Police in Altanta have apparently shot and killed a 92-year-old woman Tuesday night during a drug raid. Details are sketchy, but unless a nonagenerian was pushing dope and using lethal force to protect her supply, the most likely explanation here is that someone sent the tactical team to kick down the wrong door after a bad tip from an informant. Again. Only this time, the spunky old broad inside met the intruders with gunfire:
The woman's niece, Sarah Dozier, says that she bought her aunt a gun to protect herself and that her aunt had a permit for the gun. Relatives believe Johnston was frightened by the officers and opened fire."They kicked her door down talking about drugs, there's no drugs in that house. And they realize now, they've got the wrong house," Dozier said. "I'm mad as hell."
Police insist the warrant was legit, and the house was correct -- which is why I'm guessing the problem originated with the informant.
This of course is why you don't kick down doors for nonviolent offenses in the first place, especially if all you've got is a CI's tip. But you already knew that. Thing is, even if this case is every bit as egregious as it seems, it won't change much. There will be some outrage. Perhaps an apology. Maybe even a few empty promises for reform. And then, in a few months, everything will go back to the way it was before. The only certainty here is that Kathryn Johnston won't be the last person to die in one of these stupid raids. Just ask Alberta Spruill.
In the meantime, somebody wanna' hand me another one of those red thumbtacks?
UPDATE: More from the AJC here. Police aren't saying what they were looking for, or what they found inside. Johnston was the only person in the house at the time of the raid. Perhaps this case will prove different, but my experience in researching this stuff is that when police conduct a drug raid, they trot out everything they found -- particularly when the raid resulted in violence. That they've yet to announce any seized contraband doesn't bode well.
Some may find Jack Chick parodies tired, but I for one can't get enough of 'em (or of real Chick). Herewith, Stan Lee, the Marvel Comics mastermind, meets Jack Chick, king of cartoon religious tracts, in "Galactus is Coming!" as Dr. Reed Richards lets some innocent kids know what there really is in the world, and beyond, to be scared of.
Lactivists held demonstrations at a dozen or so airports across the country today to protest a mother's ejection from a New York-bound Freedom Airlines plane in Burlington, Vermont, for showing too much breast while feeding her 1-year-old daughter. The protests—which involved openly nursing near the counters of Freedom's parent company, Delta, and waving signs with slogans such as "Breasts: Not Just for Selling Cars Anymore"—presumably had the intended effect of embarrassing the airline and encouraging it to be more tolerant of on-board breast-feeding in the future. It had already disciplined the flight attendant who ejected the nursing mother in Burlington. Instead of declaring victory, the passenger is pursuing a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission. As a protester in Hartford explained, "It's a basic human thing that we are doing and we should be able to do it in public without being kicked off planes, without being told to sit in bathrooms. It's a human right." I tend to agree with the first part, the second not so much.
Last year Kerry Howley considered the clash between lactivists and conservative advocates of secret secretion.
Addendum: Because some of our readers seem to have difficulty imagining what breastfeeding looks like, I've added a stock photo. I can't vouch for this woman's resemblance to the Freedom Airlines passenger, but it gives you a general idea. Apparently not just humans but a lot of other mammals feed their offspring this way.
God bless The Guardian, where opinions that look silly but turn out to be plenty revealing are never in short supply. For example, this column by Naima Bouteldja on anti-Muslim veil legislation in the Netherlands starts out hitting 10 on the Hyperbolemeter.
The Dutch government... in the run-up to tomorrow's general election announced plans to ban the wearing of the burka and face veil in public. By doing so, it has raised what is becoming a Europe-wide campaign to a new level of authoritarianism. Naima Azough, a Dutch Green MP, points out that the ban would apply to fewer than 100 women. "This didn't come from public pressure," she says, "but was initiated by the immigration minister, Rita Verdonk, whose Liberal-Conservative party is scrambling for far-right votes." The result will simply reinforce the perception of Muslims that they will never be accepted in Dutch society.
But Bouteldja has an interesting point I haven't seen in American or European media recently. For all of the ink it commands, the veil issue doesn't actually affect many people.
France provided the political laboratory. In April 2003, the headscarf row came out of nowhere; within a year it had been outlawed in state schools. No serious demands to ban the headscarf had ever come from teaching bodies, students or the public. It simply wasn't seen as a problem before April 2003: of the 10 million students in French state schools, only 1,250 wore the headscarf.
In 2003, three French papers (Le Monde, Libération and Le Figaro) published 1,284 articles on the subject. By contrast, the hotly contested plan to reform social security - a genuine national debate that brought tens of thousands on to the streets - registered only 478 times.
That isn't to say that French-Muslim tensions are a media invention - if you want to believe that, I have a few thousand burned out cars to sell you. But is the "veil issue" a creation of media hype? That would say a lot about European angst about Islam, and impotence in the way their policymakers attempt to confront it.
A prominent British fertility doctor says he has a way to reduce female infanticide and late-term abortions in the developing world: let parents choose gender. Where Indian and Chinese parents prefer boys, they'd be free to have them. As the number of girls decreases, their status would likely rise.
It's not a particularly realistic scenario, given that infanticide is driven in part by extreme poverty. People who find infant girls too economically burdensome to raise are highly unlikely to find themselves mulling expensive IVF treatments. But sex selection is getting cheaper and more common, and the technology is bound to collide with cultural assumptions and gender status in all sorts of unpredictable, and potentially positive, ways. And that's just one of many reasons to cheer on the coming of our designer baby overlords.
The great filmmaker Robert Altman has died at age 81. I'd like to make some really counterintuitive claim about his legacy -- say, that he never matched the promise of his early industrial shorts, or that Popeye was the peak of his career -- but I'm on vacation so I'll cut the crap and make this brief. I can't praise too highly a body of work that includes That Cold Day in the Park, MASH (much better than the TV series), McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Images (that rare film that actually managed to scare me as I watched it), The Long Goodbye (has there ever been a counterintuitive casting decision as brilliant as having Elliot Gould play Philip Marlowe?), Thieves Like Us (extra points for ending a bank-robbing movie with a Charles Coughlin broadcast), California Split (horrible fate averted: they almost gave that one to Spielberg), Nashville (how did he manage to capture the Perot campaign in a picture made in 1975?), 3 Women, Secret Honor, The Player, Short Cuts (my favorite of the bunch), and Gosford Park -- not to mention many lesser but still admirable movies (like, say, A Wedding) and, yes, the occasional piece of complete garbage (like, say, Beyond Therapy). Plus some above-average episodes of Bonanza and a season or so of Combat!
He was a Europhile -- he once famously threatened to move to France if George W. Bush was reelected -- but he was also, in his surreal '70s way, one of the most deeply American directors of the twentieth century, a man whose vision of this country was as rich and resonant as John Ford's or Frank Capra's. His sensibility was simultaneously cynical, merry, and grim, and his best movies deserve multiple viewings. May he rest in peace.
Brian Doherty pays tribute to Milton Friedman, and assesses his impact on human freedom as it stands today.
Not just losers, but sort of cowardly about it as well. This from the Associated Press:
Republicans vacating the Capitol are dumping a big spring cleaning job on Democrats moving in. GOP leaders have opted to leave behind almost a half-trillion-dollar clutter of unfinished spending bills.....
Driving the decision to quit and go home rather than finish the remaining budget work is a determined effort by a group of conservative Republicans to prevent putting a GOP stamp on spending bills covering 13 Cabinet Departments - and loaded with thousands of homestate projects derided as "pork" by critics.
Some Republicans on Capitol Hill would rather complete this year's budget work and have the GOP's imprint rather than a Democratic one on how federal agencies will be spending their money through next September. However, conservatives such as Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., fear doing that would leave as the GOP's legacy a foot-tall bill containing thousands of parochial projects. Last week they seized the upper hand by employing delaying tactics to drag the budget process to a halt in the Senate.
"The last thing Republicans need is an end-of-Congress spending spree as our last parting shot as we walk out the door," said DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton.
However, in the grand spirit of partisan rancor gumming up the government works, some Republicans do express the hope that the workload undone this year will slow down the Dems in executing some of their big government plans for the future. Let us hope. Whole story.
The helpful folks at Third Party Watch assembled an account of how third party gubernatorial candidates did this year. Best case scenarios for those wanting to strike a blow at Dem/Rep dominance: in Texas, between Carole Strayhorn and Kinky Friedman, independents won 30 percent of the vote for governor; and in Maine, non-major party candidates won 31 percent of the vote, between Green Pat LaMarche and independent Barbara Merrill. Less impressive but still above the usual less-than-5-percent non-major party candidates can expect to win were independent Andrew Halcro in Alaska with 9.6 percent, and Minnesota Independence candidate Peter Hutchinson with 6.5 percent.
Former Mondo 2000 heavyweight and current 10 Zen Monkeys big wig R.U. Sirius has penned a fascinating review of Fred Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Sirius, who interviewed me a while back for NeoFiles and whose latest book, Counterculture Through the Ages, I reviewed for the Wash Post, pulls together threads that are usually woven in different directions (does that metaphor make sense?) and argues that politics is less important in fomenting social change than many people think. Here's a snippet:
I think that the internet has — palpably — been much more successful in changing lives than 40 years of left oppositional activism has been. For one example out of thousands, the only reason the means of communication that shapes our cultural and political zeitgeist isn’t COMPLETELY locked down by powerful media corporations is the work that these politically ambiguous freaks have accomplished over the past 40 years. In other words, oppositional activism would be even more occult — more hidden from view – today if not for networks built by hippie types who were not averse to working with DARPA and with big corporations. The world is a complex place.
Whole thing, well worth reading, here.
Reason Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin's full-time gig is being the TV critic for the Miami Herald. He's just written an excellent piece about how the 24/4 coverage of the Kennedy assassination changed broadcast news forever and gave "a glimpse 35 years into the future, an [un]witting look into the world of 24-hour cable news":
Some journalists argue that letting viewers see the raw reporting process -- mistakes and all -- was profoundly democratizing.
''Before the Kennedy assassination, new[s] was packaged,'' says Fox News' Greta van Susteren. ``You'd go out, shoot it, write a script, someone would make a decision about what the viewer was allowed to see and hear, and then you'd put it out. During the Kennedy coverage, viewers were part of the news-gathering. When they saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald on camera, they were on a journey with reporters to collect the news. We do that all the time now on television.''
In the years since, that journey has taken viewers to Cape Canaveral as the Challenger exploded, to the World Trade Center on 9/11, as well as to a Los Angeles freeway where O.J. Simpson's white Bronco fled police and the scenes of the disappearance of an apparently countless number of women whose main significance was that they were young and blond. For better or worse, it all started that day in Dallas.
Whole thing, well worth reading, here.
