Has it really only been 23 days? Last time we had a Republican presidential debate, Michele Bachmann was still a candidate, Newt Gingrich was widely considered a front-runner (the first question of that night from moderator Bret Baier included the phrase "Speaker Gingrich....you are now physically at the center of the stage, which means you're at the top of the polls"), and Rick Santorum wasn't even a gleam in David Brooks' eye. Andrew Sullivan had just endorsed Ron Paul (which he would go on to withdraw nine days later), Dr. No was doing well enough in the polls to provoke a flurry of "Iowa won't matter if he wins" commentary, and Gary Johnson was still running for the Republican nomination.
Tonight, in the 14th debate of the GOP presidential scrum (the 15th will take place just 12 hours from now, believe it or not), the candidates will be battling fiercely for second and third place. Mitt Romney, the national front-runner and winner by eight votes in Iowa, is outpolling all comers by more than two to one in the run-up to Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. Ron Paul, after netting 21 percent of the vote in Iowa, seems headed for about that same share in the Granite State, which would likely be good enough for second place, an astonishing doubling of his support over 2008. Independent-minded Jon Huntsman has put all his chips down on New Hampshire, and could be done with a disappointing finish. Rick Perry was reportedly out of the campaign, now he's back in, desperate for any rationale to hold onto. Newt Gingrich is competing with Rick Santorum to emerge as the anti-Romney-not-named-Ron-Paul. Panic is in the air. The knives will be out.
So consider this your open thread for the debate. As a palate cleanser, take our GOP candidate quiz, to see which if any of these lugs you line up with. Then read our candidate profiles of Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman. And if you're really nice, there might be some crude live-blogging at this space.
This will likely be the most focused anti-Ron Paul debate we will have seen thus far, so the entertainment value should be higher than usual. Take it away, E.J.!
8:58: In a damning critique of the imperial presidency, ABC's pre-programming involves out-of-shape American shlubs getting pummeled on some contrived, totally pointless obstacle course. Bra-vo, ABC!
9:03: "Stimulus plan that was not as well directed as it should have been," incidentally, is Romneyese for "Whoops! I supported the stimulus, but I need to campaign against it!"
9:05: Rick Santorum thinks Iran is the most important issue that America faces. I'm trying to imagine what it takes to get to that place.
9:06: "By the way" is not the #humblebrag you want to deploy before talking about turning around the Olympics. Not when in the context of seeking the presidency.
9:08: Newt Gingrich, who has spent the debate season campaigning against the press, is now trying to use The New York Times to whine about how sometimes capitalism involves people losing jobs.
9:10: You know, there are other things more relevant to criticize Mitt Romney about than his record in the private sector.
9:13: Paul on Santorum: "He's a big-government person."
9:14: Santorum: "I'm a conservative, not a libertarian. I believe in some government."
9:15: The battles between Santorum and Paul, even before this debate, have been some of the most telling and useful delineations of political philosophy in this campaign.
9:17: Mitt Romney has been the front-runner of this campaign since God knows when, and yet he was not attacked in Iowa, and he's not being attacked now. Very odd.
9:20: Paul is changing the subject to re-attack Santorum. Feels like someone tattooed that on his hand before the debate.
9:21: You know why Huntsman won't win? He puts himself above the fray when the fray isn't a fray. Basic spending philosophy differences are not "insidery gobbledygook."
9:24: Mitt Romney wants to cut government, except for the military and Medicare.
9:26: The biggest threat facing the country right now is a projected reduction in the military budget's spending growth that will never actually happen, according to Rick Perry.
9:28: "Dr. Paul has a long history of saying things that are inaccurate and false." Game on, Gingrich!
9:30: Paul gets his first question ever at a debate about the newsletters, dissembles for 10 seconds, switches pretty quickly and passionately to the Drug War. Also praises Martin Luther King for using "libertarian" methods, not five minutes after saying that he (Paul) doesn't use the word "libertarian," he uses "constitutional".... The last five minutes have been among the most interesting in Paul's presidential career.
9:34: Ezra Klein: "Ron Paul's newsletters are racist. Ron Paul's answer on the racism of the drug war is excellent. Both these things are true."
9:36: Mike Flynn: "These candidates do know Romney is leading the polls. Might want to, I don't know, um, criticize him or something."
9:37: Philip A. Klein: "I can't believe I'm missing playoff football to watch Ron Paul & Newt Gingrich argue about their military records."
9:38: Byron York: "Was Ron Paul's takedown of Gingrich the most effective debate moment of the whole season?"
9:40: Mitt Romney snatches coherence from the jaws of what was a pretty good answer. But finishes well: "Contraception? It's working just fine. Leave it alone!"
9:42: Dr. Constitution breaks it down, boom.
9:43: Diane Sawyer cracks up saying the word "constitutional." I mean, constitutional, right? Hilarious!
9:44: Let it be recorded that Newt Gingrich is talking, in a presidential debate, about how the "sacrament of marriage" needs to "be protected." Jesus Christ.
9:46: Dave Weigel: "Lots of questions about the Eurozone tonight!"
9:48: You know what, I want everybody to be gay married all night long, right now, but can we STOP ASKING PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES WHAT THEY WOULD SAY TO THEIR BEST GAY FRIENDS IN THE LIVING ROOM KTHNXBI.
9:49: Gingrich just had his best moment in a month.
9:51: Katrina vanden Heuvel: "Newt is on a newt-rant about bigotry and anti-Christian bigotry and claims none of it covered by news media. Lost me/But GOP applause/"
9:52: Ron Paul is having his best debate, I think. Seems more calm and comfortable in his skin than usual, even/especially in the tense moments.
9:53: Rick Perry changes the subject back to gay marriage? Complains about Obama's "war on religion"? Go home, weirdo.
9:56: "I don't want to spend another penny on another nation's civil war." Huntsman cuts through his own snark for once.
9:59: Santorum: "We are the weak horse," "America is soft." No wonder the neo-cons are rallying around him.
10:00: TV's Andy Levy: "But should gay Syrians be able to get contraception?"
10:01: Gingrich: "I worked with him in the 1980s on the strategy that defeated the Soviet empire." So he's the one who did it! Thanks, Newt!
10:03: Ron Paul: "Yes, the president is the commander in chief. But he's not the king." Nice.
10:12: So, let me answer everyone's question (why isn't anyone attacking Romney???) with uninformed speculation. This is a weirdo reverse-campaign, which is to say people not named Romney are not running to win, they're running to not be kicked off the island. When it's a race to stave off being thrown off the lifeboat, you look for some fingers to step on. Right now there are basically three slots available -- the Romney slot, the Ron Paul slot, and the not-Mitt-who-isn't-Ron-Paul slot. Within that is some worry that Paul himself could end up as the anti-Mitt, and also reshape Republican politics in a way many Republicans find beyond the pale. Also, Mitt's gonna stomp all over New Hampshire on Tuesday.
So this is a battle to get Rick Perry out of the race (I think he resigned halfway through the debate, as I stole from someone on Twitter), get Huntsman out, and fight like hell for the rest of the slots. Then you go after Romney.
10:13: GDP per capita is 50 percent higher than Europe, sez Mitt...but is that true of Western Europe? Also, we're 75 minutes in, and that's the first mention that there's a place called Europe. Maybe they'll get to the Euro crisis by June or so.
10:16: You know, when you work at an organization with Bob Poole, it's awfully hard to listen to politicians talk about "infrastructure" without wanting to throw cats at their faces.
10:17: Santorum: "Our plan puts together a package." And "then we focus on the pillars"! Dude's been reading Thomas Friedman....
10:20: Romney wants to "reign in big government," and in the same paragraph talks about rebuilding the military.
10:22: David Corn: "I know Ron Paul is 76, but Rand is a lot younger. We can expect decades more of this. Decades."
10:24: Huntsman "had a conversation with a guy named Jamie." Sounds like someone's been listening too much to Lou Reed's New York!
10:26: Speaking of which....
10:27: Good evening Mr. Waldheim! Pontiff how are you? And Jesse! Jesse Jackson!
10:29: I kinda like Santorum's weird spasm against using the phrase "middle class." Every debate there comes a moment when I kind of like this person who I find abhorrent.
10:32: Katrina Trinko: "So you can talk about blue collar workers, but not middle class. Got it, Rick."
10:33: Mitt Romney is one of the most consistently effective xenophobes in American politics.
10:36: Greg Gutfeld: "Note: Huntsman actually said, 'Seagull loves back rub.' I looked it up."
10:40: ABC News employs Jake Tapper. Free tip: Next time, use the person in your employ who is actually not horrible at this stuff.
10:44: Aiight, g'night folks. Lou'll take us home:
NASHUA, NH – Ron Paul’s events are much more energetic than those of other candidates crisscrossing New Hampshire, but the hardest things to do at a Ron Paul event here is to actually find somebody from New Hampshire to interview. He has drawn people from all across the country to his rallies and events in New Hampshire. The variety of people at these events goes beyond just your typical Massholes, or daytrippers from Portland, Maine. Based on the people I have talked to Paul has drawn people from Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, New York, Ohio, and all of New England. This geographically diverse crowd of supporters has made it hard to determine the enthusiasm for Paul emanating from Granite Staters.
Polls tell us that Paul is doing well in New Hampshire. Two of the most recent polls from different firms show him at 20% and 22%. His events are another matter.
At a Paul event you eventually realize you absolutely need to ask people where they are from before you start interviewing them, especially if you are looking for some local color because otherwise you end up wasting precious minutes. Conversations with local New Hampshire voters, even Ron Paul voters, frequently touch on local issues like the Northern Pass project or even the future of the Laconia NASCAR track. Some of the locals bring up Paul’s pet issue, the Federal Reserve, but for the most part they all seem to talk about the same issues as most voters but with libertarian concerns. When you encounter an out-of-towner it usually goes something like this:
“Where are you from?”
“So what are you doing in New Hampshire?”
“I believe in the cause of liberty and freedom and that is the message of Ron Paul!”
So if you are looking to talk to actual New Hampshire voters this is not helpful but if you are looking for an activist or movement angle these are your people. You know, the ones who make spray paint signs and hang stuff on highway overpasses. While some of these people are useless timewasters others are pretty interesting.
At each event Paul had today, one a kickoff rally here and the other a town hall in Durham, there was a muted version of the typical Paul caravan/circus. There were the guys from Pennsylvania giving away their Paul DVDs for free and talking about Roswell. Then there are the more entrepreneurial types like Tom Bragg, 55 of Honey Grove, Texas, who follow Paul around the country selling knickknacks with his emblazoned with his name. If you want a busy Ron Paul button, a simple winter cap, or a bracelet this guy probably has it.
Bragg told me that he has been able to cover all of his travel costs and even make a small profit from selling his wares outside of Paul events. “There are two horses in this race and the two of them are from Texas. I’m riding the fastest one right now,” said Bragg, referring to Paul.
Since 2009, the Obama administration has broken up tens of thousands of American families in which one or more members was an undocumented immigrant. In many of these cases, the government forced the undocumented spouse or child of a legal U.S. citizen to return to their home country before allowing them to apply for residency in the U.S. Upon leaving this country, however, many of those immigrants were then barred from returning for a period of up to 10 years, a consequence of their having resided in the U.S. without documentation. Associate Editor Mike Riggs explains how a new Department of Homeland Security policy will change that for a select few immigrants.View this article
U.S. Navy media blitz includes commander of Stennis carrier strike group after team from U.S.S. Kidd rescues Iranian sailors from Somali pirates.
Employment second-guessing begins. What could be wrong with this week’s positive jobs numbers? AEI scholars say we’re not paying enough attention to U-6. Heartland Institute’s Eli Lehrer says current unemployment measures are a “reasonable enough approach.” Zero Hedge says applying a “realistic labor force participation rate” puts the real implied unemployment rate at 11.4 percent.
Ron Paul is a Freemason Illuminati tool of the Jews, says anti-Masonic interest hawk Henry Makow. Makow notes that many believers in Austrian economics were Jewish Jews whose ancestors practiced Judaism according to Jewish customs. Also Mozart was a freemason, and he borrowed a lot of money during his lifetime…in Vienna, which is Austrian.
SF Chron tries to disarm Solyndra story, but the strongest claim (in a story that makes no mention of Republicans’ ongoing efforts to get the White House to cough up public records) is that “the most sensational allegations - particularly those of cronyism - remain unproven, though the public documents do provide support for some of the accusations.”
Where are Film Critics Without Borders when we need them? Village Voice lays off long-running auteur theorist J. Hoberman, generating what passes for a hubbub these days in the cineaste community.
Thanks to a crusade by House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King (R-New York), the Pentagon and the CIA are investigating how Hollywood filmmakers got government cooperation in the making of Untitled Osama Bin Laden film.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal apparently received some level of assistance in their research for the Sony Pictures Entertainment project that Bigelow, who helmed Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker and beloved male bonding policier Point Break, says will chronicle efforts to neutralize bin Laden dating back to the Clinton Administration.
King has since August been demanding an investigation into whether the filmmakers received any operational details about the May 2011 mission during which the al Qaeda founder was shot and killed by U.S. forces.
Leave aside why any American, let alone a proud daughter of California like Kathryn Bigelow, who has created more value than Pete King ever will, should be denied access to details of the bin Laden mission. Leave aside King’s disturbing-if-true claim that the killing of bin Laden – an act of obvious moment and significance to all Americans – is the "most classified mission in history."
Journalists have tried, with varying degrees of success, to get the full story of bin Laden’s death. Some subsequent reports have conflicted with elements of the official narrative. King is consistent in his devotion to the same type of secrecy the conquering Soviet army applied to the scene of Adolf Hitler’s death. He doesn’t want any American to know the story.
But the establishment media seem to believe there’s a bright line between journalistic inquiry and research for a commercial film. King’s original tirade, and that "most classified" phrase, came from a Maureen Dowd column ridiculing Bigelow and Boal’s "top-level" access. Dowd to her credit contrasted this with the Obama Administration’s abysmal record of punishing leakers and put the episode in the context of President Obama’s dependence on Los Angeles’ wealthiest one percent. (You’ll be relieved to learn that U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas Nicole Avant has been recalled to Tinseltown in an effort to shore up Obama’s movieland relations.)
Other media have taken King’s all-secrecy premise at face value. The Seattle Times notes that movie people are not the only ones interested in learning more about the raid but does not raise any questions about government intimidation of free inquiry, as you’d expect if this were a matter of journalists seeking access to information:
At issue is whether the filmmakers…were given access to classified information about the mission that ended in bin Laden's death. While newspapers and magazines have published detailed accounts about the May raid, much remains unknown to all but a few.
I’m just an old country doctor who prefers an informed electorate, but I can think of other reasons why more than "a few" should know the accurate story of how America’s first important enemy of the 21st century was killed. I don’t expect whatever Potemkin version of events the Obama Administration arranged for the filmmakers will fill huge gaps in our understanding. But Kathryn Bigelow is as legitimate a researcher as any journalist, and not just because she makes good movies. (Yes damn your eyes, I will stand up for K-19: The Widowmaker.) If there’s a scandal here it’s that the administration gave a few people special access to information that should be available to all of us.
Though we probably won't be talking unironically about a Rick Santorum presidential campaign by the time pitchers and catchers report, his boomlet has served the important purpose of reminding us just who out there really doesn't like individual freedom. For instance, former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson:
[P]erhaps the most surprising result of the Iowa caucuses was the return of compassionate conservatism from the margins of the Republican stage to its center. Rick Santorum is not just an outspoken social conservative; he is the Republican candidate who addresses the struggles of blue-collar workers and the need for greater economic mobility. He talks not only of the rights of the individual but also of the health of social institutions, particularly the family. [...]
Libertarianism is an extreme form of individualism, in which personal rights trump every other social goal and institution. It is actually a species of classical liberalism, not conservatism — more directly traceable to John Stuart Mill than Edmund Burke or Alexis de Tocqueville. The Catholic (and increasingly Protestant) approach to social ethics asserts that liberty is made possible by strong social institutions — families, communities, congregations — that prepare human beings for the exercise of liberty by teaching self-restraint, compassion and concern for the public good. Oppressive, overreaching government undermines these value-shaping institutions. Responsible government can empower them — say, with a child tax credit or a deduction for charitable giving — as well as defend them against the aggressions of extreme poverty or against "free markets" in drugs or obscenity.
This is not statism; it is called subsidiarity. In this view, needs are best served by institutions closest to individuals. But when those institutions require help or protection, higher-order institutions should intervene. [...]
This is not "big government" conservatism. It is a form of limited government less radical and simplistic than the libertarian account. A compassionate-conservative approach to governing would result in a different and smaller federal role — using free-market ideas to strengthen families and communities, rather than constructing centralized bureaucracies. It rejects, however, a utopian belief in unfettered markets that would dramatically increase the sum of suffering.
In a 2005 speech at the Heritage Foundation, Santorum argued that men and women should not be treated either as "pathetic dependents" or as "radical individuals." "Someone," he argued, "always gets hurt when masses of individuals do what is only in their own self-interest. That is the great lie of liberal freedom.... Freedom is liberty coupled with responsibility to something bigger or higher than the self. It is a self-less freedom. It is sacrificial freedom. It is the pursuit of our dreams with an eye towards the common good."
Cato's David Boaz has an appropriate response. I'll just add a question, re: "a compassionate-conservative approach to governing would result in a different and smaller federal role" ... well, when, exactly? Gerson's compassionate conservative splurge created debts our grandchildren will be paying off, which will eventually wreak havoc on the very social safety net he aims to shore up.
Santorum's anti-individualism has another unsurprising fan: David Brooks.
I'm delighted that Santorum is making a splash in this presidential campaign. He is far closer to developing a new 21st-century philosophy of government than most leaders out there.
One of Santorum's strengths is that he understands that a nation isn't just an agglomeration of individuals; it's a fabric of social relationships. In his 2005 book, "It Takes a Family," he had chapters on economic capital as well as social capital, moral capital, cultural capital and intellectual capital. He presents an extended argument against radical individualism. "Just as original sin is man's inclination to try to walk alone without God, individualism is man's inclination to try to walk alone among his fellows," he writes.
Can I interject something personal here? I, too, believe in Gerson's "self-restraint, compassion and concern for the public good." I consider myself part of Brooks' "fabric of social relationships," and, like Rick Santorum, I do not "walk alone among" my fellows. These–yes!–individual choices of mine generally are not the question. The question is, how do you plan on using the federal government to allegedly further these values? Helpfully, Brooks provides a little list of Santorum's applications:
He seeks to triple the size of the child tax credit, to make families more financially secure. He has supported flex time and transportation policies to make life easier for working parents. After initial opposition, he came to support AmeriCorps, the federal community service program.
Santorum believes Head Start should teach manners to children. He has supported efforts to police the airwaves and corporate marketing campaigns.
Do you see the problem(s) here? You don't have to be a radical individualist to think that, hey, maybe I don't want the federal government to "teach manners" to pre-schoolers (in fact, if you claim to value "subsidiarity" as much as each of these gentlemen do, it seems odd to champion a Washington role in the strengthening of local tyke-mores). You don't have to reject God to see how the phrase "police the airwaves" is a little on the troubling side, especially vis-a-vis that whole "Congress shall pass no law" stuff. And supporting AmeriCorps might something other than unacceptable if we weren't involuntarily paying for this "charity" (including $200 million in stimulus spending alone) by borrowing 40+ cents on the dollar. (And again, I'm not seeing the subsidiarity in the phrase "federal community service." What's next, federal block parties?)
