Ron Paul taped his second Tonight Show with Jay Leno appearance this afternoon in Burbank, California. Herewith, a preview report from memory. It will be airing tonight, wherever the Tonight Show can be found, and will doubtless be on YouTube forthwith.
Leno asked the crowd beforehand to please not loudly applaud Paul after every line--both because it made it look like they packed the audience with partisans (it was self-packed with Paul partisans) and because it disrupted the flow of his conversation.
The reason for having Paul on again today, Leno told him, was because the Fox News people excluded him from the debate, and Leno thought that wasn't fair. He commended Paul for being so polite about something that would have, Leno said, really pissed him off, saying Paul was "screwed" as an obviously viable candidate excluded for no reason.
Paul said he was able to get no explanation from Fox for it, speculated they are a bit afraid of his ideas since they are so in bed with the GOP establishment which Paul is a standing reproach to since he still stands for the Constitution and they don't (he got annoyingly vague in this part in explaining precisely where and why he was true-blue and the rest of the Republican field is not). Paul joked (I think it was a joke) about suing Fox over their violation of their "fair and balanced" slogan but acknowledged their property right to exclude him if they wished.
The rest of it was a quick, sympathetic tour through Paulism. Paul brought up monetary policy, acknowledged he's seen as unbearably eccentric for believing sound money should be gold based but noted the Founding Fathers believed the same thing. The truly kooky thing, Paul said, was giving politicians the power to essentially make more money when they needed it. The recent decline in the dollar's value relative to other currencies is beginning to show people that we need to grapple with monetary policy. He declined to say he'd name any current GOP contender as his running mate until they proved to him they'd sincerely changed their views to match his. He noted he sent Rudy a package of books on the causes of terrorism and that Rudy has apparently not read them.
Leno asked if he blamed the U.S. for 9/11, and Paul noted that the blame lay with the "thugs" who did the deed, but that we needed to understand the role of U.S. foreign policy in motivating them--in the same manner that investigating motive was important in solving a murder. He ended his antiwar spiel noting that we can't afford more interventions (saying he fears that Pakistan and Iran might be next) and gave a slight pander in saying that we should spend the trillion we are spending on war on (I paraphrase) the needs of people here--not, in a more hardcore libertarian fashion, on allowing the money to stay in the hands of its earners.
Asked if any Dems appealed to him, he spoke of his congruence on foreign policy and civil liberties with his pal Dennis Kucinich, but did note they disagreed on economic policy.
It was a decent performance overall but I think he failed to sharply explain the full range of his differences from his opponents. You would know of him from this appearance only that he was against the war, against inflation and paper money, and for the Constitution. Maybe that's enough.
I failed, alas, to nab Paul in the scrum outside as he was getting in his car (surrounded by mostly young fans vying for photo ops) to fly back to New Hampshire. I was unable, then, to get any personal reactions to the Kirchick New Republic piece criticizing him (apparently--it's not publicly available yet, so I haven't read it) for anti-MLK and anti-gay slurs from years back. For more on which, see Matt Welch's post below (with loads of other reason Ron Paul links.)
As the squad of Writer's Guild picketers outside NBC's studio reminded me (with some signs playing on pro-Jay feeling by announcing that "Jay wants his writer's back" and others baldly calling Leno a scumbag for going back on the air without them), I'll now never be able to say that I never crossed a picket line. I don't recall if I lived in that state of grace before today.YouTube of Paul's first Leno appearance back in October.
On Tucker Carlson's show 45 minutes ago, The New Republic's Jamie Kirchick alleged that Ron Paul called Martin Luther King a "gay pedophile," and stuffed 20 years' worth of "Ron Paul" newsletters full of "racist, anti-semitic, homophobic invective."
Kirchick, whose story for TNR (along with screen-shots
of the newsletters themselves) are scheduled to go up
at midnight EDT "tomorrow afternoon," said
that Paul "called black people animals," and spoke at a
"pro-secessionist conference." In teeing up the segment, Carlson,
who was skeptical about some of Kirchick's claims, reported that
the Paul campaign has apologized for the content of the newsletters
to both Kirchick and Carlson.
More to come from here after the gong strikes midnight.
reason on Paul here. Dave Weigel talked about Paul's newsletter racism back in July. Nick Gillespie and I tried to make sense of the rEVOLution for the Washington Post late last year. Brian Doherty covered the Paul campaign from the beginning, asked if Paul was good for libertarians in July, and wrote our current cover story.
UPDATE: Video here.
In my column last week, I cited the recent fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo as an example of blame shifting, because it seemed likely that one or more of the men who were mauled did something to provoke the tiger. Since then new details have reinforced that impression:
1) A witness told the San Francisco Chronicle she saw the two men who survived, Kulbir and Paul Dhaliwal, taunting the lions at the big-cat house where the tiger escaped. Notably, she said Carlos Sousa Jr., the 17-year-old who reportedly died after distracting the tiger from the Dhaliwal brothers, thereby saving their lives, did not participate in the taunting and seemed embarrassed by his friends' behavior.
2) The police saw an empty vodka bottle in the front seat of the car the Dhaliwals took to the zoo.
Paramedics told the
Chronicle they overheard
the Chronicle that paramedics overheard Kulbir Dhaliwal
instruct his younger brother, "Don't tell them what we did."
The Dhaliwal brothers, who have retained a lawyer and almost certainly plan to sue the zoo, still have not given a complete account of the attack, even to police. Since it failed to build a wall high enough to keep an agitated tiger from escaping, the zoo is not blameless. But whoever agitated the tiger enough to provoke such an unprecedented attack should not receive a windfall as a result.
I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.
Successful male politicians, of course, never cry. Here's George W displaying a stunning lack of resolve. Here's his dad falling apart over Jeb. Here's the other Clinton conveniently welling up as he spots a camera. Romney cries; brags about crying here.
A Sacramento Bee story about California's new ban on smoking in vehicles carrying minors quotes John Banzhaf, founder and executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, who wants the ban extended into smokers' homes. "Smoking, like other activities, should be confined to consenting adults in private," he says. Banzhaf elaborates in a press release he sent me today:
The nonsmokers' rights movement, which has largely worked to protect adults from exposure even in areas like bars or restaurants where they have a free choice, is now moving to protect the most innocent and helpless victims of tobacco smoke pollution who have no choice at all....A man's home may be his castle, but that doesn't mean he is free to abuse his children inside it by unnecessarily subjecting them to a substance which is known to cause cancer, and which kills thousands of children every year.
Since it seems likely that smoking in bars and restaurants will soon be prohibited throughout the country, I guess Banzhaf thinks it's safe to admit that all those nonsmokers he and his allies supposedly have been trying to protect from "involuntary" exposure to secondhand smoke in fact have "a free choice" about whether to enter an establishment where smoking is permitted. He's right that children do not have the same choice about whether to live with parents who smoke. But contrary to Banzhaf's implication, epidemiological studies generally do not find an association between childhood exposure to secondhand smoke and lung cancer. Instead they indicate higher incidences of earaches and respiratory infections among children of smokers. When I interviewed Banzhaf for my 1998 book about the anti-smoking movement, he suggested that such risks do not by themselves justify government intervention. "Where a parent knows that the child is sensitive to [tobacco smoke], where the child has exhibited serious symptoms from it in the past," he said, "then it seems to me that in some situations some intervention is warranted." Nowadays he is less tentative. "Increasingly," he notes with approval in today's press release, "smoking around children is seen as just another form of child abuse."
For her part, the author of California's car smoking ban, state Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach), denies any intention to target smokers in their homes. "This is America, for goodness sake," she tells the Bee. "I'm not into prohibition." When I debated this subject with Oropeza last week on KPCC, the NPR station in Pasadena, she said it made sense to focus on smoking in cars because, unlike smoking in homes, it's "highly visible." That rationale suggests the law is not about protecting children so much as protecting the sensibilities of people who are offended by the sight of Mom lighting up on the way to dropping the kids off at shool.
Jamar is a Huntsville, Alabama man who suffers from severe gout, has survived two heart attacks, has a pacemaker, and is hard of hearing. He miraculously survived a botched SWAT raid on his home in 2006, in which police broke down his door, broke open his bedroom door, then opened fire on him when he mistook them for criminal intruders, and met them with a gun. The raid put him in intensive care for two weeks, and nearly killed him.
Federal and state officials were actually looking for Jamar's nephew, who lived a few houses down. The nephew was so obviously dangerous, police eventually arrested him in his front yard, without incident, when he came out to watch them drive his uncle away in an ambulance. The police insisted the raid went exactly as planned, and subsequent investigations exonerated everyone involved.
The police reports say Jamar met them with "aggressive resistance," which they "neutralized" by shooting him twice in the chest, once in the groin, and once in the foot. Family members described Jamar as a semi-invalid who "couldn't get up to make himself a ham sandwich."
Jamar is now suing. But he's having some difficulty with his lawsuit. Not because it lacks merit, but because the city of Huntsville is refusing to turn over any documents related to the case, including those associated with the internal investigation. The city claims the documents are "too sensitive" for public consumption, and that the city is protected by an "executive privilege" claim in Alabama's state constitution. Doesn't seem like the kind of posture the city would strike if it had nothing to hide.
A judge will rule on the matter later this week.
Jesse Walker wades into the mushy centrist souffle that is Barack Obama's campaign.
McCain: The Myth of a Maverick
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
12:00 PM (Luncheon to Follow)
Featuring the author, Matt Welch, Editor-in-Chief, Reason Magazine, and Lance Tarrance, Jr., Former Senior Strategist, McCain for President.
The Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
John McCain is one of the most familiar figures in American politics, a figure with great appeal to many. However, his concrete governing philosophy and actual track record have been left unexamined. Matt Welch's new book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick gives a flesh-and-bones political portrait of a man onto whom people project their own ideological fantasies. It is the first realistic assessment of what a John McCain presidency might look like. Welch lays out the root cause of the senator's worldview: his personal transformation from underachieving youth to war hawk, in which he used the "higher power" of American nationalism to save his life and soul. Please join us to discuss this new work on the day that New Hampshire decides the fate of Senator McCain's enduring aspiration to attain the presidency.
Cato events, unless otherwise noted, are free of charge. To register for this event, please fill out the form below and click submit or email email@example.com, fax (202) 371-0841, or call (202) 789-5229 by noon, Monday, January 7, 2008. Please arrive early. Seating is limited and not guaranteed. News media inquiries only (no registrations), please call (202) 789-5200.
DOVER, NH - I knew Hillary Clinton was comfortable talking (and talking) about the details of policy, but I'd say she's half again as cozy tearing into Barack Obama and John Edwards. At the start of her speech she said the debate had clarified the race. "My two opponents were finally asked... some questions," she said. "I didn't mind spending 15 debates debating myself." OK, funny. "I kind of enjoyed it." You see? Too far.
Her attacks on her two close competitors were straight from the debate and didn't always make sense. On Obama's eloquence: Rhetoric is wonderful but "when the words end, the speech is over." Because... no speech has survived to inspire people? "When you say you're against PATRIOT Act as a senator, and you vote for it, that is not change." But Obama voted with the filbustering minority to delay PATRIOT renewal in late 2005, then voted for renewing the revised act... like, uh, Clinton.
She took another chance to nick Obama on a question about illegal immigration. "I don't support drivers licenses for illegal immigrants," she said, and referred a little to the infamous Philly debate. "By the way, Senator Obama does support drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. He's on the record supporting them." Hear that, delicate middle-aged white women in the audience?
That illegal immigration answer was a little nutty, weirder even then an answer on Latin America when she said she could understand why Evo Morales was popular and that we should reach out to Third Worlders who want health care and benefits. On immigration she said she'd thought about the logistics. "Can you imagine here in the Live Free or Die state if people knocked on your door and said, 'We're checking to see if there are illegal immigrants here'?" Second later she said she favored asking illegal immigrants to "come out of the shadows" and offer themselves to be deported. Trust us, Anne Frank, you can come out of that closet!
Oh, and Hillary predicted Al Qaeda might "test" the new president because terrorists bombed London after Gordon Brown took over. "You're hiring a president to be there when the chips are down." I left not quite agreeing with one of the songs blasted on the PA: "Every little thing she does is magic, every little thing just turns me on."
The automaker expects driverless vehicle technology to be ready for testing by 2015 and in vehicles that it sells by 2018, a G.M. spokesman, Scott Fosgard, said on Sunday.
"The technology exists right now to move cars without a driver," Mr. Fosgard said, adding that a self-driving vehicle would "know where all the vehicles are around it, dramatically reduce accidents and even reduce congestion."
In a 2007 reason review of Daniel Wilson's Where's My Jetpack?, Katherine Mangu-Ward asked whatever happened to the technological wonders promised by science fiction. On Hit & Run she has called attention to innovations that fall somewhat short of Jetsons-style transportation: an airplane that can be driven on the highway but can take off only at an airport and a hovercraft that's not allowed on public roads. The car that drives itself seems more practical.
On Saturday I met up with Mike Molloy and Harris Wells, two Paul volunteers assigned to canvass for voters in the suburbs of Manchester, NH. The Paul operation is not all sign waves and protests -- the easy stuff that so many fringe campaigns do to create the impression of momentum. Hundreds of Paul supporters are piling into cars, navigating Google Maps printouts where possible Paul supporters (independents and Republicans) houses have been checked off. Molloy and Wells were tasked with knocking on 55 doors and dropping literature or, if someone was home, pushing them to vote Paul.
I spent about 40 minutes with the pair and watched them hit 10 houses. Four people weren't home, and one wasn't the person listed at the address: They all got the generic fliers. One voter liked John McCain's war record but wouldn't commit 100 percent to him, so he got the flier for veterans. Two were completely undecided, and one of them didn't know anything about Paul. One wouldn't vote for Paul because she wanted the strongest possible Republican candidate. One said he was "probably" voting for Paul.
Molloy wasn't always asking point-blank if the voters would commit to Paul: "It depends if the question comes in the progress of the conversation." His strategy was to start a chat about an issue and see if he could sell a Ron Paul angle. For example, that "strongest possible Republican" voter was angry about health care costs, so Molloy talked about health care deregulation. When I left he had a sheet marked with people who were considering Paul, people who definitely weren't, and people who hadn't been reached.