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"Reason is less predictable and more interesting than any other political magazine I read"—Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
"An oasis of sharp writing and sensible political discourse in a time dominated by I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I-manship, a respite for those who are weary of the reactionary pod-people screams emanating from both the left and the right."—Joe Garden, The Onion
"Reason is the undiscovered magazine of America. The magazine surprises with new perspectives and unexpected ideas. That's just what America needs today."—Jeff Jarvis, creator of Entertainment Weekly and proprietor of Buzzmachine.com
"A constant reminder of the value of independent thought in fast-changing times."—Chris Anderson, editor in chief, Wired
"In an era of smash-mouth, left vs. right political discourse, the libertarian Reason is a fresh and nuanced antidote"—The Chicago Tribune
"A political magazine of a different sort, Reason's refusal to carry water for either Democrats or Republicans is deeply refreshing in this era of partisan ugliness."—Folio
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Cathy Young surveys the work of Dawkins, Harris, and other voices in the "religion - good or ill?" debate.
The Economist has a great ediorial advocating a market in organs:
Kidneys are the subject of a quietly growing global drama. As people in the rich world live longer and grow fatter, queues for kidneys are lengthening fast: at a rate of 7% a year in America, for example, where last year 4,039 people died waiting. ...if just 0.06% of healthy Americans aged between 19 and 65 parted with one kidney, the country would have no waiting list.
Read the whole thing here.
Read lots about Virginia Postrel's kidneys here.
Boy, it's nice to know that our domestic intelligence superstars are keepin' on top of the Quakers.
An antiterrorist database used by the Defense Department in an effort to prevent attacks against military installations included intelligence tips about antiwar planning meetings held at churches, libraries, college campuses and other locations, newly disclosed documents show.
One tip in the database in February 2005, for instance, noted that “a church service for peace” would be held in the New York City area the next month. Another entry noted that antiwar protesters would be holding “nonviolence training” sessions at unidentified churches in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Seriously, this is stupid enough to make one long for Gov. Goodhair of Massachusetts' cunning plan to wiretap mosques. The idea that anti-war activists could be a threat to national security is a musty holdover from the Vietnam era, when a hard left that wanted to terrorize elements of American society actually existed.
Extreme Mortman zeroes in--to the extreme!--on a recent Wash Post story about the self-serving delusions of Jack Johnson, the county executive of Maryland's Prince George's County[*]:
In today’s Washington Post front-pager on taxpayers in Prince George’s County, Maryland, having to foot the bill for politicians’ personal credit card expenses, we find this gem of a quote from P.G. County Executive Jack Johnson:
“I always fly business class or first class. I think the people of Prince George’s County expect me to. I don’t think they expect me to be riding in a seat with four across and I’m in the middle.”
Extreme Mortman grew up in Prince George’s County, so I speak with some authority when I assert in agreement with Johnson that not only do PG County people not expect their County Executives to be riding in a seat with four across and they’re in the middle, we also expect County Executives to enjoy a few free cocktails in the Admiral’s Club before boarding. Also, the people of PG County expect County Execs to enjoy in-flight magazines whose crossword puzzles aren’t already filled out. And this should go without saying, but we’ll state it anyway — PG County Execs should be able to bring aboard four ounces of liquids or gels, not just three ounces like the rest of us.
If more people knew that county executives existed, they'd be outraged.
[*]: Reworded to correct original typo pointed out in comments re: county name.
Here's video of Michael Richards, a.k.a. Seinfeld's Kramer, stinking up the joint recently at The Laugh Factory. Responding to a heckler, Richards goes on an n-word tear that starts out like a Lenny Bruce/Dick Gregory-ish bit that's trying to straddle off-color (literally) humor and social commentary but then never climbs above simple offensiveness. Proving that audiences really do run the world, the offended heckler gets off the best line in the exchange (which is not saying much, to be sure) when he makes fun of Richards' meager post-Seinfeld career.
Richards has already apologized for his rant (to his slim credit, he didn't blame alcohol), which has been called a career killer. Though that, pace the heckler, presumes that Richards was not already a Hollywood nosferatu.
A number of people I know have drawn parallels between Richards' yapping and the musings of Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat, who trades in similarly offensive stereotypes and has freaked the shit of some observers even as he rules the nation's movie roost. Why is one considered awful while the other is dubbed comic and box-office gold (though to be sure, Borat has his detractors)?
I don't think it's too complicated: First and foremost, the audience is in on Borat's shtick. On some level, we can feel superior to the poor fools who are revealed as chumps. What makes the Borat stuff more interesting is that we often feel sympathy for the stooges, especially the ones who are trying to be polite to the crazy Kazakh and then get goaded into offensive or humiliating speech and behavior. In the end, I think Borat is in many ways a satire of American "friendliness" (every state in the Union, it seems, claims to be the friendliest of all), of our national willingness to want to respect the customs, traditions, and mores of foreign cultures (we're a pluralist melting pot and all that). Perhaps most important, there's an unmistakable sense of control: Cohen knows what he's doing, it's planned out, etc. You never confuse Cohen the creator with his characters and hence, even if you don't find him funny, you know on some level you're brothers under the skin. Unless you're those South Carolina frat boys. Or the guy who beat Borat up in New York after thinking he was serious in a sexual advance (even more evidence that the audience has a mind of its own). Which is the point: Borat creates an in-group between him and his viewers, while Richards simply alienates his crowd.
Part of what is disturbing about Richards' performance is the palpable sense of flop sweat, of desperation. You see a guy who reaches first for the easiest comeback to an African-American heckler and then can't trade up to actually being funny, to pull himself out of a simple assertion of power (whether based on skin color or, tellingly, celebrity). In that failure--especially coming from the actor who was truly transcendent as the funniest next-door neighbor in sitcom history--you see an ugly pentimento of the worst sort of race relations.
Bonus: BetUs.com is laying 2-to-1 odds that Julia Louis Dreyfus will be the "next Seinfeld star to be racist." More here.
Double Bonus: Here's footage of Richards apologizing last night on Letterman with Seinfeld.
Triple Bonus: A "best of Kramer" clip reel at YouTube.
Brit PM Tony Blair, fresh off calling Iraq a "disaster," is ready for another troop deployment, this time domestically. According to ITV News, in an attempt to undermine "yob culture" in Jolly Olde Englande, Blair is dispatching a special force of "supernannies" to attack the root causes of behavior by adolescents.
A hit-squad of nearly 80 "Supernannies" is to spearhead a new drive to stamp out anti-social behaviour.
The Government is determined to get to the root cause of yob culture and believed that taming unruly children at an early age could be the answer.
Prime Minister Tony Blair is promising £4 million to set up a network of experts to treat the problem.
Mr Blair is also expected to announce plans to force more people to attend parenting classes....
"This should be no surprise given the huge popularity of all those television programmes in which experts help parents with their problem kids," said Mr Blair...
"So I don't believe any Government, particularly one determined to tackle anti-social behaviour, can ignore parents' cry for help."
Mr Blair said he wanted experts appointed in 77 areas, adding: "The nanny state argument applied to this is just rubbish. No-one's talking about interfering in a normal family life.
"But life isn't normal if you've got 12-year-olds out every night drinking and creating a nuisance on the street with their parents either not knowing or not caring.
"In these cases, a bit of nannying with sticks and carrots is what the local community needs."
Hey, the Democrats really are running Capitol Hill now. They're ending the Speaker's Lobby's traditional safe haven for smokers.
For years, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who will presumably chair the House Government Reform Committee, has led the charge to eliminate smoking in the Speaker’s Lobby against an uncooperative GOP majority. Indeed, Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who was just elected minority leader last week — frequently lit up in the lobby as he chatted with reporters and colleagues in between votes. But last week, Waxman predicted that he would finally get his smoke-free way.
“There’s no question that the right health policy is to end smoking in the Speaker’s Lobby and I will be surprised if it doesn’t happen,” Waxman said. “I realize some members want to smoke there, but there’s absolutely no reason to force pages and others to breathe secondhand smoke.
It'll be fun to watch how fast this changes if John Boehner actually leads the GOP back to an election victory in '08, '10, or whenever. His skin didn't acquire that Sunkist hue by accident.
Kerry Howley talks with NPR's Brooke Gladstone about the waning of "anti-cyberporn" laws.
Nick Gillespie and I spoke at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy conference this weekend.
I'm always conflicted by my co-conspirators in the drug reform movement. Most in the movement embrace "decriminalization" as preferable to out and out legalization.
I'd agree that decriminalization is a step in the right direction, but it's too often accompanied by calls for a panoply of new government programs and oodles of taxpayer dollars spent to treat illicit drugs like a public health problem -- similar to the way, say, Marion Nestle or Michael Jacobson would like to treat obesity. This is basically the "Dutch model," and it leaves a lot to be desired.
Longtime drug reformer Eric Sterling (a guy I generally admire), for example, said at the conference that his first step toward a post-prohibition America would be "universal health care," accompanied by comprehensive treatment that addicts could obtain rather easily -- in Sterling's words, free treatment should be"as easy as ordering a pizza."
Terrific. If there's one surefire way to make sure America never reforms its drug laws, it's telling the public that step one in "drug reform" would be to have taxpayers foot the bill for morphine clinics, needles, and the local addict's relapses.
This would all still be quite a bit better than today's approach of kicking down doors and filling the prisons with pot smokers, of course (treating drug addiction like a public health problem, I mean -- universal health care is another animal entirely). But it's a far cry from treating American citizens as actual adults, capable not only of making their own decisions about what they put into their bodies, but also of assuming full responsibility for those decisions.
Fortunately, Nick rather eloquently made the case for complete pharmacological freedom when he took his turn during the closing panel. I looked around at some of the public health folks there while he spoke. Lots of nervous smiles -- even a few cringes, particularly when he went after public health sacred cows like the drinking age or the prescription medication regime. These are people who correctly recognize the brutality of the drug war in its current incarnation, but are still rather fond of giving Very Smart People in Government enormous influence over what we chose to eat, drink, and otherwise ingest. The fact that the latter frequently leads to the former, and that they in fact have quite a bit in common with the activists that started the drug war with their support for the Harrison Narcotics Act and gave us alcohol prohibition -- well, it all seems to be lost on them.
One interesting side note to the conference: Many of the students stayed at a nearby Holiday Inn. Apparently, a police officer was also staying there. Suspecting that a bunch of college kids in the drug reform movement were probably well-stocked with dope, the cop went to the hotel manager, and the two contacted local authorities. Police were ready to bring in drug dogs to sniff out every room in the hotel. Fortunately (and somewhat amusingly), Graham Boyd -- also a speaker at the conference -- was staying in the same hotel. Boyd's the director of the ACLU's Drug Policy Litigation Project. Probably the one guy the police last wanted to see. Boyd (who relayed the story while speaking at my panel) reminded the police and the hotel manager that there are still some scraps to the Fourth Amendment left that haven't been swallowed up by drug prohibition. The police thought better of the situation and -- literally -- called off the dogs.