The problem with this type of applied compassionate conservatism is that it accepts no boundaries, in either price tags or intrusions on individual liberty. Which you can see by the Magical Realist kicker to Brooks' column, where he upbraids Santorum for not pursuing the final logic of his beliefs:
If you believe in the dignity of labor, it makes sense to support an infrastructure program that allows more people to practice the habits of industry. If you believe in personal responsibility, you have to force Americans to receive only as much government as they are willing to pay for. If you believe in the centrality of family, you have to have a government that both encourages marriage and also supplies wage subsidies to men to make them marriageable.
If you believe social trust is the precondition for a healthy society, you have to have a simplified tax code that inspires trust instead of degrading it. If you believe that firm attachments and stable relationships build human capital, you had better offer early education for children in disorganized neighborhoods. If you want capitalists thinking for the long term and getting the most out of their workers, you have to encourage companies to be more deeply rooted in local communities rather than just free-floating instruments of capital markets.
In other words, if you believe in limited, constitutional government, you want to run, screaming, away from any candidate supported by David Brooks.
There's still a lot we don't know about a January 4 raid which turned deadly for one cop (with five other injured, one apparently in a medically-induced coma), but it certainly reads like another instance of drug war casualties that didn't have to happen.
On Wednesday, at around 9 p.m. in Ogden, Utah, a 12-man "Narcotics Strike Force team" which included local police, Sheriff's officers, and members of the Drug Enforcement Administration [video] knocked on the door of Matthew David Stewart, in possession of a search warrant related to as-yet-unspecified drug charges. Police say there was no answer, so they kicked in the door.
And then, reports The Salt Lake City Tribune:
When they entered, [Stewart] allegedly started shooting.
Six officers were hit, and [Jared] Francom died early Thursday morning at Ogden Regional Medical Center. Three of the officers were critically wounded, another suffered serious injuries and yet another has been released from the hospital.
Stewart, who was said to have multiple guns, was wounded but is expected to recover.
Details of the raid are scant at the moment — even this account of a neighbor nervously watching from her "incredible view" of the event offers almost no concrete description of what she saw — but Stewart was eventually arrested at about 9:45, after the shed he was hiding in was surrounded by police. (How Stewart ended up outside is another question.)
Stewart's father (who had been estranged from his son) said that Stewart had been "self-medicating" with weed which he grew for himself, and that Stewart suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and depression. (Stewart is described as "a decorated Army veteran" though he did not serve in combat.)
Stewart's dad also says that his son was probably asleep when police entered, which is why he reacted the way that he did. Unlike previous victims of drug raids Ryan Frederick and Cory Maye who both shoot and killed members of SWAT teams who entered their homes, the subject in this raid did not shoot one person and then surrender. That suggests that Stewart was perhaps less sympathetic than other victims like Frederick and Maye, but not necessarily considering that this is still a story of a bunch of men in SWAT gear abruptly entering someone's home because he was maybe growing a plant. Obvious more details of the raid need to come out before Stewart's motivations can be judged.
On his twitter, former Reason Senio Editor Radley Balko linked to the above Tribune story and wrote "Check out the morning-after photo. These are cops, not soldiers." That photo is to the right (credit to Salt Lake City Tribune). Back in 2009, Balko noted the psychological impact and implications of cops wearing camo in urban environments in his report on the Pittsburgh G-20. This is not a new critique for long-time Reason readers, but it needs to be said often.
New reports are full of the grim details that Francom left behind two young children and that Stewart could be facing the death penalty. What they don't mention, but Balko did, and it can be confirmed by googling, is that Officer Francom was present for the horrifying September 2010 drug raid where cops shot and killed alleged meth-dealer Todd Blair (family said he was just an addict. His former roommate was maybe selling). In the video of that raid, below, I count about five seconds between the yells of "police" and the moment Sgt. Troy Burnett fired at Blair, who was holding a golf club. Watch with caution, though it's not "graphic," it's footage of a man being killed.
The shooting was ruled "justified" under Utah law. And though it was technically a no-knock raid, it still doesn't bode well that the team forgot to bring the search warrant. Other details of how sloppy the raid was can be found at the previous links, but the five-seconds in the video just about say it all.
So no, the late Officer Francom wasn't the shooter here, and my posting the above video is not to suggest that Francom "deserved it." The only point is that Francom is now a link between the two biggest tragedies which result from the idiotic policy of busting down doors for drugs: either the suspect dies, or it's one of the officers. And except in the case of the dependable Balko, news media doesn't seem to have noticed that this whole tragedy could easily have been avoided. Perhaps because the fact of the raid itself was not out of the ordinary; notes The Salt Lake City Tribune in respect to the raid: "'There really was not a great deal that was unique, other than the outcome,' said Strike Force Commander Darin Parke."
Even if Stewart intended to inflict violence on men whom he knew to be police, lives did not have to be ruined or lost. These types of tactics escalate situations which were not violent to begin with. The element of surprise it not worth the risk. There's not a single person whose life should be sacrificed upon the alter of preventing a few drugs from being flushed down a toilet; and if cops were truly worried about gun-toting dealers, they should wait until their suspect leaves the house and then arrest them outside.
Reason on the militarization of police.
Do you hate pot-smoking vegans but love raw milk? Have I got a website for you. On its face, Thoughtful Living is meant to be a refutation of two pernicious cultural trends: the belief that cannabis is harmless fun and the belief that a diet free of animal products is healthy. But it is actually an exercise in distinguishing subtle satire from earnest crankiness. Here are a few reasons why I favor the latter interpretation:
1) The anti-pot propaganda is not as over the top as it could be. Yes, there is the obligatory anecdote about the guy who got hooked on the reefer because he mistakenly thought it was not addictive, the criticism of medical marijuana laws as covers for recreational use, and even a call to boycott Progressive Insurance because of its founder's support for marijuana reform. At the same time, however, Thoughtful Living concedes that cannabis has medical applications and even holds up New Jersey as a model because it is "taking steps to make sure that medical marijuana, when available, will only go to the chronically sick patients." The site says "some [but not all!] advocates are using medical marijuana as a backdoor excuse to full legalization" and worries that people may "believe there are no other remedies for certain illnesses" while overlooking marijuana's "harmful [but unspecified] side effects." All in all, the writer sounds more tolerant and compassionate on this subject than the Obama administration.
2) The site's concerns about the risks of veganism seem largely well-founded, although overemphatically stated. In particular, the diatribes against soy are a bit unhinged, although I was amused by the charge that supposedly all-natural vegans who rely on soy for protein are committing the sin of eating highly processed food.
3) The faith in raw milk as an elixir of life, warding off "the many epidemic of allergies, autism, ADHD and auto-immune diseases our children have from the increasingly processed food supply," seems sincere, if strangely at odds with Thoughtful Living's ridicule of "pot magic." Raw milk is so powerful, in fact, that it leads the author, who otherwise does not seem inclined to a live-and-let-live philosophy, to embrace the libertarian cause of resisting heavy-handed bureaucratic interference with distribution of the stuff. In short: pot raids, sí; raw milk raids, no.
4) Judging from the comments (assuming they are real), readers interested in these subjects are taking the site at face value.
5) The T-shirts inveighing against pot and veganism are wonderfully lame if they are for real but not that funny if they are meant as parody.
What is the unifying theme that links these superficially unrelated causes? I'm not sure, but the combination makes at least as much sense as the platforms of the two major political parties.
[Thanks to Paul Armentano for the tip.]
In a page-one news story this week, The New York Times reported, “Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe.” Sheldon Richman explains why those who advocate the freeing of markets have no reason to receive the news of the “mobility gap” defensively. If we are right about the breadth and depth of bureaucratic interference with the peaceful, creative activities of individuals, as well as the extent of government privileges for the well-connected, Richman writes, then drags on mobility are at least partly the consequence of that interference. In other words, the mobility gap can’t be the result of the free market because there isn’t one. The economy is systematically misshapen by government intervention.View this article
As the number of people using roads and highways steadily increases, cars have also become more fuel-efficient, thus reducing the amount of gas purchased per person. This is good news for consumers; however, transportation spending is largely funded from gasoline taxes, and those receipts are decreasing. The recent Reason-Rupe poll asked Americans how they would prefer to fund transit going forward.
Policymakers have considered increasing the federal gas tax, currently 18.4 cents per gallon in efforts to close the spending-funding gap. Yet 77 percent of Americans oppose raising the federal gas tax. Part of the aversion may be a concern that the government will not spend the tax dollars effectively—65 percent of Americans think the government generally spends transportation funding ineffectively.
Toll Roads and Toll Lanes
Rather than tax increases, the poll found that 58 percent prefer paying for new roads and highways by paying tolls when they drive on the roads. Interestingly, another 58 percent of Americans also report there are not toll roads in their area, but 59 percent say they would pay to use a toll lane if governments constructed them and if these lanes would save them time in traffic. This indicates governments are failing to meet demand for toll roads while focusing efforts on other ways to raise revenue and reduce congestion. These findings suggest that policymakers’ attention may need to shift to meet demand for toll roads.
Governments are also considering partnering with private companies to build and expand highways, airports, and other infrastructure projects that they might not be able to afford without the efficiency and expertise of the private sector. Thus in addition to raising revenues, governments are also seeking opportunities to reduce costs for roads. However, some are uneasy with private companies building and operating transportation, as they believe this is a role for government. Nevertheless, 55 percent of Americans favor private-public partnerships while 35 percent oppose.
Opening HOV Lanes
Another opportunity to raise revenue and potentially reduce congestion is to open high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV), previously reserved for carpools, to single drivers who pay a toll. Some point out that this not only can raise revenue, but also offer drivers a faster trip when they need it. However, others point out that lower-income families would be less able or willing to pay the tolls, making this policy unfair. The Reason-Rupe poll found that 57 percent favor opening HOV lanes to toll-paying drivers and 35 percent oppose.
Adjustable Toll Lanes
Another plan governments are considering is to charge adjustable tolls on new toll roads and lanes. Instead of charging the same fee, the tolls would be higher during rush hours and lower when traffic is light. However, 50 percent of Americans oppose this proposal and 39 percent favor it.
Policy Proposals to Reduce Transportation’s Spending-Funding Gap
Find full Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll results, question wording, and methodology here.
The Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1,200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from December 1-13. Interviews were conducted on both landline and mobile phones. The margin of sampling error for this poll is +/- 3 percent.
Follow Emily Ekins on Twitter @emilyekins
In a National Review Online essay published yesterday (and noted by Mike Riggs this morning), Berkeley law professor John Yoo criticizes President Obama's "recess" appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This is not the first time that Yoo, who as a Justice Department attorney during the Bush administration became notorious for pushing executive power to alarming extremes, has urged President Obama to respect constitutional limits on his authority. In January 2009, before Obama had even taken office, Yoo warned him against the temptation to sneak "a new Kyoto climate accord" or other international treaties through Congress without the requisite two-thirds vote by the Senate. Lest you think that Yoo worries about presidential presumption only when the president is a Democrat, he opens his NRO piece by conceding that he is "often" a "zealous advocate of executive power...when it comes to national security issues." The implication is that the president's powers ebb when he is not dealing with such issues. Yet given how elastic the concept has become, it would not be hard for Obama to offer a national security rationale for efforts to alleviate global warming or protect consumers of financial services from fraud. How can the nation be truly secure, after all, if the world is in turmoil because of catatstrophic climate change or if Americans stop borrowing money because they're afraid of being cheated? If overeating is a national security issue, pretty much anything can be. Still, Yoo makes some good points:
The Senate is not officially in adjournment (they have held "pro forma" meetings, where little to no business occurs, to prevent Obama from making exactly such appointments). So there is no question whether the adjournment has become a constitutional "recess." Rather, Obama is claiming the right to decide whether a session of Congress is in fact a "real" one based, I suppose, on whether he sees any business going on.
This, in my view, is not up to the president, but the Senate. It is up to the Senate to decide when it is in session or not, and whether it feels like conducting any real business or just having senators sitting around on the floor reading the papers. The president cannot decide the legitimacy of the activities of the Senate any more than he could for the other branches, and vice versa.
Is the president going to have the authority to decide if the Supreme Court has deliberated too little on a case? Does Congress have the right to decide whether the president has really thought hard enough about granting a pardon? Under Obama’s approach, he could make a recess appointment anytime he is watching C-SPAN and feels that the senators are not working as hard as he did in the Senate (a fairly low bar).
He kinda ruins it with that gratuitous swipe at the end, however. Such blatant partisanship makes it difficult to persuade people by pointing out that "even John Yoo thinks the president has gone too far this time." To be fair (if that's the right word), Yoo did have the courage of his convictions in defending Obama's authority to go to war in Libya without congressional authorization, saying Obama reached "the right result" based on "the wrong reasons"—i.e., he should simply have said "because I'm president, that's why" instead of embarrassing himself with silly interpretations of the War Powers Act.
Reason.com managing editor Tim Cavanaugh sat down with PJTV's The Front Page yesterday.
Topics: Who, other than Barack Obama, won the Iowa Caucus?
Is the Solyndra scandal a reflection of the Obama Administration's Chicago politics or just a refraction of it?
And who will get Paul Krugman out of debt after we have all followed Paul Krugman's advice?
Also on the panel: Front Page host Allen Barton and Investor's Business Daily's Terry Jones.
Other sections of the show will appear here as they come out.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has called himself a “very strong supporter” of the 10th Amendment while simultaneously asserting that “the idea that the only things that the states are prevented from doing are only things specifically established in the Constitution is wrong.” If elected president, Santorum also says he would put a stop to any state trying to legalize gay marriage:
I will get involved in that because the states, as a president I will get involved because the states don’t have a right to undermine the basic fundamental values that hold this country together. America is an ideal. It’s not just a constitution, it is an ideal. It’s a set of morals and principles that were established in that declaration, and states don’t have the right, just like they didn’t have the right to do slavery.
Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, Case Western Reserve law professor Jonathan Adler suggests that Santorum “might want to read” the 10th Amendment instead of just pretending to know what it says:
The Constitution only prohibits states from doing those things the Constitution prohibits, and the federal government may only constrain state autonomy pursuant to those powers delegated to the federal government. Santorum may think same-sex marriage is wrong, but nothing in the Constitution prevents states from recognizing same-sex marriage nor does anything in the Constitution authorize the federal government to stop states from doing so.
For more on Santorum’s long crusade against limited constitutional government, read Jonathan Rauch on Santorum's "frothy mixture of collectivism and conservatism," and then check out Reason.tv’s report from the Iowa caucus: "Rick Santorum on the Freedom to Impose Your Values."
In a Washington Post op-ed titled “The Affordable Care Act, helping Americans curb costs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touts ObamaCare’s alleged cost-control provisions, noting that “one of the major reasons we passed the Affordable Care Act was to bring down costs.”
Sebelius highlights two of the law’s insurance regulations: a medical loss ratio (MLR) rule that requires insurers spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on clinical services and a rate-review provision which gives her agency the power to deem health insurance rate hikes “unreasonable." These two regulations, which substantially increase the federal government's power and discretion over the entire health insurance market, are “putting consumers back in charge.” (Maybe she meant bureaucrats rather than consumers?)
You'll notice, however, that there’s something missing from the op-ed: any mention of actual health insurance premium prices. That’s not particularly surprising, I suppose, given that the premise of the piece is that the law helps make health care cheaper, yet since the law passed, family health insurance premiums have risen substantially faster than in the years before the law went into effect, rising nine percent following several years of three to five percent rises.
But what about those shiny new insurance regulations Sebelius mentions? Aren’t they supposed to have an effect on the cost of care? Given the state-level history with similar rules, I wouldn’t count on it. Prior to ObamaCare, 34 states had some sort of MLR rule in place. But they didn’t contain health spending or improve care. According to a 2009 American Academy of Actuaries report, “minimum loss ratios do not help contain health care spending growth…or address directly the quality and efficiency of health care services.” If anything, MLR rules create an incentive for insurers to increase premiums by limiting the amount of money that can be spent on administrative costs and profits to a percentage of the total premium: Want more money to spend on administrative expenses? Higher premiums are the only way to go. Insurance rate review—essentially an explicit form of price controls—mostly served to make a mess of the Massachusetts insurance market when the state rejected 90 percent of proposed hikes in 2010.
But those two rules aren’t the only supposed savings tricks Sebelius has up her sleeve:
The law emphasizes prevention because we know it is far less expensive to prevent disease than to treat it. Under the Affordable Care Act, many preventive services are available without cost-sharing so patients avoid chronic conditions and the painful and costly complications they often lead to.
Sebelius has tried this line before, but the research disagrees with her claim. According to a 2008 metastudy published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the “vast majority” of preventive measures don’t save money. The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, has reported that in fact, government-funded prevention efforts can actually cost more money overall because they don’t have any effective way to target only the narrow slices of the population for whom prevention might actually create savings.
Before ObamaCare was passed, President Obama declared that it would lower the cost family insurance premiums by an average of $2,500. Perhaps understandably, the administration tends not to mention that particular promise anymore, preferring vague pitches that suggest the possibility of savings without pointing to any real numbers about the health insurance market. The possibility of savings is all they really have. And they don't even really have that, because the evidence suggests that the policies the administration is counting on to produce those savings probably won't have the desired effect.
Previously in "Kathleen Sebelius is wrong about ObamaCare."
They both hate shale gas. Over the past year the New York Times has been eager to find and magnify any problems associated with hydrofracking, the technique which has unleashed perhaps a century's worth of domestic natural gas reserves. Now Times' editors are joined by Cuba's former communist dictator Fidel Castro. According to Reuters, the former lider maximo has just published a long column warning that the world is marching into the abyss with shale gas:
Castro sided with the critics, quoting reports on the negative effects of fracking and research that said shale gas emits more greenhouse gases than gas produced from conventional wells.
"It is sufficient to point out that among the numerous chemical substances injected with the water to extract this gas is found benzene and toluene, which are substances terribly carcinogenic," he wrote.
The information on shale gas was something "no political cadre or sensible person could ignore," he said.
Interestingly, Comrade Fidel doesn't seem to be the least bit disturbed by the greenhouse gas emissions that will be produced if China succeeds in developing oil production offshore of Cuba.
Look, every industrial activity can have unwanted side effects, especially if it is implemented negligently. It's a given that anyone who suffers damage to herself or her property as a result of fracking should be fairly compensated, period. However, leftish opposition to fracking is not about the problem of industrial accidents; it's about the fact that cheap abundant relatively low-carbon natural gas undercuts their preferred forms of high-cost renewable energy, chiefly wind and solar power.
