Anti-Wall GOP Rep. Will Hurd: ‘There’s a Thing We Care About in Texas Called Private Property Rights’

In an interview published today with Rolling Stone, Rep. Will Hurd (R–Texas) poked holes in President Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

A wall would be “the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” said Hurd, whose congressional district runs along the southern border from El Paso to San Antonio. Among Hurd’s concerns is that building the wall would require lots of land seizures. “There’s a thing in Texas we care about called private property rights,” he told Rolling Stone. “To get the property rights with eminent domain,” he said, “would impact 1,000 property owners in Texas.”

There are indeed significant private property concerns when it comes to building a wall, particularly in Texas, where most of the border land is private property. “You have the people who have farms that go up against the Rio Grande because the Rio Grande is a source of water for agriculture and ranching,” Hurd told Rolling Stone. “In some areas where there has been a proposal for a wall, in my district alone there’s the potential of ceding 1.1 million acres of land to Mexico.”

Many landowners aren’t happy. And as some have explained to Reason TV, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press, they don’t plan to go down without a fight.

President Donald Trump, for one, doesn’t seem to have a problem with seizing land to build the wall. “You have to use eminent domain,” he declared earlier this month. “If we had one person that wouldn’t sell us…then we wouldn’t be able to build proper border security because we’d have that big opening,” he added, before calling it “a fair process.”

But what happens if people won’t comply? “[Lawsuits are] not going to hold [the wall] up because under the military version of eminent domain and under, actually, homeland security we can do it before we even start,” he said. This is technically legal under federal law, which allows for military department secretaries to “acquire any interest in land” if “the acquisition is needed in the interest of national defense.” Whether building a wall on the southern border is really an issue of national defense is another question.

Aside from Hurd, not very many GOP House members have expressed concern over the private property ramifications of building a wall. The exception is Rep. Justin Amash (R–Mich.), who last week introduced a bill that would likely stop Trump from using the “military version of eminent domain.”

“It is unjust for the government to seize someone’s property with a lowball offer and then put the burden on them to fight for what they are still owed,” Amash said in a statement. “My bill will stop this practice by requiring that a property’s fair value be finalized before DHS takes ownership.”

The bill has zero cosponsors, and its passage is uncertain, if not unlikely. Still, it’s encouraging to see that some members of Congress, like Amash and Hurd, still care about private property.

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Meet Two Feminist Journalists Who Are Saying #MeNeither: Podcast

Journalists Nancy Rommelmann and Leah McSweeney make no apologies for critiquing what they’ve called the “toxic femininity” of Asia Argento and the anti-Semitism of some of the leaders of this weekend’s Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Argento, they tell me in a new Reason podcast, acted like Harvey Weinstein when it came out that she had slept with a 17-year-old boy she had known for a decade. She denied it, attacked the credibility of her accuser, and paid him hush money. In a blockbuster December story for Tablet co-authored with Jacob Seigel, McSweeney documented that top organizers of this Saturday’s Women’s March, which began as a protest against sexism and Donald Trump, “claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade” and pushed Jewish women out of leadership roles. The story was picked up by The New York Times and other outlets and has led to a number of high-profile supporters and organizations pulling their support for the March, especially after the organizers refused to denounce Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the source for much crackpot history regarding Jews and the slave trade. After the two created a YouTube channel called #MeNeither, where they critique aspects of contemporary feminism and talk about contemporary call-out culture, an outraged viewer started a campaign against Ristretto Roasters, the Portland-based coffee-shop chain owned by Rommelmann’s husband.

McSweeney, who is the founder of the punk-influenced clothing line Married To the Mob (sample t-shirt: “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Bleeding”), and Rommelmann, author of 2018’s To The Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder and a Reason contributor, tell me they are feminists who believe in equal opportunity and legal treatment for women but recoil from the excesses of current identity politics. It’s a wide-ranging, foul-mouthed, and frank conversation about contemporary sexual mores.

Bonus link: McSweeney does a podcast called Improper Etiquette with Laura Stylez. Check it out here.