Inspired, perhaps, by some CSPI-quoting muse, a Tennessee art student unleashes his talent upon the world:
Art student William Gentry said his piece, "The Fat Is in the Fire," was a commentary on obesity in America. "I deep-fried the flag because I'm concerned about America and about America's health."
The Customs House exhibit featured three U.S. flags imprinted with phrases such as "Poor people are obese because they eat poorly" and more than 40 smaller flags fried in peanut oil, egg batter, flour and black pepper.
If reading that has somehow left you with any remaining dregs of respect for humanity, consider the reaction: fury over flag desecration.
Ned Crouch, the Customs House Museum's executive director, took down the artwork on Nov. 15, less than 18 hours after it went up in this community next to Fort Campbell.
"It's about what the community values," Crouch said.
Newton "Newt" Gingrich, on his plans for 2008:
"I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen."
Ridiculous? Maybe.* But why can I imagine a national movement centered around Gingrichism more easily than I can imagine a push for Romneyism, Giulianism, Hillaryism, or even Obamagraphy?
*Apologies to Messr. Bill O'Reilly.
China has finally admitted that most of its transplantable organs come from executed prisoners, and many of those are sold to foreigners. The LA Times quotes one kidney-seeking American who went to Guangdong for a quick replacement, and it's fairly clear that other Americans have benefited from the harvest.
Gruesome tales of medical tourism tend to turn people against organ markets, but it's worth noting that this is the kind of insane desperation the current donation-based system creates. Given other options, China's prison population is pretty much the last place you'd want your kidney to come from. Stateside, American prisoners who willingly donate are considered undesirable by donor recruitment agencies. Part of this reluctance is class prejudice and racism, but part of it is the often-sketchy social histories prisoners are assumed to have. The truth of transplantation is that you can't test for everything; it's possible, for instance, that a donor has been exposed to HIV so recently that the antigen can't be detected. So donors with histories of risky behavior are weeded out based on self-reports and information provided by families. Intravenous drug use and certain sexual behaviours count as a risky; I'm pretty sure doing time in a rural Chinese prison would too.
In general, kidney production is not something people want to outsource to countries where they won't touch the drinking water. But if the options are restricted to buying a random organ or dropping dead, people are going to choose the former.
Boston Herald columnist (and police bureau chief) Michele McPhee approvingly notes that City Councilor Mike Ross, "along with nearly two dozen healthcare experts, youth advocates, street workers, ministers, child psychiatrists and even teens," is asking the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to stop carrying ads for Grand Theft Auto and other violent video games. McPhee is "all for First Amendment rights," but not when freedom of speech means that teenagers will be "staring at advertisements for video games that promote spilling innocent blood" at a time when Boston is experiencing an upswing in gun violence, some of it involving teenagers. "The question MBTA officials have to ask themselves today," says McPhee, "is whether any of these kids learned how to shoot playing violent video games."
They may also want to ask themselves whether they want to get into another pointless court battle by turning down ads with messages they don't like. The last time around, the MBTA wanted to keep ads promoting drug policy reform off its trains and buses, something a federal appeals court said it could not do, since it had created a "designated public forum" in which discrimination based on viewpoint is constitutionally forbidden. The group behind those ads, Change the Climate, won a similar victory in D.C. While the Change the Climate ads were overtly political in a way that Grand Theft Auto is not, the basic situation is the same: People want to ban messages that offend them. By endorsing that mentality, McPhee suggests she is against First Amendment rights only when they really matter.
[Thanks to Michael Graham for the tip.]
Reporting from the Futures of Entertainment conference, Jesse Walker looks at the sometimes antagonistic relationship between viral marketing gurus and copyright lawyers.
Variety (somewhat comedically) eulogizes the VHS home entertainment system, whose death in the market is now pretty much complete. An excerpt:
Although it had been ailing, the format's death became official in this, the video biz's all-important fourth quarter. Retailers decided to pull the plug, saying there was no longer shelf space.
As a tribute to the late, great VHS, Toys 'R' Us will continue to carry a few titles like "Barney," and some dollar video chains will still handle cassettes for those who cannot deal with the death of the format.
Born Vertical Helical Scan to parent JVC of Japan, the tape had a difficult childhood as it was forced to compete with Sony's Betamax format.
After its youthful Betamax battles, the longer-playing VHS tapes eventually became the format of choice for millions of consumers......
The format flourished until DVDs launched in 1997. After a fruitful career, VHS tapes started to retire from center stage in 2003 when DVDs became more popular for the first time.
Since their retirement, VHS tapes have made occasional appearances in children's entertainment and as a format for collectors seeking titles not released on DVD. VHS continued to make as much as $300 million a year until this year, when studios stopped manufacturing the tapes.
Will there be revanchist fanatics, as with vinyl v. CD, who continue to plump for their beloved old format's unique charm and qualities? I'd like to think no, but almost certainly yes.
A classic Reason feature from 1996 by Stan Liebowitz and Stephen Margolis on some of the myths of "path dependence" that used to haunt the VHS system's (short-lived, as it almost always goes) market dominance.
[Link via USA Today's Pop Candy blog.]
From the NYT's Carl Hulse, a little picture of how aging Senatorial porkmeisters stay so close.
“I am going to miss you,” Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, who has seen scores of senators come and go during his half-century in office, assured Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, as they bumped into each other in a hallway just off the chamber.
Mr. Burns, who showed flashes of temper upon his return to Washington after his defeat, was nothing but gracious with Mr. Byrd, with whom he served on the Appropriations Committee. “I appreciate all your courtesies,” he told Mr. Byrd.
Mr. Byrd then asked Mr. Burns, a professional livestock auctioneer, to regale him with one last yodel, and Mr. Burns obliged, in expert fashion.
“Almost as good as the fiddle,” Mr. Burns said, referring to Mr. Byrd’s instrument of choice. “Almost,” responded the Democrat.
Only one of them lost. Pity.
Time is serving up the link bait, and like the slowest trout in the fjord I'm going to bob up and take it. The mag's list of the 100 All-TIME Albums is as unsurprising as one of these lists can be.
We researched and listened and agonized until we had a list of the greatest and most influential records ever - and then everyone complained because there was no Pink Floyd on it. And that's exactly how it should be.
Yes, every list should skunk Floyd and include two Radiohead albums. (I say this as someone who has no use for Floyd apart from Piper and Meddle, and no use for Radiohead apart from pounding information out of Iraqi detainees.)
There is a real need for a list out there, one that no magazine seems interested in fulfulling - an Americanized version of the Guardian's "Alternative Top 100" list from the fin de siecle. The Guardian's innovation was to mock up a list of the boring records that clog every album ranking, and ban them. But their list of bans is so late 90s and so British (Suede! The Boo Radleys! Ocean Colour Scene!) as to be useless.
For my part, I'll suggest 10 influential records Time should have swapped out for its dullest picks.
1) replace Rubber Soul with Love's Forever
2) replace Achtung Baby with Wu Tang Clan's Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
3) replace Patti Smith's Horses with Genesis's The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
4) replace Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors with Leonard Cohen's The Songs of Leonard Cohen.
5) replace The Essential Hank Williams (actually, replace all the b.s. greatest hits albums) with King Crimson's Larks' Tongues in Aspic.
6) replace Kid A with Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
7) replace R.E.M.'s Document with Alice Cooper's Love it to Death.
8) replace R.E.M.'s Out of Time with Can's Future Days.
9) replace OK Computer with Pet Shop Boys' Very.
10) replace Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea with any album, ever.
Digging through the backed-up pile of magazines and professional journals this weekend, I came across something that's a few months old, but as near as I can tell little noted elsewhere, from the June issue of Governing magazine. The article by Alan Ehrenhalt, called "The Bungalow Bind," is built on the research of a pair of urban planning professors at the University of Virginia, William Lucy and David Phillips. They've done research indicating strong links between economic stagnation and the years during which most houses in an area were built--the most interesting result being that
Some suburbs were getting richer, and some were getting poorer. But the ones losing ground the fastest had a common characteristic: middle age. They were composed largely of homes built after World War II but before 1980.
By the time they had finished their research, Lucy and Phillips had studied a total of 2,586 suburban communities in every region of the United States. All they needed to know was the decade in which most of the houses were built, and they could pretty much predict what had been happening to income.
After considering, and rejecting, a bunch of other possible explanations, detailed in the full article, Lucy and Phillips concluded:
The real issue was something remarkably simple and easy to measure: the size of the houses themselves.
In 1950, the average size of a new home built in America was a little more than 1,100 square feet. In some of the suburbs sprouting up on farmland just beyond the big cities, it was even smaller. The first houses in Levittown, on Long Island, all built in 1950, had an average size of less than 800 square feet.
Those numbers changed relatively slowly over the next couple of decades. Throughout the 1970s, the average size for new homes was still just 1,375 feet. But then it began to take off. In the 1990s, it passed the 2,000-square-foot milestone. By 2002, it was up to 2,114.
The American middle class simply wants more space. And the suburban landscape is burdened with a huge supply of undersized, middle-aged houses that don’t match the lifestyle choices of families in the 21st century. As Lucy and Phillips say in their new book, Tomorrow’s Cities, Tomorrow’s Suburbs, “the more extensive these small-house areas, the more at risk these neighborhoods were to deterioration.”
Urban planners, take note: people want room to live. Full article.
A German man will be forced to pay child support for 18 years. Tragically, he's never had the chance to sleep with the kid's mother:
Tuesday, Germany's Karlsruhe-based Federal Appeals Court ruled that a gynecologist owes $768 per month to his patient after the contraceptive patch he inserted failed to prevent pregnancy.
The hormone-releasing device was supposed to protect her for three years, but according to the court, half a year after the operation, it could no longer be found in her body.
Matt Welch's classic 2004 article on the abuse of paternity laws is here.
Good Samaritan meets government collection agent:
Stanley Yaffe thought he was committing a random act of kindness Wednesday when he put a quarter in a stranger's expired parking meter.
Not so, a Denver "vehicle control agent" informed Yaffe. The "VCA" - as they say in the bureaucratic heaven of puffed-up titles and silly acronyms - told Yaffe that he had committed a crime:
"Interfering with the collection of city revenue."
He was stunned when the "vehicle control agent" explained, "I could have you arrested. You are interfering with the collection of city revenue. I could call the police right now."
"You're joking, right?" Yaffe said he responded.
"No," Yaffe said the monitor replied.
Yaffe said he wouldn't do it again and prepared to leave.
"What makes you think I'm letting you go?" Yaffe said the VCA replied.
The meter maid forced Yaffe to apologize a second time before releasing. Thing is, there's no law in Denver barring Yaffe's act of good will. In fact...
Not only did Denver's mayor have a campaign commercial where he fed an expired meter, he had a commercial in which he fed an expired meter as an actor playing a VCA started to write a ticket. The evidence is still available at HickenlooperforMayor.com.
