Why did police raid the offices of a small-town Kansas newspaper? The Friday raid on the offices of the Marion County Record certainly looks like a major incursion on freedom of the press—with disastrous results for not just the civil liberties but also the physical well-being of newspaper staff.
The paper attributes the Saturday death of 98-year-old co-owner Joan Meyer to stress from the raids on her home and the paper's office. "Stressed beyond her limits and overwhelmed by hours of shock and grief after illegal police raids…Meyer, otherwise in good health for her age, collapsed Saturday afternoon and died at home," the paper reports. It adds that she "had not been able to eat" or sleep on Friday after the raids.
The root of the raids appears to involve local entrepreneur Kari Newell, who reportedly runs a restaurant out of a hotel owned by the brother of the county attorney.
A social media source provided both the Record and Marion Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel with information about an alleged drunk driving incident involving Newell. The source said the information had been obtained from a public website. Unable to verify this and suspecting the leak had occurred as part of a legal fight between Newell and her estranged husband, the paper decided that it shouldn't publish the information. ("We thought we were being set up," Record co-owner Eric Meyer told the Kansas Reflector in the wake of the raid.)
But "without naming Newell," Meyer eventually "notified [Marion County] Sheriff Jeff Soyez and [Marion Police Chief Gideon] Cody that the newspaper had received the information and that the source who provided it alleged that law enforcement officers knew Newell did not have a valid driver's license and ignored her violation of the law," according to the Record.
Police alerted Newell, who at an August 7 council meeting publicly accused the paper of illegally obtaining information about her and illegally disseminating it to the vice mayor, who allegedly shared the information with a city administrator considering Newell's application for a catering liquor license.
"After the council meeting, Newell acknowledged" that "the state suspended her license because of a drunken-driving conviction in 2008 and a series of other driving convictions," reports the Record, which responded to Newell's public accusations by publishing a story last Thursday about the situation.
On Friday, city and county police raided the Record's office, "forcing staff members to stay outside the office for hours during a heat advisory" and disallowing them from making any phone calls, the paper reported. They seized the newspaper's file server as well as "personal cell phones and computers" and "other equipment unrelated to the scope of their search."
Herbel's home was also raided, as were the homes of Joan and Eric Meyer.
According to the paper, the search warrants "alleged there was probable cause to believe that identity theft and unlawful computer acts had been committed involving Marion business owner Kari Newell." But when a Record reporter requested a copy of the probable cause affidavit necessary for such a warrant, the district court reportedly "issued a signed statement saying no affidavit was on file."
"Based on the reporting so far, the police raid of the Marion County Record on Friday appears to have violated federal law, the First Amendment, and basic human decency. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves," Seth Stern of the Freedom of the Press Foundation declared in a statement.
It's unclear exactly what police were looking for in the raid on the Record office or its owners' homes. But if the situation laid out by the Record is accurate, its staff did nothing wrong and should not be being treated like criminals. They absolutely have a right to investigate information leaked to them, no matter where that information originally came from. And they certainly have a right to question or notify police about what they were told.
Nor is a raid on the newspaper office justified if police were investigating criminal wrongdoing by a third party. If the aim was to obtain the identity of the source who provided the information about Newell, police could have questioned the vice mayor, subpoenaed records from the social media company, or subpoenaed records from the paper—all paths that don't involve literally raiding a press outlet, seizing its servers, and taking reporters' computers and phones.
At best, that would be an illegal overreaction to allegations of criminal wrongdoing by a third party. But the fact that the Record's leadership came to police with accusations about law enforcement corruption not long before the raid suggests something worse may have been afoot: retaliation, intimidation, or an attempted cover-up.
Eric Meyer told the Reflector the message was clear: "Mind your own business or we're going to step on you."
Meyer "believes the newspaper's aggressive coverage of local politics and issues played a role," reports the Associated Press. "He said the newspaper was examining Cody's past work with the Kansas City, Missouri, police as well."
The raid has received national attention—and further reason to believe police were targeting the paper or its staff.
"Cody, the police chief, defended the raid on Sunday, saying in an email to The Associated Press that while federal law usually requires a subpoena—not just a search warrant—to raid a newsroom, there is an exception 'when there is reason to believe the journalist is taking part in the underlying wrongdoing,'" the AP reports. "Cody did not give details about what that alleged wrongdoing entailed."