Here's a photo of Molloy's folder of literature and canvass
I didn't catch all of last night's Paul-less Republican debate on Fox, but the post-game focus group conducted by unreliable pollster Frank Luntz -- which is being touted this morning as proof of the long-awaited Romney comeback -- struck me straight away as having all the authenticity and heavily caffeinated pace of a Ronco commercial. You couldn't have scripted a more effective infomercial for Our Man Mitt (who, by most accounts, was pretty good).
Reminds me of a conversation I had with one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's henchwomen back in 2003, a longtime GOP activist who told me Luntz was an old friend and that she goes on those focus groups "all the time."
It's here. Be sure to duck!
The photo in balaclava hoods and helmets is a nice touch, too.
Steve Chapman says authenticity was the real winner in Iowa last week.
I've been mixing up coverage of the Ron Paul movement with coverage of the frontrunners in New Hampshire. Barack Obama arrives late to massive rallies (where half or more of the people in line get turned away, the rooms being just too small) where he uncorks a 30-40 minute stump speech and takes no questions. John McCain busses into hokey town halls where his questions are increasingly friendly and the fire marshalls turn away spectators, who keep trickling in after the events kick off. John Edwards' events go the same way, with smaller crowds. Mike Huckabee holds the goofiest political events since the rise of Screaming Lord Sutch, 60 percent music and Chuck Norris and 40 percent his compassionate conservative spiel. Mitt Romney draws the smallest numbers and turns the most seats empty during his speech.
I have yet to see Clinton in action, but Roger Simon has and frames the difference like this:
Obama said things like: “We are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.”
Clinton said things like: “I founded in the Senate the Bipartisan Manufacturing Caucus.”
This increasingly seems off to me: Obama's speeches are veined with cliches like "working for main street, not wall street," and I talk to people coming out who wanted more specifics. (Obama shunts those into one part of the speech, saying "they" don't want you to pay attention to his ideas like $4000 school tuition credits, and the second time I heard it he didn't even tie it to national service.) But I'm not a New Hampshire voter. The sense here is that Romney is melting away and McCain is heading to a 10-point win. Something similar's happening with Clinton-Obama, but not as dramatically. Huckabee is poaching a bit of the protest vote that would otherwise go to Ron Paul. There are people at these events who want a family man, or a guy who'd abolish the IRS, and after Iowa they see Huckabee as more electable.
MANCHESTER, NH - Well, the choice was sort of made for him, but 24-odd hours after being bounced from the Fox News five-man forum, Ron Paul will be appearing on the Tonight Show. He's en route to Los Angeles to shoot the show for Monday night. Ron's son Rand and his friend ex-Rep. Barry Goldwater Jr. will be filling in at Paul's campaign events until he returns Monday night.
I asked Paul if he had any problem breaking the writer pickets to appear on the show. Silly question: He doesn't care about the unions or the pickets. And at his speeches at a Republican brunch (attended by almost 1000 people) and the Liberty Forum (attended by hundreds) But Paul backers in the state were enraged at the Fox shutout. At the Liberty Forum, so many people were organizing a Fox protest that Operation Live Free or Die sent out a request that Paul supporters chill out and devote their energy to an afternoon town hall instead. Some listened, but more than 200 materialized on Elm Street in Manchester to chant "Fox News Sucks!" and reel in local news teams. The Paul crowds were close to Frank Luntz's debate focus group; after it was over, Luntz got the crowd to bet him $1000 that Paul would score 20 percent in the primary.
A little more from this afternoon: Paul will campaign at least until Feb. 5, by which time he'll "reassess" the race.
If you're in Monterey, Salinas, or San Jose, you can hear me yammering about Mike Huckabee at 6:15 am tomorrow on KION 1460 AM. If you are not in those places, rest assured that nothing I can say will be as entertaining as MikeHuckabee.com. Your Huck-sanctioned thought for the day:
None of us would write a check to Osama bin Laden, slip it in a Hallmark card and send it off to him. But that's what we're doing every time we pull into a gas station.
My Politics profile of Huckabee is here.
David Brooks, after the Iowa caucuses, Jan. 4, 2008:
The old guard threw everything they had at [Huckabee], and their diminished power is now exposed.
David Brooks (with Bill Kristol), after the New Hampshire primary, Feb. 14, 2000:
John McCain is taking on the Republican establishment. In New Hampshire, he crushed it.
While Romney embodies the leadership class, Huckabee went after it. He criticized Wall Street and K Street.
McCain makes the corporate and lobbyist types nervous. The corporate elites have invested heavily in George W. Bush.
Most importantly, he sensed that conservatives do not believe their own movement is well led.
[He] attacks a Republican establishment that has already rotted from within[.]
Huckabee's victory is not a step into the past. It opens up the way for a new coalition.
[T]he McCain Independents [...] topple the old establishment by bringing in new people. They create new alliances within the party.
A conservatism that loves capitalism but distrusts capitalists is not hard to imagine either.
[C]ampaign finance reform, special interests, and shaking up Washington ... can be understood as part of a more comprehensive ambition to reinvigorate citizenship.
Tells us more about David Brooks than the direction of the Republican party, no? As do the columns' respective conclusions. 2008:
My guess is Republicans will now swing behind McCain in order to stop Mike.
[T]he McCain insurgency is not just a fundamental challenge to the Republican party but a political phenomenon with potential appeal to the country as a whole.
I was going ask this question at greater length but I see that Cato's Daniel Griswold beat me to it -- if anger over immigration is such a big Republican issue this year, why are the single-issue anti-immigration candidates dropping like flies, while the restrictionist-despised Huckabee and Sen. McAmnesty himself do the lambada on Varmint Mitt's head?
Maybe it's just that border activists can claim satisfaction in helping push the originally soft-on-Mexicans GOP field toward Tancredo.... At any rate, I've yet to see much evidence that they keep coming amounts to winning primary politics, let alone a general-election ticket to anything but failure. (Please leave counter-examples in the comments, etc.)
Here's something bizarre to think about -- if Romney gets a fatal crippling in New Hampshire, and Thompson/Hunter fold up their small tents, the biggest control-the-borders Republican left standing in the race might be ... Ron Paul?
Dave Weigel wrote a year ago about why anti-immigration conservatives fell flat in 2006. More recently Steve Chapman explained why the GOP shifted right on immigration.
Embattled former early-state front-runner (but Wyoming caucus winner!) Mitt Romney yesterday unleashed a Top 10 John McCain anti-GOP temper tantrums, a list that -- at least if your sensibility is anything like mine -- might make you more inclined to support the short-fused Arizona senator. After all, anyone who calls Pete Domenici an "asshole" and Chuck Grassley a "fucking jerk" can't be all bad, right?
Romney's trying to win a Republican primary, so maybe rounding up McCain's disparagements against the likes of Dick Cheney might have marginal value, but for my money the far more interesting and troubling aspects of Senator Hothead's hotheadedness are that: 1) He lies about it, and 2) it often comes in the form of drawn-out retaliation against those who target him with at least semi-legitimate criticism.
First the lies -- in March 2006, McCain said the following about his legendary temper to the Baltimore Sun:
Just because someone says it's there, you would have to provide some corroboration that it was. Because I do not lose my temper. I do not. ... Now do I speak strongly? Do I feel frustrated from time to time? Of course. If I didn't I don't think I would be doing my job.
But for someone to say that McCain became just angry and yelled or raised my voice or -- it's just not true. It's simply not true. ... And so, those rumors continue to circulate about - quote - temper. They're going to have to find some concrete examples of it, and they aren't there.
Why is this a lie? Well, as his hometown paper pointed out about this particular quote, "Just two days earlier, however, McCain had openly acknowledged at a forum in Scottsdale that, 'I have had a bad temper in my life.'" For a long list of McCain's own admissions about his temper (as well as a high-larious quote from his wife Cindy about how reports thereof are "fabricated"), click here. Yes, yes, all politicians lie like rugs. But running -- successfully! -- on the notion that you are preternaturally honest is an invitation/requirement that the rest of us point out when that ain't so.
The second point is far more grave and to the point in judging the man's fitness to be president. To see examples of grudges held and legitimate critics punished, look not to the fawning national press corps (which hasn't much discussed the temper issue this election cycle), but to the Arizonans who know him: Former Republic editor and publisher Pat Murphy, columnist E.J. Montini, and Phoenix New Times muckraker Amy Silverman (whose father, while he was the general manager of an Arizona hydroelectric utility, was once cornered by an enraged McCain and asked "Can't you shut your daughter up?"). As Montini once pointed out, "It's not McCain's tantrums that matter; it's what sets him off."
Such as: Criticizing his ballyhooed anti-defense-pork rhetoric as all talk, blowing the whistle on Cindy McCain's illegal drug habit, expressing irritation at the (true) fact that McCain's campaign-related absence was dooming comprehensive immigration reform, voicing dissent within the Arizona GOP, and having the temerity to suggest publicly (and accurately) that the federal government has been less than transparent regarding the Vietnam disappearance of your husband.
For more on the topic, I recommend this book.
The cover of today's Parade:
If you can't make out the text toward the top of the photo, it says, "Is Benazir Bhutto America's best hope against al-Qaeda?" I'm going to go out on a limb and say, "I sure hope not."
Police in Lima, Ohio shot and killed Tarika Wilson, a mother of six, and seriously wounded her one-year-old son during a drug raid yesterday. Police say they were investigating Wilson's boyfriend for drug distribution. They haven't yet released why the police fired (though they have said police initially fired at two pit bulls). The fact that they aren't saying so doesn't bode well. When the suspect fires first in one of these cases, that fact is generally immediately released to the newspapers.
More disturbing, the police are saying they knew there were children in the home, yet went ahead a highly volatile, forced-entry drug raid, anyway. In fact...
Police Maj. Richard Shade, a former SWAT commander for the department, said it's not unusual for children to be inside homes raided by police officers.
And therein lies yet another problem with these raids. It's bad enough that they're dangerous for cops, suspects, and people unfortunate enough to be the victim of wrong-door raids. But even when they get the correct house, there's little regard for the safety of innocent people who might be inside. Why couldn't they have nabbed this guy as he was coming or going? Why not wait for him to leave, then arrest him in his car? Why put six children and their mother in unnecessary peril?
There are far, far too many cases of innocent children, girlfriends, spouses, relatives, and visitors being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and winding up killed, injured, or arrested for mistaking raiding cops for criminal intruders.
This U.S. Postal Service is opposing a "do not mail" list for junk mail because . . . well, I'll just let them explain it:
Postal Service spokesman Al DeSarro said half of the mail his agency handles is direct marketing mail, and reducing its volume could cost thousands of Postal Service jobs.
This is terrific logic. Americans should be bothered with useless, unsolicited junk mail so that the USPS can continue to pay otherwise unneeded postal workers to deliver it. Makes sense to me.
I thus propose a federal "Agency for Digging Holes in Americans' Front Yards." Then, because of the holes-in-people's-front-yards problem that will inevitably result, I propose a second "Agency for Filling In Yard Holes."
These two agencies will create thousands of new federal jobs. And as we all know, new jobs are good for the economy.
When I got to my first hotel in New Hampshire the front page of the complimentary Union Leaders hyped the Fox News debate purge of Ron Paul. Tonight, stopping by the Paul offices to get a flavor of the mounting GOTV effort, I saw a press release from New Hampshire GOP chairman Fergus Cullen that, when I checked my e-mail, had just been sent out:
“The first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary serves a national purpose by giving all candidates an equal opportunity on a level playing field. Only in New Hampshire do lesser known, lesser funded underdogs have a fighting chance to establish themselves as national figures. Consistent with that tradition, we believe all recognized major candidates should have an equal opportunity to participate in pre-primary debates and forums.
“This principle applies to tonight’s debates on ABC as well as Sunday’s planned forum on FOX. The New Hampshire Republican Party believes Congressmen Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter should be included in the FOX forum on Sunday evening. Our mutual efforts to resolve this difference have failed.”“While we understand that FOX News continues to move forward it is with regret, the New Hampshire Republican Party hereby withdraws as a partner in this forum.”
The feeling among some (not all) Paul people is that the anti-Fox backlash has been better for them, in the long run, than 6 or 7 minutes of Paul talking on a thinly-viewed Sunday forum. More people might hear about the Paul exclusion in their newspapers than would have watched the thing. I'm not 100 percent sure: It can't be good when you're sharing nut grafs with Duncan Hunter.
Meanwhile, unless it's an outlier, this Rasmussen poll makes the exclusion look even siller. It clocks Paul at 14 percent for third place, primed to defeat Rudy Giuliani again. The average of all the tracking polls shows Paul closer to high single digits, but everyone's expecting a boost from angry, little-polled rural voters in the northern part of the state.
It starts at 7 on ABC. Discuss it here -- I may or may not be around to blog it. And I'm scrapping my idea of splitting the thread: Enjoy this one giant leviathan thread.
I ended up attending another Paul volunteer shindig at 7:30.
7:36: Ah, I'll one day miss the sound of Ron Paul fans smacking around Giuliani. He says "the war against Islamic extremism," they shout "Kill 'em all, Gulie!" He talks about his power to do so: "Forget the Constitution, right? Go back to New York!"
7:38: Charlie Gibson can't find anything to chide Ron Paul about. Big cheers at the Paul party.
7:41: The crowd here is utterly convinced that Thompson and Huckabee are stealing from Paul when they invoke the Constitution.
7:42: Well, Paul feels much the same way. "You can't pay lip service to the Constitution." Fist-pumping and yelling in the Paul bar.
7:43: Excellent cut to McCain smirking when Paul talks about foreign policy: "If we don't like them we bomb them, if we do like them we give them money."
7:45: These health care rounds are as awkward as the Democrats' Iran rounds. Giuliani proclaims we have the best health care system in the world: the bar yells "Bullshit!"
7:49: The room's response to Romney's description of Massachusetts health care: "Lies! LIES!" I'll disagree. Romney really only sounds credible when he's wonking it out about economics and health care.
7:51: A hilarious exchange between Paul and Thompson, the one man Paul is absolutely assured of beating next week. He sarcastically repeats Paul's answer and rolls it around on his tongues. "I'm just trying to slow it down so I can understand." "Keep trying," Paul says, off-camera.
7:57: I can't help but remember that fixing our health care system to focus on prevention was basically the central plank of the Natural Law Party. It's what Huckabee's saying, too.