Hat tip: TheNewspaper.com.
In the future, apparently, every car will be equipped with a device that passively tests the driver's blood alcohol concentration, allowing the vehicle to start only if his BAC is below the government-specified level. The first step, according to The New York Times, is to require less cool ignition devices, the kind with a tube the driver has to blow into, in the cars of anyone arrested for driving under the influence, including first-time offenders and those only slightly over the 0.08 percent line. The policy has been strikingly effective in New Mexico, the Times suggests, but it immediately undermines the claim of success (emphasis added):
With that tactic and others, the state saw an 11.3 percent drop in alcohol-related fatalities last year. New Mexico was not the only state to record a decline in alcohol-related motoring deaths, and several states showed even bigger drops. For example, from 2004 to 2005, Maryland showed a decrease to 235 from 286, or 17.8 percent. In New Mexico, which has had a chronic problem with drunken driving, state officials cited the new rule on interlocks as a significant factor in their campaign to cut the fatality rate. The rule did not take effect until June 17, 2005.
Undeterred by the lack of evidence to support this expansion in the use of BAC-keyed ignition locks, Mothers Against Drunk Driving looks forward to the day when everyone has to prove his sobriety before starting his car. MADD Executive Director Chuck Hurley suggests insurers will begin offering discounts to drivers whose cars are equipped with the devices. I've got no problem with that in principle, except that the cutoff is established by legislators in response to political pressure from groups like MADD. The argument behind MADD's push to lower the DUI threshold from 0.1 percent to 0.08 percent—drivers with BACs between those levels were getting into accidents—leads inexorably to a zero tolerance policy that forbids driving with any amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. Drivers with BACs between 0 and 0.08 percent, after all, account for a significant number of "alcohol-related" accidents.
Speaking of which, the Times suggests that progress in reducing alcohol-related traffic deaths has stalled during the last decade because the total number has remained more or less steady at around 13,000 a year. But it also notes (in a clause that for some reason appears only in the print version of the article) that "the rates of deaths per car and per mile traveled have declined," which sounds like progress to me. A more fundamental problem with the numbers is that the definition of an "alcohol-related" accident does not require any evidence that drinking actually contributed to the crash—just a BAC above zero in one of the drivers. By the same logic, we could conclude that sobriety is responsible for more accidents than drinking is.
On first blush, this sounds like easily pigeonholded Human Rights Watch nuttery. On another look, it sounds basically correct, doesn't it?
The trial of Saddam Hussein was so flawed that its verdict is unsound, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch says.
The former Iraqi leader was sentenced to death on 5 November after being convicted of crimes against humanity.
But HRW said it had documented "serious administrative, procedural and substantive legal defects" that meant he did not get a fair trial.
Some of that documentation:
Proceedings were marked by frequent outbursts by both judges and defendants.
Three defence lawyers were murdered, three judges left the five-member panel and the original chief judge was replaced.
Defence lawyers boycotted proceedings but HRW said court-appointed counsel that took their place lacked adequate training in international law.
In addition, important documents were not given to defence lawyers in advance, no written transcript was kept and paperwork was lost, said HRW.
The defence was also prevented from cross-examining witnesses and the judges made asides that pre-judged Saddam Hussein.
The trial was obviously a farce; it's being taken seriously in this country the same way a Ravens win that happens when the other team contracts diarrhea in the third quarter is still good enough for Ravens fans. We needed a win, damn it, and now we got one. The problem; since the unsuing trial played like a rejected episode of Night Court, the Arab world didn't take it very seriously at all.
For the second time in two months, SWAT teams in Dallas fanned out to knock off the city's underground poker rooms. The Pokerati blog has firsthand accounts of police breaking through windows, kicking down doors, and charging -- assault weapons drawn -- into peaceful gatherings of people playing cards.
Sleep safe, Dallas. Your children are no longer threatened by Texas Hold 'Em enthusiasts gathering behind closed doors to wager their own money on a card game. At least until those check-and-raise-scum try to play again.
Also this weekend in Dallas: A "senior corporal" in the DPD was arrested for drug distribution, and another Dallas cop is under investigation for roughing up a Whataburger cashier. Oh yeah, there's also a serial armed robber on the loose.
...be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. And if you want to participate in the first official rock concert to be held in that worker's paradise, let's get clear on the groundrules for the battle of the bands:
A pro-North Korean organisation says it is inviting US and other Western musicians to perform at an unprecedented rock concert next year in Pyongyang -- as long as they avoided sexy or violent lyrics.
Songs should not contain "admiration for war, sex, violence, murder, drug, rape, non-governmental society, imperialism, colonialism, racism and anti-socialism", organiser Voice of Korea said in a statement on its website.
"We welcome every musician as long as they are purely music-based without political intentions," it said Thursday.
I am not sure if any rock band will be able to appear.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a decorated Korean war vet, Hugo Chavez hater, and incoming chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, is pushing a military draft as a way of preventing overseas adventurism. Talking on Face the Nation, the whiskey-voiced congressman rasped:
"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," Rangel said....
Rangel said he worries the military is being strained by its overseas commitments. "If we're going to challenge Iran and challenge North Korea and then, as some people have asked, to send more troops to Iraq, we can't do that without a draft," he said.
Rangel said having a draft would not necessarily mean everyone called to duty would have to serve. Instead, "young people [would] commit themselves to a couple of years in service to this great republic, whether it's our seaports, our airports, in schools, in hospitals," with a promise of educational benefits at the end of service.
Some immediate thoughts: The only thing more nauseating than a Cold War-style military draft is one based on "national service" that is inevitably defined as some sort of public-sector job.
And while Rangel's notion that a draft in which all served--even the "fortunate sons" of U.S. senators, to allude to Creedence Clearwater Revival's great antiwar anthem--would temper the U.S.'s willingness to get into wars, especially big conflicts, makes a certain amount of intuitive sense, I'm not convinced that's actually the case. After all, we entered both Korea and Vietnam with a draft in place (and the immediate pretext for widening the war in Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, was every bit as shaky as the WMD stuff in Iraq).
It's also not immediately clear that, pace Rangel (and John Kerry is a pre-election comment about staying in school to avoid being sent to Iraq), the poor serve more in Iraq than the middle class or well-off. The Heritage Foundation claims that "the household income of recruits generally matches the income distribution of the American population" while other sources say the military draws more recruits from families with sub-median incomes.
Bonus: In his great 1995 interview with Reason, Milton Friedman, who served on a Nixon commission charged with evaluating the military draft and a volunteer force, was asked what he thought his greatest accomplishment was. His answer: "In the realm of policy, I regard eliminating the draft as my most important accomplishment."
File this under "ideas destined to be killed off quicker than a migrant worker on Bill O'Reilly's lawn."
Fox News Channel might air two episodes of a "Daily Show"-like program with a decidedly nonliberal bent on Saturday nights in late January, with the possibility that it could become a weekly show for the channel.
The half-hour show is executive produced by "24's" Joel Surnow and Manny Cota and creator Ned Rice, who previously wrote for "Politically Incorrect" and "Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" through This Just In Prods. It would take aim at what Surnow calls "the sacred cows of the left" that don't get made as much fun of by other comedy shows.
"It's a satirical news format that would play more to the Fox News audience than the Michael Moore channel," Surnow said. "It would tip more right as 'The Daily Show' tips left."
Since Laura Ingraham's name isn't mentioned, it sounds like the network passed on "Watch This Right Now" while fishing around for a show along the same lines. It also sounds like the brains don't watch "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report," or read The Onion. The Left may have sacred cows, but lefty comedians don't. The Democrats in power are doubtlessly going to provide more opportunity for humor than the Democrats out of power, but if Dennis Miller's abysmal, bitch-bashing screed against Nancy Pelosi is any guide, it's going to take a major attitude shift for Fox News-style righties to find that humor.
Daniel McCarthy traces the development of would-be theocrats via a pair of Religious Right-boosting books.
The New York Times profiles the Mackinac Center, a free-market think tank in Michigan, and its efforts at franchising localized idea factories for small-government policy advocacy. The article by Jason DeParle gives a decent larger picture of what such state level think tanks can accomplish. An excerpt:
In Colorado, the Independence Institute has been a leading force behind a constitutional spending cap called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In Arizona, the Goldwater Institute has championed a school-choice law that sends 22,500 children a year to private schools. The Texas Public Policy Foundation helped pass a law to end what the group said were excessive lawsuits.
It also notes the sort of opposition they can attract:
“Their philosophy encourages selfishness and greed,” said Iris J. Lav, who runs the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative, a network of 29 liberal state-level groups organized in part as a countervailing force. “If you have problems, they don’t care — just too bad.”
Greed is the rare accusation that rankles Mr. [Lawrence] Reed [head of Mackinac]. “They think if you’re pushing free markets there must be something in it for you,” he said. “It speaks to their ignorance.”
One particularly disturbing trend I've found in covering the rise of SWAT-style paramilitary raids is that criminals are catching on to the trend. I get several stories a week about crooks dressing up as raiding cops to make their way into a target's home.
Which puts homeowners in a heck of a predicament. Even if police do knock and announce themselves, should you let them in?
The latest example comes from Penn Hills, Pennsylvania:
Rodger Macek thought something was wrong with the wood-burning stove in the basement of his Penn Hills home when he heard a loud bang about 5:30 a.m. Monday.
Yet when the Beechford Road man came downstairs to investigate, he was met by four armed men dressed in dark clothing. Two of the men wore jackets with the word "police" in large letters across the front.
One of the intruders ordered him to the kitchen floor, put a gun to Macek's head and demanded to know where the money and drugs were hidden.
Not terribly different from the way most SWAT raids are handled. I bring up this case, though, because the victim gave a quote I found pretty amusing:
"I knew it wasn't the cops because they don't bust through your door wearing ski masks," said Macek, 47.
Yesterday a California judge issued a tentative ruling that rejects an argument by three counties (San Diego, San Bernardino, and Merced) that the state's medical marijuana law is unenforceable because it conflicts with the federal Controlled Substances Act. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has held that the federal government can continue to charge medical marijuana users under the CSA despite California's law, the judge said, that does not mean California's law is invalid. According to the ruling, the removal of state penalties for medical use of marijuana does not constitute a "positive conflict" with federal law.
The case was brought by the three counties, which have resisted implementing the medical marijuana law by issuing ID cards to patients with doctors' recommendations. The ACLU, which represented patients in the case, says the counties have indicated they will now comply with the law.
...unless you're in the U.K., where this ad recently appeared in Underground stations and buses. The poster was created from a design done by a 14 year-old Thomas Keller from Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Kensington. The "s" at the end of "lives" is a Swiss Army knife. Pretty clever for a 14 year-old. One hopes adult subway riders will not be swayed.
