Some sharp video via the Heritage Foundation and Freethink Media (a project by Reason vet videographer Dan Hayes), who were on the scene during the recent hullabaloo in the Badger State. Includes lots of interviews with protesters, counter-protesters, politicos (including Gov. Scott Walker).
Well worth watching, whatever side you're rooting for.
Because freedom isn't free and even though death takes a holiday every now and then but tyranny works 365 days a year, Reason's Nick Gillespie will appear on a very special Presidents Day episode of Fox Business' Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano. (Hey, isn't every day Presidents Day, at least since John "The Hermaphrodite" Adams, Chimpy McHitler and Barack Saddam Hussein Bin Laden Obama shredded the Constitution and turned it into confetti for that Bilderberger victory parade at Walt Disney's private island hideaway?).
The Judge's show airs at 8pm ET on Fox Business channel (go here for more details) and the theme tonight is just how bad many of our most venerated presidents really were when it comes to adhering to the principle of limited government and maximizing individual liberty. Along with Gillespie, who has never voted for a winning presidential candidate, other guests throughout the hour include former Nixon assistant Monica Crowley, economist Thomas DiLorenzo, and historian Thomas Woods.
Warning: Gillespie actually says something good about FDR.
Go here for Reason's Judge Napolitano archive, which includes several print and video interviews and articles by the man himself.
Just last week, Nick Gillespie appeared on Freedom Watch to discuss balancing the federal budget and Reason's Shikha Dalmia appeared to talk about how overblown fears about Al Qaeda are distorting defense priorities. Here's the Judge and Dalmia:
A number of recent studies have shown startlingly high error rates among police dogs used to sniff out drugs and explosives and to identify murder suspects. These false dog alerts have led to countless unconstitutional searches, unjust asset forfeitures, and several wrongful murder convictions. Reason Senior Editor Radley Balko explains that the problem is not with the dogs, but with our misunderstanding about what goes on in the mind of a domesticated canine.View this article
If you want to be on TV, don't go to Los Angeles or New York, writes Steve Chapman. Come to Chicago, where your wish is certain to be fulfilled. In fact, you couldn't avoid it if you wanted to, thanks to the nation's most extensive network of police surveillance cameras. Anytime you walk out your door, you may find an audience.View this article
Skittish domestic security officials responded with a mass show of force across China on Sunday after anonymous calls for protesters to stage a Chinese "Jasmine Revolution" went out over social media and microblogging outlets.
Although there were no reports of large demonstrations, the outsize government response highlighted China's nervousness at a time of spreading unrest in the Middle East aimed at overthrowing authoritarian governments.
The words "Jasmine Revolution," borrowed from the successful Tunisian revolt, were blocked on sites similar to Twitter and on Internet search engines, while cellphone users were unable to send out text messages to multiple recipients. A heavy police presence was reported in several Chinese cities.
In recent days, more than a dozen lawyers and rights activists have been rounded up, and scores of dissidents have reportedly been placed under varying forms of house arrest. At least two lawyers are still missing, family members and human rights advocates said Sunday.
In Beijing, a huge crowd formed outside a McDonald's in the heart of the capital on Sunday after messages went out listing it as one of 13 protest sites across the country....By 2 p.m., the planned start of the protests, hundreds of police officers had swarmed the area, a major shopping district popular with tourists.
At one point, the police surrounded a young man who had placed a jasmine flower on a planter outside the McDonald's, but he was released after the clamor drew journalists and photographers.
The would-be rebellion's name may have been inspired by the Middle Eastern revolts, but its roots go deeper than that. Wildcat protests have been a force in Chinese life for a while now. As Gordon Chang pointed out in 2006, the Tiananmen Square demonstrations
irrevocably changed the People's Republic. By the end of the 1990's, Chinese society was turbulent once more as individual protests, both in the countryside and the city, began attracting tens of thousands of participants. In early 2002, two of them -- one by oil workers in Daqing in the northeast and the other by factory hands in nearby Liaoyang -- may have reached the 100,000 mark. In late 2004, in China's southwest, about 100,000 peasants protested the seizure without compensation of land to build a hydroelectric plant in Sichuan province.
Protests have not only become bigger in size; they are now more numerous. In 1994, there were 10,000 such "mass incidents"; by 2003 there were 58,000; in 2004 and 2005 there were 74,000 and 87,000 respectively. This is according to official statistics, which undoubtedly undercount. According to the legal activist Jerome Cohen, a truer figure for the last year may be 150,000.
Virtually every segment in society (except, of course, senior Communist leaders and wealthy entrepreneurs) is participating in these public demonstrations. Almost anything, whether or not it is a genuine grievance, can trigger a sit-in, demonstration, or riot against party officials, village bosses, tax collectors, factory owners, or township cadres.
Who thinks they can trademark two english words that describe an activity that anyone could engage in, and then legally go after a book published using those words in its title before they filed for that trademark, and then get Facebook to take down mentions of the book with this bogus legal claim?
Why, "urban homesteading"™ pioneers the Dervaeses, of Pasadena, California.
Adam Parfrey, one of the principals behind Process Media, publisher of the book The Urban Homestead, is fighting back with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Details from the Orange County Weekly:
[Parfrey] contacted Facebook about the issue regarding his book; they replied that they were keeping the Process Media links down until the Dervaeses agreed to allow the restoration of the links. On Wednesday, Parfrey sent an email addressed to family patriarch Jules Dervaes, demanding he restore his links and those of others who had suffered their ridiculous trademark war.
"Your Facebook actions against us (and others) are particularly harmful," Parfrey wrote in an email he provided to the Weekly. "We request that you contact 'The Facebook Team'...to inform them that Process Media did not transgress your rights. If you fail to do that, we consider your actions as malicious and without legal basis. If this is not amicably resolved, we'd be forced to engage in a legal battle that could be costly for all parties."
The legal battle begins Monday--Boing Boing reported yesterday that the Electronic Frontier Foundation will represent Parfrey in a yet-undisclosed legal strategy....
Although Parfrey is specifically fighting for his property, he's also more than happy to take up the battle for the others affected by the Dervaeses' actions. "How any malicious person anywhere can go and distrupt hundreds and thousands of people at once by saying their rights have been transgressed by some post is disturbing," Parfrey says.
I interviewed Parfrey for Reason magazine back in its November 2002 issue. The Dervaes family complains that their attempts to defend their trademark™ are being unfairly traduced in the media--particularly by "bloggers."™ Jesse Walker from Reason magazine in March 2000 on the culture-crushing use of intellectual property law in general.
Nicholas Kristof reports from Bahrain:
There's delirious joy in the center of Bahrain right now. People power has prevailed, at least temporarily, over a regime that repeatedly used deadly force to try to crush a democracy movement. Pro-democracy protesters have retaken the Pearl Roundabout -- the local version of Tahrir Square -- from the government. On a spot where blood was shed several days ago there are now vast throngs kissing the earth, chanting slogans, cheering, honking and celebrating. People handed me flowers and the most common quotation I heard was: "It's unbelievable!"
When protesters announced that they were going to try to march on the Pearl Roundabout this afternoon, I had a terrible feeling. King Hamad of Bahrain has repeatedly shown he is willing to use brutal force to crush protesters, including live fire just yesterday on unarmed, peaceful protesters who were given no warning. I worried the same thing would happen today. I felt sick as I saw the first group cross into the circle.
But, perhaps on orders of the crown prince, the army troops had been withdrawn, and the police were more restrained today. Police fired many rounds of tear gas on the south side of the roundabout to keep protesters away, but that didn't work and the police eventually fled. People began pouring into the roundabout from every direction, some even bringing their children and celebrating with an almost indescribable joy. It's amazing to see a spot that was the site of such tragedy a few days ago become a center of jubilation right now. It's like a huge party. I asked one businessman, Yasser, how he was feeling, and he stretched out his arms and screamed: "GREAT!!!!"
Quite a contrast with the situation yesterday. For those who missed it -- and have the stomach for it -- here is the infamous footage of the regime's thugs shooting peaceful marchers:
Above is the trailer for Orgasm Inc., a new documentary about pharmaceutical makers' attempt to create the female Viagra. Tracy Quan reviews the piece for AOL:
"Orgasm Inc" argues that FSD [female sexual dysfunction] was invented by drug companies to sell new products, and that lack of desire among womankind isn't truly a modern disease. It's actually a symptom of multiple factors that can't be cured by popping a one-size-fits-all pill.
Another trend examined in the documentary: labioplasty, or cosmetic surgery to reduce the vaginal lips. Canner, for one, sees this as America's version of FGM. But wait -- I'm not quite sure about this. When older American men get penile implants in order to have intercourse, we don't see them as victims. How are they different from American women who indulge in labioplasty?...
When [the director] visits Carol Queen, curator of an antique vibrator collection, we learn about a now-forgotten Victorian ailment called "hysteria" and how it was routinely "cured." Well-to-do women would visit their doctors to get therapeutically massaged -- guess where -- by a vibrator. Like men who visit other kinds of professionals, these women had their needs met for a fee, and returned to their normal lives, smiling and relaxed. (Think about that next time you call someone a hysteric.)
Whole review here. The films sounds like an interesting meditation on the social construction of illness or "dysfunction" but also a survey of new technologies that, all jokes aside, are letting people exercise more control over their bodies.
Reason interviewed Quan, a writer and former prostitute, back in 2005.
I reviewed Angus McLaren's Impotence: A Cultural History for the New York Post in 2007.
About 12 minutes.
On Wednesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit pondered the question of whether the First Amendment allows the city of St. Louis to ban a mural condemning eminent domain abuse. Technically, the mural, which landlord Jim Roos painted on the side of one of his buildings, urges us not to "End Eminent Domain Abuse." But no one seems to be confused about the message that Roos—who has repeatedly tangled with the local redevelopment authority over its broad understanding of "blight"—meant to send. The city insists that it objects not to the sign's political content but to its size (more than 30 square feet), its location (on a the side of the building instead of the front), and its lack of redeeming artistic value (which would have exempted it from the sign rules). In March a federal judge sided with the city. Michael Bindas, the Institute for Justice attorney who is representing Roos, says the city's content-based sign restrictions violate the First Amendment:
Giving government bureaucrats the power to decide which speech is acceptable turns the First Amendment on its head. Unfortunately, that is exactly what can happen under local government "sign code" regulations restricting or eliminating outdoor communications. And it is happening in St. Louis, where the city government is trying to censor a sign protesting the abuse of eminent domain by—who else?—the city of St. Louis.
Reason.tv editor in chief Nick Gillespie appeared Fox News' Red Eye to discuss various topics, including Wisconson's union protest, Middle East uprisings, Jeopardy's latest robotic-winner and a new beer marketed to the gay community. Airdate: February 18, 2011.
Approximately 40 minutes.
Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.
In his Washington debut on Wednesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) hammered state and national politicians for their fake solutions to the budget crisis. In a surprise to no one, most media representatives decided the takeaway from his address was that “maybe now he’s running for president!”
Yet lost in all this talk of “Christie’s moment” is the fact that New Jersey’s governor said the moment for fixing government budgets is right now. Not next year, not after November 2012.
President Barack Obama has abdicated leadership on the budget, Christie argues. Indeed, the president seems so obviously unwilling to take on our nation's staggering budget that Obama-boosters like David Brooks are calling him out for his empty rhetoric. Meanwhile many governors are realizing the deep trouble their state budgets face. Christie referred to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) as a “soulmate” and said “for God’s sake, even Jerry Brown” is getting into the act. Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.) delivered a speech for grown-ups last Friday, terming the debt the new "red menace." The union turnouts in Wisconsin and Ohio show that something is starting to happen on reforming break-the-bank public pensions.
Read Reason's budget coverage here.Watch Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy discuss cutting the deficit on Stossel below:
Is the Wisconsin counterrevolution building into a fire that will warm the hearts of all Americans through the sheer excitement of heading off change and shoring up the status quo?
At Truth-Out, The Nation's John Nichols says Republican state senators are going wobbly in the face of the large demonstrations that have rocked the state capital in Madison:
Republican legislators -- who had been poised to pass the governor’s plan Thursday, and might yet do so – were clearly paying attention. Two GOP senators broke with the governor, at least to some extent. Dale Schultz from rural southeastern Wisconsin and Van Wanggaard from the traditional manufacturing center of Racine, proposed an alternative bill that would allow limited bargaining rights for public employees on wages, pensions and health care for the next two years but allow them to continue to bargain on other issues.
While that’s hardly an attractive prospect to state workers – as it would also require them to make significantly higher pension and health-care contributions – the measure rejects the most draconian component’s of the governor’s plan. Other Republicans resisted the proposal, however, offering only minor amendments to the governor's plan.
If Schultz and Wanggaard actually vote "no" … just one more Republican senator would have to join them in order to block the bill.
Wanggaard, whose home in Racine has been targeted for teacher union protests, appears to have manned up subsequently, and announced his intention to support Gov. Scott Walker's plan to slow the growth of government employee entitlements and restrict some of the public sector unions' collective bargaining powers.
But the very impressive street theater in Madison is making it easier for anti-taxpayer unions to do what they're already pretty good at: bringing out large numbers of demonstrators.
In New Haven, Connecticut, a small reduction in police head count prompted a march by 200 of the city's finest.
The New Haven Independent notes that the action did not succeed in saving 16 cop jobs. Police union officials urge the public to take up arms and vow that the decision will come back "to bite [Mayor John DeStefano] in the ass.” More:
Police Union President Louis Cavaliere made that announcement around 1:15 p.m. Thursday as he emerged from a pow-wow with the 16 cops inside the police substation on City Hall’s first floor.
Before that, Cavaliere and other union brass had spent more than an hour upstairs in Mayor John DeStefano’s office. Cavaliere said the union asked the mayor to hold off on the layoffs another two months while the two sides negotiate a solution that would save the 16 jobs. Cavaliere said the mayor rejected the offer.
Meanwhile, the city started the process of laying off another 40-plus city workers Thursday, all in an effort to close a $5.5 million budget gap in the fiscal year that ends June 30. A separate round of layoffs is expected in July to close next year’s gap.
