David Dobbs at Slate thinks that the current swine flu could well be far less fatal than it might seem right now. His reasons:
Of the 110 million people in Mexico, 1,600 cases have been reported, with about 100 deaths—suggesting a mortality rate of 6 percent. This is almost certainly bad math, as the total case count almost certainly ignores thousands or tens of thousands of other cases that have taken milder courses like those in the United States. It's perfectly conceivable Mexico has actually had 10,000 or 100,000 cases—or even 1 million cases. If so, then the kill rate would be not 6 percent but 0.1 percent (given 10,000 cases) or 0.01 percent (given 100,000 cases). If it's 1 million cases (quite possible if this thing really spreads easily) then the mortality rate is just 1 in 10,000. Meanwhile, because the United States is on high alert—and can take special note of people with recent travel to Mexico—it is probably picking up a fairly high percentage of its cases, including milder instances that would have gone unnoticed in Mexico a few weeks ago.
Link via Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.
B.A. Baracus (a.k.a. "Clubber Lang"; a.k.a. "Mr.T"; a.k.a "Laurence Tureaud") made headlines yesterday when he arrived for jury duty in Chicago.
During his time at the courthouse, Mr. T posed for pictures with "other potential jurors, county employees–and the family of the defendant in the case..."
Mr.T was a quotable goldmine. Observe:
• "It's not about 'The A-Team;' it's the J-Team–the jury team."
• "You've got to testify! Tell somebody about it. God is good!" he told an admirer as he tried to leave the building. "I pity the fool that don't get it.
• "If you're innocent, I'm your best man...But if you're guilty, I pity that fool."
Mr. T should consider the day hamming it up as time well spent. It was free press. More importantly, he was excused from jury duty.
A case could be made, however, that jury duty is better than parodying yourself in a John Cena rap video:
Back in 2007, Mateusz Machaj at the Mises Institute said the " ‘A-Team' Stands for Anarcho-Capitalism." Besides Mr. T, Reason Columnist Steve Chapman has another good case for making jury duty anonymous. In 1995, Friend-o-Reason Walter Olson looked at juries on trial. Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel said the culture has created jurors who lack conviction, in a 1994 piece.
High Five: The Chicagoist
Legal historian Paul Lombardo, author of the excellent Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell, has posted a very interesting looking new article to the Social Sciences Research Network. Here's the abstract for "Disability, Eugenics, and the Culture Wars":
The eugenics movement provided the motive for dozens of laws that remained in force for more than a century in the United States, a significant number of which specifically targeted people with disabilities for legally sanctioned discrimination. Similar laws were adopted around the world, perhaps most notably as part of Hitler's prelude to the Holocaust. Consequently, we tend to associate the word "eugenics" with all things evil. Yet the underlying message of eugenicists was popular for so long not solely because it denoted coercive legislation but more often because it signaled a hopeful future devoid of social problems. This paper describes how the word "eugenics" is now coming back into common use, and how it has been revived in the service of political objectives, divorced from the period in which it developed and the meaning it had within its earlier historical context. The resulting distortions—directly traceable to the ongoing "culture war" over reproductive rights—suggests that we should be careful when we play the "eugenics card" lest rhetorical zeal eliminate the possibility for honest debate.
Lombardo touched on similar points when I interviewed him last year about Three Generations, No Imbeciles. Here's one such exchange:
Q: Does the idea of eugenics still have any appeal?
A: Most people, if given the option, would vote to have less of a burden of social welfare costs and lower taxes. That's a popular idea for all of us. The argument that's made during the Buck case is that you get there by doing away with the people who generate those costs.
The real problem is that we all still feel that way today. Not that we want to be Nazis, and not that we want to re-enact eugenic laws. But we all still are looking for solutions to social problems and ways of managing the inevitable social burdens of crime, poverty, and disease. The hope that we can find those solutions is of course still with us—and should be, I think—but what we use as a means toward those is of course the question. I argue in this book that one of the things we shouldn't use is the power of government through coercive medicine. When governments start deciding who can have children, they almost always botch it.
Does an employer ever have the right to discriminate on the basis of race? Does the government? As Associate Editor Damon W. Root writes, those were some of the issues the Supreme Court faced last week last during oral arguments in Ricci v. Destefano. What it decides could have a major impact on the web of rules governing the American workplace.
Today the Supreme Court overturned a decision in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit concluded that the Federal Communications Commission violated the Administrative Procedure Act when it announced that, contrary to a longstanding FCC policy, fleeting expletives on live television can trigger fines for broadcast indecency. The 2nd Circuit ruled that the 2004 policy reversal, provoked by comments that Cher and Nicole Richie made during music award shows carried by Fox, was "arbitrary and capricious" because the commission failed to "articulate a reasoned basis" for it. Five members of the Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the standard applied by the appeals court was insufficiently deferential.
Notably, the Court did not address the constitutionality of the FCC's policy regarding broadcast indecency or the statute underlying it, sending the case back to the 2nd Circuit for further consideration. "It is conceivable that the Commission's orders may cause some broadcasters to avoid certain language that is beyond the Commission's reach under the Constitution," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. "Whether that is so, and, if so, whether it is unconstitutional, will be determined soon enough, perhaps in this very case." It seems likely, given the doubts it expressed about the constitutionality of the FCC's censorship, that the 2nd Circuit will rule that it violates the First Amendment, in which case the government certainly would appeal again to the Supreme Court.
Although he joined the majority's conclusion that the FCC complied with the Administrative Procedure Act, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurrence in which he reiterated his skepticism about the government's disparate treatment of broadcasting, which is subject to content restrictions that would be clearly unconstitutional in any other medium. "The text of the First Amendment makes no distinctions among print, broadcast, and cable media," Thomas wrote (quoting an opinion in an earlier case), "but we have done so." He said "this deep intrusion into the First Amendment rights of broadcasters" is based on rationales that never made much sense and seem more outmoded every day: "the scarcity of radio frequencies," plus the idea that broadcast TV and radio are "uniquely pervasive" and "uniquely accessible" to children. "Even if this Court's disfavored treatment of broadcasters under the First Amendment could have been justified" at the time of the decisions upholding the "fairness doctrine" and the ban on broadcast indecency, Thomas wrote, "dramatic technological advances have eviscerated the factual assumptions underlying those decisions."
Sen. Arlen Specter (D!-Pa.) insists that he will not be an automatic 60th vote in the Senate, giving Democrats a filibuster-proof majority, and told assembled reporters that, for instance, he will not change his opposition to card check. At Politico, centrist Republicans Lindsay Graham and Olympia Snowe, spoke out in support of Spector's decision:
Snowe said the party's message has been, "Either you're with us or you're against us."
Her frustration was shared by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who slammed right-wing interest groups for pushing moderates out of the party.
Specter switched parties Tuesday after a recent poll showed him badly losing a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year to Club for Growth founder Pat Toomey. Toomey's staunchly fiscally conservative political action committee backs only those Republicans who support a low-tax, limited-government agenda and comes down hard on those who break with party orthodoxy.
This is the odd thing, though. Rather than arguing that the Republican Party is small-tent when it comes to heterodox social views, Graham seems upset that the party is too rigid on economics, despite its long-standing embrace of Bush's fiscal profligacy.
"I don't want to be a member of the Club for Growth," said Graham. "I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country-and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective." "As Republicans, we got a problem," he said.
You certainly do.
Score one for fat: Fatty foods might contain memory enhancers. University of California, Irvine, scientists found that oleic acids from fats—and the compound oleoylethanolamide used in the lab—send signals to the memory-forming amygdala.
(All of my grandmother's recipe cards call for "oleo," short for "oleomargarine," as the butter substitute was originally known. Perhaps that explains my fond memories of her peach dumplings and sugar cookies.)
One of the scientists offered an evolutionary explanation for the fat/fond memory relationship:
"By helping mammals remember where and when they have eaten a fatty meal, OEA's memory-enhancing activity seems to have been an important evolutionary tool for early humans and other animals. Remembering the location and context of a fatty meal was probably an important survival mechanism for early humans."
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reminds us that there's a lot we still don't know about the moving parts (so to speak) of human biology. The researchers seems to have been originally investigating the compound for its potential in encouraging weight loss. While it's still far too early to tell what the human applications might be—the fats are being tested on rats for now—there's discussion that this might be good news for Alzheimer's patients as well. You never know what you're going to find on your way to developing much-condemned "frivolous" pharma.
Last week, Arizona State University held a Workshop on Transhumanism and the Future of Democracy. Tranhumanism envisions the use of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and cognitive technology to radically enhance human health, intelligence, and emotional states. The workshop gathered a number of legal scholars and bioethicists to consider how transhumanism challenges our current legal, social, and political frameworks. Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey participated by arguing for the toleration of transhumanist aspirations.
Reason.tv's Michael C. Moynihan and Nick Gillespie sit down with Peter Leeson, author of The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates, and David Post, author of In Search of Jefferson's Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace, to discuss social contracts amongst pirates, Internet piracy, and whether or not 17th century pirates actually said "shiver me timbers."
Approximately 25 minutes.
The Pennsylvania senator, long a target of conservative ire, has switched parties.
I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.
When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.
Since then, I have traveled the state, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.
I have decided to run for reelection in 2010 in the Democratic primary.
Full statement here.
As a pox-on-both-houses type, and someone who genuinely believes that most interesting political developments will take place far outside the racket's most "professional" arenas, I am always delighted to be reminded of the commonalities between the two big parties, particularly concerning their behavior in power. Throat-clearing aside, this strikes me as no favor at all to the Democrats. By choosing to die on the hill of the stimulus package of all things, Specter reinforces whatever notion there is that stimuli and bailouts are Democratic, not Republican, pet toys. Since professional Republicans are currently scattered in the wind, trying desperately to latch onto the anti-stimulus/bailout Tea Party movement, cementing that divide may come back to haunt Democrats when those policies (inevitably, I think) become so derided that even Barack Obama's impressive popularity can't rescue them.
Reason on Specter here.
Should you panic over an impending swine flu pandemic? It's early days yet, so it's hard to tell. So far reports suggest that a couple of thousand people in Mexico have suffered from the malady and that more than 150 people there may have died of it. On the other hand, all of the cases (around 50) so far identified in the U.S. have been mild and no one has died.
How dangerous this outbreak will be depends on a number of factors including the virus' inherent deadliness and its ease of transmission. Why the virus seems to be killing people in Mexico and not elsewhere is a puzzle. One often mentioned concern is that this new flu virus may set off a "cytokine storm" in younger adults who have strong immune systems. Basically, strong immune systems overreact causing organ failure. However, reports that 20 or so American high school students have come down with mild versions of the disease suggest that such fears may be premature.
On the other, preliminary information indicates that the virus may transmit fairly easily from person to person. Some have suggested that quarantine might be used to stem its spread, but quarantine will be ineffective if the disease is passed on before symptoms occur.
In 1976, the Ford administration orchestrated a massive vaccination campaign against a version of the swine flu that infected 7 soldiers and killed one at Fort Dix in New Jersey. That pandemic never occurred. The current outbreak has already spread to as many as 20 countries and the World Health Organization says that it cannot be contained.
While it will take several months to produce a vaccine against the disease, the good news is that the Centers for Disease Control say that it can be effectively treated using the anti-flu virus drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. In addition, it may also be good news for the U.S. that we are now moving into the summer months since some recent research found that influenza transmission is much higher when relative humidity is lower such as it is indoors during the winter months.
I am away from home traveling (lots of flights) for work and vacation for the next couple of weeks. As semi-professional hypochondriac, I am not panicked. But I do wish that I had thought to pack my stockpile of Tamiflu. You know, just in case.
In 1955, Rosa Parks took on the whole system of Jim Crow by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus. Today, writes David T. Beito, property owners Jimmy McCall and Jim Peera are waging a lonely battle against the same city government for another civil right: the freedom to build a home on their own land.
Managing Editor Jesse Walker's weekly freeform radio show will be broadcast on WCBN-FM this afternoon from 12 to 3, eastern time. If you live in the Ann Arbor area, you can tune in at 88.3 FM; if you live elsewhere, you can listen online.
...Thus spaketh A. True Ott, PhD, ND, who–along with others–is calling the swine flu panic part of the New World Order's plan for global domination. The above headine continues (sans The Who reference) as such:
This "control room" is where any declarations of "pandemic" will originate. When such a "declaration" is sent to President Obama, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security "Pandemic Task Forces" will be deployed. Each State Governor will be notified that the provisions of the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MSEHPA) will be implemented.
The always titillating infowars.com is joining the conversation, too, hinting that the swine flu and its vaccine might be a biological weapon. A recent article reads:
Time Magazine's coverage of the swine flu scare has a noticeable subplot - preparing Americans for draconian measures to combat a future pandemic as well as forcing them to accept the idea of mandatory vaccinations...
when the federal government breaks down our door, guns drawn and dripping needle in hand.
Yeah, ok. It seems
laughable a bit silly. But hey, give credit where
credit is due. Doc Ott refers to the MSEHPA, a proposal for state
governments, requested by the Centers for Disease Control shortly
after the 9-11 attacks. Here're the creepy bits from an abstract
by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA):
Coercive powers are the most controversial aspects of any legal system. Nevertheless, they may be necessary to manage property or protect persons in a public health emergency....
There similarly may be a need to exercise powers over individuals to avert a significant threat to the public's health...Although the vast majority of people probably will comply willingly (because it is in their interests and/or desirable for the common welfare), some compulsory powers are necessary for those who will not comply. Provided those powers are bounded by legal safeguards, individuals should be required to yield some of their autonomy, liberty, or property to protect the health and security of the community.
Well, best to error on the side of caution. Be Prepared:
After that, get creative:
Managing Editor Jesse Walker knows that any economic situation is a good time for conspiracies. Walker also uncovered the secret that paranoia means politics. The legacy of Robert Anton Wilson here. In 2007, Contributor Jeff Taylor discussed the banality of truth. Lazy paranoids here, Main-street paranoids here.
The folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have put together an interesting and infuriating video about the University of Delaware's bizarre residence-life program. From the group's description of the situation:
In 2007, the University of Delaware's Office of Residence Life used mandatory activities to coerce students to change their thoughts, values, attitudes, beliefs, and habits to conform to a highly specified social, environmental, and political agenda. Following FIRE's campaign, which called the attention of the national media and the blogosphere to the Orwellian program, university President Patrick Harker terminated the program, effective immediately. This video explains the program's invasive thought-reform activities, the horrified reactions of students and the press, and FIRE's response.
Click above to watch the vid (about 15 minutes) and click here to visit FIRE's homepage.
Because of budget cuts, prosecutors in Contra Costa County, California, are backing off the drug war:
District Attorney Robert Kochly...said that beginning May 4, his office will no longer prosecute felony drug cases involving smaller amounts of narcotics. That means anyone caught with less than a gram of methamphetamine or cocaine, less than 0.5 grams of heroin and fewer than five pills of ecstasy, OxyContin or Vicodin won't be charged....
"We had to make very, very difficult choices, and we had to try to prioritize things. There are no good choices to be made here," said Kochly, a 35-year veteran prosecutor. "It's trying to choose the lesser of certain evils in deciding what we can and cannot do."
I'm all for decriminalizing narcotics, but the Contra Costa authorities might want to reconsider their priorities. According to Kochly, larger drug offenses will still be prosecuted. Shoplifting, trespassing, and misdemeanor assaults and burglaries will not.
N.B.: I find it hard to believe the D.A. doesn't understand the incentive effects of publicly announcing that you're going to stop prosecuting shoplifters. I wouldn't be surprised if the new policy amounts to a showy stunt aimed at shaking down the government for some emergency funding. There's an old trick that local bureaucrats like to play when they want to keep the funds flowing. First you sort the services taxpayers want the most from the services we wouldn't miss. Then you threaten some cuts in the first category.
