Found: 105 records....
Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:29:28 AM mt

Banned Books Week and Conflicts of Values

The fight over banning books from school libraries is only worsened by the public school establishment. Neal McCluskey comments.
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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:28:25 AM mt

The Fourth Amendment in the Digital Age

The U.S. could perform better at protecting the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. For a live recording of theCato Daily PodcastatCato Club 200event in Middleburg, Virginia, Matthew Feeney and Julian Sanchez explain how courts think about those rights in the digital age.
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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:27:37 AM mt

Cannabis Reform Comes to Utah

Utah is a conservative state, but the legislature is poised to begin the process of loosening restrictions on medical cannabis, a response to a medical marijuana ballot initiative voters will face this November. Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute comments.
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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:25:24 AM mt

Divided Government Won in 2018

Democrats will run the U.S. House and Republicans will hang onto the Senate. What does that mean for limited government? What were the bright spots for liberty at the state level? Michael Tanner comments.
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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:25:14 AM mt

Jeff Sessions Fired for Doing the Right Thing

Jeff Sessions has resigned as Attorney General, a move that opens up many questions about the future of investigations into the White House and harsh federal law enforcement. Trevor Burrus and Alex Nowrasteh comment.
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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:23:12 AM mt

New Mexico Begins Innovative Fix to Occupational Licensing

It outgoing New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has her way, New Mexicans will soon have a much bigger say in which businesses are allowed to serve them. Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation discusses the beginnings of a new and substantial occupational licensing reform.
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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:18:58 AM mt

Keep Government Away From Twitter

Twitter recently re-activated Jesse Kellys account after telling him that he was permanently banned from the platform. The social media giant informed Kelly, a conservative commentator, that his account was permanently suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter rules. Conservative pundits, journalists, and politicians criticized Twitters decision to ban Kelly, with some alleging that Kellys ban was the latest example of perceived anti-conservative bias in Silicon Valley. While some might be infuriated with what happened to Kellys Twitter account, we should be wary of calls for government regulation of social media and related investigations in the name of free speech or the First Amendment. Companies such as Twitter and Facebook will sometimes make content moderation decisions that seem hypocritical, inconsistent, and confusing. But private failure is better than government failure, not least because unlike government agencies, Twitter has to worry about competition and profits.

Its not immediately clear why Twitter banned Kelly. A fleeting glance of Kellys Twitter feed reveals plenty of eye roll-worthy content, including his calls for the peaceful breakup of the United States and his assertion that only an existential threat to the United States can save the country. His writings at the conservative website The Federalist include bizarre and unfounded declarations such as, barring some unforeseen awakening, America is heading for an eventual socialist abyss. In the same article he called for his readers to Be the Lakota after a brief discussion about how Sitting Bull and his warriors took scalps at the Battle of Little Bighorn. In another article Kelly made the argument that a belief in limited government is a necessary condition for being a patriot.

I must confess that I didnt know Kelly existed until I learned the news of his Twitter ban, so its possible that those backing his ban from Twitter might be able to point to other content that they consider more offensive that what I just highlighted. But, from what I can tell Kellys content hardly qualifies as suspension-worthy.

Some opponents of Kellys ban (and indeed Kelly himself) were quick to point out that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan still has a Twitter account despite making anti-semitic remarks. Richard Spencer, the white supremacist president of the innocuously-named National Policy Institute who pondered taking my boss office, remains on Twitter, although his account is no longer verified.

All of the of the debates about social media content moderation have produced some strange proposals. Earlier this year I attended the Lincoln Networks Reboot conference and heard Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Religious Broadcasters, propose that social media companies embrace the First Amendment as a standard. Needless to say, I was surprised to hear a conservative Christian urge private companies to embrace a content moderation standard that would require them to allow animal abuse videos, footage of beheadings, and pornography on their platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies have sensible reasons for not using the First Amendment as their content moderation lodestar.

Rather than turning to First Amendment law for guidance, social media companies have developed their own standards for speech. These standards are enforced by human beings (and the algorithms human beings create) who make mistakes and can unintentionally or intentionally import their biases into content moderation decisions. Another Twitter controversy from earlier this year illustrates how difficult it can be to develop content moderation policies.

