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Steve Chapman: Is Obama to Blame for the World's Crises?

ObamaErin A. Kirk-Cuomo / Wikimedia CommonsWhen trouble flares up around the world, U.S. presidents get blamed. The latest polls show that only about 36 percent of Americans approve of Barack Obama's handling of foreign affairs—down from 51 percent in May, 2011, after the death of Osama bin Laden.

Republicans have not been reluctant to place responsibility on him. "Obama has presided over a recent string of disasters that make even (Jimmy) Carter look competent," wrote Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. "The world is on fire—and Obama's foreign policy legacy is in tatters." Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina charged that "his policies are failing across the globe."

The indictment implies that had the administration been tougher or smarter, Ukraine would be intact, Syria's dictator would be gone, Iraq would be stable, Hamas would surrender, China would be a gentle lamb, and Iran would give up its nukes.

Conservatives say Obama thinks he's king. But they seem to confuse him with God, writes Steve Chapman.

When was this era of harmony that Obama has somehow forfeited? It never happened. And it's not likely to emerge under his successor. Even at the height of our post-Cold War power and influence, nasty events happened all the time, and we couldn't stop them, according to Chapman.

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Brickbat: This Land Is My Land

Louis Cherry got a building permit and all the government approvals necessary to build a new home last year. He thought he'd be able to move in by May of this year. But the house is only 85 percent complete, and Cherry has no idea when or if he’ll be able to complete it and move in. His neighbor across the street, Gail Wiesner, says the house’s design is too modern and she has convinced local officials to reverse Cherry’s building permit, and now Cherry is fighting to reverse that reversal in court.

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Another Brutal NYPD Arrest Caught on Tape, This Time for Petty Marijuana Possession

The New York Police Department (NYPD) is the star of yet another cellphone video of an arrest that may have involved excessive force. You can watch the chaotic scene, with officers meeting resistance not just from their target but residents in the area too, below:

What did the man on the ground do to attract all those cops toward him to effect an arrest? This is your drug war. He was allegedly seen with a little bit of marijuana (something New York's progressive apologists insist has been decriminalized in the city). PIX 11 provides details:

Police say officers in Bedford Stuyvesant saw 32-year-old Jahmiel Cuffee in possession of a small amount of marijuana on Tuesday night in front of 223 Malcolm X Blvd. The video picks up after an officer asks Cuffee for ID. He hands over the ID, but resists arrest.  One officer pulls his gun, but once they get Cuffee to the ground, it gets worse.

In the video, an officer is seen walking away, then coming back and making a motion with his foot.

"He abruptly stomped on top of the gentleman's head," said Gary Dormer, who recorded what happened on his cell phone. "He lifted his foot with excessive force and came down like he was stepping on an ant or a roach or something at the time."

new york's finestFacebookTo the cops' credit, none of them appeared to try to confiscate any of the cellphones recording the scene, although it's possible they would've been unable to even if they tried. The NYPD says Cuffee was injured during the arrest, but not on his head and that it is at least his eighth arrest for marijuana.

Community activists demand the cop who allegedly head-stomped Cuffee be removed from the job because the "officer cannot represent our community and work for us if he's going to violate people's rights." New York City's police abuse problem is inextricably linked to its policing priorities. So long as appearing tough on crime (read: drugs, especially in minority communities) wins votes for the Democrats in charge of the city no amount of agitation may be enough to change things. If you keep voting for the same people pushing the same policies you'll keep getting the same results, even if your rhetoric insists you support something else. There is no "right way" to arrest someone for possessing marijuana because it's not something police should be arresting people for.

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Rand Paul: Republicans Can Only Win if "They Become More Live and Let Live"

Rand Paul: Republicans Can Only Win if "They Become More Live and Let Live", Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Paul Detrick.

Original release date was July 23, 2014 and original writeup is below.

"I think Republicans could only win in general if they become more live and let live," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tells Reason TV at Lincoln Labs' Reboot Conference, which was held July 18-20 in San Francisco.

Paul sat down with Nick Gillespie to talk about the future of the GOP, the need to reach the 80-million-strong Millennial Generation, why having a strong national defense doesn't mean constant military interventions, and what Washington, D.C. can learn from the entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley.

When asked whether he would vote to end the taxpayer-funded Export-Import Bank, which helps foreign companies buy U.S. products, is widely seen as a leading example of corporate welfare, and is coming up for a vote in September, Paul replied:

Absolutely. If I’m a Republican and I’m going out and saying, “We have limited resources and we can’t have everyone on food stamps,” by golly I need to be a Republican who says “we’re not giving one penny of corporate welfare.”