• Welcome to post-bailout America, where various federal agencies have replaced board rooms in fighting over how to salvage a failed company.
• Two former federal prosecutors argue in the NY Times for expanded use of asset forfeiture.
• "Perhaps one of the biggest mainstream business media cliches is the surprising discovery that industry leaders often favor regulation of their industry."
• Americans aren't necessarily less religious, they're just changing religions.
• Do conservatives know that Colbert is joking?
As long as we're beating (beatoing?) on CNN, why not suggest that the original cable news behemoth turn its ratings slide around by going libertarian? To wit, Scott Jensen's web manifesto (webifesto?):
The Cable News Network (CNN) is now in third place among the three cable news networks and its viewership continues to fall. It is the grand-daddy of cable news networks ... and that's what the public views it as. An old fossil. What CNN needs is a new direction and there's no better way to get a new direction than getting a new boss....
I would like to put my name forward to be the new CEO of CNN. My name is Scott Jensen, I'm a 45-year-old marketer, author of the 2003 white paper "P2P Revolution" (http://www.nonesuch.org/p2prevolution.pdf) that focused on peer-to-peer networks' potential impact on the entertainment industry, and the following is my vision for a new CNN....
As this last presidential election has proven beyond doubt, there is no impartial news media. But the truth of the matter is that there never was an impartial news media. Read history. Shortly after the United States of America was born, newspapers were either republican (what Thomas Jefferson represented) or federalist (what Alexander Hamilton represented). And today the press is just as biased. Today, Fox caters to conservatives and CNN and MSNBC cater to liberals...
Libertarianism is where young adults live and breathe and thus I, as CNN's new CEO, would better position CNN to go after advertisers' most sought-after demographic group. Libertarianism's "Do as you like as long as you physically harm no one" is something young adults can readily understand and fully agree with. Fiscally conservative and socially liberal is another way of putting libertarianism. Personal freedom and personal accountability is still another way of putting it....
For many years, only The New York Times had the power to drive the national discourse. Then, for a few years after that, only The New York Times and a handful of bloggers did. But as Greg Beato writes, then came Ashton Kutcher. Using Twitter to broadcast a series of scoops about his noisy neighbor, Kutcher vividly illustrated how the media landscape was shifting once again. Now, even ordinary celebrities can reach the masses just as effectively as CNN: All they need is a cell phone and some fingers.
Writing in The Boston Globe, civil liberties lawyer and Reason contributor Harvey Silverglate argues that prosecuting CIA employees for using interrogation techniques endorsed by the Justice Department during the Bush administration "would make very 'bad law,' and would create a legal precedent that would haunt our criminal justice system for generations":
A CIA agent, operating in good faith, could readily consider such DOJ advice to be a binding legal opinion that he could safely follow. And in our legal system, based on an ancient Anglo-Saxon moral and legal tenet incorporated into our own criminal codes, a wrongdoer may be punished only if he knowingly and intentionally committed an act that he believed to be illegal.
Silverglate also warns that prosecuting John Yoo or the other DOJ lawyers who said waterboarding and other coercive techniques did not qualify as torture "could, and likely would, wreak havoc on principles that civil libertarians should seek to protect." A year ago, I noted Silverglate's analysis of the obstacles to prosecuting Yoo, the main one being that it would be very hard to show he offered his legal advice in bad faith, especially given his pre-existing views on executive power and national security.
A few weeks back, I wondered why, in the midst of a global financial crisis, so few European social democratic parties have capitalized on the dramatic uptick in anti-market sentiment across the continent (As previously noted there are certainly exceptions, as demonstrated by the recent election results in Iceland). Instead, in countries like the Netherlands, Poland, and Germany, many parties of the big goverment, populist right and, to a much lesser degree, free market parties have seen steady increases in support. As I mentioned in this post, Germany's free market FDP (Free Democratic Party) managed ten percent of the vote in 2005 federal election but is currently polling at around 18 percent. The Wall Street Journal has more on the strange rise of the Guido Westerwelle and the FDP:
Around the world, the economic crisis is raising concerns about unfettered markets and leading to more government intervention in the economy. But in Germany--a country long skeptical of freewheeling capitalism--a political party that believes in freer markets and smaller government is benefiting from the crisis.
The Free Democratic Party, whose credo is getting the state off the back of the individual, is riding high in opinion polls. It has notched up successes in recent regional elections and has good chances of entering government in Germany's national vote this September...
The FDP is benefiting from the fact that Germany's two large ruling parties, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union and its partner, the Social Democrats, have backed away from business-friendly policies and shifted to the left.
"In this context many citizens find it refreshing that the FDP has remained in the center," says the party's leader, Guido Westerwelle, in an interview. His party currently enjoys the support of 14% to 16% of voters, according to recent opinion polls. This is up from the FDP's 9.8% support in Germany's last election in 2005.
What Mr. Westerwelle calls his party's "center" stance has long appeared to many Germans as a right-leaning economic policy of tax cuts and deregulation that would mainly benefit high earners. The FDP's image as a rich people's lobby helped keep the party's share of the vote low in the 1990s.
Today, however, many middle-class voters are concerned about the government's expanding role in the economy in response to the crisis, on top of longstanding grievances over Germany's high and complicated taxes and its jungle of bureaucratic red tape.
In a New York Times op-ed piece, former President Jimmy Carter presents revival of the federal "assault weapon" ban, which President Obama supports, as a no-brainer, since the guns that were covered by the expired 1994 law are "designed only to kill police officers and the people they defend." Evidently, if you aim one of these firearms at a home intruder, a prairie dog, or a paper target, instead of firing a bullet it harmlessly unfurls a little flag that says "Bang!" Having polled himself and his hunting buddies, Carter reports that "none of us wants to own an assault weapon, because we have no desire to kill policemen or go to a school or workplace to see how many victims we can accumulate before we are finally shot or take our own lives." According to Carter, then, everyone who owns one of these guns is an aspiring cop killer, homicidal maniac, or both.
Carter never explains what makes these weapons uniquely suited to murdering policemen and random passers-by yet completely inappropriate for any other purpose. On the face of it, the criteria that distinguish "assault weapons" from legitimate, non-cop-killing, non-student-slaughtering guns—which include "military-style" features such as bayonet mounts, folding stocks, and flash suppressors—do not have much to do with criminal functionality. But they must, because Carter says "the results of this profligate ownership and use of guns designed to kill people" (i.e., "assault weapons") include the deaths of "more than 30,000 people" in 2006. In other words, "assault weapons" account for every gun-related death, with none left over for models that don't fall into this arbitrary category. No wonder Carter is so eager to ban them.
Studies of "assault weapon" use prior to the 1994 ban paint a different picture. In these studies, according to a 2004 Justice Department report (PDF), "AWs typically accounted for up to 8% of guns used in crime, depending on the specific AW definition and data source used." Even the shooting rampages for which Carter claims "assault weapons" are especially designed typically involve guns that were not covered by the federal ban. Here is a catalog (PDF), compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, of "Mass Gun Violence in the United States Since 1997." Given that the group is an unrelenting booster of bans on "assault weapons," it presumably would not have missed an opportunity to associate them with mass murder. Yet firearms covered by the federal ban are mentioned in connection with only a small minority of the crimes on the list—nine out of 138, or less than 7 percent, on the first 10 pages. And as I mentioned in a column last month, both the deadliest and the second deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history were accomplished with ordinary handguns.
GM has announced a new "ambitious" restructuring plan that would stick the U.S. government with a majority stake in the carmaker:
General Motors Corp. outlined a revamped survival plan Monday that would leave the U.S. government as its majority owner in return for an extra $11.6 billion in federal aid.
The plan includes an ambitious debt-swap offer that could move the auto maker closer to restructuring through bankruptcy court.
GM plans to cut another 7,000 staff, halve its dealer network and kill its Pontiac brand in an effort to secure government support after its existing proposal was rejected in March.
Reason.tv explored the problematic economics of GM and Chrysler not long ago. And I ran through some of the reasons why the government should not being dumping money into GM on CNBC's Power Lunch:
In other news, the United Auto Workers has agreed to "'painful' concessions to save Chrysler." It's not immediately clear if that means each UAW must adopt at least one PT Cruiser.
On Friday, the Alabama House of Representatives voted to broaden the state's hate crimes law to include sexual orientation. It's good news for the GLBT community, which saw a bittersweet outcome that same week. Last Tuesday, Allen Andrade was found guilty of first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime and sentenced to mandatory life in prison for the killing of 18-year-old transgender Angie Zapata.
Andrade's defense had sought a second-degree murder charge, claiming that Andrade killed Zapata in the heat of passion after discovering that Zapata was a he (a.k.a. "a trans-panic"). It took the jury less than two hours to convict him of first degree murder under Colorado's hate-crime law, which included sexual identity and gender as part of the law in 2005.
The case is one of the first in the country to use hate-crime laws as applied to the killing of a transgender person. Andrade's conviction and sentence is being called many things: a first; a landmark; a rallying point for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders (GLBT).
[H]ate violence[against GLBT people] will not be tolerated. The jury sent that message loud and clear yesterday afternoon. It was remarkable to see.
And the political(D) group, Progress Now Colorado, has launched a website, www.angiezapata.com, detailing Ms. Zapata's story. It also has information on the GLBT scene; and recently twittered, "Justice for Angie should be justice for all. Sign to support federal hate crime leg."
There are few people, however, who are calling the conviction what it really is: A step backwards for everyone. Regardless of sexual oriention–be it straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, whatever– the push for hate-crime legislation is a bad idea.
Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explained exactly why that is in a great 1992 piece:
By creating a distinction based on motive, hate-crime laws are bound to punish people based on their speech since that is usually the only evidence of bigoted motivation. As the Wisconsin Supreme Court observed: "There are numerous instances where the statute can be applied to convert a misdemeanor to a felony merely because of the spoken word"....
With such careful distinctions to be made, there's always the danger that less conscientious prosecutors might abuse their discretion. In any case that involves a slur or an element of bigotry, prosecutors can choose to bring hatecrime charges, automatically boosting the penalty that the defendant might face.
And again in 2007, when a federal hate-crime bill was up for a veto:
It's not a stretch to say that hate crime laws, by their very nature, punish people for their opinions. A mugger who robs a Jew because he's well-dressed is punished less severely than a mugger who robs a Jew based on the belief that Jews get their money only by cheating Christians. A thug who beats an old lady in a wheelchair just for fun is punished less severely than a thug who does so because he believes disabled people are leeches....
The fact that Andrade was convicted for his opinions while in custody, as much for his actual crime, is fairly evident. As sharply observed by CNN's Jami Floyd, Andrade was certainly homophobic, but "what was not proved [at the trial] was premeditation." In his closing statement, Chief Deputy District Attorney Robb Miller told jurors that "Everyone deserves equal protection under the law." He's right. Everyone deserves equal protection. Even those on trial. Even homophobes.
Today is the first day gay Iowans can apply for a marriage license and GLBT groups are no doubt (and rightfully) applauding the event as a step toward equality for persons of every stripe. But these same groups should be careful when pushing for hate crime laws. The death of Angie Zapata is tragic and Andrade deserved punished for the physical crime he admitted to doing. But by calling for hate crime legislation, GLBT advocates walk an ethically shaky line similar to the pro-life-and-pro-death-penalty crowd. To demand equal treatment in marriage, while advocating discriminatory protection in regards to violence and speech sends a confusing message: What is really being sought, equality or special privileges? Here's hoping the Zapata family eventually finds some peace; that everyone can get hitched how they see fit, and that no one is punished for what they think.
Cathy Young has a recent story on what some liberals really think of free speech. Associate Editor Damon W. Root and Sullum discuss the Iowa gay marriage decision here and here. Reason on hate crime here.
In his pseudo-State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama declared, “The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.” But as Senior Editor Brian Doherty writes, in just three months, we have seen what Obama means when he talks about “reach.” He doesn’t mean “our reach” but his own. His sense of that reach, and the abrupt and scary speed with which he’s used it, marks him as an executive with a tentacled grip—multiple, crushing, inescapable. No longer the cautious critic of presidential power of the campaign trail, he now sees nothing as beyond his grasp.
During Reason Weekend, the annual event held by the nonprofit that publishes this website, Harvard economist and Reason contributor Jeffrey A. Miron argued that last year's bailout was a mistake and that any stimulus spending should consist of reductions in taxes, not increases in expenditures.
Miron is a senior lecturer and director of undergraduated studies at Harvard. Educated at Swarthmore and M.I.T., he has held positions at the University of Michigan and Boston University and he has written widely on the "economics of libertarianism," including a controversial and widely discussed cost-benefit analysis of the war on drugs that concluded prohibition's costs far outweigh any possible benefits.
Approximately 30 minutes. Shot and edited by Roger M. Richards.
So says the Wall Street Journal, in a scathing editorial about bailout skullduggery:
The cavalier use of brute government force has become routine, but the emerging story of how Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke forced CEO Ken Lewis to blow up Bank of America is still shocking. It's a case study in the ways that panicky regulators have so often botched the bailout and made the financial crisis worse.
In the name of containing "systemic risk," our regulators spread it. In order to keep Mr. Lewis quiet, they all but ordered him to deceive his own shareholders. And in the name of restoring financial confidence, they have so mistreated Bank of America that bank executives everywhere have concluded that neither Treasury nor the Federal Reserve can be trusted. [...]
Evaluating the policy of Messrs. Bernanke and Paulson on their own terms, this transaction fundamentally increased systemic risk. In order to save a Wall Street brokerage, the feds spread the risk to one of the country's largest deposit-taking banks. If they were convinced that Merrill [Lynch] had to be saved, then they should have made the public case for it. And the first obligation of due diligence is to make sure that their Merrill "rescuer" of choice -- BofA -- had the capacity to bear the losses. Instead they transplanted the Merrill risk to BofA shareholders, the bank's depositors and the taxpayers who ensure those deposits. And then they had to bail out BofA too.
The political class has spent the last few months blaming bankers for everything that has gone wrong in the financial system, and no doubt many banks have earned public scorn. But Washington has been complicit every step of the way, from the Fed's easy money to the nurturing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and since last autumn with regulatory and Congressional panic that is making financial repair that much harder. The men who nearly ruined Bank of America have some explaining to do.
Whole thing here.
Glad to see the Journal inveighing against the
"regulatory and Congressional panic" that has consumed
policy-making "since last autumn," though it would have been nice
if the paper would have s
aung that same
tune, er, last autumn. Instead, the nation's leading financial
the bailout with a hundred-dollar sneer toward those who did
Safe in their think-tanks, some of our friends have claimed that talk of a financial crash is merely a political invention. Perhaps we'll now test their theory. A financial panic isn't an academic seminar, and a flight from all risk isn't something any free-marketeer should want. A recession now seems certain, as falling commodity prices are telling us, but the point is to prevent systemic financial collapse. Maybe the Members who voted "no" figure at least they'd still have jobs.
Reason on bailouts here.
Hotshot political numbers maven Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com thinks the numbers indicate yes:
The best benchmark I've been able to come up with for libertarianism is the amount of contributions to Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign. Fundraising data has the advantage of being extremely clean and comprehensive -- all contributions of at least $200 are reported to the FEC and itemized by their location.....
We have New Hampshire, we have Texas (where Paul is from) and we have a whole bunch of states in the Mountain West. Per capita, Paul raised about twice as much money in the West as he did in other parts of the country. In New Hampshire, he raised about three times above the national average....
Now then, which states had the most tea party attendance?....As measured on a per capita basis, eight of the top ten states for Tea Party attendance were West of the Mississippi. Five of the top ten -- Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming -- overlap with the best Ron Paul fundraising states.
Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie from Reason magazine's December 2008 issue on why we may be entering a new libertarian moment, tea parties aside. My profile of the Ron Paul movement from Reason magazine's February 2008 issue,
From today's Wall Street Journal, the art of including corporate disclaimers in 140 characters:
[eBay] launched a corporate blog in April 2008. Two months later, blogger Richard Brewer-Hay began "tweeting"—posting updates on Twitter—about Silicon Valley technology conferences, eBay's quarterly earnings calls and other topics....
The growing Twitter audience also attracted the attention of eBay's lawyers, who last month required Mr. Brewer-Hay to include regulatory disclaimers with certain posts.
For an official corporate twit, Richard Brewer-Hay is pretty low key and personal. Sample tweet:
This ends the eBay Ink Twitter coverage of eBay Inc. First Quarter earnings 2009. Please drink responsibly. :)
Thanks to eBay's lawyers' fear of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), here's what he is posting now before liveblogging/tweeting:
Tweet 1: “Important information about the nature of this session. Forward-looking statements and non-GAAP financial measures. Click here:”
Tweet 2: “This session will contain non-GAAP financial measures.”
Tweet 3: “The presentation of this financial information is not intended to be considered in isolation or as a substitute for GAAP financial measures.”
Tweet 4: “A reconciliation of these measures to the nearest comparable GAAP measures can be found by clicking on the following link:”
Follow Reason staffers (disclaimer free!) by going here.
Via Bob Ewing.
From our May issue, Senior Editor Radley Balko interviews veteran DEA agent Sandy Gonzalez, who reveals the drug war's complicity in torture and murder south of the border.
Atheists are apparently coming out of the same closet as
must be a walk-in!) and comparing their strategy
to that of gay-rights activists, who in turn, have compared their
struggle to the civil rights movement. Really, is
The best part of the movement, however, has been the creation of faith(less)-based license plates...for obvious, err, reasons (Picture right ↑↑↑). And a New York Times article has oodles of numbers to show that atheists are on the up-and-up:
Nationally, the "nones" in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the "nones" are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters....
Ten national organizations that variously identify themselves as atheists, humanists, freethinkers and others who go without God have recently united to form the Secular Coalition for America, of which Mr. Silverman is president. These groups, once rivals, are now pooling resources to lobby in Washington for separation of church and state.
A wave of donations, some in the millions of dollars, has enabled the hiring of more paid professional organizers, said Fred Edwords, a longtime atheist leader who just started his own umbrella group, the United Coalition of Reason, which plans to spawn 20 local groups around the country in the next year....
Part of what is giving the movement momentum is the proliferation of groups on college campuses. The Secular Student Alliance now has 146 chapters, up from 42 in 2003.
At the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, 19 students showed up for a recent evening meeting of the "Pastafarians," named for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster–a popular spoof on religion dreamed up by an opponent of intelligent design, the idea that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that a higher intelligence designed them.
Whole damned thing here.
In 2005, Contributor Chris Lehmann discussed the tedium of dogmatic atheism. Senior Editor Jacob Sullum on Mitt "remember-that-guy" Romney's atheist bashing. Back in 2007, Radley Balko noted that most Americans would elect a president who was "Catholic, black, female, divorced, elderly, Mormon, or gay." But not atheist. And Tim Cavanaugh reviews The Atheist here. Prostrate before the Spaghetti Monster here. Earlier this year, Sullum blogged about my home state's atheist ban. Don't worry though, they're working on the problem.
Following the Iowa Supreme Court's decision earlier this month in Varnum v. Brien, today is the first day that gay couples may officially apply for a marriage license in the Hawkeye State. The Des Moines Register reports that the first such license went to Melisa Keeton and Shelley Wolfe. In a recent column, I maintained that the Iowa Supreme Court got it partially right. Senior Editor Jacob Sullum argues that the Iowa court got it wrong.
I was walking to the neighborhood hardware store Saturday morning when I noticed that the two little bank branches across the street had had their windows bashed in. "Wha happen?" I asked one of D.C.'s finest.
"IMF protesters," she replied.
Protesting the International Monetary Fund by smashing up and spray-painting a PNC bank and Wachovia branch in Logan Circle a mile and a half away is roughly akin to registering your dissatifaction with a New York Stock Exchange meeting on Wall Street by urinating on some Greenwich Village ATMs.
Actually, it's even worse: Considering that some of the deadliest urban riots in United States history were epicentered just five blocks north up 14th St., and that the neighborhood is only now getting around to coming back, demonstrating against the IMF by creating a plywood-on-window-frames situation in an area that has long suffered from violence and blight is like...uh, fighting the rich by kicking a bum? Protesting the pope by slapping a Muslim? I confess that, unlike Tea Party-hater Marc Cooper, I have never much understood, let alone championed, the anti-globalization protesters that have been dogging IMF/World Bank meetings for more than a decade now.
According to Maye's lawyers, this is good news, but only in the sense that it would have been really bad news if the court had declined to hear oral arguments. The arguments are scheduled for June 4. You'll be able to watch a live webcast here.
My October 2006 Reason feature on Maye's case here. And here's Reason's award-winning documentary on Maye's story:
So remember Obama’s promise to post bills to the Internet, and wait five days for public review before signing them?
So far, he’s one for 11.
And the one is questionable.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder visited the Tower of London during a European swing through three cities during which he's "seeking allies' help to close Guantanamo Bay, fight terrorism, and catch cyber-criminals."
The attorney general did not say how much longer he thought it would take to relocate the Guantanamo [Bay] detainees. Before officials can meet President Barack Obama's January deadline, the U.S. must first decide which detainees to put on trial and which to release to the U.S. or other countries.
Holder said the first step is to decide how many total detainees will be freed.
"We're doing these all on a rolling basis," he said. "I think we're probably relatively close to making some calls."
Below, Glenn Greenwald waterboards Obama's iffy stance on civil liberties. And here, Reason.tv's Michael C. Moynihnan asking whether the president's statements about reversing Bush admin detention policies are just a "head fake":
Science fiction novelist and Singularity inventor Vernor Vinge talks with the excellent h+ , the transhumanist mag of record.
From the condensation of Vinge's interview:
"I'd personally be surprised if it hadnt happened by 2030," he announces, saying humankind may become "the only animal that has figured out how to outsource its cognition" to superintelligent machines. "It is very unsettling to realize that we may be entering an era where questions like 'What is the meaning of life?' will be practical engineering questions," 64-year-old Vinge agrees.
"On the other hand, I think it could be kind of healthy, if we look at the things we really want—and look at what it would mean if we could get them."
Reason Contributing Editor Mike Godwin (yes, that bastard who made it that much more difficult to haul out the reductio ad hitlerum in schoolyard debates) interview Vinge for the mag of Free Minds and Free Markets in May 2007. A snippet:
It's a truism that science fiction is always about the present. That is, the stories are simply a reflection of the concerns of the era in which they are written. That's a good insight, but imprecise: Science fiction is almost always a reflection of the author's present. Looking back, I see how I was immersed in stories that pointed in this direction, including stories by Olaf Stapledon, Poul Anderson, and John W. Campbell Jr. Entire generations of science fiction writers had enchanted me with visions of how different the future could be. Many of these writers had speculated on the consequences of superintelligence. The notion that those consequences might be in the near future was often missing, but by the time of my childhood it was obvious to anyone of overweening optimism.
Speaking of sf, here's Katherine Mangu-Ward on Tor Books, the world's leading publisher of speculative fiction, especially stuff that's anti-death and anti-taxes!.
• Chrysler and the UAW reach an accord.
• The Obama administration moves to roll back defendants' rights.
• The "clearest evidence that has come to light so far that technical advisers on the harsh interrogation methods voiced early concerns about the effectiveness of applying severe physical or psychological pressure."
• The authorities start looking for loopholes in the Iraq withdrawal plan.
• Christopher Buckley's forthcoming memoir about his parents might tarnish some icons.
• British cops go spying on environmental activists.
• The dark side of Dubai.
The current debate over gay marriage, writes Steve Chapman, makes the framers of the Constitution begin to look even wiser than usual. Somehow they anticipated that people in Massachusetts would not want to live under exactly the same laws as people in Mississippi. So they set up a system known as federalism, which allows different states to choose different policies. Thus we simultaneously uphold majority rule and minority rights. This, Chapman notes, is how federalism is supposed to operate—letting subsets of the national population get their way in their own locales. There's only one hitch: The federal government keeps getting in the way.
Greenwald sat down with Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie to talk about the lessons from Portugal-and Barack Obama's decidedly disappointing performance so far on drug policy, executive power, and civil liberties. Approximately nine minutes. Shot by Dan Hayes and Meredith Bragg; edited by Dan Hayes.
Reason contributor David Post teaches cyberlaw at Temple University and blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy. Long recognized as one of the most original thinkers about the Internet and digital culture, he is the author of the widely acclaimed new book In Search of Jefferson's Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace.
Post recently sat down with Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie to talk about the cutting edge in intellectual property, constitutional history, what the Internet tells us about the economic crisis, and much more.
Shot by Dan Hayes and Meredith Bragg and edited by Roger Richards. Approximately nine minutes.
During Reason Weekend, the annual event held by the nonprofit that publishes this website, Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie caught up with Matt Kibbe of Freedomworks, the group that has done more than anyone else to coordinate the controversial and wildly popular Tea Party demonstrations against out-of-control government spending.
Kibbe, a longtime limited-government activist, explains the meaning of the Tea Party movement, its grassroots appeal, the mainstream media's inability to understand the rage of the common man, and what comes next for the most vital anti-government movement in memory.
Shot and edited by Roger Richards; approximately 5.30 minutes.
An archive of anti-stimulus, anti-bailout writings by Freedomworks' chairman, Dick Armey.
Kibbe's writings on the same topics. And his classic Reason.com article from October 2, 2008, "What Would Mises Do?: Confessions of a free-market, anti-bailout operator."
Kenneth Rau, the North Dakota man who appears to be the first American busted for possession of the psychedelic herb Salvia divinorum, received a three-year "deferred imposition of sentence" this week, meaning his record will be wiped clean if he successfully completes three years of probation. Rau, who bought eight ounces of salvia leaf online not long after North Dakota banned the plant in 2007, says he did not realize he was committing a crime, a plausible claim that is reinforced by the fact that the leaves police discovered in his home were clearly labeled "salvia." He originally was accused of possession with intent to distribute, a charge that could have resulted in a prison sentence of up to 10 years. But the charge was reduced after police looked into the typical dosage for unfortified leaf, as opposed to salvia extract or leaves treated with the extract. Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia Feland recommended the deferred sentence, noting Rau's clean criminal record and the recency of the ban. If Rau had been arrested before the ban took effect, of course, his punishment would have been even lighter.
[via the Drug War Chronicle]
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama nominated Mothers Against Drunk Driving CEO Chuck Hurley to head up the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Hurley's pending appointment, writes Radley Balko, is bad news for social drinkers, motorists, and anyone interested in freedom of movement and less hassle on the roadways.
As Nick Gillespie noted yesterday, the sentencing of Charlie Lynch, former operator of a medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay, California, has been postponed until June 11. Given the amount of marijuana involved, Lynch faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. This penalty is required by statute, not merely by federal sentencing guidelines, which the Supreme Court has said are only advisory. But as I noted in a column last month, Lynch is arguably eligible for the same "safety valve" provision that benefited Oakland medical marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal, who potentially faced five years in prison but was ultimately sentenced to just a day. Notably, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit implicitly endorsed this dramatic downward departure in a footnote to a 2006 decision (PDF) dealing with other issues. "In the wake of the Supreme Court's holding that we apply a 'reasonableness' review to sentencing decisions," the 9th Circuit said, "we would not be inclined to disturb the court's reasoned analysis underlying its sentencing determination."
These are the requirements for the safety valve, which Congress created in 1994:
(1) the defendant does not have more than 1 criminal history point, as determined under the sentencing guidelines;
(2) the defendant did not use violence or credible threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induce another participant to do so) in connection with the offense;
(3) the offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to any person;
(4) the defendant was not an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise, as defined in section 408 of the Controlled Substances Act; and
(5) not later than the time of the sentencing hearing, the defendant has truthfully provided to the Government all information and evidence the defendant has concerning the offense or offenses that were part of the same course of conduct or of a common scheme or plan, but the fact that the defendant has no relevant or useful other information to provide or that the Government is already aware of the information shall not preclude a determination by the court that the defendant has complied with this requirement.
The only condition that might be problematic for Lynch is No. 4, since he employed people at the dispensary. But whether that makes him "a supervisor of others in the offense" is for U.S. District Judge George Wu to determine. At Lynch's sentencing hearing yesterday, Wu expressed sympathy for the defendant, saying, "If I could find a way out, I would." This looks like a way out.
The latest Reason.tv update on the Lynch case is here.
That's how Fifth Circuit Court Judge Jacques Wiener described his colleagues in a snarky and clumsily written dissent in Severance v. Patterson, which deals with a challenge to Texas's Open Beaches Act by the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation. Homeowner Carol Severance claims that the law violated her property rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. Here's Judge Wiener:
[T]he real object of these Californians' Cervantian tilting at Texas's Open Beaches Act ("OBA") is clearly not to obtain reasonable compensation for a taking of properties either actually or nominally purchased by Severance, but is to eviscerate the OBA, precisely the kind of legislation that, by its own declaration, the Foundation targets. And it matters not whether Ms. Severance's role in this litigation is genuinely that of the fair Dulcinea whose distress the Foundation cum knight errant would alleviate or, instead, is truly that of squire Sancho Panza assisting the Foundation cum Don Quixote to achieve its goal: Either way, the panel majority's reversal of the district court (whose rulings against Severance I would affirm) has the unintentional effect of enlisting the federal courts and, via certification, the Supreme Court of Texas, as unwitting foot-soldiers in this thinly veiled Libertarian crusade.
Complete decision here (pdf).
It's true, the Pacific Legal Foundation is committed to defending property rights against government abuse. Just like the NAACP is committed to safeguarding civil rights. But what are the chances that Judge Wiener would dismiss the NAACP's efforts in Brown v. Board of Education or Buchanan v. Warley as "Cervantian tilting"?
On April 23, 2009 a federal judge postponed the sentencing of Charlie Lynch, the man at the center of the nation's debate over medical marijuana. Lynch operated a medical marijuana dispensary that was fully legal under California law. However, in 2007, his business was raided and last year he was found guilty in federal court of distributing marijuana.
The judge signaled that, if possible, he wanted to find a way to avoid the five-year mandatory minimum sentence proscribed by law.
"To be blunt, if I could find a way out, I would," said U.S. District Judge George H. Wu.
At the hearing, Wu heard from several character witnesses, including Owen Beck, a former patient of Lynch. Beck's parents obtained medical marijuana when he was battling bone cancer at age 17. During the trial, Beck briefly took the stand, but his testimony was cut short by Wu. Steve Beck, Owen's father, told Wu that "Lynch did not make much money off of us," noting that Lynch provided them with medical marijuana "for free or at a very deep discount." Steve Beck questioned "how the incarceration of Charlie Lynch would benefit society."
Also among the character witnesses were Tom Lynch, brother of Charlie, and officials from Morro Bay, California, where Lynch's dispensary was located.
The courtroom was filled to capacity, and toward the end of the hearing roughly 90 percent of those in attendance stood up in a silent sign of support for Lynch. They remained standing for approximately 15 minutes.
Wu scheduled the next and final hearing for June 11.
In this reason.tv video update, we hear from Morro Bay Mayor Janice Peters, Morro Bay City Attorney Robert Schultz, Tom Lynch, Lynch defense attorney Reuven Cohen, and Charlie Lynch.
Approximately 4 minutes. Produced by Ted Balaker; shot by Paul Detrick.