Shortly after Sen. John McCains death a Twitter user posted a tweet that included a doctored photo of Sen. McCains daughter, Meghan McCain, crying over her fathers casket. The tweet included the words America, this ones (sic) for you and the doctored photo, which showed a handgun being aimed at the grieving McCain. McCains husband, Federalist publisher Ben Domenech, criticized Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey for keeping the tweet on the platform. Twitter later took the offensive tweet down, and Dorsey apologized for not taking action sooner.

The tweet aimed at Meghan McCain clearly violated Twitters rules, which state: You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.

Twitters rules also prohibit hateful conduct or imagery, as outlined in its Hateful Conduct Policy. The policy seems clear enough, but a look at Kellys tweets reveal content that someone could interpret as hateful, even if some of the tweets are attempts at humor. Is portraying Confederate soldiers as poor Southerners defending their land from an invading Northern army hateful? What about a tweet bemoaning womens right to vote? Or tweets that describe our ham-loving neighbors to the North as garbage people and violence as underrated? None of these tweets seem to violate Twitters current content policy, but someone could write a content policy that would prohibit such content.

Imagine developing a content policy for a social media site and your job is to consider whether content identical to the tweet targeting McCain and content identical to Kellys tweet concerning violence should be allowed or deleted. You have four policy options:

Delete Tweet Targeting McCainAllow Tweet Targeting McCain
Delete Kellys Tweet



Allow Kellys Tweet



Many commentators seem to back option 3, believing that the tweet targeting McCain shouldve been deleted while Kelly tweet should be allowed. Thats a reasonable position. But its not hard to see how someone could come to the conclusion that 1 and 4 are also acceptable options. Of all four options only option 2, which would lead to the deletion of Kellys tweet but also allow the tweet targeting McCain, seems incoherent on its face.

Social media companies can come up with sensible-sounding policies, but there will always be tough calls. Having a policy that prohibits images of nude children sounds sensible, but there was an outcry after Facebook removed an Anne Frank Center article, which had as its feature image a photo of nude children who were victims of the Holocaust. Facebook didnt disclose whether an algorithm or a human being had flagged the post for deletion.

In a similar case, Facebook initially defended its decision to remove Nick Uts Pulitzer Prize-winning photo The Terror of War, which shows a burned, naked nine year old Vietnamese girl fleeing the aftermath of an South Viernamese napalm attack in 1972. Despite the photos fame and historical significance Facebook told The Guardian, While we recognize that this photo is iconic, its difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others. Facebook eventually changed course, allowing users to post the photo, citing the photos historical significance:

Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed.

What about graphic images of contemporary and past battles? On the one hand, there is clear historic value to images from the American Civil War, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War, some of which include graphic violent content. A social media company implementing a policy prohibiting graphic depictions of violence sounds sensible, but like a policy banning images of nude children it will not eliminate difficult choices or the possibility that such a policy will yield results many users will find inconsistent and confusing.

Given that whoever is developing content moderation policies will be put in the position of making tough choices its far better to leave these choices in the hands of private actors rather than government regulators. Unlike the government, Twitter has a profit motive and competition. As such, it is subject to far more accountability that the government. We may not always like the decisions social media companies make, but private failure is better than government failure. An America where unnamed bureaucrats, not private employees, determine what can be posted on social media is one where free speech is stifled.

To be clear, calls for increased government intervention and regulation of social media platforms is a bipartisan phenomenon. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) has discussed a range of possible social media policies, including a crackdown on anonymous accounts and regulations modeled on the European so-called right to be forgotten. If such policies were implemented (the First Amendment issues notwithstanding), they would inevitably lead to valuable speech being stifled. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has said that hes open to carve-outs of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online intermediaries such as Facebook and Twitter from liability for what users post on their platforms.

When it comes to possibly amending Section 230 Sen. Wyden has some Republican allies. Never mind that some of these Republicans dont seem to fully understand the relevant parts of Section 230.

That social media giants are under attack from the left and the right is not an argument for government intervention. Calls for Section 230 amendment or anti-censorship legislation are a serious risk to free speech. If Section 230 is amended to increase social media companies risk of liability suits we should expect these companies to suppress more speech. Twitter users may not always like what Twitter does, but calls for government intervention are not the remedy.

