Since New Hampshire, the Real Clear Politics running average has Ron Paul tied for third precisely in South Carolina with Rick Santorum, at 14.7. That isn't particularly competitive, now, with Gingrich at second at 22 percent, but we've got a week to go. Paul is raising money today for his South Carolina efforts with a dedicated moneybomb (at $448K as I write).
The idea that he is deliberately not ever clashing with Romney (which is not true--the campaign ran paid official radio ads attacking only Romney in Iowa) continues to float about, leading this Hill journalist to wonder: what does Ron Paul want?
“If he keeps placing in the top three, he’s going to have between 100 and 200 delegates,” said Ron Bonjean, a veteran Republican strategist. “Therefore, he would have some type of recognition at the convention.”
That analysis seems way off for two reasons: one, there seems little reason to believe there will be three candidates running through the entire campaign, and the Paul campaign's efforts to target caucus states where delegates earned need not match popular vote percentages.
Romney, meanwhile, has largely left Paul alone when attacking his Republican rivals – he’s said multiple times that he likes Paul — giving the Texas congressman and his issues credibility and respect, even if nobody can quite gauge what he’s going to do next.
“Paul’s kind of like a dangerous animal that needs to be treated with respect,” said a GOP consultant working for one of the 2012 candidates. “People underestimate him at their own peril.”
I too can't imagine Romney leaving Paul alone if and when it comes down to the two of them. And while "dangerous animal" isn't a very flattering way to be perceived by the GOP establishment, I suppose it beats "irrelevant kook."
Libertarianism in general and Ron Paul specifically have a lot to offer the progressive left, and not just on war, or even just on war and civil liberties. Paul's stated Rothbardian beliefs about pollution, in theory, are a far more powerful weapon for protecting the environment than any imaginable real-world regulatory state, for example, and Paul always says that any aid program for individuals that they have become dependent on will be last to get cut, even in his fiscally tight world where such programs aren't even constitutional. Matt Welch blogged earlier this month on progressives' increasing tumult and confusion on the Mysterious Case of Ron Paul.
Conor Friedersdorf returns to the matter at the Atlantic:
If progressives are frustrated that relatively doctrinaire libertarians are attracting the attention and support of people who care deeply about civil liberties, why don't they work to offer some alternative? Guys like me will probably still prefer Johnson. But is it really the case that the Democratic Party can't produce a prominent civil-libertarian politician who Glenn Greenwald would prefer to Ron Paul?
That is itself a devastating truth about the post-2009 left.
As Election 2008 proved, however, it isn't impossible to change. Democrats can in fact unapologetically run against indefinite detention, excessive executive power, and needless wars, and get elected doing it. What's additionally required is a civil-libertarian constituency big and motivated enough to hold them to their promises. That is what progressivism apparently lacks. Until progressives have a plan to change that, they should think twice about marginalizing and dismissing a civil-libertarian voice that, however flawed, is better than any they've got to offer.
Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer on Judge Napolitano's show, saying Ron Paul "has the most realistic policy on Iran," whether or not they actually have or might soon have a nuke (which Paul does not believe):
On Friday, Jan. 13, Fox Business Network's Neil Cavuto spent nearly five minutes trying to nail down the Matt Welch vote in a two-man election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, with no other possible choices. Within that conversation was a discussion on Romney's (and the Republicans') lack of seriousness about cutting the size and scope of government. Watch below:
When a presidential candidate declares, as Ron Paul has, “We’re all Austrians now,” it’s inevitable that his critics would try to discredit him and his ideas—whether they understand what he’s talking about or not. That’s what liberal pundit Matthew Yglesias does in his Slate piece “What Is ‘Austrian Economics’?” As Sheldon Richman explains, the piece is informative—but that’s only because it reveals just how little Yglesias and other left-wing critics actually know about economic theory and history.View this article
$1.2 billion dollars later, here's what the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has to show for itself in 2011:
10) Snakes, turtles, and birds were found at Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX). I’m just happy there weren’t any lions, tigers, and bears…
9) A science project shut down a checkpoint at Omaha (OMA). I wonder if mentioning the shutting down of the checkpoint added enough flare to his presentation to score him some bonus points?
8) An artfully concealed non-metallic martial arts weapon called a “Tactical Spike” was found in the sock of a passenger at Pensacola (PNS) after being screened by a body scanner. The only thing I keep in my sock is my foot.
7) Inert landmines were found at Salt Lake City (SLC). I always travel with mine, don’t you???
6) A stun gun disguised as a smart phone was found at Los Angeles (LAX). Not very smart to travel with this stunning device.
5) A flare gun with seven flares was found in a passenger’s carry-on bag at Norfolk (ORF). Hmmm… pressurized cabin + 7 live flares = no good can come from this.
4) Two throwing knives concealed in hollowed out book were found at Washington National (DCA). Killer book…
3) Over 1,200 firearms were discovered at TSA checkpoints across the nation in 2011. Many guns are found loaded with rounds in the chamber. Most passengers simply state they forgot they had a gun in their bag.
2) A loaded .380 pistol was found strapped to passenger’s ankle with the body scanner at Detroit (DTW). You guessed it, he forgot it was there…
1) Small chunks of C4 explosives were found in passenger’s checked luggage in Yuma (YUM). Believe it or not, he was brining it home to show his family.
