Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2009 November 29-31

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1969 SDS Mole Learns of an Even More Dangerous Organization: The U.S. Government

A great bit of libertariana is reproduced at Mises.org: longtime libertarian activist Don Meinshausen, who in the late 1960s served as a House Internal Security Committee spy on Students for a Democratic Society, wrote this statement to the Committee about a real threat to American liberty: the American government. Excerpt:

Today I am to be the House Internal Security Committee's major witness to testify on the workings of a "dangerous organization": the Students for a Democratic Society. During my membership in SDS, I learned of a much more dangerous organization, which has seized and destroyed more lives and property than SDS ever could. I am speaking of the United States government. Under the guise of relief and urban renewal, the government has destroyed the black people's pride and any chance to form a stable community. In the cause of the defense of freedom, it has aided tyrants in Greece, Spain, and Vietnam — and has exploited and oppressed people at home and abroad.

I did not receive my ideas from Marx, nor did some that I met in SDS receive their ideas from Marx but, rather, from the revolutionary American tradition of liberty as expressed by Jefferson, Daniel Webster, Thoreau, Josiah Warren, Benjamin Tucker, Lysander Spooner, Twain, and others.

Five years ago, I worked for the election of Barry Goldwater for president. That work and working for a student insurrection are not contradictory. Both seek to return power to the people....

I am against conscription, the war, the taxation which is bankrupting our people, and against laws governing consensual moral behavior. I am not alone in such views, and there are many in SDS and in YAF (a right-wing organization to which Mr. Ashbrook and Mr. Watson [members of the Committee] are advisors) who agree with me. Both of these organizations, and not SDS alone, suffer from authoritarian leadership. If these authoritarians ever reached power they might be worse than our present power holders, but, with both liberals and conservatives, labor and big business, the military and the state today maintaining power for their interests, there seems to be little choice.

Much, much more on libertarian movement history, including Meinshausen's role in a draft card burning at a Young Americans for Freedom convention in 1969 that helped split off a self-consciously libertarian countermovement to the conservatives, in my book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.

Larry Summers: His Genius Can't Be Measured In Dollars

The best part about news coverage of Larry Summers is seeing all the new ways people find to avoid saying that the current director of the President Obama's National Economic Council is an arrogant fool.

In this Boston Globe piece about Summers' mismanagement of Harvard University's finances during his scandal-plagued stint as that school's president, we learn that Summers was "a man unafflicted, former colleagues say, with self-doubt in matters of finance."

In the event, Summers' direct connection to the Great Spirit led him to disregard repeated warnings by Harvard endowment managers Jack Meyer and Mohamed El-Erian, a strategy that ended up costing the university billions of dollars -- including a direct half-billion-dollar hit for credit default swaps Summers bought:

Widely considered one of the most brilliant economists of his generation, Summers pushed to invest 100 percent of Harvard's cash with the endowment and had to be argued down to 80 percent, financial executives say. The cash account grew to $5.1 billion during his tenure, more than the entire endowment of all but a dozen or so colleges and universities.

As a result, the widely anticipated bust in the credit markets lost actual operating funds -- not only endowment funds -- for the McGill University of the South.

Under ordinary circumstances anybody who contributed to the destruction of Harvard would be hailed as a national hero, but Summers has gone on to make the whole country poorer.

I don't understand the Washington cant that says Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can't be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill on his way to winning re-election. If Obama is ever to get serious about his march to socialism, he'd better remember the advice of history's greatest redistributionist: No man, no problem.

When You Wake Up Screaming, Cuddle This Book for Comfort

The cops in Middleton, Wisconsin, used to give children stuffed animals to comfort them when they had witnessed a traumatic event like a traffic accident or domestic abuse. But from now on, those kids are getting books instead, thanks to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's efforts to run old toys—which have a small chance of failing to comply with overly-stringent new rules about labeling the metal and chemical content in any object intended for kids under 12—out of town:

The new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act...has law enforcement officers rethinking handing out stuffed animals because of the chemicals they might contain.

[Middleton police Sgt. Don Mueller] said that he used to hand out Teddy bears or other stuffed toys to children. Now, Middleton police are using the books to make sure they're in compliance with new federal regulations."One of the reasons for that is we get older toys that come in and they're perfectly fine to give out, but we don't know if they were made under the new requirements," he said.