For Reason.tv's complete coverage of the Lynch saga, go to http://reason.tv/video/show/760.html
"I would let people gamble on the Internet," Frank said. "I would let adults smoke marijuana; I would let adults do a lot of things, if they choose."
He added: "But allowing them total freedom to take on economic obligations that spill over into the broader society? The individual is not the only one impacted here, when bad decisions get made in the economic sphere, it causes problems."
Frank is nothing less than a trickster figure in American politics, especially for us libertarians who believe that economic and civil liberties are conjoined at the hip, the Chang and Eng of what makes this miserable world worth suffering through. As the comment above suggests, Frank is as good as it gets on most lifestyle issues (indeed, he even had Reason's Radley Balko testify about repealing online gambling bans) and yet he's a real lummox when it comes to economic freedom. His role in the banking and housing crisis is genuinely godawful. Not only did he strongarm mortgage companies to extend more and more credit to shakier and shakier customers, he did so all while denying anything was amiss at the government-sponsored behemoths Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that literally underwrote the mortgage mess.
And Frank's at his worst again, now pushing The Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2009, which critics charge would vastly increase the level of complexity in lending and make it more difficult for low-income borrowers and others to get access to credit.
Frank is not nonplussed by that sort of chatter, or the very idea that all liberties should be considered indivisible.
CNSNews.com asked Frank ... whether Frank's proposal might undercut personal responsibility and the freedom of individuals to make decisions.
"We're not just talking individual responsibility," Rep. Frank answered. "We have a world-wide economic crisis now, because of this. If it were purely individual responsibility, OK, that's why I disagree with the ranking member."
That, of course, is an argument constantly thrown against drug-taking and gambling (what about the children of addicts, etc.).
If we do in fact have a worldwide economic crisis (as opposed to a recession), it's clearly less because of a surfeit of "total freedom to take on economic obligations" by individuals and more about governments' inability either to leave markets alone in the first place or step aside when bad actors have to pay their own bills (including governments!).
If only Barney Frank and others like him in Congress would think their positions through a bit more and arrive at a consistent, and consistently libertarian, POV when it comes to recognizing that the right to smoke pot or play online strip poker means precious little without the economic freedom that helps you earn the money to buy pot or wager. If only...
In the meantime, here's Meatloaf ripping "Like a Bat Out of Hell" circa 1977, a simpler time when the Misery Index was busting out all over like, well, Meatloaf from his jeans:
Matt Smith of the SF Weekly recently discovered that California was providing state-subsidized training to the 100 employees of Cybernet Entertainment LLC. The subsidy is from the California Employment Training Panel (ETP), "an agency set up to make state businesses more competitive with foreign and out-of-state ones by paying contractors who train in-state workers."
So, what's Cybernet's competitive business? Exactly. High-quality, fetish porn videos. During his sleuthing, Mr. Smith submitted a public records request to the state of California, which–upon discovering what kind of stimulus it was providing–cut the funding for Cybernet.
The ensuing back-and-forth makes for decent copy:
The stripping of Kink.com's funding raises an intriguing question: Does the state's refusal to train porn-makers violate constitutional free-speech guarantees?...
Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, says the government might be straying into a legal gray area. "I think a fair reading of Supreme Court decisions in this area would support the view that government can't deny all funding to companies while allowing it to others, because the discrimination is based on the expressive content that the companies produce," he said....
Ashutosh Bhagwat, professor of constitutional law at UC Hastings College of the Law, was less certain. "The true answer is: The law in this area is a mess," he said....
Calvin Massey, also a Hastings professor of constitutional law, says that's wrong: Constitutionally speaking, the government may refuse training for pornographers if it so pleases. "My reaction is that there's nothing unconstitutional about refusing to provide governmental subsidies in the pornography industry," he said. "They're still permitted to engage in that expression. They just don't get a governmental subsidy. The government is free to make choices about how it spends its money. Simply because it chooses not to subsidize expression, or training for expression, doesn't mean [government officials have] done anything that's not within their rights."
Indeed, in 1998's National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Congress enjoys wide latitude when setting spending priorities that may affect certain forms of expression. And in 1990's Rust v. Sullivan..."The court said, 'The government is free to subsidize speech it likes, and free to refuse to subsidize speech with which it disagrees,'" Massey said.
Whole thing here.
Daniel Riedel of Kink.com said the company plans to fight to keep its subsidy. Perhaps the issue will go to court and the L.A. Times will have to recycle the headline "Upcoming trial will see hours of hard-core fetish pornography."
Reason Foundation analyst Shikha Dalmia interviewed controversial California Judge Alex Kozinski here. Contributing Editor Greg Beato explained Washington's new crackdown on porn. For the May edition, Beato takes the National Endowment for the Arts to task for its government stimulation and wonders: "Wouldn't it have been more provocative, inspiring, and educational if they'd simply said, ‘No, thanks'?"
High Five: OpenMarkets.org
From our May issue, Katherine Mangu-Ward enters The Foie Gras Wars, Ronald Bailey visits an exhibit designed to prepare us for "a widespread switch to clean and renewable sources" of energy, Damon W. Root looks at how punk and heavy metal have mixed and mingled since the early 1970s, Nick Gillespie watches ABC Family's hit show The Secret Life of an American Teenager, and Radley Balko checks out the Newseum, Washington, DC's new shrine to journalism.
Interior designers can say whatever they want, acoording to the Fifth Circuit, in a ruling[PDF] this week. They can say, "Aqua and teal look great together," or "I think a camouflage-themed room would be fabulous," or "what you need here is some shag carpeting." They can even say "I am an interior designer," which they were forbidden from doing (in Texas and many other states) without a degree and a license. It's called commercial speech and it's protected too, baby.
From the court's reasoning:
The State advances a circular argument that the speech inherently tends to mislead consumers. It runs: Texas created a licensing regime; therefore, unlicensed interior designers who refer to themselves as interior designers will confuse consumers who will expect them to be licensed. The descriptive terms “interior designer” and “interior design” are not, however, inherently misleading. They merely describe a person’s trade or business. The terms can be employed deceptively, for example if a person does not actually practice interior design, but the speech is neither actually nor inherently misleading. This argument also proves too much, as it would authorize legislatures to license speech and reduce its constitutional protection by means of the licensing alone.
That explains this, of course:
Via alert reader Andrew Craig and Volokh
The Innocence Project of New York has asked for a review of an old Pennsylvania rape conviction based largely on dubious bite mark testimony. John Kunco was convicted in 1992 of the brutal rape of a 55-year-old woman. The woman survived the attack. Kunco is serving a 45 to 90 year sentence.
The main evidence against Kunco was the woman's identification of his voice (he apparently has a lisp) and testimony from two bite mark analysts who claimed they could definitively match marks on the woman's shoulder to Kunco's dentition. Blood and hair samples collected at the crime scene were inconclusive.
Two forensic odonotologists, or bite mark experts, named Michael N. Sobel and Thomas J. David testified that they were able to use ultraviolet light to isolate and photograph the woman's wounds. Based on that photograph they were able to match the wounds to Kunco's teeth, to the exclusion of anyone else. Their testimony grows more absurd when you consider that the photograph was taken five months after the rape, after the wounds had mostly healed.
Sobel and David wrote an article about their analysis in the Kunco case for a 1994 edition of the Journal of Forensic Sciences. In that article, they explain that "the technique used followed the recommendations developed by other odontologists." One of the two footnotes to that sentence points to an article written by none other than . . . now-disgraced Mississippi bite mark expert, Dr. Michael West.
The Innocence Project is trying to get the bite mark testimony thrown out while lawyers await the results of more sophisticated DNA testing unavailable at the time of Kunco's trial.
As I noted in February, a congressionally-commissioned report published by the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year states emphatically that there's no scientific evidence to support the notion that an expert can match bite marks made on human skin to the dentition of a single suspect.
Economist Bryan Caplan thinks that he thinks the answer might be yes:
Virtually every BG [behavioral genetics] study partitions variance into three sources: genes, shared family environment, and non-shared environment. Typical estimates are something like 40-50% for genes, 0-10% for shared family environment, and 50% for non-shared environment.
And what exactly is non-shared environment? Everything other than genes and family environment!
....suppose human beings had real, honest-to-goodness free will. If it made a difference for behavior, where would it show itself? In the BG framework, it would be filed under "non-shared environment."
....If you could fully account for a person's choices using genetics and measurable environmental variables, you'd count it as a confirmation of determinism, right? Well, if you buy this argument, you also have to buy its mirror image: The harder it is to account for a person's choices using genetics and measurable environmental variables, the stronger the case for free will.
.....Identical twins raised together are still, in many ways, very different. The believer in free will can simply say, "The good twin and the evil twin just made different choices." The determinist, in contrast, can only ask for a blank check: "One day, we're figure out the hidden forces that caused them to be so different. Until then, bear with us."
.....I strongly suspect that if non-shared environment's contribution to behavioral variance were a lot smaller, determinists would be heralding the result as "proof" of their position.
In May 2003, Ron Bailey interviewed philosopher Daniel Dennett about determinism for Reason magazine. Whether you click on this link to read it may or may not be up to you.
Bad News gotcha down? What with Craigslist
getting a bad rap and Nancy Pelosi's (possible) knowledge
Water Slides" way back when, it's easy to imagine one foregoing
ever a day. Well...cheer
up. The folks at Boing
Boing have found a series of television news clips transformed
through Auto-Tune. It's almost as good as the entire Love Always
album and definitetly worth a look:
Here are the details:
Event: “Analyzing SWAT Team Use With Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and Reason Magazine’s Radley Balko”
Host: Students For Sensible Drug Policy
Start Time: Tuesday, April 28 at 7:00pm
Where: Margaret Brent Room, Stamp Student Union
It’s open to the public.
The state budget has jumped from $104 billion to $145 billion in less than six years, opening up an 11-figure (and technically illegal) budget gap. Spending growth has increased 6.8 percent a year under the current administration, compared to annual inflation-plus-population growth of just under 5 percent. Public sector unions dominate the political culture, fattening unstable pension programs and keeping public sector employment high. Sales taxes, income taxes, sin taxes, and various license fees have all recently been increased, and municpalities have been hiking their taxes and fees as well. And there are (insane) proposals on the table of a Democrat-led state legislature to do stuff like force resident businesses with websites–and their customers!–to pay sales tax on all e-commerce.
So what's Calfornia gonna do? Maybe launch a Constitutional Convention...to make it easier to raise taxes.
At issue is the requirement that a two-thirds vote of the California Legislature is needed to pass the state's budget and tax increases. California is one of just a handful of states requiring such a supermajority, and most years it leads to a weeks-long budget impasse. Convention backers want to drop the two-thirds majority rule to 55 percent.
There are many good reasons for a constitutional mulligan in California, some of them listed in the article (a cajillion amendments, spending formulae that turn the budget into a self-perpetuating pretzel, and a jiggery-pokery funding system from municipalities to states and back on down to counties). But don't be fooled for a second: The prize in this fight is reducing the tax threshold from 66.7 percent to 55 percent. It is an article of faith among the state's political class that the two biggest impediments to governability are Proposition 13 (which caps property-tax hikes) and the supermajority rule. To even point out the state's hysterical government and spending growth, which has not come with any noticeable improvement in services, is to initiate a conversation that many people (journalists, especially) have never held.
I wrote about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's "failure" in February.
Some breakfast legislative sausage, via Rep. Henry Waxman's office and the proposed cap-and-trade carbon reduction scheme, and the Washington Examiner:
In exchange for votes to pass a controversial global warming package, Democratic leaders are offering some lawmakers generous emission “allowances” to protect their districts from the economic pain of pollution restrictions.
Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, represents a district with several oil refineries, a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. He also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which must approve the global warming plan backed by President Barack Obama.
Green says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who heads the panel, is trying to entice him into voting for the bill by giving some refineries favorable treatment in the administration’s “cap and trade” system...“We’ve been talking,” Green said, referring to a meeting he had with Waxman on Tuesday night. “To put together a bill that passes, they have to get our votes, and I’m not going to vote for a bill without refinery allowances.”
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the top Republican on the energy panel, said Waxman and others are also dangling allowances for steel and coal-fired power plants to give political cover to Democrats whose districts rely on these companies.....
Waxman told The Examiner he was not trading votes for allowances.
“That is what the Republicans are saying, but that is not accurate,” he said. The bill left out specifics on allowances “in order to be able to have discussions on how best to ease the transition for various geographical regions and ratepayers.”
“I will politely disagree,” said energy committee member John Shimkus, R-Ill., who insisted Waxman “is calling members into his office to try to get their vote, and that will be based on the credits they are offering.”
I wrote about how politics inevitably precedes markets in pollution allowance trading way back in 1996. Ron Bailey has been on the contemporary cap-and-trade debate for us at Reason magazine and Reason Online like iron oxide on steel, and just a few weeks ago explained why it promises to be the biggest corporate welfare of all time.
A lawsuit has partially reversed a Bush admin edict restricting over-the-counter sales of the "morning-after" pills to women under the age of 18 years.
The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it would accept, not appeal, a federal judge's order that lifts Bush administration restrictions limiting over-the-counter sales of "Plan B" to women 18 and older. U.S. District Judge Edward Korman ruled last month in a lawsuit filed in New York that President George W. Bush's appointees let politics, not science, drive their decision to restrict over-the-counter access.
Women's groups said the FDA's action was long overdue, since the agency's own medical reviewers had initially recommended that the contraceptive be made available without any age restrictions....
Conservatives said politics drove the decision.
Well, duh. Politics is known to drive a lot of decisions in the er, political realm, including the Bush administration's original decision to keep the bill away from people who might have use for it:
In 2003, a panel of outside advisers voted 23-4 to recommend over-the-counter sales without age restrictions. But top FDA officials told their subordinates that no approval could be issued at the time, and the decision would be made at a higher level. That's considered highly unusual, since the FDA usually has the last word on drug decisions.
The Bush folks originally didn't want to let anyone get the drug without a prescription and then eventually decided on a behind-the-counter scenario for those 18 and over.
Random thoughts about letting the contraceptive known as Plan B more available: First, though it's often confused with RU-486, a.k.a. "the abortion pill," it is a contraceptive, not an abortifacient; it's essentially a super-duper birth-control pill that works by stopping ovulation or fertilization. So it doesn't raise the same questions as abortion does.
Second, there appears to be virtually no connection between access to Plan B and increased sexual activity (that's one of the fears of conservatives).
Third, while the Plan B fooferaw has generally (and accurately) been seen as a case where conservatives have stood in the way of standard medical and scientific approval processes, liberals would do well to note the FDA's role in all of this. That is, when you give a government agency monopoly control over the drug-approval process, you're not only going to get highly politicized science and medicine, you're going to get highly politicized science and medicine that might just go against what you want. The FDA is an agency whose very mission of protecting Americans is highly dubious as a general proposition and whose actions often clearly work against the interests of sick people.
President Obama has already shown a tremendous deficit of vision when it comes to budget-cutting, transportation policy, and energy policy. Here's hoping that when he turns his laser-like ability to resurrect failed ideas from the past with regard to medicine, he actually does something different and allows more methods of testing and providing drugs, not fewer. But don't count on it.
Update: Here's The Onion in 2007 on Plan C, a pill that re-impregnates guilt-ridden women.
matthew h writes below:
I reject the science versus politics dichotomy. Neither decision is more "scientific." Questions of drug availability via a regulation is a policy ie sociopolitical values question, always. It's not like scientists in white lab coats in a government agency are some new neutral science clergy, giving apolitical decisions of true right and wrong. My general policy is to err in favor favor greater availability of drugs for individual choice (I do get the abortifacient distinctions). But it's not more "scientific" of me or FDA to do so. I just have better politics/policy.