7:58: There's the surging, populist McCain Jonathan Chait warned us/implored us to love in the early oughts.
8:00: "Don't turn the pharmacuetical companies into bad guys," Romney says. I don't think there's a political party on earth where that would be a vote-winning line, but I bet he believes it.
8:04: I don't know if the national broadcast has the same ads as the local WMUR broadcast, but we just got Joe Kennedy's ad/apology for taking Citgo oil for Citizens Energy. "This oil is from Venezuela. Some people say it's wrong to take it."
8:09: The reaction here when Giuliani mentioned ID cards was all I hoped for: "Chip! Chip! Chip! Chip in the head! Chip the animals!"
8:15: Hah! I was just about to join a conversation here about how much Rudy was talking about Reagan, like Reagan died on 9/11 or something. And then Rudy says "if Ronald Reagan was here, he'd say I paid for this microphone."
8:16: A fusion ticket moment: Fred elbows Rudy when he refuses to expel all Mexicans from the lower 48. A lone voice yells "Give 'im hell, Fred!"
8:17: He invoked Reagan to... uh... hint that he might sign an amnesty if he was president.
8:25: So far the answers on how these candidates would face Barack Obama aren't very convicing, not least because Fred Thompson can only name one interest group ("The NEA and, uh, others"). Romney says he can be the candidate of change, which has a great potential for giggles if attacked the right way.
8:27: McCain responds with some sweet Victor Von Doom cackling at Romney's answer. "I agree, you are the candidate of "change." I almost want Romney to respond by cackling back. Instead there's some quibbling about the Senate cloakroom.
8:34: Two questions in a row for Paul, about how he'd run against Obama -- he talks about the youth vote but runs over and repeats himself -- and the price of oil. Anti-war populism all over the place: "Oil was $27 a barrel when he went into Iraq to protect the oil, to take the oil!"
8:43: God, I hope somebody put bugs under that desk.
Stick around for the Democrats... I'm not blogging blow-by-blow because I'm milling around talking to Paul people. Whenever a candidate says "change," people lift their glasses and take swigs.
9:35: Clinton's big attack on Obama -- a laundry list, something she's gotten too familiar with -- is stomped on by both Obama and Edwards.
9:44: The Republican debates are more frustrating (and, typically, fun) than the Democratic debates because they're so focused on history and the past stances of the candidates. The Democrats have an inherent advantage as long as this primary goes on, because they're not really talking about what they believed in the past. The exceptional issue: Iraq. Everyone's scrambling to explain their positions before 2007 and during the surge, and Obama runs awfully quickly to the fact that he spoke out against it in 2003.
Some aircard malfunctioning and schedule blips (driving 30 minutes for a cancelled interview takes a bite out of your day) have cut down my blogging, but I've been filling notebooks since last night. Some stuff I'd like to write about in more detail later:
- Chatted with Ron Paul at a private Merrimack meeting with undecided voters. He got a softball from me about how it felt to outpoll Rudy Giuliani in Iowa: "That was the highlight of the evening." He'd been gloomy about not coming in third, and a result-tabulating temporarily gave Rudy fifth place, which dropped his jaw until staff proved it wasn't actually happening.
- Caught a Mitt Romney town hall in Derry, a low-key and low-energy affair which had empty seats at the beginning and about 20 more by the end. Romney revealed something when he tried to prove the Iowa results represented an anti-Washington vote, and Barack Obama was part of that, and then warned that "we can not afford Barack Obama as the next president." Only about a fifth of the room applauded. Very, very different than when Republican candidates say the word "Hillary." Romney almost had a Biden moment complimenting Obama: "He's a nice fella. He's a well-spoken fella.
- Ran into Whitney Gravel, wife of Mike, and Vermin Supreme, the ever-present fringe candidate whose agenda promises "friendly fascism." (Both were reason readers, so no jokes, but there's video.)
- Tagged along with Ron Paul canvassers in Amherst as they tried to turn undecided independents and Republicans over to their side. It was revealing: I'll have video of that later.
I'm not quite sure if I'll be liveblogging the ABC News/WMUR/Facebok debates tonight, but there will be two threads: one for the 7 p.m. GOP debate, one for the 9 p.m. Democratic debate.
A couple of weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an expose on W. Richard West, Jr., the founding director of the taxpayer-subsidized Smithsonian, the National Museum of the American Indian. Over the last four years, West racked up some $250,000 in globe-trotting travel expenses, hitting such obviously American Indian-relevant destinations as Athens, Bali, London, Hong Kong, Venice (four times), and Paris (12 times!).
West's defenders say his job requires outreach, and overseas travel comes with a museum director's fundraising, networking, and promotion duties. Fair enough, though that doesn't explain why when traveling on the dime of taxpayers and museum patrons, West always opted for business class airfare, first class seats on the train, and the plushest of hotel accommodations.
Now the Post reports that before West left, he commissioned a 48 x 34 portrait of himself to hang in the museum, forever reminding visitors of his legacy. The cost: $48,000. Under West's direction, the museum also spent $133,000 on a lavish going-away party for him, including $30,000 on a specially-produced DVD telling West's life story (which—and I'm just guessing, here—likely touted the splendid sacrifices West has made for a career in public service).
This is all particularly galling because by most accounts, West did a spectacularly crappy job with the museum.
Relevant factoid: Average annual income for Native Americans is about $12,900 per year.
If you'll remember, Hillary Clinton was the only Democratic candidate who didn't want to make the correction to crack/cocaine sentencing disparities retroactive.
Apparently reeling from her recent drubbing in Iowa, her campaign is now attacking Barack Obama for his opposition to federal mandatory minimums and his "liberal voting record" on criminal defendants' rights.
I'd say both of those positions make Obama sound pretty good.
Is there a single issue where Hillary Clinton doesn't support giving more power to the government? Abortion, I guess. But any others?
Nobody's paid much attention to the Wyoming caucus but it's happening today and Jim Geraghty has an explainer:
At 9 a.m. local time, Wyoming Republicans will go to 23 county seats for their caucuses. At eleven of those locations, they will be picking one convention delegate; at eleven of those locations, they will be picking alternates, and at one they will be picking one of both.
Laramie County, where the county seat is Cheyenne, will be casting for both and was awarded this bonus because their county cast the most votes for Barbara Cubin in the last Congressional election. Candidates that are picking a delegate this cycle will be picking an alternate next cycle, and vice versa.
"The way it will work is that the county chair will ask any registered Republican to write their name on a blackboard, and next to that which candidate they would support," says Tom Sansonetti, the 2008 Republican County Convention Coordinator. "There may be multiple potential delegates for each candidate, or just one, or none. Then they address the delegates and say why they support the candidate they support. And then they vote, and keep voting until someone gets 50 percent plus one." They knock off the potential delegate who came in last each time.
Discussions with local county chairs suggest the following results, or something along these lines, would not be surprising: eight delegates for Romney, two delegates for Thompson, one delegate for Ron Paul, and one delegate for Duncan Hunter.
This is the sense I get from Paul people: If it was a straight caucus they'd do well, but the Rube Goldberg voting system and requirements lean it toward more mainstream, satisfied-with-Bush Republicans.
Interesting analysis over at LewRockwell.com breaking down Iowa caucus votes per campaign appearances there.
Surprisingly, given the common belief that of course Giuliani did so disastrously in Iowa because he didn't try, he made nearly as many campaign appearances there as McCain did--35 to McCain's 38. And Paul beat Giuliani so thoroughly with far fewer personal apperances--only 27.
In fact, if these judgments were made objectively based on apperance and cash, not just Giuliani partisans' excuses for his dismal showing, it might be Paul, and not Giuliani, who seemed to be barely trying in Iowa. Giuliani, in only the first 9 months of 2007, spent $237,000 in Iowa.
I was unable to get Paul's campaign to respond to a question about how much he spent there in that period, or to find today updated spending numbers for the candidates broken down by state to the caucus day. The official FEC filings for Giuliani and Paul do have categories for "allocations of primary expenditures by state," but both are blank. If any commenters know more on this, have at it. With Giuliani's appearances exceeding Paul's by 30 percent, and Paul doing more than three times as well in the votes, would Paul's spending need to have exceeded Rudy's by more than 300 percent to add believability to the "Rudy did poorly because he didn't try" notion?
One big difference between eccentric loose cannon Paul and highly respectable frontrunner Giuliani is that Paul has oodles of non-campaign workers out there plumping for him, so official campaign cash spent isn't the best measure of real on the ground effort, so I'll give Rudy that.
In votes-per-appearance, Paul pulled 429.5 to Giuliani's 114.6. Only Huckabee beat Paul for votes per appearance.
Here from Media Matters a longer debunking of the "Giuliani didn't try in Iowa" idea.
I think one lesson is that the incredibly extended pre-campaign, with all the requisite predictions and pre-judgements about what is sure to happen, is bad for political analysts' necks, having to snap back so violently from when everyone with any sense knew it would be a Clinton-Giuliani matchup.
HENNIKER, NH - Mike Huckabee and his BFF Chuck Norris ambled into this town west of Manchester on Friday afternoon, into the smallish gymnasium of New England College. I was looking for signs of a slapdash Huckabee organization, and I found them. Activists for pesky issue groups like Divided We Fail and Clean Energy for America and Make Global Warming a Priority brought signs into the gym and held them high for the cameras -- Obama had avoided scenes like this by barring signs from being brought into his events. The posters pointing people inside were chintzy, printed on color laser printers (with white paper visible around the image) and stuck on doors with scotch tape. Reporters and voters trudged around on a vinyl mat meant to keep the floor clean,
The thing is that all of this fit the event perfectly: Huckabee's populism wouldn't be as credible if his event didn't look so ad hoc. Timothy Egan pointed this out a little while ago, arguing that it was an act that covered up the candidate's ego and high living. But it sounds credible because Huckabee really is a populist. This video from the rally shows Chuck Norris introducing the candidate with a whine about how big corporations and celebrities like him don't pay their fair share of taxes. You know who else makes that argument? Bill Clinton.
I detected a different tone to Huckabee's rhetoric than the tone he used in Iowa. Simply put, he's trying to sound like a Free Stater. And it isn't convincing. His education solution was a return to "this thing called the 10th Amendment" and local schooling. His health care solution: "I don't trust the government or the insurance companies." If you've been watching Ron Paul's ads, that will ring a bell. The next line on health care was a howler: "You live your life however you want. I'm not going to tell you how to live. That's not my plan." So says the candidate who favors a national smoking ban.
On the military: "I want our armed forces beefed up to the point that they're Chuck Norris approved."
Huckabee's crowd was modest, good enough to fill a small college's gym (your high school's gym was probably comparable), a sign that he doesn't have enough support to break into the McCain-Romney race for first. The voters who did show up, though (they trickled in for more than an hour after the event kicked off) were moved and devoted to their guy, worshipful in a way only McCain and Paul fans have been worshipful. "The best thing I can say about him is that I could introduce him as my father and be proud to show him off," said committed Huckabe backer Susie Prescott.
The mini book review is on Friday again this week. Past mini book reviews.
XXX Scumbag Party by Johnny Ryan (Fantagraphics Books, 2007).
Misery Loves Comedy by Ivan Brunetti (Fantagraphics Books, 2007).
Leading art-comics publisher Fantagraphics' two cartoon bards of offensive trash each issued new collections of their periodicals recently. Johnny Ryan’s comic book is Angry Youth; Brunetti’s, Schizo.
Johnny Ryan’s work—um….well, I can’t even really hint at much specific about it and remain within a long city block of propriety and decency. His comics are utterly degenerate and utterly hilarious, with nearly every joke relying on the punching of sexual, excretory, religious, or racial taboos.
I’m sympathetic to those who sneer at “shock comedy” for the sake of shock, but my goodness Ryan’s stuff is just...well, it’s just really, really, really funny. It pushes transgressive buttons not with grim obviousness, but with a gleefully antic grossness, with cartooning so joyously alive (while still skilled and tight) that it doesn’t feel hateful or ugly--just bursting with life-affirming awfulness.
This volume features lots of Ryan’s EveryScumbag Loady McGee and hapless sidekick Sinus O’Gynus; the adventures of two sensitive cartoonists who just weren’t made for these times trying to out-old-timey each other; an “art movie” featuring (among the only barely mentionable elements) mustard that makes you horny and a robot prostitute powered by liquid baby sent on a mission to give the Moon a venereal disease; and over a hundred pages of gut-busting offensiveness. Pre-caveat: for anyone who reads it and finds any part of it unutterably beyond the pale: I didn’t laugh at that part. Just, um, most of the other parts.
Brunetti is more serious about his offensiveness. He’s got no antic glee, just anhedonic and troubled self-hatred. Most of the pages star a grotesquely detailed figure of himself spewing bile (figuratively and literally), and stabbing out at everything about civilization, humanity, and himself he despises, including his marriage and office job.
While piece by piece not clearly intended to be “funny” per se he’s got that Celine/Notes From Underground classic lit-misanthropy thing going sharply and efficiently, but his cartoon avatar is a more feckless "character" than Bardamu or even Dostoevsky's underground man. Brunetti's misery is purely internalized and poured only into meticulous cartooning.
Sure, it's relentless and repetitive; "I can see all my flaws, magnified into monuments, surrounded by floodlights. I'm a crumbling edifice of frustation, every mistake etches onto me in a garish bas-relief. I'm overwhelmed by every stimulus, so I retreat into introversion and sink into a spiral of suicidal 'logic.' Zen nihilism. All is one, and that one is a pile of shit." That's about what he has to say, for all hundred plus pages. But still, he says it in a surprisingly entertaining way. If you are in the mood for bottomless self- and world-hatred expressed through bilous, vertiginous cartooning, Brunetti's unstoppable.
Ryan, at worst you’ll find grossly silly and perhaps feel it your duty as a humanist to be offended; Brunetti can seriously bum you out if you've ever found yourself feeling anything close to what he claims to feel every second of his life. Both of them are excellent cartoonists and together provide opportunity for fun evenings spent (preferably alone) giggling (sometimes nervously) at the abyss.