I'm all for handing out books to kids, but there's a reason the cops' first choice was teddy bears. And literacy crusaders might want to think twice about encouraging kids to associate reading with that time Daddy had too many beers and slugged Mommy and then there were all these flashing lights and sirens and the police officer kept saying "Stop crying and read, dammit!"

Via Amend the CPSIA

New at Reason: Radley Balko on a Left-Right Alliance to Fight the Prosecution State

Last week, legal blogs and websites were buzzing about a New York Times article suggesting an emerging left-right consensus in favor of reforming the criminal justice system. But Reason Senior Editor Radley Balko says that liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have fundamentally different ideas about the purpose of the legal system, so while they may all agree that the system is broken, it's unlikely that they'll agree on how to fix it.

View this article

CBO: Senate's Health Care Reform Bill Would Cause Individual-Market Insurance Premiums to Rise

According to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office this morning, the average price of insurance premiums bought on the individual market—that is, premiums not purchased through employers—would go up by 10 to 13 percent in 2016 if Congress passed health care reform legislation now in the Senate. This tracks with state-level reform efforts, which have almost always coincided with spikes in individual insurance premiums.

Nevertheless, advocates of reform will—and indeed, already are—arguing that the report shows that the bill will make health care both better and more affordable. How's that?

While average insurance premium prices on the individual market would rise, new subsidies would more than cover the cost increases for the majority of people purchasing plans on the individual market. According to the CBO's estimate, 57 percent of those purchasing insurance on the individual market would receive subsidies. Those subsidies would vary by the individual's income level, but according to the estimate, on average, the subsidies would be enough to make the cost of insurance less than under current law.

Basically, the argument is that, sure, insurance on the individual market will be more expensive, but taxpayers will pick up the tab for the increased costs. This strikes me as a less-than-compelling defense of reform.

For one thing, it doesn't account for the fact that many people would be required to buy insurance that they wouldn't purchase otherwise. Even if the average premium price across the nation goes down for those getting subsidies, many individuals will be forced by the bill's mandate to buy insurance that they wouldn't have otherwise bought. For those people, the price of buying even subsidized insurance will be significantly higher than what they'd have chosen to do otherwise—not purchase insurance at all. And for many others, the price of buying even that subsidized insurance will be high enough that they'll choose to pay a fine in order to opt out instead. So, despite the subsidies, lots of people will pay quite a bit more than they do now, whether it's to get insurance that they otherwise would've chosen not to, or whether it's to avoid getting insurance at all.

Nor does this help those don't get subsidies. Nearly half—43 percent, according to the CBO—won't get any subsidies for their insurance. And for those people, double-digit percentage increases in insurance premiums (compared to what prices would be under current law) won't be affordable at all, especially for those who would've chosen not to purchase insurance otherwise.

Given the sky-high overall cost of the bill, and the recent report by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirming that the legislation won't reduce overall medical spending, this doesn't exactly strike me as a model of affordability.

I've got a longish feature on the CBO in the new issue of the print edition; you can read my past posts on the CBO's health care reports here, here, and here.

Showdown in Marikafka County

Today is the deadline by which Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe gave Dep. Adam Stoddard to apologize for swiping documents from a defense attorney's file in open court last month. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who, oddly, is speaking at Arizona State University's journalism school tonight) has vowed that Stoddard will not apologize.

Arizona freelance journalist Nick Martin broke this story, and lays out the delicously intriguing stakes:

Earlier this month, Arpaio vowed that his young officer would not abide by the ruling, saying, “Superior Court judges do not order my officers to hold press conferences.”

That same day, Liddy announced the sheriff’s office planned to ask the Arizona Court of Appeals to intervene in the case. But as of Sunday night, Liddy had not yet filed the appeal.

On Wednesday, the sheriff’s office asked Donahoe to delay the deadline for the apology so the appeal could still be filed. But so far, no delay has been granted...

Even with the Phoenix area’s unusual politics and bizarre history, the events leading up to today create a scenario unlike any the region has seen in quite some time – if ever.

For one, it sets up the possibility that Stoddard could ignore Donahoe’s order outright and force the judge to send him to jail for contempt of court. The jailing of an active member of law enforcement in Maricopa County is unprecedented in recent memory.