I agree and was not implying that science (or even science!) can solve (m)any policy issues. I should have written above that when the state has a monopoly over the drug-approval process, you not only get highly politicized sciece but highly scientized politics, which might even be worse given the inevitable pretense to absolute knowledge. Recommended reading on that topic: Hayek's The Counter-revolution of Science: Studies on the abuse of reason.
• The next big policy fight: credit card fees and interest rates.
• The next big foreign policy story: North Korea to put two American reporters on trial.
• The soldier who didn't want to torture -- and killed herself.
• The interrogation strategy of "learned helplessness."
• Tracking citizens' cell phones without a warrant.
• The State of Michigan ponders the privatization of my alma mater.
• A vigorous defense of Twitter.
• A revival of interest in Orientalist art -- among Arabs.
• Illicit radio activity in Brazil.
• And finally, your Friday fun link. Note: By link I mean embedded video clip, and by fun I mean the creepiest thing you will see today.
In the latest edition of Friday Funnies, Scott Stantis examines America's real pirate problem.
The sentencing of Morro Bay, California medical marijuana dispensary owner Charles Lynch has been delayed yet again, this time until June 11. According to Reason.tv producer Ted Balaker, who has followed the Lynch saga from its start, the mood in the courtroom was guardedly optimistic, especially as Judge George H. Wu openly expressed his sympathy for Lynch.
"To be blunt, if I could find a way out, I would," said Wu, referring to mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that insist Lynch get at least five years in prison. However, Wu summarily dismissed the notion of disregarding the guidelines, claiming it would simply be a "monumental waste of time" because such a decision would be overruled by a higher court. Reason.tv will post a video of today's proceedings soon. In the meantime, you can follow the case at Lynch's website, online here.
Above: Watch "Raiding California," Reason.tv's Drew Carey Project video about the Lynch case. Go here for iPod and HD versions and more.
UPDATE: Today, April 23, is the day of
reckoning not for Charlie Lynch but for the drug war—and for
learning whether the Obama administration will live up to its
statements regarding changing federal policy regarding medical
marijuana. Lynch's sentencing is scheduled to start at 3PM PT;
watch this space for breaking developments.
Charlie Lynch is a California resident who owned and operated a medical marijuana dispensary that was fully legal under a Golden State law.
In 2007, federal agents and San Luis Obispo sheriffs raided his home and dispensary and in 2008 he was found guilty in federal court of five counts of distributing drugs.
Because he was tried in a federal court, Lynch's defense team was not allowed to argue that its client was fully complying with state law.
On Thursday, April 23, 2009, Lynch is scheduled to be sentenced. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and, despite some positive statements from the Obama administration's Justice Department about respecting state laws regarding medical marijuana, Lynch's future is darker than midnight. Indeed, the simple letter of the law dictates he go to prison.
The polite term for Lynch's predicament is Kafkaesque. He is a guiltless man who genuinely helped the sick in his community and is being punished for caring. Now he faces at least five years—and potentially much more—in one of the most sickening and barbaric displays of how the drug war is carpet-bombing huge swaths of American life. Indeed, to call Lynch's plight Kafkaesque is to hide the brutality of America's longest-running and most-destructive war behind an aesthetically comforting phrase.
Charlie Lynch's life has been destroyed by policies and priorities so idiotic and corrosive that they create or exacerbate every negative outcome they purport to address. It is the logic of bombing the village in order to save it raised to an exponential degree and all Americans who believe in the smallest doses of freedom, compassion, rule of law, personal autonomy, and federalism should bear witness to the horror of what has already happened and will likely be made still worse on April 23.
Reason has been following Lynch's story since it began. Below is a chronology and selected bibliography of our print and video coverage of Lynch and the monsters who have prosecuted him like some warped Inspector Javert.
We will be reporting live here on April 23, as soon as the Lynch verdict is announced.
Charles Lynch Chronology
April 1, 2006 ... In accordance with state and local law, Charlie Lynch opens Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay, California.
March 29, 2007 ... Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff deputies raid Lynch's home and dispensary.
April 7, 2007 ... Lynch reopens his dispensary with the blessing of the City of Morro Bay.
April 14, 2007 ... The DEA threatens Lynch's landlord with forfeiture unless he evicts the dispensary.
July 17, 2007 ... Federal agents arrest Charlie Lynch, and charge him with violating federal drug laws. Lynch spends three nights in a federal detention center before being released on $400,000 bail. Lynch is confined to home detention and monitored by federal agents.
June 10, 2008 ... Reason.tv exposes a national audience to the Lynch saga with the documentary short Raiding California: Medical Marijuana and Minors.
July 28, 2008 ... Reason covers day one of U.S. vs. Charles C. Lynch: Entrapment? Lynch Trial Update
July 29, 2008 ... Silencing Owen: Lynch Trial Video Update
July 30, 2008 ... Earthquake in the Courtroom: Lynch Trial Update
July 31, 2008 ... Charlie Takes the Stand: Lynch Trial Update
August 1, 2008 ... Lynch Checked with DEA Before Opening Dispensary: Lynch Trial Update
August 2, 2008 ... The Penultimate Day: Lynch Trial Update
August 4, 2008 ... Waiting for the Jury: Lynch Trial Video Update
August 5, 2008 ... GUILTY: Lynch Trial Video Update (includes exclusive interview with jury foreperson)
October 6, 2008 ... Free Charlie Lynch Rally: Video Update
November 2008 ... Medical marijuana makes conservatives forget federalism
March 23, 2009 ... Fate on Hold: Will Charlie Lynch Spend Decades in Jail? (Video Update)
April 20, 2009 ... Obama's DOJ Won't Intervene in Charlie Lynch Case
In case you weren't watching, on Monday The Daily Show explained to its viewers that, contra those loony libertarians, socialism works quite well, thank you very much. From the Comedy Central blog: "This week on The Daily Show, [correspondent] Wyatt Cenac traveled to Sweden for a two-part segment about Socialism, which, according the the (sic) conservative pundits, will be arriving on US shores any moment to rape your pets and force you to work in a borscht factory. Considering the racial homogeneity in Sweden though, you have to think it pains the Fox News crowd to hate on them."
Both segments can be viewed here.
Not a particularly funny bit, considering the available material, but a few points about the total awesomeness of Swedish social democracy and the show's but-we're-only-joking case for the Swedish model. (They are, after all, making a serious political point in an unserious way.) Cenac's interview with ex-Abba frontman Björn Ulvaeus, during which he attempts to get him to admit that the song "Money, Money, Money" is a paean to American capitalism, leaves one with the impression that the millionaire songwriter is rather pleased with his country's glorious socialist history. Well, no.
In 2007, the Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter (DN) reported that governent "authorities claim[ed] Ulvaeus, using the services of a tax haven company, concealed millions in music production income to avoid paying taxes." DN points out that "Since 1990 Ulvaeus royalties have been collected in a Dutch company, now known as Fintage. The company made a deal with the tax haven company Stanove, on the Dutch Antilles, to transfer 95% of [Abba's] royalties there." And avoid giving it to a mother desperately in need of a second year of maternity leave.
Nor is this a new issue for Ulvaeus. In 1982, before the Social Democratic Party returned to power on promises of soaking the rich, the Christian Science Monitor reported that Abba's manager Stig Anderson was "deeply concerned by the threat of a Socialist takeover of his [business] empire. 'If we had had these funds today, we would have been forced this year to part with about $US2.16 million...Why should I continue to work 14-15 hours a day to give money away like this?...We don't want to leave Sweden. Our roots are here. We have our friends here. I intend to stay here and fight these funds even if the Social Democrats are elected. But if it becomes impossible, of course it would be very easy for us to move out.'"
After explaining the benefits of high taxation to Cenac, former culture minister Leif Pagrotsky is asked, with the Daily Show's trademark faux jingoism, how Sweden could possibly be better than the United States. Pagroysky quickly reels off "free health care," "free education," and Ingmar Bergman. We can quibble about whether any of this qualifies as "free" (the family Moynihan just paid our Swedish taxes, and believe me, it ain't "free"), but after his presentation on the brilliance of a high tax burden, Pagrotsky might have acknowledged that in 1976 Swedish authorities arrested Bergman on charges of tax evasion. In response, the director ripped the ever-expanding Swedish government bureaucracy which, he wrote in a letter to the newspaper Expressen, "grows like a galloping cancer" and very publicly decided to abandon the country for West Germany. Such outbursts were—and still are—frowned upon for those lorded over by Jante's Law. As one of his Swedish biographers noted, the "Social Democratic press campaign" against the director lasted into the late 1980s, after he had returned from exile.
On a related note, Bergman's political views were often heterodox, as demonstrated in his 1988 autobiography The Magic Lantern. Here he is bellyaching about the radicals of the 1968 student movement:
"It is possible some brave researcher will one day investigate just how much damage was done to our cultural life by the 1968 movement...Today, frustrated revolutionaries still...do not see (and how could they!) that their contribution was a deadly slashing blow at an evolution that must never be separated from its roots. In other countries where varied ideas are allowed to flourish at the same time, tradition and education were not destroyed. Only in China and Sweden were artists and teachers scorned..."
Last year, I explained to The American Prospect that, no, everything we think we know about Sweden isn't wrong.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who has been an outspoken proponent of criminal justice reform, especially related to the war on drugs, told CNN today that marijuana legalization is one of the policy changes that should be considered:
"Well, I think what we need to do is to put all of the issues on the table," Webb said this morning on CNN when asked if marijuana legalization would be part of his criminal justice reform efforts.
"If you go back to 1980 as a starting point, I think we had 40,000 people in prison on drug charges, and today, we have about 500,000 of them," the first-term Virginia lawmaker said. "And the great majority of those are nonviolent crimes—possession crimes or minor sales."
Webb is not making any promises, of course, but his attitude is a major improvement over laughing off the issue as if it were not worthy of consideration.
[Thanks to Tom Angell aty LEAP for the tip.]
This week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a First Amendment case involving a 1999 federal law that criminalizes production and distribution of videos depicting animal cruelty. The law was prompted by outrage over "crush" videos in which women step on small, furry animals in a manner that sexually arouses what I'm hoping is a very tiny percentage of porn fans. When Bill Clinton signed the bill, he instructed the Justice Department to focus on "wanton cruelty to animals designed to appeal to a prurient interest in sex." Yet all of the prosecutions so far have involved dog fights, footage of which is banned by the law even if the actual fights took place in places (such as Japan) where they are legal. Indeed, the ban covers videos of anything that now qualifies as illegal treatment of animals in the jurisdiction where they are sold, potentially including records of Spanish bullfighting, Russian bear baiting, Louisiana cockfighting, or even hunting out of season. The law exempts material with "serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value," opening the door to subjective, arbitrary, and unpredictable applications. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit found the law unconstitutional in 2007. If the Supreme Court reverses that decision, it will be creating a new category of speech that is outside the protection of the First Amendment.
Jack Shafer at Slate wonders if our crumblinginfrastructure (one word in some politicians' usage) is really in such bad shape, when you actually parse the definitions. After quoting some scaremongering major journalism about how "one-quarter of the nation's bridges are "structurally deficient" or "functionally obsolete," debunker extraordinaire Shafer notes:
The scary-sounding phrases structurally deficient and functionally obsolete combined with those big numbers are enough to make you bite your nails bloody every time you drive over a river or beneath an underpass. Yet if any of the cited pieces paused to define either inspection term, you'd come away from the alarmist stories with a yawn. As a 2006 report by U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration puts it (very large PDF):
Structural deficiencies are characterized by deteriorated conditions of significant bridge elements and reduced load carrying capacity. Functional obsolescence is a function of the geometrics of the bridge not meeting current design standards. Neither type of deficiency indicates that the bridge is unsafe. [Emphasis added.]
A "structurally deficient" bridge can safely stay in service if weight limitations are posted and observed and the bridge is monitored, inspected, and maintained. A bridge designed in the 1930s could be deemed "functionally obsolete" because it's narrower than modern standards dictate or because its clearance over a highway isn't up to modern snuff, not because it's in danger of tumbling down. (The Department of Transportation's 2004 inventory found 77,796 U.S. bridges structurally deficient and 80,632 functionally obsolete, for a totally of 158,428 deficient bridges.)....
For those of us who track infrastructure madness in the press, the current round is mighty familiar. As deplorable as our bridges may be, they're better than they were a generation ago. Today, the government classifies about 25 percent of U.S. bridges as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. A July 18, 1982, New York Times article headlined "Alarm Rise Over Decay in U.S. Public Works" cites government statistics that classify 45 percent of U.S. bridges deficient or obsolete.
Samuel Staley and Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation on why not all infrastructure spending is created equal.
Keynes on food and globalization:
The first golden age of globalization that John Maynard Keynes looked back on and mourned in 1919 flourished particularly through the food economy. It also powered America towards global supremacy. Chicago grew rich on cows, California on oranges, Alaska on fish. As Keynes wrote, it seemed that a man could “adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages”. This was never more true than when applied to beef; “the spirit of capitalism made flesh”, according to the journalist and author Upton Sinclair. In 1889, William Vestey, an Englishman, discovered the export of frozen partridge, during a sightseeing tour of Argentina. By 1921, Vestey’s meatpacking business was one of the wealthiest enterprises in England, with 2,300 butcher shops, a shipping line and packing enterprises in every continent.
Via A&L Daily.
Bankers who jumped at bailout money now seem surprised to discover that the fine print gave the government the right to retain ownership stakes in the banks for up to 10 years. Sure, banks were led to believe the warrants provision was minor, and wouldn't be a problem when the time came to negotiate repayment terms. But if there's anything this financial crisis should have taught us, writes Associate Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward, it is to be skeptical of lenders who casually promise that paying back enormous loans won't be any problem at all (ask anyone with an adjustable-rate mortgage).
Failed-before-he-could-dream reality star, Rod Blagojevich, was interviewed on NBC's Today Show...today. Best/most-quoted line: "I guess the judge did save me from eating bugs." Follow the pictorial link below for the video. The interview begins at the 2:30 mark:
Watching Blagojevich turn meek and desperate; listening to the disgraced guvna stumbling over his words, trying to explain that he needs money to support his family; being rejected by Jerry Springer!–it's all too much. The Blagojevich boondoggle has stopped being entertaining.
Blagojevich's sad, pathetic display of self-preservation is almost genuine enough to garner sympathy. Yeah, even in light of the proposed $80,000 per episode appearance and the comparision between running a state to scarfing down bugs on a reality show, which Blagojevich quickly calls "an idea that was presented to me...not an idea I had."
At Blagojevich's hearing, the Honorable James Zagel said, "I don't think the defendent fully understand the position he finds himself in." Take Blagojevich at his word that he does understand his position: hopeless. It's now time focus on much more important issues.
It's bad enough to place a burden on unpopular views by requiring student organizations to fork over extra fees to "protect" controversial speakers, writes Cathy Young. It's doubly outrageous when, even with the extra costs, the controversial speech is still silenced, as was recently the case at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Columnist Ron Hart writes
[Last] Wednesday was Tax Day or, as Obama Cabinet appointees called it, Passover....
Libertarians look at things differently than most. Quirky, cantankerous and misunderstood, we do actually get it right. We have about as much power within the GOP as the Log Cabin Republicans, and not nearly as fun Halloween dress-up parties. But, had George Bush and Congress listened to us on the five major areas where they went wrong, we would all be better off....
Using Congressman Ron Paul as the best proxy for libertarian decision-making abilities, let's look at the five areas in which he differed with "W," Congress and the GOP in the past eight years. You decide who was right.
The five areas where Bush disagreed with Paul and went wronger than Joe Pepitone include spending, creating new entitlement programs, invading Iraq, perpetuating home ownership policies with no regard for economics, and bailing out the financial system via TARP.