Jack Shafer, Slate's house libertarian, denounces those denouncing the New York Times hiring of neoconservative Tsar Bill Kristol. Regardless of one's opinion of Kristol's politics (and I, like Shafer, would prefer someone like Steve Chapman [whose reason columns are archived here] as the paper's second "dissident" voice), Shafer makes a pretty convincing case that, while Kristol might bomb as a columnist, it will surely be an interesting ride:
In a campaign year like this one, Kristol will capitalize on the Times imprimatur to expand his source list to include Democrats of all strips. He'll traffic in political intelligence, some of it as reliable as the CIA's WMD-Iraq findings, so caveat emptor . He'll start political feuds. He'll attack his friends and reward his enemies if it suits him. He'll stir the animals up, which was H.L. Mencken's goal. I can't promise that he'll be good, but he'll be different, he'll be interesting, and I guarantee he'll never be as bad as Roger Cohen.
More reason commentary on Kristol here.
Check your local listings for Bill Moyers Journal, but here's the big item for tonight's show, which is an interview with Ron Paul:
Perhaps the biggest surprise development of the election cycle is the grassroots potency of the Ron Paul (R-TX) campaign. Just days after raising over $4 million on the Internet in one day, the Libertarian Congressman joked during a debate:
"We're struggling to figure out how to spend the money. This country is in a revolution. They're sick and tired of what they're getting, and I happen to be lucky enough to be part of it."
Representative Paul has since broken his own fundraising record, collecting over $6 million in less than 24 hours in mid-December. Although official reports aren't due until January 31st, most analysts agree that Paul likely collected more money than any other Republican candidate in the 4th quarter.
More info here. Look for Moyers to be critical but very sympathetic to many of Paul's issues and concerns.
Is it just me, or does Ron Paul look a bit like Timothy Leary, who raised money for the Texan's LP presidential run in '88?
One of the most consistently thoughtful milbloggers has died in Iraq. This is from his farewell post, which he delivered to a co-blogger last year to be published in the event of his death:
I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support.
I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED. But if there is an afterlife, I'm telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It'll be our little secret, ok?
Olmsted was perceptive, unpredictable, and funny. May he rest in peace.
In the cover story for the January issue of Politics magazine (formerly Campaigns & Elections), Kerry Howley breaks down Iowa caucuses champ Mike Huckabee. The lede:
Pick an issue – any issue – being debated in the United States of America as we approach the 2008 elections, and Mike Huckabee can find a way to tell you that it won’t matter until we collectively slim down. Education? “Kids can’t learn,” he told Charlie Rose in November, “because they’re sick.” The economy? Obesity “will bankrupt this country,” he said in the same interview. The War on Terror? “National security,” he told me in November, “isn’t going to mean much if we have a generation of kids so physically incapacitated they can’t go to war.”
Read the whole thing here.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's quixotic campaign for tighter fuel-economy standards is, if Gov. Elliot Spitzer has his way, coming to New York. Shikha Dalmia is unimpressed.
"Owning a CD and not being arrested can sometimes be difficult. The following scenarios of CD use have been deemed acceptable by the RIAA...." Read the whole thing.
CONCORD, NH - I just watched Barack Obama give his stump speech for the first time in a couple months, and for only the second time since winning the Iowa caucuses. Hillary Clinton gets knocked for obsessing over herself in speeches -- reporters count up how many times she and her husband say "I" or "my" instead of "we." Victory has given Obama the same rhetorical tic.
High up there in his message: The amazing power of Barack Obama. He referred to himself in the third person: "They say Obama, he's a hopemonger." Early in the speech he brought some volunteers onstage and told the crowd that their job was to drive them to the polls and his job was creating voters for them to transport. So: "I am going to try to be so persuasive that a light bulb goes off in your head, you're driving back from this, and you think 'I must vote for Obama.'" He hyped the Iowa victory repeatedly as proof that the people who said "I was being naive" or "I couldn't win" just eat heaping bowls of shit. (Some attendees I talked to after the speech said Iowa's results wouldn't influence their vote; they were deciding between Clinton and Obama.)
The crowd seemed attentive but not thrilled. Lines that had drawn manic applause last night sort of rolled out there, except for a riff about "closing down Gitmo and restoring habeas corpus" and one about saving the polar ice caps: Those were the only bits that got the whole crowd of a few thousand people cheering. Also, I don't know how much I'd prioritize this skill, but Obama's attacks on his rivals were perfectly composed: Subtle enough to nod some heads in the stands, but not cutting enough to alienate the independents. Voting for Clinton would be a "gamble" because "the same old crowd" would make the same mistakes. We need to protect our kids from poisoned Chinese toys but we should have done it "four, or eight, or 12 years ago." Message: Clinton's husband poisoned your children.
Obama bothered less with Edwards, though it's news he gave him any attention at all. He smacked the candidate stuck solidly in third place for making such angry appeals and then tried to steal Edwards' "ahhh fought when my daddy worked in the mills" rhetoric: "I fought on the streets, I fought as a civil rights lawyer."
There were whopping big media folks in the crowd--E.J. Dionne, Maureen Dowd, CBS's Bob Schieffer--but my favorite fellow travellers were a couple cameramen from a local news station. They sneered up at the risers where other cameramen had already gotten the good spots, including two tykes in red shirts reporting for Scholastic News. "This is the thing that kills me," one said, "wasting space on these cameras for that Nickelodian shit."
Explorers discover an Elder Thing in the Antarctic ice:
Scientists trekking across a little visited part of Antarctica have discovered a bizarre relic of the Soviet Union is dominating the South Pole of Inaccessibility.
In the middle of nowhere -- literally the point on Antarctica furthest from the sea -- an imposing bust of revolutionary Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin peers out onto the polar emptiness....
The Scientific Traverse this week made it to the Inaccessibility Pole for New Year's Day and found a one time Soviet Union base buried under the ice.
The group's website says Soviet scientists first visited the Pole in December 1958 and built a small cabin there.
After several weeks they left, putting the bust of Lenin on top of the chimney facing Moscow.
Here he is:
[Hat tip: Bryan Alexander]
Today the National Academy of Sciences released a tidy little monograph, Science, Religion and Creationism, that elegantly rebuts creationism and its latest intellectual excrescence, intelligent design. In particular, Chapter 2 of the monograph is a great introduction to the massive amounts of scientific evidence for biological evolution. The monograph also argues that there is no necessary conflict between science and religion. To wit:
Science and religion are based on different aspects of human experience. In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation. Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities. Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science. In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.
This formulation seems to mirror biologist Stephen Jay Gould's old "two non-overlapping magisteria" argument, i.e., religion and science don't conflict because their proper subject matters never come into direct conflict. Another way this has been put is: "Science tells us how the heavens go while religion tells us how to go to heaven." As I've written before, I have strong doubts that the two non-overlapping magisteria argument actually works.
In any case, I highly recommend directing any of your friends, family members and associates who want to learn more about biological evolution to Science, Religion and Creationism (which you can download free at the NAS website).
The police chief of Killian, Louisiana, has been arrested on drug charges after exchanging guns for pain pills he said his wife needed. According to an affidavit filed in federal court, a local paper reports, "Acting Killian Police Chief Joseph Guy Crawford Jr., 38, allegedly told federal agents that his wife's prescription did not provide enough pills to keep her pain-free." The affidavit did not specify the condition from which Crawford's wife suffers, but the scenario is sadly plausible, given doctors' tendency to undertreat pain.
Crawford, who faces both state and federal charges, is accused of two illegal transactions with undercover agents: trading a 12-gauge shotgun and $40 for 30 hydrocodone pills on December 17 and trading a .38-caliber pistol and $40 for 20 doses of fake oxycodone on January 2. Under federal law, these two trades could be enough to put him in prison for 30 years, since they count as using a firearm in the course of a drug trafficking offense, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for the first offense and 25 years for subsequent offenses.
[Thanks to Daniel Archibald for the tip.]
Paul partisans note with pride that, while an average of six different polls gathered at Real Clear Politics in the week or so before the Iowa caucus had Paul at 7.3 percent, he actually ended up with a result 34 percent higher. Of course, if he only exceeds the current polls by that same amount in New Hampshire, he'll still be coming in at just under 10 percent there.
If the goal of Paul's fans is to see him win the GOP nomination, that obviously won't be good enough. With the special attention both the official campaign and the enormous mass of unconnected volunteers have given the Granite State, there's no reason to assume he'll end up doing better anywhere than there if he doesn't pull off a surprising show--at least top 3. Failing that, the specific momentum of that specific goal will be hobbled.
But one thing I've learned from watching this campaign from even before it really began is that it has exceeded this old libertarian hand's expectations every step of the way, even as it has exceeded Paul's. It has done so because such a wide range of very different people get energized and excited by Paul's basic small government message when they get a chance to hear it unfiltered--mostly via YouTube and his personal appearances.
From the Paul fans I met researching my February reason cover story, I'm reasonably confident that they will not allow their enthusiasm for that message to fade, even if Paul only grazes 10 percent in New Hampshire. Paul will probably have the money to run straight through to the convention whether he wins a state or not. I don't anticipate his fundraising will dry up even through a discouraging beginning. But things Paul told me when I interviewed him for my reason story indicate (though did not promise) that he may drop out of the GOP race when the delegate count shows it's mathematically impossible for him to win.
At that point, well, he may begin considering that which he always says he has not yet considered: some sort of third party run. (I hope he does, though I'm not confident he will.) Whether or not that happens, Paul's movement is newly and deeply engaged in small-government politics, and Paulistas are eager and ready to give their money and time in support of it.
Even if they don't amount to much more than 10 percent of early caucus and primary voters here in January 2008, that is going to mean something strange and probably wonderful for American politics down the line. Think not Goldwater in 1964, who actually and surprisingly won his party's nomination; think Goldwater in 1960, a new force selling a message rooted (mostly) in individualism and liberty and making a splash whose waves wouldn't shake the establishment for years to come--but shake it they did.
In other Paul news, immediately pre-Iowa, the Christian Science Monitor ran a very thoughtful profile that gives a picture of Young Ron Paul and explores his Austrian economics background nicely, and quotes me toward the end.
Steve Chapman will miss those negative Iowa ads. He only wishes you could see them, too.
The environmentalist website, Mongabay, is reporting an analysis in Science of a Swiss government-funded study that finds the environmental effects of leading bioenergy crops including corn, soy and palm oil may be worse than those of fossil fuels. The scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute also note that the Swiss study does not take into account the effects of biofuels on food prices which could make their effects even worse than reported. According to Mongabay:
Biofuels made from world's dominant energy crops -- including corn, soy, and oil palm -- may have worse environment impacts than conventional fossil fuels, reports a study published in the journal Science.
Analyzing recent findings from a Swiss government study on 26 types of transport biofuels, Jorn P. W. Scharlemann and William F. Laurance say that arguments in favor of some large-scale biofuels often fail to fully account for the environmental costs of production, including destruction of forests, emissions of trace greenhouse gases, and air pollution. Fuels derived from "residual products, such as biowaste or recycled cooking oil, as well as ethanol from grass or wood" may offer lower environmental costs, according to the authors.
One cautionary note: Biofuels Digest notes the Swiss government study was done by the Institute for Energy Research which has received funding from fossil fuel companies.
Instead of turning food into fuel, one technically elegant possibility is using algae to produce biodiesel by feeding it pollutants from sewage and power plants. One problem: at current estimates algae biodiesel costs $20 per gallon to produce.
NASHUA, NH - John McCain was chatting and smiling with aides in the lobby of my hotel as I checked out this morning. Yards away, the hundreds of Liberty Forum attendees were milling around, signing up for the weekend, shooting video of each other and the hotel. The two groups happily ignored one another: McCain has no votes to win from them and they have nothing to say to McCain.
On the way to the credentials table I ran into Bernard von NotHaus -- still a free man -- and the arguable frontrunner for the LP nomination, George Philles. "In November i think there will be only one candidate on the ballot whom libertarians can support," he said. "That's why we need a strong nominee." I asked him about his criticism of LP leadership, who've been asking Ron Paul to run. "He's a sitting Republican congressman, so the rules wouldn't permit it. If the rules changed and Ron Paul ran, I would mount a very hard campaign against him. He's not a perfect libertarian. He has real differences with libertarians on issues like abortion."
I'm struck by the realism of the Free State Project people and LP candidates, people not exactly taken seriously by mainstream New Hampshire politicos. While the full-time Paul volunteers are still hoping to win the New Hampshire primary -- lots of talk about that independent vote in Iowa -- Philles talked about harnassing the support of Paul's movement, after someone else wins the GOP nomination. Will Buchanan, who's moving from Hawaii to join the project (and walking coast-to-coast to do so), is volunteering for Paul, but he's more interested in the long-term effect Paul will have on "the freedom movement" than how many votes he'll get on Tuesday.
reason cover boy (well, author of a cover story) David Harsanyi has a new column up at The Denver Post that draws on recent Gallup Poll data which finds that about 80 percent of Americans are "satisfied" with their personal lives while "more than 70 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the 'wrong direction'" when it comes to politics.
We don't like anyone in Washington. Many have pointed to this paradox as a way to dismiss the notion that we're truly happy at all.
Those folks, apparently, can't understand that only a minority derive happiness from government or politics. And, for the most part, those people are typically office holders taking great gratification in making the rest of us miserable.
The average American can compartmentalize their personal uncertainties and the troubles of the world. They have their own plan for the future - and presidential candidates have little to do with it....
Rather than uncovering a schizophrenic American, perhaps all this polling is evidence of a collectively even-keeled population. We don't like D.C., but we're perfectly happy with our lot.
Brian Doherty hung out with hangdog John Kerry fans after the 2004 election and counseled the sad sacks to remember there's a life beyond politics.
I gave a cheer to the "vanishing voter"--a.k.a. folks too busy to define themselves via partisan politics--back in 2000.
And for god's sake (and especially in a presidential election season), everyone should read Morris P. Fiorina's excellent Culture War?: The Myth of a Polarized America.
Jesse blogged last night about the one group of Iowa Caucus voters that Paul won: independents. That comforted some of the Paul people I talked to, but it would have been warmer comfort if, say, Hillary Clinton had won the caucuses. The belief around here is that there is an angry, mobile vote for "change," You hear it on talk radio, too, pissed-off voters who voted for Buchanan in 1992 and 1996 and McCain in 2000 who believe in "the establishment" and want very dearly to burn it down. If Obama didn't look viable they might vote for Paul: They see both candidates as unnaturally honest and straightforward. But Obama is viable, and these voters see a chance to both 1)make a difference instead of a statement and 2)end the craven Clinton campaign. (On the drive to Manchester's Elm St you can see a frightening Soviet realist billboard for Hillary, a glamorous profile of the candidate and gigantic letters spelling "READY.")