It also raises the question of whether Arpaio, who runs the county jails and has balked at the judge’s order, would agree to lock up one of his own men. If he refuses, Donahoe could take the extraordinary step of asking another agency to step in or else go another route entirely. It’s anybody’s guess.

I can't think of another case where a judge has ordered someone jailed for contempt and the police department has refused to carry out the order. I'm not sure what would happen next. A duel? Arm wrestling?

People of Earth: The Commentary Track for Bring It On: Fight to the Finish Was Way Lame

Manned space travel, like the manned fighter plane, is a great logic puzzle: Even if you concede that the government should be running this business, the business model makes no sense. The arguments for an all-robot space fleet keep piling up, in low earth orbit and beyond: While the Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses its fraction of NASA's budget to deliver lovable Mars rovers, scientific surprises from the moons of Saturn and other breakthroughs, the Space Shuttle program is winding down with very little to show for all the effort.

Now the UK writer Charlie Stross of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies says even the venerable idea of the Starship was just a beautiful dream from the days of classic rock. In a heavily italicized post, Stross argues that "the entire conceptual framework of the starship is a dangerously misleading dead-end, and that what we need is a new framework for thinking about interstellar travel." His proposal for a solar-sail type "Starwisp," Stross says, will "look more like a DVD balanced on a microwave beam" than the Millennium Falcon:

If anything, it’s going to resemble a seed pod for a different kind of life, and on arrival it’s going to hatch and grow into a tree, or a forest, or a manufacturing-industrial complex. Finally, long after arrival, it might have sufficient resources to divert from homeostasis and growth to construct a biosphere, open communications with home, and prepare to download digitized colonists — if the whole uploading concept doesn’t prove to be chimerical, and if there’s something to be done with the serialized primate core-dumps at the other end.

That's a lot of ifs there, buddy! I don't know from serialized primate core-dumps, and if you're having trouble in that area I suggest bran, nature's broom. But Stross' case takes in what Texas and Florida politicians rarely want to mention: that all space destinations are far away. Hollywood doesn't like that either. The only solar-sail-type vehicle I know of in a movie is Christopher Lee's in one of the later Star Wars movies -- and that one makes a shape that (like so much in the Star Wars universe) wouldn't occur in a vacuum. (In his novel Karoo, the screenwriter Steve Tesich has the hero, a soulless script doctor, waste time dreaming of an unfilmable solar-sail movie.)

In a popular rebuttal to Stross in the comment thread, the Centennial State's own Joe Strout (Joe Strout? Charlie Stross? One man or two?) predicts the passage to Alpha Centauri's gravity well will occur over generations of deeper-space settlement, with inhabitants of the outer reaches of the Oort Cloud arriving first. That has lunchpail appeal, but there is a good probability the whole human race would have died of boredom before reaching such a stage. Also isn't the Oort Cloud in motion relative to Centauri, so that settlers there would be just as likely to be living on the far side of the Sun from the system? And don't you have to travel much farther to get to a star that shows any promise of being interesting?

Why is it hard to give up the goofy idea that space exploration will proceed in a logical line from the Age of Discovery? This opening-credit sequence, which combines a stirring montage with what may be the worst song of all time, helps show the appeal:

For an entertaining look at how a highly ambitious unmanned project gets pulled off in the expensive-yet-measly economy of government space exploration, you can do no better than Steve Squyres' book Roving Mars.

One Last Minaret: Swiss Voters Solve Problems of Immigration

So the Swiss have voted to ban the construction of new minarets, while assuring their Muslim brothers and sisters that this rebuke shouldn't be confused with a ban on the construction of mosques. Doubtless reassuring to a religious minority. And, they hasten to add, it most certainly isn't directed at Islam in particular but at Islam's rather un-Swiss architectural tastes.

It is a pointless and stupid provision (and one which could be overturned, according to Switzerland's justice minister), that avoids and obscures the hot button issues of immigration and integration—and, if anything, hinders the assimilation of the Muslim minority.