I suppose they're just trying to keep up with the MacJoneses.
Ronald Bailey files his final dispatch from Nairobi as climate change "tourists" scatter to the four winds.
Congresswoman Shelley Sekula Gibbs from Texas's 22nd district, who managed to smack down Libertarian Bob Smither in the House election 42 percent to 6, despite not even being on the ballot (though she still lost to Democrat Nick Lampson) did win the pointless special election to keep the office seat Tom DeLay resigned from warm until January 20.
Her general obnoxiousness, including a demand that her underlings make sure Bush and Cheney attend her swearing in, have led the rump of DeLay's staff to walk away from their next two months salary, Robert Novak reports via Wonkette.
We lost our principles and our majority. And there is no way to recover our majority without recovering our principles first....
[Voters] rejected us because they felt we had come to value our incumbency over our principle. And partisanship, from both parties, was no longer a contest of ideas, but an ever cruder and uncivil brawl over the spoils of power.
Americans had elected us to change government, and they rejected us because they believed government had changed us...
Last year, a Republican Congress passed a highway bill with 6,371 special projects costing the taxpayers 24 billion dollars. Those and other earmarks passed by a Republican Congress included $50 million for an indoor rainforest, $500,000 for a teapot museum; $350,000 for an Inner Harmony Foundation and Wellness Center; and of course, as you all know, $223 million for a bridge to nowhere. I didn’t see these projects in the fine print of the Contract with America, and neither did the voters.
Although McCain obviously is brushing up his bona fides with economic conservatives in preparation for his presidential campaign, he does have a pretty good record of opposing pork and advocating fiscal restraint. He also shares George W. Bush's relatively tolerant approach to immigration—one of the few positive aspects of the president's platform. And he has stood up to Bush on executive power issues when most Republicans were eager to give the president everything he wanted. I'm not sure if that's enough to make up for McCain's assaults on the First Amendment and his hawkish foreign policy views, but he certainly is looking better than, say, Bill Frist.
The restrictions are much harsher than the TV and advertising industry had been hoping for but fell short of a complete pre-watershed ban that health campaigners were seeking.
The surprise is that Ofcom has chosen to extend the restrictions to any programme any time of the day that has an "above-average" audience of under 16-year-olds.
It had previously been focusing on a range of options for restrictions on advertising to under 9-year-olds and during particular time periods.
Plans for some networks to use their characters to promote fruits and vegetables have been pushed aside; the full ban will be phased in before the end of the decade.
I suppose it was inevitable that the New York Times obituary for Milton Friedman would describe his views as "conservative," but it's still a bit depressing. To be fair, the headline accurately calls Friedman a "free-market theorist," and the word libertarian even makes an appearance (in the 16th paragraph and the subhead preceding it). But the Times also says Friedman flew "the flag of economic conservatism," describes the the Chicago School of economics as "conservative," says Friedman "helped ignite the conservative rebellion after World War II," and calls him a "guiding light to American conservatives." The general impression is that Friedman was a conservative with eccentric views about drug policy.
So in what sense was Friedman conservative? Was it conservative to advocate laissez faire in the wake of the New Deal and World War II, when the consensus on the left and the right was that managing the economy was one of the government's main tasks? Was it conservative to oppose Keynsianism when everyone was a Keynesian? For that matter, is there anything less conservative than the creative destruction of the free market?
You could say Friedman was conservative in that he tried to preserve the individualist, anti-statist values on which this country was founded. But this was more a task of recovery than conservation. In any case, the values for which he fought were not inherently conservative, which becomes clear when you consider his influence in formerly communist countries (which the Times obituary mentions). Is it too much to ask that the Times describe Friedman as Friedman described himself? Obviously, that would require an explanation of the distinction between contemporary leftish "liberals" and the classical variety, but such an explanation would be neither a pointless semantic exercise nor an obscure history lesson. It would illuminate what Friedman stood for.
Here's a great gift idea: a subscription to Reason, the "kick-ass, no-holds-barred political magazine" (The New York Post) that has been named one of "The 50 Best Magazines" for three out of the past four years by the Chicago Tribune (read more praise here and here).
A year's gift subscription--11 issues--costs just $20 for the first gift and then a mere $17 for any extras. And as long as you place your order by December 2, we'll guarantee that the recipient receives his or her first issue by Christmas.
The out-of-nowhere politician who upset Rep. Cynthia McKinney has promised not to beat up the cop whom she smacked with a cell phone.
"I apologized to him for any embarrassment the incident may have caused him or his family, and he appreciated that," Johnson added. "I told him if he ever asked me to comply, that I would, that he wouldn't have to worry about that."
Johnson, 52, is among more than 50 new members in town this week to learn the ropes of a becoming a member of Congress. He is one of three new black members and the only new practicing Buddhist.
A Buddhist? Jesus Christ.
In all seriousness, the fuss about Nancy Pelosi's intervention in the House majority leader race (most amusingly overplayed here) obscures an interesting fact about the new Democrats - by the end of the year they might have purged two of their most unqualified members. McKinney's gone, and Rep. William Jefferson (of $90,000-in-the-freezer fame) is expected to lose a runoff for his House seat. There are still plenty of corrupt Democrats to promote, but thus far they're doing a better job of purging the caucus than Dennis Hastert used to.
Jeff Taylor dissects John Edwards' moment of Wal-Mart weakness.
I think Mark Fuhrman's career resurrection as a non-racist legal
eagle took a little dent on Hannity and Colmes last night. He was
discussing O.J. Simpson's truly weird new
book and launched into a monologue on what makes a
Sean, I'm going to tell you this right now. I dealt with people like this for 20 years. They will get up every day. They will kill somebody and go have some chicken at KFC. You will catch them eating chicken and drinking a beer after they just murdered three people. Sean, these people are out there. They're all over the place.
They're all over the place! Them and their dark skin!
Reason "Hero of Freedom" and Contributing Editor Thomas Szasz weighs in on the Terri Schiavo case in this post-election postmortem column by Worldnet's Ilana Mercer. Says Szasz:
In the Schiavo controversy, the courts upheld the fiction that Terri's autonomy required that she be medically killed, in her own best interest. In view of the fact that we live in a country whose laws prohibit suicide and often deny patients with terminal illnesses the pain-killers they need, the doctors' and courts' sensitivities to patient autonomy were, in this case, touching to say the least. Michael requested the court to attribute to Terri the de facto right to physician-assisted suicide. That this decision favored Michael's personal and financial interests, and the taxpayers' economic interests, was purely coincidental.
...the principal issue in the Schiavo case – besides the economics of Terri's care – was the conflict between two parties both claiming undying love and loyalty to her: her husband who wanted her dead, and her parents who wanted to keep her alive. In this circumstance, the commandment against killing should alone have been enough to tilt the balance in the parents' favor.
Those comments are bundled within Mercer's own analysis and I'm not sure where/when Tom said/wrote them. But it's a different take than you get from most libertarians. Whole thing here.
Having no particularly startling things to say on the topic, other than I support everyone's right to write and sell objectionable and doubtless crappy books, and everyone else's right to complain and refuse to sell or buy them, it seemed we might be remiss not to allow our loyal commenters to have a place to sound off on this vital matter. (Feel free to prove me wrong, if you so desire.)
This New York Daily News story covers the basics of booksellers' impotent rage, Judith Regan's beaten-girlfriend-motivated, totally public-service-based desire to publish the girlfriend-slashing confessions/fantasies of OJ, and the interesting detail that she sold it as a pig in a poke to many booksellers, who were apparently relatively eager to purchase "Untitled by Anonymous" when it comes from ReganBooks (owned by Rupert Murdoch, for what it's worth.) Last time I encountered that sort of sales technique was from indie rock label Touch n' Go when I was a buyer at Hyde and Zeke records in Gainesville, Fla. back in 1988ish--it turned out to be the debut single by Steve Albini's post-Big Black combo, the regrettably named "Rapeman." I ordered 5, and could have sold more. I'm not sure there's a lesson in this.
For those who like to keep their political scorecards up-to-the-minute: Ohio's John Boehner keeps his phoney-baloney job as GOP House leader, beating back a challenge by Indiana's Mike Pence. Pence's feckless efforts on behalf of fiscal conservatism via his Republican Study Committee are dissected in this Reason feature by Eric Pfeiffer from our December print issue. And the ethically challenged John Murtha of Pennsylvania overwhelmingly loses the Dem vote to be new majority leader to Maryland's Steny Hoyer, despite Speaker of the House Pelosi's support.
Speaking on the matter with characteristic bluntness was New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who spearheaded the party’s national takeover campaign as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Schumer accused Republicans of “despicable” tactics in the 2006 election cycle, alleging that their operatives called Democrats and lied to them about the location of their polling places.
“I think somebody who does that, and who authorizes that — I don’t care who they are — should go to jail for 10 years,” Schumer said.
Schumer said he and Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who headed the party’s successful House takeover effort as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, were making a list of the “abusive practices” used by Republicans, which both Reid and Schumer contended were unique to their partisan counterparts.
“I think you’d have to look long and hard for any Democrat doing this kind of stuff,” Reid said
“Yeah, no, we don’t do this,” Schumer said. “It’s really different.”
The interesting question - if Democrats package a bunch of
finance reforms that make their
lives easier - a ban on robocalling, a ban on asking for photo IDs
- will Bush veto it? Will Bush veto the probably compromise that
gives Washington, DC a vote in Congress? It's difficult to tell how
this stuff plays in a country that just saw the cleanest election
in a long while.
RedState.com isn't my usual source for information on Venezuela (although I guess it is turning into a red state), but AcademicElephant has collected some extremely sunny polling data from the fast-approaching presidential election. If it's to be believed, Hugo Chavez is barely ahead.
Mr. Chavez' once demoralized and fractured opposition united behind an excellent candidate--Manuel Rosales--in August. Mr. Rosales cut Mr. Chavez' once-insurmountable lead to about a dozen points in September, and at the beginning of November there was more good news: AKSA had Mr. Rosales within 4 points. Was it too good to be true? A perfidious "outlier" poll, like those flimsy hooks on which we have hung so many doomed hopes over the past few weeks? In short order, another poll appeared that seemed to confirm such concerns. A poll reportedly by University Complutense in Madrid indicated a lead of some 20+ points for Mr. Chavez. Oh well, I thought. It's just not our season. But the intrepid Aleksander Boyd, whose journalistic tricks included writing an email and making a phone call, discovered that the poll was not conducted by the university, and may well be wishful thinking on the part of Mr. Chavez' campaign. And today, we have yet another poll, this one by Penn, Schoen & Berland, that shows Mr. Chavez with a 6-point advantage.
A Chavez defeat by the modestly popular Manuel Rosales would be the equivilent of George Pataki beating Mario Cuomo - the less famous, less-well funded guy has been given an opening by falling oil prices, but it'd be a miracle if he could close the deal.