Bruce Schneier, king of the security experts, notes that "C4—their #1 "good catch"—was on the return flight; they missed it the first time. So only 1 for 2 on that one."
Via the always awesome Radley Balko.
As if last month’s National Defense Authorization Act that explicitly gave the president authority to indefinitely Gitmoize “enemy combatants” was not bad enough, there is more legislative mischief brewing on Capitol Hill. The NDAA, as Gene Healy and Jacob Sullum pointed out, left it up to the courts to decide whether American citizens would actually fall under its purview.
But a new bill—sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA)— called the Enemy Expatriation Act might render that issue moot. There are rumblings on the blogosphere that as the bill currently stands, the government might be able to strip Americans of their citizenship if the State Department certifies that they are either engaged in or support hostilities against the United States. There would be no need to take them before a court of law, present evidence and get a conviction.
And once someone loses their citizenship, they would become fair game for indefinite detention. Pretty ingenious for government work!
Dent, who has been pushing similar legislation since last summer, argues that all he wants to do is update current law to make it appropriate for the war on terror. American citizens who join a foreign army automatically relinquish their citizenship, he notes. He wants the same thing to happen to anyone who joins or supports terrorist groups. All the bill would do is add “engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States” to the list of acts for which United States nationals would lose their nationality.
The big difference of course is that everyone knows what the definition of army is. But only the executive branch knows what a terrorist group is and what counts as “hostilities." And it could include anyone and anything in that: Timothy McVeigh. Branch Davidians. Freeman Militia. Occupy Wall Streeters. Tea Partiers. H&R commenters.
Ron Paul Daily Paul on this atrocity here.
When he took office, Barack Obama promised “an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” As part of that commitment, he pledged fidelity to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which he called “the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government.” But as Jacob Sullum observes, it is hard to reconcile these lofty memos with the Justice Department’s proposed regulation instructing federal agencies to falsely deny the existence of records sought under FOIA. At least the Obama administration, which withdrew the regulation in November following a flood of criticism, is open about its desire to mislead us.View this article
Yesterday John Walsh, the U.S. attorney in Colorado, sent letters to the operators and landlords of 23 medical marijuana dispensaries, threatening them with forfeiture and prosecution if the businesses are not shut down within 45 days. Walsh said all 23 are within 1,000 feet of a school, which violates state law and triggers enhanced penalties under federal law. But in his letter to dispensaries, he mentioned only the violation of federal law:
Federal law prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and possession of marijuana...The dispensary is operating in violation of federal law, and the Department of Justice has the authority to enforce the federal law where appropriate even when such activities may be permitted under state law.
Walsh's letter to dispensary landlords includes the same language, except that the possibly crucial phrase "where appropriate" is omitted. If Walsh believes prosecution of medical marijuana suppliers is "appropriate" only when they are violating state law, his position is consistent with repeated assurances from his boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, that the Justice Department will not focus its resources on dispensaries that comply with state law. According to The Denver Post, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who elicited a couple of those assurances from Holder during congressional hearings, is not alarmed by Walsh's letters:
Congressman Jared Polis, who has defended Colorado's medical-marijuana laws in Washington, said a 1,000-foot buffer from schools makes sense and did not express outrage at the limited crackdown. He said dispensaries should comply with the 1,000-foot limit in state law.
"The Justice Department has repeatedly made clear that dispensaries that are in compliance with state law are not an enforcement priority," Polis, D-Boulder, said in a statement. "Colorado's tough system of medical marijuana regulation is the best way to keep drugs out of the hands of minors."
Like California's U.S. attorneys, Walsh seems deliberately ambiguous on the question of whether he will respect state law. But unlike California, where dispensaries operate in a legal gray area, Colorado recently adopted regulations (based on legislation passed in 2010) that explicitly authorize them and set conditions for state licenses, which the Colorado Department of Revenue's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division began issuing last October. Local governments are authorized to impose additional requirements. In Colorado Springs, for example, applications for local licenses were due at the end of September, and city officials say the process may take up to five months. Denver—which was issuing its own dispensary licenses, based on the medical marijuana law approved by Colorado voters in 2000, before the state enacted its regulations—is in the process of "align[ing]" its procedures with the state's rules. Here is the guidance the city gives to current licensees:
If the process of applying for the new medical marijuana center license takes longer than six months, the licensee can renew again. Existing applicants who applied to the state of Colorado for a Medical Marijuana Optional Cultivation Premises [license] or a Medical Marijuana Infused Products Manufacturer [license] as of August 1, 2010 can continue to remain in business as long as the applicant follows state and local laws.
The 1,000-foot rule is one requirement of those laws, so if Walsh sticks to targeting dispensaries that do not comply with it, he will not be breaking Holder's promise.
For more on the Obama administration's shifty policy on medical marijuana, see my story in the October issue of Reason.
In case there was any doubt....Beth Fouhy of Associated Press yesterday surveyed the much-talked-about and even true appeal of Ron Paul to the youth, the future of these here United States:
Nearly half of all voters under 30 went for Paul in the first two states to vote, helping to propel him to a second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary and third place in Iowa's leadoff caucuses....