Yesterday in Concord, New Hampshire, a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) asked Rick Santorum, "As a champion of family values and keeping America strong, would you continue to destroy families by sending nonviolent drug offenders to prison?" Santorum's response: "Uh...wow...the federal government doesn't do that." That will come as a surprise to the nearly 100,000 drug offenders in federal prison, who account for almost half of all inmates. (Another 400,000 or so are in state prisons and local jails.) Does Santorum think only violent drug offenders go to federal prison? There is no such requirement. In my October Reason story about President Obama's drug policies, I noted a few examples that fit SSDP's description:
Last year a federal prisoner named Hamedah Hasan, who is seeking clemency with help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote an open letter to Obama. “I am a mother and grandmother serving my 17th year of a 27-year federal prison sentence for a first time, nonviolent crack cocaine offense,” she said. “I never used or sold drugs, but I was convicted under conspiracy laws for participating in a drug organization by running errands and wiring money. Had I been convicted of a powder cocaine offense, I would be home with my three daughters and two grandchildren by now. I have had a lot of time to think about where I went wrong, and I genuinely take full responsibility for my actions. But I hope you will see that over 16 years in prison is enough time for me to pay my debt to society.”
Another crack offender, Kenneth Harvey, is serving a life sentence for possession of more than 50 grams with intent to deliver, a crime he committed in his early 20s. Although legally required to send Harvey away for life because of two prior drug convictions (neither of which resulted in prison time), the judge who sentenced him recommended that he be granted clemency after 15 years, and an appeals court agreed. Yet Harvey, now 45, has been in prison for more than two decades....
Clarence Aaron, arrested when he was a student at Southern University in Baton Rouge with no criminal record, is serving three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for arranging a meeting between a childhood friend and a cocaine dealer. He has been behind bars since 1993.
Last November, in his first commutation, Obama 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. Families Against Mandatory Minimums and the November Coalition have many more examples.
Santorum, who as a Pennsylvania senator in 1999 voted to increase federal penalties for cocaine and methamphetamine offenses, surely is aware that the laws Congress passes put people behind bars, breaking up their families in the process. Instead of forthrightly defending that result as an acceptable cost of trying to prevent Americans from consuming certain intoxicants, he pretends no real humans are hurt in the service of this never-ending, never-succeeding chemical crusade. Despicable.
For more about nonviolent drug offenders, see my 1999 Reason article about criminologist John DiIulio's evolving views on the subject.
The Devil Inside is an unholy mashup of The Exorcist (yes, yet another demonic-possession flick) and The Blair Witch Project (yes, yet another shaky-cam “found footage” annoyance). And as Kurt Loder observes, the movie is so tritely predictable you could improvise it at home with some friends without even bothering to see it.View this article
Pop quiz: Which has done more to ruin other people’s lives—Mitt Romney, or federal energy and environmental policy? To liberals the answer is clear, writes A. Barton Hinkle. They have already begun to portray Romney as a “vulture capitalist” whose work at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he co-founded, often left destitution in its wake. But to the employees at the 32 mostly coal-fired power plants that will soon be shut down by EPA regulations, the answer is quite different.View this article
Steven Pinker has been getting much attention lately for arguing in his new book The Better Angels of Our Nature, against a lot of people's surface assumptions based on a pretty geopolitically violent past century, that modernity and the modern state have in fact made the world a far less violent place.
David Bentley Hart at First Things wonders if Pinker's measures make the most sense, given that we are still, after all, sitting on a pretty big pile of murdered bodies here in the aftermath of the 20th century:
Pinker’s method for assessing the relative ferocity of different centuries is to calculate the total of violent deaths not as an absolute quantity, but as a percentage of global population. But statistical comparisons like that are notoriously vacuous. Population sample sizes can vary by billions, but a single life remains a static sum, so the smaller the sample the larger the percentage each life represents. Obviously, though, a remote Inuit village of one hundred souls where someone gets killed in a fistfight is not twice as violent as a nation of 200 million that exterminates one million of its citizens. And even where the orders of magnitude are not quite so divergent, comparison on a global scale is useless, especially since over the past century modern medicine has reduced infant mortality and radically extended life spans nearly everywhere (meaning, for one thing, there are now far more persons too young or too old to fight). So Pinker’s assertion that a person would be thirty-five times more likely to be murdered in the Middle Ages than now is empirically meaningless.
In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more exorbitant demographic explosion.
A Reason.tv inteview with Pinker:
Starting January 1, the European Union has begun imposing a requirement that all airlines landing in Europe must show that they have bought carbon emissions permits equal to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the aircraft. Airlines without the proper number of allowances would be fined up to $130 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions and could be barred from European airspace. In November, the International Civil Aviation Organization issued a statement urging the E.U. to exempt international airlines from its carbon rationing scheme. The ICAO was backed by 26 countries, including the U.S., Russia and Japan, who argued that the plan violates international law.
In December, the European Court of Justice ruled against U.S. carriers who are contesting the plan. As Euronews reported:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that Washington will take action over the move. Proposed legislation in the American Congress could make it illegal to comply with the EU law.
The U.S. is not alone in objecting the new carbon tax on international travel. China and India have declared that their airlines will refuse to pay for the permits. India may ask its airlines to refuse to supply E.U. regulators with emissions data. In the meantime, USA Today is reporting that Delta, United-Continental, and U.S. Airways are adding a $3 surcharge to tickets for flights to Europe.
From the E.U. point of view the question is: why should their airlines be put at a competitive disadvantage because of their compliance with carbon emissions restrictions? This airline tariff fight could be the first shot in the future trade wars that result from climate change protectionism.
On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch discussed the Iowa caucus and the significance of Ron Paul's challenge to the political establishment with Raw Story Executive Editor Megan Carpentier and host Paul Jay of The Real News Network. Around 20 minutes:
- The Boston Globe endorses Huntsman in the New Hampshire primary.
- Huntsman endorses the NDAA: "I would have signed it. I would work toward ensuring in practice that we have due process, habeus corpus, and that we do not torture."
- Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum spar over who was more important in Congress.
- Emails: Gun-walking operation under President Bush had similar problems to Fast and Furious.
- The unemployment rate has declined by 0.6 percent since August.
- Testicle-crushing torture fetishist John Yoo says Obama is abusing his power.
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New at Reason.tv: "Rick Santorum on the Freedom to Impose Your Values"
Robert Wright in the Atlantic, expert on everything from God to foreign policy, notes that, apparently just for absolutely random reasons that have nothing to do with an actual educated and wise overall perspective on history and policy, because God forbid he have to admit Ron Paul is actually intelligent on foreign policy in a way no one else in national politics is, Ron Paul is right that we seem to be deliberately pushing Iran toward war:
A week ago Ron Paul tried to convey how the ever-tightening sanctions on Iran--which may soon include an embargo on its oil--look from an Iranian point of view: It's as if China were to blockade the Gulf of Mexico, he said--"an act of war".
This is sheer conjecture; Ron Paul is no expert on Iran. But now someone who does have relevant credentials has weighed in, and the picture he paints is disturbingly reminiscent of the one Paul painted. It suggests we may be closer to war than most people realize.
Vali Nasr, in addition to being a highly respected expert on the Middle East, belongs to a family that, according to Lobelog's sources, has "a direct line into Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's inner circle." In a Bloomberg View piece that is getting a lot of attention, Nasr reports that "Iran has interpreted sanctions that hurt its oil exports, which account for about half of government revenue, as acts of war." Indeed, the Iranian leadership now sees U.S. policy as "aimed at regime change."
In this light, Iran's recent threats--notably that it will close the Strait of Hormuz in response to an oil embargo--shouldn't be dismissed, says Nasr. "The regime in Tehran is ready for a fight."
The good news is that Nasr thinks war can be averted. The bad news is that to accomplish this America and other Western powers need to "imagine how the situation looks from Tehran"--not exactly a favorite pastime among American politicians these days.....
Iran's nuclear scientists have recently evinced a tendency to get assassinated, and a mysterious explosion at a military facility happened to kill the general in charge of Iran's missile program. These things were almost certainly done by Israel, possibly with American support. If you were Iranian, would you consider assassinations on your soil grounds for attacking the suspected perpetrators?
Well, we know that some notable Americans think assassinating people on American soil is punishable by war. After the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate a Saudi Ambassador in Washington was uncovered, Bill Kristol (whom you may recall from our previous run-up to a disastrous war)recommended that we attack Iran.
But I'm guessing that if I tried this Iran-America analogy out on Kristol, he might detect asymmetries. For example: We're us, whereas they're just them.
Underlying our Iran strategy is the assumption that if we keep ratcheting up the pressure, the regime will eventually say uncle. A problem with this premise is that throughout human history rulers have shown an aversion to being seen by their people as surrendering. Indeed, when you face dissent, as the Iranian regime does, there's actually a certain appeal to confronting an external threat, since confrontation tends to consolidate domestic support. As Nasr puts it, "the ruling clerics are responding with shows of strength to boost solidarity at home."
This doesn't mean Iran's rulers haven't wanted to make a deal. But it does mean the deal would have to leave these rulers with a domestically plausible claim to have benefited from it, and it also means these leaders can't afford to be seen begging for the deal. When President Ahmadinejad visited New York last year, he gave reporters unmistakable signals that he wanted to negotiate, but the Obama administration chose to ignore them. After Ahmadinejad "went home empty handed," reports Nasr, power increasingly shifted to Iranians who argued for confrontation over diplomacy.
Even so, Iran's foreign minister made another appeal to re-open talks only days ago, suggesting that they be held in Turkey. But, as the New York Times reported, western nations interpreted this overture "as an effort by Iran to buy time to continue its program." Got that? If Iranians refuse to negotiate it means they don't want a deal, and if they ask to negotiate it means they don't want a deal....
There are historical analogs to this sort of thing, U.S. provocation and refusal to use diplomacy intelligently contributing to the start of a war, and the outcome was bad for all concerned. While the insulting way Wright frames this infuriates the Paul fan in me, it's nice to see this outlook expressed, especially in the Atlantic, a magazine that loves nothing more than long feature articles war-gaming our looming and necessary wars with nearly everyone in the world.
Yes, intelligent application of empathy can actually help forge a foriegn policy that contributes to peace and prosperity, and it's not an accident that the only national politician who gets that talks sense on Iran.
Chip Bok writes President Obama's holiday card.View this article
If you live in Los Angeles, catch Reason.com managing editor Tim Cavanaugh on local Fox news tonight at 10 PM and 11 PM.
With cuts to welfare and Medi-Cal, a reasonably ambitious pension reform scheme, suspiciously optimistic revenue projections, calls for higher taxes, a $9.3 billion deficit (which longtime Golden State watchers will recognize as an improvement over past years), and a threatened $4.8 billion cut to schools and community colleges, it's a real 167-page saga.
How much of it is for real? How much is poison-pill posturing to push through tax hikes? Does the pension reform have a prayer? Who will be the first to call this collection of fatty blobs (including $23 million million for additional staff and administrative costs for the High-Speed Rail Authority) an "austerity budget" filled with "devastating cuts"?
All this and more, explained in plain English (you can work blue after 9 o'clock, right?).
Where: KTTV Fox, Channel 11.
When: Starting at 10 PM.
KOMO News sued the city of Seattle after public information requests for police dash-cam video were not fulfilled. The suit alleges violation of the public records law.
But criminal defense attorney James Egan never expected the city would preemptively sue him just for asking for police dash cam video.
"Shocked. I am shocked," he said. "What the police department is saying is if you make a request for public documents, ultimately you will be sued."
The situation involves two cases Egan handled pro bono. He believed the videos in each case show officer misconduct. Egan wanted to know if those officers had other questionable arrests, so he asked for 36 additional dash-cam videos.
But the city refused, citing privacy laws. Egan appealed, and now the city is suing him.
"This is ridiculous. It would be comical if it weren't alarming," he said.
Egan believes the city is retaliating for making these other videos public.
"I kind of expect for something like this that they really do have something to hide," said Egan.
But Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who filed the lawsuit, says the city is caught between two conflicting laws.
"There's a plain conflict in the laws between the Public Records Act (and) the Privacy Act. The city will pay dearly if it makes the wrong choice," said Holmes.
When asked whether an attempt was made to cover up the 36 requested videos, Holmes said, "None whatsoever."
The most beautifully convenient part? Says ABAjournal.com, with emphasis added:
Although Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says the city will abide by the court’s decision, Egan told King 5 TV that the Washington privacy act prevents the footage from being made public until the final disposition of related litigation. That is, until the officers can no longer be sued for what they did in the video.
"The idea that you can't get a video until three years later is self protectionism,” Egan said, according to the station’s report. “They don't want the public to know the skeletons in their closets."
And there are many skeletons in the Seattle PD's closet, not just the recent news that a member of their force was arrested for buying crack, then mysteriously shot to death. There's also the fact that the Department of Justice recently finished a year-long investigation of the SPD, and they weren't happy with what they found. For example, the DOJ dubbed one in five uses of force by the police to be "unconstitutional." They also said that there was no official policy of discrimination, but minorities did suffer disproportionately and there was "potential" for discrimination in certain encounters.
In order to sooth the DOJ, the PD has made some changes which will supposedly enhance accountability, one is making sure squads report to a single sargent, instead of a rotating team of supervisors. Let's hope that supervisor is keen on policing his or her own people. Do you know what might help even more with that task? Dash-cams. Except they didn't do any good when one of the Seattle PD shot woodcarver John T. Williams to death in 2010. But if what footage does exist [video] had not been released, chances are prosecutors wouldn't have even debated bringing charges against officer Ian Birk at all.
Reason.tv on "The Government's War on Cameras":
Roadie, about a laid off roadie for Blue Oyster Cult, seems unfocused at first, and a little under-powered, writes Kurt Loder, but it snaps to life in a long, lacerating scene set in a cheap motel room, where three characters share a booze-and-cocaine approximation of a rock-star revel. For a purported horror movie, meanwhile, The Innkeepers is woefully low on horror. Could its enthusiasts be only recently arrived on the horror scene? Am I missing something? Or is there just something missing?View this article
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) likes to tout the “flexibility” it claims it’s giving state governments to implement ObamaCare. An agency press release last month, for example, announced the release of rules governing ObamaCare’s “essential health benefits” under the headline “HHS to give states more flexibility to implement health reform.” Rules governing the establishment of the law’s state-run health insurance exchanges promised to give states flexibility 38 separate times.
But when it comes to ObamaCare’s new health insurer spending regulations, HHS doesn’t seem nearly as interested in letting states have the flexibility to implement the law as they think might be best. This week, HHS denied the requests of two more states, Kansas and Oklahoma, to adjust the law’s medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements, which require insurers to spend a at least 80 or 85 percent of their total premium revenue on activities that meet the government’s definition of “clinical services.” Last month, HHS denied a similar request from Florida to modify the law’s MLR requirements.
That’s not to say that all states have gotten the same treatment. Last March, Maine’s MLR request was granted on the basis of an HHS determination that the rule “has a reasonable likelihood of destabilizing the Maine individual health insurance market” which indicates that, at minimum, HHS is aware that the rule has the potential to upend an insurance market. But never mind the downsides; federal bureaucrats, not state governments, will determine if the potential problems are bad enough to matter. The differing decisions just underlines the point: HHS seems more committed preserving its own flexibility to selectively apply ObamaCare’s rules and regulations when and where it wants than to granting states real freedom to determine how they would like to implement the law.
Related: The Congressional Budget Office says the MLR requirements aren't quite a government takeover of health insurance, but they're pretty close.
If you live in Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas, or Phoenix, you've seen an abandoned home or six in your neighborhood. In countless other cities across the country, empty homes are a visual symbol of the nation’s economic malaise. Research by the American Financial Services Association has found over 460 city ordinances around the country trying to address the abandoned property issue, writes Anthony Randazzo, though few are as harsh as a Chicago ordinance first passed last summer.View this article
... if we today were driving cars of the same size and power that were typical in 1980, concludes a new study by MIT economist Christopher Knittel. Of course, the Obama administration has set new corporate average fuel economy standards at 35.5 mpg for 2016. MIT News summarizes Knittel's findings:
Contrary to common perception, the major automakers have produced large increases in fuel efficiency through better technology in recent decades. There’s just one catch: All those advances have barely increased the mileage per gallon that autos actually achieve on the road.
So what happened to the missing gas mileage?
...between 1980 and 2006, the average gas mileage of vehicles sold in the United States increased by slightly more than 15 percent — a relatively modest improvement. But during that time, Knittel has found, the average curb weight of those vehicles increased 26 percent, while their horsepower rose 107 percent. All factors being equal, fuel economy actually increased by 60 percent between 1980 and 2006, as Knittel shows in a new research paper, “Automobiles on Steroids,” just published in the American Economic Review (download PDF).
Thus if Americans today were driving cars of the same size and power that were typical in 1980, the country’s fleet of autos would have jumped from an average of about 23 miles per gallon (mpg) to roughly 37 mpg, well above the current average of around 27 mpg. Instead, Knittel says, “Most of that technological progress has gone into [compensating for] weight and horsepower.”
This seems an example of the energy rebound effect in which increased energy efficiency encourages people to use even more energy; in this case to fuel bigger and peppier cars.
Another reason to vote for Ron Paul: "See this room – two thirds of us laid off when Ron Paul’s president, " says establishment media humanoid:
Employment Green Shoots! ADP National Employment Report has 325,000 private-sector jobs created in December, double some estimates, and up from 204,000 jobs added in November.
Meanwhile, Department of Labor says new unemployment claims dropped 15,000 to 372,000 in the final month of 2011. Both figures are subject to year-end accounting and holiday distortions and are expected to be revised.
Chevy Volt recall: Government-run General Motors is asking 8,000 owners to return their Volt electric cars to Chevy dealerships for structural work around the vehicles’ batteries. The move is "considered a step below a recall, which would be issued by a car company and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration."
Another group of winners in redevelopment ban: California counties benefit as moribund redevelopment agencies stop siphoning property taxes. (Now how about giving back some of the wealth to property owners who pay the taxes in the first place?)
Union man takes sick time: Bruce Dow, chief executive of Screen Actors Guild pension fund, takes a health-related leave of absence as embezzlement scandal (which involved a former fund executive) heats up.
Another superstore on the ropes: Barnes & Noble considers selling off its Nook e-reader. The once-feared brick-and-mortar bookselling giant cops to having "over-anticipated the growth in consumer demand for single purpose black-and-white reading devices this holiday." That’s because they weren’t reading Reason.
The Range Fuels cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia was supposed to turn pine trees into ethanol to fuel automobiles. It failed and has now been sold for pennies on dollar. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:
The Range fiasco harkens other, failed renewable energy companies that received major taxpayer funding. California solar panel maker Solyndra got $535 million in federal loan guarantees. Beacon Power of Massachusetts, which makes energy-storage equipment, took in $43 million in federal money. Both filed for bankruptcy last year.
Range cost U.S. taxpayers $64 million and Georgia taxpayers another $6.2 million. Tuesday's sale netted $5.1 million which will help offset losses suffered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Georgia's money, which paid for some of the ethanol-making equipment, won't be recouped outright, but state officials expect LanzaTech [new owner] to use the machinery....
The Bush administration's Energy Department steered a $76 million federal grant to Range. The Department of Agriculture followed up with an $80 million loan guarantee. Georgia officials pledged $6.2 million. Treutlen County, one of the state's poorest, offered 20 years worth of tax abatements and 97 acres in its industrial park.
Private investors reportedly put up $158 million. In all, the project raised more than $320 million.