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Trump’s Favorite ‘Prayer Rug’ Immigrant Story Seems Like Fake News and Shoddy Journalism

In a Friday morning tweet, President Donald Trump promoted a Washington Examiner article that claims ranchers are finding Muslim “prayer rugs” along the U.S.–Mexico border.

The president’s tweet excerpted a portion of a quote from the New Mexico rancher at the center of the Examiner article—an anonymous woman who claims that she’s found these Muslim rugs on her property.

“There’s a lot of people coming in not just from Mexico,” the rancher tells the Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli. “People, the general public, just don’t get the terrorist threats of that. That’s what’s really scary. You don’t know what’s coming across. We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal. It’s not just Mexican nationals that are coming across.”

Even a cursory reading of the story raises a series of red flags—enough of them to make you wonder why the Examiner published the story in the first place.

The sole source for the “prayer rug” claim is the rancher. Her name is withheld, we are told, in order to protect her against potential retaliation from the cartels that are supposedly responsible for bringing those Muslims across the border.

The use of a single, anonymous source should always make a reader skeptical, but it’s not enough to discount the story altogether. What’s really odd is that the photos and video accompanying the print story do not show any evidence of the prayer rugs that the source supposedly found. She has photos of the trash that she claims illegal immigrants left on her property, but not the prayer rugs?

Even if the anonymous rancher is telling the truth about discovering these prayer rugs, a savvy news consumer should question the rancher’s story’s internal logic. The Examiner is asking you to believe that a group of devout Muslims illegally immigrated to the United States by traveling to Mexico and then making an arduous overland journey into America—and that they were so devout in their Islamic faith that they undertook that entire journey with their prayer rugs, which Muslims kneel upon to say their daily prayers. It’s also asking you to believe that, after carrying those rugs with them for the entire trip, they cast them aside like a piece of garbage as they passed through this rancher’s property.

Of course, the story also not-so-subtly implies that any Muslim carrying a prayer rug is somehow a threat to the United States. In an article filled with unstated and implied threats, this is perhaps the most ridiculous (and certainly the most xenophobic).

Unfortunately, fear-mongering about prayer rugs is not new in certain corner of right-wing media. An infamous Breitbart story from 2014 claimed the prayer rugs had been found in Arizona near the Mexico border, but the “rugs” turned out to be nothing more than torn t-shirts. It’s a shame to see that the Washington Examiner, a reasonably respectable conservative publication, fall to that level.

Trump’s tweet about the piece is another shameful effort to fear-monger about the threat allegedly posed by illegal immigrants. Trump has repeatedly, and falsely, claimed that nearly 4,000 terrorists have been caught coming across the border in the past year. The actual number is six. (For more on the Trump administration’s misleading rhetoric about terrorists pouring over the border from Mexico, read Matt Welch’s piece here.)

The Examiner describes the author of the piece as having been “press secretary for an immigration policy group.” That omits the fact that the group in question is the Foundation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates not just cracking down on illegal immigration but reducing “overall immigration.”

No, Giaritelli’s prior job should not in itself discredit her reporting. But in this case, her reporting should discredit her reporting.

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Pennsylvania Man Tries to Save a Deer’s Life, Could Get Fined Instead

A Pennsylvania man’s unsuccessful efforts to nurse an injured deer back to health have drawn the ire of the state’s game commission, who might fine him for daring to transport the animal to his home.

The story started Saturday at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Warrington Township, where five deer had fallen through an icy lake. For hours, John Stoll Jr. aided park officials, fire department personnel, and Pennsylvania Game Commission officers in the rescue effort. Three of the deer survived (one made it to safety on its own), and a fourth drowned.

The fifth deer, a pike buck, was brought up to shore, though it was badly injured. Stoll tells The York Dispatch that rescuers took it to the opposite side of the lake from where he and two game wardens were. Stoll quickly made his way to the other side of the lake and put the injured deer in his truck, believing the game wardens would have euthanized the creature or let it die. “I don’t even know how far [the wardens] made it before I actually got the deer,” he tells the Dispatch.

He had good reason to hurry. According to Pennsylvania Game Commission Press Secretary Travis Lau, there’s “a good possibility the deer would have been euthanized…because deer are poor candidates for rehabilitation.”

