After a Year Stuck in Jail, Reality Winner to Accept Plea Deal for Leaking NSA Report on Russian Election Meddling

Reality WinnerReality Winner—the young contract employee arrested and prosecuted for espionage after leaking a secret National Security Agency (NSA) report about Russian attempts to infiltrate U.S. voting systems prior to the 2016 election—has reportedly accepted a plea deal.

Winner was arrested a year ago, the first leak prosecution under President Donald Trump. The 26-year-old woman worked as an NSA contractor near Augusta, Georgia. She is accused of leaking a top-secret report to The Intercept detailing attempts by Russian hackers to infiltrate voter registration systems.

Winner’s case immediately became politicized because of her own personal beliefs and public criticisms of President Trump. But as I noted back then, there was nothing about the report Winner leaked that connected to Trump at all. It was information that Americans arguably deserved to know about attempts by foreign governments to directly interfere with election outcomes. It wasn’t about silly social media campaigns or Twitter bots.

Unfortunately, the Espionage Act doesn’t care why somebody leaks top secret information and the law doesn’t care if a leak is arguably in the public interest. That’s why Edward Snowden is hidden away in Russia. Even if many Americans believe the surveillance information that he leaked served the public’s interest and right to know, he’s not allowed to raise that defense in a trial.

So it goes with Winner. Her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that this played into the decision to accept a plea. Winner potentially faces a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 if convicted (though she’d probably be sentenced to much less).

Winner-Davis speculated that the Espionage Act—which takes only the underlying act of leaking into account, not motive or mitigating circumstances—was too difficult to fight. Her daughter’s legal team suffered one defeat after another in rulings handed down by the judge, and Epps declined to release Winner from jail while her charges were pending.

“I’m not happy about it,” Winner-Davis said of the plea deal. “I still feel like the espionage charge is wrong. I feel like it’s harsh. I feel like it doesn’t allow a defendant to defend themselves.”

Whatever happens in court next week, she said she will continue to fight to clear her daughter’s name: “Regardless of what she’s been charged with, she’s not a traitor to this country.”

Winner was denied bail this whole time, even though she’s very obviously not a danger to the community. Federal judges accepted the possibility that she’s a flight risk, even though she had given up her passport and agreed to be monitored, based on her previous declarations of support for both Snowden and Julian Assange.

The details of the plea won’t be known until next week. Winner is just the latest of a small parade of leak-related prosecutions that started under President Barack Obama, and that the Trump administration is more than happy to continue.

from Hit & Run

Phoenix’s Government Might Shut Down Over High Stakes Light Rail Fight

A bitter fight is breaking out in Phoenix, Arizona, between city officials eager to construct a new light rail line out to the poorer, southern reaches of the famously car-dependent city, and south Phoenix business owners, who fear the transit expansion will spell the end of their livelihoods and their community.

“They just want to get rid of us. The city of Phoenix doesn’t want to listen to the people,” says Byron Waldrep, the long-time manager of a south Phoenix fish and chips shop on Central Avenue, located right along where the new line is slated to go.

The past several months have seen Waldrep and other likeminded south Phoenix residents organize community meetings, circulate petitions, and provide testimony at increasingly contentious city council meetings. They are demanding that the light rail project as currently designed be stopped.

On Wednesday, they scored a temporary victory of sorts, when the eight-member Phoenix City Council—which has thus far rebuffed the group’s demands to slow or change the rail project—failed to pass an operating budget. Four councilmembers voted “no” over concerns that the city was moving too fast with its South Central light rail extension. If the sixth largest city in America is going to keep its government up and running, its budget needs to be approved by July 1. “I have no idea what we do now,” said Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams after budget vote failed.

The fight started in 2016, when the Phoenix City Council voted to accelerate the construction of the long planned 6-mile South Central light rail extension. The line was originally slated for completion in 2035; the City Council promised to have it done by 2023.

But there was a hitch. The plans for the southward extension called for tearing out two lanes on busy Central Avenue to accommodate the new light rail tracks.

This, says Waldrep, would spell death for his business and many others in the area.

“Two lanes one in each direction will kill everything,” he tells Reason. “A lot of places won’t make it, where they depend on having that room for having their semi-trucks, or their tow trucks, or their supply trucks.”