This type of response shouldn't come as a shock, as it's of a piece with the European tactic of ignoring problems of integration and religious extremism followed by a spasm of ill-considered populism. In France, it was the headscarf ban. In the the United Kingdom, the occasional attacks against the construction of so-called mega mosques and endless debates about banning radical groups like Hizb-ut-Tarir. In Sweden, a proposal by the integration minister (herself an immigrant) to check all girls for evidence of female genital mutilation. All skirt the issues of why fundamentalist ideas take root, why many Muslim immigrants have cloistered themselves in ghettos (often, this is the fault of government), why the suburbs of Gothenburg, according to this recent report from Norwegian state television, look like Grozny and are full of graffiti informing kids that "those who kill the police will go to paradise."

Tyler Cowen, Daniel Hannan, the Wall Street Journal, and Dave Kopel raise a series of sensible objections to the measure. France's foreign minister said he was "a bit scandalized" by the vote, while the Vatican condemned the ban as a "blow to freedom of religion." Emboldened by the Swiss vote, the Dutch Freedom Party and the Danish People's Party are now considering similar measures, though both are too small to force a referendum on their own. The Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reports that the Arab media reaction has, thus far, been rather reserved.

Our favorite MEP, the libertarian Tory Dan Hannan, gets it exactly right by observing that a minaret ban "suggests that Western democracies have a problem, not with jihadi fruitcakes, but with Muslims per se–which is, of course, precisely the argument of the jihadi fruitcakes."

Way back in 2007, I looked at the rise of Swiss People's Party. And way back in August, I interviewed Hannan for Reason.tv and the British media freaked out.

Woodrow Wilson's Legacy

Writing in the Boston Globe, Harvard historian Erez Manela has a very flattering review of John Milton Cooper Jr.’s new biography Woodrow Wilson. In addition to the predictable praise for the failed League of Nations and Wilson’s “vision of a liberal international order with the United States at its core,” Manela highlights the book’s attention to Wilson’s progressive legacy, which includes passage of the Federal Reserve Act and a “fight against Wall Street” which Manela says “offers poignant parallels with our own time.” But what about Wilson’s notorious shortcomings? Manela gives us one paragraph of mild rebuke:

Like many biographers who have spent decades with their subject, Cooper writes with great sympathy for his. He is not, however, an uncritical admirer. He judges Wilson’s willful disregard for the rights of African-Americans and his consistent refusal to act against racial violence as the greatest stain on his record as president, rivaled only by his administration’s repression of dissent and curtailment of civil liberties during the war years.

Since the Globe gave Manela some 900-words worth of space to review this “deeply, indeed exhaustively researched” biography, it would have been nice to hear a little more about those stains. After all, Wilson’s war on dissent was hardly limited to “the war years.” Even after the shooting had stopped, Wilson steadfastly refused to pardon the anti-war socialist Eugene Debs, who rotted in prison for three years for the “crime” of criticizing World War I. (President Warren Harding finally set Debs free.) And when it came to the rights of African Americans, Wilson didn’t just show a “willful disregard,” he waged a sustained attack. As Reason's Charles Paul Freund explained:

Wilson's historical reputation is that of a far-sighted progressive. That role has been assigned to him by historians based on his battle for the League of Nations, and the opposition he faced from isolationist Republicans. Indeed, the adjective "Wilsonian," still in use, implies a positive if idealistic vision for the extension of justice and democratic values throughout the world. Domestically, however, Wilson was a racist retrograde, one who attempted to engineer the diminution of both justice and democracy for American blacks—who were enjoying little of either to begin with....

Upon taking power in Washington, Wilson and the many other Southerners he brought into his cabinet were disturbed at the way the federal government went about its own business. One legacy of post-Civil War Republican ascendancy was that Washington's large black populace had access to federal jobs, and worked with whites in largely integrated circumstances. Wilson's cabinet put an end to that, bringing Jim Crow to Washington.

Wilson allowed various officials to segregate the toilets, cafeterias, and work areas of their departments. One justification involved health: White government workers had to be protected from contagious diseases, especially venereal diseases, that racists imagined were being spread by blacks. In extreme cases, federal officials built separate structures to house black workers. Most black diplomats were replaced by whites; numerous black federal officials in the South were removed from their posts; the local Washington police force and fire department stopped hiring blacks. Wilson's own view, as he expressed it to intimates, was that federal segregation was an act of kindness.