Range, unable to turn wood into ethanol, closed its doors a year ago. It never came close to creating the 70 jobs once promised.
The numbers in the article don't quite add up: If one includes the DOE grant of $76 million plus the $80 million USDA loan guarantee, the total loss to taxpayers would seem to amount to $156 million.
In any case, read the whole article here.
A tactic used by the Russian government when officials are annoyed by some online publications, human rights organizations, or political opponents is to have the police raid their headquarters to find their computers running versions of Windows for which they do not have a license. Based on this illegal use of software, the police shut them down.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would arguably give a similar power to the U.S. government to censor the internet based on findings that internet service providers are providing unlicensed access to copyrighted material. SOPA has provoked strong pushback from ISPs and users. Now it is rumored that internet titans, Amazon, Google, Twitter, and Facebook are considering a "nuclear blackout" as a way to warn Americans of the danger to internet liberty posed by SOPA. As Charlie Osborne reports at the iGeneration blog:
Wikipedia was the first to consider a blackout of their services, in order to demonstrate what SOPA could potentially do to any website that allowed user-generated content. Now, a number of sites including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon are considering coordinated downtime on their platforms.
Markham Erickson of NetCoalition recently confirmed that the extreme move was “under consideration” by the Internet companies. The director commented:
“This type of thing doesn’t happen because companies typically don’t want to put their users in that position. The difference is that these bills so fundamentally change the way the Internet works. People need to understand the effect this special-interest legislation will have on those who use the Internet.”
The “nuclear option” will cause major Internet service providers to go simultaneously in to the dark in a coordinated effort to show their displeasure at the proposed legislation.
Frankly, I wish more companies and industries would refuse to offer their services as a way to alert their customers to other government efforts to interfere with peaceful commerce. Given sufficient warning to customers, an internet blackout day could generate a magnificent firestorm of public protest against Congress' misconceived effort to rein in internet freedom.
Yesterday a federal judge dismissed Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's legal challenge to her own state's medical marijuana law, saying she had offered "no credible evidence" that her underlings would be at risk of federal prosecution for executing the law. Brewer has been blocking implementation of the provisions allowing state-licensed dispensaries since May, ostensibly because she is worried about the potential legal exposure of state regulators, although Arizona's U.S. attorney has said he has no intention of prosecuting them. Brewer, an avowed champion of the 10th Amendment and the state autonomy it guarantees, initially claimed she was merely seeking clarification of whether the medical marijuana law is pre-empted by the Controlled Substances Act, but last month she dropped that pretense and asked U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to rule that it is. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department urged Bolton to dismiss Brewer's suit. In yesterday's decision, Bolton agreed that Brewer had failed to state a claim:
Plaintiffs do not challenge any specific action taken by any defendant. Plaintiffs also do not describe any actions by state employees that were in violation of [the Controlled Substances Act] or any threat of prosecution for any reason by federal officials. These issues, as presented, are not appropriate for judicial review....
The Complaint does not detail any history of prosecution of state employees for participation in state medical marijuana licensing schemes....The Complaint fails to establish that Plaintiffs are subject to a genuine threat of imminent prosecution and consequently, the Complaint does not meet the constitutional requirements for ripeness.
Brewer, who spoke against the medical marijuana law before voters approved it last November, says she has not decided yet whether to appeal Bolton's decision.
[via the Drug War Chronicle]
The Hill's Sam Baker reports on the most glaring weakness in the legal defense of ObamaCare:
Even in the cases it has won, the administration has failed to answer a key question: If Congress has the power to enforce the insurance mandate, where does that power stop?
It’s known in legal jargon as a “limiting principle.” When courts evaluate a new application of Congress’s constitutional authority, they have historically wanted to see clear limits to those powers.
“The DOJ has to do a better job of answering, ‘What goes beyond your theory of federal power?' " said Ilya Shapiro, a legal scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute who opposes the insurance mandate. “They’ve been asked this in every court and they’ve never satisfied the court, even in the cases they’ve won.”
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals — the specific case now before the Supreme Court — struck down the insurance mandate partially on the grounds that upholding it would open the door to a flood of regulation.
“Ultimately, the government’s struggle to articulate … limiting principles only reiterates the conclusion we reach today: There are none,” the court said in its ruling.
Baker is correct to identify the open question of what the government can't do if the mandate is constitutional as the strongest argument against the law. The administration has not merely struggled to articulate a limiting principle; it has conceded that under its defense of the individual mandate, there is no limit to the government's power under the Commerce Clause. As the D.C. Circuit Court ruling noted:
The Government concedes the novelty of the mandate and the lack of any doctrinal limiting principles; indeed, at oral argument, the Government could not identify any mandate to purchase a product or service in interstate commerce that would be unconstitutional, at least under the Commerce Clause.
This is a tough question for the administration to answer not merely because it's hard to imagine any limits on Commerce Clause power if the mandate is legal; it's also difficult because the administration has an incentive to avoid preemptively limiting its own power by drawing bright legal lines about what it can and cannot do. Regardless of their party affiliation, administrations tend to spend a lot of time developing legal arguments for why they have the power to do whatever it is they'd like to do; they tend to be somewhat less invested in figuring out how their legal arguments might limit their power to do something they might want to do in the future.
Does this mean that the Supreme Court is likely to rule against the mandate? Not necessarily. Despite noting the lack of a limiting principle and acknowleding some "discomfort" with the potential for endless regulation under the administration's interpretation of the law, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled in favor of the law.
"The essential issue in this race is freedom," said Senator Rick Santorum in a triumphant speech on the eve of his strong second-place showing in the Iowa caucus.
But what kind of freedom is Santorum talking about? Reason.tv caught up with Santorum at a campaign stop at Des Moines Christian Assembly in Urbandale, Iowa, where he spoke to schoolchildren and their parents about the importance of electing a leader who will promote good social values to the citizens.
"Why wouldn't leaders in this country stand up and promote marriage?" asked Santorum. "Stop, in any way they could, the sexual promiscuity that goes on that leads to out-of-wedlock births."
Santorum picked up the endorsement of Jim Bob Duggar, patriarch of the Duggar family (of TLC's "19 Kids and Counting"), who sung the national anthem to kick off the festivities. Also in attendance was social conservative activist and founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition Ralph Reed. Reed has not endorsed a candidate in the race yet, but he stresses that social conservatism remains a core value to GOP voters.
"You're not going to do well, either in Iowa or beyond, if you're not pro-marriage, pro-family, and pro-life," said Reed. "Whether you're coming from a libertarian perspective or a more traditional conservative perspective."
If GOP voters want candidates who are ready to fight the culture war, Santorum seems ready to deliver.
"I love it when the Left, and the president, says, 'Don't try to impose your values on us, you folks who hold your Bibles in your hand and cling to your guns,'" Santorum said. "It's equally imposing values. It's just in their world, if it's Biblically based or religiously based, it's out. If it's anything else, bring it on."
About 2:30 minutes. Produced by Sharif Matar and Zach Weissmueller.
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With states bringing in lower tax revenues, strapped budgets, and increasing transportation usage, governments are looking to partner with private firms to provide transportation improvements and expansions. According to the recent Reason-Rupe poll, 55% of Americans favor these kinds of partnerships. In fact, a majority of all political groups favor government working with private companies to further transportation projects.
Many governments are partnering with private companies to build and expand highways, airports and other infrastructure projects that government might not be able to afford otherwise. Do you favor or oppose these public-private partnerships?
Which statement do you agree with more? Federal and state governments should spend taxpayer money to build and operate high-speed rail systems where they think they are needed; or, Private companies should build and operate high-speed rail systems where they think riders will pay to use them.
When Americans are asked to choose between government and private business building high-speed rail, however, a majority of Americans (55 percent) want private enterprise to build this infrastructure. In contrast, 34 percent believe government should build high-speed rail. Partisan divisions do arise for this issue of high-speed rail: a plurality of Democrats and Occupy Wall Street supporters prefer government build with taxpayer money, however a majority of pure Independents, Tea Party Supporters and Republicans prefer private companies to build these railways.
A partial driver of partisan division may be that if governments were to build high-speed railways, they would build where policymakers think they are needed; in contrast, private businesses would build railways where it is profitable to build—so where a substantial number of riders would pay to use them. In sum, deciding between public or private building of high-speed rail contrasts goals of efficiency and access, and political groups make trade-offs between efficiency and access differently.
If this poll has accurately gauged attitudes toward government or private enterprise building and operating railway infrastructure, this casts doubt on how Amtrak is currently run. Currently, many Amtrak lines operate at a loss because policy makers often choose access to rail lines over efficiency in running the trains, even in areas where there is little demand for train use.
Find full Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll results, question wording, and methodology here.
The Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1,200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from December 1-13. Interviews were conducted on both landline and mobile phones. The margin of sampling error for this poll is +/- 3 percent.
Follow Emily Ekins on Twitter @emilyekins
Yesterday Jerry Ramrattan, the private investigator who framed his ex-girlfriend, Seemona Sumasar, for a series of imaginary armed robberies after she accused him of rape, was sentenced to 32 years in prison by a State Supreme Court judge in Queens. Imposing the maximum sentence allowed by law, Justice Richard Buchter called Ramrattan, who was convicted of rape as well as charges stemming from the scheme that resulted in Sumasar's arrest, "a diabolical conniver and sinister manipulator" who "shamelessly exploited the criminal justice system." But Buchter also suggested that the system—which put Sumasar behind bars for seven months while she awaited trial, during which time she was separated from her 12-year-old daughter and lost her restaurant and her home—was easier to exploit than it should have been:
The Queens district attorney's office and the Nassau County district attorney's office had insisted on Ms. Sumasar's guilt up until she was freed just weeks before her own robbery trial was set to begin. Ms. Sumasar filed a civil suit in December against the New York City Police Department and the Nassau County Police Department for negligence leading to her wrongful imprisonment.
Justice Buchter railed against the Nassau County police, who had wrongly imprisoned Ms. Sumasar, saying that it did not take "a Sherlock Holmes" to deduce that a 5-foot-2 former Wall Street analyst with no criminal record would not have held people up at gunpoint.
He chastised the police for their egregious handling of the case, saying detectives had "turned a blind eye" to Ms. Sumasar's protestations that she was innocent and had too easily been taken in by Mr. Ramrattan.
"The police were duped by liars by whom they had a right to be suspicious, and as a result a rape victim was framed by her rapist," the judge said. "She was victimized by the rapist and then again by the criminal justice system."
The Daily News has more:
Buchter questioned how detectives could have bought the tale that Ramrattan made up for his accomplices, especially while the rape charges were pending.
All investigators had to do was look at the website Ramrattan kept for his business Most Wanted Inc. where he promised that he could "fix anything, any time," the judge noted.
"Is it really surprising that he would try to fix his own case?" Buchter wondered. "You didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to wonder if something was fishy."
Sumasar, who had a strong alibi for one of the alleged robberies, repeatedly told the authorities that Ramrattan had set her up, but they did not believe her. In the end, she was released only because an informer told police about Ramrattan's scheme and gave them his cell phone number. They found he had made multiple calls to people who claimed Sumasar had robbed them, and at that point the "witnesses" recanted. The New York Times, which put the story of Sumasar's ordeal on its front page last July, reports that "legal experts said the case was a cautionary tale that illustrated the ease with which the justice system can be manipulated by someone who understands police procedure and is adept at telling lies." And how did Ramrattan gain the arcane knowledge he used to dupe law enforcement officials in Nassau County and New York City? "Partly from watching crime dramas like 'C.S.I.'"
An idea walks into a bar. She meets another idea. They get together, and nine months later (or maybe it’s nine minutes or seconds? It’s not clear how it works with ideas), a new idea is born. A baby idea with the best traits of both parents. When this happens a lot, everyone gets smarter and the world gets better. "It’s a weird concept," writes John Stossel, "but the more I think about it, the more right it seems. I learned it from British journalist Matt Ridley, a recent guest on my Fox Business show."View this article
Writing in The National Law Journal, Institute for Justice attorneys Clark Neily and Paul Sherman explain why the Supreme Court should agree to hear the case of Locke v. Shore, which centers on Florida’s 1994 law requiring interior designers to carry a costly state license before plying their trade. As the authors write:
Florida is one of only three states in the nation to license the practice of interior design, and the burdens Florida's law imposes on would-be designers are extraordinary, particularly in light of the fact that 47 states see no need to license them and have had no problems as a result. Acquiring an interior design license takes years and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. To be eligible for licensure, an applicant must first complete a combined six years of post-secondary education and apprenticeship under a state-licensed interior designer and pass a state-mandated exam administered by a private testing body.
Viewed through a First Amendment lens, the law is clearly unconstitutional. Virtually everything an interior designer does is speech, from consulting with clients regarding their personal goals and tastes, to drawing up space plans, to offering advice about the selection and placement of fixtures, finishes and furnishings. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that all of these kinds of activities constitute "speech" within the meaning of the First Amendment. Weighed against the immense burdens Florida's interior design law imposes on this speech is an utter dearth of evidence regarding the law's supposed benefits to the public. Indeed, attorneys for the state stipulated during the litigation they had no evidence that the unlicensed practice of interior design — which is the norm in 47 states — poses any bona fide threat to the public, or that Florida's licensing regime had benefited the public in any demonstrable way.
Every month University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer report the latest global temperature trends from satellite data. Below are the newest data updated through December, 2011. Christy reports that 2011 was the 9th warmest year in 33-year satellite record.
Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.13 C per decade
December temperatures (preliminary)
Global composite temp.: +0.13 C (about 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for December.
Northern Hemisphere: +0.20 C (about 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for December.
Southern Hemisphere: +0.06 C (about 0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for December.
Tropics: +0.04 C (about 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for December.
Go here to see the monthly satellite temperature database.
- Ron Paul gets feisty in the Live Free or Die state.
- Pres. Obama to announce plan for a slightly smaller U.S. military.
- Rick Santorum is not as poor or disconnected from Washington as he claims.
- Kodak may file for bankruptcy.
- Renting is all the rage again.
- Cops shoot, kill teen holding pellet gun.
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New at Reason.tv: "Rick Santorum on the Freedom to Impose Your Values"
Back in 2007, when Barack Obama was running for president, a mildly surprising bit of news emerged: He and Dick Cheney were eighth cousins. Today, though, it appears that report was wrong. Judging from Obama's record in office, the two are practically brothers. As a candidate, Obama criticized the last administration for holding Americans as enemy combatants without trial. He faulted it for wiretapping citizens without a warrant. He rejected the Republican claim that the president has the "inherent power" to go to war without congressional consent. He depicted George W. Bush and his vice president as a menace to constitutional limits and personal freedom. But look at him now, writes Steve Chapman. Last week, Obama signed a bill letting him detain U.S. citizens in military custody without convicting them of anything—not for a month or a year, but potentially forever.View this article
I've been on the road here in Iowa, covering the caucus and the aftermath of the close-number-three outcome in the Ron Paul world, for an upcoming feature article in the April print issue of Reason (subscribe right away!)
Herewith, a free-range gambol through some things I've learned or seen here, on the ground, in Iowa. (The ground here is cold, in case you were wondering the real truth about being on the ground in Iowa.)
The Paul campaign, as the media has noted, is pretty tight-lipped; I was told that "message discipline" in a campaign is of great importance to them, so the people officially authorized to speak on the campaign are limited in number and often hard to reach in a hurry. But I've gotten some on-the-record comment and a much larger store of background or not-for-attribution stuff from wandering around the speeches, caucuses, and parties of the Ron Paul world this week.
The most important thing for Paul fans to know is: coming in third with over 26,000 votes fully matched if not exceeded the campaign's hopes and expectations. Even if you are bummed that he didn't win, the campaign is not. Some in the Paul community are even pretty sure that not coming in first will be better for Paul for the long haul than coming in first would have been. (For general reasons of "less of a target for opponents and media.")
During the brief holiday period of Paul's frontrunner-hood last month, that attention didn't feel good to the campaign in many ways. But there is no objective sign that he was particularly damaged by any of that yesterday. Paul's 21.4 percent came in pretty much exactly as he'd been polling for the ten days prior. Paul didn't fail to win yesterday because his percentage shrank; he didn't win because his opponents' percentages grew.
Rick Santorum is one who grew, and grew, and grew, to everyone's surprise. There is some chance that part of that surprise Santorum growth can be credited to the Paul-centered brouhaha when Bachmann's state chair Kent Sorenson, a state senator who had long been in the Paul orbit (Paul had done a fundraiser for him back in 2009), quit Bachmann's team and endorsed Paul.
Bachmann accused Sorenson of having been paid off by the Paul campaign. She provided no proof, the Paul campaign and Paul himself denied it, and I didn't meet any Iowan who seemed to genuinely believe it. Another Bachmann aide denied it publicly and probably got fired for contradicting his boss. (More interesting unsubstantiated rumor, based on the Paul fundraiser in 2009: that Sorenson was a Paul mole all along!) More than one Iowa native (one of whom noted that, perhaps to their detriment, most of the people running the show for Paul here day-to-day were not Iowans) told me that that sort of thing just reads distastefully to many locals. One Paul precinct captain just told me, unbidden, that he didn't like that sort of thing; it just isn't done, and it was the only expression of distaste with anything surrounding Paul I heard from his lips.
Another Iowan said at the very least it might have been better if Sorenson's quitting Bachmann and endorsing Paul had a couple of days between them to avoid the old appearance of impropriety. I meet a lot of Paul fans, both here and around the country, who like to believe their guy is above purely political machinations; lots of people working for him understandably believe political machinations are one of the things that make political campaigns work.
Doubtless the specifics of this "staffer leaves one candidate and endorses another" story is a pretty in-the-weeds thing that most caucus-goers didn't obsess about much. Still, it added to the general aura of a deflating Bachmann and may well have led many people who would have been Bachmann voters to become Santorum ones. Had the split of that evangelical values voter audience been more even between Michele and Rick, Paul would likely have been a close second.
Everyone I talked to was impressed with what the Paul machine achieved in Iowa, working hard for what they got with likely over a million in ads over the campaign, dozens of paid staffers, many hundreds of out of state youthful troops working brutal 10 hour or more shifts everyday and stored away at a YMCA camp, doing advance work for Paul's many appearances, working the phones (ferociously; everyone in the Paul campaign's lists seemed to be getting multiple calls a day), doing some door-to-door stuff (and keeping their eyes on the local Occupiers to make sure they didn't come back to disrupt the office, as they did once.)
The good old fashioned traveling Paul grassroots warriors, like "End the Fed" movement founder Steven Vincent from Los Angeles, hit the ground here to do the sort of public rallying--pub "crawls for Paul," sign waves--that the grassroots loves, even as the campaign would rather they all just be phone banking. The Paul energy is "different" this time around, Vincent says; "it's not as much stuff like sign waving and rallying and public outward activity. It seems more online and more phone calling and things like that, and fundraising. It is not as raucous." The days of the "Ron Paul Revolution" banners hanging everywhere, as another activist lamented, seem to be over.
Still, Vincent is sure that the Paul energy remains deep and spreading; he's a yoga coach himself and wandered into an Iowa yoga class out of the blue, and ran into three random Paul voters there when he explained what brought him to Iowa. "One man, 68 years old, told me that he understands it is time for real, real change, serious change, and this Ron Paul seems like the guy who's gonna do it," Vincent says.
