The Trump administration is trying to sell its plan to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as necessary for national security, but the import taxes are an unnecessary step that will hurt American manufacturers and increase prices on a wide range of products, from cars to beer cans.
Last week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross formally submitted to the White House a proposal for 24 percent tariffs on all steel imports. Alternatively, the plan calls for a 53 percent tariff on steel imported from 12 nations, including China, with import quotas on steel produced in all other countries, capping possible imports from those locations at 2017 levels. The proposal also calls for a tariff of 7.7 percent on aluminum imports from all countries, or a 23.6 percent import on products from five countries (China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela, and Vietnam) with a quota on all imports from other places.
The tariffs are necessary because relying on imported steel and aluminum "threatens to impair the national security," Ross said. The theory is that, because American weapons of war depend on steel and aluminum supplies, domestic producers must be protected from international supplies that could be cut-off in the event of a conflict.
That rationale is "weak," according to a collection of libertarian, conservative, and nonpartisan think tanks?the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC Action, the R Street Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks and the National Taxpayers Union?that wrote an open letter to the White House on Friday opposing the tariffs. In the event of a conflict, the Pentagon has specific deals with American allies to continue supplying steel and aluminum.
"The national security case to restrict steel and aluminum imports is thin and the toll such restrictions would take on the economy is considerable," the groups say. "Steel and aluminum tariffs or other import restrictions would hurt downstream domestic manufacturers."
Despite that, Trump appears to be favoring most severe tariff option?24 percent on all steel imports and 7.7 percent on all aluminum imports?Bloomberg reported Friday, citing unnamed sources in the administration.
According to the Commerce Department's report on the proposed tariffs, a 24 percent tariff on all steel imports would be expected to reduce imports by 37 percent.
Domestic manufacturers are eager for more protectionism from the White House. In February, executives from the largest American steel companies wrote a letter to Trump encouraging "action to stop the relentless inflow of foreign steel."
While those American steel manufacturers would benefit from the tariffs, a far larger slice of the economy would be hurt. According to 2015 Census data, steel mills employ about 140,000 Americans and add about $36 billion to the economy, but steel-consuming industries employ more than 6.5 million Americans and add $1 trillion to the economy.
The last time the federal government imposed steel tariffs?during George W. Bush's tenure in the White House, when tariffs ranging from 8 percent to 30 percent were set?the higher costs for importing steel dealt a $4 billion hit to the economy and led to 200,000 job losses, the six groups who wrote to the White House argued. Those tariffs were intended to remain in place for three years, but were withdrawn just a year after they were imposed.
According to the U.S. International Trade Commission's database, most steel products are not subject to specific tariffs when imported. Most aluminum products have tariffs set between 2 percent and 4 percent currently.
The Trump administration has already slapped tariffs on solar panels (30 percent) and washing machines (ranging from 20 percent to 50 percent) in the name of protecting domestic manufacturers.
Those tariff weren't created in the name of national security. And, when you get right down to it, the proposal for tariffs on steel and aluminum aren't about national security either. It's just protectionism, and it leaves almost everyone worse off.
Scot Peterson, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school resource officer who declined to confront alleged mass killer Nikolas Cruz in the midst of his attack, wasn't alone in remaining safely away from the massacre: three Broward County sheriff's deputies waited outside the school as well.
When Coral Springs police officers arrived on scene, they discovered several officers who "had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles...and not one of them had gone into the school," according to a CNN report that described the Coral Springs officers as "stunned and upset" to discover that no one else in law enforcement had dared to take on the shooter.
This news isn't exactly surprising, given that we already knew Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel had suspended two other officers?in addition to Peterson, who has resigned?for their conduct during the mass shooting. Perhaps Israel is not directly responsible for his officer's behavior, though there are other questions he should answer about Broward County's myriad failures in preventing the massacre.
Stoneman Douglas. Broward County. Florida's Department of Families and Children. The FBI. Where does this story of unfathomable government incompetence end?
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, today announced a legislative agenda in response to the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
His plan includes new restrictions aimed at:
? Those who other people think of as dangerous. "I want to create a new program in Florida?I call it the Violent Threat Restraining Order," Scott said. "This will allow a court to prohibit a violent or mentally ill person from purchasing or possessing a firearm or any other weapon when either a family member, community welfare expert or law enforcement officer files a sworn request, and presents evidence to the court of a threat of violence involving firearms or other weapons. There would be speedy due process for the accused and any fraudulent or false statements would face criminal penalties."