Paul's campaign events are charged with an energy that any politician would love, attracting an eclectic band of youthful activists ranging from preppy college students to blue collar workers to artists sporting piercings and dreadlocks. At his party after the New Hampshire primary, there were spontaneous chants of "Ron Paul Revolution! Give us back our Constitution" and "President Paul! President Paul!"
A tickled Paul told the cheering crowd: "Freedom is a wonderful idea, and that's why I get so excited. But I really get excited when I see young people saying it."
Paul's strong New Hampshire second is giving him a poll bounce, with one American Research Group poll having him in third in South Carolina at 20 percent (though that polling group has had questionable results in the past) and one Reuters poll (pre-New Hampshire) having him at third nationally. UPDATE: Rasmussen today also has Paul tied for third in South Carolina, with Santorum.
As someone who has been actively participating in and reporting on and writing histories of the libertarian movement since 1987 or so, I believe that Ron Paul's presidential campaigns last time around and this have been a godsend for the spread of libertarian ideas.
Matt Zwolinski writing at Daily Caller believes that the academic aid, training, and seminar organization Institute for Humane Studies, to the contrary, is kicking Paul's ass and deserves more attention and respect and support than does Paul's campaign:
Two things have happened in the past year that ought to be of some interest to libertarians. The first is the phenomenon of the Ron Paul campaign. The second is the 50th anniversary of an organization called the Institute for Humane Studies. My guess is that almost everyone reading this post is familiar with the former, and almost none with the later. And this is a terrible, terrible mistake. Libertarians, like everyone else, have limited time, money and other resources. And if we want to advance the cause of liberty, we should use those resources in the way that has the highest expected return. The Paul campaign is not it.
A lot of libertarians are excited about Paul because they believe that a Paul presidency could help put an end to the drug war, or to overseas military adventures, or that it could bring about a return to a golden era of sound money and constitutional constraint. But how likely is any of this? Even after New Hampshire, Paul is still a longshot to win the Republican nomination. But suppose that he does? Before he can start making any of the changes libertarians are hoping for, he’d still have to win a general election in which his libertarian views on environmental regulation, Social Security, health care and a host of other issues would be a much bigger target than they are in the Republican primaries. And even if he won that election, he’d still have to implement policy with a Congress and judiciary that is largely hostile to many of his views.
Of course, Paul himself is smart enough to know this. As recently as the Iowa caucuses, Paul admitted that he doesn’t see himself waking up in the White House. What he sees himself doing is producing a philosophic revolution. He is convinced, he says, that “a nation does not change just for partisan/political reasons. What has to happen is there has to be an intellectual revolution to energize the people and get people to understand the problems in economic and political terms.”
So, you ask, can’t the Paul campaign contribute to the cause of liberty by educating people about these ideas? Maybe, but don’t hold your breath. As political theorist Jason Brennan has written, “politics teaches enlightenment in much the same way that fraternity parties teach temperance.” As human beings, we are subject to all kinds of rational defects and biases. And researchers like psychologist Drew Westen and political scientist Diana Mutz have shown that politics makes these defects worse, not better. We’re set up to view politics as a game of us vs. them, and in a game like that, the search for truth and new ideas does not fare well.
This all seemed so resolutely dedicated to ignoring reality right in front of the author's eyes I didn't know how to react, but a few points. I should preface this with: I admire IHS; the two most important events in 1988 that cemented my own libertarian ideas and career were the 1988 Ron Paul campaign and attending an IHS seminar; I lecture on IHS's behalf when asked and I believe it has been and will continue to be a very important part of the libertarian social and intellectual change project. (In IHS's case, it made me way more radical than Paul's '88 campaign did.) I believe an article arguing that IHS's academic approach is, like Ron Paul's campaign, a great way to further libertarian ideas, would be entirely correct.
*Does not the very fact that Zwolinski leads with, that everyone has heard of Paul and no one has heard of IHS (roughly) indicate that political campaigns are in fact a great way to expose people to these ideas? This does not mean that the context of a political campaign is the most thorough or universally effective way to ensure that exposure to ideas will lead to intelligent consideration or acceptance of them. But even a minuscule rate of success of politics compared to academic seminars will still equal to a higher raw number of new libertarians. I am pretty sure when I look at the crowds, the money donated, the polling numbers, the sheer number of bodies and minds discussing these ideas intelligently on social networking sites, that we are seeing this successful spread of libertarianism happen with Ron Paul.
*There's a lot of goalpost shifting in just these paragraphs: are we talking about electing a libertarian-minded person president, or exposing/converting people to libertarian beliefs? Because that whole part about Paul's electoral prospects, or prospects for success with pushing through libertarian ideas in Congress with certainty in the short term, seems off point. Because if that's the standard Paul is falling short on that applies equally to IHS, which is not, I think, doing well in any presidential polls right now or pushing through policy.
*And Zwolinski's dealing with the patently obvious fact that Ron Paul is "educating people about these ideas" with a quick "Maybe, but don't hold your breath" and falling back on some poli sci theory about how people absorb or accept ideas and truths in a strictly political science context is just ignoring what is visible: all the new young (and old) people who very much because there is a national politician with all the attendant attention paid to him pushing these ideas, are hearing them and deciding they make sense, and that they want to help spread them.