Could more have been done to get Paul closer to number one? I heard a few bits of Wednesday-morning-quarterbacking that seemed to have some merit. At the caucus itself, lots of people come in undecided, so a concerted effort at making sure good, sharp Paul spokespeople were at as many caucus locations as possible might have paid off. That speechifying effort was laid on local precinct captains (who were provided with suggested talking points) and may not, from some accounts, have been done very effectively across the over a thousand different caucus meetings.
One Iowan actually suggests that the phone banking--which was key to how Rand Paul, from whose winning campaign many Ron Paul higher-ups come, won in Kentucky in 2010, and thus considered pretty much the alpha and omega of how to win a campaign in the Paul operation--may have been overdone. He told me he knows of at least a handful of Iowans who found it annoyingly overbearing and led them to decide not to caucus for Paul, and from what he knows of the Iowan mentality he suspects there might have been others similarly discomfited. (Another un-Iowa touch I heard locals complain about: the official Ankeny HQ started locking its doors during office hours. Bad form for someone eagerly showing up, often after driving many hours, to pick up signs or volunteer to run into a locked door. "No one in Iowa locks doors," I was told, though I admit when I'm in a hotel here, I do lock my door. But I'm an out-of-towner.)
And never forget that no matter how good a job the campaign did at message-spreading and getting out their base, Paul has a problem with lots of voters (one I find Paul mavens surprisingly unwilling to admit): they just don't actually agree with most or all of his beliefs. In that regard, given that Paul's most vivid and forceful departure from conservative and Republican orthodoxy is in foreign policy, the noises round the globe hyping up possible war with Iran probably worked against Paul's interests here in Iowa. Ominous splashes from the Straits of Hormuz may have poured cold water on Paul's chances, to indulge a perfectly dreadful metaphor.
A.J. Spiker, a member of the Iowa Republican Party Central Committee, was state co-chair for the Paul campaign. He thinks having Paul on the ground in Iowa so often was key to their success. "Dr. Paul connects well with people when he gets the opportunity to speak to people and answer their questions in a town hall format," Spiker says. "People receive his answers a lot better than in 30 second debate rebuttals. When Dr. Paul has the opportunity to really answer questions, lots of Iowans recognize a good answer, especially on foreign policy." Spiker notes that Paul people are working the party apparatus more and more, seeking and gaining positions of influence in local parties and helping cement Paul as the leader for the constitutionalist conservative wing of the GOP. Paul forces did well in winning county delegate seats yesterday, Spiker thinks, though he doesn't have hard numbers. He also stresses, despite things you may read, that what happened yesterday has no necessary connection at all to how Iowa's delegates are eventually apportioned after they come out the wringer of county-to-state-to-national.
But what's most important is that what happened yesterday has the Paul campaign coming out of Iowa where they needed to be: healthy, energized, still "top tier," clearly the candidate of the young; appealing more to the independents who might actually help the Republicans beat Obama than any of his opponents; copping earned media about what a beloved doctor their candidate is; getting public love from rock n' rollers very old (Joe Perry) and slightly less old (Jonny H. of Social Distortion; my band opened for them back in 1988, the year of Paul's first presidential run--coincidence? Assuredly so, especially given that H. wasn't even in the band yet then); and thinking ahead--for example, launching anti-abortion ads in South Carolina where the old evangelical values voters will likely be vital.
Most importantly and immediately, Paul's team is already focusing on that old ground game in New Hampshire, where a strong second place to Romney is being fought for with the same vigor that made Paul the only force in the GOP that more than doubled its apparent appeal since 2008 yesterday in Iowa. Whether fully thrilled about the Iowa operation or having some misgivings, all in the Paul campaign and volunteer camps seem to agree that his supporters and his ideas are more firmly entrenched in American politics today than they were two days ago.
This morning Newt Gingrich, the historian, insisted that renowned hemp growers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would have violently suppressed their own crop:
Dude in Audience: Would Jefferson or George Washington have been arrested for growing marijuana?
Gingrich: I think Jefferson or George Washington would have strongly discouraged you from growing marijuana, and their techniques for dealing with it would have been rather more violent than the current government.
Admittedly, the hypothetical scenario is a little hard to understand. Would Jefferson and Washington have been arrested for growing marijuana if doing so had been a federal crime in the 18th century? Probably they would not have been growing it in the first place. More to the point, it never would have occurred to anyone at the time that the newly formed federal government had the authority to proscribe a plant. And judging from his comments in Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson would not have been sympathetic to such a policy, whether at the federal or state level:
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others....Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now. Thus in France the emetic was once forbidden as a medicine, and the potatoe as an article of food.
Yet somehow Gingrich—who finished a distant fourth in Iowa last night, eight points behind that crazy crank Ron Paul—knows that if Jefferson and Washington were alive today they would be just as mindlessly bloodthirsty as he is in trying to stop people from consuming the same plant he smoked with impunity when he was in graduate school. Also note Gingrich's implicit complaint that the Obama administration is not violent enough in cracking down on marijuana. Raids on medical marijuana dispensaries are more frequent under Obama than they were under Bush, and these are not peaceful events. If Gingrich were in charge, I guess, dispensary operators would be lined up against a wall and shot.
Ron Paul may have placed third at the Iowa caucus on Tuesday, behind a tied-up Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, but he did so while pulling 58 percent of caucus goers under 30, according to MSNBC. Paul's popularity with young people is legend, and last night's showing proves it extends to conservative Iowa. Less well-known, writes Michael Tracey, is Paul's sympathy for young people whose political concerns overlap only slightly with his own: namely, the Occupy Wall Street movement.View this article
When he signed the National Defense Authorization Act on Saturday, President Obama issued a statement that addresses its controversial provisions regarding his authority to detain terrorism suspects (emphasis added):
Section 1021 affirms the executive branch's authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)....This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not "limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force." Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any "existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States." My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.
Although it's true that the Supreme Court has interpreted the AUMF as implicitly approving certain detention powers, the extent of those powers remains unclear. Since the NDAA, unlike the AUMF, explicitly mentions detention "without trial" and broadens the category of people subject to "military force," it's not true that it "breaks no new ground." Notwithstanding the assurances cited by Obama, the NDAA favors a broad reading of the detention powers supposedly granted by the AUMF.
The promise in bold is interesting because it does not distinguish between American citizens captured on a foreign battlefield and American citizens arrested in the United States. In the 2004 case Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court approved the indefinite military detention of an American citizen captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan, although it said due process required that he be given "a fair opportunity to rebut the Government's factual assertions before a neutral decisionmaker." It has not addressed the question of whether this detention authority extends to terrorism suspects arrested on U.S. soil or whether citizenship matters in that context. Obama therefore is saying he will not use a detention power that has been upheld by the Supreme Court while reserving the possibility that he will use one (relating to noncitizens arrested here) that has not. He does not actually say that indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens is not authorized by the AUMF or that it is unconstitutional, although he does say that it "would break with our most important traditions and values." Unless Obama has some sneaky definitions of indefinite or trial in mind, he is committing to avoid treating U.S. citizens suspected of ties to terrorism the way the Bush administration treated Yasser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla.
Obama's plans for noncitizens linked to Al Qaeda are less clear:
Section 1022 seeks to require military custody for a narrow category of non-citizen detainees who are "captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force." This section is ill-conceived and will do nothing to improve the security of the United States. The executive branch already has the authority to detain in military custody those members of al-Qa'ida who are captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the AUMF, and as Commander in Chief I have directed the military to do so where appropriate. I reject any approach that would mandate military custody where law enforcement provides the best method of incapacitating a terrorist threat. While section 1022 is unnecessary and has the potential to create uncertainty, I have signed the bill because I believe that this section can be interpreted and applied in a manner that avoids undue harm to our current operations.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other supporters of this provision argue that terrorism suspects are "captured in the course of hostilities" no matter where they are found, because the battlefield in the War on Terror is the entire world, including the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder seems to agree with that view. Obama demands the discretion to treat noncitizens suspected of ties to Al Qaeda as prisoners of war or as criminal defendants, and he does not say whether the location or context of their arrest matters. He does say that in implementing the NDAA's detention provisions he will seek to "provide the maximum measure of flexibility and clarity to our counterterrorism professionals permissible under law." The flexibility Obama wants does not seem consistent with the clarity required by the rule of law.
Obama empire? "[A]n extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department" is how House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) describes the president’s recess appointment – before the Senate has actually recessed – of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Unfazed, Obama is also likely to make recess appointments of a union lawyer, a Labor Department apparatchik and a Republican NLRB lawyer to the National Labor Relations Board. Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama tells iCarly cast she enjoys being called "Your Excellency."
"Electability" defined downward: Mitt Romney enjoys tie in Iowa Caucus, basks in kudos from John McCain (who clobbered him in 2008 before being slaughtered in turn by Barack Obama).
Does the New York Times editorial board read newspapers? In New Year-plus-one editorial, Grey Lady pretends 2011 never happened, promises 60,000 new jobs from Solyndra loan guarantee program, invites mockery.
Another high-speed rail report will have to be buried: California High Speed Rail Peer Review Group recommends withholding bonds from the hopeless project. The borderline-illegal lowballing of HSR costs before a 2008 referendum has more people calling for a new referendum.
Battle of the dull, risk-avoiding centrists: PBS president responds after Romney calls for defunding public broadcasting. Jesse Walker on the history of CPB-funding theater.
Torre fury: Longtime manager Joe Torre and Grove developer Rick Caruso team up in bid to take over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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The modest ambition of the new collection of essays, Love Your Monsters: Postenvironmentalism and the Anthropocene, is to dismantle neo-Malthusian environmentalism of sacrifice and collapse and replace it with a new environmentalism that celebrates human creativity and technological abundance. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey says, Hooray!View this article
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, New York University law professor Richard Epstein weighs in on Harmon v. Kimmel, the big rent control case that the Supreme Court may decide to take up this term:
In broad and emphatic language, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that "no person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Rent control collides with the last prohibition, the "takings clause."
All versions of rent-control laws share a single dominant characteristic: They allow a tenant to remain in possession of property after the expiration of a lease at below-market rents. New York even gives the tenant a statutory right to pass on the right to occupy the premises at a controlled rent to family members who have lived with them for two or more years. The tenants in Mr. Harmon's complaint pay rent equal to about 60% of market value.The Second Circuit recognized that the Harmons would be entitled to just compensation when their property is subject to a "permanent physical occupation." But following the Supreme Court decision in Yee v. City of Escondido (1993), the court insisted that "government regulation of the rental relationship does not constitute a physical taking." That comes as a real surprise to the Harmons when they hear footsteps each night above their bedroom.
Although most Americans drive their cars to work each day, a sizable amount of policy debate centers on public transportation, especially as cities embark on urban planning. A recent Reason-Rupe poll of 1,200 adults on landline and mobile phones finds that 12 percent of Americans take public transportation at least a few times a week and 63 percent say they never take public transit.
Correspondingly, 62 percent of Americans prioritize transportation funding for roads and highways over funding for public transit. Nevertheless, 30 percent—substantially more than those who frequently use public transportation—would prioritize funding for public transit. However, it is unclear whether those who do not take public transit but want to prioritize its spending would personally use public transit if expanded or if they would just want others to use it to reduce traffic congestion.
When getting specific, a third of Americans say public transit funding should be commensurate with the percentage using it; in other words, government should spend the same amount of money per person who takes public transit as those who take roads. Another third believe government should spend more dollars per person using public transit than individuals using roads. In comparison, 15 percent would spend disproportionally more per person using roads. Among those who frequently use public transit to get to work, nearly half believe that more dollars per person should be spent on those using public transportation than those using roads. In contrast, 33 percent of those who primarily commute on roads and highways would rather government spend more dollars per person using roads.
Americans overwhelmingly believe tax dollars spent on transportation are spent ineffectively (65 percent), whereas only 23 percent believe the money is spent well. Interestingly, there are substantial differences between those who take public transit and roads and perceptions of government wastefulness. Sixty six percent of those who commute on roads believe government spends transportation dollars ineffectively, while only 21 percent disagree. In contrast, 41 percent of public transit users believe government does spend effectively.
Find full Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll results, question wording, and methodology here.
The Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1,200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from December 1-13. Interviews were conducted on both landline and mobile phones. The margin of sampling error for this poll is +/- 3 percent.
Follow Emily Ekins on Twitter @emilyekins
Have you heard the good news? GOP primary contender Rick Santorum, the two term Pennsylvania Senator and former pro-wrestling lobbyist, thinks that this election is all. About. Freedom. That's what he's fighting for.
After taking second place to Mitt Romney in yesterday’s Iowa caucus by just eight votes, Santorum gave a lengthy, unscripted speech, in which he declared that even in the midst of a miserable economy and threats to both the nation’s culture and safety, his campaign was defined by a single idea:
"The essential issue in this race is freedom -- whether we will be a country that believes that government can do things for us better than we can do for ourselves, or whether we believe, as our founders did, that rights come to us from God, and when he gave us those rights he gave us the freedom to go out and live those rights out, to build a great and just society, not from the top down, but from the bottom up." [bold added]
Freedom, eh? And the belief that individuals manage their own affairs better than the government? That’s Santorum’s essential issue? If I didn’t know better, I might think this was satire.
Is there any candidate in the GOP race less invested in freedom, and the idea that individuals are better equipped than government to make decisions about their lives, than Rick Santorum? He’s for freedom, except for the freedom of same-sex couples to get married. He’s for freedom, except when state governments want to enforce sweeping bans on types of private sexual activity between consenting adults. He believes that government doesn’t do things better than we do for ourselves, except for “allocating spending” through pork-barrel earmark projects, and funding religious organizations to do social work, and spending hundreds of millions of federal dollars to promote the benefits of the same state-sponsored marriage that he’s worked so hard to deny to gays. He wants to avoid government-driven, top-down policy solutions—except when he votes to pass a brand new prescription drug benefit without paying for it. He's a freedom fighter, sure. By which I mean he seems to spend a lot of time fighting against freedom.
In his official remarks about the end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, President Obama told an assembly of troops, “Your service belongs to the ages. Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries.” Sheldon Richman notes that if you only heard those words, you’d never know that a signature of Obama’s 2008 campaign was his assertion that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a terrible mistake. What changed to make Obama talk about an aggressive and unnecessary war in this new way?View this article
Mitt Romney squeaked out an eight-vote victory over Rick Santorum in Iowa on Tuesday, with Ron Paul finishing a close third.
Reason.tv spent the night at a caucus in Ankeny, IA and at the Ron Paul headquarters at the Ankeny Holiday Inn. While there, we encountered hopeful Ron Paul supporters, many expecting a first-place finish. When those hopes were dashed, many expressed disappointment while also maintaining hope for success in future primaries and acknowledging improvements made since the 2008 campaign.
Paul himself called Iowa a success, saying that his top three finish guaranteed him one of "three tickets" out of Iowa.
"I think there's nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be satisfied [with], and be ready and rearing to go on to the next stop, which is New Hampshire," said Paul.
About 3 minutes. Produced by Sharif Matar and Zach Weissmueller.
The U.S. Supreme Court has said that having a drug-detecting dog sniff luggage at an airport or a car during a traffic stop does not amount to a "search" under the Fourth Amendment and therefore does not require a warrant. A case that Florida's attorney general has asked the Court to consider raises the question of whether the same conclusion applies to the use of a drug-sniffing dog outside a home. Miami-Dade police brought the dog to Joelis Jardines' house on December 5, 2006, based on an anonymous tip that he was growing marijuana. After sniffing around, the dog sat down, which supposedly indicated that he smelled cannabis. Based on that "alert," police obtained a search warrant from a magistrate. The ensuing search discovered 179 plants, along with Jardines sneaking out the back door. The trial court suppressed the evidence obtained in the search, agreeing with Jardines that police needed probable cause to bring in the dog. An appeals court reversed that decision, but last April the Florida Supreme Court reinstated it, concluding the dog-assisted inspection of the home's exterior did indeed constitute a search.
The U.S. Supreme Court's rulings dealing with dog sniffs emphasized that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the possession of contraband, which is the only thing a properly trained dog's alert is supposed to reveal. (Whether that's true in practice is another matter.) But the decisions were limited to specific settings (an airport and a highway) where the expectation of privacy is not as strong as it is in the home. Then again, in Kyllo v. United States, the 2001 case where the Court said a warrant is needed for infrared surveillance of a home, it emphasized that thermal imaging reveals innocent details of people's lives as well as the possible presence of an indoor marijuana garden. In light of those rulings, Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSBlog, told the Associated Press:
The Florida Supreme Court adopted a very broad reading of the Fourth Amendment that is different from that applied by other courts. It's an interpretation that a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court will question.
The Florida Supreme Court nevertheless makes a strong case that, even assuming police dogs are inerrant drug-detecting machines, a canine inspection like the one conducted at Jardines' house is not the sort of thing police should be allowed to do on a whim:
The dog "sniff test" that was conducted in the present case was an intrusive procedure. As explained more fully below, the "sniff test" was a sophisticated undertaking that was the end result of a sustained and coordinated effort by various law enforcement agencies. On the scene, the procedure involved multiple police vehicles, multiple law enforcement personnel, including narcotics detectives and other officers, and an experienced dog handler and trained drug detection dog engaged in a vigorous search effort on the front porch of the residence. Tactical law enforcement personnel from various government agencies, both state and federal, were on the scene for surveillance and backup purposes. The entire on-the-scene government activity—i.e., the preparation for the "sniff test," the test itself, and the aftermath, which culminated in the full-blown search of Jardines‟ home—lasted for hours. The “sniff test” apparently took place in plain view of the general public. There was no anonymity for the resident.
Such a public spectacle unfolding in a residential neighborhood will invariably entail a degree of public opprobrium, humiliation and embarrassment for the resident, for such dramatic government activity in the eyes of many—neighbors, passers-by, and the public at large—will be viewed as an official accusation of crime. Further, if government agents can conduct a dog "sniff test" at a private residence without any prior evidentiary showing of wrongdoing, there is nothing to prevent the agents from applying the procedure in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner, or based on whim and fancy, at the home of any citizen. Such an open-ended policy invites overbearing and harassing conduct. Accordingly, we conclude that a "sniff test," such as the test that was conducted in the present case, is a substantial government intrusion into the sanctity of the home and constitutes a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. As such, it must be preceded by an evidentiary showing of wrongdoing.
Miami-Dade police could have avoided this whole controversy if they had taken a cue from their colleagues in Pinellas County and simply claimed they could smell the pot while standing outside Jardines' house. Perhaps their noses are not quite as sensitive. The cops in Pinellas County, after all, can smell marijuana even when it's not there.
SCOTUSblog has more on Florida v. Jardines here. More on drug-sniffing dogs here, including Radley Balko's 2011 column on "The Mind of a Police Dog." Julian Sanchez explored related issues in his classic Reason article on "The Pinpoint Search."
[Thanks to Kevin Bankert for the tip.]
After a fifth-place finish in Iowa last night, there were reports that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was suspending his campaign and returning to Texas to mope/"assess" his campaign instead of continuing the fight. But Perry's official twitter suggests a new burst of optimism. About an hour ago, the governor or his approximation tweeted:
And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State...Here we come South Carolina!!!