About 13 minutes. 

Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Paul Detrick. Shot by Detrick and Tracy Oppenheimer. Music by Podington Bear and photos by Elvert Barnes and thisisbossi.

Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new videos go live and scroll down for HD, Flash, MP4, and MP3 versions.

Below is a rush transcript of the conversation. All quotes should be checked against the video.

REASON: Hi I’m Nick Gillespie with Reason TV, we’re at the reboot 2014 Conference and we’re talking with Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky. Senator, thanks for talking with us.

RAND PAUL: Glad to be with you, Nick.

REASON: What can the rest of the country learn from Silicon Valley?

PAUL: Y’know I think the amazing thing out here, is the relentless energy and drive to move forward, and they don’t wait to say “Hey, how can government fix this, or how can even somebody else fix it?” They fix it themselves or they find a niche, like they find taxi cabs have a monopoly and they ask “how are we going to stop a monopoly?” and they start Uber. So I think it’s just the amazing ingenuity and amazing that they’re not going to wait for somebody else to do it.

REASON: They’re not even thinking about government, they’re getting on with their business and then dealing with it afterwards.

PAUL: Right.

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A New York City Smokers' Group Suing to End E-Cigarette Ban in Restaurants and Bars

On Tuesday the New York City based smokers' group Citizens Lobying Against Smoker Harassment filed a lawsuit against the ban on e-cigarettes in restaurants and bars. 

For more on this topic watch the Reason TV short titled Thank You for Vaping: Libertarian vs. New York City's E-Cig Ban, originally relased on May 2, 2014. 

Original text below the video.

"[E-cigarettes] are just as important for public health as childhood vaccines, antibiotics, sewer treatment, and water treatment," says anti-smoking activist Bill Godshall of Smokefree Pennsylvania. "And [it's] one of the craziest situations because the public health authorities [want to] ban them."

On April 28, 2014, Reason, the Museum of Sex, and Henley Vaporium co-hosted a party to celebrate how e-cigarettes are saving lives—and to flout a ridiculous new law in New York that bans their use in many public places. (More on that in a moment.)Vaping at the Museum of Sex ||| Credit: Anthony CollinsCredit: Anthony Collins

E-cigarettes, which are battery-powered devices that replace carcinogenic smoke with water vapor, have proven to be remarkably effective at helping habitual smokers quit tobacco cigarettes. While we don't know yet if e-cigarettes has any long-term adverse health consequences, it's highly unlikely that they're as dangerous as regular smokes.

"[S]imple common sense would tell us that inhaling their ingredients, as compared to inhaling the thousands of chemicals from tobacco combustion (the smoke), is highly likely to be less harmful," writesDr. Gilbert Ross of the American Council on Science and Health.

And yet federal regulators are determined to severely limit the use of e-cigarettes. In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to block their sale altogether, but a federal judge intervened. On April 24, 2014, the FDA proposed regulations that would require e-cigarettes manufacturers to obtain Ex-Smoker Amier Carmel ||| Credit: Anthony CollinsCredit: Anthony Collinsthe agency's approval for each of their products, a process that Ross estimates could cost over a million dollars and would likely drive the small players (which currently dominate the industry) out of business. This would dramatically curtail the variety of e-cigarettes products on the market, thus limiting the options of smokers looking for an alternative to regular cigarettes.

New York City, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, along with other cities, states, and counties have passed laws banning the use of e-cigarettes in offices, bars, parks, and other public places. These laws make little sense, argues Ross, because "there are no toxins in so-called second-hand vapor." E-cigarettes generally emit no odor, and the vapor they give off rapidly dissipates.

At the stroke of midnight on the evening of the Reason event, the New York City e-cigarettes ban took effect, giving attendees an opportunity to openly flout the law.

Click here to read Jacob Sullum's take on the FDA proposed regulations.

Click here for more photos of the event.

About 3:15.

Shot, produced, and edited by Jim Epstein. Photos by Anthony Collins.

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Robert F. Graboyes Explains How Innovation is Key to Health Care Reform

E-NableE-NableFor generations, the American health care debate has focused entirely on one question: "How many people have insurance cards in their wallets?" All discussion has veered toward the demand side of health care, neglecting the supply side. Fortunately, new technologies are poised to radically reshape health care. These innovations offer a chance to shift the conversation from the Fortress of centralized control to the Frontier of innovation. Robert F. Graboyes, senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, provides a four-step plan on how to navigate this shift.