Hart puts on his best Bartles & Jaymes at the end and writes
Reasonable people have to look honestly at history and see who had the right answers to past issues. If you look at these five major mistakes made by Congress in recent years and where we libertarians stood on each issue, I think you will agree that more government is seldom the answer.
Over at Stephen Gordon's excellent blog, TheNextRight, comes word of a plot not to destroy big-government GOP idjits but to scare the bejeezus outta them.
From the perspective of someone who helped organize a large 2003 Tea Party event to begin the process to kill Alabama Governor Riley's proposed tax increase, I know how angry fiscal conservatives can feel about folks who have betrayed them. More recently, we even dissed a Republican Secretary of State who demanded to speak at one of the April 15th Tea Parties I helped organize.
Pondering all of this, I contacted a few Tea Party organizers I'd been in contact with see what they thought of the general idea.
"Hell, yeah!" was the immediate response from one person I've never heard use that word before.
"We should do it even for one bad floor vote," wrote one organizer about a specific Senator in his state. "This way, he'll get the message that we'll be watching every minor move he makes."
To wrap this all up, it's better that I don't identify any states or congressional districts already targeted. This way, every last Republican with a bad fiscal conscience (or desire to be re-elected) who currently holds public office should be having nightmares about who might show at his or her next campaign rally or public speaking event. A healthy dose of paranoia can sometimes be a good thing.
...but I just didn't get around to it.
Former Reason editor Virginia Postrel gives a very interesting and nuanced reading from the leading edge of procrastination studies and experimental economics. Force yourself (or have some make you) to read it. Now! A snippet:
Whether designed to boost a sagging economy or just generate sales, these [sales] promotions naturally raise the question of whether consumers should succumb to such lures. Which is the real you: the present self who wants to stay in bed rather than exercise and who runs errands instead of visiting a museum, or the future you who wants to be fit and have happy memories? The you who avoids temptation by staying out of the mall, or the you who wishes you hadn't been such a hermit?
They are both real, of course. The intimate contest for self-command never ends, and lifetime happiness requires finding the right balance between present impulses and future well-being. We know we need bosses and deadlines to help us get work done. But sometimes we can also use an external push to make us have a good time. In both cases, our future self will appreciate the help.
As we sort out the disaster that was Bank of America's TARP-funded purchase of Merrill Lynch, read this remarkable passage from the testimony that bank CEO Kenneth Lewis gave to New York's attorney general:
Q: Wasn't [Treasury Secretary Hank] Paulson, by his instruction, really asking Bank of America shareholders to take a good part of the hit of the Merrill losses?
Mr. Lewis: What he was doing was trying to stem financial disaster in the financial markets from his perspective.
Q: From your perspective, wasn't that one of the effects of what he was doing?
Mr. Lewis: Over the short term, yes, but we still thought we had an entity that filled two big strategic holes for us and over long term would still be an interest to the shareholders.
Q: So isn't that something that any shareholder at Bank of America who had less than a three-year time horizon would want to know?
Mr. Lewis: The situation was that everyone felt like the deal needed to be completed and to be able to say that, or that they would impose a big risk to the financial system if it would not.
Q: When you say "everyone," what do you mean?
Mr. Lewis: The people that I was talking to, [Fed Chairman Ben] Bernanke and Paulson.
Q: Had it been up to you would you made the disclosure?
Mr. Lewis: It wasn't up to me.
Q: Had it been up to you.
Mr. Lewis: It wasn't.
Q: Why do you say it wasn't up to you? Were you instructed not to tell your shareholders what the transaction was going to be?
Mr. Lewis: I was instructed that "We do not want a public disclosure."
Q: Who said that to you?
Mr. Lewis: Paulson.
If you believe one of the causes of the crisis is the principal agent problem -- what happens when a company's representatives act more for themselves than for the organization's long-term interests -- then this should be yet another alarming moment. The government pressured a corporation's chiefs to take a very risky move while keeping the company's nominal owners in the dark. The end result was a big bailout for Bank of America (and a big payday for Merrill Lynch executives).
Don't think for a second that this was an enormous aberration. At a time when many of us are looking for ways to make owners more responsible for a company's fortunes, public policy is pushing us in the opposite direction: The government has been shielding companies from the consequences of their actions, and it has been inserting itself into their internal policies. The effect is to shift both fiscal liability and decision-making authority into the hands of the state, leaving owners even further removed from the risks being taken in their name.
Earlier this week, fertility specialist Paniyiotis Zavos claimed to have created 14 cloned human embryos, of which he implanted 11 in the wombs of four women. None of the alleged clones took. His efforts will apparently air as a documentary on the Discovery Channel. Zavos' stunt does not help people who want eventually to include safe human cloning in the armamentarium of fertility treatments. The Guardian provides some relevant comments from researchers:
"This whole affair shows a complete lack of responsibility," said Professor Azim Surani, Marshall-Walton professor of physiology and reproduction at the University of Cambridge.
"If true, Zavos has again failed to observe the universally accepted ban on human cloning, which was agreed because most of the resulting embryos from such animal experiments are abnormal. This is yet another episode designed to gain maximum publicity without performing rigorous animal experiments or presenting it for peer review in a scientific journal."
Professor Robert Winston, emeritus professor of fertility studies at Imperial College London, was blunter. "I do not know of any credible evidence that suggests Dr Zavos can clone a human being. This seems to be yet another one of his claims to get repeated publicity," he said.
Professor Wolf Reik, head of the epigenetics and chromatin programme at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge, said a successful clone would be no different from a naturally conceived identical twin. "But there are important ethical issues here that must be considered. For example, cloning a child who has died will create a genetically identical person; but it will not be the same child. This is most certainly not a way of bringing people back from the dead," he said.
In fact, no peer-reviewed report of the successful creation of a cloned human embryo has yet been published in any scientific journal. Many object that human reproductive cloning is immoral. For example, President Barack Obama has declared, "It is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society." The United Nations has passed resolutions urging the adoption of an international convention banning reproductive cloning.
But it is not at all clear why safe reproductive cloning would be unethical. After all, such a clone would essentialy be a delayed twin.
The folks over at the Women's Bioethics Project (WBP) have published a thorough deconstruction of anti-cloning laws around the world. As the WBP report points out:
The United Nations general assembly approved a declaration to ban human cloning on March 8, 2005; 59 countries independently prohibit reproductive cloning; and 97 percent of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (which accounts for 84 percent of the world’s GDP) ban reproductive cloning (Hayes 2008.) While the United States is one of the few developed countries, along with Russia, that has not enacted a nation-wide ban on the practice, 15 states already prohibit reproductive cloning (NCSL 2008) and bills to ban the practice have been introduced in both houses of Congress.
The WBP report also looks at how anti-cloners rely on the ethically fuzzy concept of "human dignity" to justify cloning bans. The WBP cites the analysis of University of Maryland law professor David Hyman:
Assessments of human dignity are quite subjective, with considerable variation temporally, chronologically, geographically, and culturally. Social class, religion, wealth, and the degree of industrialization matter as well. There is also a considerable degree of individual variation. Consider whether human dignity is enhanced, diminished, or unaffected by blue laws, capital punishment, cloning, decriminalization of drug possession, gay marriage, genetically modified food, gun control, legalized prostitution, partial-birth abortion, physician-assisted suicide, prohibition of hate speech, school prayer, school vouchers, state lotteries, and three-strikes laws. Would Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Zell Miller, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and the Pope have the same answers to that question?
Even if people agree that human dignity is the appropriate standard for assessing policy initiatives, they are only likely to agree on what is dignified for matters at the extreme end of the policy distribution (e.g., incest, slavery, and cannibalism). On matters that fall closer to the mean (e.g., organ transplantation, cloning, affirmative action, tobacco regulation, church-state relationships, hate crimes, private gun ownership, and euthanasia), the preferences of individual citizens, groups, and nations vary tremendously.
These preference variations are exceedingly important, since actual behavior (including voting) maps neatly onto these expressed preferences. Given this diversity of preferences, and the inherent subjectivity of those preferences, it is unlikely that we, as a nation, will be able to settle on a single notion of human dignity, let alone be able to apply the resulting standard to a particular policy issue in a way that puts it permanently to rest.
The WBP analysis of cloning and human dignity concludes:
Before we support a worldwide ban on cloning, we need to carefully examine the ethical language used and be sure it reflects the common good. By adopting vague ethical language we are making ourselves vulnerable to manipulation by those with a broader policy agenda than just banning reproductive cloning. We must watch carefully as human dignity is employed to ban human reproductive cloning, for it can unwittingly set the stage for banning other reproductive technologies such as IVF, genetic testing and genetic modification as well as therapeutic cloning.
Sounds right to me.
From our May issue, Contributing Editor Gregory Benford reviews David Friedman's new book Future Imperfect and explores whether we will greet new technologies with more regulation or more liberty.
...That's the ominous lede from a breaking news item out of Illinois. Even more frightening? Those denture pimps are at the State Capital to push for a five percent sales tax on soda pop.
Ok. Ok. To be fair, the money would go towards state the dental program for the poor. But–as my predecessor pointed out last year–there are alternatives that don't require the ISDS or a pop tax. Specifically, alternatives that could bypass the ISDS (a constituent of the American Dental Association) and allow folks to take better care of their own.
That, or, the convergence of dentists could all be for show. As Associate Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward noted in previous posts, New York Gov. David Paterson's proposed soda tax was just awareness raising.
High Five: The Chicagoist
In the wake of Egypt's fizzled "Facebook Youth" strike -- it had been scheduled for April 6, the first anniversary of an uprising in the textile town of Mahalla al-Kobra -- Marc Lynch has some thoughts on the drawbacks of that particular medium in that particular context:
I have a hard time thinking of a communications technology more poorly suited for organizing high-risk political collective action than Facebook. Joining a group is perhaps the lowest-cost political activity imaginable, involving none of the commitment and dedication necessary to go out to a protest -- to say nothing of engaging in the hard work of organizing required for real political activity. For all their faults, the bloggers of Kefaya were already committed and often experienced political activists ready to pay a certain degree of costs for their activities. But people who joined Facebook groups? Not so much. Marginally raising the costs of participation, as authoritarian governments can easily do by selectively repressing a few members or beating up some protestors[, can scare such members away.] Its public nature makes it easy for the authorities to identify leaders to repress, or for provocateurs or spies to join up and see what's in the works. And finally, Facebook -- with its brief Twittery status updates and forum-ish discussion threads -- offers less of the 'public sphere' potential of blogs.
All true. That said, there's another, more prosaic reason Egyptian dissidents weren't able to replicate last year's Facebook-free rebellion. That revolt was basically a bread riot. And as the German Press Agency reports, in the year since then
the price of wheat -- of which Egypt imports 7.5 million tonnes a year, more than any other country in the world -- has dropped more than 57 per cent. Last week, Egypt's Ministry of Social Solidarity said the country had 2 million ton of grain stored, enough to last the country four months.
In other words, well-fed college kids were unwilling to take the same risks as hungry people with little to lose. That would have been true even if they'd organized themselves through channels more appropriate than Facebook and Twitter.
But now Obama went further, using a parable from the Sermon on the Mount — the need for a house built on rock rather than on sand — to describe a future that was nothing less than an overhaul of the nature of American capitalism. "It is simply not sustainable," he said, "to have an economy where, in one year, 40% of our corporate profits came from a financial sector that was based on inflated home prices, maxed-out credit cards, overleveraged banks and overvalued assets."
That was the house built on sand. His house built on rock had five pillars — new rules for Wall Street, new initiatives in education, alternative energy and health care, and eventually budget savings that would bring down the national debt — which did sound a bit prosaic. Democratic politicians have been promising one or another, if not all, of the above since Franklin Roosevelt reinvented American government in the 1930s. But Obama was making his case in the midst of a national crisis, at a moment when it seemed possible that he might enact much of what he was seeking. And he was talking about far more than a new set of policies: he was implying a new set of national values. [...]
The combination of candor and vision and the patient explanation of complex issues was Obama at his best — and more than any other moment of his first 100 days in office, it summed up the purpose of his presidency: a radical change of course not just from his predecessor, not just from the 30-year Reagan era but also from the quick-fix, sugar-rush, attention-deficit society of the postmodern age. [...]
The most important thing we now know about Barack Obama, after nearly 100 days in office, is that he means to confront that way of life directly and profoundly, to exchange sand for rock if he can.
Read the speech that has Klein so hot and unbothered here. Typical for the genre, Klein provides no detail whatsoever, let alone analysis, of those alleged "new initiatives in education, alternative energy and health care, and eventually budget savings that would bring down the national debt."
Leftist critics are correct in questioning the authenticity of the right’s renewed interest states’ rights (an awkward term) and federalism (a better one). Conservative chattering heads didn’t seem to care much for the idea back when they were calling the shots from Washington.
But the discussion also reminds me of the encouraging pro-federalism chatter we heard from the left shortly after the Democrats were trounced in the 2004 election. For all the heat he’s taking, Texas Gov. Rick Perry might want to consult with MSNBC analyst and former West Wing writer and producer Lawrence O’Donnell, for example, who favorably used the word secede on the McLaughlin Group back in November of ‘04. O’Donnell helpfully pointed out that secession needn’t necessarily be violent, explaining that, “You can secede without firing a shot.”
Lefty pubs like Salon, the Nation, and the Stranger ran think pieces that called for (sometimes begrudgingly) a new debate over the benefits of more parochial control. A couple of lefty-penned op-eds in the New York Times also argued for decentralized control and weakening the federal government’s ability to influence local policy.
Alas, it was all rather short-lived. Nothing invigorates interest in federalism like losing a national election. And nothing smothers that interest like winning one.
Last week, The Pirate Bay boys were found guilty of "assisting making available copyrighted content," sentenced to a year in prison, and instructed to pay $3.6 million to various entertainment companies.
The ornery buccaneers were defiant after the decision and promised to continue on their wayward course. Today, a lawyer for one of The Pirate Bay founders is calling for a retrial.
If you've been a little confused about whole ordeal–what with strange terms like BitTorrent, digital piracy, etc.–then you're in luck. The reason The Pirate Bay is demanding a retrial is simple: good ole fashion conflict of interest:
The judge in the Pirate Bay case, Tomas Norström, has been a member of several of the same copyright protection organisations as several of the main entertainment industry representatives, Sveriges Radio's P3 news programme reports....
Torrentfreak breaks down Norstrom's membership list and nabs some choice quotes, too:
Swedish Association of Copyright (SFU)–The judge Tomas Norström is a member of this discussion forum that holds seminars, debates and releases the Nordic Intellectual Property Law Review. Other members of this outfit? Henrik Pontén (Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau), Monique Wadsted (movie industry lawyer) and Peter Danowsky (IFPI) - the latter is also a member of the board of the association.
Swedish Association for the Protection of Intellectual Property (SFIR)–The judge Tomas Norström sits on the board of this association that works for stronger copyright laws. Last year they held the Nordic Championships in Intellectual Property Rights Process Strategies.
.SE (The Internet Infrastructure Foundation)–Tomas Norström works for the foundation that oversees the .se name domain and advises on domain name disputes. His colleague at the foundation? Monique Wadsted. Wadsted says she's never met Norström although they have worked together....
"Every time I accept a case I make an assessment on whether I am part of it or not. But I have not felt that I am biased because of those commitments," [Norstrom] said....
Previously one of the original lay judges in the case had to step down when his involvement in a music rights group became known;
"Three lay judges were appointed," said Judge Norström one week before the trial. "On a question from me to the lay judges on whether they had any involvement in copyright associations or similar, or if they are or have been artists one of them answered Yes."
That lay judge was removed. It's anyone's guess why the judge didn't think the same should apply to him.
In related news, Wired is reporting that:
Membership in the Swedish Pirate Party has more than doubled in the wake of last Friday's verdict against The Pirate Bay, dramatically increasing the copyright-reform party's chances of winning a seat in the European Parliament.