Last Week's Top 5 Hit & Run Posts

Here's what you were reading last week at Hit & Run:

Send the Body To Glenn Beck! by Michael C. Moynihan (11/24)

Why Do Liberals Hate Pussy? by Tim Cavanaugh (11/22)

"Climategate" -- Forget the Emails: What Will the Hacked Documents Tell Us? by Ronald Bailey (11/25)

Verily, 72 Virgins Await You At the Cheesequake Rest Stop (Mile 123) on the Garden State Parkway..., by Nick Gillespie (11/23)

It's Not Exactly "Climategate" But..., by Ronald Bailey (11/23)

Do You Want to Work at Reason.tv?

Announcing Reason.tv Searle Film Fellowships for 2010

Reason.tv—the online video journalism project of the Reason Foundation—is seeking talented individuals interested in advancing the message of Free Minds and Free Markets through video journalism and related multimedia productions. Reason’s top priority is talent: established and aspiring producers, videographers, editors, researchers, and marketing professionals will all be considered.

The Searle Film Fellowship at Reason.tv is a year-long, full time program that gives aspiring video journalists the opportunity to create substantive, original content that explores the ideas of free minds and free markets. Initial responsibilities will depend on experience and could range from research assistance to video editing to producing independent pieces to developing marketing and distribution plans. Fellows will also participate in training in production techniques appropriate to their skill level. Fellowships are full-time salaried positions with benefits; salary will depend on experience.    

Resourcefulness, a willingness to pick up miscellaneous tasks and reliability are a must. The ideal candidate will also have a strong interest in libertarian ideas, the field of documentary filmmaking or video journalism, familiarity with shooting and editing, and content distribution and marketing.

Applicants at any level of experience will be considered.  To apply, please submit the following materials via email to amy.pelletier@reason.org by December 30, 2009:

A cover letter with a summary of your experience and an explanation of your interest in Reason.tv,

A resume, including contact information for three references.

Samples of your work, if applicable to your level of experience. If available online, include links in the email; if you prefer to mail a reel, please send TWO copies to: Reason Foundation, Attn: Amy Pelletier, 3415 S Sepulveda Blvd, Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90034.

Three one-page segment sketches you would like to produce (or help produce) at Reason.tv.  The format, style, and level of detail are at your discretion.

Please direct questions about the fellowship and application process to Amy Pelletier at amy.pelletier@reason.org.

Napolitano's Case Against Military Tribunals

Writing at the L.A. Times, Judge Andrew Napolitano (an occasional Reason contributor) makes the case against using military tribunals for suspected 9/11 terrorists. Excerpt:

The casual use of the word "war" has lead to a mentality among the public and even in the government that the rules of war could apply to those held at Guantanamo. But the rules of war apply only to those involved in a lawfully declared war, and not to something that the government merely calls a war. Only Congress can declare war -- and thus trigger the panoply of the government's military powers that come with that declaration. Among those powers is the ability to use military tribunals to try those who have caused us harm by violating the rules of war.

The last time the government used a military tribunal in this country to try foreigners who violated the rules of war involved Nazi saboteurs during World War II. They came ashore in Amagansett, N.Y., and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and donned civilian clothes, with plans to blow up strategic U.S. targets. They were tried before a military tribunal, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt based his order to do so on the existence of a formal congressional declaration of war against Germany.

In Ex Parte Quirin, the Supreme Court case that eventually upheld the military trial of these Germans -- after they had been tried and after six of the eight defendants had been executed -- the court declared that a formal declaration of war is the legal prerequisite to the government's use of the tools of war. The federal government adhered to this principle of law from World War II until Bush's understanding of the Constitution animated government policy.

The recent decision to try some of the Guantanamo detainees in federal District Court and some in military courts in Cuba is without a legal or constitutional bright line. All those still detained since 9/11 should be tried in federal courts because without a declaration of war, the Constitution demands no less.

Whole thing here. Read Nick Gillespie's 2005 interview with Napolitano here.

Climategate and Scientific Journal Chicanery

Eduardo Zorita, a researcher on past temperature trends at the Institute for Coastal Research in Germany, is calling for prominent Climategate reseachers, Phil Jones, Michael Mann, and Stefan Rahmstorf, to be banned from any future work on the Intergrovernmental Panel on Climate Change's reports. But Zorita makes an even more interesting and very disturbing observation:

By writing these lines I will just probably achieve that a few of my future studies will, again, not see the light of publication. My area of research happens to be the climate of the past millennia, where I think I am appreciated by other climate-research 'soldiers'....