More about the not-so-scary "threat" of Chavez here.
Henry Jenkins reveals how fansubbers, otaku, and other nice people the industry can't stand popularized anime.
Cartoon all-stars to the rescue!
UCLA student--with a suspiciously Muslim name of Mostafa Tabatabainejad--is tased repeatedly by campus cops the other night for not having his ID while using a library computer lab, and for complaining when they grabbed him while he was on the way out.
When he wouldn't get up quickly enough after being tased, they tased him again--and threatened to tase witnesses who wouldn't walk away.
UCLA Daily Bruin account of the assault.
Video of the assault. (Man, the citizens' panopticon eyes really are everywhere these days. The shooter doesn't get very close until about a minute or so in, though you can hear the victim screaming pretty much from the start. The Patriot Act is mentioned.)
An short account about the dangers of tasers by me from the April 2005 issue of Reason.
In These Times magazine's November cover feature on abuse of and hazards of tasers.
"African Ronald" Bailey reports on efforts, afoot now in Nairobi, to bring together diverse interests on climate control.
While Congress was pushing the gambling ban, which was really aimed at clarifying and strengthening a ban many in the federal government believed already existed, the tiny nation of Antigua was challenging the pre-2006, less clear incarnation of the ban in the WTO. Antigua is home to several Internet gambling companies.
In fact, Antigua had already won. The WTO permits countries to ban goods or services for "moral" reasons, but forbids such prohibitions if they give exemptions to domestic companies to provide the same goods and services. U.S. law -- both before and after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act -- does exactly that. And so the WTO ruled in favor of Antigua.
The U.S. decided to simply ignore the WTO's ruling. That means Antigua will be permitted to retaliate. And because a move like slapping tariffs on U.S. goods will hurt Antiguans more than Americans, the plucky little country is considering a far more potent tactic: Ignoring U.S. copyright law. Imagine Antigua as the one-stop spot for knock-off designer fashions, music dowloads, pirated software, and bootlegged movies. Imagine also the delicious spectacle of Microsoft, Hollywood, and and RIAA doing battle with moral blowhards like Sen. John Kyl and Rep. Bob Goodlatte.
But it may not stop with Antigua. The significant new provision in the UIGA is the deputization financial institutions to block transactions between U.S. customers and gaming websites. Depending on how the Justice and Treasury departments write the regulations, that may include s banning all offshore web payment services like Neteller and Firepay. These companies are direct competitors to the U.S.-based service, Paypal, which long ago buckled to regulators and banned its customers to use the service for gaming (which is why Paypal's parent company, eBay, publicly supported the gambling ban). Neteller and Firepay are both traded on the London Stock Exchange.
If the tiny country of Antigua is proving to give the U.S. a major headache in its quest to enforce moral online habits, imgaine what a challenge from Britain or Canada might do.
Cato trade analyst Sallie James has more a more thorough analysis.
Last night KGO, the San Francisco news station, interviewed me about an ordinance the city of Belmont is considering that would ban smoking everywhere except in private cars and detached single-family homes. This would be the most sweeping smoking ban in California, which is saying a lot, and it is based on astonishing misinformation about the dangers of secondhand smoke.
A councilman who was quoted in the news segment that preceded my interview mentioned in passing that exposure to secondhand smoke is just as bad for you as smoking, which I guess means that smoking poses hardly any risk at all. The councilman who was on with me, Warren Lieberman (who is what passes for a smoking ban skeptic on Belmont's city council) kept saying that further restrictions seem necessary in light of warnings from federal and state regulators that tobacco smoke contains dangerous chemicals. No kidding. As I emphasized, that much has been clear for at least half a century. The question is what dose of these chemicals poses a risk that is worth worrying about. Since it's hard to measure a risk even from long-term, relatively intense exposure to secondhand smoke, the concern about the occasional whiff from a restaurant's outdoor seating or from the smoker in the apartment next to yours is absurd. In any case, if spillover is the real concern, why did the state ban smoking inside bars and restaurants that no one is forced to enter?
Undoubtedly the most successful and influential proponent of libertarian thought in the 20th century, Milton Friedman, died last night at age 94. His successes as both a technical economist and libertarian polemicist are enormous. We can thank him, in large part, for happy events from the elimination of the draft to the conquest of inflation. Just a quick note now--his impact was staggering, and there could never be enough words said in praise of him.
A 2005 Reason interview, with Nick Gillespie, on his legacy of fighting for school choice.
His most recent Reason interview, with me, in our November issue, as part of a roundtable on the Federal Reserve.
Jacob Sullum's celebration of Friedman's 90th birthday.
This week Microsoft stopped selling downloads at its music store, redirecting customers to a site selling songs that work only with the company's new Zune player. I quickly discovered that Walmart is selling downloads for less than Microsoft was (88 cents vs. 99 cents each), but its interface leaves much to be desired, and I suspect its catalog is smaller. I've got a Creative Zen player, and I liked the convenience and easy searchability of the old Microsoft store. I assume I was not alone. Was Microsoft making so little money selling downloads that it can afford to alienate its customers this way?
The enemy in Iran, that is. This report from today's LA Times indicates that, despite their official calls to continue to drive the infidel from Iraq, yada yada, there are signs that the Iranian powers-that-be are afraid of what a U.S. troopless Iraq will mean. An excerpt:
On Tuesday night, Tehran's English-language news channel featured commentary from political scientist Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, who called for the U.S. to remain in Iraq until it has established a strong, stable central government capable of providing adequate security.
"The Americans can't simply withdraw from Iraq, leaving the mess as it is," Mojtahedzadeh said in a telephone interview from the Iranian capital afterward. "Who's going to look for the safety of the Iraqis there? The Iranians can't do it. The Turks can't do it…. This is not a question of political rivalry between Iran and the West. It has to do with the fact that the society has to have a government structure in place."
Analysts familiar with official thinking say there is growing support for views like Mojtahedzadeh's within Iran's professional foreign policy establishment, if not within the hard-line circles closest to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad....
"They've not said it directly and openly as an official policy line, that they'd like the U.S. to stay, but I think there's a sense among the Iranians that they understand that the U.S. cannot just leave immediately," said Hadi Semati, an Iranian political analyst who is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Michael Young notes the rising influence of realist foreign policy, and urges caution.
By a vote of eight to three, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors yesterday gave initial approval to an ordinance instructing police to make marijuana possession by adults their lowest law enforcement priority. The Drug Policy Alliance notes that a number of other cities, including Oakland, West Hollywood, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Missoula, and Eureka Springs, Arkansas, have similar policies (a few of them approved by voters in this month's elections). No doubt this is progress of a sort, but it's hard for me to get excited about it. Even without the new ordinance, how big a law enforcement priority would marijuana possession be in San Francisco? Judging from the fact that the police department supported the ordinance, I'd say not very.
Nor am I optimistic that gestures like these will have much of an impact in places where pot possession is treated as a big deal. It seems to me the ordinances mainly tend to confirm that cities like West Hollywood, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco are licentious places that do not share the values of Middle America. It does not help that, at the same meeting where San Francisco's supervisors voted to leave pot smokers alone, they approved a $100 fine for the newly invented crime of using foam take-out containers. A city where marijuana possession is OK but plastic food boxes are verboten? The Rush Limbaugh bit writes itself.
“I can’t believe they are self-destructing before they even get started,” said Representative Ray LaHood, Republican of Illinois. “Everyone on our side is giddy.”
The House Democrats' battle for the new majority leader slot, which should end in less than an hour, is the kind of thing that'll be forgotten completely in a month or so. The tactics of John Murtha and Steny Hoyer have been interesting, though, for their use and abuse of media. Hoyer has run his campaign the way these things are run; talking mostly to Democrats, staying away from big media statements. Murtha has run his campaign like - well, unless he wins - like an amateur. He's wasted time on Hardball arguing why he deserves a job that only 230 people are going to vote for (Chris Matthews not one of them). He's issued angry press releases for, again, people outside DC won't determine. He's dispatched allies to blog on the Huffington Post.
I had thought the Republicans' leadership races would be more interesting than the Democrats, as the last time they held an election candidate John Shadegg did some courting of the blogs, then lost. I don't know if there's an actual trend here (leadership elections don't happen all that often, anyway), but it seems like the birth of blogs and the activation of hundreds of thousands of partisans - whom politicians can spur to make phone calls, send e-mails, etc - might have changed the way even backroom deals get done in Washington.
I think the best introduction to this YouTube video is to quote the text posted alongside it:
The following clips were captured at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Aliso Viejo, California. The parish bulletin encouraged parishioners to wear Halloween costumes to Mass. The segment includes Eucharistic Ministers dressed as a huntsman and a devil, as well as an organist dressed as a devil. The 6 min clip ends with Fr. Fred Bailey leaving before the end of Mass, returning shortly thereafter in his "Barney" costume.
There's also a witch singing the responsorial psalm, and there's also the immortal line, "As goblins and ghouls, we raise one voice: Our Father, who art in heaven..." As for Barney, the Rev. Joseph R. Chambers fingered him as a creature from "the world of demons and devils" back in 1993.
Not being a Catholic, nor a Jack Chick-besotted fanatical anti-Catholic, nor even Tim Cavanaugh, I have nothing substantial to say about this. But as an aficionado of anything soulful or strange, I have some sympathy both for whoever thought up this brilliantly deranged Halloween mass and for the traditionalists who have wondered whether it "make sense, to shut down and harass those who express traditional forms of Catholic worship while tolerating this type of strangeness."
Some people think the elections reminded the Bush administration of the need to change course in Iraq. It actually looks like it reminded them how useful it was, in 2003, for the Congress to cede war powers to the executive with a smile and a high five.
President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.
Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.
This is in the Guardian and not widely reported elsewhere, so take it with the necessary amount of salt.
Cigarettes are food for the soul. When you're smoking you can actually watch yourself breathing, watch your soul getting out of your body and into your body. Two days ago I spoke in Barnes & Noble in Chelsea. I said that I wrote this book to rehabilitate smoking, and people just stopped laughing. People are willing to eat any bullshit and drink bad water; pollution doesn't bother them. But as soon as you take out a cigarette they act as if you're going to kill them. This is not true! All the shit that they put in the food, all these hormones and pesticides and what have you, the stress, the condition of life, all of that . . . Living kills you anyway.
Charles Freund reviewed Satrapi's subversive Persepolis back in '03.
Over at the Guardian's "Comment Is Free" sub-site, David Cox ferrets out reasons to mourn the passing of tyranny and the removal of Saddam Hussein:
Living under tyranny may not be ideal, but it is not impossible. In the Soviet Union, life took on a character of its own, in which the human spirit managed to flourish in spite of the political constraints. The literature generated in those conditions can still inspire us. Today, many former Soviet citizens feel no more free under the yoke of global capitalism than they did before, and some would like to see the return of Stalinism. The people of China seem in no rush to jettison a regime that holds out the prospect of prosperity at the expense only of liberty....