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D.C. Ban on Handguns Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge on Saturday ruled that the District of Columbia's ban on carrying firearms outside the home is unconstitutional

Back in 2012 Reason TV spoke with The Washington Time's Emily Miller about the numerous issues surrounding D.C.'s onerous gun laws. 

"Girls, Guns, and The Problem with DC Firearm Laws" was originally released on June 5, 2012. The original text is below.

"Gun ownership goes up, crime goes down...that's how it works," explains Washington Times senior editor and recent gun owner Emily Miller.

After being the victim of a home invasion, Miller was determined to take advantage of the 2008 Supreme Court ruling striking down Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban. Miller initially thought the process of purchasing a firearm "would just be a hassle for a couple of weeks," and decided to blog her experiences at After four months, countless headaches, and hundreds of dollars in fees, Miller is now legally able to own her Sig Sauer P229 9mm, so long as she keeps it in her home.

Miller joined Kennedy at Sharp Shooters in Lorton, Virginia, to discuss D.C.'s Byzantine gun laws, the surge in female gun ownership, and how she chose her firearm.

About 3 minutes.

Interview by Kennedy. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Joshua Swain; edited by Bragg.

Sheldon Richman on Jane Cobden

National Portrait GalleryNational Portrait GalleryAmong libertarians and classical liberals, the name Richard Cobden (1804–1865) evokes admiration and applause. His activities — and successes — on behalf of freedom, free markets, and government retrenchment are legendary. Most famously, he cofounded — with John Bright— the Anti–Corn Law League, which successfully campaigned for repeal of the import tariffs on grain. Those trade restrictions had made food expensive for England's working class while enriching the landed aristocracy. Cobden's legacy is much appreciated by libertarians, but one aspect of it is largely unknown, writes Sheldon Richman. Cobden's third daughter and fourth child, Emma Jane Catherine Cobden (later Unwin after she married publisher Thomas Fisher Unwin), carried on his work. Born in 1851, she was a liberal activist worthy of her distinguished father.

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Historic NYT Editorial: Feds Should Legalize Marijuana Pronto

NYTHaxorjoe / Wikimedia CommonsThe New York Times editorial board demanded the end of the federal government's marijuana ban in an editorial published Saturday. That editorial, titled "Repeal Prohibition, Again," notes that most states are rightly moving away from vigorous prosecution of drug crimes and asks the feds to follow suit:

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.

There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.

We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.

But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.

The editorial's endorsement of legalization is qualified in some respects, since it does recommend that the sale of marijuana be limited to people over the age of 21:

There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.

Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.

Still, it's a step in the right direction—albeit one that libertarians have advocated for decades. If anything, it's another clear sign that libertarianism is winning.

Way to get with the times, Times.

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Remy: What are the Chances? (An IRS Love Song)

First published on July 21, 2014. Original text below:

Remy weighs the odds of finding true love and, like a well-timed IRS hard drive failure, finds a higher power at work.

Approximately 2 minutes.

Written and performed by Remy. Video and graphics by Meredith Bragg. Music arranged by Ben Karlstrom. 

Subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to get automatic notifications when new material goes live and follow Reason on Twitter at @reason. Follow Remy on Twitter at @goremy and on YouTube here.

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The Lesson from the Death of the Aussie Carbon Tax

When Australia embraced a carbon tax two years ago, global warming warriors were ecstatic. Australia had gone Climate.Change.SummitKris Krug / Foter / Creative Commonsfrom environmental laggard, refusing to even the sign the Kyoto treaty at first (just like the benighted US of A), to environmental leader. They told the world to watch and learn.

But two weeks ago, Australia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott scrapped the tax that was as popular in the Land Down Under as Donald Sterling is here.

So if anyone needs to learn from the death of Australia’s carbon tax, and the terminal fate of Europe’s cap-and-trade program, I note in the Washington Examiner, it is the enviros themselves. And the lesson is that “mitigation” strategies — curbing greenhouse gases by putting economies on an energy diet — are not winning or workable.

Instead,  envrios should accept that “the sins of emission can’t be legislated away and abandon their quixotic quest for radical cuts in emissions in favor of less economically destructive coping strategies.”

Go here to read the whole thing.