“As a rule they’re not rehabilitated,” Lau tells Reason, though he noted it’s difficult to say what would have happened.

So Stoll drove the deer home and tried to save it. “Nobody said I couldn’t take it,” he tells the Dispatch. A series of Facebook videos show the deer in his garage, covered in blankets with its head rested on a pillow. But Stoll’s efforts were to no avail. “We have some sad news,” he says in a video posted to his wife Terri’s Facebook page on Sunday. “Our main little boy—he did not make it.”

Stoll later buried the animal, telling the Dispatch that he and his family “were so devastated.” But that wouldn’t be the end of it. On Monday, a game warden paid the family a visit. Stoll wasn’t home at the time, but the warden asked his stepson questions. Later, the warden told Stoll over the phone that he might be cited. “He said it’s unlawfully taking wild game from the wildlife and taking him home,” Stoll tells the Dispatch. He says he was warned that he could receive two fines, one for $100-$200 and another for $400-$800.

What had Stoll done wrong? Speaking to the Dispatch, Lau explains that “all wildlife in Pennsylvania is protected—no one owns it.” Speaking to Reason, he adds: “When any wildlife is rehabilitated, it’s required to be done through a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Your average Joe can’t just take in an animal and rehabilitate it.”

Stoll acknowledges the law. But he believes he still did the right thing. “In the long run, I just feel like we gave the guy a chance,” he tells Reason. The deer likely wouldn’t have survived out in the cold, but “at least I gave him a chance.”

Stoll has not yet been charged, according to a statement published today on the game commission’s website. But “the situation remains under investigation,” the release adds. And Lau suggests that Stoll might be looking at more than two violations.

This isn’t the first time that government officials have taken the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” literally when it comes to animals. In 2013, Washington Post reporter (and former Reason staffer) Radley Balko noted the case of Giggles, a baby deer who had been taken in by an animal shelter. Thanks to a state law banning wild animals from being adopted, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources killed Giggles.

Then there’s the case of Tammie Hedges, a North Carolina woman who sheltered pets during Hurricane Florence, only to face criminal charges. The charges were eventually dropped, but only because the county was getting bad publicity.

Stoll says if given the chance, he’d “100 percent” make the same decision. “I’d do it all over again,” he says.

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Judge Rules Against Syracuse University Students’ Free Speech Rights

SUA judge has dealt a significant blow to the free speech rights of students at Syracuse University, a private school in New York.

James McClusky, a justice of the New York Supreme Court 5th Judicial District, ruled earlier this month that Syracuse may suspend several members of the Theta Tau fraternity for private, offensive behavior—despite the promise, contained within the university’s student code of conduct, that students generally have the right to express themselves freely.

Syracuse first took action against the students in June after video footage of them privately roasting one another—making immature and demeaning but satirical comments about each other—were leaked to the student newspaper. The language used by the students was offensive, and Syracuse’s administration was right to describe it as “extremely racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and hostile to people with disabilities.” Note, though, that this was a private, comedic event, and the hurtful language was aimed at willing participants.

In any event, the student code of conduct states that students “have the right to express themselves freely on any subject provided they do so in a manner that does not violate the code.” Administrators characterized the speech as harassing and threatening, and thus outside the protection of the code.

McClusky disagreed, writing that he could imagine some on campus feeling threatened “after a debate on abortion, a debate on the support of Israel, or a debate on the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh, issues upon which one would think an institution of higher education would encourage debate.”

But despite outlining a rationale for overturning the punishments, the judge ultimately sided with Syracuse. “The Court will not overturn this finding,” he wrote.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s Zach Greenberg characterized the decision as “contradictory” and reckless:

FIRE is disappointed that this court refused to apply one of the most basic principles of our legal system: Institutions must generally adhere to the promises they make, especially the clear, written policies advertised by a university in its student code of conduct and similar policy materials. Just as a college cannot take a student’s tuition and then refuse to provide any sort of education, SU may not purport to uphold its students’ expressive rights and then suspend them for speech protected under First Amendment standards.