The Paul people whose canvass lists include independent voters say they're finding more and more support for Obama and precious little for Clinton. They're of two minds about this. They like the idea of Clinton going down, obviously. But most of them say she's the easiest Democrat to beat, a poll-driven Frankenstein who's taken the wrong position on the war. And, as stated above, they want every angry voter in the state to discover Paul, feeling that once they do they'll be locked in.
The network and bloggy coverage of Iowa has been completely fatalistic about Clinton. I'd normally call that silly: This was the first caucus, she's going to retool her campaign, Obama has to face frontrunner heat for the first time. But I'm startled at how many events that were supposed to boost Clinton completely failed to. The Des Moines Register endorsements actually boosted McCain more than it boosted her. The hostage situation was supposed to refocus attention on her. The resilience of the "Obama's a Muslim" smear was supposed to help her. The Bhutto assassination was supposed to help her, too, but most Iowans who said it was "somewhat" or "very" important voted for Obama. If endorsements and events that were supposed to move the ground for her didn't, what kind of campaign tactics will bring her back? Blistering attack ads? I'd believe that if Romney's blitz against Huckabee hadn't just failed so humiliatingly.
A brief non-political item that may well have more to do with how we're living in 2009 than whether Obama Huckabee is president:
On Jan. 2, the mail-order movie rental company said it struck a deal with consumer-electronics maker LG Electronics to develop and market a set-top box that would let Netflix users stream movies straight to their TVs.
Netflix alreadys allows computer users to stream about 6,000 of its 90,000 titles onscreen--a great service hampered only by its relatively slim pickings and crappy search function (come to think of it, those are two major drawbacks).
We've been discussing this sort of culture-on-demand world for decades at reason and it's always heartwarming to see it inching closer. Especially as the grim political season gets into full swing.
Will Operation Live Free or Die deliver a Ron Paul miracle? Dave Weigel files a dispatch from New Hampshire.
Chip Bok dons a hospital gown and pencils the latest Friday Funny.
The best news for Ron Paul tonight might be his showing among independents. On the Democratic side, independent voters overwhelmingly preferred Barack Obama: According to the data presently posted at CNN's site, he got 41% of their support, well ahead of John Edwards' 28%. In the Republican contest, their favorite was Paul: CNN says he got 29% of the independent vote, compared to 23% for his nearest rival, John McCain.
Is that good tidings for New Hampshire? Maybe—or maybe it just means they'll turn out for Obama instead of voting in the Republican race. Stay tuned.
[Via Andrew Sullivan.]
Listening to Iowa almost-winner John Edwards' concession speech about how "corporate greed has got a stranglehold on America" reminded me of nothing so much as my first Ralph Nader press conference in 2000, when I covered him for a now-defunct lefty website called WorkingForChange.com. From that first dispatch:
"Hundreds of billions of dollars are stolen from Americans every year, as a result of corporate and white-collar fraud, and tens of thousands of Americans are injured or lose their lives each year, because of corporate negligence, or corporate criminality," said Nader, who used the words "corporate" or "corporation" at least 57 times in less than one hour.
It strikes me as a little-remarked phenomenon in this election that, for the first time since maybe 1988, the Democrats are running a serious candidate with an essentially Naderite worldview on the evils of Corporate Greed. I haven't paid much attention to the Blue Team so far -- the Red crack-up being so much more entertaining -- but whenever I do I hear some Democrat espousing economic-policy ideas (hatin' on corporations, hi-fivin' Lou Dobbs on trade) much further to the left of Howard Dean in 2004, Bill Bradley in 2000, and Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
With the one-day Hucka-BOO-yah on the GOP side, the big winner in Iowa tonight seems to be illiberal economic populism.
I have to confess I'm enjoying Mike Huckabee's victory, even though I disagree with virtually all of his platform. Mitt Romney represents everything Americans hate about politicians: the empty man hungry for power and willing to say anything to get it, the privileged man who thinks he can buy an election without actually standing for anything. Intellectually I know I should prefer him to Huckabee. I'd rather my rulers be driven by personal ambition than by ideology, except in those rare cases where their principles bear some resemblance to mine. But for now I'm happy to let my visceral reaction to Romney rule my mood. If I can't have optimism, then at least I can have schadenfreude. If politics were a 1980s teen gross-out comedy, Mitt would be the Alpha Beta frat and the Iowa caucuses would be the revenge of the nerds.
DERRY, NH - John McCain and Joe Lieberman just wrapped up a town hall in this town south of Manchester. It's the first time I've seen McCain stump and answer questions outside of DC since 2000, when he came to my alma mater, and I'll admit it, I see how he wins people over: He tussled for four minutes with a pushy anti-Iraq war voter who kept asking him when we could leave Iraq.
"We're still in South Korea," McCain said. we still have troops in Bosnia. I'm worried about U.S. casualties, not U.S. presence."
The questioner pushed back, and McCain got a little tougher: "If we had left six months ago, I would look you in the eye today and tell you al Qaeda had won. They would had forced us out and claimed victory. Six months ago people who were saying what you're saying said the surge would fail. Well, it has succeeded."
So the questioner asked how long McCain would keep troops in Iraq: "The president says we might be there for 50 years." "Maybe 100," McCain said. "We still have bases in South Korea."
After all of this the questioner still wanted to ingratiate himself with McCain. "I just want to say, I hope you kick Romney's ass." McCain chortled. "I knew there was a reason I called on you!" He moved on to softer terrain while praising the questioner for the tussle: "This kind of discussion is important. This is what we need to have."
I don't know how to characterize Lieberman's role in the forum: He wasn't a good cop or a bad cop as much as a McCain apologist. After a question on immigration Lieberman leaned into his mic and said "I was there during the immigration debate, and the idea that John McCain supported any kind of amnesty is a lie." This despite Lieberman being, uh, a supporter of amnesty. The rest of his comments painted a beautiful future where Lieberman-like Democrats and McCain-like Republicans weld their desks together and agree on things. I was waiting in the exit in front of Lieberman's path out, so I asked him a question about the fellow Connecticut senator who campaigned for Ned Lamont in 2006.
"If Chris Dodd drops out of the race and he made a run for majority leader, would you support him?"
Lieberman frowned and turned away, then looked back at me with his mouth half-open. "He's a good guy."
I've got a bunch of friends in Iowa reporting out the race, and the storylines I've heard from them all are:
- Hillary Clinton has the smartest people in the Democratic
primary working for her, and if it wasn't for them she'd already be
out of this.
- Ron Paul's organization is tight and energetic, and they're turning out all their caucusgoers.
- Fred Thompson's campaign events have been small and sluggish.
- Barack Obama headed off an Edwards surge as some of the second-tier candidates told their supporters to back him as their second choices. (In the Democratic race, if your candidate doesn't get 15 percent of the room you caucus for someone else.)
- Democratic excitement is palpable. Republican excitement is non-existent.
Based on that, my incredibly safe predictions:
Democrats (final votes, including second choices)
Barack Obama 32
John Edwards 30
Hillary Clinton 27
Joe Biden 5
Bill Richardson 4
The others 2
Mitt Romney 31
Mike Huckabee 29
Ron Paul 13
John McCain 11
Fred Thompson 9
Rudy Giuliani 5
The others 4
Of course, no one is watching all the candidates. It's all about the storylines for Obama, Clinton, Romney, Huckabee, and McCain. The only way Paul breaks into the headlines is if he beats the allegedly surging McCain and Thompson, although a McCain loss would be brushed off and a Thompson loss portrayed as the end of his campaign. (Reporters seem to be craving a McCain win in New Hampshire, for the amazing comeback story as much as anything.)
Post your predictions or gossip in the comments. I'll be at Murphy's Taproom in Manchester watching the caucues with a very optimistic Paul crowd, and will be liveblogging from there.
UPDATE: Liveblogging, commence!
8:30: Nestled in at the bar and talking to Paulites who are restlessly catching CNN harp on the Democratic race. They liked an "entrance poll" that showed Hillary up: "She's the easiest to beat."
8:32: This must be the only Republican party that's tuned in to CNN and not Fox News. I'm listening more to the exit poll questions than the miniscule precinct results. Huge female turnout sounds good for Clinton while the fact that voters prioritized "change" over "experience" sounds good for Obama... and the low percentage of independent voters sounds bad for Obama. I'm not hearing as much about the GOP...
8:38: A lot of derision here at the way CNN is leaving a big white pie piece in the chart where the Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, and Duncan Hunter vote should be.
8:48: More data, finally, and Paul's at 10 percent: A lot of relieved cheers at this party. But CNN is still showing that blank piece. As to the Democrats, Kos reports that the early counties are rural John Edwards counties, which bodes really poorly for him -- he's in a dead heat as the Clinton and Obama counties start to come in.
8:50: From the party: "We can come in eleventy-millionth place as long as we beat Giuliani!" They're screaming and clapping whenever a county result shows Paul clobbering Rudy.
8:56: CNN projects a Huckabee victory. There are some quiet boos and yells of "Huuuckster!"
9:04: There's gloating about Romney's defeat ("All those millions! His poor kids!") and a few cheers when Obama pulls ahead of Hillary and Edwards. I ask a "hard-right Republican" named Pete why he cheered. "I just want the crime family out of there," he says, referring to the Clintons. "Obama's a hard lefty but as long as we don't have the Clintons running we can have a battle of ideas. We can talk about the Constitution."
9:20: If the Democratic results keep up - Clinton literally tied with Edwards but only margin-of-error tied with Obama - it doesn't exactly look like a three way tie. It looks like a clear Obama win.
9:27: And NBC News calls for Obama. This is better for him than it is for Huckabee - Hillary and Edwards are so bunched up he can declare his victory before they can claim second place.
9:36: I'm uncomfortable predicting too much when the GOP race for third is so close, but I think McCain has little to worry about even if he slips behind Ron Paul. Romney is utterly humiliated: I'm going to have to check out one of his New Hampshire events to see how many advance men it takes to prop up his corpse. This is the expectation game. It doesn't matter that Romney doubled McCain's vote, it mattered that McCain was able to strut onstage and make fun of his effort to "buy the election."
9:39: People who won't be vice president: Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa whose mighty operation was enough to win the Democratic frontrunner third place. Also Ted Strickland, the governor of Ohio who trashed the Iowa caucuses to a reporter merely days ago. People who might be: Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, for handing their votes to Obama. (So did Kucinich but his nomination as VP is less likely, let's say.)
9:46: Huge catcalls for Giuliani when he arrives on CNN (his reward for losing to Ron Paul?): A voice behind me blares "Fuck you, fucker!" And there's some grumbling about how Wolf Blitzer referred to Paul's 7,800 votes as "seven thousand" and Giuliani's 2,700 as "almost three thousand."
9:55: The Paul party is sort of starting to disperse. A key hope of the volunteers is dying tonight: The hope that there were thousands of voters who the polls were missing but would turn out for Paul. He's only winning as many votes as the polls suggested he would. So he's set to keep scoring high single digits or low double digits unless something incredible happens - maybe Newt Gingrich enters the race, quits, and endorses Paul on the way out.
9:58: Just as I typed that I joined a conversation on Paul's percentage, already in progress. "I was hoping for 15, 17 percent" said a Pittsburgh volunteer named Bill. Frank, a campaign worker who came here with Operation Live Free or Die, is more optimistic: "That much of the Republican vote, that's Perot territory." Dun-dun-dun-dunnnnn.
10:04: I'm by no means the first person to say this, but here's the key difference between the parties tonight. Half of Democrats look at this picture and feel neutral; half of them look at it and feel elated. Half of Republicans look at his picture and feel worried; one-quarter feel enraged; one-quarter are happy, but it's that bitter, Kurt Russell dropping the truck on the bad guy in Breakdown kind of happy. If they weren't Christians they'd be flipping the bird.
10:24: No surprise, John Edwards tried to steal some Obama thunder by proclaiming "a victory over the status quo." He cheers up the crowd by telling stories of poor people who have it worse then them.
10:30: Laughs, jeers and catcalls when Hillary Clinton zooms onto the screen to concede. One Paulite grabs a Hillary sign and jumps up and down in front of the TV: "Hillary! Hillary! She's the easiest to beat!" The room picks it up. "Ron Paul can beat her!" "Ron Paul can beat anybody!" There's a whole lot of joy (and some pointing) at the sad Bill Clinton next to Hillary... when's the last time he had to stand on a concession stage?
10:33: Did Clinton promise to leave no child behind?
10:41: Like Stephen Spruiell reported today, the lefty netroots have made a long, curious march away from Barack Obama to John Edwards. There was plenty of enthusiasm for Obama in late 2006 and early 2007, it tempered over the course of the year, and in the last weeks Paul Krugman has led a pile-on of Obama for (among other things) not covering everyone in his health care plan, attacking trial lawyers, and arguing that Gore and Kerry had been too divisive. But since Edwards has narrowly moved past Hillary in Iowa I don't think there'll be a rush back to Obama. Edwards won his biggest-ever margin in the Daily Kos straw poll yesterday.
At the Guardian's Comment is Free blog, Affluenza author Oliver James bemoans the rise of "Selfish Capitalism" (James's capitalization) which, he argues, is making us flat-screen television-obsessed Westerners "mentally ill." James claims, without offering any convincing data, that those living in the generous welfare states of Western Europe—whom he ridiculously calls practitioners of "Unselfish Capitalism"—are much less likely to suffer from depression than their counterparts in England and the United States. James doesn't provide a definition of "mental illness" or sources for his data, though it is, of course, likely that the "nationally representative studies in the United States, Britain and Australia" he vaguely references employ very different definitions and standards of what it means to be "mentally ill." And one could obviously argue that the American data set represents not an epidemic of illness but an epidemic of overdiagnosis. Regardless, James says that his case is rather more nuanced than a simple correlation between income inequality and depression:
In itself, this economic inequality does not cause mental illness. WHO studies show that some very inequitable developing nations, like Nigeria and China, also have the lowest prevalence of mental illness. Furthermore, inequity may be much greater in the English-speaking world today, but it is far less than it was at the end of the 19th century. While we have no way of knowing for sure, it is very possible that mental illness was nowhere near as widespread in, for instance, the US or Britain of that time.