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Cop Shoots Dog in Throat, Threatens Owner With Arrest If He Tries to Help Wounded Canine

shot by copvia 11 AliveAnother day another dog shooting. A cop in De Kalb County, Georgia, shot a dog that surprised him in its own yard and then wouldn’t let the owner seek help for the injured animal for more than an hour, according to Tim Theall, the dog’s owner, who spoke to 11 Alive in Atlanta.

Theall even says he can "almost understand" (11 Alive’s words) why the cop shot the dog—they startled each other in his front yard—but not why police blocked his exit to prevent him from seeking medical assistance for his dog and threatening him with arrest if he kept trying. Police say they are investigating, naturally, as they do all police shootings, but a police spokesperson sounds like cops aren’t disputing the account. Via 11 Alive:

DeKalb County Police spokesman Capt. Stephen Fore told 11Alive the incident is under investigation, like any shooting. He said their officers are trained to preserve evidence at a shooting scene, but he understands the owner's concern over the dog not being treated immediately.

Fore added that the incident will be studied and that they "may learn from it" and handle similar situations differently in the future

A wounded animal, wounded by police no less, little more than evidence when procedures are followed.

h/t Dustin C.

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Juggalos Worried About Police Presence at Music Festival

The 2014 Gathering of the Juggalos comes to a close this Sunday in Thornville, OH, and according to the Village Voice, Juggalos, the fans of Detroit horrorcore rap group Insane Clown Posse, are enjoying an increased police presence different from years before:

Yet, this year's security force is a departure from the past in that it includes a small armada of uniformed police officers on golf carts loudly labeled "SHERIFF." Understandably, the presence of police this year has created apprehension within the juggalo community.

While the Gathering of the Juggalos has included drug use and dust ups like the pelting of singer entertainer Tila Tequilla with bottles in the past, Juggalos may be concerned for a much bigger reason: In 2011 the FBI classified Juggalos as a gang that could be prone to violence and local police departments across the country have used the classification to profile, detain, and interrogate Juggalos who wear the Juggalo hatchet man symbol on their clothing or proclaim themselves to be Juggalos.

Juggalos at the 2013 Gathering of the Juggalos voiced their concerns over the classification to Reason TV in Juggalos vs. the FBI: Why Insane Clown Posse Fans are Not a Gang:

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Did Reason Really Publish a "Holocaust Denial 'Special Issue'" in 1976? Of Course Not.

If you want a preview of just how lame ideological mud-slinging is going to get over the next few years—or decades, possibly—take a look at this pair of articles penned by Mark Ames at, a Bay Area-based website that, among other things, aspires “to bring more civility into the blogosophere.” The pieces charge Reason with being not a libertarian defender of “Free Minds and Free Markets” but a hotbed for pro-apartheid Holocaust deniers who slavishly do the bidding of David and Charles Koch (cue the monster-movie music, maestro).

Yeah, seriously. A publication that just celebrated “Marijuana on Main Street: The long, hard road to safe, legal pot,” covers the police brutality beat like nobody’s business, and criticized George W. Bush’s “disaster socialism” and his stupid wars for the entire eight awful years he was in the White House, is really a stalking horse for reactionary politics right out of The Turner Diaries.

However ridiculous such attacks may be, they are a sign that broadly libertarian ideas about fiscal responsibility and social tolerance are gaining ground in all areas of politics and culture. Indeed, as Ames frets, libertarianism is even making “major inroads into the disaffected left.”

As the conservative right and progressive left feel threatened by libertarianism, such attacks will multiply in number and intensify in venom. The main purpose is not to actually engage libertarian ideas—including once pie-in-the-sky beliefs that governments should be financially sustainable, gay people should be allowed to marry one another, and that more immigration is better than less immigration—but precisely to avoid discussing their merits.

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Skip Oliva on Endless Delays as Reason to Abolish the Death Penalty

Gallowsmlhradio / FoterThe July 16 decision by U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney declaring California's death penalty unconstitutional offered a stark assessment of the Golden State's dysfunctional capital punishment system. Judge Carney noted only 13 of the more than 900 people sentenced to death since 1978 have actually been executed—primarily because the average appeals process in a capital case takes "25 years or more" to complete.

Judge Carney acknowledged "courts had thus far generally not accepted the theory that extraordinary delay between sentencing and execution violates the Eighth Amendment," which prohibits "cruel and unusual" punishment. But in accepting that theory now, writes Skip Oliva, Judge Carney joined a substantial body of death penalty jurisprudence from the British Commonwealth.