Again, this does not mean I think every polled Paul supporter or Paul voter is now or will become a full-on movement libertarian. But I do think in raw number terms it will produce more of them than an IHS strategy aimed almost entirely at graduate students and those who will be taught by them or read what they write. There is a hugely important section of American life, culture, and ideas that will never come near the old Ivory Towers of grad school, first hand or second hand. For better or worse, elections are the very context in which most Americans are at all prepared to grapple with political philosophy and ideas. And with Ron Paul there is a politician actually selling, with more rigor than you might expect from a politician (especially in his books and the books his books point you to), a real and good political philosophy. (And a surprising number of his young fans do go beyond the speeches and the YouTube videos to the books, and the books they are led to from there.)
Hayek's social change ideas emphasized academics because it was thought academic ideas trickled down to masses. Paul is taking them straight to the masses, and doing a shockingly good job of it. It is not an epiphenomenon or coincidence that him being a politician is why he is such a great mind-changer. Again, the context of electoral politics may not be the best way to change minds. But for an enormous number of people, it's the only way.
I've been engaging with many movement libertarians lately who want to deny any of this is true--if there isn't gold standard social science surveys proving it, they don't want to believe it, and that is their right. Alternately, some seem to think it would be great if someone they liked better than Paul were running for president, how much better that would be for spreading libertariaism. I believe it is exactly Paul being who he is, believing what he believes, and selling his ideas the way he sells them that is responsible for his success. I just don't see how you can look at the world of discourse, the world of giving, the world of votes and bodies at rallies, and not understand that Ron Paul has been very, very good for libertarianism.
Back to the gritty world of electoral politics, where ne'er a mind is changed:
As state senator Tom Davis, a Tea Party leader, is said to be ready to endorse Ron (giving some credence to my declaration yesterday that Tea Partyers, if they are still out there, should be ready to run for Ron when it's just him and Romney) South Carolina Sen. Jim Demint continues to publicly love Paul without an explicit endorsement:
Ron still has a son, and that son is still taking flack on TV for his father's positions, and making decisions designed to make dad proud, like returning a half-million of his office budget to the Treasury and holding up treaties that he thinks will give the IRS too much snooping power. From the Hill:
The pacts would allow the United States and the three European countries to more freely and broadly share tax information — and also bring the countries’ information-sharing agreements in line with standards developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a key forum of market economies.
Treasury officials have called the pacts an important tool in fighting tax evasion, as the United States works to close a tax gap — the difference between what’s owed the IRS and what’s paid on time — that grew to $450 billion in 2006.
I'm happy to announce that I'll be appearing with Ann Coulter at the Independence Institute's 27th Annual Founders' Night Dinner, in Glendale, Colorado on Thursday, February 16.
We'll be live-debating the question: Can fiscal & social conservatives pull together in 2012?
Based on the drawing to the right (by Reason regular, the great Henry Payne no less!), I suspect the answer will be no.
Here's the full info breakdown from the II folks:
Join us for the 27th Annual Founders’ Night Dinner
Thursday, February 16, 2012
International Ballroom, Infinity Park
Honoring Jake Jabs, President & CEO of American Furniture Warehouse
with special guests
Ann Coulter and Nick Gillespie
6:00 – 7:00 PM Patron Reception
6:45 PM Doors open for dinner
For more info on the Independence Institute, please go here.
In 2010, I was honored to speak at the Independence Insitute's annual Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms bash (video and writeup here). It's a great group of people when it comes to limiting the size and scope of government and they sure know how to throw a party.
I've mixed it up with Ann Coulter as well, too. Here's a Red Eye show from last April in which the Demonic author and I, along with Greg Gutfeld, Bill Schulz, TV's Andy Levy, and Cougar Town scribe Michael McDonald yakked for an hour:
According to a recent CBS News Poll Romney would beat Obama in a hypothetical presidential election match up with 47 percent to Obama’s 45 percent. Yet, these numbers are still within the poll’s margin of error. Also, the poll found that Ron Paul would garner 45 percent of the vote to Obama’s 46 percent, also within the margin of error. Part of Romney and Paul’s relative success compared to other GOP candidates like Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry, is that both Romney and Paul receive nearly half the Independent vote. In a hypothetical match up, Paul would garner 47 percent of the Independent vote compared to Obama’s 40 percent. Likewise, Romney would receive 45 percent of the Independent vote compared to Obama’s 39.
These numbers are crucial to campaign strategy, as Independent voters play a significant role in determining the selection of president. In 2008 Obama won over Independent voters. Today, Obama would lose the Independent vote to Romney and Paul.
Full poll results can be found here.
The CBS news poll was conducted by telephone from January 4-8, 2012 among 1,413 adults nationwide, including 1,247 interviews were conducted with registered voters. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The margin of error for the sample of registered voters could be plus or minus three points. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
Follow Emily Ekins on Twitter @emilyekins
Standard & Poor’s downgrades France from AAA to AA+. Germany and the Low Countries avoid downgrade. Responses from French politicians range from responsible calls to reduce public borrowing to less helpful declarations of “financial war” against France. U.S., which weathered a downgrade in 2011, can only say “Bienvenue.”
Joran Van der Sloot, apparently irresistible charmer of the jet set, has been sentenced to 28 years for the murder of the daughter of a prominent Peruvian businessman. Van der Sloot, whose game seems to have remained strong even after he gained notoriety as the presumptive murderer of Natalee Holloway, was convicted of killing Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramírez after meeting her in Lima casino.
Dildo dilemma: Pennsylvania woman sues over being fired from a J&J Snack Foods plant, she claims, for wearing a prosthetic penis. Pauline Davis says she wore what the Philly Daily News calls a “device” while contemplating gender reassignment. Noting that a male co-worker who wore women’s clothing and prostheses was not dismissed, Davis claims a discriminatory termination.
Did liberals kill comic books? Critic claims Aquaman’s recent oil-rig-disaster storyline proves the DC universe has been poisoned by enviro-orthodoxy. When Falls the Coliseum says even a political agenda is beyond the capacity of the drones at Time-Warner. Neither comment mentions the Timely/Marvel universe, where Prince Namor has been avenging the Surface Dwellers’ crimes against the sea since 1939 – and unlike Aquaman and J&J Snack Foods, Namor isn’t afraid to show what’s going on downstairs.
Redevelopment unmourned by the same tired, poor, huddled masses it was supposed to help. Local “community development” activists explains why residents of distressed areas of Los Angeles have always gotten the worst deal from the city’s redevelopment agency.
Singularity arrives as IBM researches create smallest known information bit, consisting of only 12 atoms.
Burma thaw: United States and Myanmar exchange ambassadors after dubious human rights progress in the closed nation.
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In a speech this morning on “government reform,” President Obama said that his administration has listened to businesses large and small complain about dealing with the federal government. According to Obama, these businesses think that federal workers are just swell, but that the bureaucratic systems they have to navigate are just too dang confusing.
So Obama wants to streamline the bureaucracy, as he's always promised he would, because, he said, “from the moment I got here, I saw up close what many of you know to be true: The government we have is not the government that we need.” So Obama wants the power to consolidate several agencies, to let the federal workforce shrink by 2,000 through attrition, and to save $3 billion over the next ten years by streamlining the bureaucracy .
Not mentioned: Over the next 10 years, Obama has also proposed about $46 trillion in federal spending. Just last year, under Obama’s watch, the government we have finalized $232 billion worth of new regulations and just $1.1 billion in regulatory savings. Jobs at federal regulatory agencies, meanwhile, grew by 13 percent. And this was in the year that President Obama started by called for a regulatory review designed to “root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb.”
So what does the "government we need" actually need? Apparently, what it's missing is yet another regulatory point of contact—a spiffy new website Obama says is intended to be “a one-stop shop for small businesses and exporters.” It will be called Business USA. And it will be run by the federal government.
Apparently the political science concept of “Big Mo,” or the concept of big momentum pushing candidates who win early caucuses and primaries ahead in subsequent primary and caucus states’ polls, applies to Ron Paul as well.
As the Hill reports, the American Research Group released its most recent poll of likely Republican primary voters in South Carolina showing Ron Paul skyrocketing from 9 percent to 20 percent in today’s latest poll.
Paul’s previous 9 percent number comes from a poll conducted just a few days earlier, on Jan 4-5. However, after Jan 10th’s New Hampshire primary and Ron Paul’s strong 2nd place finish, this poll finds his support significantly raised to 20 percent. Romney placed first at 29 percent and Gingrich second at 25 percent.
Big Mo can also have the reversed effect for candidates underperforming. For instance, despite Rick Santorum’s surprise near-win in Iowa, Santorum significantly underperformed in New Hampshire, coming in a distant fifth at 8 percent. Likely as a consequence, the ARG poll finds his numbers plummeting from 24 percent in the Jan 4-5 poll to merely 7 percent by Jan 11-12.
American Research Group Poll of Likely South Carolina GOP Primary Voters
Source: American Research Group poll of South Carolina likely GOP primary voters. Click here for full methodology.
Follow Emily Ekins on Twitter @emilyekins
Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel's Bloomberg columns are must-reads.
This time around, she casts a sharp eye on the way the new biopic about Margaret Thatcher imposes a bourgeois dilemma on the life of one of the most important leaders of the past century.
Hollywood has no trouble with public women as long as they are hereditary monarchs, who have no choice about their role. It can deal with the power of Elizabeth I, who had to rule to survive. But the more democratic, liberal power that arises from the combination of ambition, competence and popular appeal -- the power of a Margaret Thatcher ... is more problematic. A grocer’s daughter who becomes prime minister could be anyone (even if she is in fact an extraordinarily gifted person). Her ambition thus casts doubt on the audience’s own choices, or at the very least poses an alternative to them. Some people do in fact die regretting their unfulfilled ambitions and uncompleted work....
In an interview with Collider.com, screenwriter Abi Morgan described “The Iron Lady” as a “very feminist film,” noting that it had a female writer, director and star. She also acknowledged Thatcher’s “extraordinary” ability to combine homemaking and child-rearing first with her legal studies and later with her political career. “What’s interesting about her,” Morgan said, “is that I don’t think she felt the guilt that I think we feel. I think there’s an inherent guilt that most people feel. The thing I think most women struggle with mostly is feeling guilty.”