As it became clear that half of the lanes on Central Avenue would be gutted in favor of light rail, and that this construction would shutter sections of the street for four years, businesses in the area started to organize. Led by Celia Contreras, the owner of a south Phoenix window tinting shop also on Central Avenue, they formed the group “4 Lanes or No Train,” which demands that the lanes either be preserved or the rail project be abandoned completely.

Maintaining the current number of lanes, says Scott Smith, CEO of Valley Metro, the transit agency responsible for building and operating Phoenix’s light rail system, is a difficult demand to accommodate.

“There has always been a challenge with extending light rail into south east,” Smith tells Reason. “Many of the businesses were built 40, 50, 60years ago, so the space is somewhat tight.”

This left Valley Metro with the option of either eliminating two lanes or tearing down some 60 buildings to make room for an expanded transportation corridor. They opted for the former as the less disruptive of the pair. The decision was not taken lightly, says Smith, who stresses that the new, reduced lanes will still be wide enough to accommodate service vehicles.

Nevertheless, when faced with what they see as two bad options, many South Phoenix residents have come to reconsider the desirability of light rail itself. They’ve found an enthusiastic ally in City Councilmember and light rail critic Sal DiCiccio.

“It’s completely inefficient. It’s 1800s technology in the age of Uber and Lyft and ridesharing,” says DiCiccio, telling Reason the costs of light rail are simply not worth it in a car-centric city like Phoenix.

The numbers support his point: Valley Metro spent $1.4 billion building its initial 20-mile light rail line, and it saw an average of 45,000 boardings a day in May 2018, down 7 percent from last year. By comparison, segments of Central Avenue carry about 25,000 vehicles a day.

Assuming each of those boardings represents an individual rider, Phoenix’s light rail system carries about 1 percent of the region’s 4.5 million people each day.

In 2016 the system clocked 104 million passenger miles (the sum of all miles travelled by every train rider.) That’s compared to the roughly 32 billion vehicle miles travelled on Phoenix-area roads in the same year. Going by this measurement, light rail serviced about .002 percent of the region’s ground transportation needs.

Whatever it might lack in customer volume, light rail more than makes up for with the economic development it brings, says Smith.

“We’ve seen development in places where there hasn’t been development in thirty years,” Smith claims. Some $8.2 billion in investment has gone in along Phoenix’s existing light rail line (three-quarters of it private investment) since construction first started in 2005. Extending light rail out to South Phoenix will give that region a slice of this prosperity, Smith insists.

In response to mounting criticism, the City Council this week voted to ask Valley Metro to study alternatives to the current two-lane configuration. They hope to find a way to make everybody happy.

DiCiccio is less optimistic. He wants to put the South Central expansion to the test on a city-wide ballot initiative.

“It’s total bullshit,” DiCiccio tells Reason. He maintains that light rail will be a disaster for South Phoenix. “These small businesses are going to be out of business. How do they survive on one lane in each direction?”

from Hit & Run

H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. RIP

TrisEngelhardtYouTubeTris Engelhardt, age 77, was a gentleman, a philosopher, a physician, a brilliant conversationalist, and a clear-eyed defender of liberty. Tris was a proud (not to say prideful) sixth generation “Texian” who would occasionally let drop the fact that in his youth he had served as a deputy sheriff in the Lone Star State. He taught philosophy at Rice University and medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. Tris was the author of the seminal work of ethics, The Foundations of Bioethics (1986) as well as The Foundations of Christian Bioethics (2000) and much, much else.

I first got to know Tris at a Liberty Fund colloquium on bioethics in the early 1990s. I was hooked. Subsequently I had the good fortune to run into him at many later such meetings. Conversation with Tris was always intellectually serious and yet somehow completely joyful, as my wife Pamela Friedman put it this morning as we both mourned the death of this splendid man. The mere anticipation of getting together and talking with Tris would make my month. It is a great sadness that I will never see him again.