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Is the US Abandoning Afghan Interpreters to Certain Death?

First published on July 22, 2014. Original text below:

"I was getting letters from Taliban, they were showing up at my house and everywhere. They were telling me that they were going to kill me or a member of my family, or kidnap my son," says Janis Shinwari, a former Afghan interpreter for the American military.

The U.S. military relies heavily on locals in Afghanistan and Iraq to serve as interpreters. The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project estimates that 50,000 Iraqi and Afghan nationals served as U.S. military interpreters over the past decade-plus.

Interpreters provide one of the most crucial roles in a military unit—without them, service members would not be able to communicate with local populations. It's also one of the most dangerous roles. In Afghanistan, the Taliban labels interpreters traitors and has no compunction about killing them and their loved ones.

"Interpreters have become a very big target of the Taliban and Al Queda," says Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). "There's been a lot of beheadings of people that have worked with the West." 

The U.S. was able to recruit interpreters by promising them American visas when the war ended. "If we completely pull out of Afghanistan and we don't bring these interpreters back," says Kinzinger, "they're going to be killed. Their families are being killed too. Their houses are being burned down. It is very messy over there." 

An officer in the Air National Guard and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Kinzinger is pushing Congress to extend and amend the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program. The program was established in 2009 to give visas to Afghan nationals who helped the U.S. military. The program has been extremely inefficient and it can take years for an application to be processed. From 2009 to 2013, Congress said 7,500 visas could be issued but the State Department approved only 2,000

"A lot of it is because of bureaucratic wrangling," says Kinzinger. "While we do need to have good background checks and we do need to be cautious about this, its been way too slow at this point and a lot of translators have given their lives in the wait."  

The State Department has responded to the criticism by improving the processing time. So far in 2014, approximately 2,300 Afghans received visas out of an allocation limit of 3,000. But State expects to run out of allocated visas within a few weeks and the whole program expires in September, leaving 6,000 applicants in limbo

Secretary of State John Kerry has appealed to Congress to extend the program and to grant more visas for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30.

If left behind, many interpreters will die at the hands of the Taliban. Janis Shinwari was able to escape that fate and moved to Virginia in October with his wife and two children. His visa came largely due to the efforts of Army Capt. Matt Zeller, whose life he saved (Shinwari is credited with saving the lives of at least four other American soldiers). In 2008, Zeller returned to the U.S. while Shinwari stayed in Afghanistan to continue his work as an interpreter.

"It was the hardest goodbye I've ever had in my life," says Zeller. "If he had been an American he would have been getting on that plane with us. It didn't feel right."

Zeller relentlessly pressured the State Department to issue Shinwari his visa. He eventually succeeded and now the two friends are focused on not only bringing more interpreters to America but also providing food, shelter, and job opportunities to them once they arrive through Zeller's nonprofit, No One Left Behind.

Increasing and extending the visa program is "the right thing to do," says Rep. Kinzinger, who stresses not just the promises the U.S. made in the past but how abandoning local partners will affect operations in future wars. "America is going to find itself in another war one day—it's a reality. And then if we go in and we try to bring the local population on our side, and they look at history and look at all the promises we made in the past that we didn't follow through [on], that harms our national security because we can't convince them that America stands by its word."

About 6 minutes.

Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Joshua Swain, Tracy Oppenheimer, and Winkler. Narrated by Todd Krainin.

Scroll below for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel to receive automatic notifications when new videos go live.

Music by The Abbasi Brothers.

Photos courtesy of Matt Zeller, Janis Shinwari, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson,  Staff Sgt. Christopher Allison, Staff Sgt. Ezekiel R. Kitandwe, Cpl. Adam Leyendecker, Staff Sgt. Eric James Estrada, Representative Adam Kinzinger, Cpl. John McCall,  Lance Cpl. Bobby J. Gonzalez, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace, Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez, and Niklas Bildhauer.

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Video: How to Grow the Supply of Health Care RIGHT NOW!

Reason TVReason TV"For two or three generations, we’ve almost completely ignored the supply side" of health care, warns Robert Graboyes, an economist who specializes in health care issues. That's especially a big problem now that Obamacare is coming online. The whole point of the program, after all, is to increase demand for medical services. Yet even President Obama and his supporters acknowledge the plan does next to nothing to generate more doctors and more medical innovations.

