June 21st, 2014

Baylen Linnekin on the Battle for Food Freedom


RaisinsIs food freedom—your right to grow raise, produce, buy, sell, share, cook, eat, and drink the foods of your own choosing—really under attack?

Indeed it is. And it's not just that federal, state, and local governments have intruded on your right to eat what you want. It's that the growers, the producers, and the sellers of food often face senseless and insurmountable regulatory obstacles.

"Far too often, the twin assault on economic liberty and food freedom is motivated by the twin evils of economic protectionism and paternalism," writes Michael Bindas, who leads IJ's food freedom project.

In The Attack on Food Freedom, co-authors Baylen Linnekin and Michael Bachmann make the case that the government is serving up unpalatable food regulation to the American people. Hopefully, the report will spur legislators, regulators and courts at all levels of government and people from all political, ideological, and dietary perspectives to recognize the importance of food freedom, writes Linnekin.

View this article.

The Drug War is the Other War Bush-Era Neocons Can't Quit


You've likely seen former Vice President Dick Cheney defending failed U.S. efforts in Iraq. He's been hitting the TV shows and the op-ed pages with his daughter to argue that Iraq was going super-well until President Obama screwed things up by leaving that country on the timetable put into place by...George W. Bush.

Yeah, well, as I write in a new column at The Daily Beast:

It turns out that Dick Cheney isn’t the only Bush administration muckety-muck still fighting the last war.

Even as the former vice-president took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to blame Barack Obama for the deteriorating situation in Iraq, George W. Bush’s drug czar, John P. Walters, is arguing in Politico that no, really, victory in the war on drugs is just around the corner. We’ve just got to hold the line, don’t you see, especially against Barack Obama, “whose administration has facilitated marijuana legalization” despite also setting a record for federal raids against medical pot dispensaries in California.

More important, insists Walters, is that you understand “Why Libertarians Are Wrong About Drugs.”

The short version: Currently illegal drugs are uniquely addictive and destructive of individual autonomy. If they were legalized, we would become addicts incapable of the very sort of personal responsibility upon which libertarianism is predicated.

It's nice that a former drug czar is so invested in libertarian philosophy that he's looking out for its future. It goes without saying that Walters has no idea of what he's talking about whether he's discussing classical liberalism or the effects of drugs on people or even basic drug policy (yes, he immediately leaps from legalized pot in two states to legalized heroin everywhere and drums up the specter of a heroin-addict voter bloc: "all heroin users, compelled by their disease to support a particular political candidate?"). In any case, he pleads, if you think drug prohibition is bad, just wait until you see drug legalization! To which I respond:

What exactly will replace prohibition? When it comes to pot, we’ve got two states—and the country of Uruguay--exploring options right now. When it comes to wider-ranging experiments, we’ve got countries such as Portugal, which decriminalized drugs a dozen years ago and has had strongly positive results. And we’ve got our own imperfect repeal of alcohol prohibition to learn from.

Exactly what a more libertarian America—one in which adults are allowed to modulate their moods more freely--will look like is anybody’s guess. But just about anything would be preferable to a decades-old drug war that has spent trillions of dollars, locked up millions of people, warped American foreign policy, shredded the Constitution, and stolen time from K-12 classrooms. Only battle-fatigued drug warriors like John Walters can’t see that.

Read the whole column.

Jacob Sullum discussed Walters' op-ed here.

Peter Bagge on Eggheads of the World Uniting


Reason contributing editor Peter Bagge, an award-winning cartoonist, is also an adjunct professor at Seattle University, which is trying to fight off an attempt by the Service Employees International Union to organize its adjunct faculty.

His latest comic for Reason, a front line report on the ongoing battle to unionize college professors, chronicles that fight.

View this article.

Police Interviewing Legislators About $75 Million State-Backed Loan to Curt Schilling's Failed Game


Rhode Island state police are seeking interviews with legislators as part of their expanding investigation into former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s failed video game company, 38 Studios

Back in 2013 Reason TV looked into 38 Studio's $75 million state-backed loan scandal. 

"38 Studios: Curt Schilling's Crony Capitalism Debacle" was originally released on Jan. 3, 2013 and the original text is below.

The 2012 bankruptcy of Rhode Island-based video-game developer 38 Studios isn't just a sad tale of a start-up tech company falling victim to the vagaries of a rough economy. It is a completely predictable story of crony capitalism, featuring star-struck legislators and the hubris of a larger-than-life athlete completely unprepared to compete in business.

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, an iconic figure in New England after anchoring a historic playoff comeback which ended a legendary 86-year title drought, founded 38 Studios near the end of his baseball career in the hopes of becoming a big shot in the intensely competitive multi-player gaming world. 

Since 2006, Schilling invested millions of his own fortune into 38 Studios, and with the self-assured bravado he exhibited as a major league baseball player, set out to find investors to infuse his company with the roughly $50 million needed to complete 38 Studios' first game. Although Schilling is the kind of local legend who could get a meeting with every venture capitalist in New England, Massachussets VCs passed on 38 Studios. WPRI-TV's Ted Nesi reported that one such potential investor said "it would have taken a lot of babysitting to do a deal with Schilling because he was inexperienced and the management was inexperienced."