A handful of states already have similar laws. California, which has such a law allowing family members and police to preemptively take away people's gun possession rights, saw an attempt last year to also grant that power to school officials, co-workers, and mental health professionals. That attempt was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
This is one of the rare, rare cases where a proposed law change can legitimately be imagined to have prevented this specific crime had it been in effect. That said, taking away people's gun possession rights at the word of family members or "community welfare experts" will entrap far, far more people who would never have actually harmed anyone than catch the very, very rare potential shooter. Statements need not be "fraudulent or false" to restrict the rights of the innocent.
? Those adjudicated mentally ill. "If a court involuntarily commits someone because they are a risk to themselves or others, they would be required to surrender all firearms and not regain their right to purchase or possess a firearm until a court hearing," Scott said. "We are also proposing a minimum 60-day period before individuals can ask a court to restore access to firearms."
As Jacob Sullum explained here at Reason last week, such laws will of necessity harm enormously more innocent people than they will stop someone who actually would ever harm anyone with a gun. Scott is banking on the likelihood that Floridians are ready to see any possibility, however small, of saving a child's life as overbalancing any innocent people deprived of the right to defend themselves with the best means available.
? Those aged 18 to 20. "We will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older," Scott said, with "exceptions for active duty and reserve military and spouses, National Guard members, and law enforcement." (Previously, the minimum age was 18. Existing national law prohibits that group from buying handguns, but not the sort of rifle used in the Parkland murders.)
While Cruz was in this age group, those in that group make up a minority of mass shooters. According to the FBI's 2016 crime statistics, 18-to-20-year-olds commit 10.2 percent of all crimes, likely more than twice their actual percentage representation in the population.
While the FBI's homicide data is not broken down precisely for that age group, rough guesses from existing breakdowns indicate that 18-to-20-year-olds commit about 8.7 percent of homicides in America. They are indeed by available data more likely to commit violent crimes and murders than the population at large.
If you give any credence to the notion that guns can be meaningful tools of self-defense, it's worth considering that age group Scott wants to disarm also have historically suffered the very highest rate of violent crime victimization.
The NRA attempted recently to legally challenge already existing legal restrictions on people in that 18-20-year-old range's ability to purchase weapons, on Second Amendment grounds. But the group failed, so if Scott gets such a law passed in Florida it is not likely to fall to a constitutional challenge anytime soon. As always, such restrictions will have an overwhelmingly larger effect of depriving innocents of the right to armed self-defense than they will prevent murders.
? Those under various types of restraining orders. "We will prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing a firearm," Scott said, "if they are subject to an injunction for protection against stalking, cyberstalking, dating violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, or domestic violence."
Scott further announced the hope that Florida's legislature will work with him to "establish enhanced criminal penalties for threats to schools, like social media threats of shootings or bombings," and to "enhance penalties if any person possesses or purchases a gun after they have been deemed by state law to not have access to a gun."
The governor also wants to ban bump stocks, and he wants to spend "$450 million to keep students safe," including "a mandatory law enforcement officer in every public school," "at least one law enforcement officer for every 1,000 students," "mandatory active shooter training as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security," and "school-hardening measures like metal detectors, bullet-proof glass, steel doors, and upgraded locks."
Scott also proposes a variety of information-coordinating and see-something-say-something plans, plus funding for more mental health pros and "threat assessment teams" at every school. He's willing to give up tax cuts or other funding priorities "near and dear to our hearts" in order to fund these plans.
Robby Soave has examined at Reason the obvious downsides of ramping up that sort of law enforcement presence on the day-to-day lives of students and the overreach of such "see something say something" plans applied to the vast majority of alienated teens.
Scott is not the only Republican for whom Parkland seems to have shifted his priorities. President Donald Trump himself is now on board with bump stock bans and restrictions for 18-to-20-year-olds. And Florida Republicans in general look willing to do a lot of legislating against gun possession short of total bans on certain types of rifles.
The debate over American health care tends to focus on how we pay for services, rather than why we pay so much more than any other developed country. In a new working paper, Jeffrey S. Flier and Jared M. Rhoads of the Mercatus Institute suggest that we could lower costs by allowing more people to practice medicine.