Graboyes, a senior research analyst at George Mason's Mercatus Center, sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie to outline immediate ways to grow the number of hospitals, doctors, and nurses to serve millions of newly insured patients.

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Baylen Linnekin: Why Government Menu Mandates Are Not Curing Obesity

ObesityMallinaltzin / Wikimedia CommonsThe good news is that data show obesity levels among K-12 students in Philadelphia fell by 4.7 percent from the 2006-2007 school year to the 2009-2010 school year. The caveat there—and it's a big one—is that the data doesn't track individual students.

This clear uncertainty, though, hasn't stopped the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation from suggesting that policy changes it favors are behind the change, according to Baylen Linnekin.

Cheering on mandatory calorie labeling is a constant RWJF refrain. In a 2013 report listing four key strategies for reducing obesity, for example, RWJF also credited four states for "requiring chain restaurants to post nutrition information."

But, as Linnekin writes, laws requiring the posting of calorie counts don't work. In fact, research has shown they can push people to ingest more calories, rather than fewer.

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Hillary Clinton Asked Why Russia 'Reset' Didn't Work, Blames Putin, Distances Herself From Failure

if he's hitler is she chamberlain?State Dept.With U.S.-Russian relations appearing to be at a thirty-year low the Obama Administration's attempt to "reset" relations with the former Cold War adversary has been an utter failure. Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state while the administration was working on this reset and will likely be a candidate for the presidency in 2016, would like to distance herself from this pretty obvious, and pretty difficult to spin away, foreign policy failure.

Asked by CNN's Fareed Zakaria what happened to the reset, Hillary Clinton provided a wandering answer that flagged her own skepticism at the time and blamed it on Putin's return to power in 2011 (everyone in the world knew this was coming, not just the top men). A portion of her answer, via CNN:

So when he announced in the fall of 2011 that he would be changing positions with Medvedev, I knew that he would be more difficult to deal with. He had been always the power behind Medvedev, but he had given Medvedev a lot of independence to do exactly what you said and make the reset a success.

I saw that firsthand with respect to the primary elections in Russia, because they were filled with irregularities and Russian people poured out in the streets to protest. And I, as Secretary of State, said the Russians deserve better. They deserved elections that reflected their will.

Putin attacked me personally because he is very worried about any kind of internal dissent. He wanted to clamp down on any opposition within Russia and he wanted to provide more influence and even intimidation on his borders.

And I certainly made my views known in meetings, as well as in memos to the president. I think that what may have happened is that both the United States and Europe were really hoping for the best from Putin as a returned president. And I think we've been quickly, unfortunately, disabused of those hopes.

Mitt Romney insisted during the 2012 campaign that Russia was America's "number one geopolitical foe." Insofar as that meant Russian and U.S. interests don't always align it's kind of a no shit thing. The idea that through good will alone a relationship with a sovereign country with its own national security interests could be "reset," and by extension the idea at somehow the personage of George W. Bush was why Vladimir Putin didn't align himself with U.S. interests, is a ridiculous one and certainly not reality-based. As President Obama's first secretary of state, Clinton ought to accept her responsibility in the failure that resulted from so misunderstanding (or misrepresenting) Russian foreign policy interests.

Putin, on the other hand, denies a frosty relationship with the U.S., pointing out his country, for example, still permits the U.S. to transit through its territory to supply troops in Afghanistan—in that interview he asked who Obama was to judge another country's interventionist foreign policy, suggesting the president go be a judge somewhere if that's what he wants to do. In a separate interview, responding to Clinton comparing him to Hitler Putin suggested it was better not to respond to a woman.

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Passenger Says He Wants to 'Bomb Canada' Over Cigarette Taxes, U.S. Fighter Jets Escort Flight Back to Toronto

o canada, you learn so wellvia CTVToday in security theater of the absurd, via CTV News:

Passenger Bettina Bathe told CTV Toronto the incident unfolded not long after takeoff when a flight attendant came by to pass out headsets.

"He [an unidentified 25-year-old Canadian passenger] basically just tore a strip off her, explaining how expensive the cigarettes are here in Canada, he hates Canada," Bathe said.

"Then he said, with great expression using his hands, 'I just want to bomb Canada.'"

Following procedure, the flight was then diverted back to Toronto's Pearson International Airport, about 45 minutes into the flight, escorted by two fighter jets.

The Conservative government in Canada unveiled a major cigarette tax hike in its budget in February one that even included “duty-free” cigarettes international travelers enjoy. The taxes in cigarettes still aren’t as high as in New York City, where aggressive enforcement of potential cigarette contraband led to the death of a man in police custody earlier this month.