I may confirm what has been written in other places: research in some areas of climate science has been and is full of machination, conspiracies, and collusion, as any reader can interpret from the CRU-files. They depict a realistic, I would say even harmless, picture of what the real research in the area of the climate of the past millennium has been in the last years. The scientific debate has been in many instances hijacked to advance other agendas.

These words do not mean that I think anthropogenic climate change is a hoax. On the contrary, it is a question which we have to be very well aware of. But I am also aware that in this thick atmosphere -and I am not speaking of greenhouse gases now- editors, reviewers and authors of alternative studies, analysis, interpretations,even based on the same data we have at our disposal, have been bullied and subtly blackmailed. In this atmosphere, Ph D students are often tempted to tweak their data so as to fit the 'politically correct picture'. Some, or many issues, about climate change are still not well known. Policy makers should be aware of the attempts to hide these uncertainties under a unified picture. I had the 'pleasure' to experience all this in my area of research.

Zorita evidently expects to be punished by reviewers and journal editors for his call for scientific honesty.  It will be interesting to see many more researchers will now step forward to discuss the subtle and not so subtle biasing of climate change research. Stay tuned. 

Whole Zorita statement here.

Last Week's Top 5 Hits at Reason.com

Here are the five most popular Reason.com columns from last week:

Gun Control, Chicago-Style: The shameless hypocrisy of Windy City politicians, by Steve Chapman (11/23)

Miniature Monsters Attack America, by Jeff Winkler (11/27)

Romantic Boys Are Not Any Oxymoron: Don't believe the hype about young American men, by Steve Chapman (11/26)

These Boots Are Made for Talking: The fuzzy math and goofy logic of government-goosed employment, by Jacob Sullum (11/25)

We Pay Them to Lie to Us: The problem with politicians, by John Stossel (11/26)

The Christmas Season Has Begun And is Already Going on Too Long

Russ Smith of Splice Today looks forward to the delayed end of the holiday season:

And so begins the interminable holiday slog that never ends on Jan. 2, when Christmas trees are so dry that just a touch of the needles might require a band-aid, but drags on until the middle of the month. I'm in no way a Scrooge, or Grinch, and Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year—a weird but delightful suspension of time when everything seems perfect—but the aftermath is such a dull, and generally unproductive time, that I often long for a fast-forward of time.

Whole bit here.

Climategate Researchers Agree to Release Data

The Telegraph is reporting that the "climategate" researchers at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit have agreed to release all of their temperature data to the public where it can be scrutinized by other researchers. According to the Telegraph:

Professor Trevor Davies, the university's Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research Enterprise and Engagement, said yesterday: "CRU's full data will be published in the interests of research transparency when we have the necessary agreements. It is worth reiterating that our conclusions correlate well to those of other scientists based on the separate data sets held by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

"We are grateful for the necessary support of the Met Office in requesting the permissions for releasing the information but understand that responses may take several months and that some countries may refuse permission due to the economic value of the data."

That's certainly a (way too delayed and begrudging) step in the right direction, but it surely shouldn't take months for data on which the world is relying to guide vast economic and political decisions to be made publicly available.

And there is the nagging thought that their "conclusions correlate well" with other temperature data sets because they all may be making a similar set of errors when compiling their figures.

Whole Telegraph report here.

Does Oregon Prove the Viability of a Public Option in Health Care?

Yes, says former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is running for office again and is touting his state's low-income public plan as a way of increasing the percentage of insured residents and curbing costs. Unlike many similar plans, the Oregon plan doesn't hide the fact that it rations care; indeed, the plan has a list of what it will and will not cover. From a SoCal public radio writeup on the situation:

John Kitzhaber began his work life as an emergency room doctor in 1974. He was elected governor of Oregon 20 years later — and health care has been a large part of his political life. He is considered the father of the Oregon Health Plan, which expanded health care to the working poor by spreading Medicaid dollars over a larger group of people and rationing services.

Now Kitzhaber is running for governor once more — and health care is on his agenda again. He wants to make Oregon a health care model for the rest of the country.