In a comparison of 11 industrialized nations, they write, the U.S. has the second lowest number of physicians per capita: "2.5 physicians per 1,000 population, compared to a mean of 3.1 for the group and high of 4.2 for Norway." The American Association of Medical Colleges anticipates a shortage of 40,800 to 104,900 physicians by 2030, particularly in the fields of pediatrics, primary care, family medicine, and internal medicine. (Not coincidentally, these are four of the lowest-paying medical specialties.)
The association wants to address that shortage by securing more federal funding for physician training, but with no concessions on tuition, which averages $55,000 per year in the United States. Flier and Rhoads have some other suggestions: expanding the number of accredited U.S. medical schools, shortening the length of medical school, granting more independence to nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, and reforming state licensing boards so that medical doctors can no longer use their clout to suppress competition.
We could also, they add, make it easier for foreign-born, foreign-trained doctors to migrate to and practice in the U.S. Indeed, there are roughly 60,000 foreign medical doctors already living in the U.S. who aren't licensed to practice.
Foreign-born medical doctors who trained outside the U.S. already play a crucial role in providing care in America. These physicians "are substantially more likely to practice in rural and poorer communities and are overrepresented in primary care specialties, including family medicine and pediatrics," write Flier and Rhoads. A 2015 study found that international medical graduates (a group that includes Americans who train outside the U.S. and foreign citizens who train outside the U.S.) are filling a crucial care gap:
IMGs are more likely to practice in specialties in which a physician shortage would otherwise go unfilled. For example, a higher proportion of IMGs than other graduates serve socioeconomically disadvantaged populations across the United States. They also tend to fill the gaps in workforce demands in rural areas depending on the particular state. One study reported that 19.3% of IMGs, compared with 10.4% of osteopathic physicians, are practicing in rural areas. An ambulatory care survey published in 2009 found that most office-based IMG primary care physicians are in areas with physician shortages where Medicare and Medicaid patients are overrepresented. Compared with US medical graduates, a higher percentage of IMGs are also in solo practice. Overall, IMGs have been taking up opportunities to practice within patient populations that are facing difficulties caused by uneven distribution of the physician workforce.
It's possible that foreign doctors have lower debt loads and can thus pursue lower-paying specialties, or, because the American residency system prefers American born-and-trained physicians, that IMGs fill less desirable roles in order to practice in the U.S. at all. Either way, they're often willing to go to areas many American-trained physicians are not. Like Nebraska.
Every year, the National Residency Match Program publishes data showing what types of doctors matched to what kind of medical residency in each state (a medical residency of at least a year is required in order to receive a medical license in the U.S.). Here's what the numbers look like for Nebraska, which had a total of 93 open positions for family medicine and internal medicine in 2017:
Across the top of that chart are the various applicant types. "US sr" are fourth-year medical students attending allopathic medical schools in the U.S.; they will be M.D.s upon graduation, and 94 percent of them will "match"?as in, be selected for?a U.S. residency. Further to the right is "IMG," non-U.S. citizens who attended international medical schools; they land the fewest residency slots each year, with roughly 50 percent of applicants matching. In Nebraska, non-U.S. citizens who attended foreign medical schools filled 33 percent of the year-one primary care and internal medicine residency slots, and 100 percent of the neurology positions. In California, non-U.S. citizens who trained overseas filled only 10 percent of the internal medicine and family medicine slots.
More physicians want to live and work in California than in Nebraska, and American residency programs tend to favor U.S. citizens over non-citizens. Even in medicine, immigrants end up doing the jobs Americans won't.
What's more, foreign medical school grads are willing to do this work even though the U.S. licensure system penalizes physicians who train abroad by requiring them to do a residency regardless of whether they're already licensed to practice in their home country. This means not only that the U.S. can only import as many physicians as there are low-tier residency slots, but also that we spend Medicare money retraining foreign-born physicians without regard for their level of competence.
Canada also faces a doctor shortage, and it has turned to the international market to fill it. But rather than requiring every foreign medical school graduate to undergo retraining, Flier and Rhoads write, immigrants "may bypass postgraduate training requirements [in Canada] if he or she did residency training in Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, or the United States." Most foreign-born-and-trained doctors who come to the U.S. are from India, the Philippines, Mexico, Pakistan, and the Dominican Republic, and there might be legitimate questions about the quality of training in those places. But that's an assumption we should interrogate, and even if it's accurate, it doesn't preclude the creation and administration of some kind of comprehensive equivalency exam that could assess whether their skills were transferable. Regardless of how we handle the question of reciprocity, importing more foreign physicians could save money and lives.