It was not as though we agreed on everything. Far from it. After all, Tris was a fervent Orthodox Christian and I am a longtime atheist. Tris was raised Roman Catholic but converted to Orthodoxy in the early 1990s. When I asked him why, he explained that he had found Roman Catholic Scholasticism intellectually and spiritually unsatisfying. “Roman Catholics write love manuals; Orthodox Christians make love,” is how he explained the differences between those two branches of Christianity.

We got along because Tris enthusiastically practiced what he preached: A person can be friends with people with whom he disagrees. Tris had many such friends.

Tris was a great and persuasive proponent of human liberty. His book, The Foundations of Bioethics, was motivated by his attempt to ground a secular bioethics on a univeral understanding of the good life that could be justified using general rational arguments. To his “dismay and sorrow,” that project proved to be impossible. Why? Because modern Enlightenment societies encompass multiple conceptions of the good. In his review of the book, theologian Walter Brueggeman offers a pretty good summation of Tris’ arguments:

Underlying and directing this entire project is Engelhardt’s definitional condition that morality involves “a peaceable bond among persons.” By this he means that any discernment or resolution of canons of moral probity and authority must avoid recourse to force. In other words, “peaceful negotiation” is the fundamental basis of agreement in resolving moral controversies; therefore, mutual respect for personal self-determination—the negative moral principle of autonomy—is the one absolute, foundational principle binding all moral agents. No person or group has moral authority to force their beliefs or judgments upon other persons without the latter’s consent, or unless they have already removed themselves from the peaceable moral community by violating the autonomy of others.

Since there is no universal morality, secular bioethicists could not therefore declare as being somehow intrinsically wrong such practices as in vitro fertilization, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem research, and human genetic engineering.

As I explained a while back, Engelhardt recognized that values exist in an incommensurable plurality. He pointed out that various moral communities “do not share sufficient premises to resolve differences in ethical values” and “do not mutually recognize any authority competent to resolve differences.”

So how do we all get along if we cannot all agree on a common morality? Engelhardt suggested that all that seems to work are procedural institutions that allow diverse values to be expressed, like free markets and limited democracy. Even then there is no a priori moral justification for agreeing to abide by the procedures. But once such procedures have been agreed upon, they enable spontaneous orders to emerge that will have actual moral content, like the enforcement of contracts and the protection of various civil rights.

Engelhardt argued that any effort to construct a morality that can be shared by “moral strangers,” that is, people living and believing in different moral communities, must have two cardinal characteristics: First, a recognition that there is no canonical warrant for a particular morality. One cannot in principle determine which moral intuitions should trump. This means that one cannot with sound argument, using discursive reason, reach secular agreement. Second, such a modest morality must recognize the fact of the actual plurality of moralities.

His correct conclusion is that the only way forward for humanity is the peaceable moral community in which people with differing moral views agree to disagree.

A great man has died and we are all much poorer for his passing.

To get a better sense of the man, please take a brief moment to read this brief anecdote about Tris’ custom of ordering three beers every night.

from Hit & Run

The Man Who Taught America It Didn’t Have to Choose Between Rocket Science and Creepy Occultism: New at Reason

'Strange Angel'Television critic Glenn Garvin finds the Tiffany Network dabbling in the dark arts with a CBS All Access network adaptation of a biography of rocket scientist/Crowley follower Jack Parsons:

It was not so long ago that any American who turned on his television at 8 p.m. on a Friday had a choice of Family Matters, Uncle Buck, America’s Most Wanted, Quantum Leap, or putting a gun in his mouth. And now the digital arm of what used to be known as The Tiffany Network has a series with a hero, or at least protagonist, who regularly masturbates on magic tablets in an attempt to summon the Whore of Babylon.

To be fair, neither the Whore of Babylon nor any of her precursor acts has appeared in the first three episodes of Strange Angel. But it should be just a matter of time. The series is based on a biography of Jack Parsons, a real-life pioneer of American rocketry and one of the founders of NASA’S Jet Propulsion Lab. More interestingly, he was also a follower of Aleister Crowley, the wandering, omnisexual occultist, practitioner of black magic and, at the very least, Luciferian fellow traveler. (Crowley always denied being a Satanist, but rather undercut his claim by referring to himself as “the Beast 666” and mailing out “Antichristmas cards.”)