And in Ohio, between 1,800 and 3,800 government employees picketed the statehouse to protest a bill that is even stronger than the one in Wisconsin. This would ban collective bargaining by all public employees and limit binding arbitration rules for local government. One picketing government worker blames Ohio taxpayers for acting like victims:
"What I'm seeing here today is that management is trying to be seen as the victim here, but they sit across the table and negotiated these deals just like us," said Lawrence McKissic, of Twinsburg, who was at the Statehouse on Thursday. McKissic is an IT specialist for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation in Garfield Heights.
"My concern as a state worker is that we would be unilaterally taken out of collective bargaining and it is being done without any word or input from the union or the employees," he said. "They're just trying slam this through this committee."
McKissic refers to “management” as if he’s calling out a cabal of plutocrats rather than the people of Ohio, who will have to take up the slack for whatever new benefits accrue to the vital IT specialists of Garfield Heights. I think this is where the pro-union movement will find its limit. Outside of Detroit, Hollywood and what’s left of the newspaper industry, when you say “union” you almost always mean “government employee union.” In the private sector they expect results. The hard truth is that where public sector unions are concerned, there are no bazillionaires to point to on the other side of the bargaining table.
But you can always try. President Obama’s shameful interference in the Wisconsin issue shows a remarkable deafness to popular sentiment – and in fact to a large swath of liberal/progressive sentiment – on this issue. At Mother Jones, Andy Kroll reveals the inevitable connection of Charles and David Koch to Wisconsin’s governor and the broader movement to reduce public sector unions’ power. (Full disclosure: The Kochs enjoy the right of prima nocta with all Reason staffers.) But it doesn’t take the Kochtopus to turn public sentiment against unions that urge your kid’s teacher to call in sick, beggar the public for their own gain, and shout down anybody who speaks up for the taxpayers. There was a time when you could say the union movement – regardless of its excesses and (woefully underreported) penchant for violence – was legitimately fighting for the rights of the underprivileged. This is not one of those times. As Economic Collapse blogger Michael Snyder writes:
On the one hand it is good to see Americans coming together and standing up for what they believe in, but on the other hand what these teachers are freaking out about shows just how much America has changed. These teachers are not protesting for liberty, freedom or to change the government. Rather, they are protesting because they want things to remain the same. They simply don’t want anyone to mess with their pay.
At one point the smart money was still on Hosni Mubarak’s survival, so I’m not betting. But I’d be surprised if the pro-public-sector-union bench turns out to be much deeper than what we’ve seen in the field this week. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has vowed to fire any striking government employees. Wisconsin’s Walker doesn’t show any signs of backing down either, and as Josh Brokaw noted yesterday, Walker's plan still seems to have broad popular support. The New Haven rally, like many efforts to head off emergency spending cuts, came to nothing. The whole country is out of money, and in a perverse way that’s a strong negotiating position.
This weekend Students For Liberty is hosting the fourth annual International Students For Liberty Conference at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Reason will have a significant presence at the conference this year:
- Reason.tv will be covering the event and conducting interviews with students;
- Reason Foundation is an event sponsor and will be hosting a table at the Liberty Fair from 12:15 pm - 2:15 pm on Saturday, February 19 in Columbia Square; and
- Shikha Dalmia will be speaking at a Sunday morning breakout session on February 20 at 10:45 am in room 413 on “The Scope and Limits of Open Borders.”
Reason’s coverage of the student movement for liberty is not limited to this weekend’s conference:
- Tim Cavanaugh recently sat down with Students For Liberty’s Los Angeles Campus Coordinator (full interview here), and
- Michael Moynihan and Radley Balko spoke at the 2nd annual International Students For Liberty Conference on “The Greatest Threats to Liberty Today” (see Moynihan’s address here and Balko’s address here).
- On February 21, 2009 reason.tv Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie provided a keynote address at the 2nd Annual International Students For Liberty Conference entitled, "Why You're Living in the Libertarian Moment—and what you can do to keep and expand your freedom." Gillespie challenged students to think beyond petty politics and to instead live their lives “as a work of art and an act of discovery” (see Gillespie’s address here).
According to certain economists and political commentators, housing prices will have to reach pre-recession levels if the economy is going to recover. But as Reason economics columnist Veronique de Rugy explains, those pre-recession prices were a historic anomaly caused by easy credit and misguided government policy. Moreover, lower housing prices are not bad for everyone. They also happen to be the only way to get rid of our bloated housing inventory.View this article
Narcoleaks, a new website produced by Italian journalists and the drug trafficking researcher Sandro Donati, keeps track of cocaine seizure reports and compares them to official estimates of worldwide production. The most recent projection based on Donati's calculations indicates that seizures, which totaled 47.1 metric tons from January 1 through yesterday, will hit 664 to 714 metric tons by the end of the year. According to the U.S. State Department's production estimate, that means governments will succeed in confiscating all of Earth's cocaine, plus another 19 metric tons or so (based on the middle of the projected range), possibly produced on Mars. The production estimate from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime does not look quite as silly, but it does rather implausibly suggest that drug warriors manage to seize more than three-quarters of the world's illicit cocaine.
[Thanks to Peter Cohen for the tip.]
Citing Judge Roger Vinson’s decision voiding the whole of last year’s health care overhaul after finding the law’s health insurance mandate unconstitutional, Alaska’s Republican Governor Sean Parnell has said that the state will not pursue the development of health insurance exchanges. According to Parnell:
"The Florida court's declaratory judgment that the federal health care law is unconstitutional is the 'law of the land' as it applies to Alaska, and we will not proceed down an unlawful course to implement it."
Of course, as I noted earlier in the month, the actual meaning of Vinson’s ruling has been somewhat foggy. Vinson did not issue a formal injunction, but suggested in his ruling that his declaratory judgment would effectively function as if he had. The federal government more or less ignored this suggestion, and did not immediately take action to clarify the meaning and practical effects of the ruling. That changed yesterday when the Department of Justice announced that it would request a clarification from Vinson:
The Justice Department on Thursday asked the Florida judge who struck down the health care overhaul to declare that the law must still be obeyed...In his ruling, Vinson implied that the government did not have the authority to enforce an unconstitutional law.
“We believe it is important to put to rest any doubts about the ability of states and other parties to continue to implement these critical programs and consumer protections provided under this statute,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.
Ilya Shapiro and Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute have made a fairly convincing case that the ruling should put a stop to the implementation of the law. Looks like we’ll know for sure soon enough.
The top drug cop in Contra Costa, California, has been arrested for . . . selling drugs.
Julian Heicklen, who was indicted for jury tampering in November for distributing pamphlets about the jury's power and responsibility to judge both the law and the fact, was arrested in his home this morning.
The filming of Heicklen doing his jury-power thing inspired a bogus arrest and later court victory for the right to film on courthouse property.
I blogged the other week about a Florida's judge's attempts to prohibit the passing of pamphlets on this same topic near his courthouse. The Fully Informed Jury Association is planning legal action against that prohibition, as per a press release they emailed me yesterday which read in part:
Pursuant to an administrative order issued by State Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., barring FIJA volunteers from distributing literature at or near the Orlando, Florida State Courthouse, the jury education group FIJA has retained the legal services of Florida ACLU and Walters Law Group....
Confident that the order has no standing before the First Amendment, FIJA has retained the most capable representation available: Florida ACLU’s seasoned legal experts join with Walters Law Group in representing FIJA.
On last night's episode of Fox Business' Stossel, Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy discussed their story in the new issue of Reason, "The 19 Percent Solution: How to balance the budget without raising taxes."
The show was dedicated to the theme of the future and Reason's Peter Suderman also appeared, talking with John Stossel about the threat to innovation and freedeom posed by Net Neutrality.
Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of these vids.
And go here for more info on Stossel's show, which airs weekly on Fox Business at 9pm ET on Thursdays.
A helpful compendium from Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center of issues and actions where state legislatures are making noises about going against federal demands or policies, from pot to health care, guns to money, taxes to law enforcement.
The 10th Amendment.
Radley Balko from last year on the "tenther smear."
Not quite. But last year’s health care overhaul does give Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary the power to oversee the development of “tooth-level surveillance.” Yes, really. Former HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt explains:
The rapid and relentless rise in health expenditures as a percentage of gross domestic product is well known. Health-care expenditures have grown from 4 percent of our economy when I was born to more than 16 percent of the economy when my first grandchild was born, and they are still climbing. Not only will these expanding costs jeopardize our economic future, they also will prevent us from properly investing in education, infrastructure, technology, defense and other vital interests.
So how do we reverse this destructive path? It is not by expanding an unelected administrative bureaucracy and granting unprecedented powers to a single person. But that is exactly what the health-reform law does.
Examples of that astounding power include tooth-level surveillance. That's right. Section 4102 of the health-reform law says, "The secretary shall develop oral healthcare components that shall include tooth-level surveillance." It defines tooth-level surveillance as a clinical examination in which an examiner looks at each dental surface, on each tooth in the mouth.
This determination is better done by a dentist.
Or possibly even the tooth fairy.
The BBC reports:
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Djibouti to call for President Ismael Omar Guelleh to step down.
The demonstrators were reportedly monitored closely by security forces in riot gear.
Mr Guelleh's family has governed the Red Sea city state since independence from France in 1977. The United States has a large military base in Djibouti.
The constitution was last year amended, to let Mr Guelleh seek a third term.
Some of the protesters say they will stay in a stadium until Mr Guelleh, 63, leaves power in the Somali-speaking country.
Elections are due in April. Mr Guelleh was re-elected unopposed in 2005.
Col. Qaddafi has an eccentric habit of periodically declaring that he has abolished the Libyan government. His subjects suddenly seem interested in taking him up on the idea. Amid reports of severe repression, claims are coming in that the city of Benghazi is now "out of the control of the Gaddafi regime." The Telegraph has posted footage apparently showing protesters in Tobruk toppling a statue of Qaddafi's Green Book. An activist interviewed on Al Jazeera claims that "the eastern regions of Libya are now free regions." Stay tuned.
Via Avik Roy's new blog at Forbes:
In 1965, government experts projected that in 1990, on an inflation-adjusted basis, Medicare would cost $12 billion. In reality, Medicare in 1990 cost $107 billion. Oops.
This is what Arnold Kling means when he talks about "expert failure."
Tired of waiting for a libertarian United States of America? Maybe the answer is to start small.
Filmmaker Christina Heller, along with co-producer Craig Goodale, made the documentary Libertopia , which follows the journeys of three individuals who decided to move to New Hampshire to participate in the Free State Project. Heller sat down to talk with Reason.tv's Ted Balaker about the project and says that the passion and principled nature of the Free Staters inspired her and may just have changed her from a liberal into a libertarian
The Free State Project was proposed by a Yale PhD student in 2001, and the goal was to convince 20,000 pro-liberty activists to commit to moving to New Hampshire in hopes of transforming the state's politics back to its "Live Free or Die" roots. So far, the project reports that there are more than 10,000 participants, and almost 900 "early movers" have already settled there.
The documentary follows one man who is walking across the country to raise awareness about the Free State Project, another who already moved to New Hampshire and works as an advocate for medical marijuana patients, and a Ron Paul-inspired high school graduate who decides to leave his friends and family in California to live in New Hampshire.
Interview by Ted Balaker. Shot by Zach Weissmueller, Hawk Jensen, and Alex Manning. Edited by Weissmueller.
Approximately 9 minutes.
Visit Reason.tv for HD, iPod and audio versions of this video and subscribe to Reason.tv's Youtube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.
When police in Sarasota, Florida were having a hard time tracking down drug dealers in a run-down apartment complex, they came up with a solution that police departments across the country must now be kicking themselves for not having thought up themselves: Just search everyone.
[T]he agency tried something it had never done before. It sought permission from a judge to search anyone and everyone who parked or set foot in the apartment complex parking lot.
More than a dozen officers and the city's SWAT team flooded the area. They had permission to detain and pat down anyone they saw in the area.
During the two-hour raid, a dozen people were searched and, even though officers justified the wide search by telling a judge no "innocent persons" congregated in the abandoned lot, only four people were charged with drug crimes. An 80-year-old man was among those detained, then released, during the operation.
A year later, the decision by Sarasota police to use an "all persons" warrant is being questioned by legal experts who say it gave officers unjustified power to search citizens with no evidence they were committing a crime.
In court this week, Judge Rochelle Curley upheld the legality of the search warrant. But an attorney for one of the men arrested outside the Mediterranean Apartments has vowed to push the case to the district court of appeal.
Those involved say a decision by the higher court could lead to a new precedent for police searches in Florida, essentially banning such broad searches or signaling approval for more widespread use.
The good news is that though the searches may have been an appalling violation of the Fourth Amendment, they were also wildly successful. For the last two years, Sarasota has been 100 percent drug-free.
In November the Food and Drug Administration proposed new, bigger, colorized, and illustrated cigarette warning labels. As Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explains, the theory behind the labels, required by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, is that people already know that smoking is bad for them but need to be reminded good and hard.View this article
From the Washington Post:
The president's political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to mobilize thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.
Their efforts began to spread, as thousands of labor supporters turned out for a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to protest a measure from Gov. John Kasich (R) that would cut collective-bargaining rights.
By the end of the day, Democratic Party officials were working to organize additional demonstrations in Ohio and Indiana, where an effort is underway to trim benefits for public workers. Some union activists predicted similar protests in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. [...]
The White House political operation, Organizing for America, got involved Monday, after Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine, a former Virginia governor, spoke to union leaders in Madison, a party official said.
The group made phone calls, distributed messages via Twitter and Facebook, and sent e-mails to its state and national lists to try to build crowds for rallies Wednesday and Thursday, a party official said.
Just think–there once was a time (for more than a century, actually), when the president of the United States thought it too imperious to deliver the State of the Union via a speech to a joint session of Congress, since that would smack of telling a co-equal branch of government what to do. Now we have a president not just taking rhetorical sides in a state issue, but actively mobilizing his political organization to affect the outcome(s), even though (to my knowledge) nothing that Gov. Walker or any other belated statehouse cost-cutter is doing has a damned thing to do with federal law.
I have written in the past about how libertarians are pretty lonely in the political scheme of things in terms of constantly being challenged to defend themselves against the "logical conclusion" of their philosophy. But I think it's time to amend that. We are witnessing the logical conclusion of the Democratic Party's philosophy, and it is this: Your tax dollars exist to make public sector unions happy. When we run out of other people's money to pay for those contracts and promises (most of which are negotiated outside of public view, often between union officials and the politicians that union officials helped elect), then we just need to raise taxes to cover a shortfall that is obviously Wall Street's fault. Anyone who doesn't agree is a bully, and might just bear an uncanny resemblance to Hitler.
The president's heavy-handed involvement, along with House Republicans' refusal to sign off on any new bailout of the states, means that this may very well be America's biggest and most widespread political fight in 2011. It's a cage match to determine first dibs on a shrinking pie. A clarifying moment.
Watching an episode of The Walking Dead inevitably leads to passing thoughts about which room of your house would be easiest to defend when zombies finally overrun the neighborhood. But unless you’re an international relations theorist, you may not have given much thought to what happens to global politics once the undead are upon us. Luckily, writes Senior Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward, the Tufts University political scientist Daniel W. Drezner has stepped up with a bite-sized book on the subject, Theories of International Politics and Zombies. In addition to wargaming various zombie scenarios, Drezner’s book serves as an entertaining primer on the distinctions between several theories of international politics.View this article
As both India and China have liberalized their economies, writes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia in her latest column at The Daily, poor rural migrants have flooded the cities in search of jobs. On the surface, it appears that Chinese cities have done a better job of assimilating these migrants becaue the cities are clean, beautiful, and, above all, free of poverty. None of that is true for Indian cities. But dig beneath the surface, Dalmia writes, and the darker half of China's beauty secret becomes apparent.
In the long run, notes Dalmia, "India's pell mell democracy might yet outperfrom China's hyperrational autocracy."
Did J.R. Ewing help overthrow Communism? Click on the link for audio with Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch (among others) on that and other Dallas-related subjects, plus some visuals, too.
Related Reason content:
The Second Romanian Revolution Will Be Televised, October 2005
Nice Shot, J.R., April 2008
- Barack Obama wades into the Wisconsin debate over public-sector unions.
- Alaska's governor says he won't enact ObamaCare.
- Troubles surface at China's highly touted high-speed rail.
- The Ugandan regime orders phone companies to censor text messages during today's election.
- Officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guard say they won't fire on demonstrators.
- Protests and repression continue across the Middle East, including in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain.
- The U.S. army wants rubber bullets for crowd control.
- Baghdad wants Washington to pay $1 billion for damage done to the city.
- Expelling gay rights groups from next year's CPAC.
In the latest edition of Friday Funnies, Henry Payne predicts Barack Obama's presidential legacy.View this article
As Radley Balko noted in the morning links, anti-government protests have spread across the Maghreb and Middle East, with violent clashes in Iran, Bahrain, and Yemen, and both pro- and anti-government demonstrations are roiling the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
The Qaddafi dictatorship—widely and credibly believed to be behind the bombings of the La Belle disco in Berlin and Pan Am flight 103, and the target of a brief American bombing campaign in 1986—is no American stooge, though since the government handed over its nuclear program to the United States in 2003 and has loudly worked against the (anti-Qaddafi) extremists of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), his more radical opponents have claimed that he has "sold out" to the United States. In what appears to be a concession to protesters planning today’s “day of rage,” the government released the remaining 110 LIFG members it held in a Tripoli prison. The anti-LIFG campaign, which claimed to rehabilitate for members of the al-Qaeda affiliated group, was the Qaddafi Foundation’s show piece for Western journalists.
In other words, while everyone is hyperventilating about the peaceful protesters in Egypt being secret Qutbists, many of those flowing into the streets of Tripoli and Benghazi, as Al-Jazeera reported last night, are yelling that Qaddafi is an “American agent.” And as the Financial Times noted, the protesters are also marking the anniversary of the “February 2006 [deaths] of a dozen demonstrators during a protest against the Danish illustrator who drew images of the prophet Mohamed.”
Reports of casualties from today’s clashes vary, with BBC saying that one person was killed by government forces, while Bloomberg claims “at least” 19 victims (using, it seems, Al-Arabiya as its source).
An opposition website and an anti-Qaddafi activist said violence broke out during marches today in five Libyan cities -- Beyida, Benghazi, Zentan, Rijban and Darnah, according to the Associated Press. The 19 deaths were in Benghazi and Al-Bida, according to Al Arabiya television, which didn’t say where it got the information. There was little confirmed information due to Libya’s tight press restrictions. The government-controlled Libyan media presented reports of people praising Qaddafi, who has ruled since 1969 while tolerating no dissent.
A quick note about Libya’s one-party, one-ideology press: The Internet, oddly, is not censored, which explains how all of this tumult could so easily be coordinated on Facebook. Indeed, Qaddafi “warned” citizens that they shouldn’t access the social networking site.
The Los Angeles Times highlighted a video purportedly showing members of the army firing on a crowd of protesters, but it appears to have been removed from YouTube for a “violation of Terms of Service.”
And this is very strange: I was going to recommend following the coverage at enoughgaddafi.com, a dissident website run by Libyan exiles that has proved a great source of video and other material from inside Libya. But while the cached version can be viewed here, the site now redirects to a Godaddy.com page.
I wrote a dispatch from Libya last year, in which I talked to former LIFG prisoners and marveled at the awesomeness of Tripoli’s “modern” airport.
Berlin is no longer the entertaining cesspool of espionage and political intrigue that it was when Cold War operatives like George Smiley and Harry Palmer skulked its shadowy streets. But in the new movie Unknown, writes Kurt Loder, the once-divided metropolis provides a sufficiently sinister environment for Martin Harris, a visiting American dangerously out of his element.View this article
If you were among the millions moved when California Gov. Jerry Brown didn't get an upgrade to business class last week, John Wildermuth has some bad news for you. Writing at Fox & Hounds Daily, Wildermuth notes that Flying Southwest and cutting off state employee cell phone accounts won't do much to close the state's $25 billion budget deficit.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, he often flew across the state in his private jet, paying the tab from his own very deep pockets. Cost to the taxpayers: zero.
When Gov. Jerry Brown flew from Sacramento to Burbank last week to push his budget plan before the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, he flew by himself on Southwest Airlines. The bill for the state: $126 for the roundtrip fare (it’s normally $160, but Brown gets a senior discount).
In this case, it’s not the reality of the money but the symbolism of the plane ride that counts and there’s no politician better at using symbols than Jerry Brown.
Newspapers across the state wrote about the speech, but they paid even more attention to Brown’s mode of travel. “Thrifty governor charms Californians in coach” read the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle and no, there’s not enough money in the state’s coffers to buy that sort of publicity (Of course there’s not enough money in the state’s coffers to buy much of anything).
The problem isn't just that this kind of gesture is purely symbolic. The symbolism itself is open to question. Thirty-four years ago, Jimmy Carter ushered in his own era of frugality by walking to his inauguration. And look how that turned out.
A new government-funded study finds, contrary to earlier research, that MDMA use is not associated with cognitive impairment. The study, reported yesterday in the journal Addiction, sought to address the weaknesses in comparisons that have been widely cited as evidence of brain damage caused by MDMA (a.k.a. Ecstasy):
The researchers fixed four problems in earlier research on ecstasy. First, the non-users in the experiment were members of the "rave" subculture and thus repeatedly exposed to sleep and fluid deprivation from all-night dancing—factors that themselves can produce long-lasting cognitive effects.
Second, participants were screened for drug and alcohol use on the day of cognitive testing, to make sure all participants were tested while "clean."
Third, the study chose ecstasy users who did not habitually use other drugs that might themselves contribute to cognitive impairment.
Finally, the experiment corrected for the possibility that any cognitive impairment shown by ecstasy users might have been in place before they started using the drug.
The resulting experiment whittled 1500 potential participants down to 52 carefully chosen ecstasy users, whose cognitive function was compared against 59 closely-matched non-users, with tests administered at several stages to make sure participants were telling the truth about their drug and alcohol use.
The researchers, led by John Halpern of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry, obtained a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to clarify whether the differences in performance found in earlier studies were due to MDMA's effects. Their conclusion:
We found little evidence of decreased cognitive performance in ecstasy users, save for poorer strategic self-regulation, possibly reflecting increased impulsivity. However, this finding might have reflected a pre-morbid attribute of ecstasy users, rather than a residual neurotoxic effect of the drug.
Halpern seems keen to put a NIDA-friendly spin on these reassuring results:
Ecstasy consumption is dangerous: illegally-made pills can contain harmful contaminants, there are no warning labels, there is no medical supervision, and in rare cases people are physically harmed and even die from overdosing. It is important for drug-abuse information to be accurate, and we hope our report will help upgrade public health messages. But while we found no ominous, concerning risks to cognitive performance, that is quite different from concluding that ecstasy use is "risk-free."
The press release does not mention that all the risks Halpern cites are either created or exacerbated by prohibition, which makes drug quality unreliable, pushes use underground, and impedes the dissemination of reliable guidelines for responsible use. I made those points in connection with anti-rave legislation in a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece.
That same year Ron Bailey examined the drug war's corrupting impact on MDMA research. In a 2002 Reason article, I explored the link between Ecstasy and sex. Last year I analyzed a retro Ecstasy scare story in the Los Angeles Times.
Union protesters are taking to the streets and Capitol hallways in Madison, Wisconsin this week, expressing their displeasure with the state worker reforms proposed by Gov. Scott Walker (R). The resulting hubbub suggests there is no limit to the tortured rhetoric these taxpayers’ masters will employ to protect their privileged positions.
Christian Schneider’s commentary at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) is well-worth reading for his roundup of the absurdities Walker's opponents were already employing against the reforms last week, including an assertion that the governor would call in the National Guard on families (after Walker simply mentioned the possibility of using Guardsmen to staff prisons in the possibility of a strike). The Teamsters issued a press release comparing Walker to “Hilter.” But state Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) won the week with this beauty:
The ghost of Martin Luther King must be rolling in his grave when he anticipates in the state of Wisconsin we’re going to have what, in effect, will be legalized slavery.
"Mubarak=Walker" signs and slogans appeared as well, with The Washington Post's Harold Meyerson dubbing Walker the “cheesehead pharaoh of the Middle West.” According to this incoherent view, a democratically elected legislature requiring public employees to contribute to their pensions—a reform that 80 percent of Wisconsinites support—is akin to running an oppressive state for three-plus decades.
The protests resulted in 17 districts cancelling school today, as 40 percent of Madison-area teachers caught a nasty case of the entitlements. Organizing for America, the Obama campaign-in-exile, also had a hand in arranging protest logisitics. So much for post-partisanship.
So why all the fuss? Milwaukee's WTMJ breaks it down:
Walker's plan would make workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care premiums. State employees' costs would go up by an average of 8 percent. The changes would save the state $30 million by June 30 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Unions could still represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized. Local police, firefighters and state troopers would retain their collective bargaining rights.
As Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) pointed out this morning on MSNBC, these reforms would still leave state workers paying about half the health care premiums of private sector employees.
For further edification, watch this video taken by WPRI staff.
More from Reason on the unions here.
Thousands of protestors have been clogging the Wisconsin state capital building ahead of an attempt to vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget plan. Local WISC-TV reporter Jessica Arp uses a pixelvision camera to show the action:
What are they all het up about? Walker's budget fix would slow the growth of benefits and restrict some collective bargaining powers for government workers. Taxpayer-funded workers are determined to protect these advantages.
Which is why this is merely an attempt to vote, not a vote. Taking a cue from the Texas state house, Wisconsin Senate Democrats have fled the scene, with some reportedly having left the state, in order to prevent the measure from coming to the floor.
The teachers union in a state whose public schools get solid C-minus grades in state-by-state rankings have decided to take a break from failing to teach children and bring busloads of Ms. Krabappels up to Madison as well. At least 15 school districts around the state reportedly cancelled classes today as teachers declined to show up.
Wisconsin's budget standoff is drawing national attention, and like so many states where demands for increasing public largesse and special privileges for government employees are getting louder, the Badger State is out of money. Before taking office, Walker, a Republican, was told by his Democratic predecessor Jim Doyle that without spending cuts beyond what Walker has proposed, the deficit could go from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion.
Inevitable on-the-one-hand-this-on-the-other-hand-that editorial.
If the United States still had a great-power rival, it would be hard to count the revolutionary tide sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as anything other than a disaster. Of the governments that have so far been toppled or placed in jeopardy this year, most have had pretty fair relations with the U.S. To put that another way, writes Senior Editor Tim Cavanaugh, dominoes are falling, but they’re just not the right dominoes.View this article
The Manhattan Institute’s Josh Barro reports that Chicago mayoral hopeful Rahm Emanuel doesn’t seem too worried about courting the public sector union vote:
Public employee unions in Chicago are up in arms about a new campaign ad being run by Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's ex-chief of staff and the frontrunner in this month's mayoral race. The city's police and fire unions joined AFSCME to release a statement calling the ad "offensive." The head of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police called the ad "a travesty."
What does the ad say? That "city government is not an employment agency," and, when Rahm is mayor, "everybody that works for the city government [will know] that they're actually a public servant." Stunning sentiments, indeed.
Emanuel has never been one to shy away from confrontation, and in this mayor's race he's run head-on at Chicago's public employee unions. He's raised the hackles of the city's teachers' union by backing aggressive school reforms. He's earned the enmity of the police and fire unions by insisting that pension benefit changes for current employees be on the table in the city's coming fiscal restructuring. And he's made many classes of public workers nervous by calling for "charter agencies" that enjoy the sort of bureaucratic autonomy used by charter schools--as in practice, that has often meant employing non-union labor.
Last week The Washington Post ran a story about newly legal gun ownership in the District of Columbia that highlighted a class angle: So far residents of richer, safer neighborhoods have been more likely to register handguns than residents of poorer, rougher neighborhoods. "Since D.C.'s Handgun Ban Ended," the headline said, "Well-Heeled Residents Have Become Well Armed." Reporter Paul Duggan began the piece this way: "In the 2½ years since the U.S. Supreme Court ended the District's handgun ban, hundreds of residents in Washington's safest, most well-to-do neighborhoods have armed themselves, registering far more guns than people in poorer, crime-plagued areas of the city." Cato Institute Chairman Robert Levy—a driving force behind D.C. v. Heller, the case in which the Court overturned the D.C. gun ban—questions the Post's emphasis:
The important conclusion...is not the difference between two inconsequential registration numbers [151 among the 15,000 wealthy households of the 20016 ZIP code vs. 240 among the 52,000 households east of the Anacostia River], but the fact that the two numbers are so close to zero. In Zip code 20016, nearly 99 percent of the households did not register firearms. East of the Anacostia, more than 99 percent did not register. Rather than ask why there were so few registrants, Mr. Duggan conjured up class warfare with his rich-poor comparison.
Here is the relevant point: The District still has no gun retailers, and a de facto ban on firearms endures. When a Post reporter tested the registration process, he found that it cost $834—dwarfing the cost of most weapons. Moreover, registration required 16 hours, four trips to the police department, two background checks, fingerprints, photos, a vision test, a five-hour class and a 20-question examination. No wonder only 1,400 firearms have been registered since June 2008 in a city of 600,000 people.
The city is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the Heller decision. More litigation is sure to follow.
Near the end of his story, Duggan himself notes one of the reasons so few Washingtonians are exercising their right to keep arms:
Federal law requires handgun buyers to purchase their firearms in the states where they live, which is a problem for many D.C. residents who want pistols, because there are no gun stores in Washington. Some...already owned guns that they kept elsewhere. But most...need a middleman.
In the District, the middleman is Charles Sykes Jr., the city's only licensed firearms dealer. He works quietly, without advertising, in a hard-to-find office in Southeast.
Sykes charges $125 for his services. Add that to the price of a gun and the cost of the city's registration process (which includes taking time off from work), and it's not terribly surprising that rich people are more likely than poor people to register a handgun. But as Levy says, the real scandal is that the process is costly and cumbersome enough to deter almost everyone.
Despite denials from sources close to the Bahraini government, credible rumors of Saudi tanks and troops on the ground in Bahrain are widespread, as the ruling Bahraini House of Khalifa desperately reasserts control in the capital after initially ceding the central Pearl Square to tens of thousands of anti-government protesters. The House of Saud, as you may recall, has a strong interest in ensuring that the Shiite-driven unrest in Bahrain doesn't spill over to Saudi Arabia's own Shiite-manned oil fields.
In addition to the Nicholas Kristof tweet that Jesse Walker posted earlier (more here), which suggested that Saudi troops were stopping ambulances from helping protesters injured in the surprise midnight attack (and that's not the only suggestion of medics being prevented from helping), there are a few reports that Saudi tanks may have arrived on the island. One Spanish racing team owner (Bahrain was set to host the season-opening Formula 1 Grand Prix next month, something which is now very much in doubt) claimed that "there are Saudi tanks everywhere." An Iranian news organization is claiming the Saudis sent hundreds of tanks and personnel carriers in from Qatar, which it backs up with a video of armored personnel carriers rolling down a highway in Manama, though I can't confirm that those are actually from Saudi Arabia. The Guardian writes, somewhat ambiguously: "Tanks and troops from Saudi Arabia were reported to have been deployed in support of Bahraini forces."
Regardless of whether or not Saudi troops and tanks actually took part in the brutal early morning attack that dislodged the protesters from Pearl Square, the Khalifas have taken measures to prevent their own security forces from sympathizing with the mostly Shiite Bahraini protesters. For years the Sunni rulers of Bahrain have been accused of recruiting foreign riot police and naturalizing them in an effort to avoid an Egypt-like situation where low-level officers refuse orders to fire on their countrymen. As a result, few among the Bahraini security forces speak the local dialect, and some of the Pakistanis don't speak Arabic at all.
As the situation in Bahrain heats up, many commentators are casting an eye towards Saudi Arabia. Reuters reports that the Saudis "must now worry" that Bahrain's protests "may embolden" Saudi Arabia's own Shiite population. The Financial Times' Barney Jopson claims that "Bahrain has the potential to inspire political ructions in Saudi Arabia," and that "the longer protests continue in Bahrain the more [Saudi Arabia's stability] has to be questioned." Steve Soltoff at the DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies puts it more bluntly: "Saudi Arabia is very, very scared now."
Evan Daniel Emory, 21, got permission from Beachnau Elementary School officials in Michigan to record himself singing the song "Lunch Lady Land" in front of a class of first graders, but under the false pretense that he wanted to use the video as part of his application to a school of education. Emory was actually planning a comedy bit. He later dubbed in sexually profane lyrics and posted the video to YouTube, making it look as if he had sang the dirty lyrics directly to the children.
And then all hell broke lose in Ravenna, Michigan.
Now, I can understand if Beachnau school officials and parents don't share Emory's sense of humor. I can understand a parent becoming rather irate upon learning that Emory had serenaded the kids with filthy lyrics. And even after learning that the dirty audio had been dubbed in, I can also understand a parent might still be ticked off that his kid's face appeared in the finished product. (The video is obviously offline now, but according to the article, it begins with Emory writing on a chalkboard, "Disclaimer: No children were exposed to the 'Graphic Content' of this video.")
All of which is good reason to demand Emory take down the video. It might be good reason to sue him. And maybe you fine Emory for lying to school officials about his intentions. But some in Ravenna are predictably calling for his head.
So let's give due praise and kudos to Muskegon County Prosecutor Tony Tague, who showed some rare perspective in all of this. Tague recently held a press conference in which he calmly explained to angry parents and a hysterical local media that we don't throw people in prison for having a bad sense of humor. Here's Tague:
"Look, I know a lot of people are upset. But the video has been taken down, and the actual damage done to the kids is minimal. They didn't actually hear the sexually suggestive lyrics. Any time you have a story about sex, children, and the Internet, there's going to be a tendency for some people to overreact. Mr. Emory showed incredibly poor judgment here, and I hope he has learned his lesson. But my job is to fairly apply the law, and I simply don't think it would be in the interest of justice to charge Mr. Emory with a crime just to register our moral outrage at his prank.
Oh, wait. That's what Tague should have said. Here's what he actually said:
"The bottom line in this case is that he walked into a classroom and took advantage and victimized every single child in that classroom," Tague said.
"This case is very disturbing to law enforcement officials. We have launched a full-fledged investigation with the sheriff."
Tague said Michigan law 'provides penalty' for those who actually manufacture child sexual abusive material "but also has a provision for those who make it appear that the children were actually abused."
Emory has been arrested. He's currently charged with a felony punishable by 20 years in prison.
Reason.tv presents exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of the movie adaption of part I of Ayn Rand's epic and hugely influential novel, Atlas Shrugged, which tells the story of a United States crumbling under the weight of government intervention and the "men of the mind" who fight against their collectivist exploiters.
This sneak peek offers a glimpse into the post-production process as well as portions of a never-before-viewed scene from the movie.
***SPOILER ALERT*** This video contains portions of a scene and actors discussing the actions of their characters.
This pivotal scene features James Taggart (played by Matthew Marsden, Black Hawk Down, Transformers), the weak-willed, conniving brother of the film's heroine, Dagny Taggart, as he conspires with the likes of corrupt lobbyist Wesley Mouch (Michael Lerner, A Serious Man, Barton Fink), shady businessmen Orren Boyle (Jon Polito, Miller's Crossing), and Paul Larkin (Patrick Fishler, Lost, Southland), to bring down the successful steel magnate Hank Rearden. They view Rearden's supposed threat of monopoly over the steel and railroad industries as on obstacle in the path to success for wealthy playboy Francisco D'Aconia, with whom they're investing their money, though James Taggart is suspicious (perhaps rightly so) of D'Aconia's trustworthiness and business acumen.
Atlas Shrugged Part 1 hits theaters April 15.
Produced by Hawk Jensen and Ted Balaker. Camera by Alex Manning and Jensen, who also edited.
Special thanks to Harmon Kaslow, Mike Marvin, and John Orland.
Approximately 2.5 minutes.
To see our exclusive interview with the producer and screenwriter of Atlas Shrugged Part 1 go here.
To see all our Ayn Rand videos go here.
To see the original Atlas Shrugged trailer go here.
Go to reason.tv for downloadable HD, iPod, and audio versions of this and all our videos and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.
Speaking of marijuana arrests, the Drug Policy Alliance recently released numbers that show New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not only continuing but escalating his little-noticed crackdown on pot smokers:
Over the last twenty years, NYPD has quietly made arrests for marijuana their top enforcement priority, without public acknowledgement or debate. This is the sixth year in a row with an increase in marijuana possession arrests. In 2005, there were 29,752 such arrests, and in 2010, there were 50,383, a 69 percent increase. Since Michael Bloomberg came into office in 2002, there have been 350,000 arrests for low-level marijuana offenses in NYC.
"New York has made more marijuana arrests under Bloomberg than any mayor in New York City history," said Dr. Harry Levine, a Sociology professor at Queens College and the nation's leading expert on marijuana arrests. "Bloomberg's police have arrested more people for marijuana than Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani combined. These arrests cost tens of millions of dollars every year, and introduce tens of thousands of young people into our broken criminal justice system."
Although possession of up to 25 grams (nearly an ounce) of marijuana is a citable offense under New York law, publicly displaying marijuana is a misdemeanor. As Levine has documented, New York City police commonly trick people into taking out their pot, thereby exposing themselves to arrest. The New Yorkers nabbed this way are overwhelmingly young and black or Hispanic, reflecting the neighborhoods where police focus their "stop and frisk" efforts:
Almost 70 percent of those arrested are younger than 30 years old. 86 percent of those arrested are Black or Latino, even though research consistently shows that young whites use marijuana at higher rates.
Levine has found similar patterns in California. Pot busts were the most common kind of arrest in New York last year, accounting for 15 percent of the total. The Drug Policy Alliance says New York police arrested an average of 140 people a day for pot possession in 2010, making their city the "Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World."
In a 2008 Reason article, I noted that the risk of getting arrested for smoking pot, though still small, has roughly doubled since 1990.
Tonight's episode of Stossel is Reason-riffic! The theme of the show: What does the future hold?
Peter Suderman talks about Net Neutrality with John Stossel and Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy discuss their recent story, "The 19 Percent Solution: How to balance the budget without raising taxes."
Also appearing are Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Patri Friedman of The Seasteading Institute, spending-eliminationist Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and George Mason economist Robin Hanson.
Stossel airs on Fox Business Channel at 9pm ET. Go here for more info.
Here's Stossel's latest column, which is about seasteading.
A few weeks back, Reason Foundation education analyst Lisa Snell talked with Stossel about how to cut education spending while boosting student outcomes. Take a look:
"The whole theme of the movie is, really, human evil," says Brian O'Toole, the screenwriter behind Atlas Shrugged Part I, the feature adaptation of Ayn Rand's influential novel. "And human evil springs from good intentions."
O'Toole and producer Harmon Kaslow tell Reason.tv what viewers can expect to see in the movie, which covers the first of three sections in Rand's novel.
"This movie really comes across as a very empowering movie for women," says Kaslow. "It's about a woman who takes on a lot of forces working against her."
The movie is set in a dystopian near-future, and the story follows Dagny Taggart, a railroad executive who faces a crisis when one of her trains is derailed. While Dagny tries to improve the railway by collaborating with Hank Rearden, an entrepreneur who's developed a new kind of metal, her brother James Taggart conspires with government officials and crony capitalists who are bent on taking Rearden down.
"To me, this was the underdog story," says O'Toole.
Atlas Shrugged Part 1 hits theaters April 15.
Produced by Hawk Jensen and Ted Balaker. Camera by Zach Weissmueller and Jensen, who also edited.
Approximately 3.5 minutes.
To see our exclusive behind the scenes sneak peak of atlas shrugged go here.
To see all our Ayn Rand videos go here.
To see the original Atlas Shrugged trailer go here.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the need for state-level flexibility in implementing Medicaid. I focused on the big picture—enrollment and eligibility standards and how they compare with federally mandated requirements—but as the following anecdote from Utah’s governor suggests, states are constrained in what have to be incredibly frustrating ways even when it comes to what ought to be minor, easy-to-adjust operational details:
Utah officials waited for eight months to find out if the state would be allowed to use e-mail rather than paper to communicate with Medicaid recipients and save $6 million a year, he said.
"They sent us a denial by e-mail," [Utah’s Republican Governor Gary] Herbert said. "The irony is rich." The state is continuing to pursue that Medicaid waiver and several others.
I’m not sure which is more absurd: That HHS said no, or that Utah had to ask in the first place. It’s not particularly surprising, though, given the administration’s overall track record on the issue. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent states a letter earlier this month suggesting ways they could make Medicaid more efficient and less costly. But the administration’s position on the matter essentially comes down to “don’t make cuts; instead, do more with less.” That’s just not a workable solution. As Indiana's Republican Governor Mitch Daniels told a group of health reporters last week, the best practices suggested by HHS are “meaningless...people already copy each other. We don’t need HHS’s help to do it.”
(Via PRI's John Graham.)
As amusing game show responses go, this one is not quite up there with "that would be in the butt, Bob," but it is revealing. During a recent Family Feud episode, contestants were asked to name "something that gets passed around." One of them immediately hit the buzzer and volunteered "a joint," drawing applause and laughter. Host Steve Harvey professed to be taken aback and mocked the contestant for picking a response that surely did not spring to the minds of the 100 ordinary people surveyed by the show in "some nice little mall across America." But "a joint" was in fact the fifth most popular response (out of the top six). There is a second punch line (which I won't spoil) when the woman on the other side gives her answer.
The first contestant's readiness to say "a joint," the fact that it showed up in the survey, and the audience's decidedly nonscandalized response all illustrate a puzzling facet of life in 21st-century America that Andrew Sullivan notes in the introduction to The Cannabis Closet, his new collection of personal accounts from pot smokers: "How does a society treat something as a harmless, ubiquitous joke, and then arrest hundreds of thousands of people a year for doing it?" It's a good question for former pot smoker Barack Obama, although he probably would laugh at you for asking it.
[via Tony Newman at Alernet]
For those of you in the Nashville area, Reason Senior Editor Radley Balko and the local chapter of Liberty on the Rocks will be at Mafioza's on 12 South tonight from 5:30 to 9:30 pm.
More details here.
Reuters reports that anti-government protests in Yemen have been half-hearted compared to the revolt that brought down Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, and it suggests an explanation:
By noon the protesters quietly vanish.
Many head straight from the streets to the souk, or market, to buy bags stuffed with qat, the mild stimulant leaf that over half of Yemen's 23 million people chew daily, whiling away their afternoons in bliss, their cheeks bulging with wads of qat....
The Yemen protesters' midday departures cast doubt on whether Yemenis are ready to mount a sustained revolt that would be needed to topple [President Ali Abdullah] Saleh from the leadership of the Arab world's poorest country....
Yemenis are not known for being passive. Nationals disgruntled with their government have kidnapped foreigners and locals, ambushed security forces and occupied state buildings to extract concessions. But for many, qat time is sacrosanct.
"When we have protests, they quiet down quickly because of this Yemeni habit. Qat is a negative influence. Every afternoon people go chew qat and the protests don't last more than a few hours in the morning," journalist Samir Gibran said, as he sat chewing qat with friends....
"Nothing quiets people like qat. Look at what they're doing in Egypt," said aluminum worker Ahmed al-Hazoura, as he carefully selected qat branches from a Sanaa shop. "If it wasn't for qat, everyone here would be in the streets protesting."
The headline: "Qat Addiction May Stem Yemen Protests." This knock against qat might puzzle anyone who remembers the press coverage of Somalia's civil war in the early 1990s, when qat allegedly made young gunmen irritable, aggressive, and trigger-happy. Now Reuters claims the very same plant makes chewers directly across the Gulf of Aden passive, lazy, and listless. To reinforce this new story line, it calls qat (accurately) a "mild" stimulant—which was not the impression left by the stories about Somalia's qat-crazed killers—and even describes the plant (inaccurately) as a "narcotic."
Can the same drug have such diametrically opposite effects? In a sense, yes, because context has a powerful influence on how people behave after consuming a drug (as anyone who has observed alcohol consumption at a frat party and at a formal dinner can attest). If there is truth to the claim that qat breaks are undermining the protests in Yemen, it is not because of the drug's psychoactive effects but because of the social customs surrounding its use. Yemenis could, after all, chew qat in the streets; Somali soldiers managed to do so. But then the ritual would have a different meaning: Chewing qat would be a way to stay active and alert instead of a way to relax and socialize. The variable uses of stimulants are reflected in the old slogan asserting that coffee "picks you up while it calms you down"; tobacco has long served a similar dual function.
To its credit, Reuters includes an alternative narrative in which qat circles, like the English coffeehouses of the 17th and 18th centuries or the taverns of colonial America, promote dissent instead of muffling it:
Some analysts say qat addiction is not a serious barrier to mass protest in Yemen, and young activists say customary qat-chewing gatherings play the same role as social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook elsewhere in the region.
"Sure we use Facebook like kids in other countries, but a lot of the protests that were organized, students planned at qat sessions. Qat has a positive role in political mobilization," Fakhr al-Azb, a 23-year old university student, said.
Whichever account is closer to the truth, we should be wary of a pharmacological essentialism that depicts the social effects of drug use as a straightforward chemical reaction. To a larger extent than is commonly recognized, people choose how they respond to drugs.
More than 1,000, according to Paul Bedard of U.S. News:
The Internal Revenue Service says it will need an battalion of 1,054 new auditors and staffers and new facilities at a cost to taxpayers of more than $359 million in fiscal 2012 just to watch over the initial implementation of President Obama's healthcare reforms. Among the new corps will be 81 workers assigned to make sure tanning salons pay a new 10 percent excise tax. Their cost: $11.5 million.
At least the IRS can put a number on how many new staffers it will take to enforce the law. When staffers at the Congressional Research Service were asked to estimate the number of new bureaucratic entities the health care overhaul will create, they reported that the task was “impossible” because the true number was “unknowable.”
Here's a novel idea: Escape the suffocating chains of intrusive government by starting your own country! That’s Patri Friedman’s idea, and as John Stossel notes, Friedman comes from an impressive line of libertarian thinkers. Milton Friedman, the Nobel-prize-winning free-market economist, was his grandfather. His father is David Friedman, author of the libertarian classic The Machinery of Freedom. And now Patri believes he has an effective solution to bad government: communities on the ocean surface, or seasteading.View this article
Last weekend, visitors to some 84,000 websites, mostly personal and small business sites, saw this pop up on their screens:
The domain seizures were part of "Operation Save Our Children," which according to a Department of Homeland Security press release, nabbed 10 websites that were distributing child pornography.
The problem for the other 83,990 domain owners is that for a couple days their sites were inaccessible to both owners and to readers/viewers/customers, and for up to six days the site owners were advertised to the world as suspected child pornographers. The DHS press release makes no mention of that.
From the file-sharing blog TorrentFreak:
As with previous seizures, ICE convinced a District Court judge to sign a seizure warrant, and then contacted the domain registries to point the domains in question to a server that hosts the warning message. However, somewhere in this process a mistake was made and as a result the domain of a large DNS service provider was seized.
The domain in question is mooo.com, which belongs to the DNS provider FreeDNS. It is the most popular shared domain at afraid.org and as a result of the authorities’ actions a massive 84,000 subdomains were wrongfully seized as well. All sites were redirected to the banner...
This seems to be part of a pattern in which DHS seizes and shuts down blocks of domains with little due process, though it's more commonly done in copyright investigations.
Government transparency watchdog Steven Aftergood alerts us to a bad new bill:
Legislation introduced in the Senate this week would broadly criminalize leaks of classified information. The bill (S. 355) sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) would make it a felony for a government employee or contractor who has authorized access to classified information to disclose such information to an unauthorized person in violation of his or her nondisclosure agreement.
Under existing law, criminal penalties apply only to the unauthorized disclosure of a handful of specified categories of classified information (in non-espionage cases). These categories include codes, cryptography, communications intelligence, identities of covert agents, and nuclear weapons design information. The new bill would amend the espionage statutes to extend such penalties to the unauthorized disclosure of any classified information. [...]
The bill would replace the Espionage Act's use of the term "national defense information" with the broader but more precise term "national security information." It would outlaw any knowing violation of an employee's classified information nondisclosure agreement, "irrespective of whether [the discloser] intended to aid a foreign nation or harm the United States." [...]
[I]t would establish a rebuttable presumption that any information marked as classified is properly classified. (The bill does not distinguish between "information" and "records.") This means that the government would not have to prove that the leaked information was properly classified; the defendant would have to prove it was not. In order to mount a defense arguing "improper classification," a defendant would have to present "clear and convincing evidence" that the original classifier could not have identified or described damage to national security resulting from unauthorized disclosure. Such challenges to original classification are almost never upheld, and so the defendant's burden of proof would be nearly impossible to meet.
The bill does not provide for a "public interest" defense, i.e. an argument that any damage to national security was outweighed by a benefit to the nation. It does not address the issue of overclassification, nor does it admit the possibility of "good" leaks. Disclosing that the President authorized waterboarding of detainees or that the government conducted unlawful domestic surveillance would be considered legally equivalent to revealing the identities of intelligence sources, the design of secret military technologies or the details of ongoing military operations.
And at a time when an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions are underway, the bill's premise that an enhanced ability to prosecute leaks is needed seems questionable.
The GOP shows that for all their recent rhetoric about the sacredness of the Constitution, the document is really little more than a political prop.
Today, Democrats offered a motion to recommit on legislation to extend expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act to ensure that PATRIOT Act powers are not used to violate the Constitutional freedoms and protections guaranteed to all Americans. The motion included two parts:
No Constitutional shortcuts. When investigating American citizens, the government must comply with the Constitution, even in national security investigations
Challenging unconstitutional action. If a citizen challenges the government's use of PATRIOT Act power in a court of law, the case must be expedited to ensure the individual's rights are upheld.
Just two House Republicans voted for the measure. Sure, this was a stunt by the Democrats. Sort of like the "read the bills" proposals from Republicans are, also, stunts. But that's sort of the problem. We've reached the point where merely asking the government to respect the constitutional rights of American citizens, or that members of Congress actually read bills before they vote on them, have become quaint notions; handy for political posturing, but they're ideas that tend to elicit only scoffs from serious Washington people.
. . . becasue they apparently consider a poker game with a $65-buy to be "high stakes," and worthy of a SWAT raid.
Baltimore County police arrested five men after an undercover detective infiltrated an illegal high-stakes poker game in Edgemere, records show.
Police say "Texas Hold 'Em" games were held regularly at the Lynch Point Social Club in the 3100 block of Roger Road, where organizers were making as much as $1,500 in profit a night, according to charging documents.
After receiving a tip, officers conducted surveillance at the club and later sent an undercover detective inside, who participated in a game with a $65 buy-in. The detective played for hours — leaving after he lost all his chips, records show.
A tactical unit conducted a raid on the club Feb. 11, seizing poker chips, electronic gambling machines and a surveillance system, among other items. Forty-one people were inside at the time of the raid.
Michael Benton Gilbert, 35, of the 3100 block of Lynch Road admitted to running the poker games and was given money by the club to pay off winners, police wrote in charging documents. He is charged with several counts related to organizing an illegal gambling operation, as well unlawfully possessing a slot machine, and was released from jail on his own recognizance, records show . . .
"These are financial crimes, and while it might appear on the surface that it's harmless, it festers into other crimes," said Lt. Robert McCullough, a county police spokesman.
Reached for comment, Gilbert referred questions to his attorney, Andrew Alperstein, who said Gilbert had no criminal record and "looks forward to resolving the case."
"In some of these types of cases, police have found other things, like drugs, or things of that nature, but there's none of that in this case," Alperstein said. "This is a wholesome group of working people playing poker. [Gilbert] is just a regular guy, has no record and supports his family."
It's too bad they can't also charge him with "aggravated festering."
The New York Times reports from Bahrain:
Without warning, hundreds of heavily armed riot police officers rushed into Pearl Square here early Thursday, firing shotguns, tear gas and concussion grenades at the thousands of demonstrators who were sleeping there as part of a widening protest against the nation’s absolute monarchy.
At least five people died, some of them reportedly killed in their sleep with scores of shotgun pellets to the face and chest, according to a witness and three doctors who received the dead and at least 200 wounded at a hospital here. The witness and the physicians spoke in return for anonymity for fear of official reprisals.
The military said later it had taken control of most of the capital and banned protests, The Associated Press reported. The announcement on state television said the military had "key parts" of Manama "under control," hours after the killings.
That just scratches the surface of what's going on in Bahrain right now. Nicholas Kristof tweets this allegation, for example:
1 #Bahrain ambulance driver told me #Saudi army officer held gun to his head, said wld kill him if helped injured.
In Egypt, ordinary soldiers refused to fire on demonstrators, helping turn the tide against the dictatorship. That may be less likely if the Bahraini protesters find themselves facing foreign troops rather than soldiers embedded in the local community. (*) Then again, this is a transnational revolutionary moment. Saudi soldiers might not have time to hold the line in Bahrain if they're preoccupied by an uprising at home.
Bonus link: "A Wikileaks Primer on the Cozy US-Bahrain Relationship."
* Addendum: "Foreign" is a relative term. Bahrain's domestic enforcers aren't exactly embedded in the local community either.
“I’ve heard that there are as many as 18,000 police service dogs working in this country, doing narcotics control, explosives, tracking,” says Terry Anderson, president of the National Police Canine Association, an organization that trains and certifies police dogs and their handlers. But while these police dogs and their counterparts in the private sector bury their super-sensitive snouts into our business, who’s watching them? As Greg Beato explains, neither the federal government nor most states impose or even suggest standards for selecting, training, or evaluating detection dogs.View this article
Tomorrow, Thursday, February 17, I'll be appearing on Fox Business' Varney & Co. from around 9.20am ET til 11am ET, filling in for the excellent regular Charles Payne. We'll be discussing the headlines of the day, my recent coauthored piece in Reason on balancing the budget ("The 19 Percent Solution"), and more. I know, I know, that's a helluva lot me, especially before the bars are open in most cities.
Full disclosure: If I say anything good about a company or a stock, you should almost certainly short the hell out of it because my track record is godawful.
From back in January:
Reason's Nick Gillespie will appear on Fox Business' Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano at 8pm ET tonight, discussing "The 19 Percent Solution: How to balance the budget without raising taxes," the article he coauthored with Veronique de Rugy in the March issue of Reason.
Gillespie will also appear on CNN's Parker Spitzer, where he'll discuss President Obama's proposed 2012 budget with The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel. That show also airs live at 8pm ET. Consult your cable listings for more information.
Update: Here it is
Last year I noted that the supposedly vital programs shielded from President Obama's domestic spending "freeze" included the drug control budget. That remains true this year, despite an increasingly dire fiscal outlook, although his proposed increase (PDF) has dropped from 3.4 percent to 1.2 percent. (In Washington, that's practically a cut.) Drug policy reformers complain that the federal government continues to spend about twice as much on enforcement as it does on "treatment and prevention." Since I have little faith that the latter sort of anti-drug boondoggle is more effective (or even less coercive) than the former kind, I tend to focus on the fact that the most demonstrably disastrous parts of the federal budget, including a program that Obama once called "an utter failure," continue to enjoy funding hikes during these supposedly straitened times.
Still, you might think a president who describes himself as a "strong believer that we have to think more about drugs as a public health problem" would do something to translate that thought into action, even if it involved nothing more than symbolic tinkering with the drug control budget. But in a recent interview with The Daily Caller's Mike Riggs, drug czar Gil "It's Not a War" Kerlikowske explains that the president's kinder, gentler perspective on drug use, which Obama says requires "shifting resources," doesn't really. "It's not always about the money," Kerlikowske says. Or as he put it in a December interview with The Nation, "rebalancing" drug policy "shouldn't be an either/or, to take away money from interdiction or some other part." Why reconsider your spending priorities when things are going so well?
Kerlikoswke likewise wriggles out of Riggs' opening question, in which he notes that, despite the drug czar's preference for nonmartial terminology, enforcement of drug prohibition sure looks like a war, what with all the armed, uniformed men bursting into people's homes in the middle of the night, shooting their pets, killing bystanders, and generally wreaking havoc. Kerlikowske's response:
Well, it might, but I guess the difference that I see is the level of violence in the United States and the training that law enforcement goes through. Whether they're dealing with an armed robbery or taking down a drug house, and given the number of officers who are shot and killed anymore, and the type of weaponry that is out on the streets, I don't think there's any way to approach it from a safety standpoint that wouldn't involve this.
In other words, police officers serving drug warrants would be risking their own lives if they stopped shooting old ladies, chasing ministers to death, and killing dachshunds. This justification reminds me of Radley Balko's remark that soldiers consider it an insult to describe such SWAT-related offenses as resulting from "militarization" of the police, because the military is more careful about protecting noncombatants. More fundamentally, it's the government that introduces violence into this situation by using force to stop people from getting high in arbitrarily proscribed ways. The more aggressively it pursues this policy, the more violence there will be. So here's my idea for "rebalancing" the drug control budget: eliminate the enforcement part.
On February 17, 1941 Life magazine published an editorial by Henry R. Luce titled “The American Century.” Looking back 70 years later, Terry Michael says we can now see how Luce’s jingoism and militaristic zeal encouraged Americans to think of themselves as God’s policemen to the world. That’s the wrong kind of American exceptionalism. Instead, Americans should follow the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his famous 1961 warning against the "military industrial complex." As Michael argues, the U.S. has become the problem in so many places around the world precisely because of our over-bearing presence. We need to put the emphasis on the individual, not our nation-state.View this article
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has pulled the plug on the 84-mile Tampa to Orlando high-speed rail project, rejecting $2.4 billion in federal funding for what has been touted as a $2.7 billion project. But according to a Reason Foundation study released in January (on which Scott relied), there was a high risk that the actual cost could have been as much as twice that amount—with the difference having to come from Florida taxpayers. In addition, since the official ridership projections were straight out of fantasyland, there was a high likelihood of the state being stuck providing operating subsidies, as in most of the existing high-speed rail projects overseas. Yet if the state accepted the $2.4 billion from the federal government and built the line, it would be stuck operating it—or else required to give back the $2.4 billion in, by then, sunk costs. So Scott made a responsible decision to protect Florida’s taxpayers, consistent with his campaign rhetoric and his other actions since taking over in January.
The Tampa Tribune's Ted Jackovics reports:
Gov. Rick Scott's decision to turn down nearly $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail project that would link Tampa and Orlando has been met with criticism from members of both parties.
Scott this morning justified his decision saying "the truth is that this project would be far too costly to taxpayers, and I believe the risk far outweighs the benefits.''
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that Florida's money will go to other states "that are enthusiastic to receive Florida's funding."
Scott did not wait for Florida's Department of Transportation study on expected ridership and revenues.
Instead, he said he made his decision on three points: The price to build the project could cost Florida taxpayers up to $3 billion; ridership and revenue projections could be overly optimistic and if the federal government decides to shut down the project, the state would have to return the money.
Those claims came from a January report from the Reason Foundation, a Libertarian think tank.
"President Obama's high-speed rail program is not the answer to Florida's economic recovery," Scott said.
"Rather than investing in a high-risk rail project, we should be focusing on improving our ports, rail and highway infrastructure to be in a position to attract the increased shipping that will result when the Panama Canal is expanded when the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama are ratified and with the expansion of the economies of central and south America,'' Scott said.
The Orlando Sentinel's Aaron Deslatte and Dan Tracy add:
Scott's decision likely means those dollars will be rerouted to California and other states investing in a high-speed rail network that Obama has likened to the national highway system. Washington state, in fact, sent out a press release asking for the money.
Scott had previously said he didn't want the state spending any money on the rail line, which required $280 million in matching funds. But backers of the project have said that the consortiums of companies set to bid on the line had indicated a willingness to put up their own money in return for a contract.
News of Scott's decision quickly rippled through Washington and Tallahassee, where lawmakers had approved the project during a special session in late 2009. Some lawmakers grumbled that Scott couldn't unilaterally overturn their decision.
Critics are bad-mouthing Scott’s decision, arguing that the least he could have done was wait to see if any of the private-sector firms wanting to make proposals would have guaranteed to absorb any and all cost overruns and to sign a long-term agreement guaranteeing no operating subsidies. That has to be a pipedream.
On cost overruns, the state capital has been overrun with high-speed rail lobbyists the last few months, and I’m sure the Governor’s office and the Florida Department of Transportation have a pretty good idea, by now, how much (and how little) actual risk the private sector would be willing to take on.
And no matter what an overly-optimistic company might agree to, if its special-purpose entity for Florida high-speed rail got in seriously over its head and walked away from the project after spending, say $3 billion (including the feds’ $2.4 billion), what options would the state then have? With no way of repaying the feds’ money—now turned into concrete and steel—it would have no choice but to spend state tax money finishing the project and then subsidizing its operations.
And on operating subsidies, the much larger California high-speed rail project has been testing that premise for the past two years. The ballot measure the voters approved in November 2008 to authorize $9 billion in general-obligation bonds for that project spelled out in black and white that voter approval was conditional on there being zero operating subsidies. But the private firms interested in building and operating the high-speed rail project are telling the California High-Speed Rail Authority that they cannot get financing unless the state provides them with “revenue guarantees.” And what, precisely, is that? If the traffic and revenue on the rail line are below the forecasts on which the financing was based, the state would agree to make up the difference. In other words, operating subsidies. If the private sector required that protection in order to fund the California project, whose ridership potential is far higher than that in Florida, there is no way they would go unprotected in Florida.
So Gov. Rick Scott was on firm ground in judging that the risks to Florida taxpayers were simply too great if this project went forward. He made the right decision.
Mitch Daniels, the Republican Governor of Indiana and former Bush administration budget director, does not like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act one bit. Over the course of an hour, he describes last year’s health care overhaul legislation as “misguided,” and “a terrible mistake.” He predicts that it will lead to a “slide into top-down single payer by another name.” The only hope, he says, is to start over. “I sincerely hope that we will hit the reset button.”
Speaking with a small group of health reporters in Washington last Friday morning, Daniels, who is frequently talked about as a potential 2012 Republican presidential nominee, looked slightly tired, and perhaps a little wary of the too-eager members of the press sitting across from him. But, writes Reason Associate Editor Peter Suderman, his overall message was clear: The PPACA is a problem—a big one—and it needs to be overturned. In the meantime, both Republicans and Democrats need to come clean with the American public about the what sort of health care the nation can actually achieve and afford.View this article
some circles because it is filled with recipes for drugs and explosives; it is infamous in other circles because so many of the recipes are rubbish. But what, you might wonder, did the Federal Bureau of Investigation think about it?The Anarchist Cookbook (1971) is infamous in
Apparently it thought the cookbook "has to be one of the crudest, low-brow, paranoiac writing efforts ever attempted." The quote comes from a memo in the FBI's files on the book, which have been released and posted online [pdf]. The cache also includes worried letters from concerned Americans ("Mr. Hoover, this is not a cookbook!"), replies signed by J. Edgar Hoover ("With respect to your question, the FBI has no control over material published through the mass media"), summaries of the book's contents, inquiries into whether the book violates the law, reports on which stores stock the book, and more. There is also some discussion of one of the unrelated online Anarchist Cookbooks, which the FBI acquired on a floppy disc; the files duly include photocopies of the disc. All in all, a collection far more interesting than the book itself.
Many know George Washington as a general and statesman, but few think of America's first president as a preeminent entrepreneur, operating the most successful whiskey distillery in the late 18th century. At its height, Washington's distillery produced over 11,000 gallons of liquor a year, supplying the surrounding area and becoming one of his most lucrative business ventures.
At Washington's former plantation, Mount Vernon , a group of historic interpreters are looking to bring this story to a wider audience. Thanks to a fully functioning replica of Washington's distillery (and special dispensation from the Virginia General Assembly), George Washington's rye whiskey is once again being made and sold to the public.
In November, Reason.tv followed the entire process as Dave Pickerell, Master Distiller and former Vice President of Operations for Maker's Mark, and Steve Bashore, Mount Vernon Distillery Manager, oversaw a two week production run while adhering as strictly as possible to 18th century means and methods. The result is an 80-proof reminder of the nation's first president and the entrepreneurial ideals of colonial America.
Shot, edited and produced by Meredith Bragg. Music by www.audionautix.com. Approx. 6 minutes.
Ilya Shapiro and Michael F. Cannon of the Cato Institute argue that it does, and they make the case today in The Providence Journal:
First, federal courts do not issue advisory opinions. The parties to any lawsuit are bound by any resulting judgment.
At minimum, then, the government lacks authority to implement ObamaCare where the case was decided, in the Northern District of Florida, and the 26 state plaintiffs need take no action to do so. Likewise, members of the National Federation of Independent Business, another plaintiff in the case, may now be entitled to the same protection from Obamacare’s requirements.
Moreover, it is not unreasonable to argue that Vinson’s ruling applies to the nation as a whole. After all, this lawsuit facially attacked the law rather than just challenging its application to particular parties. This interpretation of Vinson’s ruling would stop ObamaCare dead in its tracks.
No serious budgeting happened in Washington this week, but at least we can look forward to the annual renewal of spring as pitchers and catchers report to ballfields in Florida and Arizona. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) marked the occasion by sending a friendly greeting to Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Bud Selig with a hello, how are you, and by the way the use of smokeless tobacco by professional baseball players is destroying society:
[Smokeless tobacco] undermines the positive image of the sport and sends a dangerous message to young fans, who may be influenced by the players they look up to as role models.
Tobacco-related products kill 443,000 Americans every year, and each day 1,000 American children and teenagers become new regular smokers...
While tobacco companies spend millions on ads tailored to attract young people to use tobacco products, MLB is undoubtedly complicit in attracting many young people to try smokeless tobacco after seeing their baseball heroes chew tobacco.
The irrelevant jab at smoking, nonsense about baseball’s sparkling clean image, and outrage over the comportment of our “role models” all fit the model of standard congressional hand-wringing over the fate of our children. Although dip is much safer than smoking (with Tigers manager Jim Leyland about the only guy sneaking cigs on-field anymore), elected representatives have still taken up rooting cans of snuff out of every uniform pocket as their solemn duty. Last year, inane hearings on this topic led Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) to wonder “why don’t they just chew gum?”
Maybe we need to send Sir Charles Barkley to Capitol Hill to remind Congress that athletes are entertainers, not role models.
More from Reason on the demon weed here.
A few months ago, I pointed to a number of wrongheaded criticisms of the ACLU coming from the right. The criticisms were unfounded mostly because they accused the ACLU of being absent on issues where the organization has actually been quite active.
Over at the Atlantic, Wendy Kaminer makes a much sounder criticism of the organization (and not just because she plugs Reason). Kaminer writes that the ACLU is offering a subscription to the Nation as a premium to new donors and wonders why that is, given that magazine's conditional support for free speech (Kaminer is referring to the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, which the Nation angrily and aggressively opposes, and which the ACLU supports).
Kaminer argues—correctly, I think—that the ACLU is blowing an excellent opportunity to forge new alliances, and to tap into the small but growing civil liberties contingent on the right. She also argues that too much of the left has become so blinded by hate for free marketeers that they'd rather write off the civil liberties stuff than soil themselves by associating with Cato or Reason on those issues.
That's also a fair point. Think back to the TSA backlash, where the Nation's first reaction to growing concerns among libertarians about the organization's new pat down and scanner policies wasn't to support the critics, but to question their motives. When the Heritage Foundation started making some noise about criminal justice reform, the first reaction from the lefty twits at Media Matters was to accuse them of being soft on crime.
But I don't think this criticism applies to the ACLU. I've spoken at several ACLU events, and have found them helpful on a number of stories. Cato has both put out several publications with contributions from ACLU officials and hosted events with ACLU speakers. I'd imagine that when the ACLU is looking to raise money, they're inclined to turn to campaigns that have been successful in the past. And yes, most of their donors have traditionally come from the left.
That said, I think it's good that someone like Kaminer is prodding the organization to broaden its alliances. It's worth noting that the only U.S. senator who publicly spoke out against renewal of the PATRIOT Act was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.), the Tea Party-backed Republican who generally elicits nothing but contempt from the left. If Rep. Jeff Flake can pull out a win in the race to replace retiring Arizona Sen. John Kyl, you could make a strong case that come 2012, two of the stronger civil libertarians in the Senate will be Republicans. (That's a steep curve, of course. The American Prospect's Adam Serwer I think strikes the right tone on Paul's civil liberties pluses and minuses here.) There's also a growing sentiment on the right in favor of prison and criminal justice reform.
The ACLU would do well not only to reach out to the libertarian-oriented politicians on the right, but to more actively promote the work it has done on issues that crowd cares about, like its criticism of TSA, its support for Citizens United and opposition to other restrictions on political speech, its involvement in opposing zero tolerance policies in public schools, its opposition to the PATRIOT Act, and its opposition to unfair asset forfeiture laws.
Part of the right will always hate the ACLU, just out of dumb, blind partisanship. And part of the left will always question the motives of civil libertarians who also happen to support free market policies—and for the same reason. But this renewed interest in civil liberties in some conservative circles is encouraging. Kaminer is right. Genuine civil liberties advocates on the left ought to embrace it, and figure out where they can work together to effect some positive reform.
Two TSA agents were busted today at Kennedy Airport for stealing $160,000 in cash from bags, authorities said.
Davon Webb, 30, and Couman Perad, who turned 36 today, were arrested after admitting they had regularly stolen from checked bags...
In one instance, Perad, who joined the Transportation Security Administration in 2002, and Webb, who has been an agent since 2004, stole $39,000 on Jan. 30 from a bag at Terminal 8, sources said....
Perad and Webb would screen bags looking for loot, then swipe the cash once the luggage was opened in a private screening room.....
The UK Guardian finds irony in Hillary Clinton's recent praise for Twitter's role in Mid East revolution while her government pressures Twitter in court over WikiLeaks matters:
Lawyers for civil rights organisations appeared before a judge in Alexandria, Virginia, battling against a US government order to disclose the details of private Twitter accounts in the WikiLeaks row, including that of the Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir....
The court case...centres round the release of tens of thousands of Pentagon and state department classified documents by WikiLeaks. Outraged by the leaks, the US has set up a grand jury in secret, based in Alexandria, to investigate whether grounds can be found for a criminal case against WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange. As part of that investigation the grand jury ordered Twitter to disclose the details of the accounts of WikiLeaks and three people said to be linked to the organisation.
The investigation also covers Bradley Manning....The court hearing broke up without any ruling by the judge.
More on the story and the legal issues involved from Bloomberg News:
U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan in Alexandria, during an hour-long hearing today, considered a challenge to her order requiring Twitter to give investigators data on subscribers “associated with WikiLeaks,” including its leader, Julian Assange, and Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier charged with leaking classified information.
“The government says there’s no expectation of privacy when logging into Twitter,” John Keker, a San Francisco-based lawyer representing one of the WikiLeaks backers [said]...“It is incredibly powerful to know who the opposition is and who they’re working with,” Keker said, citing as an example Egypt and Tunisia, where citizens used social networks to push for regime changes.
Buchanan questioned Keker’s argument that turning over the information would violate Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless searches and seizures by the government....“What they’re seeking is location data and timing data,” Buchanan said.
The government's order was initially a secret, but Judge Buchanan unsealed it on Jan. 5, which allowed Twitter to tell the targeted folk they were being targeted.
Three subscribers whose records are being sought are Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher, who represented WikiLeaks at a 2010 hacker’s conference in New York; Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament, elected to a four-year term in 2009; and Rop Gonggrijp, described in court papers as a Dutch activist and businessman who helped found the first public Internet service provider in the Netherlands....
Twitter negotiated with the government to restrict the time frame of the order to activity from Nov. 15, 2009, to June 1, 2010, and limit the scope of the information being sought, according to court papers.
The three are asking Buchanan to force investigators to seek a warrant for the information. A search warrant would mean the government has shown probable cause, a higher hurdle than the “relevant” and “material” standard under the Stored Communications Act, on which Buchanan based her order....
John Davis, an assistant U.S. attorney in Alexandria, said in court today that the government’s request from Twitter was routine.
“This is a standard -- as this court knows well -- investigative measure used in criminal investigations every day of the year all over the country,” Davis said.
Alas, it is all too standard. Defenders of transparency and the "freedom to connect" Clinton specifically praised could make the case that there is no irony-- that she is merely implicitly for all openness all the time, including of whatever is being kept secret about the Twitter accounts the government wants to dip into.
First of all, of course she isn't. But second, the differences between private openness and openness for the governments that tax and rule allegedly in our name are worth keeping in mind when thinking about privacy and openness.
Last week I noted Larry Tribe's attempt to influence the Supreme Court's position on ObamaCare's individual health insurance mandate by asserting that the outcome is not in doubt. The mandate is obviously constitutional, the Harvard law professor declared in The New York Times, and the justices have way too much integrity to conclude otherwise. Now Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, is playing bad cop to Tribe's good cop:
What's at stake is not just the law itself or the fate of the tens of millions who wait for its benefits, but the very legitimacy of the court....If the court's conservatives choose to overturn the legislation on clearly political grounds, it would call into question the legitimacy of the court. It would show, once and for all, that certain justices are governed by ideology rather than precedent.
Unlike Tribe, Vanden Heuvel does not claim to be confident that the justices will rise above their policy preferences and crass political considerations to render a judgment based on the law. But like him, she is certain that there is no legitimate disagreement about what the law requires in this case. After all, "Jurists across the political spectrum, including Charles Fried, President Reagan's solicitor general, have argued that the mandate is unquestionably constitutional."
It is also true that jurists across the political spectrum, including George Washington University's Jonathan Turley and the University of Wisconsin's Ann Althouse, have expressed doubts about the constitutionality of the mandate. So have Henry Hudson and Roger Vinson, two of the four federal judges who have ruled on the issue so far. Vanden Heuvel claims "both decisions have an unmistakably political tone," by which she seems to mean that both engage the question of what the Commerce Clause authorizes in light of its goals and history.
I think that approach indicates that Congress cannot claim to be regulating interstate commerce when it forces people to buy medical coverage. But even if we stick with the Commerce Clause as the Supreme Court has interpreted it since the New Deal, it is by no means clear that it authorizes this imposition. As Hudson and Vinson noted, Congress has never pushed the Commerce Clause quite this far before. The Congressional Research Service and the Congressional Budget Office, not usually perceived as hotbeds of right-wing ideology, both have said the mandate raises a "novel" and "unprecedented" issue. The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn, an ObamaCare supporter who fears the implications of a ruling against the mandate, nevertheless concedes there are "good constitutional arguments" against it.
Vanden Heuvel wants to pretend otherwise. She simply assumes that anyone who disagrees with her about the proper disposition of this case is arguing in bad faith, which relieves her of the need to offer any arguments of her own. Not even Tribe, who concedes that Clarence Thomas has laid out a principled basis for overturning the health insurance requirement, goes that far.
More on the constitutionality of the insurance mandate here.
According to the Orlandon Sentinel, Davie, Florida police officer Kevin Kilpatrick has been on paid leave for seven years. During that time, he has received full pay and benefits, plus annual raises. He has collected more than a half million dollars for doing nothing. The department has twice tried to fire Kilpatrick because of an alleged DUI and an alleged attempt to cover up a domestic abuse incident. Both times the department was overturned (once by an arbitrator, once by a federal judge) for violating agrements in the union-negotiated police contract.
If Kilpatrick can hold on until 2014, he'll get to retire with a full pension.
Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia will be on the Fox Business Channel’s Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano tonight to discuss terrorism, civil liberties, and why Al Qaeda is no threat to America.
Freedom Watch airs at 8PM ET and will be rebroadcast at 11PM ET.
Though one hates to nitpick, it seems that Middle East coverage on cable TV has been only almost perfect. You see, writes David Harsanyi, for some reason, a number of anchors and talking heads have made a careless habit of using the words "democracy" and "freedom" as if they were interchangeable ideas.View this article
From The Hill:
Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps made a case for a government hand in media policy in a speech to the FCBA on Tuesday.
"The commission can act now. It should have acted on the media before now. I am disappointed that it has not," he said.
The decline of "real journalism" justifies federal involvement, according to Copps. "The news is suffering from a bad case of substance abuse," he said.
The Democratic commissioner pointed to Fox News' Bernie Goldberg and Bill O'Reilly as examples of the problem with today's media landscape, saying the pair has taken his own words out of context.
"What you and I are getting these days is too much opinion based on opinion and too little news based on fact," Copps said.
The key going forward, according to Copps, is "making sure there is media about, and originating from, the local communities a station serves." [...]
The commissioner also reiterated his call for a "Public Value Test" as part of the broadcasting license renewal, a process controlled by the FCC.
We have, as a country, tolerated the multiple infringements on "Congress shall pass no law" for far too long. No government official should ever be in the business of enforcing quality of journalism, and when one tries, he–and the agency he represents–should be run out of Washington on a rail. This is appalling on every level, and the fact that there's a journalistic constituency for it–read this awful commencement speech last year by Columbia Journalism School Dean and New Yorker essayist Nicholas Lemann for a taste–makes me deeply ashamed of my chosen profession.
A former Indiana mayor who won over voters in the 1930s is proving less popular with modern city leaders trying to choose a name for a new government center.
Harry Baals (bawlz) is the runaway favorite in online voting to name the new building in Fort Wayne. But Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy tells The Journal Gazette that the city probably won’t name the center after its longest tenured mayor because of the jokes it could inspire.
No business sense, these testy politicians. T-shirt sales to the frat guy market alone could probably fund next year's city budget.
As 72-year-old Jerry Brown enters his second governorship, he has a sweeping vision: building 20,000 megawatts of renewable power, laying a new high-speed rail network that will connect the state’s major cities, forging a statewide infrastructure for alternative energy, hiring thousands of green employees. The new governor’s environmental agenda is ambitious, untenably expensive, and indelibly popular with voters and lawmakers.
Yet as Senior Editor Tim Cavanaugh writes in our March issue, when Brown looks out on Democrat-controlled California, he seems less like Caesar at the Rubicon than Wojciech Jaruzelski at the Gdansk Shipyard. Brown is champion of a workers’ party with monopoly control, yet all his plans are being derailed by a labor movement nobody can harness.View this article
When Adrian Fenty lost the Democratic primary for mayor of Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee somewhat intemperately said this:
"Yesterday's election results were devastating, devastating. Not for me, because I'll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he'll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C."
She semi-apologized later, but she was right.
Rhee has since appeared on Oprah and founded a new organization, StudentsFirst. Fenty is doing ed reform victory laps, picking up a gig advising language learning company Rosetta Stone and a visiting professor slot at Oberlin.
As for D.C. schoolkids, they're getting back a ton of the crappy teachers Rhee managed to get rid of:
An independent arbitrator in Montgomery County has ordered the District of Columbia Public Schools to rehire 75 teachers who were fired in 2008 by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee for, among other things, being AWOL from school for weeks at a time, not preparing lesson plans, cursing at students, poor classroom management and high levels of student failure. Nathan Saunders, head of the Washington Teachers' Union, expects that 80 more probationary teachers fired by Rhee on similar grounds in 2009 likewise will be reinstated. All will be given full back pay and compensation from their termination dates.
The decision to reinstate doesn't turn on whether the teachers deserved to be fired—all were recommended for termination by their principals—but on the finer points of union protocol. Rhee failed to formally inform the teachers of the reason they were fired, though one imagines she made it pretty clear that it was for sucking. In fact, she got in pretty big trouble at the time for telling Fast Company exactly what the firings were about:
"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school," Rhee says. "Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?"
Lots more about Rhee here.
In my original post, I referred to Herman Cain and other black conservatives as 'race minstrels' and 'mascots' for the White conservative imagination. I stand by this observation.
Google Search results for "Herman Cain" and "lawn jockey" here. Radley Balko wrote last fall about "Juan Williams, Lawn Jockeys, and the Clarence Thomas Rule."
James Glanz and John Markoff have an interesting story in The New York Times on how Hosni Mubarak managed to turn off the Internet in Egypt. This point deserves to be underlined:
For all the Internet's vaunted connectivity, the Egyptian government commanded powerful instruments of control: it owns the pipelines that carry information across the country and out into the world.
Internet experts say similar arrangements are more common in authoritarian countries than is generally recognized. In Syria, for example, the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment dominates the infrastructure, and the bulk of the international traffic flows through a single pipeline to Cyprus. Jordan, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries have the same sort of dominant, state-controlled carrier.
I got a morbid chuckle out of this vignette:
When [Ahmed ElShabrawy, who runs a company called EgyptNetwork,] noticed that domestic fiber-optic cables were open, he had a moment of exhilaration, remembering that he could link up servers directly and establish messaging using an older system called Internet Relay Chat. But then it dawned on him that he had always assumed he could download the necessary software via the Internet and had saved no copy.
- More anti-government protests in Libya. Also in Bahrain, Yemen.
- CBS reporter beaten, sexually assaulted while covering the protests in Egypt.
- South Dakota bill would make killing to protect a fetus "justifiable homicide."
- Poll: Just 28 percent of GOP primary voters believe Obama was born in the U.S.
- Monopoly ditches dice, paper money for creepy, overseeing watchtower.
Defenders of George W. Bush say the revolts that ended dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia vindicate the former president's "freedom agenda." Senior Editor Jacob Sullum notes that Bush continued America's long history of desperate despot coddling even while condemning it.View this article
Joshua Green at Atlantic sees in Obama's amazingly military-friendly budget plans the death of all momentum for military cuts, cross-party:
One surprise in the president's budget is how lightly the axe falls on military expenditures....the big winner unquestionably is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whose budget is being trimmed by only $78 billion over a decade.
....there seemed to be quite a bit of momentum in both parties to finally cut the military budget, which has grown enormously in the last decade. Traditionally, Democrats are frightened of proposing cuts because they fear being portrayed as weak, while Republicans don't want to propose them because they favor a large military, deficits be damned. Both those attitudes have showed signs of changing. Last summer, Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul led a bipartisan effort to push for cuts....Some Republicans, too, appeared open to the idea. Majority Leader Eric Cantor indicated a willingness to consider military cuts, and several Tea Party groups, including the Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks, have also embraced the idea...
That now seems unlikely. It's hard to believe that the Republican leadership will go further than the White House in proposing cuts to military spending, so whatever negotiations take place are likely to involve relatively paltry sums....
Sad but likely true, but, keep your eye on the Pauls. Past Reason blogging from Peter Suderman on the possibilities of Republican-supported military cuts here and here. I argued for military cuts in our huge "how to slash the state" cover feature from Reason magazine's November 2010 issue.
The Obama administration health department office tasked with selling the healthcare reform law is looking to quadruple its budget while almost doubling the size of its staff.
If they only had just a little more money, they could finally explain to people that the law has many popular benefits and help them understand that, really, they probably like the...oh, nevermind. (Hat tip: Chris Jacobs.)
John Nichols at The Nation points out where the Democrats should take a page from the Ron Paul playbook:
those who would like to see the Democratic Party stand for something other than a soft variation on Republicanism might want to take a few cues—no, not all their cues, just a few—from Ron Paul.
In his CPAC speech, Paul hailed the failure of the US House to renew the Patriot Act. But he did not stop there. He declared: “The Patriot Act, as we know, has nothing to do with patriotism—they always name it opposite of what it is. The Patriot Act is the destruction of the Fourth Amendment. That’s what it’s all about!”
Paul celebrated the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. But he did not stop there. He declared: “How much did we invest in that dictator of the past thirty years?” he asked. “Seventy billion dollars we invested in Egypt, and guess what, the government is crumbling, the people are upset, not only with their government, but they’re upset with us for propping up that public dictator for all those years..."
Paul decried the folly of the US occupation of Afghanistan. But he did not stop there. He declared: “It makes no sense for us to think that we can keep troops in 135 countries, 900 bases, and think that we can do it forever… It’s time to reassess that foreign policy. It’s for us time to bring troops home....”
Paul criticized bloated Pentagon spending, But he did not stop there. He declared: “I’m sure half the people in this room won’t cut one penny out of the military. And the military is not equated to defense. Defense spending is one thing, military spending is what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex, and we have to go after that!”
Paul condemned bailouts of big banks and corporations. But he did not stop there. He declared: “Guess who does the bailing out? The Federal Reserve used $4 billion dollars to pass out without Congressional approval. Most people say: ‘That’s the Federal Reserve’s job to do that.’ No, it is our job to check up and find what the Federal Reserve has done, audit them and find who their buddies are that they’re taking care of.”
Nichols makes sure you know he does support government spending money on all those good things he and his audience like, so you know he's not one of them there libertarians. But still:
But Paul’s willingness to defend civil liberties without apology, to criticize dictators and the US policies that support them, to call for bringing troops home, to attack the military-industrial complex and to condemn bank bailouts and crony capitalism is not just on target. It’s compelling.
If Democrats are interested in identifying themselves as anything more potent than a kinder, gentler variation on mainstream Republicanism, if they recognize that drab managerialism does not excite the American people, if they want not only to win elections but to make those wins mean something, they should borrow the best lines from Ron Paul’s text.
Yes they should, but because those are all the policies of their own president and party that Paul rightly objects to, no they won't.
At the Atlantic, Chris Good points out the new senatorial pointman against Patriot Act renewal is no longer the departed Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, but son of Ron, Rand Paul:
Six days ago, Paul released a web video outlining his constitutional opposition to the entire law....Paul is the only senator publicly advocating this stance.
Several options are floating around the Senate: extend all the expiring provisions until December, as called for by a bill that passed the House last night; extend them until 2013, as Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wants to do; extend them until 2013 but require Justice Department audits and sunset the provision for National Security Letter subpoenas, as Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is calling for; or extend all the provisions permanently, as Republican Senate leaders want to do. No other senator has made a point of rejecting all these options and opposing any extension of these PATRIOT Act provisions--much less calling for the entire law to be revisited.
I blogged yesterday on Rand Paul's laudable Patriot Act opposition.
For defending jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and attacking Vladimir Putin’s political party "United Russia," former Bolshoi ballerina Anastasia Volochkova claims that the Kremlin banned her from appearing on state television—a small problem in Russia, where the state controls almost all television channels. Volochkova’s defense of Khodorkovsky, the subject of a much-discussed new documentary that recently premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, rankled Putin apparatchik and “chief ideologue” Vladislav Surkov, who will doubtless blow a gasket when he’s sees this article in The Wall Street Journal. According to an assistant to the judge Khodorkovsky's case, her boss was only responding to government pressure when he meted out such a harsh sentence:
Natalya Vasilieva, an assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin and press secretary of the Khamovnichesky Court, said in an interview broadcast Monday that the judge's original draft of the verdict was rejected and that he was ordered to read one written by senior officials at the Moscow City Court....
Ms. Vasilieva couldn't be reached for comment. Court officials said she was on vacation until next month. In the interview, Ms. Vasilieva said she expected "consequences," including losing her job, as a result of going public with her allegations. "We won't conduct any repressions against her," said Ms. Usacheva, the spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court, noting that any criminal investigation of Ms. Vasilieva for slander or surrounding her allegations would be a matter for prosecutors....
Ms. Vasilieva's claims support the widespread view that the latest trial of Mr. Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man and the former owner of oil giant OAO Yukos, was politically motivated. Kremlin officials have repeatedly denied those allegations. But courts in several countries in Europe have ruled in related cases that the prosecution of Mr. Khodorkovsky and the court-ordered breakup of Yukos appeared driven by the Kremlin's desire to scotch Mr. Khodorkovsky's political ambitions and nationalize his company.
The Guardian on the “unexpected hit” of the Berlin Film Festival.
Here's a headline that will drive a libertarian to drink.
Researchers at the University of Oregon and the environmental policy shop PolicyInteractive found that most people think that Americans consume too much. So to protect the environment, the researchers recommend taxation as a way to encourage deconsumption. In other words, we should make do with less. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey points out that most Americans reject higher consumption taxes and that market-driven technological progress will allow us to do more with less.View this article
I first wrote about the Anthony Graves case last October. He was released after 18 years on death row. He was convicted of helping Robert Earl Carter kill six people in 1992. Graves was convicted based on testimony from Carter (which Cater later recanted) and police officers who claimed to have overheard jailhouse chatter implicating Graves.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which initially granted Graves a new trial, went out of its way to point out the prosecutorial misconduct of then-DA Charles Sebasta, including withholding exculpatory evidence and knowingly putting on false evidence.
Bill Parham, the DA for Washington and Burleson counties and the man who dropped the charges against Graves, told the Houston Chronicle last year: "He's an innocent man. There is nothing that connects Anthony Graves to this crime. I did what I did because that's the right thing to do."
Unfortunately, the court order allowing Graves to be released didn't include the word "innocent", a word usually reserved for DNA exonerations. Under Texas law, that means Graves is ineligible for compensation for a wrongful conviction.
The New York Times reports on an official new state manual released this month “to serve as a guide for judges and lawyers who could face grim questions in another terrorist attack, a major radiological or chemical contamination or a widespread epidemic.” How will the Empire State deal with doomsday? Here are a few sobering details:
Quarantines. The closing of businesses. Mass evacuations. Warrantless searches of homes. The slaughter of infected animals and the seizing of property. When laws can be suspended and whether infectious people can be isolated against their will or subjected to mandatory treatment. It is all there, in dry legalese, in the manual, published by the state court system and the state bar association.
The most startling legal realities are handled with lawyerly understatement. It notes that the government has broad power to declare a state of emergency. “Once having done so,” it continues, “local authorities may establish curfews, quarantine wide areas, close businesses, restrict public assemblies and, under certain circumstances, suspend local ordinances.”...
Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the 88-page book reminded her of the CliffsNotes pamphlets that have helped generations of 11th graders get through Macbeth. “Needless to say, this makes me a little nervous,” she said, adding that the legal issues the book raised were “nuanced, thorny and difficult, and hard to capture in CliffsNotes.”
Download New York’s Cliffsnotes for armageddon right here.
So-called Chinatown bus lines have multiplied in recent years, providing a cheaper alternative to Amtrak’s subsidized rails between East Coast cities at comparable travel times. These intercity bus lines have grown rapidly in the past couple years, with ridership growing 33 percent in 2010 alone. This horrific development hasn't sat well with New York state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who say the buses need more regulating:
[Squadron and Silver] introduced a bill before the State Legislature Friday, designed to create a permit system for the first time ever and ease what they called a "chaotic lack of rules" which puts travelers and neighborhood residents at risk.
"With no rules to regulate buses, the streets of Chinatown are like the Wild West, and that doesn't work for bus companies or the community," said Squadron.
"Today's system makes it hard to operate a business within the bounds of the law, and plagues the community with noise, pollution and chronic congestion."
Naturally, such regulation would likely make the buses more expensive.
More from Reason on regulation here.
In August, I posted about Lech and Marta Jaworksi, who along with their son Peter host an annual Liberty Summer Seminar on their property in Clarington, Ontario. Last year, the couple was threatened with a $50,000 dollar fine for violating local zoning ordinances. The sad irony here is that a couple who emigrated to Canada in the 1980s to escape communist Poland would face a potentially bankrupting fine for putting on a conference celebrating freedom.
As protests roil the Middle East, most commentators are focused on countries like Yemen, Iran, and Algeria—but the real action may be happening in tiny Bahrain. The Persian Gulf statelet is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet and a smattering of other American military personnel, but the island kingdom has another, potentially more important claim to fame: It is seen as a harbinger for Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province.
As with the Saudi Arabian desert governorate of al-Hasa, Bahrain's largely Shiite population is under the control of a Sunni monarchy. Saudi Arabia's grip on its vast oil wealth would be threatened if ideas about self-rule spill over to its Eastern Province, and so the House of Saud has cultivated strong ties with Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family. The rulers of Bahrain have until now kept a lid on the situation through a carefully calibrated combination of carrots (oil-financed handouts) and sticks (fomenting sectarian strife), but that stategy might not hold up to the revolutionary tide sweeping the Middle East. As Gala Riani with Jane's Defence Weekly told the BBC, "The authorities will be able to handle it, as they have in the past, if it is sectarian in nature," but with crowds chanting "neither Sunni nor Shia but Bahraini," that's a conditional that may no longer hold.
The big question now is whether or not there will be a Saudi intervention. The kingdom showed a willingness to intervene in favor of its allies during the Egyptian crisis when it floated the idea of making up America's military aid to Egypt if the flow were cut off, and the BBC is citing both Riani and an unnamed "expert with close ties to the powerful Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef" as saying that the Saudis are prepared to intervene if the situation "gets out of hand." The subscription-only Tactical Report is claiming that the Saudi interior ministry already has plans to ship anti-riot gear to its counterparts in Bahrain.
As Cairo-based blogger Issandr El Amrani has pointed out, the U.S. State Department has been very critical of the Iranian regime's crackdown on protests, while only offering tepid support for the protesters in Bahrain, even as the death toll in the island kingdom has risen above that of Iran. If the situation in Bahrain does indeed get "out of hand" and the Saudis intervene, America could find itself in a very sticky situation, balancing the interests of its Saudi client state on the one hand with its supposed commitment to fostering democracy on the other.
President Barack Obama's proposed budget for 2012 outlines $3.7 trillion in spending during the next fiscal year and $8 trillion in new debt over the next decade. All without even a notion of how to pay for any of it.
What could possibly go wrong? Or right?
3 Reasons Obama's Budget (and the GOP Response) Won't Fix Anything is written and produced by Meredith Bragg, Austin Bragg, and Nick Gillespie, who also hosts. Approx 2 minutes.
Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of this and all our videos and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new content is posted.
This video is based on this piece for AOL News by Veronique de Rugy and Nick Gillespie.
Nate Anderson of Ars Technica has the most complete account I've seen of HBGary Federal's plot to take down WikiLeaks through various underhanded means, including targeting Glenn Greenwald. The story also covers a parallel proposal to do covert work for the Chamber of Commerce, the question of how deeply involved HBGary's partner firms of Palantir and Berico were in the schemes, and the creepy ways Aaron Barr of HBGary tried to drum up business for his company. Highly recommended.
While actual crime rates continue their multi-decade plummet (the most recent FBI violent crime statistics show a year-to-year drop of 6.2 percent in the first 6 months of 2010), the urge to fight crime through any means necessary is only getting more intense on America's television screens.
The libertarian novelist and screenwriter J. Neil Schulman, who for reasons we probably shouldn't think about is hanging out at the Internet Movie Database message boards, shows how. When I was a kid, Hawaii Five-0 was the awesomest thing on TV. Now that I'm old, the awesomest thing on TV is Hawaii Five-O. But in a post titled "Hawaii Five-0 Fosters Official Lawlessness," Schulman points out a fairly disturbing difference between the overcaffeinated reboot and Leonard Freeman’s relatively staid (though well caffeinated for its time) original:
My heroes are not Gestapo.
On last night's episode -- Powa Maka Moana #1.18 -- Steve McGarrett demands to be let into a pawn shop for a search. The owner refuses, citing his 4th amendment rights: no search without a warrant. McGarrett then attaches a hand grenade to the anti-theft door and blows it down, committing felonies that Law & Order's prosecutor Jack McCoy would have charged to include assault and battery, attempted murder, reckless endangerment, and violation of civil rights. Hell, I'd charge him with terrorism and use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Is a hand grenade less powerful than the shoe bomb that sent Richard Reid to a supermax prison for life?
I want to see Steve McGarrett fired, doing a perp walk, hiring an attorney with his own money, losing his pension, and doing hard time.
For years we've been told that violence on TV creates imitation in real life. What, are police exempt from this theory? If a TV network makes felonies committed by a cop under color of authority entertainment, network standards and practices is complicit in fostering an atmosphere of lawlessness and disrespect for the Bill of Rights that can only encourage more official lawlessness.
While I have in the past applauded the new Five-O for its tacit encouragement of proper diet and exercise, the real reason to put McGarrett through the perp walk is that Alex O'Loughlin, who plays the part, is a charisma vacuum and the only weak point of the show. The Egyptian Mukhabarat-style tactics Schulman discusses are a world apart from the by-the-book methods employed by the original McGarrett -- the rock-ribbed, dispassionate Jack Lord, who remained mindful of proper procedure and courteous toward all but the most felonious members of society. I’m not the first person to point out that the littler the dog the bigger the bark. Would a McGarrett as resolutely confident as Lord’s have to break the rules like this?
Homer Simpson might point out here, “He gets results, you stupid chief!” And in fact the original Five-0 was sort of a throwback in a context of rightwing policiers that celebrated rogue cops. (Lucky for you I don’t have time to uncork my thesis that the original Dirty Harry is more nuanced than its reputation suggests.) But if this McGarrett is already breaking the law before he’s even had to take on Wo-Fat, what hope is there for the 50th (or is it the 51st?) state?
Say you're the city of Ames. (Don't you feel wholesome and corn-fed?) And you want to put up a new water treatment plant just inside city limits. The owners of that land refuse to sell. Sounds like a job for eminent domain, right?
Not quite. The land is owned by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), which isn't allowed to sell the land. But all is not lost. Someone has figured out a way around this sticky problem. It's called substitute condemnation. You go after privately-owned farms in the area—although weirdly, outside the city—take those instead, and then swap their land for the USDA's land.
Ta da! Everybody wins! Oh no wait. That's completely untrue.
Last April, [Mona Kilborn, whose family has owned Griffith farm outside Ames for more than 100 years] received a letter from the city of Ames saying a portion of her family's 80-acre century farm "may be potentially impacted" by the construction of a $50 million water treatment plant....
When Kilborn objected, she said a city employee told her the transaction was similar to a simple eminent domain deal involving new roads and electric lines.
Sitting in her kitchen, with dozens of letters and documents spread out on the kitchen table, Kilborn explains why it isn't.
"If the farm were needed for the treatment facility," she says, "that would be a direct sale and I could at least understand, but this seems very underhanded. I was shocked Ames could come outside city limits and condemn us out in the county. It seems like a good way to steal someone else's land.
Iowa's congressional delegation is trying to change the rules so that the city can buy the USDA land directly, leaving Kilborn and other private property holders out of it. All parties agree this would be a better solution.
FYI: Iowa was actually part of the Kelo backlash. After the pro-eminent domain Supreme Court decision, the state added rules to make it harder to seize property in the name of economic development. But since this is a classic case of taking the land for public use, the new rules don't help much.
Via tipster king Mark Lambert.
Know thy enemy is an ancient principle of warfare. And if America had heeded it, writes Shikha Dalmia, the country might have refrained from a full-scale “war” on terrorism whose price tag is touching $2 trillion. That’s because the Islamist enemy it is confronting is not some hyper-power capable of inflicting existential—or even grave—harm. It is, rather, Dalmia notes, a rag-tag band of peasants whose malevolent ambitions are far beyond the capacity of their shallow talent pool to deliver.View this article