The idea of connecting America's cities via Hyperloop?a high-speed train propelled at breakneck speeds through vacuum tunnels?is being taken increasingly seriously. So is the possibility that the technology will get taxpayer support.
Just this week, Elon Musk's Boring Company secured a construction permit from the District of Columbia as part of its plans to build a Hyperloop line between the nation's capital and nearby Baltimore. The company had already received a permit to dig a 10-mile tunnel for the project from the Maryland Department of Transportation.
In the Midwest, meanwhile, the company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies inked an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency to study the feasibility of a Hyperloop between Chicago and Cleveland.
So far, these projects have not relied on government support. An IDOT spokesperson has stressed that no state finding was involved in the deal. In Maryland, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn told local radio station WAMU, "The development of this project is being done entirely by the Boring Company and has zero state and federal dollars. This is a private company undertaking a project with private funds."
But as these projects progress, taxpayer dollars may soon follow.
In January, a bipartisan group of U.S. representatives from Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to spend $20 million creating a Hyperloop Transportation Initiative. Last year, the Ohio State Legislature passed a resolution expressing support for the same idea.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies' press release about its feasibility study cites both the letter and the resolution favorably.
It would be easy to dismiss all this as empty talk were it not for the president's infrastructure package. Of the $200 billion in federal spending that Trump has proposed as part of the deal, $20 billion would be reserved for "transformative projects," described as "ambitious, exploratory, and ground-breaking project ideas that have significantly more risk than standard infrastructure projects, but offer a much larger reward profile."
Projects that fit this description could get as much as 30 percent of their demonstration costs, 50 percent of their planning costs, and a full 80 percent of their construction costs from the feds.
If that idea is included in the final legislative package, it's not hard to imagine the money landing in the pockets of Hyperloop project sponsors. White House advisers have already personally expressed their support for Musk's Hyperloop projects.
If that happens, it will be a shame?not just for Hyperloop skeptics but for Hyperloop fans.
The technology is still very much in its infancy. Prototypes have achieved speeds of only 240 miles per hour, despite promises that future Hyperloop vehicles will reach upward of 700 miles per hour. Dumping huge amounts of federal money on such a speculative technology risks costing taxpayers a bundle for an idea that turns out to be a dud.
And even if Hyperloops do prove to be part of our transportation future, public money always comes with strings attached. Otherwise economically feasible projects could be derailed by layers of regulation and politically expedient changes.
Something similar happened with California's high-speed rail. What was once supposed to be a straight rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles was, thanks to politically motivated demands, rerouted through the state's Central Valley, creating all sorts of complications, delays, and cost overruns.
Government officials should let the technology evolve, not try to transform it with a ton of tax dollars.
Mark Janus is a "child-support specialist" who works for the State of Illinois. He's also at the center of a Supreme Court case that may end the ability of public-sector unions to collect dues even from workers who are not members and who don't want to be represented in collective bargaining. Oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME will be heard on Monday, February 23, and should be decided by the end of June.
In 22 states, public-sector unions can force non-members to pay for costs related to collective bargaining and workplace representation. Janus tells Reason's Nick Gillespie he was never told about that arrangement until he saw dues being deducted from his first paycheck. He argues that forcing him to pay for a service he doesn't want from a group he doesn't belong to violates his First Amendment guarantees of voluntary association and free speech. (His union explicitly supports candidates in elections.) "The union voice is not my voice," he has written. "The union's fight is not my fight."
The dispute, writes Reason's Eric Boehm, "is best thought of as a sequel to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a 2016 Supreme Court case that raised the same question about whether public-sector unions can extract political dues from recalcitrant members. That case ended in a 4?4 draw after Justice Antonin Scalia's sudden death left the Court with an even number of conservative and liberal members. For obvious reasons, that means all eyes in this case will be fixed on the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch."
Audio production by Ian Keyser.
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Lawrence Wright in 2006 wrote a magnificent, Pulitzer Prize-winning history of modern jihad, The Looming Tower.
That was followed in 2007 by a one-man, off-Broadway show, My Trip to Al Qaeda, partly an adaptation of the book and partly a reflection about what it meant. Three years later, Wright turned out an HBO adaptation of the play. Both were widely praised.