Parsons was not just a dabbler in Crowley’s Thelima religion but a congregant sufficiently faithful and enthusiastic to have written a volume called The Book of AntiChrist. He stuck with Crowley though several wives, jobs, and security clearances before an early and violent demise. (Spoiler alert: Seventy years on, he still hasn’t come back.)

View this article.

from Hit & Run

Maine Voters Tell Lawmakers They Want to Keep Ranking Their Candidates

BallotVoters in Maine have reiterated to their state lawmakers that they’d like to take a different approach to voting in statewide elections. Will it take off elsewhere?

For the June 12 primary, voters in Maine in three races—including the governor’s race—weren’t asked to just pick a winner. They participated in a process called ranked-choice voting, where they order candidates by preference.

In order to win a ranked-choice race, a candidate needs not just a plurality of the vote, but a majority. Here’s how it works: When the initial votes are tallied, if no candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote, the candidate with the least number of votes is tossed out, and the ballots are recounted. For those voters who selected the eliminated candidate, the candidate they ranked second is counted as their vote instead. And so it goes until a candidate claims more than 50 percent of the vote. That candidate is then declared the winner.

A handful of American cities use this method for local elections—San Francisco just selected its mayor this way—but Maine is the first state to implement this system for statewide elections. In June’s primary, there were enough candidates for the governor’s race, a Congressional primary, and for one state lawmaker, to try the ranked-choice model. So last Tuesday, Maine voters who participated in the Democratic primary for governor got to rank seven different candidates in order of preference. Republicans chose from four.

How did it all work out? In the Republican primary for the governor’s seat, candidate Shawn Moody pulled in 56 percent in the first round of voting against the three other candidates. In his case, there was no need for additional counting.

But on the Democratic side, it took multiple rounds of candidate elimination for Janet Mills, the state’s attorney general, to transcend the 50 percent threshold. Though she was in the lead throughout the tallying process, Mills wasn’t named the winner until Wednesday, more than a week after the election.

The state has 20 days to formalize the vote results, so we don’t have full numbers yet to compare turnout for this primary to past ones. But we do have partial numbers: 131,300 votes were cast in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, nearly 10,000 more votes than were cast in the 2010 Democratic primary, and double the 65,085 votes cast in the 2014 Democratic primary.

For proponents of ranked-choice voting, those turnout numbers are what matters. The argument for ranked-choice voting over the familiar winner-takes-all system is that it encourages voter participation: you’re not “throwing your vote” away by refusing to line up behind the frontrunners.

“It was a very successful election, I’d say,” Drew Penrose tells Reason. He’s the legal and policy director for, an organization that educates about and encourages the use of ranked-choice voting in the United States. “I think we’ve come out with a positive sense of momentum.”

Maine voters had to fight to get to this point. In 2016, voters approved the implementation of ranked-choice voting with a ballot initiative. But officials resisted. Maine’s constitution specifically states that the winner for state-level government races is the candidate with the plurality of the votes. A majority is not required. The state’s Supreme Court has advised lawmakers that they need to change the state’s constitution. They haven’t done so. A judge ruled earlier this year that ranked-choice voting could still be used in primaries.

Instead of amending the constitution, lawmakers have essentially attempted to veto the implementation with a law that would end ranked-choice voting if the constitution is not changed by 2021. So last week, Maine voters also had to vote yet again to keep ranked-choice voting and apply it to U.S. congressional races in the state. Once again, voters gave ranked-choice voting a big thumbs up. It passed again with 54 percent of the vote.

But that doesn’t change the state’s constitution or resolve the conflict for state government races. So in November, while ranked-choice voting will be used to determine the federal congressional races, it will not be used again to determine who the state’s new governor will be, so it won’t help the two state’s two independent gubernatorial candidates.

Since it will be used in the U.S. Senate race in Maine, however, it will affect the re-election race for Sen. Angus King, himself an independent candidate. There’s a bit of irony here in that one of the arguments in favor of ranked-choice voting is that it creates inroads for independent and third-party candidates fighting against entrenched Democrats and Republicans. If more voters prefer a third-party or independent candidate as their second choice, ranked-choice voting gives those candidates better odds of winning than they’d have otherwise.