The bad news? According to the Cascade Policy Institute, in the late 1980s, the percentage of uninsured Oregonians was 18 percent. Now it's 17.4 percent. As for containing costs, Oregon had to shut down enrollment in its program for several years due to unexpectedly high demand. Similarly weak, unintended, or disastrous experiences are common are in other states that have expanded the state's role in providing health care. And the states are generally more responsible than the feds. As Eric Fruits writes

States can limit their losses because they must balance their budgets. Moreover, states cannot print money. The federal government does not have a balanced budget requirement, and it has the power to print money. That means that the costs of federal efforts to expand health care ultimately will result in a combination of higher deficits, more taxes and inflation. When Congress returns from its break, it either will learn from the costly mistakes of the states, or it will repeat them on a national scale.

Reason.tv: Nanny of the Month for November 2009

Smoking, fast food, giant inflatable blue gorillas—no matter what it is, chances are some nanny wants to ban it. And this past month was no exception.

Reason.tv's October 2009 Nanny of The Month Award went to New York State Sen. Jeff Klein for his efforts to rid the Empire State of fish pedicures.

Who is the Nanny of the Month for November 2009?

The runners up include the California Energy Commission for banning big-screen TVs unless they conform to stringent new energy standards and the Food and Drug Administration, which is waging war against caffeinated booze drinks.

But there can be only one Nanny of the Month, and this time it's ...

Click the video to learn the awful truth.

Nanny of the Month is produced by Ted Balaker. The director of photography is Alex Manning and the associate produce is Paul Detrick. Approximately 1.17 minutes.

This video is also available at Reason.tv's YouTube channel (subscribe now!).

For downloadable versions of this video and previous winners (read: losers!), go here.

And make sure to tune in next month for more examples of busybodies minding your own business. 

Recently at Reason.tv: Your Flight Has Been Delayed...And It's Washington's Fault!

As the holiday travel rush approaches, air travelers grounded by delays should take a moment to think about why they're stuck in airports or on the tarmac. There's a good chance Washington is to blame.

"The air traffic control system in the United States is technologically obsolete," says Robert W. Poole, Jr., director of transportation studies at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason.tv. "This model is basically the same model that we have used since the beginning of air travel."

The technology the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses to navigate $200 million jets is less advanced than the GPS technology drivers use to navigate $20,000 cars.

Poole says the system could safely handle more planes if the FAA used modern technology that would provide real-time information about where planes are. But the funding process, overseen by pork-hungry members of Congress, often thwarts technology upgrades.

The only way to get the politics out of our air traffic system is to take the system away from the politicians. Why not let a private corporation manage the skies?

That may sound like a far-out, free-market idea, but Canada doesn't think so.

Our neighbors to the north often take pride in their lavish government programs, yet they allow a private corporation called Nav Canada to manage their air-traffic control system. Canada's approach, often called commercialization, has some surprising supporters in the U.S., including Al Gore, who pushed for commercialization when he was Bill Clinton's vice president.

"Your Flight Has Been Delayed" is written and produced by Ted Balaker. Director of Photography: Alex Manning; Field Producers: Paul Detrick and Hawk Jensen. The host is Nick Gillespie.

Approximately 7.28 minutes. For downloadable versions of this video, go to Reason.tv. And subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel now.

Deficit Wisdom, Then & Now

Who said the following? "My prediction is that politicians will eventually be tempted to resolve the [fiscal] crisis the way irresponsible governments usually do: by printing money, both to pay current bills and to inflate away debt. And as that temptation becomes obvious, interest rates will soar."

Seems pretty reasonable to me. The surprising thing is that this was none other than Paul Krugman, the high priest of Keynesianism, writing back in March 2003. A year and a half later he was comparing the U.S. deficit with Argentina's (at a time when it was 4.5 percent of GDP). Has the economic situation really changed so drastically that now the same Krugman believes it was "deficits that saved us," and wants to see an even larger deficit next year? Perhaps. But it might just be that the party in power has changed.

History strongly supports the proposition that major financial crises are followed by major fiscal crises. "On average," write Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff in their new book, This Time Is Different, "government debt rises by 86 percent during the three years following a banking crisis." In the wake of these debt explosions, one of two things can happen: either a default, usually when the debt is in a foreign currency, or a bout of high inflation that catches the creditors out.