And now Wright has turned his book into a Hulu miniseries about the handful of U.S. national security officials who saw bin Laden coming and tried to stop him, much to their government's indifference. It's scary, a little sickening, and entirely spellbinding. Television critic Glenn Garvin reviews.
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Can a person who pleads guilty to a crime later challenge his conviction on the grounds that the criminal statute he was charged and convicted under is unconstitutional? On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said yes, in a decision that upends an important assumption of federal criminal procedure.
For decades, lower federal courts have held that by pleading guilty, a criminal defendant waives the right to raise most substantive and procedural claims on appeal. This rule has long reassured federal prosecutors that the guilty pleas, which make up of 95 percent of criminal case dispositions in U.S. district courts, will not generate complicated constitutional appeals. The Supreme Court's decision this week in Rodney Class v. United States may thus shift some of the focus of federal criminal practice, which is now heavily based on negotiating plea agreements, back toward litigation.
Writing for an ideologically unusual majority (composed of the Court's four Democratic-appointed justices plus Republican appointees Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts), Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that Class's claims "challenge the Government's power to criminalize [his] (admitted) conduct. They thereby call into question the Government's power to 'constitutionally prosecute' him. A guilty plea does not bar a direct appeal in these circumstances." Breyer argued that principle has deep roots in American law, citing decisions as far back as 1860.
Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito dissented from the opinion.
This result is unlikely to actually free the petitioner, Rodney Class. Class was arrested in 2013 after bringing firearms onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, in violation of federal law. According to The Wall Street Journal, "Mr. Class told FBI agents that 'he was a 'Constitutional Bounty Hunter' and a 'Private Attorney General' who traveled the nation with guns and other weapons to enforce federal criminal law against judges whom he believed had acted unlawfully.'"
On appeal, Class wishes to raise the claim that the law against bringing firearms onto Capitol grounds violates the Second Amendment and the Due Process clause. He will now be able to do so, but under current Second Amendment precedents in the D.C. Circuit, where his appeal will be heard, it is unlikely that those claims will succeed.
But whether or not the ruling frees Rodney Class, it may require a revision of the federal plea colloquy, a largely scripted exchange between judge and defendant that must take place before the entry of a guilty plea. Toward the end of the colloquy?which can take as long as 30 minutes, depending on the judge?the defendant is asked whether he understands that by pleading guilty, he is waiving all possible appellate claims except for newly discovered evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel, and illegality of the sentence. The decision in Class will probably require, at minimum, an additional caveat during that portion of the colloquy.
Video games have become one of our most influential, popular, and creative forms of media. Last year, the industry generated almost $150 billion in revenue worldwide, rivaling books and films and dwarfing music.
Gamers spend over three billion hours a week in the virtual worlds of their choosing. And more so than other contemporary forms of media, video games explore the themes of freedom and personal agency, allowing players to go where they want and do what they please?as long as they're prepared to bear the consequences. Two of the three best selling video games of all time are Grand Theft Auto 5 and Minecraft. They're polar opposites in terms of violence and target audience, but both were designed to offer players the opportunity to make their own destinies.
But it's the Assassin's Creed series, published by Ubisoft, that puts the conflict between liberty and authority at the center of its plots, its characters, and the alternate history in which the games are set. Reason takes a look at the series' narrative merits, and at the titular creed.
Click here for full text, a transcript, and downloadable versions.
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Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel?the man whose agency failed to prevent the Parkland massacre despite having received a tip last November that Nikolas Cruz was plotting a mass shooting?has been accused of public corruption.
Two years ago, the Sun Sentinel reported that Israel was rewarding top political supporters by giving them and their family members cushy jobs doing public relations and community outreach for the Broward County Sheriff's Office. One such position, outreach manager, paid out a salary of $78,489. The person who got that job was the husband of Israel's campaign manager.
Israel had been a Republican but ran for office as a Democrat. He was first elected sheriff in 2012, then re-elected in 2016. According to the Sun Sentinel:
The outreach workers, who mainly attend community events, are in addition to political activists and others Israel hired into community affairs roles, writing and designing printed pieces about the agency, and sharing it on social media. The employee log shows six hired into community affairs roles, their salaries totaling $388,729.
Israel's opponents say he's built a publicly funded political machine, paying back supporters with jobs and using them to keep him in office. They say the money could be better spent, particularly after the sheriff complained about not having enough funding to secure the county courthouse, where a murder suspect recently escaped.