Finding no success raising financing in the private sector, Schilling turned to Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), but the Patrick administration declined to get involved when "they couldn't make the numbers work for us."

Enter Gov. Donald Carcieri (R-R.I.), term-limited and searching for a legacy after presiding over one of the worst state economies in the U.S., featuring long spells of double-digit unemployment andfrequent last-place finishes in rankings of business friendliness. In a classic spasm of "do something, anything" government desperation, Carcieri made it his mission to lure 38 Studios from its headquarters in Maynard, Massachusetts to Rhode Island. 

Using his bully pulpit as both governor and chairman of the Rhode Island Economic Devlopment Corporation (RIEDC), a quasi-public agency whose mission is to promote business in the state, Carcieri pushed hard for 38 Studios to receive a $75 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan.

Each loan guarantee must be approved by the Rhode Island legislature, and when the votes were cast in 2010, only one lawmaker voted against it. Rep. Bob Watson (R-Greenwich) noted "a lot of red flags" in a "very risky" deal that was "too fast, too loose, and frankly, a scandal waiting to happen." Watson added "more often than not, politicians are very poor when it comes to making business decisions." 

Watson is clearly on to something, at least in the Ocean State. Some legislators later admitted that they did not realize that the loan guarantee meant to stimulate Rhode Island business, was in fact, only going to stimulate one business, 38 Studios.

In 2011, 38 Studios moved from Massachusetts. After little more than a year in Rhode Island, with monthly expenses approaching $5 million and their big game release more than a year away, 38 Studios began to unravel with stunning swiftness. In May 2012, 38 Studios defaulted on a $1.1 million loan payment to the RIEDC, then tried to deliver a bad check. Unable to meet payroll, the company laid off its employees in a mass email, with one employee learning of his new unemployment only after his pregnant wife was told at a doctor's visit that their health insurance had been terminated.

Schilling has been an outspoken "small government Republican" activist, who campaigned with President George W. Bush in 2004, but with his business in dire straits, he once again turned to the state for a bailout.

Unfortunately for him, Donald Carcieri had been succeeded as governor by Lincoln Chaffee, a Republican-turned- Independent and vocal opponent of the 38 Studios loan from its inception. Gov. Chafee sharply declined to to use any more taxpayer dollars on the foundering company, which Schilling described as a politically motivated "$100 million I-told-you-so."

After the company filed for bankruptcy, Gov. Chafee appointed the non-partisan Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC) to produce a study that included an analysis of the collapse of 38 Studios and why the state's development agency, completely failed to monitor the taxpayer's investment. RIPEC's Executive Director John Simmons told Reason TV that the RIEDC lacked any meaningful "guidelines and principles" to effectively monitor the progress of the loan and report to the governor and the RIEDC's board.

Schilling, who claims to have invested $50 million of his own fortune in the company, now says that he is broke, and may have to sell some of the prized memorabelia from his baseball career, including the famed "bloody sock" from the 2004 American League Championship Series. 38 Studios' assests are being liquidated and the already economically depressed state of Rhode Island, thanks to the interest on the 38 Studios loan, is now on the hook for more than $100 million.

In November 2012, Rhode Island filed suit against Schilling and several former EDC board members alleging fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy. The lawsuit claims that Schilling and former EDC Executive Chairman Keith Stokes (who now works for the legislative lobbyist firm The Mayforth Group) knew the company would run out of money by 2012, but concealed that from the EDC before the loan guarantee was finalized.

Former Gov. Carcieri hoped 38 Studios would be the cornerstone of a new video game tech hub in Rhode Island. Instead, the fallout from the collapse and squandered taxpayer dollars will make the state unlikely to cut any more of what WPRI's Ted Nesi describes as "special, one-off deals with individual companies...picked by a certain group of people in state government."

Nesi adds, "You're always going to hear, 'Is this another 38 Studios?'"

Reason's Best Marijuana Content, as Compiled by Ed Krayewski and Nick Gillespie


illo from a 1978 story by Thomas SzaszThe first issue of Reason magazine came out in 1968, so Reason is older than the War on Drugs kicked off by Richard Nixon in 1971. As this month’s drug war-themed issue illustrates, the movement to end drug prohibition has some serious momentum. A look through our archives, however, shows that America’s slide into an environment where government restrictions on the right to use certain substances started long before Nixon’s “drug war” and it’s been a long slog out of that often too deadly pattern. Ed Krayewski and Nick Gillespie compiled some of the best material Reason has on marijuana, from the print archives and Reason TV.

View this article.

Supreme Court Rules Against Patent Trolls


On Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously decided that ideas themselves can not be patented. As Wired notes, the ruling is a major blow to patent trolls and "could prevent some of the most frivolous patent cases from moving forward."

Reason TV reported on the issues surrounding patent trolls back in 2013. "How Patent Trolls Kill Innovation" was originally released on Feb. 20, 2013 and the original writeup is below. 

"My statement to someone that is the victim of a patent troll lawsuit is that you are completely screwed," says Austin Meyer, who is himself the target of a so-called "patent troll" lawsuit. 