This is absurd. James argues that the supposed "commercialization" of society, creating an insatiable appetite for consumption, is driving those who, say, can't afford an iPhone into fits of debilitating illness. But he speculates, without a shred of evidence, that in the 19th century the English-speaking world—a world of enormous hardship and disease—was a happier epoch. If you couldn't bank on extending life past a 50th birthday, I suppose it wouldn't be too depressing when your parents die at 40. But health and longevity don't feature in his argument; he simply wants the government to be the arbiter of "when you already have enough income to meet your fundamental psychological needs."
It's worth reading (or rereading) Will Wilkinson in reason's December issue, in which he convincingly demonstrates that the "alleged epidemic of depression [in the United States] simply doesn't exist":
According to [The Loss of Sadness authors] Horwitz and Wakefield, "There are no obvious circumstances that would explain a recent upsurge in depressive disorder." The ranks of the depressed are bulging, they argue, because the clinical category fails to make the elementary distinction between normal, functional sadness and true mental disorder. The depression data are littered with false positives-jilted lovers, white-collar workers who missed out on a promotion, and kids nobody asked to the prom. People who are suffering but aren't sick.
Full review here.
The Hartford Advocate's Jennifer Abel, better known and beloved by H&R commenters as "Jennifer," tries hard yet fails to find any of the 404 congresscritters who voted in favor of a new terrorism-is-a-hate-crime sorta bill to defend it or even explain what the thing enables law enforcement to do. Excerpt:
What is this Bill of Mystery, that Congresspeople will vote for yet not discuss? It's called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, also known as HR 1955, and one of the first things it says is that "Congress finds ... The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to ... terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens."
The bill also says that "preventing the potential rise" of individual domestic terrorists like Tim McVeigh "cannot be easily accomplished solely through traditional federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts."
Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich were opposed. Whole story here, and thanks to alert commenter "NoStar" for the link.
I grabbed all the direct mail and fliers I could find in the
Concord, NH, Ron Paul HQ, and I'll share this one to prove that
Paul is never shy about playing the pro-life doctor card. (UPDATE:
Yes, the message is more about the world President Paul would leave
your children, but the back text mentions how many babies he's
delivered. You're meant to read between the lines.)
They're making different arguments to different voters. Here's the rough text of the message volunteers were phonebanking on yesterday, hitting voters who, according to their data, are anti-tax and anti-spending.
In his latest Foxnews.com column, Radley Balko warns that you needn't make your living playing Texas Hold 'Em to worry about the Internet gambling ban.
The D.C. Examiner
waxes indignant at Joe Kennedy's latest series of radio and TV
commercials, in which he
shills for a thug
dictator offers heating assistance to America's poor,
courtesy of "our friends in Venezuela."
He never mentions Chavez, nor does he explain why Venezuela, with a 2007 per capita gross domestic product of just $6,900 (less than Croatia or Belarus) would send highly discounted oil to a country with a per capita GDP of $43,500.
This is the same Chavez who expropriated U.S.-owned oil firms, then gave sweetheart deals to Chinese and Russian energy companies. He has repealed basic freedoms of press and speech, and was just barely prevented recently from becoming president for life.
The Examiner editorial also ponders why the born-into-wealth Kennedy takes a $400,000 annual salary to head up a non-profit whose alleged purpose is to provide heating fuel to the poor and elderly. I'd guess that $400K would heat quite a few homes, wouldn't it?
We all know and justly honor the sacrifices that the men and women in uniform make to protect liberty. But a good argument can be made that a free press may be even more vital to sustaining liberty. As Thomas Jefferson noted in 1816:
"The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe."
Sixty-five journalists were killed in direct relation to their work in 2007, according to the year-end report of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Seventy percent of them were murdered. Thirty-two died while reporting in Iraq.
Go to the CPJ link listing those who died trying to report the news in 2007 here.
Disclosure: I make a small annual donation to support the
The BBC reports:
The Little Red Book and other publications continue to produce royalties for Mao's estate more than 30 years after his death.
An article published in the magazine Literary World of Party History laid out just how much Mao has earned from his writing.
It said that in 1967 he was worth 5.7 million yuan ($780,000, £400,000) from books printed in Chinese, English, Russian, French, Spanish and Japanese.
But that figure, including interest, had risen to 130 million yuan ($17.6m, £8.8m) by 2001. The article did not say how much the estate is worth now.
I knew that old commie had the heart of a canny money manager when I heard that the leftist folksinger Phil Ochs had reprinted some of Mao's nonpolitical poetry on an album sleeve. Just for the hell of it, Ochs sent the chairman a check for the rights to the verses. To the singer's surprise, the check was cashed.
Mao's heirs would like to dip into the Helmsman's hoards, but China's cabinet
decided to uphold an earlier decision not to give the money to Mao's relatives because his writings were not his own, but the "crystallisation of the party's collective wisdom".
Insert Randian rant here about collectivist second-handers taking credit for a great man's solitary creation.
In a somewhat unnerving speculation, Jim Henley wonders whether Osama Bin Laden's plan all along might have had little to do with the United States--and everything to do with Pakistan's nukes.
Scott Horton of Antiwar.com and an anonymous Marine non-com officer engaged in a long, detailed, and surprisingly polite exchange of e-mail debates on American foreign policy. The correspondence pulls together the sensible sides of the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East very well (and at great length), and is worth reading in full.
MANCHESTER, NH - Oh, the joys of not being in Iowa right now. With no candidates turfing this state today, I got to spend the morning with about 20 members and friends of the Free State Project, the effort to move at least 20,000 libertarians into New Hampshire to mold the state into a Rothbardian garden of Eden. At 8:30 we met in a hotel lobby, and at 8:45 we piled into a school bus ("Nothing says liberty like a school bus!") and puttered off to the Manchester Firing Range. On the way out of the hotel the bus passed by the Straight Talk Express, a reminder that John McCain's buoyed campaign will be taking over the hotel when the Free Staters leave.
I sort of expected everyone to have some skills with firearms, but the group was bisected: Half the crowd was inexperienced, half the crowd brought their own guns or other equipment. Management tried to sooth the novices, explaining the kick they could expect from the different weapons: "The glock kick is like pattycake with a small, strong child." One FSer brought homemade .45 shells for his Lincoln 11, which wasn't working as smoothly as it used to. "This group is half people who want to learn to shoot and half people who are kind enough to teach them," said Free Stater Jon Maltz.
I had planned to interview the Free Staters in between shots (BLAM! BLAM! "It wasn't until I read Human Action that I really understood the economic system." BLAM! BLAM!) but we had industrial strength headgear and restrictions on filming the events. So I did most of my talking on the bus to and from the event and milling around. Bill Alleman, who blogs and posts videos under the name NHBikerBill, laughed about the Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton ads that trumpet their work for average schlubs ("He saved my daugher! She unclogged my toilet!") and argued that only Paul's got truly excited supporters.
"Nobody wants to vote for Romney or those other guys, but there are these voters who vote out of habit: Oh, there's an election, I'd better decide. Why should those votes count as much as votes for Ron Paul?" Bill shook his head. "You listen to him and you say 'This is how it should be, goddamn it!'
Watch reason's Nick Gillespie faceoff with Bill O'Reilly over Ron Paul's bid for the White House.
Here is something you don't see every day: an AIDS researcher calling for less spending on AIDS. In a New York Times op-ed piece, Daniel Halperin, a senior research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, suggests that politicians who criticize President Bush for seeking "only" $30 billion over five years to fight AIDS don't know what they're talking about:
Even the current $15 billion in spending represents an unprecedented amount of money aimed mainly at a single disease.
Meanwhile, many other public health needs in developing countries are being ignored.
Halperin argues that more lives could be saved by reallocating money earmarked for AIDS to less fashionable causes, such as prevention and treatment of the diarrheal diseases that are a major cause of mortality in Africa. The "rigid focus on AIDS," he says, has led to a deadly waste of resources:
This year [Botswana] will receive about $300 million to fight AIDS—in addition to the hundreds of millions already granted by drug companies, private foundations and other donors. While in that sparsely populated country last month, I learned that much of its AIDS money remains unspent, as even its state-of-the-art H.I.V. clinics cannot absorb such a large influx of cash.
As the United States Agency for International Development's H.I.V. prevention adviser in southern Africa in 2005 and 2006, I visited villages in poor countries like Lesotho, where clinics could not afford to stock basic medicines but often maintained an inventory of expensive AIDS drugs and sophisticated monitoring equipment for their H.I.V. patients. H.I.V.-infected children are offered exemplary treatment, while children suffering from much simpler-to-treat diseases are left untreated, sometimes to die.
The Volokh Conspiracy has an interesting roundup of presidential primary endorsements from "libertarianish" law profs. Biggest surprise for me was former FEC chair Brad Smith's full-throated libertarian case for ... Mitt Romney. The pro-Paul position is manned by David Beito and Scott Horton. And, humorously enough, the Volokh-in-Chief says: "We tried contacting someone we know who supports McCain, but didn't hear back from him, nor did we hear back from the campaign when we e-mailed them to ask whether they could recommend someone (though we'd then have to figure out whether that someone matches our criteria)."
This bit from Smith jumped out:
Libertarians must understand that the Democratic nominee is going to be committed to a substantial growth in government[.]
Smith's 2005 reason piece attacking McCain's "war on political speech" can be found here.
This New York Times story about the Illinois smoking ban, which took effect on Tuesday, is striking for what it leaves out: In close to 600 words, there's no mention of protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. Instead the emphasis is on protecting smokers from themselves:
"The country has really become quite aware of the dangers of smoking over the past five years," said Kevin B. Tynan, an official with the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. "We've had a thorough discussion. And even smokers recognize the real dangers."
Given all the publicity the hazards of smoking have received in the last four decades (you may have noticed warning labels on cigarette packages, for instance), it's weird that Tynan thinks the great awakening has occurred so recently. Still, he's talking about "the dangers of smoking," not the dangers of secondhand smoke. He and his fellow activists expect that smokers, left with virtually nowhere indoors to light up in the dead of winter, will be driven to quit:
Health advocacy groups are providing quit-smoking help, including squeeze balls to relieve stress. The Respiratory Health Association offered 25-cent bounties for unwanted ashtrays; 350 had been collected by Tuesday.
Advocates of strict bans said they had been shown to help reduce smoking and had not, generally, resulted in slowdowns for businesses, as some had feared.
For anti-tobacco activists and public health officials, the main goal of smoking bans has always been to reduce cigarette consumption. This is where the real "public health" payoff is, since the risks associated with smoking are much bigger than the risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke. Most Americans, however, are not eager to save smokers from themselves, although they don't like being around tobacco smoke. Smoking ban promoters therefore have emphasized the bystander protection rationale, which makes these laws look like a classic public health intervention (especially if you conflate "public places" such as bars and restaurants with public property). It seems they no longer feel a need to pretend.
Another sign of the times: The story notes that "smoking is still allowed in homes," which is not something you can take for granted anymore.
American University's Center for Social Media director Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi, co-director of AU's law school’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property have issued an intriguing report, Recut, Reframe, Recycle. That report argues that the "fair use" of copyrighted films, videos, songs, and books applies to private citizens in the blogosphere. The authors discuss nine areas in which fair use can be appropriately asserted, including satire, negative commentary, positive commentary, quoting for discussion, illustrating a point, incidental use, personal reportage, archiving of vulnerable materials, pastiche or collage (mash-ups). They argue:
Fair use is the part of copyright law that permits new makers, in some situations, to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying the owners. The courts tell us that fair use should be “transformative”—adding value to what they take and using it for a purpose different from the original work. So when makers mash up several works—say, The Ten Commandments , Ben-Hur and 10 Things I Hate about You , making Ten Things I Hate about Commandments —they aren’t necessarily stealing. They are quoting in order to make a new commentary on popular culture, and creating a new piece of popular culture.
Unfortunately, this emerging, participatory media culture is at risk, with new industry practices to control piracy. Large content holders such as NBC Universal and Viacom, and online platforms such as MySpace and Veoh are already crafting agreements on removing copyrighted material from the online sites. Legal as well as illegal copying could all too easily disappear. Worse still, a new generation of media makers could grow up with a deformed and truncated notion of their rights as creators.
Link to the AU report, including a bunch of interesting videos to illustrate their points, here.
Mississippi's Forrest Allgood edged out U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan in the "Worst Prosecutor of 2007" poll I put up up at TheAgitator.com earlier this week.
But what about the good prosecutors?
Here's one very good one: Dallas County, Texas District Attorney Craig Watkins.
Last year, Watkins took the reins of an office that had long had been soiled by legendary lawman Henry Wade, hero to law-and-order, James Q. Wilson-types throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Wade took a strident, string-em-up, conviction-at-all-costs approach to law enforcement. When he retired in 1986, the Dallas Morning News released a memo Wade's office issued to city attorneys instructing them, "Do not take Jews, Negroes, Dagos, Mexicans or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or how well educated," when it comes to jury selection. The memo was first issued in the 1960s, but still circulated as late as 1976.
The man who now inhabits Wade's old office couldn't be a starker contrast. Watkins made history last year as Dallas' first black district attorney, and immediately went about undoing the remnants of Wade's legacy.
After his election, Watkins instituted significant reforms to the way Dallas fights and prosecutes crime, including major changes to the way police conduct lineups and interrogate suspects. He stopped the inexplicable tradition of destroying death penalty files after conviction, which is often a barrier to DNA-based innocence claims down the line. He fired overly aggressive subordinates, and caused still more to resign in protest or frustration.
But most notably, Watkins not only hasn't fought innocence and wrongful conviction claims, he's been seeking them out, correctly understanding that a prosecutor's job isn't to see how many people he can throw in prison, it's to work toward the fair administration of justice.
Watkins set up his own task force to work with the Texas Innocence Project to investigate wrongful conviction claims. His is the only DA's office in the country to work directly with an Innocence Project chapter. Since 2001, 13 people in Dallas County alone have been exonerated and released from prison after DNA testing. Watkins' task force will now look at 350 more cases. Dallas now has the highest exoneration rate in the country, and trails only New York and L.A. in total exonerations. Watkins' efforts means those numbers are only likely to grow.