Asked about the allegations, Israel responded, "What have I done differently than Don Shula or Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Gandhi?"
He also said, "Lions don't care about the opinions of sheep." That's a paraphrase of a quote from the Game of Thrones character Tywin Lannister, a villainous public administrator known for promoting his family's interests ahead of the government's or the people's.
Were the employees hired to work at the Sheriff's Office competent? It certainly seems like a relevant question now that we know the authorities were forewarned about the dangers posed by Cruz. The office received at least 18 calls about Cruz's disturbing behavior and possession of weapons from 2008 to 2017. BuzzFeed has obtained records related to those calls. The most recent one, made on November 30, 2017, described Cruz as a "school shooter in the making." Broward County referred the matter to the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office but took no further action?even though a relative of Cruz had warned Broward County about Cruz's stash of weapons just three days before.
This news follows the resignation of Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, who refused to engage the killer while the rampage was underway. Israel suspended Peterson after watching video footage of the SRO's behavior, saying that it made him "sick to my stomach."
Given the appalling failures that took place at Israel's office, the "sheep" might like to ask the "lion" some questions. Perhaps he could answer them in a less condescending and authoritarian fashion.
A Louisiana high school student was banned from school and had his home searched by deputies entirely because he made a joke out loud in a math class that the square root symbol looks like a gun.
That's it, folks. A kid at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Louisiana, observed that if you kind of squinted, the square root symbol looks like a weapon. Then the social media rumor mill went to work and eventually this whole silly thing morphed into allegations that he was going to shoot up the school. Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert has acknowledged in an interview with KATC that the student "did not commit a crime. He did not commit anything remotely criminal, nothing to remotely suggest any intent to do actual harm."
That should have been where the entire embarrassing incident ended, with a sheepish observation that the current climate of fear caused an overreaction that was understandable but still nevertheless an overreaction. And of course, the teen deserves an apology for being subjected to such an overwhelming response that assumes the worst of him with absolutely no evidence at all.
But that's not what is happening. Instead, KATC reports that the kid faces an expulsion hearing. Furthermore, not a single authority figure in their reporting, nor KATC's reporter, wants to even acknowledge that this was an overreaction. In fact, the school district is putting into place policies that are going to guarantee future overreactions.
Imagine not realizing (or not caring) how this system is going to result in manipulation and abuse:
Any student accused of talking about guns or school shootings will be investigated by three entities: the school board, the sheriff's department, and the district attorney's office.
If an incident like this occurs again, [Superintendent Michael] Doucet explained the protocol.
"The first thing we're going to do is remove that student from the premises with proper authority. Then, we're going to have a home visit done by detectives of the sheriff's department, and if no charges are filed, we're going to conduct a threat assessment on the student," Doucet said.
Gee, I hope those kids in Allen Parish don't have any enemies.
At the end of the piece, Doucet admits what's really happening here. It's administrative ass-covering. If something bad happened because they didn't treat this incident seriously, he says, then parents would get angry with him.
It's reminiscent of how the Transportation Security Administration will freak out at any jokes about bombs or guns, yet has a terrible record for assessing risk at airports. Any suggestion that schools should adopt airport-like security absurd and self-defeating.
Security theater isn't just bad because it treats everybody like criminals or threats. It's also bad because when you spread resources thin attempting to investigate inconsequential things, sometimes you miss the big things. The young man accused of the school shooting in Florida did more than just make a quip. He had a lengthy, documented history of troubling behavior.
Chasing down every single kid muttering the word "gun" is a terrible response designed for school administrators to declare that they're "doing something," even if what they're doing is screwing over their own students, censoring speech, and not actually making schools safer in any way.
Watch KATC's report below:
Policymakers need to focus more on harsh realities if they want real solutions for homelessness.
Steven Greenhut writes:
It's amazing what a civil rights lawsuit and some federal judicial muscle have done to force officials in California to address the vexing homelessness problem in Orange County, especially in the dreary encampments along the Santa Ana River trail. Judge David Carter excoriated county and city officials during an unorthodox court proceeding on Tuesday that produced in hours an agreement that had been elusive during weeks of wrangling.
The deal lets local governments clear out the sprawling camps in exchange for providing 30-day emergency vouchers for people to stay at motels. The Orange County Board of Supervisors also announced that it will soon provide more than 300 additional beds or tents for the homeless at facilities around the county.
