Linnekin also noted that the larger dairy industry was more than happy to side with regulators given the opportunity to keep potential competitors with different kinds of choices out of the marketplace. Note how dairy interests are trying to also convince the feds to prohibit products like soy milk or almond milk from calling themselves “milk,” though there’s no real consumer confusion here that necessitates government intervention.

A federal judge initially sided with the Florida regulators against Ocheesee, but this week a panel of federal judges reversed the decision on appeal, ruling “The State was unable to show that forbidding the Creamery from using the term ‘skim milk’ was reasonable” and that Ocheesee was not misleading consumers.

It’s also yet another win for the freedom-protecting lawyers of the Institute for Justice, who were representing the creamery in court. Read more about the case here.

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