Saddam offered his people a harsh deal. Yet, their lives were at risk only if they chose to challenge his authority.
Is there any saw more tired, dubious, and morally grotesque than the old "repression makes the best art" chestnut? As if, what, Cry, the Beloved Country, in any wage balances against apartheid? Or Night takes the edge off the Holocaust? I ask this as someone who studied literature for years: Exactly what book is worth a single person's life?
I'm guessing Cox is not going to get a lot of Christmas cards from Kurds and Shia this year (the picture up top is of some of the Kurds gassed by Saddam because they "chose to challenge his authority"). Cox's defensible point--that the invasion of Iraq has not led to a paradise either in Iraq or elsewhere--gets lost in his inane analysis. "Comment Is Free." Sure, and you get what you pay for.
Over at The New York Sun, Adam Kirsch gives a big thumbs-down to Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day:
"Against the Day"...will inevitably be read as Mr. Pynchon's contribution to the genre of post-September 11 fiction. Yet by comparison with the other major novelists who have addressed this theme, he displays a surpassingly crude moral imagination. This is a novel, after all, in which most of the heroes are proud terrorists, committed on principle to murdering plutocrats like Scarsdale Vibe. Writing about such characters in our own age of terror, one might expect Mr. Pynchon to have given some thought to the rights and wrongs of political violence.
In fact, however, his attitude towards violence is childishly sentimental, and ruthless in a way only possible to a writer whose imagination has never dwelt among actual human beings. Mr. Pynchon's heroes (the poor, the workers, Anarchists) assassinate and blow up his villains (mine owners, Pinkerton thugs, the bourgeoisie) with no more qualms than the Road Runner has about dropping an anvil on the Coyote. In the novel as in the cartoon, good and evil are unproblematic, death is unreal, and sheer activity takes the place of human motive. The silliness of "Against the Day" about the very subjects where we are most urgently in quest of wisdom proves that, whatever he once was, Thomas Pynchon is no longer the novelist we need.
Whole review here. Against the Day is a whopping 1,100 pages long, which makes it a good bargain, at least. I inveighed against Pynchon when his earlier, long-awaited doorstop Mason & Dixon came out. If we have passed out of an age where the novelist really is/was a culture hero (and I think we have), it's at least partly because of the failure of the writers of Pynchon's generation to fully engage contemporary America. In the end, I think he's remained little more than a clever adolescent, a wiseacker devoid of real insight into society or life, as callow as he appears in the best-known photo of him. I greatly enjoy The Crying of Lot 49 and parts of Gravity's Rainbow, but there's a point where the slightness of his thought overwhelms the cleverness of the prose and plots (such as they are).
Bonus question: When is Don DeLillo, a writer often linked to Pynchon and one whose novels often explored terrorism and political violence, going to write a 9/11 novel?
The other shoe--really, I couldn't think of a clever alternative related to food--in the Great American Real Life Stretchpants Experiment, a.k.a. the obesity "epidemic", a.k.a. manifest destiny--has dropped: The number of Americans "struggling with hunger," reports the AP, declined in 2005, the first time in six years the figure went down.
Last year, 35 million people experienced food insecurity, meaning they didn't have enough money or resources to get food. The number was 38 million in 2004.
The department [of Agriculture] had waited until after Election Day to issue the annual report, prompting accusations from Democrats that the Bush administration was playing politics with hunger.
Despite the positive news, the report is still drawing criticism, because analysts decided not to use the word "hunger" to describe how hungry people are.
It looks increasingly like Mayor Frank Melton, the Yosemite Sam-esque shogun of Jackson, Mississippi, won't get to serve out his term.
The 57-year-old first-term mayor was accused of carrying a gun onto the campus of the Mississippi College School of Law, a felony, which he denied. He and prosecutors agreed to reduce that charge to a misdemeanor; avoiding jail time and removal from office.
But article six, section 175 of the Mississippi Constitution, titled: liability and punishment of public officers says: "All public officers, for wilful neglect of duty or misdemeanor in office, shall be liable to presentment or indictment by a grand jury; and, upon conviction, shall be removed from office, and otherwise punished as may be prescribed by law.
The simple solution: Draft Shaq!
As the Republican leadership fight heats up, Eric Pfeiffer takes a look at the real record of the Republican Study Committee.
tossed his hat in the 2008 ring. Finally, a Republican governor
with a solid record of free market reforms, an unquestionable
sturdiness at the wheel, a... what's this?
Issues, such as health care, along with his appeal as a Midwesterner, make him a potentially viable candidate, Thompson said.
As Health and Human Services Secretary, Thompson played a role in drafting legislation that expanded health benefits for seniors. He said that could form the basis for a presidential campaign.
Those are his issues? Medicare Part D and geography? Wow; even
the formerly useful Republicans are turning to mush.
Back in 2005, Michael Cannon caught Thompson singing a different tune about his record on health care.
Mike Murphy puts a few old political saws to rest on today's New York Times op-ed page. The best one:
ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL Tip O’Neill’s observation is no longer true. Safe one-party Congressional seats in Boston 50 years ago were local, but only because a few thousand Democratic primary voters chose the winner.
In this election, all politics was global. The voters of Mishawaka and La Porte, Ind., were more influenced by the sectarian politics of Baghdad than by the election-eve announcement by their Republican congressman, Chris Chocola, that he’d gotten $1.4 million in federal money for a local mental health center. He lost.
Chris Matthews is weeping in the men's room right now--no longer sure about his admonitions to "dance with the one that brung ya" or if it's best to "only talk when it improves the silence." In other news, this is not the most negative campaign ever, nor did it all come down to turnout.
Ronald "Nairobi" Bailey reports on Kofi Annan's big ideas for making carbon trading an economic plus for the developing world.
Radley reported it here
when the AP announced that Rep. J.D. Hayworth had been defeated in
Arizona. But Hayworth actually refused to concede the election that
night. He fought the result in the hopes that absentee ballots
would shrink, then reverse, Democrat Harry Mitchell's lead of about
5500 votes. Cue the cartoon "wah-wah" trumpets: The recount
actually expanded the lead, to 6500. Yesterday,
Hayworth finally conceded.
Hayworth's defeat wouldn't be worth going over if he was just another endangered Republican. He happened to be the most vocal, telegenic advocate of Tancredo-style border reform, and he represented a district that voted for Bush over Kerry by 9 points. If it looks like the GOP is taking a dive on illegal immigration and moving towards a McCain-Kennedy compromise, this is one of the reasons why - as much of a watershed on immigration as Tom Foley's 1994 defeat was on 2nd amendment issues. Check out one of Hayworth's ads and see exactly what Arizonans rejected.
Glenn Greenwald keeps the meme alive in Salon.
Bully to him for sticking to it, even after the election. But the piece mostly promises that the Democrats won't do more damage than the GOP has already done. That is, they won't take more swipes at gay marriage, pass flag burning bans, or -- I guess -- take extraordinary measures to bring Terry Schiavo back from the dead. Not exactly revolutionary.
Thing is, given the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency and her tendency to lurch to the right on social issues, I'm not even sure Greenwald could hold his ground on that promise. Welcome as their talk on libertarian Democrats may be, I doubt Greenwald or Kos is going to waste any political capital to raise objections if, for example, Hillary wins the nomination, and includes in her platform promises to expand the FCC's indecency jurisdiction to cable TV, imposing a federal ban on advertising sugary foods to children, or on alcohol advertising at college sporting events -- to name just a few examples.
What I'd really like to see from the libertarian Democrat crowd is some offense. Instead of promising not to do any more damage to personal liberty, why not try to win some back? How about cutting off funding for the DEA's jack-booted marches into California's medical marijuana clinics? While you're at it, snip the purse strings for the agency's persecution of pain specialists, too. And remove the federal ban on scientific research into the possible health benefits of marijuana. Revoke the Internet gambling ban, or -- even better -- legalize online wagering to eliminate any ambiguity. Repeal federal asset forfeiture laws. Repeal the federal minimum drinking age and the national .08 blood-alcohol standard. De-fund the FCC's war on dirty words, and the DOJ's war on dirty pictures. I could go on.
The point, of course, is that there's more to the personal freedom side of libertarianism than gay rights and abortion. There's nothing inherently contradictory about liberalism and the suggestions listed above, other than perhaps a general knee-jerk defense of government power and influence (although one huge hurdle to any left-libertarian alliance will be the left's love for the public health crowd). But the whole point of the "libertarian Democrat" meme is to move away from all of that.
My advice to Kos and Greenwald: Stop telling us what you won't do. Tell us what you'll do. Bring the new leadership around on a few of these issues. Then we'll know you're serious.
Over at the Washington, DC Examiner, Brian Doherty braces for the big two parties to start blaming spoilers for their close losses.
Democrats are eager to kiss and hug Joe Lieberman (literally) now that he holds the balance of power in the Senate. But The New York Times reports he is still "miffed, if not bitter, about what he considers the betrayal of allies who supported an unknown, untested and unfamiliar candidate." That is, they supported their party's nominee, Ned Lamont, after Lieberman lost the primary to him and decided to run for re-election on the newly invented Connecticut for Lieberman ticket. I confess that I find party loyalty almost as hard to understand as sports team loyalty, given how little the parties stand for. But isn't this the way it's supposed to work? When you lose the primary, aren't you supposed to graciously congratulate your opponent and then support him in the general election? And if you're such a self-aggrandizing, disloyal prick that you refuse to do so, can you you really be angry when your fellow party members do what passes for the honorable thing in politics and support a candidate about whom they may have qualms, because he's the one the voters preferred? Apparently you can, if you're Joe Lieberman.
Malachi Ritscher, a dedicated documentarian of Chicago's experimental music scene, angry at himself for failing to slash Donald Rumsfeld's throat when he had the chance, burned himself to death to protest the Iraq War a couple of weeks back--"near a 25-foot-tall Loop sculpture titled "Flame of the Millennium." Apparently, the chance to vote Democratic on the then-forthcoming election day wasn't enough for the guy.
Ritscher's self-penned obituary.
A Wikipedia mini-history of politically inspired self-immolation.
The Judge Rotenberg Center is a private special-ed boarding school in Massachusetts. For decades, it has hosted a bizarre experiment in behavior modification, described here by Jarrett Murphy of The Village Voice:
The only thing that sets these students apart from kids at any other school in America--aside from their special-ed designation--is the electric wires running from their backpacks to their wrists. Each wire connects to a silver-dollar-sized metal disk strapped with a cloth band to the student's wrist, forearm, abdomen, thigh, or foot. Inside each student's backpack is a battery and a generator, both about the size of a VHS cassette. Each generator is uniquely coded to a single keychain transmitter kept in a clear plastic box labeled with the student's name. Staff members dressed neatly in ties and green aprons keep the boxes hooked to their belts, and their eyes trained on the students' behavior. They stand ready, if they witness a behavior they've been told to target, to flip open the box, press the button, and deliver a painful two-second electrical shock into the student at the end of the wire.