Watch tactical police board the plane in Canada to make an arrest via CTV here.

That white flag over Brooklyn might mean surrender after all.

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Bitcoin: Can a Cryptocurrency Divided Against Itself Stand?

Vice's "Motherboard" section skylarks about the possibility of regulations destroying the fungibility of bitcoin by making it so there are "legal" bitcoin and "illegal" ones, for which it uses the culturally traditional but kinda weird locution of "white" and "black" bitcoin.

Here's why some people think so:

The white coins would be currency that's circulated through the regulated system; black coins would be coins still off the authorities' radar...

....New York’s proposed “BitLicense,” rules for how businesses should incorporate bitcoin, released last week, would ostensibly purge illicit bitcoin-driven activity and security problems to attract venture capitalists that were previously hesitant to invest in the volatile technology. A “sanitized” bitcoin could finally appeal to the masses, advocates claim.

But others argue that as it stands, the strict rules could wind up choking bitcoin startups throughout the state, and set a dangerous precedent. At issue is the existing “know your customer” (KYC) laws. Under these regulations, services must keep all customers' physical addresses and identifying information. Third-party bitcoin platforms like Coinbase and BitPay already comply with these requirements.

But BitLicense takes it one step further, requiring that companies also keep identity records of parties their customers sell bitcoins to, or buy bitcoins from. In other words, it would effectively mean customers can't do business with anyone unless the government knows who it is.

This raises a host of concerns, from the associated cost of compliance to financial surveillance. It’s given rise to the fear that these stringent conditions would produce two classes of coins: those used by regulated institutions, adhering to de-anonymizing rules, and those that continue to operate in the crypto Wild West.

And once the currency is integrated into the regulated system, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get out. White coins would be tied to institutions that require identifying information. Law enforcement could ask to know where the bitcoins are headed and where they come from. They'd bounce around inside these verified institutions, but would have no means of escape. ....

Black coins would be the remaining bitcoins that don't fall into this loop—the unregistered coins operating free outside the system. As the theory goes, these black coins would be harder to maintain and more versatile to use, and could grow more valuable than their traditional counterparts over time.

Like censorship and the Internet, one hopes that the blockchain will recognize licensing as damage, and route around it.

I wrote the other week about the proposed New York regulations that prompted these worries.

I wrote in April about how the cryptos and the legals would both likely find a usable future for themselves in the world of bitcoin, no matter what the Feds do.

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Ed Krayewski Talking Israel-Hamas Conflict on The Alan Nathan Show

background radioflickrlickrI’ll be on the Alan Nathan Show in just a few minutes, in the 6p.m. hour, talking about the continuing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Nathan is interested in the question of why some consider the Palestinians more "righteous" in the conflict because they have more casualties. As I told him (the interview's pre-recorded), I'm not interested in those kinds of questions. Nevertheless, the Israeli government's response to Hamas' haphazard lobbing of rockets into its territory—largely intercepted by the Iron Dome if they're actually headed anywhere where there's a risk—doesn't seem an appropriate one if the goal is to minimize the security threat posed by Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza.

As to the rockets and the Israeli government's response, I repeated a point I made in a column earlier this week:

In the U.S., every time an incidence of "gun violence" makes the national news, certain political groups call for an immediate widespread curtailment of Second Amendment rights to combat the threat. Feelings of terror, however they are generated, can be powerful motivators for reactionary politics. The effort to curtail gun rights often fails in the U.S. because the intended victims of the rights-deprivation are a part of the political process and enjoy broad support despite a vocal, almost hysterical, opposition. The Gazans have no say in Israeli politics—their opinion on being bombed is irrelevant. And they have little say in Palestinian politics, either, when their leaders can't agree on elections, stake their survival in escalating conflict with Israel, all while propagandized their population with the same anti-Israeli hatred that animates their politics.

The Israeli government, of course, doesn't need approval from the U.N. or the U.S. or anyone else to respond or react in any way it chooses, only from enough people to make it through the next election. The only relevant question to U.S. policy is whether we should be subsidizing it

Toward the end, I suggested the Israeli government may, in reviewing the operation after it ends, find that its approach caused it to miss opportunities. I identified the right prime minister, Ehud Olmert, though not by name, under which the Winograd Commission happened but may have mentioned it was after a conflict with Hamas not Hezbollah. On a semi-related note, earlier in the segment Nathan asked why Hezbollah and Hamas were repairing ties when a Sunni-Shi'a conflict is brewing across the region. You'll have to tune in for my answer.