FIRE has called out this hypocrisy again and again at SU, a university that has the words of the First Amendment emblazoned on its school of communications, yet continually displays a disturbing disregard for freedom of speech. From SU’s expulsion of an education student for his Facebook post to its investigation of a law student over his satirical blog, the university has made it clear that its stated commitment to student rights is worthless.

This court ruling will only encourage private schools like SU to create, advertise, and then refuse to enforce illusory promises of free speech. Based on the logic of this ruling, students at private colleges can be expelled for flaunting universities rules, but these colleges should fear no consequences for defaulting on their obligations. SU students should know that their expressive freedoms are determined not by university policy, but by the arbitrary whims of university administrators, who may defy student’s rights with impunity.

The students plan to appeal the decision, and for good reason. Universities that make free speech guarantees must keep their promises, even when the speech in question embarrasses or offends the campus.

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Oregon Likely to Become the First in the Nation to Adopt Statewide Rent Control

As home and rental prices rise across the country, more and more locales are giving serious consideration to a policy long denounced by economists: rent control. That includes Oregon, which increasingly looks likely to become the first state in the country to adopt rent control statewide.

“We are long past the point when we should have passed meaningful tenant protections,” state House Speaker Tina Kotek (D–Portland) says to Willamette Week. “Clearly more needs to be done statewide to give renters more security and stability.”

Kotek, along with her counterpart in the state Senate, Ginny Burdock (D–Portland), have introduced SB 608, which would forbid landlords from increasing rents during the first year of a person’s tenancy and would cap future rent increases at seven percent per year plus inflation thereafter.

These caps would apply to all rental properties save for those built within the last 15 years, and for landlords who are providing reduced rents as part of some sort of government housing program.

There are no vacancy controls in SB 608, meaning that landlords would be able to raise rents an unlimited amount once a tenant moves out. For this reason, the bill also bans no-cause evictions: A landlord will have to show a government-approved reason for kicking a tenant out.

These are all controversial policies in Oregon, where there is a state-level preemption on cities passing their own rent control measures, and where a no-eviction bill died in the legislature just two years ago.

There’re also risky policies, says Mike Wilkerson of ECONorthwest, an economics consulting firm.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find any economist who comes out in favor of rent control as a means to help improve whatever failure you are experiencing,” whether that’s a lack of supply or rapid rent hikes, says Wilkerson.

Economists’ chief complaint about rent control is that it reduces the return a landlord or developer can earn from throwing up new units, meaning you’ll wind up with fewer overall units, worsening housing affordability in the long run.

This holds true for what is being proposed in Oregon, says Wilkerson, though the specifics of SB 608—particularly its 15-year exemption of new buildings and its 7 percent cap—complicate the picture.

“Being able to increase rent at whatever you want for the first 15 years, that doesn’t really impact the financial feasibility of getting that building built,” says Wilkerson. That means the minority of developers who plan on constructing rental units and then operating them in perpetuity would be less likely to be deterred from going through with a project.

The policy would have a greater impact on the majority of developers who construct buildings with the intention of selling them off to investors. The longer-term caps on rent increases reduce how much those investors are willing to pay for a project. That lowers returns for developers looking to sell, thus dissuading many of them from going through with the projects in the first place.

There’s also the risk that rent control would give the owners of existing rental properties an incentive to take the properties off the market entirely.

While SB 608 bans no-cause evictions, it does allow a landlord to evict tenants if they plan on renovating a unit or moving into it themselves. That leaves open the door for landlords to kicks tenants out, renovate units, and then put them back on the market as condominiums that they can sell for whatever price they want.

A 2018 Stanford study of rent control in San Francisco found that the city’s supply of rental housing fell by 15 percent as owners converted their rent-controlled properties into pricier condos. Citywide rents went up, not down.

If you want housing to be more affordable, the thing you really want is more supply.

Indeed, in Portland—the largest city in Oregon—record apartment construction in the last two years has resulted in a fall in rents. According to the website Apartment List, year-over-year rents in Portland declined by 1.2 percent and are likely to keep falling.