Watkins' efforts have also aided by an odd anomaly: Because Dallas has long outsourced most of its lab work, it's one of the few jurisdictions in the country where biological evidence has been preserved (despite the best efforts of the city's prosecutors over the years). So testable DNA evidence exists for cases from well before DNA technology came into being. (Another argument for using multiple, independent labs in forensics testing.) Consequently, Watkins and the Texas Innocence Project can go back much further to investigate innocence claims than other jurisdictions.
So in the one county in America that has preserved DNA evidence going back to the 1980s, and in one of only a few where the district attorney's office is an asset to innocence claims instead of a roadblock, we're seeing much, much higher exoneration rates than we're seeing in the rest of the country. I'm going to go out on a limb, here, and guess that this isn't mere coincidence.
Watkins deserves a ton of credit for what he's done in Dallas. He's not only correcting the mistakes of his predecessors, he's putting in institutional reforms to cut down on mistakes in the future. We need more prosecutors like him.
NOTE: Two grammatical fixes made to above post. Thanks to commenters for pointing them out. And in the several months I've been following Watkins, two more people have been exonerated in Dallas. So the number's now 15, not 13.
Washington State has a law allowing prosecutors to impose a special homicide charge on people who supply drugs to overdose victims. The problem is that the law itself may be causing more overdose deaths.
The state of Washington's position is clear: If someone calls 911 when a friend is overdosing, not only does the witness risk charges for possessing or selling drugs (which 911 callers in these situations have feared since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act), but he or she could be charged with homicide, too. The end result? Overdose victims—who might survive with prompt medical care—may be abandoned and left to die.
"It goes in the wrong direction and cuts against overdose prevention, overdose reporting, and taking someone to the hospital," says defense attorney Hiatt. "If I give you the drugs, I'll be less likely to take you to the hospital."
When you think about how the law would be applied, it's far more likely to catch teens and college kids who share illicit drugs with friends making just such a decision than it is to catch any major drug dealer. I doubt many people overdose with their dealers, or leave behind strong evidence of where they obtained their drugs. But it's pretty likely that young people would share drugs among friends, then worry about what to do when one of them ingests too much. This law will make them less likely to get emergency medical care. Which means it's likely to cause more deaths than it prevents.
In the cover story from our February issue, and just in time for the Iowa caucuses, Brian Doherty reports from the trenches of the Ron Paul revolution.
Tired of the real campaign news (such as the predictable but finally confirmed Fred suicide watch), I wondered how Alan Keyes' potemkin bid for the White House was doing. I will say this: He has some interesting priorities. On Wednesday morning:
He was the last man to enter the 2008 presidential race and now with one day until the caucus, Alan Keyes continues his campaign stops in Iowa. Tuesday, Keyes toured through northwest Iowa.
Keyes' campaign recently asked the committee that set the Feb. 19 [Wisconsin] ballot to reconvene so it could include Keyes' name on the ballot. But members of the committee -- made up of legislative leaders and officials from the state Democratic and Republican parties -- have declined the request.
In a Dec. 26 letter to members of the committee, Keyes campaign attorney James N. Clymer said if Keyes weren't put on the ballot, the "campaign will have no alternative but to initiate legal action against the individuals on the committee."
If he actually did this, he will have filed more lawsuits than attended campaign events.
GILFORD, NH - I'm at one of Operation Live Free or Die's 14 houses for Ron Paul volunteers - the "bases" that will (they hope) overflow with 400 people, canvassing, phone banking, and turning out votes. Ages range from 20 to 40 (not rounding up or down, those are the youngest and oldest people), and everybody shares food, frozen beers (warmed on a radiator) and parking space, recently reduced by a mountain of snow. No one has an unkind word.
"I've never seen a group this big and diverse get along so well," says Anthony Reed, the 20-year old from Fort Worth.
"It's the smartest group of people I've talked to in a long while," says John Nulty, a Massachusetts grad student. "Not since I was staying in youth hostels, touring Europe."
This house is set far, far away from the populous part of New Hampshire (that's a relative term), close to the Gunstock resort and nestled among dozens of similar spacious rental cabins. You'd guess a Bible study group was bunking here if not for the open bottles of Sam Adams and pale ale or the Rothbard and Ron Paul books splayed open on coffee tables. There's also a stack of mini-Constitutons: Nulty brags that the Operation bought the Cato Institute's entire supply.
Few of the volunteers got here before December, but all of them have canvassed and report that it's a lot more effective than phone-banking. They go to small towns where, according to the locals, no Republican campaign has bothered sending troops. Yesterday Indiana musician Aaron Jones hit 30 houses and gave 9 signs to people who claimed they'd warmed to Paul. They're an optimistic group and they have no love for the rest of the GOP field. When Mitt Romney's face appears for a 10-minute C-Span interview, one of them jokingly punches the screen. When Fred Thompson comes on, they just laugh, and they lose it when C-Span advertises more Thompson videos on their website.
"Forget about Lunesta," Reed says. "Just pop one of those on!"
I'm hearing a lot of excitement and some disappointment that the ersatz campaign isn't better organized. More in a full article later.
A Texas law that took effect in September allows police to write tickets for Class A or B misdemeanors involving less than four ounces of pot instead of arresting the offenders and hauling them to the county jail. So far only the Travis County Sheriff's Department, which lobbied for the law, has taken advantage of the ticketing option, aimed at reducing jail overcrowding, transportation costs, and demands on police time. Although their jails are equally overcrowded, Dallas, Tarrant, and Collin counties "never set up a system to process the misdemeanor citations," The Dallas Morning News reports, and "they have no plans to do so." Greg Davis, Collin County's first assistant district attorney, worries that ticketing for pot possession may "lead some people to believe that drug use is no more serious than double parking." He says "we don't want to send that message to potential drug users, particularly young people." I agree: Given the inconvenience and traffic hazard it creates, double parking is clearly worse than smoking pot.
We can all relax now. The first moves in a nefarious plan by atheists and secular humanists to de-Godify our coinage have been foiled by the quick action of Brother, I mean, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and President Bush. The U.S. mint is issuing a series of useless one dollar coins commemorating various past presidents. As part of the design the motto "In God We Trust" has been moved from the face of the coins to the rims. Over at the Conservative Voice website, Bonnie Alba ominously asked:
Is there a possible correlation between this coin and the ongoing actions in all areas of society and our court system to delete any public reference to God, to Christianity, and the transition of our nation to total materialsim with a State religion of Humanism? Without God? Without reliance on God’s providence?
As the Christian Post reports:
Legislation sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback to move “In God We Trust” back to a prominent place on the coin was signed by President Bush on Wednesday as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008.
The move of the inscription from the edges to the front or back of the coin "shall be put into effect by the Secretary of the Treasury as soon as is practicable,” according to the provision.
The motto first appeared on U.S. coins during the Civil War and on paper currency in 1957. "New atheist" books may have been bestsellers in 2007, but readers had to pay for them with a currency that pledges fealty to the deity. So there.
Given the fact that most American adults born after World War II have used illegal drugs (typically marijuana), can we expect public discussions of this subject to become more honest, or less so? In an op-ed piece The Wall Street Journal ran on Monday, addiction expert (and occasional reason contributor) Stanton Peele defends Barack Obama against the argument that it's irresponsible for politicians to discuss their youthful drug use:
Perhaps it can be good for young people to learn that as they mature they can, and will, straighten out and fly right?
This is the opposite of the approach of nearly all school drug education programs. Here the logic is to troop in people who have ruined their lives by their drug use and drinking, as object lessons in the evils of sin. But there are reasons to believe that kids reject negative messages from figures like these, and that purely scare tactics don't work. Research on effective drug resistance programs finds that the best ways to prevent substance abuse are for kids to develop skills, feel good about themselves, have positive peers, and look forward to their futures.
Peele, whose latest book is Addiction-Proof Your Child, notes that survey data from the year Obama turned 18 indicate that two-thirds of high school seniors had tried illegal drugs. Drug education cannot be credible if it denies or ignores the reality that the vast majority of them nevertheless turned out OK.
NASHUA, NH - Outside of the Fox News catacombs I don't think anyone wants to keep Paul out of the New Hampshire debates. The Union Leader here in NH has a front page story on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pushing Fox (and WMUR/ABC, holding another debate) to include everybody—in both races, it's implied.
In a statement released yesterday, Clinton said: "I believe in the true spirit of the New Hampshire process; the candidates who have participated in past debates should not be excluded from this one."
Obama expressed similar views.
"The voters of New Hampshire deserve to hear all the Democratic candidates' views on who can best lead America in a fundamentally new direction, and that's why I urge these networks to allow full participation in this week's debate," Obama said in a statement.
Meanwhile I just got a press release from the Libertarian Party on the issue—a group of people who have, let's say, a certain interest in keeping up warm relations with the candidate.
"There is simply no tolerance of competing voices against the political elite of two-party politics," says Shane Cory, executive director of the Libertarian Party.
"The leading GOP fundraiser for the fourth-quarter is being snubbed from the debates for nothing more than having political views outside of mainstream Republicanism," says Cory. "The Republican establishment shuns Paul for his pro-liberty views, and will do everything it can to marginalize him. Unfortunately, this is nothing new. There is a long-standing culture of censorship among the political elite when it comes to competing viewpoints."
I'm still betting against a Paul independent bid, but if I ran the GOP I'd be acting like a hostage negotiator right now: "Just give him what he wants!" If Paul gets shut out of debates, or if the GOP coalesces behind an anti-Paul candidate in his House primary, that's going to make a spoiler bid more and more likely.
At 3:09 I saw the Paul immigration ad on CNN. Again.
NASHUA, NH - I've arrived in New Hampshire and the route from the airport to my hotel was a lot... whiter and more powdery than it was in June, the last time I was here. Those plentiful, home-stenciled "Ron Paul 2008" and "Google Ron Paul" signs are submerged under a not-too-high pile of snow. But Operation Live Free or Die—the ad hoc Ron Paul group that's way outpacing the official campaign's work—has found a workaround. Last night volunteers piled into a park in Exeter and spent four hours building Ron Paul snowmen. (I should have pics up later.)
I switched Boston's WKRO for the drive and heard Rush Limbaugh lacing into Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani: Jonathan Martin recounts the show here. What Martin didn't hear (he's in Iowa) was the ad at the second hour break for... Mike Huckabee, who I'm informed is "a proven leader and an authentic conservative." Does coverage like that turn any of Limbaugh's listeners against his take? Whose dulcet tones do they believe: the Huckster or El Rushbo? (This is one of Huck's weaker states, so probably the latter.)
Also: Wondering where all of Ron Paul's money is going? As I was typing this post, at 2:46, Paul's "stop illegal immigration" ad ran on CNN.
This year Britain's National Health Service (NHS), a single payer system worthy of emulation, say its American boosters, will celebrate 60 years of queues and DIY dentistry by introducing a new "patient constitution" that, according to reports, will refuse treatment to those who smoke or spend inordinate amounts of time on the couch time eating fried Mars bars and watching Eastenders. The Telegraph editorializes:
The inadequacy of our healthcare model has led us to a senseless (and heartless) contradictory position: the Department of Health states categorically that "co-payment" is unacceptable because it would result in an unequal system in which better-off patients would have advantages that poorer ones do not. But it now plans to refuse care to people whose unhealthy lifestyles are usually associated with poverty and deprivation. The extraordinary high-handedness of these proposals is symptomatic of all that is wrong with a tax-funded monopoly health system run by central government: ordinary people are encouraged to think of healthcare as a gift of the state.
The Telegraph also uncovers an internal Department of Health memo advising doctors to steer some patients towards self-treatment, thus avoiding doctor and emergency room visits and saving the NHS billions in overhead costs
Millions of people with arthritis, asthma and even heart failure will be urged to treat themselves as part of a Government plan to save billions of pounds from the NHS budget. Instead of going to hospital or consulting a doctor, patients will be encouraged to carry out "self care" as the Department of Health (DoH) tries to meet Treasury targets to curb spending.
The Prime Minister claimed the self-care agenda was about increasing patient choice and "personalised" services. But an internal Government document seen by The Daily Telegraph makes clear that the policy is a money-saving measure, a key plank of DoH plans to cut costs.
Burma's military government has unexpectedly raised the annual fee for television satellite dishes in an apparent attempt to block public access to outside broadcasts.
The massive price hike was discovered when residents went to renew their licenses Wednesday. They were told the annual fee had increased from about $5 to nearly $800.
Subtle! Since no normal person could afford satellite TV even before the government fees became multiples of the average annual salary, most people who watch do so from tea shops or other public spaces. Reports The Irrawaddy:
Rangoon’s mayor, Brig-Gen Aung Thein Lin has announced a cutback in the number of restaurant and tea shop licenses to be issued in 2008, reportedly because he believes people waste too much time and money in them.
The cutback was reported by a Rangoon journal, which quoted the killjoy mayor as saying: “There will not be any improvement for the people as long as there are so many tea shops in the city, so we have stopped issuing licenses to open more.”
As one Rangoon journalist points out, the tea shops being targeted happen to be the ones with satellite dishes.
Robin Garrison, a 42-year-old firefighter, is appealing a public indecency conviction stemming from his decision to reveal his private parts to a topless woman in a Columbus, Ohio, park one sunny day last spring. In Garrison's defense, the woman, who was working with local police, asked to see his penis after flirting with him and seductively placing her foot on his shoulder. "While topless sunbathing is legal in the city's parks," ABC News explains, "exposing more than that is against the law." Garrison plausibly argues that he's a victim of entrapment, since his willingness to unwrap his package at the request of an attractive half-dressed woman does not prove he had a pre-existing inclination to expose himself. ABC reports that Columbus police, who videotaped the encounter, were "targeting men having sex or masturbating in the park." Since police were targeting "men having sex," I assume that means gay men, in which case luring offenders with a bare-chested woman does not make much sense. As for the masturbating, were there complaints about creepy guys jerking off while staring at sunbathing women? If so, how does having a woman take off her top and come on to a guy walking through the park replicate that scenario?
Update: BoingBoing notes that ABC has added this confusing clarification to its story: "The sunbathing woman is not affiliated with the police department and she was not asked to take part in the sting operation, according to a spokesperson for the department." So in what sense was it a "sting operation," and why did Garrison's lawyer argue during his trial that "Columbus police utilized this topless woman to snare this man"? A November 12 Columbus Dispatch story makes things a bit clearer (emphasis added):
Garrison's attorney, Sam Shamansky, argued that police set up a sting around a woman who had been sunbathing topless in the park for days.