Homelessness isn't just an Orange County problem, of course. It's a growing mess throughout California and the nation. I've seen communities of all sizes and political dispositions wrestle unsuccessfully with it for decades. Cities such as San Francisco that throw money at the problem become magnets for homelessness, with sections of the city resembling an outdoor sewer.
View this article.
Until the American men made a shocking run to the gold medal final, one of the biggest surprises of the Olympic curling tournament was a tiff between the Canadian and Danish women's teams that was over so fast non-curlers might have missed it entirely.
That brief moment summed up one of the best things about the game that, once every four years, captures Americans' attentions for two short weeks. And maybe it offers a lesson for American politics too.
Curling is a game where teams of four players slide 42-pound granite stones along a 150-foot sheet of ice, aiming for the center of a large target painted on the ice. Players use brooms to sweep in front of sliding stones to make the rocks travel farther. After all 16 rocks have been thrown, the one that's closest to the center of the target scores. That's one "end." After 10 ends, the team with the most points wins.
The Canada-Denmark controversy occurred in the fifth end of their match last week. Danish "skip" (captain) Madeleine Dupont was sweeping one of her own team's rocks as it slid to a stop inside the house (target). At the very end of the shot, her broom contacted the rock?a fact that she immediately admitted to her Canadian counterpart, Rachel Homan.
In the parlance of the game, this is called "burning" a rock. When a rock is burned, the skip of the other team?in this case, Homan?has three options. She could choose to leave all the rocks exactly where they are, like declining a penalty in football. She could choose to remove the burned rock from play. Or she could choose to move the burned rock (and any rocks it might have hit after it was burned) to where she, and the opposing skip, mutually agree it would have ended up without having been touched.
On this particular shot, the burned rock had nearly stopped before it was touched. The touch likely made only the smallest of changes in the outcome of the shot. In those circumstances, traditionally, the skips will either leave the shot where it stopped or make small adjustments to the rocks and continuing playing. Taking the rock off the sheet, while legal, is frowned upon as bad sportsmanship (and bad strategy, since everyone burns rocks once in a while, and all skips want the benefit of the doubt when it happens to them).
But that's exactly what Homan did. She yanked the burned rock off the sheet, and lined up her team's next shot while Dupont gave a disapproving look and slight shake of the head. That's all.
Well, not all. Commentators noticed what had happened. "I think that was a rash move to take it off," said Joan McCusker, an Olympic gold medalist who was calling the game for the Canadian Broadcasting Company. "They should have left it in play. It doesn't look good on you." Homan's unsportsmanlike move rankled curling fans from Alberta to Winnipeg, and older curlers dutifully stepped up to blame the younger generation for ruining the spirit of the sport.
Still, maybe the most notable thing about the entire incident is what didn't happen. There were no referees blowing whistles, no instant replay reviews from six different angles. There was no appeal to authority of any kind, not even by the Danish skip who felt, well, burned by what had happened (though Denmark rallied to win the game, 9-8).
Curling is a sport that, more so than almost any other, is played in a state of anarchy.
That's not to say that curling doesn't have rules, of course. The length of the sheet, the size and weight of the rocks, and the method for scoring are standardized. Players aren't allowed to touch the rocks with their brooms. Sliding past the "hog line" before releasing a shot is forbidden.
But it is a game with very little in the way of law enforcement, even in games played at the highest competitive levels. This makes curling quite an outlier at the Olympics, where every sport has judges determining winners and losers based on a scoring rubric that no one really understand, or referees calling fouls and penalties, or officials making sure everyone completes the same course without going out of bounds.
Curling officials are relegated almost entirely to an appellate role. If the two teams really cannot agree on which stone might score in a given end, for example, officials can be called upon to conduct a measurement. This is a relatively rare event. Otherwise, scoring is entirely the responsibility of the two "vice-skips" (the second-in-command on each team), and any other disagreements?like where a burned rock should be placed?are settled between the skips.
The lack of referees and judges requires that, above all else, curlers must be good sports. The first page of the official rulebook doesn't describe the size of the rocks or the length of the sheet or the method of scoring. It talks about "the spirit of curling." That might sound a little hokey in our cynical age, but it's actually one of the things that makes the game so much damn fun. A "call your own fouls" mentally is not unexpected in pick-up basketball game or rec center softball leagues, but it is pretty unusual to see at the Olympics.