ECONorthwest estimates that only 5 percent of buildings in Portland increased rents above what would be allowed by SB 608 in 2018. That compares to 25 percent of buildings in 2015 and 2016.

If Oregon policymakers wanted to keep the ball rolling, they should look at policies that would make housing construction even easier.

Some of that is already on the table. At the end of last year, Kotek floated the idea of upzoning urban areas where currently only single-family homes are permitted. If passed, that would allow a greater number of multi-family buildings to be built.

As a new report from the Cascade Policy Institute shows, Oregon also maintains aggressive urban growth boundaries, which prevent rural and agricultural land near cities from being redeveloped into housing. Ditching these would allow for a lot more suburban development across the state, bringing prices down.

All of those policies would be far preferable to rent control. Unfortunately, it looks like rent control is what Oregon is likely to get.

In addition to having the support of the Democratic leadership in the legislature, SB 608 was endorsed by Gov. Kate Brown this week. Willamette Week reports that the legislature as a whole has become more amenable to rent control, and that some landlord associations—historically the biggest critics of rent control—are staying neutral on this bill.

That bodes well for the bill. It does not bode well for affordable housing in Oregon.

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Cocaine, Lamborghinis, and Dark Humor Served up in Black Monday: New at Reason

'Black Monday'The texture of Showtime’s Black Monday may be divined from two observations, both from the first 60 seconds or so of the show. First, the show opens with a body plummeting from the upper floors of a Wall Street to land on a car below. Second, this is a comedy, splattered brains and all.

Tales of frat-boy dementia among investment bankers are not uncommon these days. Showtime itself has already done two: Billions, soon to start its fourth season, and House of Lies, which lasted five.

But this is the first time anybody has unleashed director Seth Rogen, the overlord of Hollywood juvenilia, on the subject, and Black Monday is every bit as madly, sickly funny as you might expect. Television critic Glenn Garvin explains.

View this article.

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Is the 21st Amendment a Free Pass for Liquor Protectionism?

If you want to sell liquor in Tennessee, a state law requires that you live there for at least two years before seeking a license. And if you want to renew that one-year license after it expires, you need to show that at some point you lived in Tennessee for at least 10 consecutive years. On Wednesday, the 100th anniversary of the 18th Amendment’s ratification, two lawyers told the Supreme Court those blatantly protectionist rules are constitutional thanks to the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th but recognized that states retained the authority to ban alcohol within their borders.

Notably, neither of those lawyers represented Tennessee, which stopped enforcing the residency requirements after the state’s attorney general concluded they were unconstitutional. A federal judge and an appeals court agreed, and now the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association (TWSRA) is asking the Supreme Court to overrule them. Shay Dvoretzky, the TWRSA’s lawyer, was joined on Wednesday by Illinois Solicitor General David Franklin, speaking for his state and 34 others. Carter Phillips represented the respondents, who include the owners of a Memphis liquor store they are not allowed to operate because they recently moved there from Utah.

Dvoretzky and Franklin both argued that Tennessee does not need a plausible public health or safety justification for what amounts to a 12-year residency requirement for liquor retailers. Franklin even conceded that “it’s hard to see a rational basis” for that rule, which “seems like a trap for the unwary.” But he agreed with Dvoretzky that the rationale for the regulation does not matter under the Commerce Clause, because “the 21st Amendment gives states virtually complete control over how to structure their domestic liquor distribution systems.”

When it comes to alcohol, Dvoretzky and Franklin said, the ordinary “dormant Commerce Clause” analysis, which frowns on economic regulations that discriminate against people from other states, does not apply at all. That means courts should uphold a discriminatory alcohol regulation even when its defenders forthrightly admit that it serves no purpose other than shielding entrenched interests like the merchants represented by the TWRSA from competition.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh pushed back on this reading of the 21st Amendment, the relevant provision of which says “the transportation or importation into any State…for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.” On its face, Tennessee’s 12-year residency requirement for retailers has nothing to do with importing prohibited liquor into the state. “When you say ‘virtually complete authority,'” Kavanaugh said, “the text of the 21st Amendment does not support that, as I read it….It’s talking about the transportation or importation into any state. And why isn’t that most naturally read to allow states to remain dry and, therefore, ban transportation or importation, but not to otherwise impose discriminatory or…protectionist regulations?”