That's Niall Ferguson writing in Newsweek. Read the whole thing here. For those keeping score, the U.S. deficit for fiscal 2009 was over 11 percent of GDP and the highest it's been in 60 years.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

Krugman's WPA: The First Rule of Bailout Club Is to Never Say the Word "Pension"

Your daily reminder of the intellectual/public policy universe we live in (read: come back Woody Guthrie, come back to us now), comes care of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman:

So our best hope now is for a somewhat cheaper program that generates more jobs for the buck. Such a program should shy away from measures, like general tax cuts, that at best lead only indirectly to job creation, with many possible disconnects along the way. Instead, it should consist of measures that more or less directly save or add jobs.

One such measure would be another round of aid to beleaguered state and local governments, which have seen their tax receipts plunge and which, unlike the federal government, can't borrow to cover a temporary shortfall. More aid would help avoid both a drastic worsening of public services (especially education) and the elimination of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Meanwhile, the federal government could provide jobs by ... providing jobs. It's time for at least a small-scale version of the New Deal's Works Progress Administration, one that would offer relatively low-paying (but much better than nothing) public-service employment. There would be accusations that the government was creating make-work jobs, but the W.P.A. left many solid achievements in its wake. And the key point is that direct public employment can create a lot of jobs at relatively low cost. In a proposal to be released today, the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, argues that spending $40 billion a year for three years on public-service employment would create a million jobs, which sounds about right.

Love that "about right"....Here's what I don't understand: How is that tax cuts "only indirectly" lead to job creation, compared to bailing out fiscally irresponsible states that, on average, expanded their budgets by 80 percent from 2002-2007? State bailouts aren't "creating" jobs in any significant sense, they are–once again!–ensuring that incompetent teachers still don't get fired. All while locking in the gold-plated and actuarily insane pension promises to existing, unfirable state employees.

Talk about "many possible disconnects"....Krugman and his intellectual/policy ilk (who have their hands much closer to the levers of power than you or I ever will) are asking taxpayers to not just accept but double down on ever-declining returns on investment so that the White House's favorite visitor, Andy Stern, can say "democracy is an ugly thing" all the way to the bank.

Any time one of your friends forwards you a Krugmanesque argument to bail out every state government, forever, send them not only our classic May 2007 cover story (pictured), but this New York Times link, from July:

Local governments in New York State face an unprecedented increase in pension costs that will force them to triple their contributions to the state pension system over the next six years, according to an analysis prepared by the comptroller's office.

By 2015, pension costs borne by local governments upstate, on Long Island and in New York City's suburbs will exceed $8 billion a year, compared with $2.6 billion last year, under the analysis, which was circulated to legislative and county leaders and obtained by The New York Times this month.

The analysis predicts that counties will have to contribute an amount equal to nearly one-third of their civilian payrolls to the state pension system and more than 40 percent of their payrolls for police and fire departments.

Reason Morning Links: The Fretful Fed, the Decline of Dubai, and the Metro Mess

• Ben Bernanke seems worried about efforts to eat into the Fed's powers.

• Obama will miss his deadline to declassify old military and intelligence documents.

• Some details come out about tomorrow's Afghan escalation.

• Swiss voters have passed a ban on building minarets.

• Dubai continues to collapse.

• Pollsters find a substantial enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans.

• The D.C. Metro has had another crash.

• And speaking of crashes: If you want to talk about the whole Tiger Woods thing, this is your thread.

New at Reason: Steve Chapman on the Truth About Trans Fat

Scientists generally agree that trans fat is not the healthiest thing to include in your diet. But as Steve Chapman notes, it's one thing to say there are drawbacks to the consumption of trans fat and another to insist that fast-food restaurants immediately get rid of it. When it comes to dietary dangers, today's wisdom is often tomorrow's folly.

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Alvin Toffler and Ayn Rand...

Well, sort of. Here's a Pajamas Media podcast that includes an interview with the legendary futurist and a discussion between the Washington Examiner's Mark Hemingway and Ayn Rand biographer Jennifer Burns. Well worth listening to (there's also interesting sections with Roger L. Simon regarding his memoir Blacklisting Myself and talk with Michael Malone on why old media is getting what it deserves).