Over 22,000 new party members have joined the Pirate Party... The explosion of support has swelled the party's membership from 15,000 on Friday morning to more than 37,000 on Wednesday, according to party officials.
Whole thing here.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre this June, buffoonish martial arts movie star millionaire Jackie Chan delivers a roundhouse square to the back of Tank Man's head:
"I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not," [Chan] told an audience at a regional economic forum in southern China Saturday. "If you're too free, you're like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic." He continued: "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want."
The Asian Wall Street Journal notes that Chan's latest movie has been banned by the Chinese government.
OOPS: Looks like on-the-ball Reason intern Jeff Winkler beat me to this story by a good three days.
I participate in a Shakespeare's birthday symposium over at National Review Online, where contributors range from Mark Bauerlein (Reason contributor and Reason.tv web-video phenom!) to Heather MacDonald (Reason sparring partner over the years!) to Joe Queenan (Reason contributor back in the good old days when Hershey bars only cost a quarter, I tells ya, and earlier than our online archive covers!).
The question put to these noble few, this band of brothers: Pick your favorite Shakespeare play and explain why you love it.
The final medal count, btw, was: King Lear (with about 4.5 votes, depending on whether you're counting ballots in South Florida or not) and bunch of single-interest protest votes for wacky third-party candidates, including my own for Titus Andronicus (which, when you think about it, is kind of like the Ron Paul of the First Folio!). To wit:
Titus Andronicus is not only Shakespeare's first tragedy but by common acclamation his least accomplished drama. Indeed, Bardolators in past centuries routinely claimed that there was no way Shakespeare could have ever authored a dog so nasty as this; more recently, Harold Bloom argued it can be salvaged only as a parody of mediocre Elizabethan revenge tragedies.
Yet the play, based on a story of rape and revenge in Ovid's Metamorphoses and shamelessly pinching from Jasper Heywood's English-language version of Seneca's Thyestes, still speaks to modern audiences for reasons that go far beyond its over-the-top violence (think Quentin Tarantino with an unlimited budget for ketchup) and bizarre fixation on torture and dismemberment (think, um, Quentin Tarantino with an unlimited budget for ketchup). Set in ancient Rome and chock-full of human pies, Titus Andronicus tells a story in which all political and martial power is wielded bluntly and horrifically and in which everyone is doomed by the limits of gender, race, and rage. It brilliantly depicts and reveals the aristocratic, pre-modern world in which the individual is given no room to flourish and no meaningful representation in the public or private sphere. First staged at the very dawn of the modern era, in which the individual would finally (if imperfectly) be allowed to create his or her own future, Titus Andronicus remains a bizarre, stomach-turning, and wonderful reminder of a universal, stultifying social order that the world was fast putting behind itself in favor of something approaching liberty for all.
Yes, I do like my art politicized.
Given the bardolatrous subject matter, it's not surprising that the ghost at this buffet is literary critic Harold Bloom, whose The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages I reviewed 15 years ago (!) in Reason.
Robert Poole, over at the Reason Foundation's Out of Control policy blog, takes a look at the leading Democratic congressional proposals to ration carbon dioxide and finds them lacking:
The idea of using market mechanisms such as cap-and-trade or a carbon tax is a good one, in principle. Instead of government attempting to micromanage all sources of carbon emissions—and inevitably attempting to pick winners and losers—the market approach is to put a price on carbon and allow competitive market forces to sort out the least-cost way to reduce the output of carbon throughout our economy.
Alas, that simple and efficient approach seems increasingly unlikely to be implemented. Congress and the Obama administration are moving steadily toward a version of cap-and-trade that combines the worst of micromanagement and pork-barrel politics. If implemented, it would make this country poorer while reshaping transportation in undesirable ways.
George Will, on the Obama administration's D.C. vouchers massacre:
Not content with seeing the program set to die after the 2009-10 school year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan (former head of Chicago's school system, which never enrolled an Obama child) gratuitously dashed even the limited hopes of another 200 children and their parents. Duncan, who has sensibly chosen to live with his wife and two children in Virginia rather than in the District, rescinded the scholarships already awarded to those children for the final year of the program, beginning in September. He was, you understand, thinking only of the children and their parents: He would spare them the turmoil of being forced by, well, Duncan and other Democrats to return to terrible public schools after a tantalizing one-year taste of something better. Call that compassionate liberalism.
After Congress debated the program, the Education Department released -- on a Friday afternoon, a news cemetery -- a congressionally mandated study showing that, measured by student improvement and parental satisfaction, the District's program works. The department could not suppress the Heritage Foundation's report that 38 percent of members of Congress sent or are sending their children to private schools.
It's not just the hypocrisy (though that is massive), and it's not just the cruel gratuitousess (ditto) of the move. It's the steamy, faux-scientific, high-mindedesque bullshit with which it continues to be garnished. As Shikha Dalmia recently pointed out in this space, Obama had said during his presidential campaign, "Let's see if it [the voucher program] works....And if it does, whatever my preconceptions, you do what's best for the kids." Even yesterday, Education Secretary Duncan had the gall to write the following in the Wall Street Journal:
No more false choices about money versus reform, or traditional public schools versus charters. No more blaming parents or teachers. We need solid, unimpeachable information that identifies what's working and what's not working in our schools. Our children deserve no less. [...]
We must close the achievement gap by pursuing what works best for kids, regardless of ideology. In the path to a better education system, that's the only test that really matters.
"Big picture, I don't see vouchers as being the answer," Duncan said in a recent meeting with Washington Post editors and reporters. "You can pull two kids out, you can pull three kids out, and you're leaving 97, 98 percent behind. You need to help all those kids. The way you help them is by challenging the status quo where it's not working and coming back with dramatically better schools and doing it systemically."
Call it No Child Left Ahead.
You could use that exact same argument to kibbosh honors programs at every big public high school in the nation. As Juan Williams points out in a righteously angry blog post, the D.C. program was designed explicitly to sidestep the traditional argument against vouchers–that they steal from public schools and give to the privates. Strip that away, and the next line of attack is a sudden and uncharacteristic interest in skeptical cost-benefit analyses. Slap that one down, and the real face of Democratic "reform" is revealed–there shall never be vouchers, because our teachers-union friends hate them. But we're really doing it for the children.
• Taliban in Pakistan now in control of territory within 70 miles of Islamabad.
• Immigrants swept up in federal raids face not only deportation, but the loss of custody of their children.
• Wisconsin attorney general says it's legal to open carry in the state. Milwaukee police chief's response: "My message to my troops is if you see anybody carrying a gun on the streets of Milwaukee, we’ll put them on the ground, take the gun away and then decide whether you have a right to carry it." You know you have a problem when the chief refers to peace officers as "troops."
• The Washington Post looks at telekinetic toys.
• Bank of America CEO testifies that Bernanke, Paulson told him to keep quiet about the company's troubled plan to purchase Merril. The deal went through, and Merril's larger-than-expected losses triggered a federal bailout.
In a far-flung corner of the empire (near Toledo, no less!), in a galaxy a long, long time ago, the rebellion beginneth:
Warren County commissioners say they don't want more than $2 million in federal stimulus funds offered to the county to pay for transit and "green" projects.
The county refused to take $373,000 set aside by the Ohio Department of Transportation to purchase three shuttle vans for the county transit program and a computer-based program to schedule rides requested by residents.
"This is bad, filthy money, folks," Commissioner Mike Kilburn said March 17, when the commissioners voted unanimously not to accept transit dollars. "This is money we don't have."...
Kilburn went further: "Stop spending money you don't have and start being accountable to the taxpayers. God only asked for 10%, why do the politicians in Washington D.C. think they deserve more than 40%?" ...
"If we want it that bad, we'll do it on our own," Warren County Commissioner David Young said Tuesday. "I don't think people understand how much money we are talking about here."...
According to Young, a representative from Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown's office called the Warren County's clerk of commissioners about a month ago and announced: "Congrats, you get $1.8 million."
"I told her (the clerk) to call them back and tell them we don't want it; we didn't apply for it; is there any way of literally not borrowing this money?" Young said.
Young reportedly doesn't only want Warren County to reject the $$$; he wants the feds to use it to retire the national debt.
More here, from the AP via the Cincy Enquirer (Hat tip: Dan Hayes).
Related: Ohio, like 31 other states, actually gets more from the federal government than it sends there in all taxes. According to the Tax Foundation using data from fiscal year 2005, the Buckeye State pulls in $1.05 for every buck mailed to D.C. And it's a theme we've hit on before, but many of the bluest of blue states (New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts) are the ones getting screwed on that money flow.
When the Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote his epic, The Gulag Archipelago, some Americans read it to measure the gulf between the brute savagery of communism and the principled standards of free, civilized nations. But as Steve Chapman writes, some Americans apparently took it as a helpful how-to volume.
Writing in The New Republic, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, a senior fellow at the libertarian Independent Institute and son of the great Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, takes a look at Eduardo Galeano's Open Veins of Latin America, the book Hugo Chavez bequeathed to President Obama on his visit to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad. According to Vargas Llosa, the anti-capitalist, anti-free trade tract, which shot to number two on Amazon.com's bestseller list this week, is wrong on every front: "Everything that has happened in the Western Hemisphere since the book appeared in 1971 has belied Galeano's arguments and predictions."
The author claims that relations between Latin America and rich countries have been so pernicious that "everything ... has always been transmuted into European--and later United States--capital." Actually, for years that relationship has transmuted into the exact opposite: Latin American capital. In the last seven years alone, Latin America has benefited from $300 billion in net capital flows. In other words, a lot more capital came in than went out.
The book rails against the international division of labor, in which "some countries specialize in winning and others in losing." That division of labor in the Western Hemisphere has not changed--Latin American countries still export commodities--and yet in the last six years, poverty in the region has been reduced to about one-third of the population, from just under half. This means that 40 million were lifted out of that hideous condition. Not to mention the 400 million pulled out of poverty in other "losing" nations worldwide in the last couple of decades.
The author pontificates that "raw materials and food are destined for rich countries that benefit more from consuming them more than Latin America does from producing them." Sorry, amigo, but the story of this decade is that Latin America has made a killing sending exports abroad--the region has had a current account surplus for many years. Rich countries are so annoyed with all the things poor countries are exporting to them that they are asking their governments to "protect" them in the name of fair trade. The "buy American" clause in the fiscal stimulus package approved by Congress a few weeks ago is a case in point. The U.S. had a trade deficit of more than $800 billion last year. The poor, if I may echo Galeano's hemophilic language, are sucking the veins of the rich.
According to his critics on the right, the Obama-Chavez handshake is a sign of desperation, a desire to be loved, a warm gesture to a brutal autocrat. To his defenders on the left, the mere willingness to talk to blustering fools like Chavez and Castro is a "hard-headed formula for advances America's interests in the world" and shows that, at long last, there is an adult in charge of American foreign policy. Both ideas, writes Michael C. Moynihan, are nonsense.
Rep. Harman, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, has long been an aggressive defender of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, calling federal whistleblowers who revealed the program's abuses "despicable," and at one point even suggesting criminal prosecution of the New York Times for revealing how the program may have been in violation of U.S. law.
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that Harman "was overheard on telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency agreeing to seek lenient treatment from the Bush administration for two pro-Israel lobbyists who were under investigation for espionage." In return, "the caller promised her that a wealthy California donor...would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi...if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post."
Suddenly, Harman isn't so fond of NSA's wiretapping program, or the idea of federal eavesdropping in general, even though the tap on her own phone was legal, and administered after federal officials actually bothered to secure a warrant. Yesterday on CNN, Harman unleashed a torrent of (self) righteous indignation:
I'm just very disappointed that my country -- I'm an American citizen just like you are -- could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years. I'm one member of Congress who may be caught up in it, and I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back. I'm thinking about others who have no bully pulpit, who may not be aware, as I was not, that someone is listening in on their conversations, and they're innocent Americans.
I don't really see any ameliorating factors, here. Harman gets the first perfect score—a 10 out of 10—on the somewhat arbitrary Hackery Index.
If you see an example of a pundit, politician, major blogger, or other Beltway creature who’s done a 180 on this or another issue, please send it here, with links, and “HackWatch” in the subject line. Prior installments of HackWatch here.
(Hat tip: Glenn Greenwald)
Some time after 7:30 p.m. and before 8:00, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch will be on Washington, D.C.'s NewsChannel 8 (which, confusingly, is viewable at channel 28) to discuss the Democratic Party's euthanasia of the local school vouchers program.
Bill Kauffman contrasts Earth Day with the holiday that used to occupy April 22:
The difference between Arbor Day and Earth Day is the difference between planting a tree in your backyard and e-mailing a machine-written plea for a global warming treaty to your UN representative.
It was not all bad news for the Fourth Amendment at the Supreme Court yesterday. In addition to signaling that they may approve the strip search of an eighth-grader by public school officials looking for ibuprofen, the justices ruled that police may search the vehicle of an arrested motorist only if they reasonably believe it contains evidence of the offense for which he was arrested or that he may be able to retrieve a weapon from it. The case involved Rodney Gant, who was arrested in Arizona for driving with a suspended license. After he was handcuffed and placed in the patrol car, police searched his vehicle and found cocaine in the pocket of a jacket. The Arizona Supreme Court threw out the resulting drug charge, concluding that rummaging through Gant's car did not qualify as a "search incident to arrest," for which the U.S. Supreme Court has said a warrant is not required, because it did not serve to protect officer safety or preserve evidence. In a decision by Justice John Paul Stevens that was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.
The line-up is interesting, especially given the (largely undeserved) reputations Scalia and Thomas have acquired for supporting the erosion of civil liberties. When it comes to students' Fourth Amendment rights, Thomas would say they have none that public school officials need respect, and Scalia is only slightly less dismissive. It will be surprising if they do not approve the Advil strip search. But when it comes to adults, Scalia and Thomas are much less inclined to side with the government in Fourth Amendment cases. In this case, Scalia wrote a concurrence that is even less generous to police than the majority opinion:
It is abundantly clear that [traditional standards of reasonableness] do not justify what I take to be the rule set forth in New York v. Belton and Thornton [v. United States]: that arresting officers may always search an arrestee's vehicle in order to protect themselves from hidden weapons. When an arrest is made in connection with a roadside stop, police virtually always have a less intrusive and more effective means of ensuring their safety—and a means that is virtually always employed: ordering the arrestee away from the vehicle, patting him down in the open, handcuffing him, and placing him in the squad car....
Justice Stevens acknowledges that an officer-safety rationale cannot justify all vehicle searches incident to arrest, but asserts that that is not the rule Belton and Thornton adopted....[Stevens says] that officers making a roadside stop may search the vehicle so long as the "arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time of the search." I believe that this standard fails to provide the needed guidance to arresting officers and also leaves much room for manipulation, inviting officers to leave the scene unsecured (at least where dangerous suspects are not involved) in order to conduct a vehicle search. In my view we should simply abandon the Belton-Thornton charade of officer safety and overrule those cases. I would hold that a vehicle search incident to arrest is ipso facto "reasonable" only when the object of the search is evidence of the crime for which the arrest was made, or of another crime that the officer has probable cause to believe occurred.
Meanwhile, Justice Anthony Kennedy, described as a quasi-libertarian in a recent book on his jurisprudence, joined the dissenters who would have upheld the search of Gant's car.
[Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.]
Over at Concurring Opinions, law professor Gerard Magliocca argues that Amity Shlaes's superb history of the New Deal, The Forgotten Man, pays too little attention to FDR's success in neutralizing populist Louisiana Gov. Huey Long:
Let's assume for purposes of discussion that Shlaes is right about the economics. Is that the end of the matter? I don't think so. The next question is whether activist government was necessary to prevent something worse from happening. I'm not talking about a dictatorship. I'm simply referring to a political movement in favor of even more interventionist or redistributive policies that would have gained traction because the government was not doing enough.