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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:18:51 AM mt


Welcome to the Defense Download! This new round-up is intended to highlightwhat we at the Cato Institute are keeping tabs on in the world ofdefense politics every week. The three-to-five trending stories will vary depending on the news cycle, what policymakers are talking about, and will pull from all sides of the political spectrum. If you would like to recieve more frequent updates on what Im reading, writing, and listening toyou can follow me on Twitter via@CDDorminey.

  1. Senate defies White House on Saudi support in Yemen, Elana Schor. In a 63-37 vote that took place late yesterday afternoon, the Senate moved forward on a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for Saudi Arabias war in Yemen. Every Democratic Senator plus 14 Republican Senators voted to ensure that this issue would be hotly debated, raising public awareness and sending a clear signal that this issue will not fissile out.
  2. Yemen: Inquiry finds Saudis diverting arms to factions loyal to their cause, Rod Austin. More on Yemen. The top line of the article is right in the description: Investigators say weapons from UK and US have fallen into hands of splinter groups in Yemen, some with links to al-Qaida and ISIS. This isnt just small arms and light weapons. The investigation revealed that diverted weapon systems include sophisticated armoured vehicles, rocket launchers, grenades and rifles.
  3. How Much Will The Space Force Cost? Todd Harrison. Interested in the Space Force? This report goes in depth on three different ways the military could organize the Space Force: a Space Corps, Space Force-Lite, and Space Force-Heavy. You can get information down to the line-item level or just hit the highlights of total cost estimates for each option.
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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:18:41 AM mt

No Let Up On The Bad News About Overdose Deaths

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) just issuedData Brief Number 329, entitled Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999-2017. Drug overdose deaths reached a newrecord high, exceeding 70,000 deaths in 2017, a 9.6 percent increase over 2016. That figure includes all drug overdoses, including those due to cocaine, methamphetamines, and benzodiazepines. The actual breakdown according to drug category will be reported in mid-December. However,estimatesare opioid-related deaths will account for roughly 49,000 of the total overdose deaths.

The big takeaways, quoting the report:

-The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone, which include drugs such as fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and tramadol, increased from 0.3 per 100,000 in 1999 to 1.0 in 2013, 1.8 in 2014, 3.1 in 2015, 6.2 in 2016, and 9.0 in 2017.The rate increased on average by 8% per year from 1999 through 2013 and by 71% per year from 2013 through 2017.

-The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin increased from 0.7 in 1999 to 1.0 in 2008 to 4.9 in 2016. The rate in 2017 was the same as in 2016 (4.9).

-The rate of drug overdose deaths involving natural and semisynthetic opioids, which include drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, increased from 1.0 in 1999 to 4.4 in 2016. The rate in 2017 was the same as in 2016 (4.4).

-The rate of drug overdose deaths involving methadone increased from 0.3 in 1999 to 1.8 in 2006, then declined to 1.0 in 2016. The rate in 2017 was the same as in 2016 (1.0).

Despite the fact that overdose deaths from prescription opioidsand even heroinhave stabilized, the overdose rate continues to climb due to the surge in fentanyl deaths.

This has happened despite policies in place aimed at curtailing doctors from prescribing opioids to their patients in pain. Prescription surveillance boards and government-mandated prescribing limits havepushed prescribing down dramatically. High-dose prescriptions weredown 41 percentbetween 2010 and 2016, another16.1 percentin 2017, andanother 12 percentthis year.

Policies aimed at curbing prescribing are based on the false narrative that the overdose crisis is primarily the result of greedy drug makers manipulating gullible doctors into overtreating patients in pain and hooking them on drugs. But as I havewrittenin the past,, the overdose crisis has always been primarily the result of non-medical users accessing drugs in the dangerous black market that results from prohibition. As the supply of prescription opioids diverted to the underground gets harder to come by, the efficient black market fills the void with other, more dangerous drugs. Lately, the synthetic opioid fentanyl hasemergedas the number one killer.

In a New York Timesreporton the matter today, Josh Katz and Margot Sanger-Katz hint that policymakers are aiming at the wrong target by stating, Recent federal public policy responses to the opioid epidemic have focused on opioid prescriptions. But several public health researchers say that the rise of fentanyls requires different tools. Opioid prescriptions have been falling, even as the death rates from overdoses are rising.