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Excuses for Police Militarization: ‘You can't put a price tag on keeping someone safe’

foterfoterPocatello, Idaho is a quiet place. It's home to little more than 50,000 people and it's got low crime rates. The Pocatello Police Department seems to think it's much more dangerous, as they just purchased a behemoth of a war machine: a mine-resistant, ambush protected (MRAP) Caiman, which weighs about 15 tons.

Such vehicles were designed with asymmetrical combat against Iraqi insurgents with roadside bombs in mind, not patrolling sleepy towns. But, when the Iraq War wrapped up and the military learned that MRAPs were too top-heavy for the mountainous terrain in Afghanistan, they started shipping them back to American soil.

Police Chief Scott Marchand gave a peek into his fantasy with his new tool: "This is not just a SWAT ride. What we want to do is get everybody patrol-trained. So, In the middle of the night, 2 o'clock in the morning, you have somebody down, you have an officer down… anybody can get in and get there for the rescue."  

All a local police force has to do is pay for shipping. Hundreds of thousands of dollars new, the Pocatello PD got theirs for just $6,000.

And it's the price that they're focusing on. "You can't put a price tag on keeping someone safe," Master Patrol Officer Nick Edwards told KPVI News earlier this week. But then he kind of contradicted himself by noting that they opted not to get one when the price was higher. "The police department looked at possibly getting one of these back in 2007. You're looking at $300,000 to purchase an armored vehicle like this to protect guys. You can get this for next to nothing. It was very minimal to obtain a vehicle like this."

WikimediaWikimediaEither way, what Edwards means when he says "keeping someone safe" is "police officer." Whether they're being terrorized by a no-knock raid or actually losing their life in one, countless Americans in just about every state are not being kept safe by the militarization of America's police equipment and tactics.

But what the hey, why would someone expect cops care about bookish concepts like "militarization"? A Springfield, Illinois sheriff who just got to whip out his MRAP for the first time in a "standoff" with a man in a trailer dismissed questions about militarization say, "You know, militarization of local law enforcement is something politicians need to worry about, not at our level. We're worried about protection, safety and security of the people in the county."

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Mary Poppins Quits: The Rebuttal (w/ Remy)

"Mary Poppins Quits (The Rebuttal w/ Remy)" is the latest from Reason TV. Watch above or click the link below for full lyrics, links, downloadable versions, and more. 

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Convicted Ex-Los Angeles Councilman Will Continue Collecting Six-Figure Pension

Former Los Angeles Councilman Richard AlarcónCredit: SEIU International / photo on flickrRichard Alarcón’s was convicted of four felonies this week, including voter fraud and perjury. It turned out he lied about where he lived in 2007 and 2009 in order to represent the city's District 7. His wife was also convicted of three counts.

But he will keep his pension, which totals $116,000 a year for that short stint on the City Council.  From the Los Angeles Daily News:

Alarcón’s conviction comes three months after City Councilman Mitchell Englander introduced a motion that would require city workers convicted of a felony involving the use of their city position to forfeit their pension. The proposed law was spurred by revelations over the $72,000 annual pension collected by a recently convicted city building inspector, Englander’s motion states.

Englander’s office didn’t respond to a comment Thursday. But earlier in the week, an Englander spokeswoman said the councilman is still pushing to pass the ordinance. Amid growing scrutiny over workers’ benefits, Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 signed a law requiring public employees convicted of a felony to forfeit retirement benefits accrued after the date the felony occurred. However, Los Angeles has its own pension systems, and the state law doesn’t apply to the city.

It may not actually be possible to strip him of his pension retroactively even if Los Angeles ultimately does pass a law. Unsurprisingly, some who serve office or have worked for the city don't seem particularly outraged:

City councilman and former Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks, whose own hefty annual pension has been criticized, didn’t seem fazed by Alarcón’s pension allocation, despite the convictions.

"He earned the pension — once you earned it, it’s yours," Parks said Thursday. "By City Charter, there’s nothing you can do retroactively to take it away. Just because he was found guilty does not terminate nor mitigate the contract he had with the City as an employee."

Having a plum contract with the city is not exactly the same as having "earned" anything. It reminds me of when contestants on Survivor argue over who more "deserves" to win $1 million.


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