"Columbus police utilized this topless woman to snare this man," Shamansky said. "He sees her day after day. He's not some seedy pervert."...
The footage shows Garrison sitting near the woman, under a tree, and the two talking for several minutes. At one point, the woman puts her foot on his shoulder. Though she was supposed to be sunbathing, she appears to be sitting in the shade.
The tape does not include audio, so it's unclear what was said, but during the exchange Garrison unzips his pants and exposes himself.
Shamansky said Garrison saw the woman for days as he drove past Berliner Park.
"She asks to see his penis and, like a fool, he does it," Shamansky said.
Detective Dick Elias said vice officers had set up the video because they were targeting men who were having sex or masturbating in the park—not men who had come to see her.
The woman had been sunbathing topless near the front of the park for days, he said, and "had become a spectacle" with men driving by to watch....
So Elias asked the woman to move to the rear of the park, which she did. But men still drove by to see her. Another man, whose name wasn't mentioned, was charged the same afternoon as Garrison for exposing himself to the woman.
So this sounds less like police entrapment than an exhibitionist who got a kick out of encouraging men to join in the fun. Still, you'd think police would have better things to do than watch (and record) the show, let alone arrest anyone over it.
[Thanks to prolefeed for the tip.]
Invaluable New York Times science journalist John Tierney ponders how bad weather figures in the rhetoric about man-made global warming. To wit:
You’re in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change — and that these images are a mere preview of what’s in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet.
Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific. I don’t know if disaster will come by flood or drought, hurricane or blizzard, fire or ice. Nor do I have any idea how much the planet will warm this year or what that means for your local forecast. Long-term climate models cannot explain short-term weather....
But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).
As Tierney notes, man-made global warming occurs with almost imperceptible slowness which means that it's hard to get the public and politicians concerned about it. This is where "availability entrepreneuers" come to the rhetorical rescue.
Today’s interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.
Tierney notes that 2007 was the least warm year since 2001; while Arctic sea ice declined to the lowest extent ever recorded, Antarctic sea ice reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites; the Atlantic hurricane season was much calmer than predicted earlier and so forth. Availability entrepreneurs dramatize their concerns by always pointing to the dark clouds and ignoring any silver linings. As Tierney notes:
Slow warming doesn’t make for memorable images on television or in people’s minds, so activists, journalists and scientists have looked to hurricanes, wild fires and starving polar bears instead. They have used these images to start an “availability cascade,” a term coined by Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and law at the University of Southern California, and Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago.
The availability cascade is a self-perpetuating process: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and more fear. Once the images of Sept. 11 made terrorism seem a major threat, the press and the police lavished attention on potential new attacks and supposed plots. After Three Mile Island and “The China Syndrome,” minor malfunctions at nuclear power plants suddenly became newsworthy.
“Many people concerned about climate change,” Dr. Sunstein says, “want to create an availability cascade by fixing an incident in people’s minds. Hurricane Katrina is just an early example; there will be others. I don’t doubt that climate change is real and that it presents a serious threat, but there’s a danger that any ‘consensus’ on particular events or specific findings is, in part, a cascade.”
Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there’s not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe’s other pole isn’t melting, too.
Whole Tierney article here.
Tierney also provocatively asks at TierneyLab, "Are There Any Good Weather Omens?" In other words what kind of weather events would count as being "inconsistent" with the man-made global warming hypothesis? I think that TierneyLab commenter Martin Richard lists some pretty good ones:
Glaciers advancing. Greenland not losing ice. A stretch of years without record numbers of high temperature records broken. Arctic sea ice returns. Tundra re-freeezes. In the Willamette Valley, pinot noir becomes as problematic as once it was.
Link to TierneyLab here.
In a feature from our January issue, Michael Moynihan takes a look at big box panics and how, despite the worst prognostications from consumer groups, independent stores continue to thrive.
The magazine that endorsed Vinegar Joe Lieberman for president in 2004 reports on the Ron Paul machine from chilly Iowa:
There's something that seems a little tragic about the Paul volunteers' devotion--they're spending their Christmas vacation in chilly cabins, eating Velveeta potatoes for a week, and their candidate doesn't arrive in Iowa until the day before the caucus--until I see that it's not really about Paul. They almost never mention his biography or his leadership style when talking about their movement, a startling contrast with rival campaigns like Huckabee's or Obama's. I ask Eli, the student who would have bought Joe's graphic history of World War I, whether he thinks Ron Paul has charisma. Eli pauses. "He's so nice," he replies. "He reminds me of your grandpa--your righteous grandpa." A volunteer named Eddie in a tidy checked Oxford shirt says, "He did a rally with us the first night and shook everybody's hand. It was cute."
Update on January 2: Due to an editing error, some video picks were not included in the original posting of the article. Submitted for your viewing pleasure are three new selections:
reason senior editor
I'm nominate the lot of police brutality and taser videos. The most popular this year were probably the "Don't Tase Me, Bro" video from a John Kerry event in Florida (see below) and a Missouri teenager's recording of an abusive police officer who had pulled him over. The genre as a whole is the result of the mass democratization of technology, and represents an important shift toward transparency and accountability in law enforcement. More than a few abusive police officers have lost their jobs after a video went viral, which likely wouldn't have happened were we still in the pre-Internet age. Mass watching of the watchers is a good thing, and we ought to be encouraging more of it, both to weed out bad cops, and to protect the good ones from frivolous claims of abuse.
reason science correspondent
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' weekly television talk show, Alo Presidente, infamously runs on for hours. In September, 2007 viewers were treated to more than eight hours of presidential bloviation. Chavez' hero, the notoriously long-winded Fidel Castro, has never even gotten close to that record.
In November at the Ibero-American Summit, Spain's King Juan Carlos told Chavez, "Why don't you just shut up!" Juan Carlos' words have been turned into a popular ring tone. I nominate it as the "best" video of 2007 because it was way past time that someone told Chavez to just zip it.
I continue to laugh every time I watch the meeting of minds between singer-songwriter John Mayer and Justin Long (the Apple Computer guy) outside an L.A. nightclub. Mayer--drunk on booze or maybe just strict construction of the Constitution?--goes on a pro-Ron Paul rant that is magical not just for its intensity and heartfeltness but for its very existence in the first place. Years ago in reason, we excerpted Tyler Cowen's What Price Fame?, a study in how contemporary celebrities are impotent puppets we pay astronomical amounts to entertain us (Cowen's piece is not, alas, online). This is true, even when we agree with them. It's a great world where this sort of footage is widely available.
Last week, I posted a link to a video clip in which Ron Paul appeared to reject biological evolution as merely a "theory." I noted at the time that there was a glitch that could be an edit. Before I blogged it, I searched through at least a score of youtube postings to see if I could find an unedited version and did not. Happily several reason.tv commenters found one and sent it along to me. My reason.tv update is below. So go over to reason.tv for a link to the full video.
Update: The video glitch that I noted in my original post was indeed an edit. Many reason.tv commenters have kindly (some not so kindly) now pointed me in the direction of the unedited video. That link is here.
Some reason.tv commenters have also suggested that the full video somehow vindicates Paul, but he undeniably still says, "I think it's a theory, the theory of evolution and I don't accept it as a theory." In addition, Paul says that he thought it was an inappropriate question. I disagree. Teaching intelligent design in public school science classes is a political issue; one that was decided by a federal judge in one famous case. Keep in mind that the president nominates federal judges.
As a principled libertarian, Paul could have answered the question by saying that he would allow school choice. That way some parents could decide to send their children to schools that teach superstition and others could opt to send their kids to schools that teach science. Instead Paul expressed his disbelief in biological evolution. Of course, there are no perfect candidates and reasonable people can certainly decide that all of Paul's other positions and qualities outweigh this unfortunate bit of ignorance.
Michael Crowley's snapshot of Fred Thompson in Iowa will make you weep. The man no longer evokes D.A. Arthur Branch smirking and barking orders at lawers as much as he evokes Uncle Junior puttering around north Jersey in his slippers and coke bottle specs.
After leaving the coffeehouse, Thompson trudged his way through a snow-covered city park, as aides pointed out patches of snow and ice to prevent a symbolically catastrophic wipeout. He arrived at his next stop, at the town's county courthouse, on his feet, but couldn't summon much enthusiasm. Escorted by the county supervisor, Willie Van Weelden, Thompson popped into a series of dreary administrative offices staffed by a homogenous and somewhat befuddled-looking crew of middle-aged ladies. In the county tax office Thompson greeted precisely one worker. "This lady takes all the property tax money!" Van Wheelen exclaimed with the enthusiasm only a county worker could muster. "Is that right?" Thompson replied, sounding as impassive as he surely was. In the neighboring registrar's office, Thompson delivered a quick round of hellos and then cast a puzzled glance at a shaggy-haired boy scribbling at a table under a sign: "Drivers' Test In Progress." As if that were the final straw, Fred finally made a break for it back through the winter cold and into the warm comfort of his massive bus.
Crowley, in an aside, points out that Thompson's bus is painted with this slogan: "The Clear Conservative Choice: Hands Down!" Does the slogan ring a bell? Right: It's a reference to how he refused to raise his hand during the Des Moines Register debate. For about 15 minutes political reporters chewed over whether this was a Campaign Moment, the start of a Fred comeback.
Thompson is now tied with Ron Paul in Iowa. He's lost half his support since October.
But this has been a campaign of one day stories and Moments that went absolutely nowhere: the news cycle moves so fast that silly, minor events are treated like game-changers. Before the Hour of the Hand there was the hostage crisis in Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire office. You forgot about that, didn't you! Here's what then-American Prospect (now Washington Post) writer Garance Franke-Ruta said at the time:
Certainly it gets Clinton a week of positive and sympathetic coverage, featuring tearful interviews with the young men and women held hostage. But it might also have an effect on the intensity of the Clinton-bashing over the next couple of weeks, as people take a step back and re-evaluate to what an extent the misogyny directed against her by her political opponents can combine with alcohol or mental illness to lead to real violence.
Or, you know, not.
I think the only events that have proven totally immune to "this'll change everything" hysteria have been the Ron Paul moneybombs. Yet more reason for Paul supporters to grumble about the mainstream media.
Attention, California readers: If you're in Monterey, Salinas, or the right part of San Jose, you can hear me from 8:10 to 8:30 this morning on KION, 1460 on your AM dial. I'll be a guest on Wake Up Monterey, where Mark Carbonaro will talk with me about the Republican presidential race. Here's his blurb for the interview:
The GOP is up for grabs! Reason editor Jesse Walker joins us to talk about the future of the Republican party. Where's it going? Who are the players? Which one of the candidates for the nomination can win and take hold of the reins of the party? Walker contends the GOP is rudderless right now and its direction is ripe for the taking.
For more on the subject: my article "The GOP Is Up for Grabs."
The NY Times and others report on how Fox News and ABC is working to keep Ron Paul--the $20 million man--out of its debates in New Hampshire this Sunday; ABC is holding out possibility of inclusion based on results in Iowa and polls, though that's a small crumb for a guy who is massively successful in terms of fundraising and besting ghost candidate Fred Thompson in various surveys. Even Cap'n Ed Morrissey of Captains Quarter, no RP man that's for sure, finds the preemptive Paulophobia off-putting:
It makes little sense to start excluding candidates just before the first meaningful vote gets taken. Raising $19 million in a quarter shows at least some level of significant support, even if limited to the fringes of the GOP and Libertarian parties. Also, if Fox wants to rely on polling, Paul does at least as well as Thompson in Iowa and perhaps better at the moment in New Hampshire. Why not just wait for the results from Iowa to make that determination for both parties, as ABC plans to do?
Just in from the AP via the Cincy Enquirer: The FBI is training its Sherlock Holmesian (or is that McGruffian?) powers of ratiocination and detectiveness on a case so massive its solution must be completed before these United States can get back on track and once again enter the stream of history:
The FBI is making a new stab at identifying mysterious skyjacker Dan Cooper, who bailed out of an airliner in 1971 and vanished, releasing new details that it hopes will jog someone's memory. The man calling himself Dan Cooper, also known as D.B. Cooper, boarded a Northwest flight in Portland for a flight to Seattle on the night of Nov, 24, 1971, and commandeered the plane, claiming he had dynamite.
In Seattle, he demanded and got $200,000 and four parachutes and demanded to be flown to Mexico. Somewhere over southwestern Washington, he jumped out the plane's tail exit with two of the chutes.
On Monday, the FBI released drawings that it said probably are close to what Cooper looked like, along with a map of areas where Cooper might have landed.
"Who was Cooper? Did he survive the jump? We're providing new information and pictures and asking for your help in solving the case," the FBI said in a statement.
Drawings that "probably are close to what Cooper looked like" 37 years ago--let's just file this one under "Solved!" Thanks, fellers. More here.
Glad to know there's nothing better to occupy your time with.
Jacob Sullum looks back at the year when the buck stopped... well, nowhere. It didn't stop anywhere.
A fun feature for the new year: Reasonoids pick their favorite videos of 2007. (Updated throughout the day.)
Whodda' thunk that after all the hullabaloo following the debate exchange below from seven months ago that Ron Paul would be in a position to beat Rudy Giuliani in both Iowa and New Hampshire?
Today's Des Moines Register poll, which Slate says other pollsters consider "by far the most reliable," has Paul nearly doublng Giuliani in Iowa. Meanwhile, conventional wisdom says Paul's cadre of cell phone-toting college students and new voters will enable him to finish well above where he's polling at the moment in New Hampshire. The latest New Hampshire poll shows Paul just two points behind Giuliani. And that's an ARG poll, which thus far into the campaign has tended to show the least amount of support for Paul.
Looks like third place in Iowa, New Hampshire, or both isn't at all out of the question. Neither is beating Giuliani in one or both. Pretty remarkable, really. The anti-war candidate mocked and chuckled at in the debate below may well knock off the war-supporting 9/11 superhero—in the Republican primaries.
The Baltimore City Paper says goodbye to the old year with its annual "People Who Died" feature, honoring some of the lesser-known notables who passed away in 2007. This year's profilees range from the stripping mafia moll Liz Renay to the Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets; from Momofuku Ando, inventor of instant ramen, to Robert Adler, co-inventor of the TV remote.
Music to read it by: