For days, OccupyLA had been told to evacuate its camp outside Los Angeles City Hall by 12:01 a.m. on Monday, November 28. Throughout Thanksgiving weekend, the deadline approached and tension increased.
When the police-led evacuation didn't happen, the movement moved into the streets where they were met by members of the Los Angeles Police Department armed with batons, helmets, and other riot gear.
Reason.tv spoke with Occupiers and fans of the movement from inside the encampment at City Hall and followed the police developments into the morning. There was no clearing of the Occupy camp this time, but Los Angeles authorities have said they are determined to clear the space sooner or later.
About 3:30 minutes.
Written, shot, and narrated by Paul Detrick.
Go here to see Reason.tv's full Occupy playlist, featuring videos from New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and more.
This morning’s 12:01 deadline for the Los Angeles Police Department to clear Occupy L.A. out of the City Hall area came and went, and the Occupiers are still camped out.
Reason’s Paul Detrick was with the campers throughout the non-ordeal and will have a video up soon.
In recent weeks, relations have been fraying between Occupy L.A. and a police force that seems to be rapidly losing its reputation as America’s most brutal and corrupt.
This Reason.tv video shows some of the tensions during a recent march around Downtown L.A.:
As part of the group on that shoot, I have to say that the cops pretty effectively managed the challenge of maintaining civil peace while allowing a group of protestors to march in public streets. There were some arrests, and a few instances where I didn’t appreciate the high-handed manner of the police, but at least on that day, the Occupiers had their march with a minimum of negative impact on local businesses or visitors (who in any event tend to be sparse in one of the least interesting downtowns in America).
In fact, I think the city of L.A. should be required to put up with the Occupiers indefinitely. Nobody forced the City Council to rush through a resolution in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement in October, and it’s not clear the Council was responding to any outcry from constituents. I don’t see any way the Council members and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa can square their apparent eagerness to end the Occupation now with their enthusiasm for the Occupation a month ago. They welcomed the unwashed, uninvited guests. Now let them live with that decision until City Hall’s last toilet overflows.
Up in Berkeley, it’s a different story. Former Poet Laureate Robert Hass details how he got manhandled by Berkeley’s finest (now there’s a phrase I never expected to type) a while back:
My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines.
NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. The descriptor for what I tried to do is “remonstrate.” I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, “You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!” A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging. The line surged. I got whacked hard in the ribs twice and once across the forearm. Some of the deputies used their truncheons as bars and seemed to be trying to use minimum force to get people to move. And then, suddenly, they stopped, on some signal, and reformed their line. Apparently a group of deputies had beaten their way to the Occupy tents and taken them down. They stood, again immobile, clubs held across their chests, eyes carefully meeting no one’s eyes, faces impassive. I imagined that their adrenaline was surging as much as mine.
My ribs didn’t hurt very badly until the next day and then it hurt to laugh, so I skipped the gym for a couple of mornings, and I was a little disappointed that the bruises weren’t slightly more dramatic. It argued either for a kind of restraint or a kind of low cunning in the training of the police. They had hit me hard enough so that I was sore for days, but not hard enough to leave much of a mark.
I can’t say much for the inventiveness of Hass’ imagery. Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies are described as wearing “Darth Vader armor,” and a row of balloons is described as “almost lyrical” – a term that always sounds fancily meaningless when used to describe physical objects. Nor is there much to get excited about in Hass' political diagnoses. (It turns out Reaganomics is to blame.) But I may be too harsh because I’m skeptical of the poet laureate position, which turns a writer into a servant of the state without giving him any actual poetic authority:
[T]he United States doesn’t do enough for its national poet. Although the seat has been around since 1937, our instinctively anti-feudal nation resisted the vaguely Dantean title “poet laureate” in favor of “consultant in poetry.” In 1986 the post was redubbed “poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress”—a title leaden enough to kill the lyrical spirit in every breast.
By any name, the U.S. poet laureate doesn’t get much scratch. The compensation package of $35,000 in salary and $5,000 in travel expenses is not funded by taxpayer money. It comes out of a trust fund established in 1936 by the rail and shipping heir Archer M. Huntington. Huntington’s original donation of $250,000 in stock has grown at a decent but unspectacular rate: As of 2008 the Huntington Fund, managed by the Bank of New York, was worth $4.6 million. (If you’d like to throw in a few shekels yourself, go to the “Support the Library” link at loc.gov.) Yet the laureate’s salary hasn’t even kept pace with inflation. The first consultant, Joseph Auslander, made $3,000. That should come to $45,000 in 2009 bucks.
Everything’s like that for the American poet laureate. The British laureate gets a “butt of sack” (about 600 bottles of sherry) and is called upon to compose verse for national occasions. (Former laureate Andrew Motion whipped up poems for Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday and the late Queen Mum’s 100th.) The U.S. poet laureate’s job, as described by the Library of Congress, is to serve as a “lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans,” which sounds dangerously close to having to read unsolicited manuscripts. The laureate’s only duty is to give one lecture, during which the Huntington Fund pays for what a Library of Congress spokeswoman calls a “small, cheese-and-crackers reception.”
This Quaker leveling instinct applies to tenure as well. In the U.K., laureates hold office for 10 years; they used to hold it for life. The United States, fearful that a poet laureate might amass too much power, term-limits its laureates after only one year.
No doubt in a country where the poet laureate had some teeth, Hass could have sent the cops packing through the sheer power of poetry.
A deaf couple are suing after the man was jailed for 25 days in May 2010 over later dismissed domestic assault charges. During that time, the lawsuit claims, the man wasn't given access to an interpreter, nor was the woman given access to one so that she could testify that her partner had not victimized her after all.
According to CBS Denver:
The suit claims Adams County is violating the [Americans with Disabilities Act] by failing to provide an interpreter or auxiliary aids for deaf suspects during their arrest and booking process.
“To this day,” [the attorney who filed the lawsuit, Kevin Williams] said, “we don’t know why he was held for 25 days.”
Williams told the paper the coalition recently settled a similar case against the Lakewood Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office that call for very specific policies for compliance with the ADA.
It shouldn't take the ADA for people to grasp that if a supposed victim cannot make herself understood to cops, and a supposed criminal cannot be told what the charges against him are, their basic rights are being violated. But at least they didn't end up like 61-year-old Roger Anthony, a deaf North Carolina man who was killed by a rookie police officer [video] on November 22.
Officers were responding to a 911 call Monday night about a man who had fallen off his bicycle in the parking lot of BB&T Bank. The caller told dispatchers that the man appeared drunk and that it looked like he had hurt himself.
Officers said they repeatedly told Anthony to get off his bike, but when he didn't respond, they shocked him. Family members say Anthony had hearing problems and suffered from seizures.
It could take months for a cause of death to be confirmed, and for the moment the officer who used the stun gun on Anthony is on administrative leave. Regardless of the official cause of death, it's fundamentally ridiculous to Tase someone while they're riding a bike, particularly if you do it because you're concerned they're drunk and might fall and hurt themselves.
Everybody knows deaf and mentally disabled people exist. If there aren't police procedures about dealing with such people, then something is fundamentally flawed in police training. There's no excuse for "maybe they can't hear or understand me" not occurring to an officer. It has to occur to them, because cops have the power to deprive anyone of their life and liberty.
Reason on police, including a March Reason.tv interview with Radley Balko where he discuses (among other cases) the deaf homeless whittler who was shot by a Seattle cop for refusing to drop his (perfectly legal) knife. And of course Reason on Kelly Thomas, the mentally disabled homeless man beaten to death by Fullerton, California cops.
Greg Gutfeld, host on two Fox News Channel shows (Red Eye and The Five), talks to the LA Times about his days as a men's mag editor, using midgets to generate buzz at an industry confab dedicated to generating buzz, blogging at the Huffington Post 1.0, and his ongoing feud with the pop band Maroon 5 (whose leader called FNC "evil" and told the network to stop playing the band's tunes).
And there's this:
In the old days, major media was outrageously liberal, but they owned all the players on the teams, they owned the ball, they owned the stadium. And when Fox News shows up to play, everyone else wants to take the ball and go home. You hear nothing but whining about Fox News because they're kicking everybody's butt. And I love that. The people who whine about Fox News are hypocrites — they say they're totally tolerant, but when they run into someone who doesn't share their assumptions, they say, "Fox News is evil, and it must be stopped."
A lot of Reasoners have been on Red Eye over the years and the show, which airs weekdays at 3 A.M., continues to grow in popularity and cultishness (yes, those two things may be at odds with one another).
Here's an episode from earlier this year featuring Gutfeld, Bill Schulz, TV's Andy Levy, the non-Doobie Bros. Michael McDonald, Ann Coulter, and yours truly.
For Maria Aguilar, a Honduran immigrant who opened Fast Eddie’s Billiard Cafe in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, things were going great, reports the Washington Post.
Then the county zoning board came calling. While there had been some complaints from neighbors about patron misbehavior, the issues the zoning board seems to have with Fast Eddie's appear to stem largely from the propensity of customers to get their groove on.
Aguilar blamed the crackdown on a cultural bias against Latino businesses that pair salsa on the table with salsa on the dance floor.
“The county has the power to say whatever they want, and they harass businesses, especially Spanish places,” Aguilar said. “They don’t understand our culture. When we go out, we want to dance.”
Yes, but that simple urge is meaningless in the face of arcane regulatory standards for "incidental dancing" in fractional spaces.
Earlier this month, Eileen M. McLane, the county’s zoning administrator, told the Board of Zoning Appeals that her agency has been reining in huge establishments that pass themselves off as restaurants with incidental dancing but operate as virtual nightclubs and disturb residential neighborhoods.
Although the current zoning ordinance states that a restaurant’s dance floor may use one-eighth of the dining area, McLane said zoning administrators have been analyzing the overall design and purpose of establishments that morph into nightclubs.
McLane said the ordinance on restaurant dance floors was written in 1975 when most restaurants were small. In recent years, however, some the establishments calling themselves restaurants have become huge, opening the door to much bigger dance floors.
After Fast Eddie’s lost the dance hall permit, for example, zoning officials also frowned on its request to reclassify itself as a restaurant with a dance floor that spans one-eighth of the dining area, or about 625 square feet, as allowed by existing ordinance.
County officials said a dance floor that size — along with Fast Eddie’s request for six pool tables and dartboards — would, in effect, create a nightclub better suited for billiards and boogying than a restaurant with some after-dinner dancing.
Who knows better than a regulator what may be a property's best and highest use? Apparently not Aguilar, who the Post reports has seen her Fast Eddie's staff shrink from 30 to 5 as a result of the zoning board's decision not to renew her dance hall permit.
Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the group's activities, go here. To follow Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow Linnekin, go here.
For sheer nasty hypocrisy masquerading as journalism, it’s hard to come up with as foul an example as the 3,000-word attack on Ronald S. Lauder that ran Sunday on the front-page of The New York Times. As of Sunday, according to the Times, Mr. Lauder is the poster boy for “how the wealthy take advantage of the system” through what the Times calls, disapprovingly, “tax avoidance techniques.”
The game the Times and its reporter, David Kocieniewski, are up to is clear at the start of the article, with this false dichotomy: “A handful of billionaires like Warren E. Buffett and Bill Gates have joined Democrats in calling for an elimination of the breaks, saying that the current system adds to the budget deficit, contributes to the widening income gap between the richest and the rest of society, and shifts the tax burden onto small businesses and the middle class. Republicans have resisted, saying the tax increases on the wealthy would harm the economy and cost jobs.
This is just flat out-false, writes Ira Stoll. What's really galling, though, is that in nearly every instance, the “tax avoidance techniques” and other supposed sins for which the Times mauls Mr. Lauder are also engaged in by the family that owns the New York Times.View this article
Five years ago, at the urging of his parents, who worried that he could be tried as an adult and receive a long prison sentence,15-year-old Edgar Coker Jr. pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old friend. Two months later, the girl admitted that the sex was consensual and that she had lied to avoid trouble with her father. The Washington Post reports that Coker nevertheless ended up serving 17 months in juvenile detention and is still listed as a violent sex offender by the state of Virginia:
Last month, Coker, now 20, was arrested during a Friday night football game at the Orange, Va., high school he graduated from after his release from juvenile prison. Unless they have permission from the school, convicted violent sex offenders are not permitted on school grounds. But Coker had received such permission, and he attended school there for more than a year before graduation....
The family has moved several times, twice because of complaints from neighbors who learned that Edgar Coker Jr. was on the registry. Once, a neighborhood girl made a false sexual allegation against one of his brothers, and someone else left this note on their door when they lived in Stafford County: “We don't want a rapist living in our neighborhood.”
Seeking to remove this stigma, Coker's family argues that his legal representation was inadequate. But as the Post notes, "Undoing what’s been done is difficult. Coker’s attorneys are aware of very few instances of a person’s name being removed from the state’s sex-offender registry."
I discuss the wide net cast by sex offender registries in the July issue of Reason.
[via Radley Balko's Twitter feed]
I miss the days when dangerous and unsightly Black Friday stampedes got blamed on our market-maddened society’s misplaced priorities. Now even the police have gotten into the act of attributing Black Friday mischief to the “tough economy,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense: What kind of recession is it where money troubles drive people to shop more aggressively?
As I point out in Reason’s December issue, believers in economic stimulus need to explain how you can have private spending higher than its pre-recession level and still claim the economy is suffering from an insufficient level of demand. If our demand-side collapse has now been re-inflated – and spending figures indicated it had been long before this Festivus season got underway – then why do we need Paul Krugman’s invasion by space aliens to cure the recession?
This holiday weekend’s good news for retailers just sharpens the point. By most accounts, the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush looks like a success (never mind that they were saying pretty much the same thing last year). Forbes, citing the National Retail Federation, says the number of Black Friday shoppers was up 6.6 percent above last year’s statistic. In fact, shoppers have been so enthusiastic that 25 percent of the 226 million Americans in stores this weekend actually jumped the gun, and began their shopping on Thanksgiving day itself. Stores with early hours like Wal-Mart and Target sold out the bulk of their wares before Friday.
A nation has to dig deep to spend like that, and sure enough, the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that the personal savings rate has plummeted in recent months. From June 2010 through June 2011, personal savings – disposable personal income less personal outlays – stayed between 5 and 6 percent. Since then the savings rate has dropped steadily and in October clocked in at an anemic 3.5 percent of personal income. These data are always subject to revision – so note that when the savings rate was this low during the Bush Administration, popular opinion held that the national savings rate was actually negative.
Another important piece of pro-spending propaganda holds that ever since the internet changed everything, online shopping has been driving retail. This claim is belied by Census Bureau data [pdf] on e-commerce, which show that online sales still make up less than 5 percent of U.S. retail. But I seem to be the only person who notices what a humble share that is. Everywhere else, I see enthusiastic headlines like “Big Cyber Monday expected to follow strong Black Friday” in ComputerWorld:
"Despite some analysts' predictions that the flurry of brick-and-mortar retailers opening their doors early for Black Friday would pull dollars from online retail, we still saw a banner day for e-commerce with more than $800 million in spending," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni, in a statement. "With brick-and-mortar retail also reporting strong gains on Black Friday, it's clear that the heavy promotional activity had a positive impact on both channels."
ComScore, an online traffic tracker, noted that Black Friday brought in $816 million in U.S. online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day to date this year. Friday's online sales revenues represented a 26% spending increase compared to the same day last year.
Huzzah to anybody who can sell product and make payroll in these troubled times. But at what point will Keynesian interventionists admit that the problem they understand (the decline in spirited animal spending) has been solved and the problem they don’t understand (levels of indebtedness that have rarely been seen in our nation’s history) is out of control?
In retrospect, I feel I may have been too harsh on the Affluenza guys back when the recession was still officially on. These folks spent decades bewailing what TV punk rockers used to call “the whole sick society” that caused people to lay waste their fortunes with McMansion-sized yachts and yacht-sized SUVs. But then when they got a real economic collapse, none of the Live Simplers were happy about it.
At the time I thought that showed bad faith, but maybe the Live Simplers were right to warn that even broke Americans – even in an era when being broke has a kind of cachet – would still end up spending themselves into stupors. In Keynesian terms, a Christmas rush is uncomplicated good news. And yet unemployment is above 9 percent, nobody wants American land anymore, and the United States even appears to have lost its luster as a destination for immigrants. It turns out priming the pump doesn’t work when the engine is busted.
Max Marty sees a potential market in what he considers flawed U.S. immigration policies. Marty is the founder and CEO of Blueseed, a startup that plans to create a “high-tech visa-free entrepreneurship and technology incubator on an ocean vessel in international waters.”
Because of the current U.S. immigration system, says Blueseed, “bold and creative entrepreneurs from around the world aren’t given the chance to come to Silicon Valley and develop the technologies that could be creating jobs and propelling the economy forward.” So the company plans to house these potential innovators near Silicon Valley on a floating vessel in international waters near the San Francisco Bay Area.
Most so-called "high-skilled" immigrants (scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and the like) come to the United States under the H-1B visa program. Congress caps the number of visas issued at 65,000 each year and allows an additional 20,000 exceptions for immigrants with advanced U.S. degrees.
Last week U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services announced that the Fiscal Year 2012 cap was reached, which was two months ahead of last year's pace. ComputerWorld noted that before the recession, the cap was routinely reached in just a week. It took only one day in 2007.
The son of Cuban immigrants, Marty previously worked for the Peter Thiel-funded Seasteading Institute, as did Blueseed's two other staffers. Ars Technica's Timothy B. Lee spoke to Blueseed's founder, who "acknowledged that it would be better for America to reform immigration laws and thereby make his company unnecessary."
Marty envisions the Blueseed ship as a floating incubator. They’ll charge rent, but also take a small equity stake in each startup that comes on board. He hopes to cultivate a network of investors to help identify promising entrepreneurs. Blueseed will also accept applications directly from would-be entrepreneurs. Marty says they’ve already had expressions of interest from around the world.
Read the entire Ars interview here.
Read Shikha Dalmia on "Obama's immigration distraction," low-skilled immigration, and H-1B visas here.
And below, watch Matt Welch vehemently advocate MOAR immigration, specifically of the H-1B variety, while wearing what appears to be a pre-tied bow tie:
Occasionally criticized for "invading" or "colonizing" New Hampshire, the Free State Project is simply "trying to keep New Hampshire awesome!," according to the organization's president Carla Gericke. As the movement's self-described "bus driver," Gericke is trying to bring 20,000 people to the Live Free or Die state to build a model community for libertarians.
Reason Magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch sat down with Gericke to talk about the project, why they chose New Hampshire, and the local response to "anarchist toenails."
Approximately 6 minutes. Shot by Zach Weissmueller and Jim Epstein, and edited by Joshua Swain.
Got to Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic notifications when new material goes live.
This week the Senate is considering a defense authorization bill that would explicitly allow indefinite military detention of terrorism suspects arrested on U.S. soil (or anywhere else), including American citizens. Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who co-authored the provision, say it "offers balance in dealing with detainees." Writing in The Washington Post, Levin and McCain address critics who worry that the bill takes too much power away from the president:
The bill does not tie the administration's hands in deciding how best to handle a detainee. It is the executive branch that determines whether a detainee meets the criteria for military custody, under procedures that this legislation allows the executive branch to develop. Not only does the bill include a national security waiver [allowing terrorism suspects to be held in civilian custody], but it expressly authorizes the transfer of any military detainee to civilian custody for trial in the federal courts.
What about critics who are alarmed, rather than reassured, by the idea of letting the president lock up people he unliaterally identifies as enemies of the state and throw away the key? Levin and McCain do not have much to offer such skeptics, beyond saying that the bill applies to "a narrowly defined group of people—al-Qaeda terrorists who participate in planning or conducting attacks against us." But how do we know that the people whom the president decides to imprison without trial for as long as he feels like it really are Al Qaeda terrorists? Isn't that what trials are for?
Public school officials in Kansas have retracted a demand that 18-year-old Emma Sullivan apologize for a tweet disparaging Gov. Sam Brownback. According to an official statement, the Shawnee Mission School District "acknowledges a student's right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected." Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, was part of a group that visited Topeka last week to learn about state government. As Brownback addressed the students, she sent a tweet that expressed her general attitude toward the governor: "Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot." Sullivan had not, in fact, made mean comments to Brownback, but the Twitter monitors on his staff were neither amused by her joke nor impressed by her incisive political commentary. They complained to the school, which told Sullivan she had to write the governor a letter of apology. She refused, and the school backed down after the tweet and its consequences received national attention.
The Supreme Court has given school officials substantial leeway to regulate students' speech while they are under school supervision, extending even to the banners they raise at off-campus events. Had Sullivan been disciplined for shouting "You suck!" at Brownback, it probably would have passed muster on the grounds that her behavior was disruptive. But since her comment caused an uproar only after the event was over, and then only because the governor's staff objected to it, the school district was wise to retreat.
Update: Brownback apologizes to Sullivan:
My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms. I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future. I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum. Again, I apologize for our over-reaction.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, David Savage argues that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “has led an unusual pro-defendant faction at the high court in reversing convictions for murder, drug dealing, wife beating and drunken driving.” As Savage writes:
Sometimes, Scalia's insistence on following the "original" Constitution leads to unexpected results. And for him, there are no shades of gray and no halfway measures.
The 6th Amendment to the Constitution says the "accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him." To Scalia, this clause not only gives defendants the right to challenge actual witnesses, but also the right to bar testimony from all those "witnesses" who did not or cannot testify in court. He takes this view even if the witness is dead....
"This is not a left-right split. This is principle versus pragmatism," said University of Michigan law professor Richard Friedman. For Scalia, "this is all about adhering to originalism," regardless of whether the results seem strange.
Read the whole story here. Back in 2008, Jacob Sullum surveyed Scalia's jurisprudence on issues ranging from the Fourth Amendment to the war on terror and concluded that "Scalia's not half-bad," which is "more than you can say for most justices." As for the bad half of Scalia's half-bad record, I discuss some of it here.
Next week the Raw Milk Freedom Riders, a group that staged the recent demonstration* outside FDA headquarters to protest the agency's interstate ban of raw milk** and related arrests and prosecutions, is taking its civil disobedience campaign on the road to Chicago. From the group's just-issued press release:
On December 8, a group of mothers and others will defy the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ban on “distributing” fresh milk across state lines by transporting 100 gallons of raw milk from Wisconsin to Chicago’s Independence Park and distributing it to customers waiting at the park.
Federal law 21 CFR § 1240.61 prohibits interstate movement and distribution of raw milk for human consumption. The FDA regulation applies to individuals, or “agents” acting on their behalf.
The Freedom Riders say that the FDA’s statement leaves the door open for FDA to pursue farmers, buying clubs and individuals acting as “distribution agents.” The Wisconsin to Chicago Raw Milk Freedom ride will challenge the FDA’s use of force against raw milk distribution.
Whole thing here.
*Full disclosure: I helped organize the demonstration.
**TMI disclosure: I am not a consumer of fluid milk (raw or pasteurized), though I do like me some raw- and pasteurized-milk cheese.
Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the group's activities, go here. To follow Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow Linnekin, go here.
Some 50 million people are currently enrolled in Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program for the poor and disabled. Another 16 million are expected to join the system after the new health care law’s major coverage provisions kick in in 2014. But there are serious potential problems with this plan. For example, many states can’t afford their Medicaid programs as they exist—and the coverage expansion may cost far more than expected. Via The Arizona Republic, here’s what’s happening in Arizona:
Federal health officials have approved an additional 5 percent reduction in the rates hospitals and other health-care providers ar reimbursed for Medicaid patients, part of Gov. Jan Brewer's budget-balancing package.
The rate cut, retroactive to Oct. 1, follows another 5 percent reduction in April and a rate freeze imposed in 2007.
It will save the state an estimated $95 million this year, savings hospitals say comes at the expense of health-care facilities and privately insured patients.
Arizona hospitals will now be paid 70 percent of what it costs to care for a Medicaid patient, said Pete Wertheim, a vice president with the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.
Arizona mangled its Medicaid program in the late 1990s when it made the decision to fund expanded health coverage using tobacco settlement revenues, which, thanks to lower smoking rates, are now declining. But it’s not the only state that’s cut back on Medicaid payments. California cut back payments in hopes of saving more than $600 million too. And now health providers are suing the state over the rate cuts, and warning that as a result of the payment reductions the state medical system won’t be able to handle the new health law’s expanded coverage requirements. Those coverage requirements, meanwhile, may end up costing far more than expected: A recent study by Harvard health researchers warned that the Medicaid expansion was subject to substantial uncertainty, and that it could cost nearly $100 billion a year—roughly as much as the entire law was projected to cost.
There isn’t an easy fix. Last year’s health care overhaul not only pushed states into a coverage expansion, it also threatened the loss of billions in federal funding should states cut Medicaid eligibility in between now and 2014. Yet most states are bound by balanced budget requirements, which means that they have to cut back somewhere. And with Medicaid clocking in as one of the top budget items for state governments, it’s got a big target on it. So payment rates get cut, and providers balk, launching lawsuits or cutting back on the number of Medicaid patients in their caseload. Care quality, already extremely poor within Medicaid, gets even worse. State budgets become constrained as they attempt to pay for Medicaid. Yes, the federal government shoulders much of the burden of the new health care law’s expansion, but states will eventually pick up about 10 percent of the cost, which, in the context of already strapped state health care budgets and rising health costs, is still a heavy burden.
When Medicaid was passed, it was an afterthought to the bigger and more politically important program, Medicare. At the time, most policymakers assumed that Medicare would serve as the vehicle for government-funded health expansion. But it turns out that both states and the federal government have found ways to stuff people into Medicaid instead. ObamaCare brings Medicaid coverage to the bottom edge of the lower middle class—about 133 percent of the poverty line. And yet we still don’t know how to pay for it. The program, designed to be modest in scope, has been asked to do far too much.
In September a Bloomberg poll found that only 36 percent of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s efforts to create jobs. Around the same time, New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer lamented that some congressional Democrats oppose Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act “simply for its mental connection to” the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Also in America’s newspaper of record, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, a prominent voice in favor of Keynesian economic intervention, argued that the 2009 stimulus failed because it was not large enough to close a gap in aggregate demand.
But as Tim Cavanaugh observes in our December issue, the most important goal of the stimulus was achieved almost a year ago: Consumer spending returned to its pre-recession level in the last quarter of 2010. So why does Keynesian success feel so much like failure?View this article
NPR takes seriously the notion that, while Mitt Romney has consistently seemed to have a lock on victory in New Hampshire, Ron Paul is now a likely second place:
"I could very well see Ron Paul coming in second place," said longtime pollster Andy Smith, who runs the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.
Smith's numbers last week show Paul in third with 12 percent, up from just a month ago. Other alternatives to Romney have risen to double digits only to fall back again, but Smith says Paul has some key advantages.
"He's got more money than other candidates, and he seems to have a more committed young following," he said. "Those young voters [are] always important on the campaign trail because they essentially will work for free and they're very enthusiastic about Paul."
In other Paul observations, The Christian Science Monitor notes that Paul's electoral magic will need to come from reaching outside Republican Party voters, noting he is currently beating Obama in a one-on-one among independent voters. Paul fans have a concerted effort dubbed "Blue Republican," encouraging those not currently GOP voters to do what needs to be done in their respective states to vote for Paul in the primaries.
Paul continues to crush all comers in the Conservative HQ straw poll, at 56 percent and rising. (Yes, it's easier to win an Internet straw poll than an election.)
Gail Collins at the New York Times, reportedly a prominent news source, while trying to make fun of Paul sums up why his fans love him:
He also doesn’t believe in, well, let’s see: gun control, the death penalty, the C.I.A., the Civil Rights Act, prosecuting flag-burners, hate crime legislation, foreign aid, the military draft under any circumstances, campaign finance reform, the war on drugs, the war on terror and the war on porn. Also the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan. Taxes are theft. While his fellow Republican candidates fume about gay marriage, Paul thinks the government should get out of the business of issuing marriage licenses entirely. (“In a free society, something that we do not truly enjoy, all voluntary and consensual agreements would be recognized.”)
Although Steven Greenhut earlier today on Reason Online takes seriously claims that Paul's campaign "might not have a good ground game going," that belief seems unfounded: how can the campaign which the largest percentage of likely caucus voters in Iowa have heard from, and who came within a percentage point of winning the Ames Straw Poll in August (which involved getting over 4,600 in-state voters to actually show up for an all-day event) without a free Randy Travis concert, be said to lack ground game in Iowa?
Writing in The New York Times, Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy discusses why a split between France and Germany is pending with regard to bailing out European Union members and inducing inflation. French native de Rugy notes that part of Germany's official national story is that hyper-inflation in the 1920s paved the way for the Nazi regime in the '30s. As a result, Germans are particularly reluctant to inflate away debt. France, says de Rugy, has a substantially different take on printing money. Moreover,
The official government debt and deficit numbers of France and Germany are substantially different. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development projects Germany’s debt at 87.3 percent of G.D.P. with a deficit of 2.1 percent of G.D.P. —possibly sustainable levels. However, France’s levels of debt and deficit are higher and unsustainable (debt of 97.3 percent of G.D.P. and a deficit of 5.6 percent of G.D.P.).
...attitudes toward reforming social programs differ too: in recent years. Germany has engaged in significant structural reforms to tackle the rigidity in the labor market as well as demographic pressure on the private and public pension system. France, however, has been reluctant to change any “acquis sociaux,” France’s famous social entitlements.
With higher levels of debts and no will to reform entitlement programs, sooner or later France is likely to need a European Central Bank “bailout” to keep paying its bills (and French banks may also be in big trouble). The need for a rescue plan makes France more inclined to set a precedent [for a bailout]. However, Germany, after 60 years of desperately trying to avoid inflation, is reluctant to pay that bill.
De Rugy's piece is part of a "Room for Debate" discussion of the matter. For the other contributions, go here.
For de Rugy's Reason archive, including a year's worth of "Reality Checks" done for Bloomberg TV, go here.
Follow her on Twitter here.
Back when President Obama was touting all things French, de Rugy explained why the U.S. economic model was the better pick.
WISC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Madison, reports that Grant County, Wisconsin, District Attorney Lisa Riniker, who charged a 6-year-old boy with first-degree sexual assault becaused he played doctor with a 5-year-old girl, has obtained a gag order that prohibits his parents, who have sued Riniker and two other county officials, from talking about the case. Iowa County Judge Bill Dyke issued the order last Monday, forcing the boy's parents to cancel a planned interview with WISC. The station spoke instead with their lawyers, who are not covered by the order:
"That behavior by a prosecutor is outrageous," said Christopher Cooper, an attorney for the boy's parents....
"She [Riniker] bypassed the parents and sent a 6-year-old boy a summons, on which is a threat that the 6-year-old will go to jail for failure to appear," Cooper said.
The attorneys said they have sought the opinion of many experts who said that children "playing doctor" is not a sex crime.
"[The experts say] a 6-year-old child is unable to intellectually and emotionally associate sexual gratification with the act that D has been accused of committing," Cooper said....
Repeated calls to Riniker and an attorney for [her] and two co-defendants have gone unanswered since Friday, WISC-TV reported.
Academia has been very, very good to George Mason University economics professor Bryan Caplan, as he admits. Yet he also wants you to know that the service he has a cushy life selling to you isn't all it's cracked up to be:
Many educators sooth their consciences by insisting that "I teach my students how to think, not what to think." But this platitude goes against a hundred years of educational psychology. Education is very narrow; students learn the material you specifically teach them... if you're lucky.
Other educators claim they're teaching good work habits. But especially at the college level, this doesn't pass the laugh test. How many jobs tolerate a 50% attendance rate - or let you skate by with twelve hours of work a week? School probably builds character relative to playing videogames. But it's hard to see how school could build character relative to a full-time job in the Real World.
At this point, you may be thinking: If professors don't teach a lot of job skills, don't teach their students how to think, and don't instill constructive work habits, why do employers so heavily reward educational success? The best answer comes straight out of the ivory tower itself. It's called the signaling model of education- the subject of my book in progress, The Case Against Education.
According to the signaling model, employers reward educational success because of what it shows ("signals") about the student. Good students tend to be smart, hard-working, and conformist - three crucial traits for almost any job. When a student excels in school, then, employers correctly infer that he's likely to be a good worker. What precisely did he study? What did he learn how to do? Mere details. As long as you were a good student, employers surmise that you'll quickly learn what you need to know on the job.
The signaling model means that more people getting more education has a tendency to create the demand for more people to get more education (which is great for people in the business of selling education) because:
In the signaling story, what matters is how much education you have compared to competing workers. When education levels rise, employers respond with higher standards; when education levels fall, employers respond with lower standards. We're on a treadmill. If voters took this idea seriously, my close friends and I could easily lose our jobs. As a professor, it is in my interest for the public to continue to believe in the magic of education: To imagine that the ivory tower transforms student lead into worker gold.
Caplan writes on occasion for Reason.
"My general belief is that we ought to be much more aggressive about drug policy," GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich tells Yahoo! News' Chris Moody. "In my mind it means having steeper economic penalties and it means having a willingness to do more drug testing." The latter applies almost exclusively to poors, naturally. More from that interview:
In 1996, you introduced a bill that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers. Do you still stand by that?
I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure. Look at the level of violence and the level of violence that they've done to society. . . . You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there's nothing wrong with heroine and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American. If you're serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we're going to have drugs in this country.
Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that. They've been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country.
In 1981, you introduced a bill that would allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. What has changed?
What has changed was the number of parents I met with who said they did not want their children to get the signal from the government that it was acceptable behavior and that they were prepared to say as a matter of value that it was better to send a clear signal on no drug use at the risk of inconveniencing some people--then it was to be compassionate toward a small group at the risk of telling a much larger group that it was okay to use the drug.
It's a change of information. Within a year of my original support of that bill I withdrew it.
Ron Paul and Barney Frank have introduced a similar bill almost every year since.
You have to admit, Ron Paul has a coherent position. It's not mine, but it's internally logical.
Speaking of Ron Paul, at the last debate, he said that the war on drugs has been an utter failure. We've spent billions of dollars since President Nixon and we still have rising levels of drug use. Should we continue down the same path given the amount of money we've spent? How can we reform our approach?
I think that we need to consider taking more explicit steps to make it expensive to be a drug user. It could be through [drug] testing before you got any kind of federal aid. Unemployment compensation, food stamps, you name it.
It has always struck me that if you're serious about trying to stop drug use, then you need to find a way to have a fairly easy approach to it and you need to find a way to be pretty aggressive about insisting--I don't think actually locking up users is a very good thing. I think finding ways to sanction them and to give them medical help and to get them to detox is a more logical long term policy.
. . . Sometime in the next year we'll have a comprehensive proposal on drugs and it will be designed to say that we want to minimize drug use in America and we're very serious about it.
Further proof that the smartest man in the GOP actually loves "rightwing social engineering"; is a nitwit. Further reading: Why modeling U.S. drug laws on those in Singapore is tantamount to modeling U.S. Internet laws on those in China (which, yay!, we're actually doing right now); Reason's Gingrich 2012 profile.
Ron Paul, the quirky Texas congressman with unwavering libertarian principles, is currently near the top of polls for the Iowa presidential caucuses, and his national support has remained strong. Furthermore, writes Steven Greenhut, we know that none of the other Republicans will seriously slash the size of government, even if they have Republican majorities in Congress. Only Paul understands that the nation’s problems center on its gargantuan government. In these dire economic times, more voters are noticing that government growth, debt spending, and the economy are paramount. Paul may be a long shot candidate, Greenhut notes, but so was a certain out-of-his-depth former community activist who went from state senator to the Oval Office in just four years.View this article
Congress's five-year-old ban on domestic horse slaughter died a quiet death right before Thanksgiving. The reason cited for ending the ban? A GAO report on unintended consequences, says the Oklahoman:
Members of Congress who decided to end the prohibition on domestic horse slaughtering relied heavily on research provided in June by the General Accountability Office, Congress' auditing arm.
At the request of top members of the subcommittees that oversee spending for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the GAO looked into the effects of the ban — in place since 2006 — and released a report entitled “Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter.”
Though there are some shades of gray, the report clearly connects the ban to an increase in abandoned horses, a drop in prices for some horses and a dramatic increases in exports of horses for slaughter.
“Horse welfare in the United States has generally declined since 2007, as evidenced by a reported increase in horse abandonments and an increase in investigations for horse abuse and neglect,'' the report states.
“The extent of the decline is unknown due to a lack of comprehensive, national data, but state officials attributed the decline in horse welfare to many factors, but primarily to the cessation of domestic slaughter and the U.S. economic downturn.
“Abandoned, abused, and neglected horses present challenges for state and local governments, tribes and animal welfare organizations.”
As I noted during an earlier guestblogging stint here at Hit & Run in June, the unintended consequences GAO reported and that led Congress to act may have been unintended, but were nevertheless predictable:
[A] 2006 report, The Unintended Consequences of a Ban on the Humane Slaughter (Processing) of Horses in the United States... predicted, among other problems, that "[t]he potential for a large number of abandoned or unwanted horses is substantial."
Justifications for a ban were never clear nor convincing. For example, the claim (made by an official from a group that helped usher in the ban) that "we don't eat horses" is disingenuous and lacks support. Under the ban, Americans can't buy domestic horsemeat. What's more, while the completely NSFW case earlier this month of a Portland nudist who slaughtered and gutted a horse, posed for pictures inside the horse, and then ate the horse may be somewhat of an outlier, an unscientific CNN poll last year found 37% of respondents either had or would eat horse.
Another argument--that jobs slaughtering horses "are of dubious economic value to the individuals who take them"--doesn't even warrant a response beyond noting it for posterity.
So now that horse slaughter is coming back to the U.S., will you eat horse meat?
Baylen Linnekin is the director of Keep Food Legal, a
nonprofit dedicated to preserving and increasing "culinary
freedom," the right of all Americans to grow, sell, prepare and eat
foods of their own choosing. To join or learn more about the
group's activities, go here. To follow
Keep Food Legal on Twitter, go here; to follow
Linnekin, go here.
The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) to the U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change has opened in Durban, South Africa today. Delegates from nearly 200 countries are meeting to see what they can salvage from the wreckage of the Kyoto Protocol. That 1997 agreement aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from rich countries to an average of 5 percent below the levels they emitted in 1990. The United States never ratified that treaty. In addition, the treaty's limits never applied to rapidly industrializing countries like China, India, and Brazil whose greenhouse gas emissions have grown enormously in recent years.
Currently, it looks as though Japan, Russia, and Canada will simply not agree to join any treaty requiring further emissions limits. Even the Kyoto Protocol's strongest supporter, the European Union, now says that it will not commit to maintaining the treaty unless negotiators in Durban agree to some kind of "road map" toward mandatory emissions reductions by 2020. In any case, the EU's carbon market has collapsed once again.
I will be reporting from the Durban conference beginning next week.
"Longtime Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts will announce on Monday that he will not seek a 17th term in Congress next year," National Journal reports. "Frank will make his announcement at the Newton City Hall in the afternoon."
Over at Bloomberg, former Microsoft executive and founder of Intellectual Ventures Nathan Myhrvold has a sharp commentary on the stupidity of subsidizing inefficient power technologies:
This month, the U.S. Department of Commerce launched a formalinvestigation into complaints, lodged by the U.S. solar-cell manufacturers, that the government of China is funneling loan guarantees, grants and subsidies to its solar-cell companies.
Apparently, the Commerce Department is shocked, shocked to learn that a government would subsidize the solar industry.
A few days later, the New York Times described a “gold rush” under way in the U.S. as builders of wind and solar farms cash in on grants and loan guarantees offered by both the federal government and various states. These incentives effectively allow players at every level of the renewable-energy industry to lock in profits of 10 percent to 30 percent a year for the 20- to 30-year life of their plants -- not bad considering 10-year Treasury bonds are paying only 2 percent.
Both of these developments are symptoms of a larger problem with the world’s current approach to renewable energy. The range of prospects being tried now is dizzying -- from high-tech windmills to biofuels, from corn to algae, from silicon photovoltaic cells to boilers heated by thousands of reflected sunbeams. But they all share one thing that makes them appealing to investors: taxpayer dollars. One of the ugly secrets of the renewable-energy industry is that its products make no economic sense unless they are highly subsidized.
He cites figures from the Energy Information Administration showing that levelized costs (includes capital and fuel costs for the life of the projects) of current versions of renewable energy technologies are much more expensive (and will remain so) than conventional sources of electricity generation.
Comparing the Costs of Electricity
Myhrvold makes this excellent point:
Some people fret that China will reap the green jobs of the future, but no economically viable green-energy product exists. It makes no sense for the U.S. to try to dominate a money-losing industry, especially by guaranteeing profits to inefficient power plants for 30 years.
Well, yes. Go here to read the whole article. For more background, see also my June 2009 article, It's Alive: Alternative energy subsidies make their biggest comeback since Jimmy Carter.
In the Wash Post, Reason contributor and Claremont McKenna political scientist John J. "Jack" Pitney writes up "5 Myths about Newt Gingrich."
Number 1 on the list? "Gingrich is an academic." Pitney's take:
He earned a PhD in history and taught college before winning a seat in Congress. He has often spoken of himself as a historian. In 1995, he told CNN’s Bob Franken: “I am the most seriously professorial politician since Woodrow Wilson.”
But whereas Wilson spent years publishing scholarly works, Gingrich was more like the professor who wins popularity awards from undergraduates but doesn’t get tenure because he doesn’t publish anything significant. He even told a college newspaper in 1977 that “I made the decision two or three years ago that I’d rather run for Congress than publish the papers or academic books necessary to get promoted.”
Since then, he has given countless lectures and written more than 20 books, but has never produced truly serious scholarship. A typical Gingrich work is full of aphorisms and historical references — and devoid of the hallmarks of academic research: rigor, nuance and consideration of alternative views. Conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson once assessed materials for a televised history course that Gingrich was teaching as a “mishmash of undefined terms . . . misleading claims . . . and unclear distinctions.”
Yet Gingrich has been quick to cite his credentials as a source of authority. In a letter to Reagan budget director David Stockman, he once wrote: “From my perspective as a historian, you don’t deal in the objective requirements of history.” And recently, he suggested that mortgage giant Freddie Mac had paid him for his historical expertise, not his Capitol Hill connections.
"The most seriously professorial politician since Woodrow Wilson?" That sounds like a line from an episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker. Besides being inaccurate, it is genuinely unflattering in every possible way and given that Gingrich offered it up voluntarily as a self-description, it's pretty telling, too.
Pitney's other four entries give similarly critical but fair appraisals of such things as Gingrich's Reaganite bona fides (eh, not as much as the former Speaker likes to say now), whether he's a "hard-core conservative" (soft core is more like it), whether he was unique in his congressional partisanship back in the day(Tip O'Neill, the lovable scamp, called Reagan "evil"), and whether he's got the drive to push hard in an election (who knows, but Gingrich once asserted that he wanted to "shift the entire planet" which sounds more like Al Gore than Gore does.)
Read Reason's presidential-candidate profile of Gingrich if you've forgotten why you're not seriously considering voting for him.
- CNET: "Microsoft has long been one of the most ardent proponents of expanding U.S. copyright law. But that enthusiasm doesn't extend to the new Stop Online Piracy Act."
- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will campaign for Rick Perry in New Hampshire this week.
- Bloomberg: "Banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates" during the financial crisis.
- The lone Republican member of the National Labor Relations Board is threatening to resign to prevent the board from having a quorum; unions are seething.
- Muslim medical students in the UK join Christian evaneglicals in the U.S. in opposing teaching evolution in public schools.
- Speaking of science: More parents are foregoing vaccinating their children.
New at reason.tv: "Occupy Thanksgiving: A Message of Hope, Redemption, and Dada"
I'm happy to introduce a guest blogger for this week at Hit and Run.
Baylen Linnekin is the founder and head of Keep Food Legal, a nonprofit that is dedicated to preserving and expanding "culinary freedom," the radical idea that people should be allowed "to grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, cook, and eat the foods of their own choosing." That seems like a simple idea, but as the ever-growing proliferation of bans on everything from lemonade stands to foie gras attests, a group such as Keep Food Legal is needed now more than ever. KFL is not only the first and only organization of its kind, its the only group I've ever heard of that has a spork in its logo.
A bit about Baylen: He's trained as a lawyer (getting the bad news out of the way first) and worked at the Drug Policy Alliance for a spell. He cofounded the blogs To the People and Crispy on the Outside and has published work in outlets ranging from academic journals to various newspapers to Reason. His most recent article for us, an April 2011 investigation of "The Lobster Underground" and a shadowy figure named "Dr. Claw" was a instant classic, drenched in butter, served on a toasted split-top roll, and salted generously with good-humored outrage at useless regulations that make it harder for cook and customer to come together.
He's also guest-blogged at Hit and Run in the recent past. Go here for his full Reason archive and go here for his official bio. You can follow him at Twitter by going here. And Keep Food Legal by going here.
Back in June, he appeared on Freedom Watch to talk about calls to regulate food advertising to children. Take a look:
Earlier this month, a vote in the House of Representatives fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for a balanced budget amendment. But we haven't seen the last of it. If Republicans capture the White House and the Senate next year, expect another push.
This may seem like the right moment for the amendment. In 1976, the national debt was $629 billion. Today, it exceeds $15 trillion. As our elected leaders continue spending more than the government takes in, a constitutional amendment looks like a fail-safe way to make them stop. If only, writes Steve Chapman. One flaw is that it doesn't actually balance the budget. It merely requires Congress and the president to do so. But they can already do so—and they consistently fail to get serious about the deficit even when they face a stark obligation. The reason politicians don't balance the budget is that they and their constituents aren't ready for the unthinkable realities this option would entail: higher taxes, reduced government benefits, or both. Those choices won't get any less excruciating if a balanced-budget amendment is ratified.View this article
Acting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev surveys the failure of the Phobos Grunt mission earlier this month and the loss of a Soyuz cargo craft in August, and he reaches the obvious conclusion: This kind of thing wouldn’t happen if Stalin were around.
"The recent failures are a big blow to our competitiveness. This does not mean that anything fatal happened. It just means that we have to find those responsible and punish them," Medvedev said in nationally televised remarks.
"I am not suggesting that we line people up against the wall like we did when Joseph Vissarionovich was in power," he added in reference to the firing squads that Stalin used to execute his political foes in 1930s purges.
"Nevertheless, we have to punish them seriously."
Medvedev clearly has not watched Office Space, with its insight that fear will only motivate you to work just hard enough not to get fired. More importantly, he’s ignoring the actual history of Russia’s space program.
In Matthew Brzezinski’s history of the Sputnik program Red Moon Rising, the elusive "Chief Designer" Sergei Korolev (who wasn’t actually elusive but had his name and identity suppressed by the government) is shown to have run a very effective stovepipe operation within the dysfunctional Soviet state, and his management method did not involve punishing people seriously, or punishing them at all. Instead, Korolev kept a safe full of cash in his office, from which he dispensed bonuses to engineers who solved the problems he needed solved.
Georgia’s Man of Iron had ascended to glory by this point, but even while Stalin was alive, punishment does not appear to have been an effective method for advancing science in Russia. Korolev was denounced and sent to the gulag before the war, as were many talented Russian scientists and military officers. During his imprisonment, the brilliant engineer lost all his teeth. As World War II buffs know, it was only when the Soviet Union was on the verge of defeat that Stalin relented, released people of proven capability from his prisons and allowed them to start replacing the flunkies he had installed.
The idea that you can motivate people by threatening them is the regulator’s fallacy.
In an upcoming special issue, Reason’s print edition will look at the progress of the private space industry (which so far has found a better friend in Roscosmos than in NASA). Here’s Reason.tv talking with space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis:
Former two-term Gov. Gary Johnson (R-N.M.) tells the Santa Fe New Mexican that he feels "abandoned" by a Republican Party that shut him out of all but two of GOP presidential debates so far. As a result, he's mulling over the idea of running for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination.
"If I'd have been included in 16 of the last debates we wouldn't even be having this conversation," Johnson said.
Johnson said there have been "overtures made" by the Libertarian Party. While there's no guarantee he'd win the nomination, Johnson believes he'd have a fair chance....
In early polls, Johnson's percentages were in the low single digits. In late August, a CNN poll showed Johnson ahead of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and tied with businessman Herman Cain. Huntsman, Santorum and Cain have been invited to all the debates. However, since that time, CNN's polls haven't included Johnson — which is the case with other polling organizations in recent weeks.
It's hard to get good poll numbers if your name isn't on the poll, Johnson pointed out.
There's little doubt that Johnson - who unambiguously supports an end to the drug war, a non-interventionist foreign policy, reproductive rights, liberalized immigration policy, free trade, and many other libertarian position - would be the highest-profile LP candidate at least since Ron Paul hit the hustings back in 1988. As a pol who won election twice in a Democratic-heavy state and governed to bipartisan acclaim, he'd also be the first one who could point to administrative experience and success, which would surely help with publicity for the LP's existence and positions.
What say you, Hit & Run readers? Should Gary Johnson dump a GOP that just isn't that in to him and go full-frontal Libertarian?
In September, DC Comics, America’s oldest comic book publisher, relaunched the series in which its signature character, Superman, made his 1938 debut: Action Comics. DC’s updated Action will be written by a bald, Scottish, mysticism-practicing, psychedelic-drug-taking, punk-music-making anarchist named Grant Morrison.
And as Todd Seavey observes, fans wondering what effect such a character will have on the Man of Steel are in luck: Morrison recently authored Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, a moving, often poetic history of superhero comics and how they shape the modern world.View this article
If you could use some good news—and these days, who couldn’t?—pay attention to Virginia’s debate on eminent domain. The progress toward a constitutional amendment limiting that power has something to gladden the heart of every political type. Lawmakers approved the measure for the first time last year. They will have to pass it again a second time before it can go to the voters in a referendum. If the voters approve it, then the language will be added to the state Constitution.
Essentially, the constitutional amendment would elevate the statutory protections to constitutional ones. The measure restores the rights that the Supreme Court eviscerated by ensuring that private property can be taken only for truly public uses—not to promote economic development, or to increase the tax base, or to enrich powerful special interests. This is an easy sell to conservatives, who tend to favor property rights. But liberals have good reasons for supporting the amendment as well, writes A. Barton Hinkle. The first is the asymmetrical nature of government takings. Local governments are never going to seize property from rich developers and give it to poor homeowners. The process will always flow in the other direction, which makes eminent domain for economic development purposes repulsive from a social-justice perspective.View this article
In the latest edition of Friday Funnies, Henry Payne forcasts the EPA's list of unreasonable fuel requirements.View this article
We’re proud that America is the land of free speech. That right is recognized in the First Amendment, and we usually take it seriously. It wasn’t always the case. In John Adams’ administration, the Sedition Act made it a crime, punishable by fine and imprisonment, “to write, print, utter or publish...any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government...or to excite against (it) the hatred of the people...” Thankfully, Thomas Jefferson and other libertarians got rid of that law.
Under Woodrow Wilson, Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to 10 years in prison for calling for draft resistance during World War I. His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court, led by that alleged civil libertarian Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Today, fortunately, no one goes to jail for criticizing the draft, or the U.S. government’s wars. So we’ve made progress—in some areas. But the use of campus and workplace speech codes, writes John Stossel, are a sign we’ve regressed. Ugly words in a workplace can indeed make it hard for someone to succeed at work, and racism in school can make it hard to learn. But words are words and bullets are bullets.View this article
Original release November 23, 2011
In a time of 9 percent unemployment, a faltering global economy, toxic levels of political rancor, and the release of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, is there anything left to be thankful for?
Reason offers a message of hope, redemption, and dada.
About 30 seconds. Produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie.
For key moments in Thanksgiving history, from the Continental Congress' exhortation not to have fun on such a solemn occasion to the creation of the Ku Klux Klan 2.0 to FDR's creation of "Franksgiving" to Ronald Reagan's weak-willed pardon of a turkey, go here [note: corrected link].
If you enjoyed the video above, check out Reason.tv's 2010 Thanksgiving video:
Approximately 2.30 minutes.
Produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie. Voices by Meredith Bragg and Austin Bragg.
Thirty years ago, an influential claque of alarmists predicted that Japan would soon economically overtake and crush the United States. In fact, just as the hysteria reached fever pitch, Japan's bubble economy burst and the country has struggled with a stagnant economy ever since. The new bugaboo is fast-growing China. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey parses the numbers and concludes that China as Number One is a few decades off—at least.View this article
Last week the parents of a Wisconsin boy sued Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker for charging their son with first-degree sexual assault, a Class B felony, after he played "butt doctor" with a 5-year-old girl. He was 6 at the time. When the boy's lawyer tried to have the charge dismissed, Riniker replied: "The legislature could have put an age restriction in the statute if it wanted to. The legislature did no such thing."
According to the complaint (PDF), the girl is "the daughter of a well-known political figure in Grant County," and her brother, who is the same age, also was involved in playing doctor but was not charged. In addition to Riniker, the lawsuit names as defendants retired Grant County Sheriff's Sgt. James Kopp and Jan Moravits, an investigator with Grant County Social Services "whose regional supervisor...is the political figure's wife's sister-in-law"—i.e., the aunt of the alleged victim.
Although the boy, now 7, is too young to be prosecuted or named in a juvenile delinquency petitition, Madison.com reports, county officials are using the felony charge to force his parents into accepting "protection or services" for him. The lawsuit says that once he turns 18, he will be listed as a sex offender.
I noted a similar case in my July Reason story on sex offender laws.
[Thanks to Kevin Bankert for the tip.]
William Niskanen, the chairman emeritus of the Cato Institute, former head of Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, and one of the great figures in the libertarian movement, passed away last month at the age of 78. In this 1978 interview with Reason, conducted while Niskanen was still working as chief economist for the Ford Motor Company, a position he later lost because of his principled opposition to protectionist U.S. trade policies, Niskanen discusses tax reform, limiting federal spending, and why government has an inherent bias towards bureaucracy.View this article
City Journal’s Nicole Gelinas reports on the latest lawsuit stemming from the Atlantic Yards boondoggle in Brooklyn, where the state of New York seized private property via eminent domain on behalf of a basketball stadium being built by real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner. As Gelinas notes, the seven Brooklyn residents who filed suit this month aren’t actually upset about the eminent domain abuse that occurred, they’re just mad at Ratner because he won’t let them get in on the spoils:
Ratner gained government backing only by marshaling community support: that is, he shoveled money into new “grassroots” advocacy groups like Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD). Ratner signed a “community benefits agreement” under which BUILD chief James Caldwell would train residents—many of them low-income Brooklynites—for as many as 15,000 well-paying construction jobs at Atlantic Yards....
Now, seven job-seekers are suing, alleging that Ratner and Caldwell duped them into joining a “training” class last year that consisted of reading Wikipedia printouts and then working—unpaid and unsupervised—for two months on a dangerous Staten Island home-construction site owned by a third party. During their “training,” the seven “learned very little that they did not already know,” they said, because they were “already fully capable of performing construction work.”
It’s hard to feel much sympathy for anybody who believed Ratner’s bogus promises, but at least these seven dupes have a shot at learning from their erroneous ways. As Gelinas puts it:
So the Ratner Seven have learned something: to get a job, you don’t depend on the power of the state to seize other people’s property. You educate yourself, you learn a trade, and you work hard, sometimes at lower wages than you’d like, to gain experience. That is, the plaintiffs should have kept doing what they were doing before Ratner came along.
For those who follow politics and Hollywood, 2011 has been a year of misleading movie titles. The Debt wasn't about the federal debt. Contagion wasn't about the Eurozone crisis. And The Muppets isn't about Congress. Instead, it's about a gang of singing, dancing puppets with much better approval ratings. Peter Suderman reviews their latest big-screen adventure in today's Washington Times:
Leave it to a scruffy orange puppet named Fozzie Bear to make fart shoes funny.
In the hands - well, feet - of an ordinary comedian, shoes strapped to whoopee cushions would be the height of comedic desperation. But Fozzie is no ordinary comedian. He’s a Muppet, one of the beloved gang of world-famous puppets created by Jim Henson, and a co-star of “The Muppets.”
The enduring genius of the Muppets is that, at their best, they take childlike humor and make it charming, lovable and funny. That’s why they’re still making Muppet movies after all these years, and why kids and adults still show up to see them.
Face it: We all love the Muppets. And after their latest cinematic outing, lots of people are going to love them even more.
Without Ron Paul in the mix, last night's debate would have been more a bidding up of hostility to foreigners (except Israel) than any actual arena of opposing ideas on the future of American foreign policy.
Paul started off talking of "needless and unnecessary wars" making us less safe and beggering our coffers; probably slipped by using Timothy McVeigh as an example of how normal legal procedures can deal with terrorism (and I wish he'd have challenged Ed Meese on the factual significance of these alleged 42 terror assaults that Patriot Act has stopped; aren't they in fact mostly ginned-up nonsense such as Jacob Sullum blogged about earlier today?) since it allowed Gingrich to claim that the real goal are legal procedures that make sure nothing bad ever happens. Paul had a good rescue by stressing the threat to liberty of priviliging stopping crimes above any other concern, but I wonder how resonant such concerns are.
Paul reminded us that we might not want to give the president the sole power to assassinate Americans on his say so; that Israel can likely make the most intelligent decision on their own as to whether to start attacking Iranian alleged nuclear site and we should neither be dictating such decisions nor committing to help with them; that trying to buy friendship overseas with foreign aid doesn't always work; that foreign aid isn't necessary for overseas development and in fact is often more like making poor people here support rich people over there; and kept reminding his fellow alleged fiscal conservatives that foreign policy has real financial costs that they are never thinking of.
Paul also last night hit the drug war as "another war we ought to cancel," at length, concluding "the federal war on drugs is a total failure" with specific hat tips toward the absurdity of federal assaults on states with medical pot; and that meddling in the Middle East is what gins up terror against us in the Middle East, with his usual calls to empathetic understanding, considering what we would think/do if other countries did to us what we blithely do to other countries--"it's just looking for trouble, why don't we mind our own business?"
Paul's most summational quotable quote, applicable to not only foreign policy but so much about the current plans and ambitions of the U.S. government: "It's a road to disaster. We better wake up."
Here's the Paul-centric highlights clip from last night:
In other Paul observations and news:
*Paul as the only voice last night against racial profiling in the name of the war on terror.
*AEI sums up the debate it co-sponsored, giving as much attention to Jon Huntsman's wan anti-nation-building comments as to Paul's concerted assault on the roots of GOP and American foreign policy.
*Glenn Greenwald from Salon attacks the nature and character of the interlocutors at the debate, and hat-tips to Paul's rare sense:
It was like a carnival of war criminals, warmongers, torturers, and petty tyrants: Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese, best known for his 1980s war on pornography, was dredged up to demand that the government be vested with more Patriot Act powers (because he’s a believer in individual liberty and small government); there was long-time supporter of Ahmad Chalabi and a war on Iran, Danielle Pletka; Iraq War propagandist andtorture regime architect Paul Wolfowitz; and Fred Kagan of the mighty Kagan warrior family. But remember: as the supremely “objective” CBS‘ Bob Schieffer made clear in his snickering, scornful interview on Face the Nation this weekend, it is Ron Paul who is crazy and bizarre for suggesting that U.S. aggression played a role in motivating 9/11 and for being worried that bellicose actions against Iran are making things worse and may lead to war.
*From Paul's campaign web site blogger Jack Hunter, a set of media stars giving Paul props for schooling Romney last night on the myth of defense cuts.
*The Christian Science Monitor from a few days ago collecting examples of major media now taking Paul seriously, in a story that was front-page linked on Drudge. While I don't follow Drudge meticulously, various Paulistas believe this might have been his first big-time positive play for Paul on that site, which they see in itself as a further sign of Paul's reputational rise.
*In a poll commissioned by Paul-supporting superpac RevolutionPAC, Paul actually is winning in Iowa with 25 percent. Here's why they think their poll is better than others:
The TeleResearch survey is the first to incorporate disaffected Democrats and Independents who will not vote to reelect Obama and will instead crossover to participate in the Iowa Republican Caucus, as well as likely Republican caucus-goers.
Survey sample size is approximately 2,900, with almost 700 likely Republican caucus-goers. Indiana’s TeleResearch Corp., which has been polling voters for more than 18 years, reports that the margin of error is less than 3%.
Factoring in both Republican caucus-goers and disaffected Democrats and Independents who’ve indicated that they will participate in the Iowa Republican Caucus, Ron Paul leads at 25%, with an approximate 4-point advantage over Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain.
Let this be a lesson to all government agencies. You do not need a social media presence. Say it again with me, you do not need a social media presence.
Because if you have one, the twentysomething guy you put in charge is eventually totally going to tweet this amazing freaky video about turkey fryers. And then some additional turkey safety tips. And then it's going to be a news story. And then we're all going to have to make jokes about how Department of Homeland Security overreach and unfried turkey must mean that the terrorists have won. And no one wants that.
See me talking about this important story and much, much more on Freedom Watch tonight!
What's that? You are a lazy bum and want me to embed the video? OK, here you go. Happy Thanksgiving:
Would the American economy be worse off right now without the stimulus? That’s certainly what President Obama and Democrats in Congress would like people to believe. And in an article on a new Congressional Budget Office check-up on the $825 billion stimulus package, Politico reports that, in contrast to critics who say that the stimulus was a waste, the “nonpartisan CBO figures offer a more nuanced picture of how government spending impacted an economy still coping with unemployment above 9 percent” and “an alternative glimpse of an economy with even higher unemployment and drastically lower growth.” A similar report in The Hill offers an even more triumphant take on the legislation:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Tuesday that President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package continues to benefit the struggling economy.
The agency said the measure raised gross domestic product by between 0.3 and 1.9 percent in the third quarter of 2011, which ended Sept. 30. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that GDP in that quarter was only 2 percent total.
CBO said that the stimulus also lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.2 and 1.3 percentage points and increased the number of people employed by between 0.4 million and 2.4 million.
But what neither of these reports note is that, according to the CBO’s top official, the figures in this report and previous mandatory stimulus don’t actually tell us whether or not the stimulus created jobs. That’s because, as I’ve noted so many times before, the reports rerun slightly updated versions of the same models of that were used to estimate that the stimulus would create jobs prior to the law’s passage. And lo and behold, if you create a model that predicts the law will create jobs, and then you rerun a mild variation of that model a few years later using updated figures about what money was actually spent, it still reports that the stimulus created jobs. But there’s no counting here, no real-world attempt to assess the reality of the stimulus—just a model that assumes that stimulus spending will create jobs and therefore reports that stimulus spending has in fact created jobs. As CBO director Douglas Elmendorf confirmed on the record last year in response to a question, “if the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis.”
That doesn’t mean we know the stimulus created zero jobs. Indeed, there’s on the ground evidence that the stimulus did fund at least some full-time jobs, though this doesn’t tell us anything about its net job-creation effects. It just means that the CBO’s estimates don’t tell us much about how many jobs it did or didn’t create.
But let’s assume for a moment that the CBO is basically on track with its reports. If so, the case for the stimulus is still not terribly strong. For one thing, as the CBO explains, there’s tremendous uncertainty involved in its projections, and even if you accept the CBO’s estimates, there’s still a reasonable chance that they’re far too high. As the CBO explains in its report:
If, for example, recipients’ reports include employment that would have occurred without ARRA, the impact on employment suggested by the reports could be too great. Some people whose employment was attributed to ARRA might have worked on other activities in the absence of the law—for example, a business might have bid on other projects if its resources had not been committed to projects funded by ARRA.
And in fact, we have some reported evidence that this is the case. When the Mercatus Center’s Garett Jones and Dan Rothschild conducted extensive in-person interviews of businesses that received stimulus funds, they found that “hiring people from unemployment was more the exception than the rule in our interviews.” In their survey of 85 organizations that took stimulus money, “just 42.1 percent of the workers hired at ARRA-receiving organizations after January 31, 2009, were unemployed at the time they were hired.”
Further complicating the case for the stimulus is that the CBO reports that “in contrast to its positive near-term macroeconomic effects, ARRA will reduce output slightly in the long run.” CBO estimates the overall economic output could be reduced by as much as 0.2 percent after 2016 thanks to primarily to the $825 billion increase in public debt caused by the law. Nor, the CBO projects, will the law have any substantial long-term effects on unemployment.
You can’t separate these numbers from the more positive short-term effects the CBO estimates. If you accept the CBO’s estimate that the stimulus gave the economy and unemployment a short-term boost, you also have to accept that the law also creates a long-term economic drag.
A search warrant affidavit posted by DCist illustrates the absurd contortions required to avoid prosecution under drug paraphernalia laws. D.C. police sought the warrant, which they used for raids on two Capitol Hemp locations last month, after an undercover officer was approached by a store employee handing out flyers outside a nightclub. Here is how the affidavit describes the encounter:
The unidentified male said "Hey, 10% off water pipes man, come by." Your Affiant said "Yeah man, I'm in the market for a good one. Do you have any 3 or 6 footers? There's nothing like packing a fat bong hit and shot gunning it through a 6 footer." The white male replied "We have a 6 footer but it's more like a display piece. But we have stackable pieces, kinda like legos." Your Affiant said "I'm all about it, I need something to smoke my herb in." The white male said in a long drawn out tone "Oh yeah man, we got the water pipes bro come by."
Assuming this account is accurate, the leaflet distributor erred by not immediately correcting the cop's use of the word bong. "We do not sell bongs," he should have said. "We sell water pipes for consumption of tobacco and other perfectly legal plant matter." The cop's mention of "herb" is also potentially problematic, although it could be interpreted as a reference to legal smoking material rather than a euphemism for marijuana.
But this is really a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. When the same officer stopped by Capitol Hemp to pick up a bong—er, water pipe—the employees were more careful about terminology, which he also viewed as suspicious. DCist summarizes:
When he asked for a bong, salespeople would correct him and say that they only sold water pipes. He also said that every time he referenced marijuana, the salespeople would change the subject, which he claimed was "unnatural and deceptive" behavior.
The District of Columbia Drug Paraphernalia Act makes it a crime to sell drug paraphernalia "knowingly, or under circumstances where one reasonably should know" that it will be used to consume illegal substances. Last August, in a case involving glass pens that double as crack pipes, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals upheld the law, reading it to require both specific intent and knowledge. It said both these elements can be established with "credible and compelling direct, indirect, or circumstantial evidence that, at the time of the sale, the owner or clerk ofa retail establishment had knowledge or reasonably should have known that the buyer would use the items" to consume illegal drugs.
That wide evidentiary net explains why police, in trying to establish that Capitol Hemp broke the law, cited not just what its employees said or allowed to be said about items that might or might not be drug paraphernalia but also the store's indisputably legal merchandise. "While hemp is legal," says the affidavit, "the hemp clothing, accessories, food, books and promotions within 'Capitol Hemp' only direct one to see that the focus of the store is its promotion of marijuana, its illegal use and the sales of devices to smoke marijuana." As DCist suggests, the upshot of using such evidence is that people can be punished for exercising their First Amendment rights: The same item might be deemed legal when sold on its own but illegal when sold alongside pro-cannabis literature or (as in this case) "even a DVD titled '10 Rules of Dealing with Police.'"
I noted that problem in "Bongs Away!," my 2009 Reason story about drug paraphernalia laws. While the Supreme Court has dismissed such concerns, the focus on countercultural signifiers and pro-drug (or anti-prohibition) speech is of a piece with the whole anti-paraphernalia crusade, which is best understood as a reaction against messages that offend people.
For more on the free speech and due process issues raised by drug paraphernalia laws, I highly recommend Thomas Regnier's recent article (PDF) in the New York University Journal of Legislation and Public Policy.
In today's New York Times, Michael Powell notes that the New York Police Department is not wild about letting journalists get near uncomfortable situations such as the early morning removal of Occupy Wall Street's Zuccotti Park encampment on November 15 — even if those reporters have official press credentials. But some media outlets are not interested in being corralled by the NYPD, even if it's for their own "safety."
On Monday, The New York Times and 12 other organizations sent a letter of protest to the Police Department. “The police actions of last week,” the authors said, “have been more hostile to the press than any other event in recent memory.”
Their letter offered five examples. I’ll mention one: As the police carried off a young protester whose head was covered in a crown of blood, a photographer stood behind a metal barricade and raised his camera. Two officers ran at him, grabbed the barrier and struck him in the chest, knees and shins. You are not permitted, the police yelled, to photograph on the sidewalk.
Gothamist points to an awesome woman who knows her rights, knows how to stand her ground, and manages not to antagonize the cops, who don't seem as angry about her defiance as they seem baffled. The woman is Barbara Ross, apparently an activist with Time's Up! "NYC's Direct Action Environmental Organization." Regardless of her politics, Ross is a champion at not backing down.
Ross tells us she stood there for about two hours, defying repeated orders to disperse. she says. "I was so angry at what was going on around me I decided I was needed to be there to document this outrageous, illegal, unjust action orchestrated by Bloomberg and Kelly, and would do anything needed to get it on video. Finally I was physically pushed by a couple of female officers into the press pen."
After listening to a Mitt Romney campaign spokesperson bash Newt Gingrich for supporting a 1986 immigration amnesty in last night’s post-debate spin room, The Examiner’s Philip Klein asked what exactly the former Massachusetts governor had in mind for the millions of undocumented immigrants already inside U.S. borders. Klein ended up in what he describes as an “Abbot and Costello” routine:
I followed up by asking Fehrnstrom whether Romney believed in deporting those immigrants who are already here illegally.
“He doesn’t believe in granting them amnesty,” Fehrnstrom responded.
That started a back and forth exchange worthy of Abbott and Costello, as Fehrnstrom kept continuing to drive the "no amnesty" point home, and I tried to get more details.
I followed up again, asking what "no amnesty" would mean for the people already here.
“Well, first, you have to get turn off the magnets to get them to stop coming.”
Again, I asked about those already here.
“He would not grant them amnesty," Fehrnstrom said.
"But what would he do with them?" I asked.
He reiterated, "He would not grant them amnesty."
I asked again, "But what would he do?"
“I just told you, he’s not going to grant them amnesty," he said.
Again, I said, “That’s not an answer, that’s telling me what he won’t do. What would he do?
“He would not grant them amnesty," he repeated.
Finally, after I asked the question for a seventh time, Fehrnstrom responded by emphasizing employer enforcement as a way to get illegal immigrants to leave through attrition.
“Well, if you cut off their employment, if they can’t get work, if they can’t get benefits like in state tuition, they will leave," he said.
I asked if that would take care of all of the illegal immigrants, and he said, “Enough of them would leave that it wouldn’t be as big of a problem as it is today.”
Just to be clear, I wanted to know about those that still could remain under such a scenario.
“I just answered your question Phil, and you keep hectoring me about it," he snapped. "You turn off the magnets, no in state tuition, no benefits of any kind, no employment. You put in place an employment verification system with penalties for employers that hire illegals, that will shut off access to the job market, and they will self retreat. They will go to their native countries.”
Here’s something Fehrnstrom fails to note: In 2005, Romney spoke kindly of a Bush era plan to provide undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. The next year, he changed his tune, denouncing the same plan as “amnesty.” Which we now know quite clearly Romney would not support.
In a story headlined "Teens Turn to Digital Drugs," NBC Connecticut almost lets the truth get in the way of good scare. It starts out strong, warning that "for as little as $1, you can download audio files that promise to deliver the experience of being drunk or of taking marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy or just about any other drug you can name." Stephanie Moran, program director at the Governor's Prevention Partnership, is concerned, saying: "There's one track that actually mimics driving under the influence of alcohol. There's other ones for crystal meth, cocaine, heroin, all different kinds of drugs." But NBC Connecticut tosses a wet blanket on the smoldering panic halfway through the piece:
It's no secret that music can affect one's mood, and binaural beats do exist, but doctors said there's no scientific basis that binaural beats can get you high.
"Saying it will induce specific recreational drug experiences, it's really a hoax in my opinion," Dr. Daniyal Ibrahim, chief of toxicology at St. Francis Hospital, said. "There is no logical basis to suggest that somehow listening to sound that will simulate a neurochemical change that a drug is predictably doing to kids."
What videotaped experiences on YouTube show is the power of suggestion, he said.
"I think it's what we call the placebo effect," Ibrahim said.
But even though "i-dosing" does not really work and has no known negative side effects, that does not mean parents shouldn't worry about it:
The big fear is that experimenting with digital drugs might make some teens more curious to experience the real thing, especially those who are on the fence and might not want to try any illegal drug.
Dr. Ibrahim said it's a dangerous, slippery slope.
"To me, it's really a gateway for inciting kids to try real drugs that's my biggest concern," he said.
Experts say that, although no studies have been done on digital drugs, "i-dosing" promotes drug use, so parents should discuss it with their children.
Nice save, NBC Connecticut! A slippery slope and a gateway: I-dosing is no big deal by itself, but it might lead to pot smoking, which also is no big deal by itself but might lead to heroin addiction. Here are some other things that should be discouraged because they might stimulate a desire to use drugs: dreaming, meditation, religious ecstasy, spinning in a circle, vigorous exercise, and local news coverage.
More on digital drugs.
In a time of 9 percent unemployment, a faltering global economy, toxic levels of political rancor, and the release of Twilight: Breaking Dawn, is there anything left to be thankful for?
Reason offers a message of hope, redemption, and dada.
About 30 seconds. Produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie.
Key moments in Thanksgiving history:
1621: Pilgrims in Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts and Wampanoag Indians celebrate a harvest feast that is generally acknowledged as the precursor to Thanksgiving.
1675-1676: About 40 percent of Wampanoag tribe killed by colonists and other Indians during King Phillip's War.
1777: During Revolutionary War, Continental Congress makes first Thanksgiving proclamation, declaring December 18 a day that no work should be done or fun should be had, thus paving the way for the contemporary tradition of spending time with family and watching dull NFL games featuring the Detroit Lions. The original declaration instructs "That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion."
1863: Abraham Lincoln sets the last Thursday in November as the date for a national holiday dedicated to the idea that even with the Civil War raging, things had been going pretty well when you got right down to it: "Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom."
1915: Preacher William Simmons and 15 others revived the Ku Klux Klan by burning a cross on Georgia's Stone Mountain on Thanksgiving, tying the event to the Atlanta opening the following week of D.W. Griffith's pro-Klan movie, The Birth of a Nation.
1924: First Macy's Day Parade held in New York City featuring live animals on floats. After multiple episodes of tigers and bears eating beauty queens and local politicians, the animals are replaced in 1927 with balloons of Felix the Cat and other characters.
1939: In a bid to lengthen the Christmas retail season, Franklin Roosevelt unilaterally declared Thanksgiving would take place on the third Thursday in November rather than the last, thus giving rise to what was derided as "Franksgiving" and what lives on as Black Friday. In 1941, federal legislation declared Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, marking the last time that Congress passed a law that didn't cost future generations a lot of money.
1987: Ronald Reagan initiates the custom of publicly pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving; lives to regret it when George H.W. Bush succeeds him as president. Subsequent presidents pardon two turkeys each holiday, because two is twice as good as one.
2009: President Barack Obama fattens turkeys with stimulus dollars, predicts swift end to surprisingly persistent economic downturn that he inherited from previous occupant.
2011: In a bid to appeal to GOP voters, free-falling Republican presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry of Texas refuses to review clemency requests and approves the execution of innocent turkeys. For the purposes of school-lunch programs, federal government declares pizza a vegetable and pepper spray a condiment for educational institutions.
Gridlock is ordinarily the most constructive and moral form of government, but with entitlement programs on autopilot self-destruct, we're in trouble. So Americans turned their weary eyes toward a dream team, a supercommittee, a 12-member panel of our brightest lights, charged with identifying a measly $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years. Save us. Republicans—believe them or not—claimed to want to save $700 billion by block granting Medicaid, another $400 billion in spending cuts, $1.4 trillion in cuts to some mandatory health care programs, and about $150 billion in cuts to the federal workforce. Democrats, on the other hand, reportedly wanted to pass a new $447 billion spending bill (perhaps forgetting that this was a wish list for a deficit reduction committee) and $1 trillion in tax hikes on those 1-percenters. Since Washington spent $1 trillion more than it took in just last year, this would provide nearly no purpose over 10 years—well, other than a political one.
But everyone understands that this entire process was theater, writes David Harsanyi. If members of Congress, with a $15 trillion debt and a trillion-dollar yearly deficit, can't find $1.2 trillion to cut in 10 years, the only reason is they aren't serious.View this article
We'll be putting up our 2011 Thanksgiving video in just a little while today. In the meantime, relax with our offering from last year's holiday. Here's the original writeup:
The Pilgrims founded their colony at Plymouth Plantation in December 1620 and promptly started dying off in droves.
As the colony's early governor, William Bradford, wrote in "Of Plymouth Plantation":
That which was most sadd & lamentable was, that in 2. or 3. moneths time halfe of their company dyed.
When the settlers finally stopped croaking, they set about creating a heaven on earth, a society without private property, where all worked for the common good. Everything was shared. Especially bitching and moaning about working for the common good. Bradford again:
Yong-men that were most able and fitte for labour and service did repine that they should spend their time and streingth to worke for other mens wives and children, with out any recompense....And for men's wives to be commanded to doe service for other men, as dresing their meate, washing their cloaths, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brooke it.
With nobody working, everybody was suffering. And in case you think nobody was working simply because they couldn't understand a damn thing Bradford was saying, chew on this: In 1623, Bradford and the other leaders
...assigned to every family a parceel of land...this had very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more torne was planted then other waise would have bene by any means the Govr or any other could use, and saved him a great deall of trouble, and gave farr better contente.
In no time at all
any generall wante of famine hath not been amongest them since to this day.
America would never go hungry again. So this week, before you drift into your annual tryptophan-induced coma, don't forget to give thanks to the true patron of this holiday feast: property rights.
Approximately 2.30 minutes.
Produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie. Voices by Meredith Bragg and Austin Bragg.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration has squashed an 88-year-old entreprenur's business because his product, iodine crystals used to purify water, has shown up in some meth labs. The DEA won't let Bob Wallace, a retired metallurgist who runs his business out of his Sarasota garage along with his 85-year-old girlfriend, buy the iodine he needs to make his Polar Pure crystals unless he implements prohibitively expensive security measures. Wallace's reaction:
"This old couple, barely surviving old farts, and we're supposed to be meth dealers? This is just plain stupid," Wallace said, as he sat in the nerve center of his not-so-clandestine compound surrounded by contoured hiking maps, periodic tables and the prototypes of metal snowshoes he invented a few years ago. "These are the same knotheads that make you take your shoes off in the airport."
The DEA's justification:
"Methamphetamine is an insidious drug that causes enormous collateral damage," wrote Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman. "If Mr. Wallace is no longer in business he has perhaps become part of that collateral damage, for it was not a result of DEA regulations, but rather the selfish actions of criminal opportunists. Individuals that readily sacrifice human lives for money."
Insidious drugs did not put Wallace out of business. An insidious drug war did that.
[via Boing Boing, by way of Radley Balko's Twitter feed]
The story of Jose Pimentel, the alleged New York City pipe bomber whose arrest was announced on Sunday, is starting to have a familiar ring. Like other terrorism suspects prosecuted in recent years, he seems to be a schlemiel who was egged on by a government informant. The New York Times reports that the FBI repeatedly declined to pursue the case because it was concerned that the informant had enabled Pimentel to begin implementing a plot he never would have executed on his own:
The suspect had little money to speak of, was unable to pay his cellphone bill and scrounged for money to buy the drill bits that court papers said he required to make his pipe bombs. Initially, he had trouble drilling the small holes that needed to be made in the metal tubes....
The informer provided companionship and a staging area so Mr. Pimentel, a Muslim convert, could build three pipe bombs while the Intelligence Division of the New York Police Department built its case...
There was concern that the informer might have played too active a role in helping Mr. Pimentel, said several people who were briefed on the case....
Intelligence Division detectives have had Mr. Pimentel, a native of the Dominican Republic and naturalized American citizen, under surveillance for more than two years and made more than 400 hours of secret recordings, but his efforts to make the pipe bombs did not develop until mid-October, according to the criminal complaint against him....
Investigators were concerned that the case raised some entrapment questions, two people said. They added that some investigators wondered whether Mr. Pimentel had the even small amount of money or technical know-how necessary to produce a pipe bomb on his own, had he not received help from the informer.
It is to be expected that the most incompetent terrorists are the ones who will tend to be caught before they do any damage. And those who attempt to kill people, such as would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid, would-be underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and would-be car bomber Faisal Shahzad, obviously should not get off simply because they were not smart enough to achieve their goals. But in cases like Pimentel's, the Liberty City Seven prosecution, and the JFK jet fuel plot, there is a real question as to whether the defendants would have posed any threat at all if they'd been left alone. The Times, by the way, notes "a practical advantage" to prosecuting Pimentel in state court: "state prosecutors said they were allowed to charge Mr. Pimentel with a conspiracy, even if he were acting with just the informant; federal law does not permit charging such a conspiracy."
- PC World takes Republicans to task for opposing Net Neutrality rules only to turn around and support the far worse Stop Online Piracy Act.
- In new Quinnipiac poll, Newt Gingrich leads Romney on every issue but one—"strong moral character."
- Jennifer Fox, the allegedly pregnant Seattle Occupier who claimed to have miscarried after getting pepper-sprayed, may not have been pregnant and/or miscarried.
- Miami residents are likely going to be stuck paying the property taxes on the parking garages at the new Florida Marlins stadium.
- Occupiers walking from New York to D.C. finally arrive in D.C., can't decide what to do next.
- Man catches 881-pound tuna by accident. Feds claim he caught it illegally, confiscate the fish, sell it for close to half a million, and keep the money.
New at Reason.tv: "Judge Napolitano: Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Gov't is Dangerous"
The idea that Congress can delegate difficult fiscal decisions to an autonomous body speaks volumes about the abysmal failure of our elected representatives to do the work they were hired to do, writes Senior Editor Jacob Sullum. Now that the latest attempt to reassign the power of the purse has collapsed in ignominy, Sullum says, it hardly seems likely that Congress will rise to the task, especially since it has not managed to pass an actual budget (as opposed to continuing resolutions) in more than two and a half years.View this article
As the GOP presidential contenders busily debate questions of foreign policy and defense in the latest debate (really, these people are on the sort of never-ending tour that would put Bob Dylan in the grave already), take a break from the scrum of politics and dive into Reason's super-scientific[*] quiz to find which candidate most closely matches your feelings about everything from foreign policy to government spending to the drug war to immigration to gay marriage to education and more. You're only eight questions away from finding out who your GOP dream date really is.
Go here to take the quiz and find out whether you've got a terminal case of Bachmannitis or whether you're squirmin' for Herman (Cain, that is!). Then again, maybe Huntsman's the one who cleaves your heart or you grok Slick Rick Santorum. We've got 'em all (including Sarah Palin, who like William Tecumseh Sherman chose not to run, except in charity 5Ks). Why, there's even current leaders Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney to choose from; check 'em out before their poll numbers go further south than Rick Perry touring Brownsville. And of course, the two explicitly libertarian candidates, Rep. Ron Paul and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Be still, your beating heart!
[*]: For the purposes of the quiz, we are using super-scientific in its Republican context. So we really mean made-up.
If it's anything like the National Anthem, it will be excruciating.
The blogosphere is buzzing over the release of some 5,000 emails from climate researchers earlier today. The new emails seem to be from the same batch released two years ago that caused the Climategate furor. Naturally, climate disaster skeptics are already hailing them and climate catastrophists are decrying them.
A new United Nations report projects man-made global warming will boost the damage caused by heat waves, coastal floods, and droughts as they get worse by the end of the century. On the other hand, researchers probing weather damage reports have not been able to identify a global warming signal yet. In fact, global weather disaster mortality rates are down by as much 99 percent from a century ago. And taking into account that there's lots more property for floods and hurricanes to destroy, the trends in economic losses are flat or declining as well. As Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey notes, climate change or no climate change, bad weather plus poverty has always been a good recipe for disaster.View this article
Jonathan and Brittany Whitworth became inadvertent youtube stars last year thanks to the Columbia, Missouri Police Department. The footage of the February 2010 narcotics raid on the Whitworth home — filmed by the SWAT team themselves —has now been watched more than 1.8 million times.
But as Radley Balko noted in May 2010, this raid wasn't unique, in fact it was far less of a disaster than it could have been: the police announced their presence, no humans were killed or injured, and it was even the correct house, in that it contained the person listed on the warrant. (And indeed, Jonathan plead guilty and paid a $300 fine for possession of drug paraphernalia, The parents were initially charged with child endangerment. Which is hilarious, considering who was firing weapons in a house which contained a child.)
Still, Jonathan Whitworth's baffled yells and the horrible whimpering of his injured dog made this raid go viral in a way that most of the 150 daily SWAT raids never will.
Now the Whitworths' civil suit has been dismissed by a federal judge. According to the Columbia Daily Tribune:
[The judge] found few, if any, facts to support many of the allegations in the complaint. She also found cause for tactics used by officers to conduct the raid, force used against Jonathan Whitworth during his arrest and the actions toward the wife and son to be proper....
The lawsuit was seeking restitution for damages to personal property and medical and veterinary expenses. It was filed in September 2010 against the 12 police officers who were at the raid for their contribution toward an alleged violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.
Watch the raid for yourself if you've never seen it. The offensive language is not the offensive part.
But at least, says the Daily Tribune, the police were kind to the family after they murdered their pet:
Brittany Whitworth and her son were escorted outside the house after asking to be moved so they couldn’t see the dead dog, according to the order.
Officers complied with requests for blankets and shoes as they went out to wait in a patrol vehicle for the next two hours. That car was later moved upon the mother’s request so the boy would not see the dog’s remains taken out by animal control.
Police complied with an additional request to allow Brittany Whitworth to mop up the dog’s blood and for officers to tell her son that “Nala was alive and being taken to be a police dog.”
If there is any smidgen of effect, it's notional, and probably only psychological. Overall, vodka-in-a-tampon seems a very inefficient, not to mention unpleasant, way to get drunk. I suppose the positive is that there is no danger of a second round. And I can't even imagine trying to do this at a party. You'd be walking around all night looking like you'd wet your pants, with a pleading expression on your face that said: Does anyone have a fire hose?
That last line is a reference to the nearly intolerable burning sensation that accompanied the experiment. Hats off to Crittenden for demonstrating the impracticality of this purportedly popular route to intoxication—in particular, the difficulty of administering more than an ounce or so, of which very little seems to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Next up: butt chugging. Any volunteers?
In what has become a common trope among respectable right-wingers, Ramesh Ponnuru joins David Frum in blaming (at least partially) libertarian thinking for corrupting the modern GOP--specifically, by claiming that believing "big government" thinking has been an electoral problem for the GOP is causing the GOP to think shrinking government matters more than it does. (Rather, he believes it has been radical intransigence and not addressing wage stagnation that hurt Republicans' electoral prospects in recent years.)
Daniel McCarthy at American Conservative counters and sums up some sad realities about what the modern Republican Party does stand for.
Wage stagnation is a long-term problem, but there’s little evidence that it contributed to the GOP’s defeat in 2006; certainly Ponnuru provides none. It sounds like a device to minimize the role foreign policy played in the GOP’s descent. The Ponnuru line is that Republicans should do more of what he likes — bribing the middle class with dubious social programs like Medicare Part D or mandatory retirement savings programs (a great handout to Wall Street) — while ignoring the uncomfortable truth that a war Ponnuru supported cost his party dearly....
It certainly is a myth that Republicans lost in 2006 or 2008 because they were too big government, but small-government ideology, which was neither preached nor practiced then, can hardly be blamed either....
The truth that hardly gets spoken is that certain Republican pundits who consider themselves social conservatives have a vision for this country that amounts to a hybrid of European-style Christian Democracy and Chilean semi-privatization of the welfare state, along with a values-hyping foreign policy delegated to outright neoconservatives and a managerial-therapeutic approach to the poor. The Bush administration, especially in its first term, was the closest these pundits ever came to getting what they want. And it was a strategic, fiscal, and moral disaster for the country.
Me from 2004 on why the right-wing matters less than it thinks.
Thanks to city and state taxes that add $5.85 to the retail price, New Yorkers commonly pay more than $10 for a pack of cigarettes. But at two shops in Chinatown and on Staten Island, customers can get cigarettes for half that price by rolling their own from loose tobacco and paper tubes, using the stores' machines. The proprietors argue that they owe no cigarette tax because they are not selling cigarettes, merely the materials needed to make them. The city, not surprisingly, disagrees. "By selling illegally low-priced cigarettes," it complains in a federal lawsuit, "defendants not only interfere with the collection of city cigarette taxes, they also impair the city's smoking cessation programs and impair individual efforts at smoking reduction, thereby imposing higher health care costs on the city and injuring public health."
[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]
Hugo is the ultimate kid’s movie, in a sense, observes Kurt Loder, because its director, Martin Scorsese, turns out to be the ultimate kid. It’s a movie about movies, and the ways in which they came to occupy people’s hearts and minds. There’s a pair of inquisitive children, a hazardous quest, and a wondrous treasure. But the child at the center of the story, looking back more than a hundred years to the wellspring of his art, is Scorsese himself.View this article
Reason.tv editor in chief Nick Gillespie appeared on Freedom Watch to discuss how proposed spending cuts are all hype, as federal spending is only on the rise.
Air Date: November 21, 2011.
Follow Gillespie on Twitter and buy the book he coauthored with Matt Welch, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America.
Here's former Defense Secretary William Cohen - a former GOP senator from Maine who served in Bill Clinton's cabinet - tossing a big smoke grenade in the New York Times to provide cover for a new push for increased defense spending:
I have long been concerned that my party’s rigid antitax ideology is harming the fiscal health of our nation. Now it is harming our national security as well, as cuts in defense spending on a calamitous scale are about to be triggered. Congressional Republicans need to look back at this sad episode and decide: Do they care more about keeping “a no tax pledge” or giving our troops the tools they need to protect the nation?
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta is already cutting deeply into the Pentagon’s budget, reducing spending by $465 billion over the coming decade. He has indicated that he plans to cut areas once considered untouchable, like military medical and retirement benefits. Savings might also be found in commissaries and exchanges, tuition assistance and duplicative family-support programs....
The Navy is likely to mothball 60 ships, including two carrier battle groups — a possibility that led Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, the chief of naval operations, to testify that the cuts could “impact the fleet for 20 to 50 years.” The Air Force might have to give up one-third of its fighters and a quarter of its long-range bombers, calling into question our nuclear deterrent. The Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, testified that the Air Force “may not be able to overcome dire consequences.” And the Army is likely to have to give up nearly a third of its Army Maneuver Battalions — which is why the Army chief of staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, has warned that the cuts would leave us with “an unacceptable level of strategic and operational risk.” The cuts would also decimate the Marine Corps, leaving it “below the end strength level that’s necessary to support even one major contingency,” the service’s commandant, Gen. James F. Amos, has warned.
Where do you start with something like this? Because the super committee failed in its mission to generate plan to cut $1.2 trillion in spending over the next decade, the automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts that go into effect beginning in 2013 will be really bad for the military, argues Cohen. Exactly how anti-tax ideology figures into any of this is unclear, since Cohen could have argued just as easily that Democrats' unwillingness to offer spending cuts created the committee's impasse.
Defense Secretary Panetta "might" find savings in commissaries and "duplicative" programs? Well have at it already! Nothing's stopping you. Has a decade-plus of elective wars done anything to degrade our defense capabilities? Cohen's not saying.
But let's focus in on the former secretary's completely phony notion that the Defense budget is in any way threatened by "cuts." Most of us would take this to mean that you spend less money on something from year to year. That isn't what's happening.
Here's a chart created by Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy that shows the effect of the sequester cuts on spending over the next decade.
The numbers here come from the Congressional Budget Office's August update of the budget baseline. Assuming the sequester cuts actually kick in 2013, what you see is a 16 percent increase in defense spending over the next decade. An increase, not a cut. And, lest we forget, that 16 percent increase will come on top of a 71 percent increase (in real, inflation-adjusted dollars; see figure 5) between 2001 and 2010. According to CBO, annual budgets are going nowhere but up whether the sequester kicks in or not.
If Cohen's bleating about the U.S. military being hollowed out sounds familiar, it's because he's simply following the same script as right-wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, who have equated any spending restraint on defense with cheaping out on the "price of greatness." What Cohen's piece thus reveals is not a dire emergency for national defense but just exactly how the military-industrial complex works: We've always got to be spending tons more on defense. Spending less that we can imagine is exactly the sort of cut that will leave us vulnerable to any enemy you can imagine and is just unpatriotic.
Take it away, Ike (who knew war and defense as well as anyone alive today):
Yesterday President Obama announced his third round of clemency actions, including his first commutation. He shortened the sentence of Eugenia Jennings, an Illinois woman who was convicted in 2001 of selling 13.9 grams of crack to a police informant, from 22 years to 10, allowing her to be released from prison next month. "Eugenia Jennings's 22-year sentence for her nonviolent offense was overkill," said Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). "Today President Obama rights that wrong and we are grateful to him. We urge the President to continue exercising his clemency power and grant more commutations to the many deserving federal prisoners, like Eugenia, who have paid a hefty price for their mistakes and deserve a second chance."
Two years ago, Jennings' brother, Cedric Parker, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs about the irrational sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine powder. "Had Eugenia been sentenced for powder cocaine instead of crack cocaine," he noted, "even as a 'career offender,' her sentence would have been less than half the one she received for crack cocaine." Last year Obama, a longtime critic of excessively harsh drug sentences, signed legislation that reduced this penalty gap, but it did not apply retroactively. Hence there are thousands of crack offenders in federal prison who, by Obama's own reckoning, are serving much longer sentences than they deserve. Next month, thanks to his commutation, there will be one fewer.
The five other clemency actions Obama announced yesterday fit the pattern set by his first 17: They are all pardons for people who completed their sentences years ago. One served nine years for transporting stolen property, one got probation for "directing an illegal gambling business," and three are marijuana offenders whose sentences ranged from probation to three years in prison. Without discounting the value of pardons in such cases (especially when the offenders did nothing that should have been illegal in the first place), I think it is fair to say that the petitions of people still languishing in prison are more urgent, especially when they remain there because of sentences that Obama himself has said are unconscionably long.
While commutations historically are much rarer than pardons, Obama has been unusually slow and stingy in both areas. Even George W. Bush, who had one of the worst clemency records ever, had granted more pardons and commutations at this point in his first administration. And unlike Obama, Bush had not made a point of condemning "long minimum sentences" for drug offenses as "unfair and unjust."
Would you buy cufflinks that used to be part of a Kalashnikov? Peter Thum hopes you—or at least some of those one-percenters—will.
In 2001, Thum founded Ethos Water, a company he eventually sold to Starbucks that uses 5¢ from each sale of its bottled water to fund water sanitation projects around the globe. This year, he helped launch Fonderie 47, a nonprofit group company that purchases assault rifles in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and turns them into "rare jewelry, watches, and accessories." The organization’s cufflinks reportedly cost around $35,000. Earrings run $150,000.
Thum and his co-founder John Zapolski started the organization after traveling extensively in Africa. “They have seen assault rifles in the hands of children,” a Fonderie 47 press release says, “and witnessed firsthand the problem of assault rifles and how it hinders many aspects of development across Africa.” To date, the group has destroyed more than 6,000 assault rifles purchased in the DRC and hopes eventually to eradicate illegal firearms from the continent.
The initiative sounds like a fantastic feel-good effort to fight child-soldiering and similar scourges, at least as long as you ignore the elephant in the room: How will it affect the local gun trade?
Forbes contributor Elmira Bayrasli queried Diana Wueger, who writes about international and domestic small-arms at the blog Gunpowder and Lead and for The Atlantic, about the organization. Wueger raised the salient concerns:
“Guns in conflict zones are commodities that obey basic economic principles—the market reacts to an increased demand by increasing prices, which could lead to some serious—and unpredictable—second-order effects.”
Bayrasli reports that the organization only works with “verified government sources,” not the open market:
Thum also notes that he would not have “started doing this” if he didn’t believe that by “buying up cheap weapons we can move the supply curve inward.” Replacement weapons, he notes, are more expensive in Africa, compared to the rest of the world. In Africa these weapons cost only about one-third what they do elsewhere in the world, so resupply from outside is expensive.
But if the initiative's purchases increases gun demand and prices rise, criminals and rebels and people generally will look for ways to get their weapons into the trade—through concealed government backchannels or bribes, perhaps. Fonderie 47 could wind up helping fund the types of activity it seeks to eradicate, and nefarious types still probably wouldn’t have trouble acquiring some of the estimated 20 million assault rifles in Africa.
The prevalence of illegal firearms may be an epiphenomenon anyway, clouding the underlying causes of the African conflicts Fonderie 47 seeks to remedy.
Read Reason on the related-but-different topic of gun control here.
The headline of today's Foreign Policy cover story is telling: Propagandastan.
Is U.S. taxpayer money being given to a for-profit military contractor to shill for a Central Asian dictator, just because he's a useful ally in the war on terror?
"It's disturbing, to say the least," says Alexander Cooley, a political scientist at Barnard College who writes frequently about America's military footprint in Central Asia. "I would not expect anyone who is otherwise involved as a contractor or a subcontractor for U.S. security agencies to provide objective news analysis of terrorism. Part of covering terrorism means covering both the emergence of legitimate threats, but also covering how the specter of terror is used as political cover for governments to clamp down on political opponents," Cooley said. He called the "fluff" on Central Asia Online "just propaganda."
The military contractor in question is General Dynamics, who the Defense Department is paying over $120 million (a figure that keeps increasing) to run the Trans Regional Web Initiative (TRWI), for "the development, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of influence websites for USSOCOM, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), and the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs)."
FP focuses primarily on Central Asia Online, one of eight TRWI websites, and its presence in Uzbekistan (FP also reminds us of another reason the single-beki, single-stan country is strategically important: an alternative to Pakistan for land supply routes for U.S. troops in Afghanistan). As examples of the publication's propaganda, FP cites a story praising Uzbekistan's measures to register religious groups, which turned out to be more about controlling religion than protecting it. Another story attempts to quash concerns of government religious intolerance.
Central Asia Online also has cozy relationship with the Uzbek government:
That Central Asia Online has seemingly unfettered access to the country's feared secret police -- the SNB -- is alone suspicious, suggesting collusion, says an Uzbek journalist who has written secretly for foreign news organizations.
"It looks like the website has a special and close relationship with the Uzbek government," he told me, responding to several Central Asia Online stories on extremism. "The authors have access to officials and clerics who customarily refuse to meet independent-minded journalists; they only talk to government-affiliated journalists whose work is approved by the SNB."
Does confessing to propaganda make propaganda less propaganda-ish?
The TRWI websites do not hide their affiliation with the U.S. military, stating it clearly in their "About" sections. The original Pentagon solicitation called the sites..."tools in support of strategic and long-term U.S. Government goals and objectives," not professional journalism.
To some extent, it doesn't matter, as other local newspapers and websites pick up and redistribute the material.
Though it is the responsibility of those outlets to attribute, many, at least in Central Asia, do not, billing the stories as original, local reporting, rather than DOD propaganda.
Just to be clear, this is DOD propaganda in support of a dictatorship with no concern for human liberty.
Read the whole thing here.
Sick of Hollywood's standard superhero fare? You could do worse than to take in J. Edgar, the new Clint Eastwood-directed biopic about the legendary FBI director who served eight presidents over nearly five decades. At its best, the movie is a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of government surveillance. For my money, writes Gene Healy, it spends too much time on Hoover's relationship with top aide and lifelong companion Clyde Tolson—an unconsummated romance, per Eastwood's take. The implication—that Hoover's (alleged) repression drove FBI oppression—muddles an important message with Freudian psychodrama.
After all, plenty of FBI agents with conventional family lives embraced COINTELPRO, the bureau's domestic espionage program, and presidents like Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, who were, let's face it, hardly sexually repressed, were themselves enthusiastic wire-tappers.View this article
"I'll say this plainly, I've said it before - Taxation is theft. It presumes the government has a higher claim on our property than we do," says Judge Andrew Napolitano, the host of Fox Business' Freedom Watch and the author of the new book, It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom.
Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with the outspoken libertarian commentator to discuss topics ranging from abortion (the judge is fiercely pro-life) to Occupy Wall Street (he welcomes the protest against corporatism) to Rep. Ron Paul ("the Barry Goldwater" of our moment) to the role of religion in the quest for freedom.
About 25 minutes. Camera by Jim Epstein and Joshua Swain; edited by Swain.
Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic notifications when new material goes live.
For previous Reason interviews with Judge Napolitano and to read his Reason archive, go here.
On Nov. 8 Virginians elected 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans to the State Senate. Because Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling presides over the Senate and can cast tie-breaking votes, the GOP has claimed a majority, and is refusing to establish a power-sharing arrangement like the one the Senate operated under the last time it was evenly divided, in the mid-1990s. Back then, the shoe was on the other foot: A Democrat, Don Beyer, was lieutenant governor. Democrats said they therefore had an effective majority, and rebuffed GOP demands to share power—until Virgil Goode, a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) said he wouldn’t be party to such a plan. Goode’s position forced a compromise and infuriated his colleagues; one Democrat fumed that Goode had "absolutely lost his mind."
Now the Democrats are saying what the Republicans were saying then, and vice versa. Putting aside the flip-flops on both sides, though, what’s wrong with their complaint? In a word, writes A. Barton Hinkle: gerrymandering. If Senate seats were apportioned according to aggregate vote totals, then Democrats would be entitled to 16, not 20 seats. So how did they get 20? By drawing the new district lines in a manner guaranteed to favor Democratic candidates.View this article
It must be the middle of November, because once again a prominent Republican is blaming the GOP’s legislative troubles on the Congressional Budget Office. Last year, Politico reported that House Speaker John Boehner was so angry about the budget office’s health care scoring that he wanted to oust director Douglas Elmendorf. This time around, it’s Newt Gingrich who’s on the attack, calling the office a “reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth, does not believe in innovation and does not believe in data that it has not internally generated,” according to CNN.
Budgeting: It’s like socialism! Except not.
Boehner’s irritation was misplaced, and so is Newt’s criticism, which ends up being more self-serving than anything else. The CBO is far from perfect—I’ve spent plenty of time arguing that its scores of President Obama’s health care overhaul don’t accurately reflect the true cost of the law. But the primary problem isn’t the CBO. It’s the elected officials who pass and write legislation. Indeed, the CBO was created in part to restrain politically motivated budgeting B.S.
As former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin told me earlier this year, the primary job of the CBO is to score, not forecast, using a consistent set of rules so that legislators and other analysts can compare the relative cost of any particular bill to other legislation. The agency doesn’t second-guess legislative proposals, or try to anticipate changes made by future Congresses. It scores each law as if it will be implemented exactly as it is on paper. “By having that set of rules for scoring, you can compare games across time, across teams, and across all sorts of situations, because you have a common thread of scores,” Holtz-Eakin said. “So the most important thing about scoring is to apply the same rules to every bill.” With the health care overhaul, Democrats in Congress knew this, and took advantage of the agency’s consistent scoring rules in order to produce a favorable legislative score.