Even though the ranked-choice vote system could spell his defeat, King is on the record supporting it and said he would vote to keep it in place. In the November election he’ll be fending off a Republican, a Democrat, two other independent candidates, and Libertarian Party candidate Chris Lyons. When he was elected to the Senate in 2012, the former governor pulled 52.9 percent of the vote when competing against both a Republican and a Democrat, so the ranked-choice system may not actually be that much of a threat to his incumbency. How King fares in a ranked-choice election should be pretty interesting, particularly if it leads to the Senate’s only independent being replaced by a major party candidate.

The League of Women Voters was involved in educating Maine residents about the system and put together an online survey to get a sense of voters’ experiences. The organization says that 94 percent of voters ranked multiple candidates, and 90 percent say they found the experience “excellent” or “good.” Only four percent had a negative opinion of ranked-choice voting after participating in it.

While FairVote wasn’t directly involved on the ground in Maine, that response tracks what Penrose has heard and seen coming out of the election.

“I was monitoring Twitter. I saw people coming out of voting saying, ‘I did this, and it’s cool,'” Penrose says. “They hear all this stuff. That it’s going to be complicated. They hear all these scary things. Then they experience it and go, ‘Oh, that’s fine.'” He says there was little sign of people having problems with the ballots themselves.

Now eyes will be on the November elections to see if ranked-choice voting leads to better turnout and satisfied voters. Success is going to be important if its advocates want to push this election process into other states.

“If you want more places to adopt it, the best thing is to have more people use it,” Penrose says. “I expect to see more interest in it in other states after November.”

from Hit & Run

Huge Win for Everyone With a Cellphone (and the Fourth Amendment) at the Supreme Court

In a blockbuster 5-4 decision issued today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that warrantless government tracking of cellphone users via their cellphone location records violates the Fourth Amendment. “A person does not surrender all Fourth Amendment protection by venturing into the public sphere,” declared the majority opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts. “We decline to grant the state unrestricted access to a wireless carrier’s database of physical location information.”

The case is Carpenter v. United States. It arose after the after FBI obtained, without a search warrant, the cellphone records of a suspected armed robber named Timothy Carpenter. With those records, law enforcement officials identified the cell towers that handled his calls and then proceeded to trace back his whereabouts during the time periods in which his alleged crimes were committed. That information was used against Carpenter in court.

The central issue in the case was whether Carpenter had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the information contained in those records, or whether he had forfeited such privacy protections by voluntarily sharing the information with his cellular service provider. As the Supreme Court put it in United States v. Miller (1976) and Smith v. Maryland (1979), “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”

In his ruling today, Chief Justice Roberts “decline[d] to extend Smith and Miller to cover these novel circumstances. Given the unique nature of cell phone location records, the fact that the information is held by a third party does not by itself overcome the user’s claim to Fourth Amendment protection.” He continued: “Whether the Government employs its own surveillance technology…or leverages the technology of a wireless carrier, we hold that an individual maintains a legitimate expectation of privacy in the record of his physical movements as captured through [cell site location information].”

Roberts’ opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a dissent, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Alito also filed a dissent, which Thomas joined. Thomas also filed a dissent of his own. Justice Neil Gorsuch dissented alone too.

Kennedy, joined by Thomas and Alito, complained that “the Court’s stark departure from relevant Fourth Amendment precedents and principles…places undue restrictions on the lawful and necessary enforcement powers exercised not only by the Federal Government, but also by law enforcement in every State and locality throughout the Nation.” In their view, the Court should have followed its precedents in Miller and Smith and held that “individuals have no Fourth Amendment interests in business records which are possessed, owned, and controlled by a third party.” Cellphone records, they maintain, “are no different from the many other kinds of business records the Government has a lawful right to obtain by compulsory process.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch struck an entirely different note in his lone dissent. Indeed, his dissent reads much more like a concurrence. It seems clear that while Gorsuch agreed with the majority that Carpenter deserved to win, he strongly disagreed with them about how the win should have happened.

“I would look to a more traditional Fourth Amendment approach,” Gorsuch wrote. “The Fourth Amendment protects ‘the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.’ True to those words and their original understanding, the traditional approach asked if a house, paper or effect was yours under law. No more was needed to trigger the Fourth Amendment.” Furthermore, Gorsuch wrote, “it seems to me entirely possible a person’s cell-site data could qualify as his papers or effects under existing law.”