Justice Samuel Alito was similarly skeptical. “The 21st Amendment is about the transportation or importation of alcohol into a state,” he told Dvoretzky. “How do you get from there to a durational residency requirement that is imposed on the owner of a retail outlet in the state?”

The Supreme Court has already said the 21st Amendment is not a free pass for alcohol-related protectionism. In Bacchus v. Dias (1984), the Court rejected an excise tax exemption designed to favor local distillers in Hawaii over out-of-state competitors, and in Granholm v. Heald (2005) it said Michigan and New York could not constitutionally prohibit out-of-state wineries from shipping their products directly to consumers while allowing in-state wineries to do so. The TWRSA wants the justices to read those precedents as applying only to discrimination against manufacturers.

“I know you want to limit it to producers,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said to Dvoretzky, “but that’s not the way that Granholm talked about…this issue.” She also noted that if the Commerce Clause has no relevance in cases involving state alcohol regulation, as Dvoretzky maintained, Bacchus and Granholm must have been wrongly decided.

Justice Samuel Alito asked Dvoretzky to imagine “a grandfathers clause” that says “you can’t get a liquor license in Tennessee unless your grandparents were Tennessee residents.” Dvoretzky said that would also be constitutional, because alcohol regulations are not subject to Commerce Clause scrutiny, a position that is inconsistent with what the Court held in Bacchus and Granholm.

Phillips, the lawyer representing the respondents, urged the justices to follow through on the logic of those precedents. “There is no rational basis for the two-year ban that they’ve put in place here,” he said. “The Tennessee attorney general himself has twice looked at this ban and said it doesn’t remotely serve any purpose that’s designed under the 21st Amendment when we’re dealing with alcohol or public safety or public health or anything else. It’s only designed to exclude us.”

That argument seemed to resonate with several justices, but there was also concern that overturning Tennessee’s rule would invite challenges to other longstanding aspects of state alcohol regulation, including the “three-tier system” of segregated producers, wholesalers, and retailers. The Court has repeatedly said that system is within the authority granted by the 21st Amendment, even though it discriminates against out-of-state businesses in some ways.

Justice Neil Gorsuch suggested that an “Amazon of alcohol” could argue that states violate the Commerce Clause when they stop online retailers from selling beer, wine, and liquor directly to consumers. Phillips said his clients have no interest in challenging the three-tier system, but that did not really answer the question of whether the principle on which they are relying implies that courts should overturn other stupid, anti-competitive restrictions on the distribution of alcoholic beverages. Would that be such a bad thing?

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Will Tulsi Gabbard’s Anti-LGBT Past Sink Her Presidential Candidacy? And Should It?

Tulsi GabbardDemocratic Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced her candidacy for president last weekend with an emphasis on reducing America’s involvement in foreign wars. That itself has drawn criticism, as the current political climate has led a chunk of the Democratic establishment to see any scaling back of the U.S.’s military presence in countries like Syria as some sort of gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But beyond that, Gabbard has a legitimately troubling family history of opposition to LGBT rights. That background flared up this week as her candidacy received coverage, and yesterday she released a video fully apologizing for her history of anti-gay activism.

Gabbard and her family didn’t just oppose same-sex marriage in the late 1990s and early part of the millennium. They were politically active in an organization, The Alliance for Traditional Marriage and Values, that worked to amend Hawaii’s constitution to prohibit the legal recognition of same-sex couples. The organization argued that homosexuality was subversive and dangerous, and Gabbard’s father endorsed conversion therapy to turn gay people straight. (Her father loudly opposed gay rights, even hosting a radio show called Let’s Talk Straight Hawaii.) Gabbard acknowledged her work with the organization when she ran for state office when she was 21.

Gabbard’s views on LGBT issues have evolved since then, as have those of many politicians, both Democrat and Republican. But since her past went a lot further than just simply expressing opposition to gay marriage, she’s got a longer hill to climb. In 2012 she took responsibility and apologized for her anti-gay background in a meeting with Hawaii’s Democratic Party LGBT Caucus. She has gotten endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign, the top LGBT national lobbying organization, and during her time in Congress she has supported many pro-gay pieces of legislation.