Libertarianism, New Zealand–style. In "New Zealand, many conservatives are beginning to embrace an old ideology: libertarianism," writes Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen:
This surprising trend is thanks to David Seymour, leader of New Zealand's classically liberal ACT Party. He has rapidly transformed his faction from a nearly extinct institution to a vibrant, growing movement, setting an example for conservatives worldwide.
In 2014, Seymour became the party's only member of Parliament. And in the country's 2017 election, the party got just 1 percent of the vote. But things have been changing:
The party received its highest share of the vote ever in the 2020 election, winning 10 seats in the 120-seat Parliament. More recent polls show ACT could win 15 seats or more in the upcoming October election. With the traditional center-right party, the National Party, tipped to win 46 seats, ACT could become a crucial governing partner. That's a stunning reversal of fortune in just a few years.
This success is fueled by Seymour's insistence on applying classically liberal principles to issues beyond just taxes, regulation and spending. He can do that because, as he told me, "there is a deep underlying philosophical base to what we're saying, so it's all coherent." That theme—stick to your principles and calmly explain their application to whatever issue is at hand—repeatedly came up in our discussion.
That said, not all of the wider issues embraced by the New Zealand libertarians sound like American libertarianism. For instance, "ACT calls for trying 17-year-old violent offenders as adults and a host of other 'law and order' policies," writes Olsen.
Barbie economics. "The average working woman in 2023 earns enough money to buy a Barbie doll every 33 minutes. In 1959, it took nearly two hours," writes Reason's Eric Boehm, citing figures from University of Central Arkansas economist Jeremy Horpedahl.
— Jeremy Horpedahl ????♂️ (@jmhorp) August 9, 2023
Call it Barbenomics. Call it the Barbie Price Index. Whatever you call it, it shows good news about American women's economic progress:
"Another way of thinking about it: with the same amount of work, a working mother today could buy her daughter 3-4 times as many Barbies as her counterpart in 1959," Horpedahl notes at Economists Writing Every Day, an economics blog.
On one hand, the decline in the Barbie Price Index shows how much women's wages have grown in the past six and a half decades. While women are still paid less than men, on average, the gap has closed considerably—and effectively vanishes once other lifestyle factors are taken into account.
But it also demonstrates something about the relative level of prosperity that today's Barbie-loving kids get to enjoy—and about the amount of work their parents have to do to deliver it.
It has become fashionable on the populist right to complain about stagnating male wages and a supposedly declining standard of living. Oren Cass, executive director of the right-wing think tank American Compass, published a "Cost-of-Thriving Index" earlier this year, claiming that the basic necessities for a middle-class lifestyle were no longer within reach for households relying on a single breadwinner. It would take 62 weeks of earnings—more than a full year—to pay for a year's worth of groceries, a home, health insurance for a family, a car, and to save for a child's college education, he argues. That's up from just 40 weeks' worth of earnings in 1985.
The study has some serious flaws, as Horpedahl and Scott Winship, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, have detailed at length. Chief among those problems is that Cass' analysis does not take into account taxes and various family-oriented subsidies delivered via the tax code. With those included, the so-called "cost of thriving" for families with a single male breadwinner has actually fallen since 1985.
But Cass' study also ignores the crucial role that women now play in the work force and in earning income to support their families. Including them in the overall assessment means that the cost of thriving has fallen by about 7 weeks since 1985, in part because women have seen bigger gains in earnings during recent decades.
• "A Georgia prosecutor appears on the verge of bringing criminal charges in her investigation into former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in that state," reports Politico. "Two witnesses confirmed Saturday that they will appear before a grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., early next week—the clearest sign yet that Fani Willis, the district attorney there, soon plans to ask the grand jury to approve criminal indictments against Trump or his allies."
• U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel to oversee investigations into President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden.
• Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku says fears about artificial intelligence are overblown. "It takes snippets of what's on the web created by a human, splices them together and passes it off as if it created these things. And people are saying, 'Oh my God, it's a human, it's humanlike,'" commented Kaku in a Sunday interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria. Tools like ChatGPT are "glorified tape recorders," he added.
• Why politics should stay out of banking.
• The New York Times looks at the growing number of U.S. prisoners with dementia.