“I cannot fault” the majority “for its implicit but unmistakable conclusion that the rationale of Smith and Miller is wrong; indeed, I agree with that,” Gorsuch explained. “At the same time, I do not agree with the Court’s decision today to keep Smith and Miller on life support.” In other words, Gorsuch would scrap these third-party precedents and have the Court start adhering to an originalist, property rights-based theory of the Fourth Amendment. That’s how Gorsuch wanted Carpenter to win.

The importance of today’s ruling in Carpenter v. U.S. should not be underestimated. Both the majority opinion and Gorsuch’s dissent raise questions about the future viability of two key Fourth Amendment precedents. What is more, the decision itself represents a massive win for Fourth Amendment advocates. Carpenter may well be remembered as the most significant decision issued this term.

from Hit & Run

Pennsylvania’s Libertarian Senate Candidate: ‘Abolish ICE’

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government agency responsible for carrying out the Trump administration’s policy of separating asylum-seeking adults from their children when they cross the southern border, should be dissolved, says the Libertarian Party candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania.

“There’s no constitutional authority for [ICE]. There’s really no need for them, either,” Dale Kerns, a Delaware County electrical contractor who is aiming to be on the ballot in November alongside the two major parties, told Reason. “ICE isn’t really serving a practical purpose. We existed for hundreds of years without ICE, and I think it’s time for us to go back to the model that we had before.”

Kerns says he’s been disgusted and appalled by the scenes he’s witnessed on the news this week. While the images and sounds of children separated from their parents at the border—along with the Trump administration’s confused and often contradictory response to the crisis—has captured the media’s attention, Kerns says that’s only part of the reason why ICE should go.

The agency is “a threat to both natives and immigrants,” he says, pointing to the fact that ICE has established residency checkpoints within 100 miles of all American borders. Yesterday, for example, ICE shut down part of Interstate 95 in New Hampshire to demand proof of residency from passing motorists.

Abolishing ICE should not be seen as a radical idea. After all, the agency has existed for less than two decades.

“Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created in the panicked days after 9/11 to enhance national security,” Reason‘s Shikha Dalmia writes in the current issue of Reason. “But its primary purpose has become hunting down and ejecting people whose main ‘crime’ often is that they can’t obtain a piece of paper from the government authorizing them to live and work in the United States.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that America suddenly criminalized illegal immigration after 9/11. Prior to that, enforcement of immigration laws was the responsibility of the Immigration and Naturalization Service within the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Customs Service within the Treasury Department. Both agencies were piled into the newly created Department of Homeland Security and renamed as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. But a third immigration service, ICE, was added to the mix to take on enforcement responsibilities from the other two.

But shifting immigration into DHS changed the federal mentality. Illegal immigrants are now seen as potential terrorists or criminals, writes Dalmia.

In what’s sure to be a closely watched Senate race in Pennsylvania, Kerns appears to be trying to draw a distinction between himself and the Republican candidate, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazleton). Both men are trying to unseat two-term Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.).

Barletta is one of dozens of Republicans to have been named “Trump before Trump,” but the label is an accurate one. He’s a brash politician in favor of strong enforcement of immigration laws. He first made headlines in 2006, when he was mayor of Hazleton, for passing an ordinance that made English the city’s official language and allowed city officials to penalize businesses and landlords who employed or provided housing to illegal immigrants. The ordinance drew a lawsuit from the ALCU and was later ruled unconstitutional—because only the federal government can enforce immigration laws—but Barletta rode that reputation for being tough on immigrants to a seat in Congress in 2010.

He won a surprise victory against a mainstream GOP candidate last month for the right to face Casey in November.

Kerns, a former Republican, sees Barletta as a weak Republican candidate whose stance on immigration will turn off many Republican voters. But he says Casey’s response to the border crisis—the senator issued a statement this week calling on the Trump administration to put an end to the “cruel and inhumane policy of ripping migrant children from their parents”—has also been insufficient.

Both are big government policies that are failing Americans of all backgrounds, he says.