These supposedly feminist filmmakers could have portrayed Thatcher as an ambitious woman who had nothing to feel guilty about. Instead they chose to inject guilt where it did not belong. They obscured Thatcher’s public accomplishments in a fog of private angst. The portrait of dementia isn’t the problem. The way the film uses old age to punish a lifetime of accomplishment is.
This morning, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch went on Fox Business Network's Varney & Co. to discuss the recent tax squabble between billionaire crony capitalist Warren Buffett and various House Republicans, and also to argue over Beatles songs. Watch below:
National Public Radio recently ran a segment on police use of deadly force. Many of the reactions from the mixture of police officers, a journalist, and callers run the gamut of police-response cliche, with much " he had to make a split-second decision" talk. However, there are some interesting bits which make it worth a read for those of us curious about the mentality of folks involved in law and order.
For example, journalist Lawrence Mower of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, talks with NPR host Neil Conan:
MOWER:...What we found was that: One, there was a lot of shootings here. Also that the department was very reluctant to learn from its incidents, learn from its shootings, and that they were reluctant to hold officers accountable for them. And really, the review process in place was fairly lax.
In the last decade, Metro's review board had cleared 99 percent of officers who were involved in any kind of incident, serious incident like a shooting. And - but also, the criminal review process was fairly lax, also.
CONAN: Reluctant to do that because they feared for morale, because why?
MOWER: Well, it's interesting. The board that they had set up here - and they still do have set up here - was dominated by citizens. And what we found kind of interesting is we talked to the citizens, and they were very much, very pro-police. They had difficulty holding officers accountable for these incidents.
Oftentimes, it was the officers on the board who were harder on their own officers than the citizens were. But, you know, what you've heard over time from police also is that, well, we don't want to second-guess another officer's decision to use deadly force because these incidents are so rare, and they're not as clear cut, often, as, you know, an officer beating someone up. Well, many officers would not justify that. So - go ahead. [Emphasis added.]
Later, a caller named John, either a cop or a former cop describes an incident in 2005 when he shot someone. The host is talking to a police officer, David Klinger, a former member of the Los Angeles Police department:
JOHN: One of the things that I noticed that your - I'm sorry, the person you're interviewing isn't talking about is the way that police officers are treated after the shooting. It almost feels adversarial in nature. I was involved in a shooting myself a few hours off a training. It was covered by national news, and it was a huge incident.
And, I mean, there was no doubt that I was in the right, but still the fact they take your gun away while you're on-scene, they put you in a patrol car, they separate the different people in the shootings. There's a way that they do it, but it just really feels like they're treating me like a criminal, and I'd like them to speak a little bit about that.
CONAN: David Klinger?
KLINGER: Well, that's unacceptable. One of the things that I do and other people around the country do is train agencies about post-shooting protocols. And to disarm an officer at the scene, there's no reason for that. There's a time and a place to get the officer's weapon for evidence collection, and that's back at the station once the officer is safe, once the scene is secured, so on and so forth.
There's got to be some sort of an adversarial process because there's always the question in our democracy whether an officer used deadly force appropriately. So there has to be a careful investigation of the facts. However, it doesn't have to be adversarial in the sense of trying to make it look as if the officer did something wrong.
When I say adversarial, the district attorney has to take a look at it, make sure everything's squared away. But I agree with the officer: If an agency is not treating the officer with the respect that they deserve - because after all, what happens is they trained the officer, they hired the officer, they gave him a gun, they said go out, and under these circumstances deadly force is appropriate - unless and until there is some evidence that the officer did something wrong, the officer shouldn't be treated like a criminal suspect.
As much as I have to cringe over complaints that cops who kill people (justified or not) are being treated too harshly, it is a (sort of) fair point that police were hired to do a certian job which entailed the potential for deadly force. But maybe that's just further argument for extremely strict standards in hiring and looser ones in firing of police, no?
Read or listen to the whole thing here. And if you're hankering for more police-induced sickness, check out Radley Balko's latest at Huffington Post. It's an appalling look at the death of Floridian Nick Christie, who died in police custody after being subjected to 6 hours of restraint and at least eight doses of pepper spray. Mike Riggs reported on the case back in December as well.
Also check out Reason's latest work on police; Reason.tv on whether cops or the always-controversial Tasers are the problem in high-profile deaths such as that of Alan Kephardt.
Meet Dan O'Connor, a self-described libertarian Democrat who wants to represent New York's District 12 - which includes Chinatown and parts of Queens and Brooklyn - in Congress.
O'Connor spent six years living in China, so he feels a connection to the inhabitants of Manhattan's Chinatown, who he says share his views that taxes and regulations on businessess are too high, immigration laws too onerous, and school-choice programs too small. Those positions play well in the rest of the district across the East River too, he says. So does his belief that defense spending should be cut and troops brought home, that the Federal Reserve should be audited, and that politicians should be term-limited. Indeed, should O'Connor manage to unseat the Democractic incumbent, Nydia Velazquez, in September's primary, he's pledged to serve no more than four terms.