The problem is that there is a forgotten man in "The Forgotten Man"—Huey P. Long. "The Kingfish" of Louisiana became a national figure in 1934 and 1935 with his "Share Our Wealth" movement, which was the organization that he intended to use for a presidential bid in 1936. (Long was assassinated in late 1935). Among other things, he wanted to establish a personal income cap through massive wealth and income taxes to pay for public works and subsidies for the poor. FDR told his aides that he "needed to steal Long's thunder" in 1935, which led to the proposal of Social Security and a much more modest wealth tax. (FDR was also responding to other protest movements—Father Coughlin and Dr. Francis Townsend come to mind).
It's an intriguing argument. But as Magliocca himself notes, Long "became a national figure in 1934 and 1935." By that point, FDR had already saddled the economy with the disastrous National Industrial Recovery Act and National Recovery Administration, which a unanimous Supreme Court thankfully struck down in 1935. There's certainly no question that Long's authoritarian populism would have been far worse for the country than the New Deal, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement of FDR's misguided policies.
For more on The Forgotten Man, don't miss Nick Gillespie's classic 2008 interview with Amity Shlaes.
While Ayn Rand has seen a resurgence here in the states, it seems Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf is gaining popularity in India, at least for business students. From the Daily Telegraph via Mangement Today via the Huffington Post:
Booksellers told The Daily Telegraph that while it is regarded in most countries as a 'Nazi Bible', in India it is considered a management guide in the mould of Spencer Johnson's "Who Moved My Cheese".
Sales of the book over the last six months topped 10,000 in New Delhi alone, according to leading stores, who said it appeared to be becoming more popular with every year.
Several said the surge in sales was due to demand from students who see it as a self-improvement and management strategy guide for aspiring business leaders, and who were happy to cite it as an inspiration.
The really interesting bit is stuck in the middle of the article:
Senior academics cite the mutual influence of India and Hitler's Nazis on one another. Mahatma Gandhi corresponded with the Fuhrer, pro-Independence leader Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army allied with Hitler's Germany and Japan during the Second World War, and the Nazis drew on Hindu symbolism for their Swastika motif and ideas of Aryan supremacy.
Dr J Kuruvachira, Professor of Philosophy of Salesian College in Nagaland and who has cited Mein Kampf as a source of inspiration to the Hindu nationalist BJP, said he believed the book's popularity was due to political reasons.
"While it could be the case that management students are buying the book, my feeling is that it has more likely influenced some of the fascist organisations operating in India and nearby," he said.
Go to the source, here.
That's the question posed by baseball/politics numbers-cruncher Nate Silver, atop a pile of anecdotes and polls.
Aside from all the this-year's-model economic stuff that you'd expect from a party that miraculously relocated some of its alleged principles at the precise moment it lost power, there were these notes I found interesting/promising:
-- Republican insiders are increasingly uncertain about whether gay marriage, which was such an important issue for the party over 2000-2004, is any longer a winning issue at all for them. Reaction to the Iowa Supreme Court decision was surprisingly muted in conservative circles. Meanwhile, at least one prominent Republican presidential candidate, Utah's John Huntsman, has come out in favor of civil unions (although not gay marriage itself).
-- If gay bashing is becoming less in vogue among Republicans, it's unclear which other cultural issues -- areas where Republicans sometimes favor bigger, more statist government -- might take its place. Yes, there's always abortion. But I'm surprised there hasn't been more anti-immigrant sentiment, as often happens when jobs are scarce; perhaps the Republicans' poor performance among Latino voters on November 4th might have scared them away from that issue. Marijuana legalization seems to be gaining some traction (although more among pundits than policymakers), but about half the conservative commentariat (see Glenn Beck, for instance, who calls himself a libertarian) seems to embrace it.
Maybe you see a pattern there and maybe you don't. But of the roughly four different pathways the Republicans could take in the post-Obama universe -- toward Ron Paulesque libertarianism, toward Sarah Palinesque cultural populism, toward Mike Huckabeesque big-government conservatism, or toward Olympia Snowesque moderation/ good-governmentism -- the libertarian side would seem to have had the best go of things in the First 100 Days.
I don't know if I see a pattern, but I do know that A) I'd be happy if it were true, B) there does seem to be some public-opinion tectonics underfoot on bailouts, marijuana, and gay marriage; and C) my expectation of national Republicans going libertarian even one hour past election day is roughly zero. Other thoughts?
Reason contributor David Post teaches cyberlaw at Temple University and blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy. Long recognized as one of the most original thinkers about the Internet and digital culture, he is the author of the widely acclaimed new book In Search of Jefferson's Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace.
Post recently sat down with Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie to talk about the cutting edge in intellectual property, constitutional history, what the Internet tells us about the economic crisis, and much more.
Shot by Dan Hayes and Meredith Bragg and edited by Roger Richards.
It seems insensitive – a cheap shot,
really – to berate a single parent who 1) has oodles of children
(2) is on welfare and (3) has
issues to deal with. So, suffice it to say that someone in
California has submitted paperwork to trademark the word "Octomom."
Like the owners of the phrase "Let's roll," said person wants to
protect the name from those who have no business using it for their
own financial benefit. Unlike the "Let's Roll" owners
who eventually allowed the phrase to be hawked by
Wal-Mart and Florida State University, however, said
person has very explicit plans "to put the Octomom name on
television shows, clothing and diapers."
This development follows in the grand tradition of Pepsi attempting to trademark Uh-huh!; Donald Trump's claim that "You're Fired" is his IP; Paris Hilton's copyright fight for "That's Hot"; and meat magnate Mr. Ham attempting to trademark "High School Girls."
High Five: Lowering the Bar
Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments about the circumstances in which it is constitutional for public school officials to strip-search a 13-year-old girl. The Court considered some vexing Fourth Amendment issues: Does the nature of the contraband the officials are looking for matter? What about the credibility of the tipster? Must the officials have specific reason to believe the contraband—in this case, ibuprofen—is hidden in the girl's underwear? But perhaps the most puzzling question raised during the oral arguments in Safford United School District v. Redding was this: What the hell went on at Justice Stephen Breyer's elementary school?
That mystery arose when Breyer was questioning Adam Wolf, the lawyer representing Savana Redding, the girl who was searched. Breyer suggested that Safford Middle School's assistant principal, Kerry Wilson, was not "totally out to lunch" in thinking Redding might be hiding the ibuprofen pills in her crotch or cleavage:
It seems to me like a logical thing when an adolescent child has some pills or something, they know people are looking for them, they will stick them in their underwear....
In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, OK? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.
At this point, laughter prompted Breyer to quickly add:
Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don't know. I mean, I don't think it's beyond human experience, not beyond human experience.
Less funny than Breyer's inability to remember whether his classmates stuck things in his underwear or their own is the likelihood that the Court will overturn the 9th Circuit's conclusion that the strip search ordered by Wilson violated Redding's Fourth Amendment rights. Even Justice David Souter, who initially suggested that a strip search for the equivalent of a couple Advil tablets was beyond the pale ("at some point it gets silly," he said), later supplied a justification for this seemingly disproportionate measure: The school district could say "it needs this sort of blanket classification rule—any drug, over the counter or prescription—because when a pill is found, they're not pharmacists, they don't know what it is, and therefore they've got to have a blanket rule or they simply cannot act effectively."
Except that in this case they did know, based on the pills' "IBU 400" markings, that they were dealing with a drug that did not represent any sort of imminent threat to students' health and safety, the protection of which is the rationale for the school's "zero tolerance" drug policy. Matthew Wright, the school district's lawyer, argued that "if an administrator...in their reasonable judgment, believes that any drug poses a potential health and safety risk, because they have the custodial and tutelary responsibilities for those kids,...it is best for this Court to defer to their judgment when they believe that certain rules are important and not second-guess those rules." It seems likely, based on the Court's earlier rulings dealing with student searches and the tenor of the oral arguments, that it will accept this argument, in which case the Fourth Amendment issue will hinge not on the nature of the contraband but on whether there was adequate reason to think it might be found in Redding's underwear.
Wolf, Redding's lawyer, noted that no had claimed she was hiding pills under her clothes, there was no history of students' "crotching" drugs at her school, and the district could find only "eight cases over the course of approximately 30 years in which contraband was found in those locations." He added that "it's sort of strange credulity to think that you would have loose pills concealed against a student's genitalia....I mean, there's a certain ick factor to this." Justice Antonin Scalia, by contrast, reasoned that Redding's innocence (she did not in fact have any drugs in her possession) justified the highly intrusive search:
You reasonably suspect the student has drugs. You've searched everywhere else. By God, the drugs must be in her underpants.
In fact, as Wolf noted, schools officials had not "searched everywhere else." Before looking in Redding's underwear, they did not even look in her desk or locker (or call her mother). In any event, a series a fruitless searches would have made a less zealous Advil hound increasingly skeptical of the tip implicating Redding, which came from a fellow student who was eager to shift the blame after being caught with pills (in her pockets, by the way, not her underwear).
Still, things could be worse. And maybe they will be. Wright, the school district's lawyer, initially suggested it would unconstitutional for schools to enforce their zero-tolerance policies with body cavity searches, because there is no record of students' hiding drugs in their vaginas or rectums. But later he backtracked, saying the real problem is that school officials are not properly trained to conduct such searches. When Souter asked him whether body cavity searches would be OK once administrators and teachers had undergone the requisite training, Wright said "that's to be left up to the local governments."
Adam Summers of Reason Foundation, the non-profit that publishes this magazine, is on the bedbug beat:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently hosted its first-ever National Bed Bug Summit. And, as the AP article reports, Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) is planning to reintroduce legislation to "expand grant programs to help public housing authorities cope with infestations." The bill will be called the—I kid you not—"Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite Act."
Summers and The Atlantic's Megan McArdle are going back-and-forth about whether bedbug eradication is the proper function of the government. McArdle asks if a jihad on bedbugs might be part of the proper public health function performed even by a minimal state.
I know I'm a squish, but isn't this the sort of thing that governments should do? Pest infestations are genuine public health problems--the kind where your tolerating a bedbug infestation means that I might end up with critters.
Summers notes “bedbugs are not known to transmit any diseases,” and asks whether involving the government, especially the federal government to get rid of what is essentially an annoyance might ultimately cause more harm than good.
Then there is the fairness argument: why should people in non-infested places have to subsidize people in infested places through their tax dollars devoted to government eradication programs (or Environmental Protection Agency conferences)? In short, bedbugs may be a pest, but government is an even bigger pest.
I tend to side with Summers—if there's no possibility of disease transmission, then bedbug committees in the name of the public health are not the way to go. The parallel is not to befouled drinking water or measles quarantines, but to a neighbor's annoying barking dog or encroaching tree. Not public health statues, but non-glamorous, weirdly vital tree law applies here.
For more, read Jacob Sullum on an "An Epidemic of Meddling."
From Comedy Central's Indecision Blog, Ron Paul tells the people why the right to secession is a key, understood part of America's original constitutional order.
Economist Walter Williams also quickly surveys some history of states ratifying the Constitution and why secession seems naturally built in. His conclusion:
Some Americans accept and have respect for the Tenth Amendment, which reads, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Other Americans, the majority I fear, say to hell with the Tenth Amendment limits on the federal government. Which is a more peaceful solution: one group of Americans seeking to impose their vision on others or simply parting company?
3 of the 6 states with the highest unemployment (California, Oregon, and Rhode Island) have both high marginal income tax rates and high union representation. Michigan has high unionization but moderate marginal income tax rates, and the Carolinas have high marginal income taxes, but low unionization rates.
Among the 6 states with the lowest jobless rates, 4 have low unionization rates and no state income tax or modest marginal rates and a fifth (Nebraska) has average income tax rates and low unionization. The exception is Iowa, which has average unionization rates (13%) and high marginal income taxes (8.98%).
I would put less emphasis on my analysis of the LOW unemployment states because they are all in the upper Great Plains. But the HIGH unemployment states are otherwise quite diverse (from the West Coast to New England to the upper Midwest to the Carolinas). What they share are high marginal income taxes or high unionization or both.
As readers of our May cover story (pictured) will also point out, in anger more than sadness, during the relative good times of 2002-2007 state governments doubled their spending, from $1 trillion to $2 trillion (that's 81 percent in adjusted terms). Now they're busy taxing their recession-addled residents in order to fill budget gaps entirely of their own creation. If the figures above (let alone common sense) are any indication, that likely won't end well.
UPDATE: Early commenters are unimpressed with Lindgren's extrapolations.
UPDATE II: L-i-n-d-g-r-e-n. Sorry.
When it comes to the Earth's demise, writes David Harsanyi, no one is innocent. You see, eating more means humans must produce more food—and more carbon dioxide. It means we must raise more soon-to-be juicy steaks that have a tendency to emit greenhouse gases that reek. You might find the thought of regulating food intake and livestock flatulence a bit bizarre, but hey, if it means saving the Earth, why not? In other words, get ready for a dazzling display of environmental alarmism this week as Washington takes up the evils of modern living.
The truly indispensable and always-fascinating mag Government Executive reports:
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced on Tuesday that he will sponsor a bill to provide funding for state auditors who are struggling to keep pace with the demands of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"With individual states receiving billions in stimulus funding, it makes sense that the states also be fully equipped to closely monitor those taxpayer dollars," said Democratic Rep. Edolphus Towns at a committee field hearing here in his home district [in New York]. "Not initially providing funds for state auditors under the Recovery Act was an omission that should be rectified as soon as possible."
The American Recovery and Resident-Ripoff Act did kick over $200 million for audits and oversight of how funds would be spent at the federal level. But what about sad-sack, busted-and-broken-down state and local folks? Shed a tear for them, kind souls.
New York state and city officials said on Tuesday they would be forced to spend non-stimulus funds to hire independent accounting firms or contractors, further depleting their already thin coffers.
But wouldn't hiring bean counters be...stimulative? Rep. Towns is pushing for new money to be given to states so that they can track the money they just got, but he doesn't have an exact amount in mind, though it's pretty freaking urgent.
The GovExec article goes beyond documenting the incredibly self-pitying emotions of folks who are getting $26.7 billion in Recovery Act funds to note that the feds themselves have offered precious little guidance to states and municipalities in terms of counting the number of jobs "created" or "saved." Ah well, maybe next year.
Now, I'm just a broken-down old taxpayer with a double-digit IQ, but can't these goddamn entities take, say 1 percent of stimulus funds at all levels to let people know how the funds are being spent and how they calculate their bullshit saved-and-retained jobs figures? Or get some of those newly flush-with-cash AmeriCorps altruist zombies to turn their prodigous energy and insights to this mess?
Or just let the private sector track spending for free (at least to the taxpayer)?
Seriously, folks, does anyone know the way out of this rabbit hole? It's getting pretty goddamn scary down here. When the teenagers learn about this, they'll be demanding, what 10 percent or more in extra funds just to be able to keep track of their goddamned allowances. Isn't this what happened to the Mayans and the dinosaurs?
It's Earth Day (hooray!). Many people are celebrating, including filmmakers. If you don't get a chance to smoke some of nature's finest and watch Disney's new documentary Earth, at least check out this (almost) funny video via Mental Floss. The odd thing about this two-minute ode to Mother Earth is that it was made with help from Ecogeek and...Absolut vodka? Meh. Enjoy:
After the video, check out Ron Bailey's thoughtful Earth Day coverage near, dear and here; and a 1999 piece by Reason Contributor Tama Starr, in which she called Earth Day "a designer holiday crafted to dramatize the ascendancy of style over substance." Then take off the kiddie gloves and have at it in the comments below.