Meyer is a software developer and aviation enthusiast. His two passions intersected in the '90s when he created a flight simulator called X-Plane, which quickly grew in popularity, outlasting even the once-popular Microsoft Flight Simulator. As many software developers do, Meyer made his application available on mobile devices like the iPhone and Android. And this is where he first ran into trouble.

A company called Uniloc has sued Meyer for patent infringement over a patent called, "System and Method for Preventing Unauthorized Access to Electronic Data." When a computer runs a paid application, one way that developers can assure that a customer has actually purchased the application is by coding the application to match a license code with an encrypted database. This is a method that most paid applications on the Android market use. It's a method that Meyer argues has been in use since at least the late '80s. This is the idea that Uniloc claims to own.

"A patent troll is a company, a person... who owns patents, but doesn't make anything or sell anything," says Julie Samuels, an attorney and the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Samuels says that patent trolls are a huge tax on innovation and add nothing valuable to the marketplace. A study out of Boston University estimates the direct economic damage that patent trolls cause to be around $29 billion a year, and this doesn't account for hush-hush, off-the-record settlements. But the bigger problem, says Samuels, is the patent system itself.

"You can't separate the problem with the patent troll from the problem with software patents," says Samuels. "There are hundreds of thousands of software patents floating around that are really broad, that are really vague ... and a lot of them are bought up by patent trolls."

A Yale study found that the U.S. patent office is approving new software patents at an approximate rate of 40,000 a year. That's more than 100 new software patents every day. Tracking every software patent to make sure one is not in violation would be an utter impossibility without a full-time team of lawyers on staff.

Uniloc, which purchased the patent in question at a bankruptcy proceeding, declined an interview request for this piece. But on their website, they brag about a victory over software giant Microsoft resulting in $388 million in damages (though this amount was later lowered in an appeals court). Despite the enormous risk, and the enormous cost just to defend against a patent suit, Meyer is resolved to do so.

"I will not simply give somebody money that endorses the idea that they should sue people for doing something amazing," says Meyer. "It must be stopped at some point."

Adam Carolla vs. Patent Trolls, the Government, NPR, Salon, and more!


"Adam Carolla vs. Patent Trolls, the Government, NPR, Salon, and more!" Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Edited by Alexis Garcia. Approximately 16 minutes. 

Original release date was June 17, 2014. The original text is below. 

"There's a lot of people out there whose job it is to be offended for other people," says Adam Carolla, comedian and host of the Adam Carolla Show podcast. "They're like, 'Hey, these are opinions people disagree with!' It's like, 'Hey, United States there, buddy. It's just one big pile of opinions that people disagree with.'"

Reason TV sat down with Carolla in his Glendale warehouse/podcast studio to discuss a lawsuit he's facing from a so-called "patent troll" who claims intellectual ownership over the idea of "a system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence." In other words, the company claims to own the very idea of podcasting, despite never having produced a podcast itself.

Carolla, whose show set a Guinness Book World Record for most downloaded podcast of all time, is a natural target for the patent troll, but Carolla believes that if he goes down, the entire future of podcasting may be at stake. So he's started a "Save Our Podcasts" campaign to fight back.

"We were just sort of number one on their shakedown list, and I'm just assuming they'd just get to everyone who was in the top 1000 on iTunes eventually," says Carolla (1:46). "We sort of felt like, well, it'd be nice for our podcasting brothers not to give them 'X' amount of dollars... When terrorists take hostages, if you start negotiating with them, they just start taking more camera crews. We just figured we'd save the next camera crew. We'll take the duct tape and the zip ties."

Carolla even made a recent trip to Washington, D.C. to discuss patent reform with a Congessional committee. But he left underwhelmed by the experience.

"I got a call about an hour later that said, '[Sen. Patrick] Leahy shot it down,'" says Carolla (4:23). "It gave me renewed hope in the system and how one man could make a difference. Oh wait... it was a total waste of time." 

In addition to fighting off patent trolls, Carolla has also been busy shooting an independent film, working on his  Spike TV show To Catch a Contractor, and recently released his third bestselling book, President Me: The America That's in My Head. He sounded off on several of the topics covered in that book, such as his disgust with Los Angeles ("this town is trashy" - 7:08) and comedians being pressured to issue fake apologies (10:25).

He also calls out online media outlets for constantly engaging in ambush interview techniques, pointing to recent encounters with NPR and Salon as examples (11:45).

"There's not a lot of people who disagree with them who are willing to even talk to them anymore because of the ambush nature of what they do now," he says. "There's sort of nothing in it for the person who's being interviewed by Salon.com anymore, because all they're going to do is try to make you look like a bigoted, sexist, xenophobic whatever."

The interview concludes with Carolla discussing the various political labels that commentators have attached to him and why he considers himself "mostly libertarian" (14:43).

"You bring up the topic, I'll give you the answer" says Carolla. "For me, if you go, 'Would you like to lower taxes? Yes. Are you OK with guys having a pot plant in their backyard? Yes. Would you like government smaller? Yes.' I think when you're done with many of these questions, you'll probably end up with libertarian."