O'Connor faces an uphill struggle, for sure. Reason's Matt Welch spoke with him at last summer's FreedomFest in Las Vegas, and his ideas are striking for their uniqueness among office seekers calling themselves Democrats. This interview in no way represents an endorsement, but there's no doubt O'Connor is an interesting character with whom to spend a few minutes.
About 4 minutes. Shot by Jim Epstein and Zach Weissmueller and edited by Joshua Swain.
Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by around 2,000 limited-government enthusiasts and libertarians a year. Reason.tv spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here now.
A study published online this week by the journal Tobacco Control casts further doubt on the effectiveness of "nicotine replacement therapy" (NRT) as a method of quitting smoking. The researchers followed 787 Massachusetts smokers who had recently quit, interviewing them three times over about four years. At each stage, the subjects who used nicotine gum and patches, with or without professional counseling, were just as likely as the others to have started smoking again. It's possible that smokers who were strongly attached to the habit were especially likely to use nicotine replacement, which might partially explain these dismal results. But they are in line with other research on the subject, which generally finds modest benefits at best from NRT. The fact that an FDA-approved, officially favored method of quitting seems to barely work at all underlines the stupidity of government resistance to alternatives such as snus and electronic cigarettes. One reason NRT performs so poorly may be that it is designed and presented as a short-term medication to wean smokers off cigarettes rather than a long-term alternative that avoids all the health risks associated with inhaling tobacco smoke. Snus and e-cigarettes both show promise in that regard, and if public health officials truly were interested in reducing smoking-related morbidity and mortality they would let smokers choose the harm-reduction methods that work best for them instead of puritanically insisting on a goal of complete abstinence.
Believe it or not, Newt Gingrich is doing Mitt Romney a favor. Gingrich has spent the past week attacking Romney’s tenure as the head of Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney helped found in the 1980s. The attacks, however, have mostly backfired. In fact, they've managed to generate the one thing that the Romney campaign has failed to win or buy for itself: sympathy.
But as Peter Suderman explains, what’s good for Romney may be bad for the rest of us. Gingrich’s attacks aren’t just helping to unite conservatives in defense of Romney, they’re distracting from the very real flaws in Romney’s record.View this article
For the month of January, Cato Unbound is probing the West's use of murder drones. The lead essay is by Notre Dame's David Cortwright, who begins by asking "whether drone technology makes war more likely."
Are decisionmakers more prone to employ military force if they have accurate weapons that are easier to use and do not risk the lives of their service members? The use of these weapons creates the false impression that war can be fought cheaply and at lower risk. They transform the very meaning of war from an act of national sacrifice and mobilization to a distant almost unnoticeable process of robotic strikes against a secretive “kill list.” Do these factors lower the political threshold for going to war?
....[T]he availability of a particular class of weaponry can influence judgments on the likely costs and viability of military action. U.S. political leaders are able to imagine intervening militarily in other countries because they have advanced weapons systems designed for that purpose. The possession of drone technology increases the temptation to intervene because it removes the risks associated with putting boots on the ground or bombing indiscriminately from the air. Drone systems are “seductive,” writes law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell, because they lower the political and psychological barriers to killing. They induce a false faith in the efficacy and morality of armed attack that could create a greater readiness to use force.
A March 2011 report from the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre of the U.K. Ministry of Defence concluded that the availability of drone weapons was indeed a factor in the decision of British leaders to participate in military operations in Pakistan and Yemen. In its study the Center found that manned aircraft and commando raids could have been used for the selected missions but were rejected as too risky. The decision to use force was “totally a function of the existence of an unmanned capability—it is unlikely that a similar scale of force would be used if this capability were not available.” The report urged “removing some of the horror” of these weapons so that “we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely.”
Drone enthusiasts Benjamin Wittes and Ritikia Singh filed the first response:
To lay the matter bare, Cortright objects to military robotics because the field offers effective weaponry that keeps our forces safer while enhancing their lethality and targeting precision with respect to the enemy—the combination of which invites use. In other words, he objects to precisely what any operational commander would find attractive about drones.
As drones become smaller, more lethal, and more autonomous, they do present unique challenges. But it is very wrong to think about their novelty, as Cortright seems to, as all or mostly bad. Indeed, the field of robotics offers huge advantages both from the point of view of the effectiveness of military operations and from the point of view of human rights. On the military effectiveness side of the ledger, the logic of developments in weaponry that increase one’s own lethality—allowing targeting at the highly individualized level—while protecting one’s forces, may not persuade Cortright, a professor of peace studies, but it will tend to move commanders who have missions to accomplish and who have a fundamental obligation to their own troops not to expose them to undue risk.
Cortwright, "a professor of peace studies," is concerned that making war "cheaper is deeply troubling. It reduces the political inhibitions against the use of deadly violence. It threatens to weaken the moral presumption against the use of force that is at the heart of the just war doctrine." Wittes and Singh maneuver around this concern by arguing that people like Cortwright should be embracing drones:
The United States is not going to take a hands-off approach to states like Pakistan and Yemen, where law enforcement is not a feasible option. Drone warfare permits a highly calibrated military response to situations in which the alternative may involve not lesser but far greater uses of military violence. This is a good trade. Conversely, drones also allow militaries to contemplate certain humanitarian interventions where they might never contemplate risking actual forces; consider whether the recent NATO Libyan intervention—which probably saved a considerable number of lives—would have been politically possible had U.S. forces been seriously at risk.