This photo was also included. Observe Perry dressed to run (get it?!) and standing confidently by himself by a lake in the middle of nowhere. He's rustic, he's decisive, he's not dropping out yet.
National Journal also said an anonymous Republican official assured them that Perry is still in the race, he's just taking a Texas breather.
[Updated] Politico says it's official:
Perry campaign manager Joe Allbaugh confirmed to POLITICO that the governor is going forward.
“Staying,” Allbaugh wrote in an email when asked if Perry was remaining in the race.
A source close to Perry said he decided to make a stand in South Carolina because “he is not a quitter and really is the only true conservative in the race.”
Once more, before it becomes totally irrelevant, Perry's attempt at appealing to the types of folks who almost gave Rick Santorum a win last night, below. Also, The Atlantic on how each caucus vote cost Perry $480.
Rick Santorum, like most Republican candidates, fashions himself the one true conservative running in 2012. If the thought of big, intrusive liberal government offends you, he might just be your man. And if you favor a big, intrusive Republican government, writes David Harsanyi, he's unquestionably your candidate.View this article
The recent Reason-Rupe public opinion poll called 1,200 adults on landline and mobile phones providing a snapshot of public opinion regarding transportation policy issues. A majority of Americans believe their area’s transportation system is only in fair or even poor condition, while just 6 percent believe it is in excellent condition.
Nearly half of Americans say traffic congestion has gotten worse over the past five years and 54 percent expect traffic congestion to get worse over the next five years. In fact, 31 percent reported getting stuck in traffic jams at least a few times a week; however, another 30 percent say they never get stuck in traffic jams.
Despite traffic problems on the roads, only 6 percent of Americans say they use public transportation, such as buses, subways, or trains, every day; another 6 percent use public transit a few times a week. In contrast, 63 percent say they never use public transit, implying that most Americans primarily use roads and highways rather than public transit. Carpooling has also not caught on as a solution to congestion with only 4 percent saying they typically travel to work via carpool; instead, a majority drive alone.
Work commutes vary substantially, with 25 percent getting to work within 10 minutes while another quarter spending 30 minutes or more commuting. Some live close to work, with 28 percent living within five miles of their jobs, but another quarter travel 20 miles or more to work each day.
Find full Reason-Rupe Q4 2011 poll results, question wording, and methodology here.
Follow Emily Ekins on Twitter @emilyekins
Bachmania comes to an end: Representative Michele Bachmann, the original GOP presidential primary flavor of the week candidate, is ending her campaign for the Republican nomination for president, according to multiple reports. Perhaps now she can get to work building a "double fence" along America's border with Mexico.
Read Shikha Dalmia on Bachmann's unholy crusade against illegal immigrants here. Check out Reason's Bachmann's candidate profile page here. Still Bachmann-curious? Browse Reason's complete archive of Bachmann coverage here.
At the opinion section of CNN.com, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch writes about last night's results and the Mitt Romney paradox. Sample:
[Despite giving him virtually the same vote totals], Iowa arguably derailed Romney in 2008 while shoring up his front-runner status this time around. GOP politics have become so fluid, so unpredictable, so bizarre, that the main point of the game is more about survival than winning. [...]
[Electability] may be enough to help Romney survive against three competitors who are more excitable. But it also sets up one whale of a paradox: After 39 months of consistent public hostility to bailout economics, after the rise of the tea party movement, after town-hall opposition to "Obama care," after the long-shot Scott Brown win in Massachusetts, after the 2010 limited-government resurgence in the House of Representatives ... after all of these unmistakable signs of public -- let alone Republican -- sentiment, the alleged party of limited government may be on the verge of nominating someone who is running to President Barack Obama's left on Medicare, who helped pave the way for the Obama policy Republicans hate most and who has no real plan for cutting the biggest growth items in the federal budget.
For Ron Paul's most ardent supporters, last night's third-place finish in the Iowa caucus was an undeniable disappointment. The dream of boomeranging from an Iowa victory to a New Hampshire resurgence to an anything-is-possible Super Tuesday has now gone to re-write. But as Editor in Chief Matt Welch explains, Paul fans and supporters of limited government more broadly have many reasons to be cheered by last night's results. Here are seven of those reasons.View this article
- Iowa Caucus: Romney beat Santorum by eight votes.
- Paul took third, is still pretty happy about it.
- Gingrich got his clock cleaned, vows revenge on mud-slinging Mitt.
- John McCain to endorse Romney.
- Rep. Michele Bachmann has cancelled her trip to South Carolina after finishing sixth in the Iowa caucuses. Will likely drop out at presser this morning.
- Rick Perry has suspended his campaign.
New at Reason.tv: "Reason.tv in Iowa: 'We're All Austrians Now' - Ron Paul and the IA Caucus"
Ron Paul's opponents condemn him as "outside the mainstream." Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says that's actually a recommendation, since "the mainstream" has brought us a national debt the size of the national economy, a bloated yet overextended military that has strayed far from its mission of defending the country, and a lawless executive branch that usurps legislative powers and violates civil liberties.View this article
As you saw below here on Hit and Run, despite some pretty widespread hope and anticipation from both the media (a week ago and earlier tonight) and a lot of his eager fans and grassroots volunteers (until late tonight), Ron Paul failed to win, or even come in second. This was not, it seems (at least the failure to win part) a huge surprise to more higher-level campaign staff.
As a Ron Paul admirer since 1988, having the sweet hope of victory held over my head for a moment led to a frustrating and dispiriting night. But--while all discussions of "moods of the room" are suspect, based, as they must be, on long talks with what by necessity will be a narrow unscientific sampling of the room--I seemed to be perhaps the most bummed person at the Paul "victory party." Even the many Iowans who started today expecting a win are still satisfied and eager footsoldiers in an ongoing Ron Paul Revolution.
Before the results poured in, I sat in on the caucus process in Precinct 5 in Ankeny, held in a high school gym about a mile from Paul's state HQ. More than 200 people showed up. I didn't stay long enough to see the official count. But the GOP precinct organizer--Ron Paul supporter Ross Witt--had the various candidates' fans bunch up in separate parts of the gym to pick their spokespeople, vote watchers, and potential delegate candidates. When that happened, Paul's crowd was the largest (and contained the only African-American in the room).
Talking to caucusgoers before the business began, I met an actual example of a type I was always told existed in abundance: a would-be Ron Paul fan turned off by his foreign policy. He was a young Ankeny-area attorney who used to consider himself a Paul man but decided Paul's fervent dedication to not starting pre-emptive wars was too punctilious in the face of the perceived threat of Iran. His buddy with him was undecided when he came in, though leaning Bachmann. (Coming from the libertarian tradition of highly rationalistic politics derived from first principles, I find the meandering and seemingly senseless approach to these decisions of the average undecided voter somewhat confusing and maddening--this guy was able to see a lot he liked in everyone from Romney to Santorum to Paul.) I met a heavily bearded working man in dirty clothes who expressed his love for Paul as deriving entirely from "I just want less government." He wasn't sure he could wait an hour to vote, but did. (The majority profession I heard from Paul men I spoke to tonight, between the caucus and the campaign's results-watching party, was some sort of laborer/manual worker. Paul is not just pulling pencil-necked geeks and weirdo intellectuals.)
I talked a while at the caucus with Paul precinct co-captain Scott Hanson, a successful salesman for Homemakers Furniture (million-dollar club multiple years). Hanson is a longtime fan of the world of electoral politics for the glamor; he has tales of having met nearly every major figure in the GOP of the past few decades and has known Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad since he was a boy. He tells me he has always enjoyed just palling around with pols, but finds Paul is the only one who inspired a serious devotion in him since Reagan--because he sees Paul as the only politician with solutions to the serious problems that he sees presenting America with a "do or die" crisis. His love for Paul has even made him realize Sean Hannity, who he used to love, isn't as stalwart as he believed.
I met a couple of ladies who were part of the huge wave of freshly-minted Santorum fans, having turned from Bachmann. Like all Iowans, they've been getting double-digit calls from candidates every day for the past few weeks; one of them had gotten Paul-sponsored anti-Santorum calls in the past couple of days (which led Santorum to call Paul "disgusting"). She was disappointed, and was aware of Paul's previous reputation for not indulging in that sort of attack politics. Paul's campaign has decided to eschew such high-mindedness this time around, though rarely will you hear direct attacks on specific competitors from Paul's own mouth.
Despite Paul fans' reputation for endless willingness to go anywhere anytime and tell people about Ron Paul, no one was at the caucus handing out Paul literature. Both Santorum and Perry had a couple of canvassers doing so for them. (Pair of young ladies for Perry, less-young men for Santorum.) This lack of Paul muscle-on-the-ground at the caucuses was also noted by Paulites at at least three other precincts, and all of them were surprised no volunteers were there trying to sway last-minute undecideds. While I have no macrostats on this, Paul fans from two different precincts reported 10-15 percent of the Paul votes at their precinct coming from non-Republicans who re-registered Republican that evening at the caucus.
As I left the caucus to drive to the Paul results-watching party, CNN was reporting Paul in the lead based on early entry polls, though that disappeared quickly. Hundreds of Paul fans and media--in nearly equal numbers, it seemed--filled a ballroom at the Courtyard Inn in Ankeny.
I met a lot of non-Iowans there on basic Ron Paul fan roadtrips, including a solo sojourner from north of Minneapolis, a pair from Chicago, and a team from Texas. (The first four people I randomly approached to chat were all out-of-staters.) I learned, again, that Ron Paul fans think hard and act hard on how to promote their man, with nearly everyone I met having their own particular plan for Paul promotion, and nearly all saying that everyone in their lives knows all-too-well that they are Ron Paul People.
I found Iowans are mighty confused by Santorum's unexpected rise to the top, and mostly blame it on his rising too fast to be vetted properly and thoroughly by the voters. I ran into two sitting state legislators who are Paul fans (Kim Pearson and Glen Massie) and two who will be running on a Paulite platform this year for state legislative seats (David Edwards and Matt Devries). Most of the people who actually work for the campaign didn't want to say much for the record tonight or were not readily available for comment.
I ran into a few people who were surprised, given how roundly Paul won their precinct, surprised enough to want to see the specific per-precinct figure breakdown before they were sure the results were legit. But that seemed more frustration than conspiracy theory. One Paul dude made the case--which I concur with--that the past 24 hours of Fox News amounted to a free half-million attack ad buy against Paul from his enemies.
I met a team of RevolutionPAC (a Paulite superpac) supporters, including Dan Johnson and John Moore. Moore is a Veteran for Ron Paul with two Iraq stints behind him. He tells me that "as bullets were whizzing by my head in Iraq Irealized I wasn't making this country safer," especially when he came home to the Patriot Act and crippling partially war-caused crushing debt. Johnson and Moore are on the road riling up the grassroots independently of the campaign, and working with iRoots.org to produce Paul-promoting Net video content. Johnson tells me RevPAC is raising money to further spread their "Compassion of Ron Paul" ad, featuring a black man with a white wife who Paul helped for free as a doctor.
I talked to Paul volunteer Allen Huffman, who works for Wells Fargo. Like every other volunteer I spoke to, his stories of Paul activism were largely based in working the phones--finding Paul supporters, finding what their issues were and selling them on those issues, and making sure the Paul-committed were energized, motivated, and helped in getting out to the caucuses today. He told me months ago a Paul campaign staffer gave a talk to a squad of volunteers in which she laid out almost precisely what happened with Paul's slow, steady rise--with the caveat that she said the goal was to get Paul to number one on caucus day and not a day earlier. Having risen to the top in some polls before Christmas may well have been one of Paul's problems.
As a piece from Business Insider being sent around by the Paulfolk on Facebook all day and night indicates, when it comes to actually winning the delegates of the state of Iowa, tonight's non-binding caucus results mean nothing at all. Actual delegate votes happen later, and the caucus results don't bind the delegates. Tonight, after the presidential vote and after lots and lots of people leave (I'd say at least half walked out after the vote at the caucus I attended), they vote on delegates to the county convention, which in March will pick delegates to the state convention, which will later pick delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
I have some anecdotal evidence from tonight that Paul people were disciplined enough to actually stay long enough to win delegate seats, often by being the only people there even willing to be one by the time the selection process came around. One young Paulite bragged to me about how he was quite sure the Paul team had the delegate issue in the bag after tonight; when I asked him to elaborate on how he knew, he noticed the notepad in my hand, asked if I was a reporter, and pretty much ran away from me when I said I was. (The Paul campaign imposes a very tight message discipline, that is, it orders most of its employees and volunteers not to talk to reporters. Most of them obey.)
That said, there is more to "winning Iowa" than winning Iowa's delegates. Winning the caucus vote adds to the whole momentum thing, the whole designated frontrunner thing, the whole media attention and respect thing.
There is also, on the other hand, the whole "painting a target on your back" thing, which Santorum most definitely did tonight. The happy spin from Paul higher-ups has them still chugging ahead with their money, their fundraising prowess, their devoted fans, their great ideas that no other candidate can steal, and without the tsuris that a frontrunner Paul would surely draw on himself. Paul insisted tonight only he and Romney have the money and momentum to actually fight it out nationally through primary and caucus season.
And that is a happy spin indeed. The happiest spin, though, came from Paul's chin-up presentation to his fans after he was clearly third place. Paul said that his campaign and fans have reintroduced an idea into the Republican Party and American politics that is vitally needed: that "freedom is popular."
Paul's speech to his people tonight:
The latest from CNN on the Iowa caucuses with 88 percent reporting:
- Santorum 25 percent
- Romney 25 percent
- Paul 21 percent
- Gingrich 13 percent
- Perry 10 percent
- Bachmann 5 percent
- Huntsman 1 percent
1:30 A.M. UPDATE: With 99% reporting, it's Santorum over Romney by 18 measley votes. All of the percentages are the same you see above. Romney has virtually the exact same vote total and percentage as he did in 2008; Paul has more than doubled his. Rick Perry is reassessing; Bachmann may drop out.
Exit polls are fascinating–among voters for whom abortion was the single biggest issue, 58 percent chose Santorum (Perry came in second, with just 11%). Those who cared most about the budget deficit preferred Paul, but not by as much as I'd expect: 28% to Romney's 21%, then Santorum (19), Gingrich (15), Perry (11). Paul did the worst among the top 5 among those who made their decision most recently, suggesting that two weeks of media and competitor negativity took a toll (one that Santorum was able to avoid by sneaking up on everyone).
Paul and Romney are really matter and anti-matter in these exit polls. Those elevating electability above all preferred Mitt 48%-9% over Dr. No. Those who wanted a "true conservative" chose Paul 37%-1% (Santorum finished at 36). Paul did the best with the poor, Romney did the best with the rich. Paul dominated among self-identified non-Republicans (43% to Romney's 2nd place 19%); Romney won among those who had attended a GOP Iowa caucus in the past, and so on.
A shortage of Adderall, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, shows little sign of easing as manufacturers struggle to get enough active ingredient to make the drug and demand climbs....
The Drug Enforcement Administration tightly regulates how much of the drug's active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) can be distributed to manufacturers each year.
The system is designed to prevent the creation of stockpiles that could be diverted for inappropriate use...
Under the quota system, drugmakers receive enough material to meet what the DEA estimates will meet the legitimate needs of American patients, but not enough to build inventory...
Adderall manufacturers say they are working flat out to meet demand, and say the DEA does not always approve enough material in time for them to supply customers.
"Our production facilities are currently running at maximum capacity for Adderall utilizing all available API," said Teva's Bradley. "The catalyst for the problem is the quota system, not the business."
The DEA sets its aggregate quota at the beginning of each year, taking into account past quota levels, inventory levels and company sales forecasts. But the DEA's assessment of what a company needs may not be the same as the company's own estimates. It is an ongoing process of negotiation.
"DEA can come back and say, 'we agree with your forecast and issue everything you want,' or they may come back and say 'we don't think you need that much,' and they give you 75 percent," said Matt Cabrey, a spokesman for Shire.
Early last year, Shire suffered shortages of Adderall XR. "It was directly related to the API quota," Cabrey said. In June 2010, Shire calculated that API was running too low. It applied to the DEA for more, but did not receive the additional supply until December. It typically takes Shire three months to then make the product and get it to customers....
The DEA, while insisting its quota for 2011 was sufficient, nonetheless revised it upwards in December.
"We increase the aggregate so that we will have enough to respond to specific companies if their requests for more amphetamine salts are justified and needed," said Carreno. "The companies can and do request more amphetamine salts, and we can and do respond to those requests throughout the year."
Simply increasing the overall national quota, however, does not address company complaints that it takes DEA months to approve individual requests for new product.
In the face of manufacturers' complaints, the DEA continues, absurdly, to deny that it has anything to do with the shortage:
The DEA says recent shortages were not caused by an insufficient quota but by marketing decisions taken by the companies.
"Any shortage of these products is therefore a result of decisions made by industry regarding manufacturing or distribution," Barbara Carreno, a DEA spokeswoman said, though she declined to specify those decisions....
Asked why it might take the agency months to approve a company's request, the DEA said it is required by law to balance providing enough API to meet the legitimate needs of patients while protecting the public from any diversion of potentially lethal substances.
"We do our best to accomplish both missions, and the quota system is part of the process for achieving this," Carreno said.
As with painkillers, the goal of preventing "diversion" fundamentally conflicts with the goal of making sure that everyone who can benefit from the drug has ready access to it. In both cases, the DEA insists there is no such conflict, but the agency's raison d'être is making useful drugs harder to obtain. How could it not be at fault for a shortage it engineered through the quota system it enforces?
[Thanks to Amy Alkon for the tip.]
The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States will begin publishing projections for the overnight federal funds rate as part of its regular quarterly economic forecasts, beginning after its next meeting on Jan. 24-25.
Arson roundup coast to coast. NYPD arrests suspect in string of arsons, claiming he was too cheap even to pay for his own Molotov-cocktail bottles. Previous post on Los Angeles arson suspect updated with a correction.
"High-speed rail must wait for a better day," says Los Angeles Daily News editorial board, noting that the project’s skyrocketing budget and plummeting job-creation figures "pushed us over the edge to oppose a transportation plan we originally supported." Perspective: I have not seen a print copy of the Daily News for several years. The L.A. Times editorial board continues to support the project, though the newsroom appears to have turned against it.
U.S. ignores Iran warning, vows to continue patrolling Persian Gulf. U.S.S. John C. Stennis recently passed through the Strait of Hormuz, as Fox says, "en route to help with the war effort in Afghanistan" – an odd phrasing given that the Strait is the only entrance to and only exit from the [Arabian?] Gulf. Obama spokesman notes that U.S. warships have been projecting power in the Gulf for decades.
Stradivariuses (Stradivarii?) unbowed: Multi-million-dollar violins made by Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù "do not in fact sound better than high-quality modern instruments, according to a blindfolded play-off."
Four hours left to make your Iowa Caucus bets.