Is the Libertarian Party (L.P.) ready to make a splash in a Senate race this year? Nationally syndicated columnist George Will, who, like Kerns, has left the Republican Party behind in the era of Trump, wrote this week that the L.P. might represent the best chance to “restore conservatism.” Specifically, Will was talking about likely 2020 Libertarian presidential candidate Bill Weld, but the same logic could apply to high profile Senate races like the one in Pennsylvania.

It’s almost never a mistake to underestimate the chances of a third party candidate in American politics, but Kerns figures to make the most of his chance by staking out aggressive, and much needed, policy positions like the one he’s floating this week.

“From an immigration standpoint, a civil liberties standpoint, and a fiscally conservative standpoint,” Kerns told Reason, “we want to draw a line in the sand and say ‘This is where the two old parties are and we are different.'”

from Hit & Run

Trump Is Using the Border Crisis to Stoke Human Trafficking Hysteria: New at Reason

On Tuesday, President Trump argued that the media is enabling human trafficking at the southern border during a speech to a small business group in Washington. “They are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe. They know it and they know exactly what they’re doing,” he said, citing no real evidence. He also said that human traffickers are using children as “a ticket to getting into the country” and as “passports.”

As is often the case with Trump’s statements, it’s unclear exactly what he meant or how these alleged human traffickers are supposed to be using these kids. Regardless, it’s the latest in a long line of dubious attempts to tie social and political controversies to human trafficking using weak or non-existent evidence, writes Liz Wolfe.

View this article.

from Hit & Run

Migrants Boost Per Capita Incomes and Lower Unemployment Finds Yet Another Study

MigrantsJobsSilverblackDreamstimeMigrants and asylum seekers provide big net benefits to their host countries reports a new study in Science Advances by three French economists. The researchers used 30 years of data on migrant and asylum seeker flows into 15 western European countries. They were seeking to find what effect permanent migrants including refugees who sought and obtained asylum between 1985 and 2015 have had on subsequent GDP per capita, unemployment rates, government spending and tax collections in those countries.

Flows of asylum seekers and migrants varied between countries. For example, Austria received 2.35 asylum seekers and 4.06 migrants per 1,000 residents; Germany 1.51 and 3.79; France 0.68 and 1.14; Italy 0.27 and 2.56; and the United Kingdom 0.63 and 2.36 respectively. Portugal received the lowest of both at 0.03 and 0.47 per 1,000 residents. Over all, the flow of asylum seekers and migrants into the 15 countries averaged 1.13 and 2.57 per 1,000 residents respectively.

Once the economists crunched the numbers they found that migrant flows during the past 30 years have had substantial positive effects on European economies. Specifically, the researchers report that migrants “significantly increase per capita GDP, reduce unemployment, and improve the balance of public finances; the additional public expenditures, which is usually referred to as the ‘refugee burden’, is more than outweighed by the increase in tax revenues.”

The researchers add, “Our results suggest that the alleged migrant crisis currently experienced by Europe is not likely to provoke an economic crisis but might rather be an economic opportunity.” They do acknowledge that large flows of asylum seekers are posing political and diplomatic problems in many European countries. It is clearly the case that some politicians seek power by whipping up fears among native-borns about supposed irreconcilable cultural differences and economic competition from the newcomers. However, the researchers hope that “these political challenges may be more easily addressed if the cliché that international migration is associated with economic ‘burden’ can be dispelled.”

This new study bolsters the results of similar research on refugees and migrants in this country, including a review reportedly suppressed by the Trump administration last year, that finds that they increase incomes and are a net fiscal benefit.

from Hit & Run

No, the Sharing Economy Isn’t Dead: New at Reason

For years, we’ve heard about the growth of the sharing economy as online platforms like Uber continue to shape the U.S. economy. But how influential are they really?

A recent Bureau of Labor Statistics survey on alternative work arrangements claims that there are fewer independent contractors today than there were in 2005—back before Uber’s founding. Considering that the ubiquitous online platforms rely on independent contractors, this survey led some to declare the death of the sharing economy.

But don’t start writing the obituary for the side hustle yet. This new data doesn’t prove that the gig economy is dead, writes Jared Meyer.

View this article.

from Hit & Run