The device is called the Graduated Electronic Decelerator, or GED. Its goal, as Murphy summarizes it, "is to deliver punishment immediately so that even a student with a low IQ or a severe psychiatric disorder might be made to understand that whatever he just did was unacceptable."
[T]he GED isn't only used when a life is at stake, or when a student hurts himself or another, but also for "noncompliance" or "simple refusal." "We don't allow individuals just to stay in bed all day," says Dr. Robert von Heyn, a Rotenberg clinician, in a video for parents. "We want to teach people. So we may use the GED to treat noncompliance." Other behavior that doesn't appear dangerous also could earn a zap. While it might seem excessive to shock a student for nagging his teacher, [school founder Matthew] Israel asks, what if the kid nags all the time, every minute, every day?
A new GAO report is scoring Cuban democracy advocates for blowing millions of dollars from USAID.
The GAO conducted "limited testing" of 10 programs and found "questionable expenditures" and "significant control weaknesses" in three. None of the 36 recipients of USAID and State Department grants was identified in the report.
One recipient, the GAO says, used USAID funds to purchase a gas chainsaw, Nintendo Gameboys and Sony PlayStations, a mountain bike, leather coats, cashmere sweaters, crab meat and Godiva chocolates.
The Guardian has more quotes that don't reflect terrifically on the guys doing the spending - their argument comes down to "it gets cold in Cuba sometimes" and "we spread this stuff around so people get jealous of America." If the Democratic majority ever gets tired of investigating whether Karl Rove had a Joe Wilson voodoo doll, perhaps they can check this out.
The suburbs, in both arts and pop-social science, are frequently portrayed as veritable graveyards for meaningful, authentic life and valuable social interactions. Now some new social science research comes to praise their effects on sociability, finding, according to this account on the Canada.com site, that
people who live in sprawling suburban areas have more friends, better community involvement and more frequent contact with their neighbours than urbanites who are wedged in side-by-side. The results challenge the accepted idea that suburban life is socially alienating a notion that's inspired everything from the Academy Award-winning American Beauty to Harvard professor Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone.
The study, released by the University of California at Irvine, found that for every 10 per cent decrease in population density, the chances of people talking to their neighbours weekly increases by 10 per cent, and the likelihood they belong to hobby-based clubs jumps by 15 per cent.
"We found that interaction goes down as population density goes up. So, turning it around, it says that interaction is higher where densities are lower," says Jan Brueckner, an economics professor at UC Irvine who led the study. "What that means is suburban living promotes more interaction than living in the central city."
Here's the full paper by Brueckner and Ann G. Largey the article is about.
Here's Nick Gillespie on how the burbs don't make you fat, either.
[Link via Marginal Revolution.]
The U.S. Sentencing Commission is holding hearings on the enormous disparity between the respective punishments for crack and powder cocaine. It's long overdue. It's been twenty years now since the death of Len Bias, the event that precipitated the draconian and clearly discriminatory guidelines (not that proving either would justify Congress' overreaction, but it has never been established whether Bias took powder or crack cocaine the night he died).
Before that 1986 law was passed, black men convicted of drug crimes received on average an 11 percent longer sentence than white men. After the law, the figure jumped to 49 percent. Blacks now represent about 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 48 percent of the prison population. They represent just 13 percent of drug users, but 38 percent of those arrested for drug crimes, and 59 percent of those convicted. The so-called "100 to 1" problem refers to the fact that it one would need to get caught with 100 times as much powder cocaine to get the same sentence meted out for possession of crack.
Even hardened drug warriors are raising concerns:
A federal judge who served as a top drug policy adviser to the first President Bush and advocated harsher penalties for crack cocaine crimes said Tuesday the policy had gone too far and was undermining faith in the judicial system.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton told the U.S. Sentencing Commission that federal laws requiring dramatically longer sentences for crack cocaine than for cocaine powder were "unconscionable" and contributed to the perception within minority communities that courts are unfair.
"I never thought that the disparity should be as severe as it has become," said Walton, who sits on the bench in Washington, where he previously served as a Superior Court judge, a federal prosecutor and a deputy drug czar.
As a senior-level congressional aide at the time, Eric Sterling helped write the crack law. He reversed course on the drug war many years ago, and has since become an activist for the reform movement. He writes on the hearings in the L.A. Times:
If logic prevails, in the next Congress we may finally see an end to one of the most unjust laws passed in recent memory. And that might correct the biggest mistake of my professional life.
We still cling to 20-year-old ideas that crack is somehow uniquely harmful: It is instantly addictive; it makes you especially violent; it causes women to abandon their babies; the babies of crack users will be basket cases. None of these are true.
Also, because crack is no longer a big news story, people mistakenly believe our anti-cocaine policy has worked. Not so. There is no scarcity of cocaine. Since 1986, the price of cocaine has fallen and the quality is better. Cocaine deaths have increased. The number of crack users is basically unchanged.
As you might expect, the Justice Department doesn't get
it. A DOJ spokesman told the Associated Press that
the Bush administration would support remedying the discrepancy,
but only by increasing the penalties for powder cocaine to make
them equal to those for crack -- what you might call the "American
I did find this line from the AP story encouraging:
Walton said the law wasn't intended to target poor people or minorities. But with a disproportionately high number of minorities in prison and potential jurors openly balking at convicting drug offenders because of concerns over the fairness of the system, Walton said the problem must be addressed.
Walton of course considers jury nullification a problem. I think it's a solution, at least at the micro level. And if growing support for nullification causes legislators and policymakers to reconsider policy at the macro level too, all the better.
Michael Siegel offers tips for suppressing dissent within the anti-smoking movement.
the Hotline, this man is your new Senate Minority Whip.
A few lessons:
- Strom Thurmond's ghost gets what it wants.
- Lott defeated Lamar Alexander for the job. Previously, Alexander was defeated by Nick Gillespie. The lesson - don't tangle with Nick Gillespie.
- The GOP really, really needed to elect Michael Steele.
Astronomers and marine geologists are abuzz, the New York Times reports, over the "Holocene Impact Working Group" and their theory that megacatastrophic meteor hits on our big blue marble are more common than commonly believed--and that one may have smacked the Indian Ocean as recently as 4,800 years ago.
The key to their story is "chevrons"--inland sediment deposits--that the Working Group apocalypticians think can be explained only by huge huge waves. No, even bigger than you are imagining. "No tsunami in the modern world could have made these features," says Ted Bryant, a geomorphologist at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, who thinks they are caused by meteor hits. "End-of-the-world movies do not capture the size of these waves. Submarine landslides can cause major tsunamis, but they are localized. These are deposited along whole coastlines.”
Burckle crater, recently discovered 900 miles southeast of Madagascar, site of some intriguing "chevrons," was found by looking for it based on the theory that inland chevrons=meteor impacts somewhere relatively nearby in the ocean. Dallas Abbott, an adjunct research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y. who searches for, and often finds, big holes in the ocean based on chevrons on land, believes the crater is only 4,500-5,000 years old, though it has not been authoritatively dated. Abbott has interpreted chevrons 4 miles inland in Australia as being connected to ocean craters whose sediment cores "contain melted rocks and magnetic spheres with fractures and textures characteristic of a cosmic impact." And that impact might be only 1,200 years old.
This conclusion about big object hits being this frequent and recent goes against dominant astronomical beliefs, so there are understandably many doubters. One of the doubts as expressed in the NY Times doesn't make instant sense to me. Dr. David Morrison of the NASA Ames Research Center says that: “We know what’s out there, when they return, how close they come...there is no reason to think we have had major hits in the last 10,000 years."
But if what the Holocene Impact people are saying is true, then the specific objects that slammed Earth are no longer out there, no longer returning, and already came as close as they're ever gonna get. Perhaps establishment astronomers out there can further explain how our recent telescopic observations of what's floating around our solar system can unequivocally tell us that it isn't possible that a big rock hit us as recently as 4,500 years ago? Is it based on a belief that all these objects come in groups, and that the rest of the groups' orbits and approaches are well understood? Otherwise, not sure what to make of Dr. Morrison's comment.
Kerry's post on immigration and abortion is a howler. But it's still only the second most ridiculous argument I've seen from the anti-immigration camp.
The first still belongs to National Review's Mark
Krikorian, or as I like to call him, "all John Derbyshire's
bigotry, with none of his charm." Krikorian complained a
couple of years ago that immigrants who take jobs at fast food
joints, landscaping companies, and the like are too
dependable. Because they have families to feed and such,
they work hard, and they're quite reliable -- which makes them more
valuable to employers than, for example, native-born, part-time
teen workers. Thus, Krikorian argued, immigrants are stealing
a precious right of passage from spoiled American teenagers -- the
right to half-ass it at your first summer job.
I'm not kidding.
A recent Boston Globe story makes clear that immigrant colonization of the low-skilled job market is not the result of decadent American teenagers opting to shop at the mall rather than work. Quite the opposite -- immigrant competition is elbowing teenagers out of jobs they would otherwise be filling. One economist said employers "like the fact that immigrants can work more hours and more shifts than teenagers." A job counselor said "Typically when kids apply for a summer job they might want a week off to go to camp or do something else. I tell them, 'You can't do that. You are up against someone who is going to be there every day and you need to deal with that.'" As a result, the percentage of teenagers holding jobs is the lowest it's been since statistics started being compiled in the 1940s.
Is it healthy for the future of our society to freeze our children out of low-wage, rite-of-passage jobs? When I was younger, I washed dishes in restaurants, packed tomatoes, did lawn work -- this kind of thing is essential if we are to preserve a middle-class society that values work, rather than the Old World model that mass immigration is pushing us toward, where only inferiors ever get their hands dirty.
Sometimes you don't even need to argue with the anti-immigrant crowd. Just let them keep talking, and they'll usually beat themselves.
As part of a protracted attempt to prove that the Web is merely a conduit for dirty pictures, the DOJ recently paid this guy to look at porn all day. The Justice Department wants to know just how many Web pages are smut-filled, and the magic number appears to be 1.1 percent. This kind of analysis only makes sense if you think the Internet is a dump truck or a landfill -- and perilously close to full. (Imagine what we could do with that extra 1.1. percent of Internet!)
The DOJ seems to think that these findings help the case for the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), and the Financial Times reports that the study "could add to pressure in the US for a fresh legal crackdown on online pornography." What porn percentage, we might ask, would the DOJ have found acceptable? Eleven years ago Time reported that the Web was basically one big orgy; 1.1 percent seems pretty tame.
Jacob Sullum surveys the post-election state of the abortion wars.