Prescription opioids are not the cause of the overdose death crisis. Neither is fentanyl, despite the fact that it is now the primary driver of the rising death rate. The ultimate cause of the drug overdose crisis is prohibition. US policymakers should drop the false narrative and face reality, like Portuguese health authorities did 17 years ago.

Portugal, in 2001, recognized that prohibition was driving the death rate. At the time it had the highest overdose rate in Western Europe.Itdecriminalizedall drugs and redirectedefforts towards treatmentandharm reduction.Portugal saw its population of heroin addicts drop 75 percent, and now has thelowest overdose rate in Europe. It has been so successful that Norway is about to take thesameroute.

At a minimum, policymakers in the U.S. shouldturnto harm reduction. They should expand syringe exchange and supervised injection facilities, lighten the regulatory burden on health care practitioners wishing to treat addicts with medication-assisted treatments such asmethadoneand buprenorphine, andreschedulethe overdose antidote naloxone to a truly over-the-counter drug.

Unless this happens, we should expect more discouraging news from the NCHS in the years ahead.

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Monday December 10, 2018 @ 02:18:31 AM mt

Why Is There So Little Price Competition among Prescription Drugs Call It Erectile Pricing.

The latest article in the Kaiser Health News/NPR Bill of the Month series tells the story of Shereese Hickson, a 39-year-old disabled Medicare Advantage enrollee whose hospital charged $123,019 for two infusions of a multiple sclerosis drug:

Even in a world of soaring drug prices, multiple sclerosis medicines stand out. Over two decades ending in 2013, costs for MS medicines rose at annual rates five to seven times higher than those for prescription drugs generally, found astudy by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University.

There was no competition on price that was occurring, saidDaniel Hartung, the OHSU and Oregon State University professor who led the study. It appeared to be the opposite. As newer drugs were brought to market, it promoted increased escalation in drug prices.

Thats not how its supposed to work. New market entrants should bring more competition on price. Drug manufacturers have an incentiveto capture market share by reducing their prices. But that seems to be the exception, not the rule.

In the new Cato Institute bookOvercharged: Why Americans Pay Too Much for Health Care, law professors Charles Silver and David Hyman (M.D.) show that this phenomenon occurs because government interference has eliminated incentives for pharmaceutal companies to compete on price:

Why does competition exert less influence in drug markets than it does elsewhere? One likely explanation is parallel pricing, which occurs when supposed competitors maintain or raise prices in lockstep. We call it erectile pricing, rather than parallel pricing, because we observed it when studying Viagra and other erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs

Erectile pricing occurs with other medicines too. Insulin is a drug used by millions of Americans afflicted with diabetes. It is off-patent and made by three companies, so it should be reasonably priced. It is not. The past two decades have seen stunning price increases. Short-acting insulin, which cost about $21 in 1996, went for about $275 in 2017. And, just as with ED drugs, the prices went up in lockstep, even though there were two companies making short-acting insulin. Prices for long-acting insulins, which also had two makers, rose in tandem too.

Why does erectile pricing happen in drug markets? Many medicines are made by only a few companies, all of which are repeat players in pricing games and have learned to employ a strategy known as tit for tat. Whatever one company does, the others do in turn. When one raises prices, the others follow suit, knowing that if they play follow the leader, they will all get rich. The incentive to steal the market by charging less disappears because every manufacturer knows that other makers will cut their prices too, if it does. An outbreak of price competition would leave all manufacturers poorerso they all raise prices instead of reducing them.

Ideally, tit-for-tat pricing would be unsustainable, and efforts to keep prices high would collapse, because individual producers could increase their profits by reducing their prices and stealing market share from their competitors. That appears to happen in the pharmaceutical market sector less often than it should.

Third-party payment contributes to this failure of competition. Heavily insured patients who fork over the same copays regardless of which drugs they use will not respond to rising prices by switching to lower-cost alternatives. They will buy what their doctors recommend, and their doctors will not care much about price, knowing that their patients are insured. Third-party payment may weaken drug makers incentive to compete for market share.

To purchaseOvercharged, click here.

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