But apparently that’s not stopping some rather fliply dismissive comments now that she’s actually running for president. I was baffled by this tweet from journalist Soledad O’Brien on Twitter, acting as though Gabbard has just suddenly changed her positions because she’s running for president:

I found O’Brien’s response particularly odd because, well, as a journalist, you’d think O’Brien would appreciate candidates who actually directly address the criticisms they’ve been getting from the media. And you might think that O’Brien, as a journalist, might have checked to see if this was even a new development from Gabbard before she tweeted. It’s not, and Gabbard now has a lengthy legislative record we can examine to decide whether her votes actually match her transformation. (They do.)

So I responded to O’Brien, observing: “Gosh, I hope nobody is ever similarly dismissive to any wisdom you’ve picked up as you’ve gotten older. I’ve had to forgive many, many people’s less-than-stellar grasp of LGBT issues.” (And this is true. When Proposition 8 passed in California in 2008, banning recognition of same-sex marriage, I had several professional acquaintances who voted for it. I worked through it. I learned to craft better arguments. It’s what being a politically engaged adult is all about.)

To my surprise, O’Brien replied, and we had a brief exchange:

Twitter exchange

I still find O’Brien’s response to be weird and somewhat telling. Gabbard’s responding to actual criticism and dealing with an issue that could sink her chances of a Democratic nomination. That’s what candidates are supposed to do. Should she have ignored it? When Hillary Clinton ran for president, she also needed to contend with her previous record of opposing legal recognition of gay marriage, and to win over older LGBT voters who remembered the calculating politics of President Bill Clinton’s era.

But Gabbard is also a bit of an outsider among the Democrats, potentially serving as this run’s Bernie Sanders–esque, thorn-in-the side candidate. (She supported Sanders in 2016.) And so we get these weird, flippant, dismissive responses intended to try to shut down even the possibility of engagement or discussion.

Maybe Gabbard’s past ties to anti-gay activism will make her radioactive to voters in the Democratic primaries. She may have gotten the Human Rights Campaign’s support, but she has not been able to earn the trust of that LGBT caucus in her home state. Though even there, it turns out that some people are upset that her evolution is much less about suddenly deciding that gay marriage is awesome and more about realizing that she doesn’t believe she should be using the government to force her religious beliefs on others. Apparently, the fact that she’s voting in favor of every pro-gay piece of legislation isn’t enough for some if she doesn’t also feel the right things in her heart.

I think that’s silly, stupid nonsense. When people with conservative backgrounds decide that it’s wrong to use government power to restrict people’s private relationships, that’s a big win for individual liberty and for LGBT people. Stop looking for the affection and blessings of the politically connected, and focus on making sure they support the right policies.

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New California Governor’s Spending Plans Will Run Up Against Fiscal Reality: New at Reason

Gavin Newsom was inaugurated as California’s 40th governor last Monday, taking over a general-fund budget that is flush with cash and a state government that is in remarkably good shape—at least superficially—from a fiscal perspective. For all his flaws, outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown left Newsom with a $15 billion surplus and a rainy day fund that is nearly full. As an added plus, the economy that is humming along even though an erratic stock market points to storm clouds on the horizon.

The big question is whether Newsom will heed Brown’s advice and govern as if there’s always a recession around the corner—or ignore the former governor’s warnings about Democratic lawmakers who always say “yes” to any “harebrained” spending scheme. Unfortunately, based on Newsom’s inaugural words, initial budget and many of his early high-level administrative appointments, the safe money is on the latter. Newsom wants to spend big.

One need not read between the lines in Newsom’s introductory words. He spelled it out clearly. Newsom pointed to Brown’s inaugural address, which quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. There was the foolish man who built a house on sand and the wise man who built it on rock. “For eight years, California has built a foundation of rock,” Newsom said. “Our job now is not to rest on that foundation. It is to build our house upon it.”

But that financial foundation might be built less on rock and more on sand, writes Steven Greenhut.

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