When Gingrich complains that the office “doesn’t believe in innovation,” he’s really complaining that they look skeptically on untested budgeting ideas. It’s worth remembering that the CBO didn’t give Democrats everything they wanted on the health care bill, and precisely because of this skepticism. As Matt Yglesias points out, liberal policy wonks had hoped that the law’s array of delivery system innovations and payment reforms would be scored as producing big savings. But because the reforms were all untested, and because the federal government’s record of implementing scalable systematic reforms is weak, the CBO didn’t give them much in the way of savings.
Gingrich, a flaky innovation obsessive who has always had too many half-baked ideas for his own good, clearly doesn’t like that the CBO is bound to shrug its shoulders at his latest plan to build and staff a real-life Jurassic Park with part-time high-schoolers, or whatever.
And anyway, what’s the alternative? The CBO was created in part as an independent check on White House budget baloney, which in both Democratic and Republican administrations tends to be overly optimistic. One of the harshest assessments of the president’s budget this year came from the CBO. Without the CBO, the White House would have an even easier time touting rosy economic projections, and legislators could tout favorable cost estimates drawn up by their own staff (early in the CBO’s life, it effectively killed a universal health care bill put together by Sen. Ted Kennedy when it estimated that the law would cost three times as much as Kennedy’s staff claimed). As the health care law showed, the CBO’s rules can be gamed. But it’s still better to have those rules than to throw them out.
Gingrich’s complaints tell you more about his own penchant for policy vanity and apocalyptic name-calling than they do about the CBO, or the actual flaws in the congressional budgeting process. Like so many political narcissists, he appears to want to be able to get away with saying that legislation will cost whatever he says it will cost. And when that doesn’t happen? “Reactionary socialism!”
Sons of Anarchy is a Sopranos-style crime drama airing on FX television that follows the violent exploits of an outlaw motorcycle club known as the Sons of Anarchy. The show’s main story line is a retelling of Hamlet, with the vice president of the club, Jackson “Jax” Teller, slowly discovering that his father, the club’s founder, was murdered by the man now running the crew (and now married to his mother).
But there are a few more contemporary twists as well. One of the biggest is the recurring theme of lawless government officials. Regular viewers have already seen one federal agent stalk and assault Teller’s girlfriend, while another federal agent framed his mother, Gemma (played by former Married with Children star Katey Sagal), for murder. And now, deep into Season 4 (episode 12 airs tonight), we have yet another diabolical fed on the loose, an assistant U.S. attorney who’s more than happy to ruin careers and sacrifice human lives if it will help him build a case.
Rogue cops are nothing new on TV, of course, but rarely do we see such a relentlessly negative depiction of federal agents—particularly in contrast to the show’s often sympathetic portrayal of the murderous bikers, who are frequently shown to be men of courage operating within their own unique honor system. Unlike the typical prime-time crime drama, which features a noble hero breaking the law in pursuit of the greater good—such as counter-terrorism maestro Jack Bauer on the Fox hit 24—Sons of Anarchy makes a very different point about law and order: The government’s ends don’t always justify its means.
Consider for a moment the paradoxical pain of being a best-selling political pundit so successful that American presidents don’t just seek but heed your advice. You have lobbied in your columns for the commander in chief to deploy your signature catch phrases, and he has. You have, in times of both crisis and sloth, advocated robust federal action in the name of national “greatness,” and the people in power have mostly followed suit. You have been flattered by invitations to the White House and pecked at by lesser partisans, yet you’ve maintained your critical distance in the patriotic spirit of post-ideological problem solving. All this influence and success, and somehow the country still sucks.
Maybe those pundits should look in the mirror. As Editor in Chief Matt Welch points out, we actually live in a David Brooks/Thomas L. Friedman world, yet now that the results have come in those same pundits are trying to wash their hands of the whole experiment.View this article
The Death of a President] was Manchester's stern rejection of one major Warren Commission finding. Though he was onboard for its conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin, he did not buy its verdict that there was "no evidence" of any connection between Oswald's crime and Dallas's "general atmosphere of hate."[W]hat also struck me in a rereading [of William Manchester's
Manchester is uncharacteristically contentious about this point. He writes that "individual commissioners had strong reservations" about exonerating Dallas but decided to hedge rather than stir up any controversy that might detract from the report's "widest possible acceptance." While Manchester adds that "obviously, it is impossible to define the exact relationship between an individual and his environment," he strongly rejected the universal description of Oswald as "a loner." No man, he writes, is quarantined from his time and place. Dallas was toxic. The atmosphere was "something unrelated to conventional politics--a stridency, a disease of the spirit, a shrill, hysterical note suggestive of a deeply troubled society." Duly observing that even the greatest presidents have been vilified in their time--Lincoln as a baboon and Jefferson as "Mad Tom"--Manchester saw something "more than partisan zeal" at work in this case. He detected "a chiaroscuro that existed outside the two parties, a virulence which had infected members of both." Dallas had become the gaudy big top for a growing national movement--"the mecca for medicine-show evangelists of the National Indignation Convention, the Christian Crusaders, the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry societies."
This position was popular in the immediate aftermath of the assassination, but within a few years it faded. One major reason it faded is because it isn't enough to argue (as Rich, echoing Manchester, does at great length) that many people on the far right hated John F. Kennedy and expressed that hatred in virulent terms. You have to make the case that the assassin shared their worldview. And there's a rather big problem with that position, one that even Rich feels obliged to acknowledge:
Immediately after the assassination and ever since, the right has tried to deflect any connection between its fevered Kennedy hatred and Oswald's addled psyche with the fact that the assassin had briefly defected to the Soviet Union.
Kind of an important detail! It's hard to argue that Oswald was inspired by far-right rhetoric if his politics were sympathetic to Soviet communism. Indeed, there is strong evidence that several months before he killed Kennedy, Oswald attempted to assassinate Major General Edwin Walker, one of the loudest voices in Dallas' right-wing "atmosphere of hate." I guess that's a sort of influence, but it isn't the type that Rich is invoking.
Now, there are people who claim that Oswald's Marxism was a front and that his actual loyalties lay elsewhere. But Rich doesn't want to go down that road: It would require him to enter the thicket of JFK conspiracy theories, which he rejects with disdain. He blames the radical right for influencing the assassin through osmosis, not for giving him direct marching orders. So how does he get around the issue of the sniper's apparent sympathies?
But at the time even some Texans weren't buying that defense. An editorial in the Dallas Times Herald chastised its own city for supplying "the seeds of hate" and "the atmosphere for tragedy." The editor of the Austin American wrote that "hatred and fanaticism, the flabby spirit of complacency that has permitted the preachers of fanatical hatred to appear respectable, and the self-righteousness that labels all who disagree with us as traitors or dolts, provided the way for the vile deed that snuffed out John Kennedy's life."
Really. That's his counterargument: Even some Texans agree with me!
[Hat tip: Bryan Alexander.]
ScienceDaily is reporting a truly depressing new study that finds that when it comes to complicated economic issues, people default to trusting government to address them. Read it and weep:
The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
And the more urgent the issue, the more people want to remain unaware, according to a paper published online in APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"These studies were designed to help understand the so-called 'ignorance is bliss' approach to social issues," said author Steven Shepherd, a graduate student with the University of Waterloo in Ontario. "The findings can assist educators in addressing significant barriers to getting people involved and engaged in social issues."
Through a series of five studies conducted in 2010 and 2011 with 511 adults in the United States and Canada, the researchers described "a chain reaction from ignorance about a subject to dependence on and trust in the government to deal with the issue."
In one study, participants who felt most affected by the economic recession avoided information challenging the government's ability to manage the economy. However, they did not avoid positive information, the study said. This study comprised 197 Americans with a mean age of 35 (111 women and 89 men), who had received complex information about the economy and had answered a question about how the economy is affecting them directly.
To test the links among dependence, trust and avoidance, researchers provided either a complex or simple description of the economy to a group of 58 Canadians, mean age 42, composed of 20 men and 38 women. The participants who received the complex description indicated higher levels of perceived helplessness in getting through the economic downturn, more dependence on and trust in the government to manage the economy, and less desire to learn more about the issue.
"This is despite the fact that, all else equal, one should have less trust in someone to effectively manage something that is more complex," said co-author Aaron C. Kay, PhD, of Duke University. "Instead, people tend to respond by psychologically 'outsourcing' the issue to the government, which in turn causes them to trust and feel more dependent on the government. Ultimately, they avoid learning about the issue because that could shatter their faith in the government."
Shatter their faith in the government?! Horrors! The study also found that when it comes to other complicated issues such as those concerning energy supplies and environment, people also tended to offload their thinking to the government.
For more details, read the study, "On the perpetuation of ignorance: System dependence, system justification, and the motivated avoidance of sociopolitical information," in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology here [PDF].
Go here to find out why libertarians are a bit different.
Hat tip Mark Sletten.
At a time when Americans are increasingly fed up with politics as usual, does libertarianism — which champions freedom from government control in both economic and social spheres — present an appealing alternative to conservatism and liberalism? [...]
Does all this add up to a coming libertarian triumph? Maybe not quite. [...]
The Tea Party, for all its libertarian rhetoric, is driven more by populist anger at cultural elites than by the quest for individual freedom. In polls, Tea Party supporters tend to be strongly conservative on such issues as abortion and same-sex marriage, and to support security measures that expand government powers of spying on terror suspects. The truth is, many Americans' views on freedom and government are complex and sometimes confused. In the Reason poll, 54 percent felt that "regulation of businesses does more harm than good" while only 38 percent supported more government regulation; yet 48 percent favored a strong government capable of handling complex economic problems while 46 percent preferred a free market with less government involvement.
Libertarianism articulates important truths. Power corrupts. Government bureaucracies have a tendency to become self-serving and self-perpetuating, and to stifle productivity and creativity. State efforts to promote "values" have a tendency to infantilize adults and impose one group's beliefs on others.
And yet reality is never so simple. Overreach notwithstanding, government has made indispensable contributions to American life, from building the infrastructure to reducing racial discrimination to promoting scientific research with no short-term payoff. Such challenges as protecting the environment or ensuring health care for everyone may not have a free-market solution. Likewise, social tolerance is not always the answer to pressing questions.
Pure libertarianism has a whiff of utopia, like all ideologies that disregard the messy paradoxes of life. But libertarian ideas are an essential corrective to the authoritarian tendencies of both right and left. Libertarianism starts with the presumption that freedom of choice is a vitally important good. There may be sound reasons to abridge that freedom more often than most libertarians would allow; but the burden of proof should be on those who would abridge it. Without the libertarian voice, no exchange of ideas in American politics is complete.
Whole thing here. The aforementioned Reason-Rupe polling operation can be accessed here, and here is your link to the also-referenced Nick Gillespie/Matt Welch joint The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America.
From an interesting and dispiriting Politico account of why the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (a.k.a. SUPER COMMITTEE!) failed so miserably in coming up with a puny $1.2 trillion trims in net spending over the next decade:
In the thick of the negotiations, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid...recalled the days when deal makers could bridge the partisan divide. He visited Ted Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery with former Sen. Chris Dodd. Dodd poured some whiskey on Kennedy’s grave while Reid recited a prayer, the majority leader told lobbyists at a meeting, according to attendees. He told the group that he missed both men.
Dunno about the rest of you, but if Harry Reid, the very man who conjured up the idea of the Super Committee, was talking like that at meetings of "lobbyists," I would have starting booking flights for Greece from my smart phone. If that's what passes for the sort of leadership that "could bridge the partisan divide," well good night nurse.
In mid-October, with just five weeks until their deadline, each side produced “wish lists” to show where they were negotiating from....
House Republicans wanted to repeal Obama’s health care law, implement the controversial House GOP budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), save $700 billion by block granting Medicaid, cut $400 billion in mandatory spending, slash another $1.4 trillion in other health care mandatory spending, save $150 billion by slicing the federal workforce and put a $60 billion cap on tort reform.
Republicans were no more pleased to see what Democrats wanted: the president’s $447 billion jobs bill plus well over $1 trillion in new taxes.
Days later, Baucus went before the group to offer what Democrats considered major concessions: a $1.3 trillion plan to cut spending, including from health care entitlements, combined with a $1.3 trillion plan for new tax revenues. Things got heated quickly when Kyl offered a series of objections. Democrats later made the case that Kyl was a serious impediment in the talks, but Kyl said the GOP was giving ground - not the Democrats.
Key point in the above: "In mid-October, with just five weeks until their deadline..." That's a level of commitment familiar to every high school sophomore cramming four hours before the big exam.
Another major reason for failure, according to Politico, was the lack of Barack Obama's manifest interest in the process and an actual outcome (not surprising for a guy who hasn't kicked his party's ass to deliver a budget in the Senate in years), and lack of coordination between Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leading to division among the House and Senate Dem members of the committee.
The upside of any of this? It sets the table more clearly for a true discussion of the role of government in our lives. And it gives the American people - and a few select politicians, most notably Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who has authored a five year plan to balance the budget - at least a couple of months to demand smaller, more accountable government that spends within our means.
Recapping from Obama's budget (since slightly amended after boos but no details possible) and Paul Ryan's GOP budget, which passed the House:
President Obama wants to spend $3.7 trillion next year and $5.7 trillion in 2021.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants to spend $3.6 trillion next year and $4.7 trillion in 2021.
Rand Paul, bless his soul?
Rand Paul wants to spend $3.7 trillion next year and $3.4 trillion in 2016.
- More than a year after he was arrested, Bradley Manning will get his day in court: "The Article 32 hearing for PFC Bradley Manning will begin on December 16, 2011 at Fort Meade, Maryland. The hearing is expected to last approximately five days. With the exception of those limited times where classified information is being discussed, the hearing will be open to the public."
- Charles Krauthammer: "Would you do what we did in Libya, which is to institute a no-fly zone over Syria? If you were president today, would you advocate that we do that in Syria?" Rick Perry: "Absolutely. Absolutely."
- "I was standing in the middle of the crowd when the police started moving in," she says. "I was screaming, 'I am pregnant, I am pregnant. Let me through. I am trying to get out.'"
- UC Berkeley faculty are going to hold a vote of no confidence for the school's leadership in response to the mistreatment of students by campus police.
- Champaign, Illinois, mayor "disappointed" to find video of police brutality posted online because "it is counteractive to anything the city is trying to achieve in terms of police-community relations."
- Credit Suisse Chief Global Strategist: "We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it."
New at Reason.tv: "Why We Should Fear Bathtubs More Than Terrorists"
It takes hard work to evoke sympathy for Iran’s odious regime. But as Shikha Dalmia observes, Newt Gingrich proved up to the task during the recent South Carolina Republican presidential debate. The cheerful casualness with which he talked about deploying covert operations against Iran will make it much harder for America to win friends and influence people to achieve its foreign policy objectives.View this article