At the risk of straining the analogy too far, the culture of curling offers a few lessons for an American political culture that has become toxic in so many ways.
Like curling, politics is a sport that requires players to call their own fouls and meet out the proper repercussions for them. Before that, though, both require good sportsmanship, and a mutual expectation that both sides will respect the unwritten rules of the game.
That doesn't require agreement or cooperation, of course. Opposing skips in a curling match are not working towards a common goal. They won't help sweep each others' stones (or whatever the curling equivalent of empty cheers for bipartisanship would be). They are both trying to win the game, but competition doesn't require tossing sportsmanship or civility out the window. This idea of civilized rivalries?of ambition counteracting ambition, without any need for a higher authority to restrain it?is a fundamental element of the American political system.
Like curling's somewhat nuanced rules about what to do with a burned rock, political discourse is not a black-and-white affair. Too often, I think, we behave like Homan did last week. If our opponents make a minor mistake, we want to pounce on the opportunity to gain a temporary advantage by yanking their stone out of play (or making a mockery of them on social media). The short-term gain is offset by a decline in respect and an increased likelihood of reprisals. Winning matters, but how you win matters too.
Maybe we flock to curling every four years not because of the hypnotic motion of the stones across the ice or the excitement of a perfectly executed hit-and-roll, but because the game is a reminder that even diametrically opposed teams can disagree and get along without having to be told what to do.
Maybe that's all a bunch of nonsense and I'm still high from watching the U.S. team upset Canada to reach the final round.
Still, the most important part of the "culture of curling" is the expectation that a winning team will buy a round of drinks for the losing team (yes, even at the Olympics!)?a good reminder that no dispute is so big it can't be settled over a beer.
Scot Peterson, the 54-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas school resource officer who resigned after security footage revealed he made no effort to engage alleged mass killer Nikolas Cruz during the rampage last week, previously lobbied Broward County school officials to continue funding a program that allowed cops to live in mobile homes on school property rent-free.
Not only did Peterson fail to confront Cruz?he also failed to assist a previous investigation, undertaken by state authorities, to determine whether Cruz was a threat to himself or others. His mistakes compound the errors made by other law enforcement entities, including the FBI and Broward County PD.
The housing program was in effect at 32 different Broward County schools. Officials reasoned that cops living at the schools would mean 24-hour security. But a 2015 audit determined that the program was a waste of money.
The auditor said, "Frankly, I'm embarrassed," and "I would shut it down immediately," according to the Sun Sentinel. Officials could find no evidence that the live-in cops were deterring crime.
Officer Peterson took a different view.
About a dozen officers from the program attended the meeting. They called the report skewed and lauded the advantage of keeping law enforcement on school grounds.
"These colleagues work hard. We are crime prevention, an audit report will never show how much we prevent," said Scot Peterson, an officer who has lived at Atlantic Technical College in Coconut Creek since 2000. He said he's arrested several juveniles for breaking into school property.
Yet according to the audit, one of the officers had even made the decision to sublet his on-campus mobile home to two people who weren't police officers. Most of the officers did not turn in monthly reports detailing their activities, and failed to respond to 73 percent of security alarm triggers. But ending the program would be unfair, said Peterson. "You are talking about the livelihood of some of these people," he said at the time.
The housing program for school resource officers wasn't really about safety. It was welfare for state employees. Seen through this lens, Peterson's utter failure to confront the shooter isn't particularly surprising.
The New York Times has more information on Peterson:
In February 2016, the sheriff's office received what it described as "thirdhand information" that Mr. Cruz "planned to shoot up the school" and had posted a picture on Instagram of a "juvenile with guns." A deputy determined that Mr. Cruz had knives and a BB gun and forwarded the information to the school resource officer at Stoneman Douglas High. That was Deputy Peterson.
The Times also notes that the Florida Department of Children and Families?the state's child protective services agency?investigated Cruz in 2016 but determined that he was not at risk of harming himself or others.
According to the agency, its Adult Protective Investigator (API) attempted to talk to Stoneman Douglas's SRO (Peterson, presumably) about Cruz, but:
The school resource officer was contacted and refused to provide specific information to the investigator. Florida law does not give APS the authority to compel law enforcement to provide additional information during an investigation.
We can add this oversight to the lengthy and ever-growing list of catastrophic law enforcement failures at play in the Parkland shooting. Don't let anyone say putting even more cops in schools is a reasonable response.