This week Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to unveil detailed plans for about $260 billion of the $450 billion in savings that President Obama has asked him to find in the Penatgon's budget over the course of the next decade. Because those savings represent reductions in projected spending, as opposed to actual cuts, the defense budget would continue rising, but not as fast as it would under current law. Assuming all the "cuts" are enacted, total military spending will be about 8 percent less than currently projected. If you add the $500 billion in "automatic" defense cuts imposed by the legislation that resolved last summer's debt-limit dispute, the total reduction from projected spending is about 17 percent, bringing the Pentagon's base budget all the way down to a level last seen in 2007, when the country was not exactly helpless against its adversaries. Yet Panetta says that result would be "catastrophic," and every Republican presidential candidate, with the notable exception of Ron Paul, agrees, promising to prevent or reverse the cuts. Mitt Romney, who deems even the 8 percent reduction "irresponsible," says the additional cuts would "put our national security on the chopping block." At the October 11 debate, Newt Gingrich declared, "It is nonsense to say we're going to disarm the United States unilaterally because we're too stupid to balance the budget any other way." The New York Times puts such hyperventilating in perspective:
There were steeper military cuts after the Cold War and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
“Even at a trillion dollars, this is a shallower build-down than any of the last three we’ve done,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw military budgets in the Clinton White House and is now a fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington. "It would still be the world's most dominant military. We would be in an arms race with ourselves."
When guardians of the Pentagon's budget say returning to 2007 spending levels is unthinkable, what they really mean is that it requires rethinking what the military is for, and maybe even giving priority to operations that have something to do with national defense. For instance:
Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, advocates saving $69.5 billion over 10 years by reducing by one-third the number of American military personnel stationed in Europe and Asia.
Three-thirds would be better, but at least Coburn is tenatively trying to think outside the box of our current commitments. So is Panetta (emphasis added):
In a shift of doctrine driven by fiscal reality and a deal last summer that kept the United States from defaulting on its debts, Mr. Panetta is expected to outline plans for carefully shrinking the military — and in so doing make it clear that the Pentagon will not maintain the ability to fight two sustained ground wars at once.
Instead, he will say that the military will be large enough to fight and win one major conflict, while also being able to "spoil" a second adversary’s ambitions in another part of the world while conducting a number of other smaller operations, like providing disaster relief or enforcing a no-flight zone.
The new doctrine is just as abitrary as the old one, but at least it's a little cheaper. I would even venture to say that reducing the U.S. government's ability to engage in pointless, costly, and destructive military interventions might decrease the likelihood of such interventions. "If the Pentagon saves nearly $150 billion in the next 10 years by shrinking the Army to, say, 483,000 troops from 570,000," the Times worries, "would America be prepared for a grinding, lengthy ground war in Asia?" If not, that sounds like a feature, not a bug.
In a recent NRO piece explaining why "Paul’s Foreign Policy Is Truly Outside the Mainstream," Jamie Fly notes that the U.S. has engaged in 26 foreign military operations since 1898, or one every four years or so. "American administrations of both parties end up intervening in foreign conflicts and supporting our allies with overseas deployments because doing so is in our interest and because it embodies the values upon which our nation was founded," he writes. Fly thinks that's a good thing, but the standard seems infinitely elastic to me: As President Obama showed with his illegal war in Libya, there is no military operation that cannot be justified by broadly defined "interests," supplemented by broadly defined "values." Restraining military spending might just force future presidents to be a bit more cautious.
Oh Rick, how things have changed. Where there was once no hope for a Santorum surge, Real Clear Politics now averages the former senator's poll numbers at 16.3 percent in Iowa (though they are of course much, much smaller nation-wise, so it's hard to feel too scared).
What's frustrating from a libertarian point of view is that evangelical Christians are the reason for Santorum's jump in poll numbers. He has particular appeal to anti-abortion activists and homeschoolers. If you noticed that Paul is also a Republican who is anti-abortion, pro-homeschooling, and Christian, congratulations. If he could just promise to bomb Iran, like some former Pennsylvania senators he might get the votes or endorsements of the truly socially conservative as well.
Because Santorum is just not for a small government; he has said so himself. And we must assume his supporters enjoy some of the glossy, empty rhetoric of down-home American conservatism, but that's about it.
Writes David Boaz at the Cato @ Liberty blog:
[Santorum] declared himself against individualism, against libertarianism, against “this whole idea of personal autonomy, . . . this idea that people should be left alone.” And in this 2005 TV interview, you can hear these classic hits: “This is the mantra of the left: I have a right to do what I want to do” and “We have a whole culture that is focused on immediate gratification and the pursuit of happiness . . . and it is harming America.”
This lack of respect for the individual is apparently what turned off the sweater vest aficionado's 19-year-old nephew John Garver, who is a student at the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown.
At the Daily Caller under the headline "The Trouble with my Uncle Rick Santorum", Garver writes that he's more of a Ron Paul fan than a fan of his Uncle Rick.
If you want another big-government politician who supports the status quo to run our country, you should vote for my uncle, Rick Santorum. America is based on a strong belief in individual liberty. My uncle’s interventionist policies, both domestic and foreign, stem from his irrational fear of freedom not working.
It is not the government’s job to dictate to individuals how they must live. The Constitution was designed to protect individual liberty. My Uncle Rick cannot fathom a society in which people cooperate and work with each other freely. When Republicans were spending so much money under President Bush, my uncle was right there along with them as a senator. The reason we have so much debt is not only because of Democrats, but also because of big-spending Republicans like my Uncle Rick.
It is because of this inability of status quo politicians to recognize the importance of our individual liberties that I have been drawn to Ron Paul. Unlike my uncle, he does not believe that the American people are incapable of forming decisions. He believes that an individual is more powerful than any group (a notion our founding fathers also believed in).
Another important reason I support Ron Paul is his position on foreign policy. He is the only candidate willing to bring our troops home, not only from the Middle East, but from around the world.
A hundred blogger jokes about awkward Santorum family Thanksgivings were born from that earnest editorial. You have to wonder where Garver got his sense. And you don't have to be head-over-heels about Paul to notice that Garver has got his uncle's number good. Ron Paul is, in many ways, just as square as Santorum (though older, so he has further excuse) but he's pretty keen on personal choice and, most daringly, not running off to war every five minutes. Maybe the kids today like that.
But don't worry, Santorum still has the support of humongous homeschooling brood and reality TV sensations the Duggars. He's the family's bronze medal since former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee could not be enticed into the race and according to Duggar patriarch Jim Bob, "You're not going to find a perfect candidate unless it's Jesus Christ."
Rupert Murdoch, from his brand new account, has been excitedly tweeting his support for Santorum these last few days as well.
Reason on Santorum, if you must know more.
Writing at National Review, Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute argues that today’s Republicans have betrayed Ronald Reagan when it comes to the issue of immigration:
In April 1980, when Ronald Reagan was competing in the presidential primaries, he rejected the building of a wall between the United States and Mexico: “Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems? Make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit — and then while they’re working and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back. And open the border both ways by understanding their problems.”
If a Republican presidential candidate said such a thing today, he or she would suffer withering criticism for being soft on illegal immigration. Instead, we hear Reagan’s successors talk about implementing national ID cards, imposing intrusive regulations on the labor market, raiding farms, factories, and restaurants, and harassing small-business owners trying to survive in this tough economy, all in the name of chasing away hard-working immigrants.
The Obama administration and its allies like to brag about how the executive branch is cracking down on fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid, which many believe costs the federal government in the range of $60 billion each year. (Reliable fraud totals are hard to come by, but most experts agree that it’s a very expensive problem, and official estimates indicate that the program made at least $48 billion in “improper payments” last year, including fraud.) StopMedicareFraud.gov, a project of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), touts President Obama’s “historic support for anti-fraud efforts” under a headline noting that fraud-fighting efforts are a “top priority” for the administration. John McDonough, a former Mitt Romney advisor who consulted with the administration on ObamaCare, points to a record number of prosecutions in fraud cases and argues that ObamaCare gives the government tools to “re-engineer the system” to help stop fraudsters, an argument that the Obama administration has used as well.
As I pointed out in my October print-edition feature, “Medicare Thieves,” fraud in government health programs has been a significant, well-known problem for years. According to the Cato Institute’s health policy director, Michael Cannon, the Government Accountability Office has issued 159 reports on fraud since 1986. So why has it taken until now to tackle the problem?
In part it's because the system is designed to work in such a way that makes fraud easy: Doctors, who are well-liked and carry significant political influence, don’t want a system that forces them to deal with much anti-fraud bureaucracy, especially given that Medicare’s payment rates are already low compared to private insurers. And Medicare patients tend to be wary of any reforms that might upset doctors and drive them from the system.
Which helps explain why Modern Healthcare is reporting that CMS has put two of its vaunted new fraud-fighting programs on indefinite hold after opposition from doctors and other health providers. A historic commitment to a policy priority apparently doesn’t stand up to a thumbs down from the health providers who make big parts of their living off the program.
For much more on Medicare fraud, read "Medicare Thieves."
You know what sucks? Not being able to arrest people who piss you off when you're on the job. Who wouldn't want to have the power to slap cuffs on the grumpy people they deal with at work? But no. When I want someone arrested, I have to call the cops and wait around until they show up to do the arresting for me. Lame.
The employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) feel the same way. In an article for In These Times, writer Mike Elk (who was fired from the Huffington Post last year for letting union organizers borrow his press credential in order to disrupt a conference of mortgage bankers) describes the work of the nation's 44,000 TSA screeners as one of "the most dangerous jobs in America," citing the 30 (30!) guns a week they pluck from the nation's baggage.
Worse, sometimes people get shouty or even—very occasionally—cross the line into assault when TSA workers are just doing their jobs. When that happens, "the passengers were allowed to board flights because TSA screeners are unable to arrest passengers who assault them." All because of the finicky detail that "TSA cannot legally arrest or detain power under powers granted to it by the federal government," and must instead "call local police situated in the airport." So inconvenient.
Elk's complaint is situated in the middle of a larger argument about the need for collective bargaining to improve the "often brutal working conditions" of TSA employees—which seem to consist of some male-female pay disparities, low pay overall, and low morale—but it's not clear that arresting unruly passengers who are not otherwise a threat to national security is the sort of thing that would be on the table, should robust collective bargaining rights be granted.
Anyway, it's the media's fault. If "those conditions had received as much media attention as the search procedures they are charged with implementing, it's possible America's newly unionized airport screeners might have had a first contract by now. Instead, negotiations with the federal government continue."
Speaking of which: Check out our January issue about those search procedures the TSA employees are charged with implementing!
Reason.com managing editor Tim Cavanaugh will appear on the Jerry Doyle radio show at 1:30 PM Pacific Time today (4:30 PM Eastern).
Topic: Is the Third Party moment upon us? Gary Johnson is running Libertarian. Massachusetts voters will have a chance to say "Avast" to the Massachusetts Pirate Party. The Donald has been drafted in Texas by the controversially named Make America Great Again Party. And Alan Piecewicz of Port St. Lucie in the Sunshine State says, "The Republican nominee will need every one of your votes to defeat Obama and return this country to sanity. I don't know about you, but I want America to be the country we used to know (strong and respected)."
Big-L Libertarians, Greens, Florida Whigs, Grid Epsilon Irregulars, Copperheads, Communists, Anti-Masonites, Nullifiers, America Firsters, Proletarians, Free Soilers and others are urged to listen in.
Time: 1:30 PM Pacific Time today (4:30 PM Eastern).
To listen live, click here.
For archives, click here.
We need some regulation. Even the most bombastic conservatives recognize this. So everyone also should recognize that when President Obama says the GOP favors “dirtier air [and] dirtier water,” he is committing the fallacy of the false alternative. The political dispute is not whether to regulate, but how much, writes A. Barton Hinkle. Everyone also can agree that if an environmental rule can prevent 1 million birth defects at a cost of only one dollar, then the regulation merits adoption—and if a regulation would prevent only one birth defect at a cost of $100 trillion, then it does not. In the real world regulations fall within narrower parameters.View this article
The world has lost another important Czech freedom-fighter: Josef Škvorecký, novelist and essayist, '68er emigre and jazz-lover, and co-founder of the crucial Toronto-based dissident publishing house 68 Publishers, has died of cancer at age 87.
As a novelist Škvorecký is probably most famous for The Engineer of Human Souls; as a nonfiction enthusiast I know him best through his 1988 collection Talkin' Moscow Blues: Essays About Literature, Politics, Movies & Jazz, which really drills home the oftentime minute similarities between applied fascism and communism. It was 68 Publishers, founded in 1971, that proved to be a lifeline to both Czechoslovak literature and dissidence, publishing samizdat works from the likes of Havel and Milan Kundera and Bohumil Hrabal that would often be re-smuggled back into the country.
Some people left Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet invasion (just as many escaped Hungary after 1956), and–quite understandably–turned their backs on the mangled countries they left behind. Škvorecký was not one of them. He was committed to helping his native land, helping his native language, and perpetuating the free flow of ideas under arduous circumstances. He will be missed.
Link via the Twitter feed of the Czech Center in New York.
Congressional Democrats got the Congressional Budget Office to score ObamaCare's trillion dollars in new spending as a net deficit reducer by trimming approximately $500 billion in planned spending out of Medicare and by raising the rest in new tax revenue.
But inevitably there are costs to extracting that sort of revenue from the economy. As Ramesh Ponnuru points out in his Bloomberg column, the medical device industry, which faces a major new tax under the law, is already blaming the law for layoffs and decisions to move its operations overseas:
In November, citing the new tax, Stryker Corp. (SYK), whose products include artificial hips and knees, announced that it would let go about 1,000 of its workers. Earlier last year, Covidien Plc (COV), maker of surgical instruments, said it would lay off 200 workers in the U.S. and move production to Costa Rica and Mexico. It, too, cited the tax.
Other companies in the field have announced similar measures -- or plans to expand production overseas but not in the U.S. -- without mentioning the tax. The sluggish economy is clearly part of the explanation, but the medical-devices industry had been a relative bright spot within U.S. manufacturing, losing only 1.1 percent of its employees during 2007-2008 while manufacturing as a whole lost 4.8 percent. A study done for AdvaMed, a trade association for the industry, claims the tax could ultimately cost more than 45,000 jobs.
Medical-device companies employ more than 400,000 Americans. Their wages are higher than the national average. The U.S. is a net exporter of medical devices.
The tax will change these numbers for the worse. It will be levied at 2.3 percent of sales; on average, profits make up less than 4 percent of sales in the industry. The AdvaMed study concludes, “The new 2.3 percent excise tax will roughly double their total tax bill and raise the average effective corporate income tax rate to one of the highest effective tax rates faced by any industry in the world.”
Why go after the device industry? The plan was for a big chunk of the law's new revenue to come from various fees and taxes and the health care industry itself on the theory that expanding health insurance coverage to 30-some million people would provide new business to health providers. There's a certain circularity to this argument: Essentially, the idea was to tax health providers in order to pay for millions of new customers for those same health providers. And now it seems that instead of generating extra business for the device industry, ObamaCare may end up slowing it down.
Somehow, though, I doubt that outcome was on the minds of any of the Congress critters who voted to fund ObamaCare using provisions like this. Indeed, the grab-bag of pay fors they relied on to nab a favorable CBO score has proved exceedingly troublesome; the 1099 tax reporting requirement for small businesses, which was designed to raise $17 billion in new revenue, had to be ditched after it became clear that compliance would be a giant pain in the neck.
So says Chapman University Associate English Professor Tom Zoellner, author of a new book called A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us About the Grand Canyon State and Life in America. In an excerpt reprinted column published by Zócalo Public Square under the misleading headling "Who Shot Gabrielle Giffords?" (I say "misleading" because we learn exactly nothing about the not-irrelevant man who pulled the trigger), Zollner argues that after all, it was you and me...but mostly you:
The months leading up to the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords were unusually paranoid ones. I saw the tension up close, because Tucson is my hometown, and I worked on my friend Gabrielle's campaign as a speechwriter, watching as her face was all over television and outdoor ads portraying her as the embodiment of a government that was wrecking the local economy. There was a feeling in Tucson that I did not recognize.
Much has been made of the website put up by Sarah Palin's political action committee (with target markets over the districts of vulnerable Democrats, including Gabrielle's) and the newspaper ad for her opponent calling on his supporters to help him shoot an M-16 at a fundraiser. I think these gestures are unimportant in themselves—in dubious taste but certainly not the motivating reason why the paranoid schizophrenic Jared Loughner brought a gun to the Safeway with the intention of assassinating Gabrielle.
What they were, though, were symptoms of the larger causes of Tucson's unease: a fragile economy, a fear of illegal immigrants, a toxic political culture that favors passion over reason, and the disconnected neighborhoods of newcomers where loneliness festers and lack of concern for one's neighbor becomes a habit. This is the environment in which the punitive and ridiculous law SB 1070 was passed, requiring local police to demand the immigration papers of anybody they stop who appears to fit a suspicious profile—such as a Latino who happened to dress down that day.
Loughner was suffering from a grave mental illness, but he was not living in a world made entirely of his own delusions. He could still hear and see what surrounded him, and those surroundings helped him formulate a plot against a specific target: Gabrielle Giffords, who, besides the president, may have been the most reviled public face in Tucson that year. The slime was directed at her personally, but it was only a convenient channel for the fear that the American dream was lost and that a crisis was at hand. [...]
Dismissing Loughner as a random "black swan," free of all antecedents or influences, is worse than facile or lazy. It is actively dangerous, for it allows us to ignore the contributing human context, which is something we can change.
One of many problems with this line of argument is that you can, at any given point, always find larger indices of "unease," toxic political debates, and "disconnected neighborhoods of newcomers." I am trying to imagine any period of American history where those descriptions would not apply. So do we pin partial blame for the L.A. arsonist on our maddening immigration process? Do we blame every crime at or near an Occupy encampment on overheated anti-capitalist rhetoric? No, we (and here I mean most of us, as opposed to commentators who have become debased by partisanship) do not.
Reason's April 2011 issue was largely devoted to this topic; for those interested, start with "The Loughner Panic," continue to my column "Against 'Incitement,'" and wash it all down with Jesse Walker's classic essay on "The Paranoid Center."
- Newt Gingrich finally calls Romney a name ("liar").
- Ron Paul from Iowa last night: "We, the people, are growing and I’m optimistic."
- The DEA will continue to interrupt the supply of ADHD drugs through 2012.
- The liberal paper of record wonders if America is "prepared for a grinding, lengthy ground war in Asia."
- Retail gift returns are up 8 percent this year.
- Crude climbs over Iran tension.
New at Reason.tv: "Government Tracking Our Kids?! - Lisa Snell Discusses Student Privacy on CNN's OutFront"
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," says presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) the night before the Iowa caucus. "I think we may have some dramatic, good news for tomorrow night." Paul supporters at the Prime N Wine in Mason City, Iowa were in high spirits during his final stop on the Iowa Whistle-Stop Tour, which he embarked upon with his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Reason.tv was on the scene to gauge the mood and to investigate what it is about the Texas congressman that inspires such a devoted following. Answers varied, but common themes were Ron Paul's consistency, his peaceful foreign policy, and his willingness to take serious steps to reduce the deficit.
Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty, whose biography of Paul will be published in May, was also there to document the event and provide political commentary. "The interesting thing about Ron Paul fans that I found is that whatever hooks them first," says Doherty, "once they're hooked in, they decide, almost universally, that they like everything about him." Perhaps because they value his logical consistency, most of Paul's supporters told us that they would not be willing to support another Republican candidate should he fail to get the nomination.
While many pundits still consider a Paul nomination a long shot, Paul and his supporters feel optimistic about his chances in Iowa. "I definitely expect Ron Paul to come in over 20 [percent]," says Doherty. "Absolutely he'll finish a strong second, and a win is definitely still a possibility."
About 2.30 minutes. Produced by Sharif Matar and Zach Weissmueller.
Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions, and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive immediate updates when new material goes live.
As conservative voters in Iowa get set to deliver their verdict on whether the GOP should have at its head someone with a long and clear philosophy about reducing the size of government, some liberal commenters around the country are grappling with a similar conundrum: What to say about a presidential candidate who wants to end foreign and domestic wars and protect civil liberties against the imperial presidency?
While there is plenty of material in the don't be fooled, he's really a moral monster category, here's a roundup of progressives defending the Texas congressmen from their ideological fellow travelers.
Glenn Greenwald, Salon:
Whatever else one wants to say, it is indisputably true that Ron Paul is the only political figure with any sort of a national platform — certainly the only major presidential candidate in either party — who advocates policy views on issues that liberals and progressives have long flamboyantly claimed are both compelling and crucial. The converse is equally true: the candidate supported by liberals and progressives and for whom most will vote — [...]
Ron Paul's candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America's Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it's one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception.
Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism:
Modern liberalism is a mixture of two elements. One is a support of Federal power – what came out of the late 1930s, World War II, and the civil rights era where a social safety net and warfare were financed by Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the RFC, and human rights were enforced by a Federal government, unions, and a cadre of corporate, journalistic and technocratic experts (and cheap oil made the whole system run.) America mobilized militarily for national priorities, be they war-like or social in nature. And two, it originates from the anti-war sentiment of the Vietnam era, with its distrust of centralized authority mobilizing national resources for what were perceived to be immoral priorities. When you throw in the recent financial crisis, the corruption of big finance, the increasing militarization of society, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the collapse of the moral authority of the technocrats, you have a big problem. Liberalism doesn't really exist much within the Democratic Party so much anymore, but it also has a profound challenge insofar as the rudiments of liberalism going back to the 1930s don't work.
This is why Ron Paul can critique the Federal Reserve and American empire, and why liberals have essentially no answer to his ideas, arguing instead over Paul having character defects. Ron Paul's stance should be seen as a challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American political order. It's quite obvious that there isn't one coming from the left, otherwise the figure challenging the war on drugs and American empire wouldn't be in the Republican primary as the libertarian candidate.
Robert Scheer, Truthdig:
It is official now. The Ron Paul campaign, despite surging in the Iowa polls, is not worthy of serious consideration, according to a New York Times editorial; "Ron Paul long ago disqualified himself for the presidency by peddling claptrap proposals like abolishing the Federal Reserve, returning to the gold standard, cutting a third of the federal budget and all foreign aid and opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
That last item, along with the decade-old racist comments in the newsletters Paul published, is certainly worthy of criticism. But not as an alternative to seriously engaging the substance of Paul's current campaign—his devastating critique of crony capitalism and his equally trenchant challenge to imperial wars and the assault on our civil liberties that they engender.
Paul is being denigrated as a presidential contender even though on the vital issues of the economy, war and peace, and civil liberties, he has made the most sense of the Republican candidates. And by what standard of logic is it "claptrap" for Paul to attempt to hold the Fed accountable for its destructive policies? That's the giveaway reference to the raw nerve that his favorable prospects in the Iowa caucuses have exposed. Too much anti-Wall Street populism in the heartland can be a truly scary thing to the intellectual parasites residing in the belly of the beast that controls American capitalism.
Coleen Rowley and John Walsh, Des Moines Register:
There is today only one anti-war, anti-corruption, pro-Constitution, pro-civil liberties candidate for president in either party who stands squarely against expanding military empire and for democracy. That candidate is Ron Paul. Like prairie anti-interventionists Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Harold Hughes in an earlier era, Paul is a maverick in his own party. He believes in an adequate force to defend America but not 1 cent for wars of aggression.
Tactically it makes sense for anti-war activists to vote in the Republican caucuses/primaries for Paul. If he wins or does well in Iowa and New Hampshire, then the questions of war and peace will appear on the national scene. If Paul goes on to win his party’s nomination, these questions will finally make their appearance in the general election.
And if Paul wins the presidency, hundreds of wasteful overseas military bases will be dismantled. Our costly, counterproductive military empire could hopefully be reigned in before the blowback worsens.
Reason on Ron Paul here.
Our entire January 2012 issue is now available online. Don’t miss Matt Welch on the lies used to manufacture the bipartisan consensus, Judge Andrew Napolitano on the government’s unconstitutional restrictions on our freedom to travel, Peter Suderman on why health care price controls always fail, and Tim Cavanaugh on the Solyndra story, plus our Complete Citings and Briefly Noted sections, the Artifact, and much more.
As I sit--actually in Iowa! On the ground!!--watching Sean Hannity on Fox ask every other candidate and pundit about Ron Paul's newsletters, here (in Iowa!) on the evening before the day Dr. Paul either does or doesn't make history for his libertarian ideas by winning the Iowa caucus, let's talk about Ron Paul's whistle-stop tour across the state with his son, Senator Rand Paul.
I don't think they literally rode a train--I saw no tracks near the Prime and Wine restaurant in Mason City, in whose back meeting room I caught event five-of-five of the political Pauls' busy pre-caucus day.
But they were certainly barnstorming, pounding the pavement, burning rubber, and various other metaphorical displays implying lots of strenuous effort involving travel, to rally the troops one last time to make sure they show up at their precinct to caucus! caucus!! caucus!!! for Ron Paul and liberty, starting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Iowa time.
Driving in to the event from Des Moines, I heard on leading Iowa talk station WHO-AM a Paul campaign ad specifically hitting Romney for being a TARP and ObamaCare loving liberal. (I also heard a Rick Perry ad attacking Rick Santorum for being a big spender and a loser. Rick Perry, former lead singer of Journey, is apparently still running for president.)
In the back room of the Prime and Wine, all 50 or so chairs were full a half hour before start time. The Paul crowd eventually spilled over into the other section of the meeting room as a sliding wall was slid away to make room for them. The crowd ranged from infant to aged, and was not particularly youth-oriented, though probably at least 15 percent were under 30.
Rand Paul did the usual Rand Paul thing, leading with an anti-Washington joke involving the girl who asks God for $100 (I don't want to ruin the punchline if you don't know it) and delivering more of an emphasis on "welfare cheat" style wasting of government giveaway resources than dad ever does. Rand reminds us that the government is borrowing $2 million a minute, and talks up his dad's resolute refusal to take congressional perks or junkets, his refusal to vote for an unbalanced budget, and his big support among donating members of the military.
Ron Paul did a quick and condensed version of his usual campaign stump speech, uncomposed and unrehearsed (except in the sense he gives a version of it over and over again). Paul jumps quickly from point to point, hitting on the federal abuse of the interstate commerce clause to interfere with trade between the states rather than help keep it free and unrestricted, how we have 100 years of bad thinking about freedom and the role of government to reverse, how we foolishly divide personal and economic liberty, and how his foreign policy of peace and free trade has a sterling GOP pedigree (mentioning Eisenhower's military-industrial complex speech).
He tells us how our responsibility is to care for our people at home, not manage or save the world. He makes one of his rare references to his not-quite-open-borders, not-quite-border-wall attitude about immigration by mentioning we ignore our border while we are busily defending borders in the Middle East and Asia. He only gets ornery when mentioning the NDAA's codification of the president's ability to lock us up for any old reason he pleases. And I wondered: who needs conspiracy theories when this kind of law is passed in full public view?
My take on the expectation game as it's being played today by the campaign: Rand Paul is boldly declaring victory earlier today, though not in Mason City. Ron sounded quite optimistic in Mason City tonight though not swearing a victory--merely saying "I think we may have dramatic good news tomorrow night." A source close to the Iowa campaign tells me he's sure they won't win, though granting most of the grassroots volunteers still think he will, but who knows how the expectations are being spun and why. Paul's political director Jesse Benton in the MSNBC clip below is confident but not bragging and insists Paul could beat Obama:
Both before and after the presentation--Ron rushes right out afterward, none of the usual questions or meet-and-greet--I meet and talk to an almost perfect range of stereotypical Ron Paul fans: the teen who spends most of his time following Ron around the country and photographing him, just because he thinks Ron's cool and hanging out with Ron's fans across the land is fun; the local volunteer precinct chair for Paul, who also holds office with the local GOP, who makes sure he emphasizes the grassroots volunteers don't necessarily just do what the official campaign tries to tell them to do; the mom from Minneapolis who drove down with her daughter because she thinks only Ron Paul can save America's future (and who likes to take photos of his crowds because she insists the media constantly underestimates them; my estimate for this Mason City event was 120 or so); the proud dad of a nuclear engineer on a Navy Sub, who got a photo of the son and his submarine signed by Ron and Rand--both dad (a farmer) and son love Ron Paul; the Alex Jones fan who carries around a silver certificate to remember the time money was real; the over-50 builder of vehicles that run on vegetable oil in a rasta hat who is also a Republican Party precinct worker and manager because he loves Ron Paul; and a random handful of other earnest Iowans, almost all of whom were volunteering a lot of their time and effort for their man, serving as precinct reprentatives for Ron Paul at the caucus tomorrow, making sure someone gave a good pro-Ron speech at the caucus, and that Ron signs and stickers and swag were available for the folk.
A handful of the people I spoke to had done this same caucusing work for Ron in 2008, but swear that the overall vibe of Ron love is way, way higher now--and the polls certainly bear that out, where he's doing more than twice as well as he did in 2008. Volunteers hand out a volunteer-written suggested set of talking points for selling Ron to the caucus-goers Tuesday, including his consistency, desire to end the wars, prescience on the dangers of the housing bubble and the Federal Reserve, and plan to cut $1 trillion in year one.
One bit of bad news I heard from a frequent Iowa Ron Paul phone banker, casting shadows on the strategy of getting independents and Democrats to show up tomorrow and switch registration to Republican in order to caucus for Ron Paul, which they legally can do: he says even many Democrats who love Ron and would vote for him in a general election still refuse to have anything to do with the GOP caucus process when they are called, and say they will not do so tomorrow. Of course, he merely talked to the people he talked to, but he said that lack of willingness to switch parties for Ron this week was something he heard a lot.
Remember: the caucus is non-binding and has no necessary connection with how Iowa's delegates vote at the Republican National Convention in Tampa this summer. Here's how the Iowa caucus process works, briefly noted. And remember: lots of RP fans are quite suspicious that the vote will be gamed and faked tomorrow (although the official campaign poo-poohs such fears.)
Driving back from Mason City to Des Moines, I heard leading evangelical Iowan radio star Steve Deace try to finesse his endorsement of Newt Gingrich, by saying that while both Ron Paul and Newt had major and good Biblical beliefs--Paul on the welfare state and Newt on the rule of law--he cannot ultimately countenance Ron Paul because Paul has a Pelagian foreign policy.
Deace cannot, he says, stand a commander in chief who can actually understand why Iran might want a nuclear weapon ("I don't want my president sympathizing with the Mullahs," more or less), and that all good Christians understand that the reason you have a military is so they can kill other people before they kill you, thus answering the question: Who Would Jesus Bomb? Anyone he suspects might bomb him!
Real Clear Politics poll aggregation 10-day average has Romney up 1.3, but a Public Policy Polling of likely caucus voters from the past two days has Paul ahead by a point, though falling in overall percentage committed and finally falling below 50 percent in favorability, but still leading in strong commitment from his potential voters. (Biggest shock of that poll: Buddy Roemer at 2 percent!) Neither I, nor apparently the people of Iowa reached by phone by pollsters, are making any sure and firm predictions.
*details on his campaigns' plans to work the caucus system to their advantage in other states moving forward;
*a summation of Paul defending himself from inaccurate media charges over the past weekend;
*Yahoo! reporting on Paul's earlier Iowa appearances on Monday;
*and a profile of that most famous and numerous of Iowa voter, the still-undecided one....
...and as I've continued to watch Fox for the past hour, every single interview devolves into a dumb attack on Ron Paul, whether it be with his opponents, Donald Trump, Dick Morris, Tucker Carlson, or RNC chair Reince Priebus. Fox has spoken tonight!
Tuesday, Iowa gets to do the same.
Buy my forthcoming book on Ron Paul, and get it in about four and a half months.
The ACLU grades the presidential candidates in seven categories: "humane immigration policy," "closing Guantanamo Bay and indefinite detention," "gays and lesbians serving openly in the military," "ending torture," "ending a surveillance state," "freedom to marry for gay couples," and "reproductive choice." Gary Johnson finishes first over all, followed by Ron Paul, Barack Obama, and Jon Huntsman. Tied for last: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann. A few overlooked issues that might have changed the rankings a bit, pushing Obama down relative to the others: religious freedom, freedom of speech, gun rights, assassination, property rights, federalism, drug policy.
Clarification: While all those issues would have lowered Obama's overall score, adding drug policy or assassination would not have changed his ranking, since Paul and Johnson are the only Republican candidates who are better in those areas.
Here is a product that seems designed to make the heads of FTC bureaucrats and state attorneys general explode: Scotch in a can. And I'm not talking about Scotch ale. The Huffington Post's Ben Muessig reports that a company called Scottish Spirits Imports plans to sell its 80-proof "single grain scotch whisky" in 12-ounce cans. That's the alcohol equivalent of 1.7 Four Lokos or eight beers (assuming an alcohol content of 5 percent). Worse, the containers are nonresealable, although "Scottish Spirits hopes to begin shipping the cans with an attachment that allows them to be resealed." (Under pressure from the FTC, Phusion Projects, which makes Four Loko, agreed to sell it only in resealable containers as of April.) Scottish Spirits says the eight shots per can are meant to be sipped and shared, not guzzled by one person. "They'll crack it open and pour it with Coke or some kind of mixer," says Ken Rubenfeld, the company's vice president of operations, "and have fun with it with their friends." If the container did not tip you off, that scenario probably tells you all you need to know about the quality of this product.
It still might be classy enough to avoid trouble with federal regulators, whose main complaint about Four Loko was not its caffeine (since removed but contained in many other alcoholic beverages that remain on the market), its Chardonnay-level alcoholic strength, or the size of its cans (23.5 ounces) but rather its garish marketing aimed at "young adults" looking to get drunk cheaply, quickly, and easily. Scottish Spirits 3-Year-Old Single Grain Scotch Whisky, which will sell for about $5 a can (pricier, per ounce of pure ethanol, than Four Loko), seems intended for an older, if not wiser, demographic than the fruity, bubbly, neon-colored malt beverage. "A lot of people like to have beverages by their pool, on their boat, in a campground, at sporting events or tailgate parties," Rubenfeld explains. "It's easier to bring a six-pack of a beverage versus bringing a bottle of scotch."
Just to be clear: Although I do not care for Four Loko and probably will not start carrying my Scotch around in six-packs, such choices should be left to consumers, not paternalistic prosecutors or busybody bureaucrats. I suspect Scottish Spirits will have more luck in that respect than Phusion Projects did, for reasons that have more to do with taste than public safety.
[Thanks to Max Minkoff for the tip.]
"I fear that Ron Paul may win Iowa," writes Washington Post’s Marc A. Thiessen, who lets fear to get the best of his vocabulary with this sentence: "Paul supporters are nothing short of rapid."
Occupy 101: Columbia University will give students credit for an Occupy Wall Street class taught by an OWS organizer and including protest participation as course work.
LAPD arrests [possible Chechen named "Harry Burkhart"] in string of Los Angeles arson attacks. Cops say person of interest detained at Fairfax and Sunset matches security camera image (white hair in ponytail) and was driving a Canadian-licensed minivan containing "materials...that could have been used to set fires." The subject may be in a dispute with Federal migra over a relative’s immigration status.
[I initially reported that the suspect was a native of Germany. He was traveling on Chechen travel papers and had spent time in Germany. As you can see at the 42-second mark here, Harry Bukrhart's eyes literally glow with the fires of hell, and the 26-year-old does seem to match with the description taken from the Hollywood and Highland parking deck of a man at the end of youth with a receding hairline and ponytail. Burkhart's arrest by a $1-a-year reserve sheriff's deputy came in response to a tip by an "official" who had observed Burkhart criticizing the United States in immigration court.]
Arab League observers are doing a mediocre job of holding back Syria’s government, dissidents say.
Rose Bowl live blog.
Raiders of the Lost Ark cross-referenced with 30 other adventure movies made between 1919 and 1973.
Voting district high jinx: In honor of Steven Greenhut’s dismal new report on California redistricting, a Reason.tv video from more hopeful days:
Employees who hope to keep their jobs and investors who hope their shares will rise may want to hope their executives avoid President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. When the council’s members were announced February 23, among the concerns raised was that the members would use their status to the advantage of their companies, writes Ira Stoll. In fact, what’s happened since then is that the 13 publicly traded companies whose executives were appointed to the council, taken together, have declined in value by about 7% through year-end, worse than the decline of about 4% in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index over the same period.View this article
When police in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, pulled Darren Richardson over, it was supposedly because he had narrowly avoided a collision at an intersection. After they detected what they later described as a "strong odor of raw marijuana," they impounded Richardson's black BMW 325i and tore it apart over the course of three weeks with the help of drug-sniffing dogs, causing more than $12,000 in damages—so much that Richardson's insurer declared the car totaled. They found nothing. NJ.com reports that the September 23 incident "has led to an internal affairs investigation by the Pompton Lakes Police Department, opened the door for litigation that could cost local taxpayers and left experts wondering whether the department wasted resources in pursuit of what many see as a minor crime."
In addition to trashing his car, police charged Richardson with evidence tampering and resisting arrest (because he argued with them). They charged his passenger with making "terroristic threats." After it turned out there was no evidence to tamper with, the charges were reduced to "petty disorderly persons offenses." Police claimed two different dogs "signaled" the presence of drugs (in two different locations, the trunk and the dashboard) and speculated that the car may have been used to transport marijuana at some point in the past.
[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]
The lead story in today's New York Times refers to Ron Paul's "non-interventionist foreign policy views," in contrast with the paper's usual description of his position as "isolationist," which is both pejorative and inaccurate. Isolationism suggests not merely a bias against the use of military force but a desire to avoid any engagement with the rest of the world, including trade, diplomacy, immigration, and cultural exchange. Paul has never been an isolationist in that sense.
An archive search shows this confusion is a longstanding problem at the Times. In a January 1984 story about the U.S. Senate race in Texas, for instance, reporter Wayne King said Paul's "foreign policy views are regarded [by whom?] as noninterventionist to isolationist," which suggests isolationism is an extreme version of noninterventionism, perhaps akin to pacifism. That does not describe Paul either, since he supports the use of military force when it is necessary for national defense (following thr 9/11 attacks, for example). Less than a week later, King more accurately called Paul "a noninterventionist in foreign policy." The Times continued to flip back and forth between the terms in reference to Paul du