[W]hile the rise of drone warfare has changed the face of American counterterrorism efforts and promises far greater change in years to come, this does not present the simple and terrible moral equation that Cortright describes. What began as a surveillance tool that could, on occasion, deliver lethal force, has evolved in a short space of time into a principal means of following enemy forces onto territory in which the United States is reluctant to put large numbers of boots on the ground—and striking at them there in a limited fashion that protects innocent civilians to an unprecedented level.
Wittes' argument for drones makes perfect sense if one zeroes out the scale with the assumption that the U.S. is entitled to drop bombs whever it wants. Assessing the merits of the claim that "the United States is not going to take a hands-off approach" to country XYZ will presumably have to wait for another Cato Unbound series.
A California state politician has written a masterpiece.
Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) was only seeking fame as one of the admitted authors of Proposition 1A, a popular referendum authorizing the sale of $9.95 billion in public bonds for the Golden State's high-speed rail concept. In the November 2008 election, some 6.7 million California voters – who at the time believed or pretended to believe that the cost of a high-speed rail network connecting Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego would total $41 billion – voted for Prop 1A, enough to score 53 percent of the total vote count. (The total cost estimate of the project has since increased to $98.5 billion.)
But with her statement on the management chaos at the California High-Speed Rail authority, Gagliani has outdone herself. Let’s just say clocking in under 300 words isn’t the only thing this speech has in common with the Gettysburg Address:
We have always known there would be challenging circumstances building the nation’s first high-speed Rail system, particularly when it requires being sensitive and responsive to diverse communities, with varying needs along the entire 800 mile stretch of the project all at once. Mr. Van Ark and Mr. Umberg have worked with stakeholders to address everything from whether “wind speed” from the train will affect bee pollination in agricultural areas, the importance of respecting sacred sites and Native American burial grounds near the Grapevine, the value we place on involving small emerging business enterprises during the engineering and construction contracting process, building the first public private partnership of this scope in California, and navigating the political turbulence associated with building the nation’s first High–Speed Rail system. I have deep respect and owe my deepest gratitude to both Mr. Van Ark and Mr. Umberg…
Today represents a turning point for the Governor to put his stamp on the project. I am pleased that his long-trusted Advisor, Dan Richard, has been chosen to succeed Chair Umberg, and I am confident that Governor Brown will put his full resources behind the success of High Speed Rail. I remain committed to working with Governor Brown, and Chair Richard to move this project forward and put California’s economy on a fast-track to recovery with “high speed jobs.”
Note that the list of stakeholders and diverse communities contains flora and fauna of many different cultural heritages. But the following words never rear their ugly heads: Californians, taxpayer, citizen, owner, resident, farm, home, rights, traffic, cost, price, recession, save.
Note also that the $10 billion in bonds have not been sold yet, and the state government has broad discretion in choosing whether and when to take on voter-approved debt. The project’s official cost estimate has more than doubled in a mere three years – an increase not explicable by any known economic data. (And it says here that $100 billion price is still an extreme lowball based on very sparse information.)
It’s time for Gov. Jerry Brown to make the kind of bold move he made on redevelopment agencies. Removing the chaos of California High Speed Rail from the state’s political and budgeting process is the honorable move.
This week the Supreme Court decided two cases that highlight the risks of relying on eyewitness testimony to convict people of crimes. On Tuesday the Court overturned the conviction of Juan Smith, who was charged with killing five people during an armed robbery of a New Orleans home in 1995. The only evidence connecting him to the crime was the testimony of Larry Boatner, who was visting the house at the time of the robbery. During the trial Boatner identified Smith as the first gunman to push his way into the house, saying he looked him in the face immediately afterward. As part of the appeals process, Smith's lawyers obtained police records that contradicted Boatner's testimony. According to notes taken by the lead investigator on the night of the murders, Boatner "could not...supply a description of the perpetrators other then [sic] they were black males." Five days after the robbery, the same detective noted, Boatner said he "could not ID anyone because [he] couldn't see faces" and "would not know them if [he] saw them." In a typewritten report, the detective said Boatner "could not identify any of the perpetrators of the murder." Under the 1969 decision Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, Smith had a due process right to those records because they were favorable to the defense and there was a "reasonable probability" that they would have changed the outcome. The sole dissenter, Justice Clarence Thomas, conceded that the conflicting statements could have been used to impeach Boatner's testimony but argued that they would not have led to an acquittal. "When weighed against the substantial evidence that Boatner had opportunities to view the first perpetrator, offered consistent descriptions of him on multiple occasions, and even identified him as Smith" out of a photo array, Thomas wrote, "the undisclosed statements do not warrant a new trial."
The other case dealing with eyewitness testimony also produced an 8-to-1 decision, this time against the defendant. Barion Perry was arrested in 2008 for breaking into cars at a Nashua, New Hampshire, apartment building in the middle of the night after a tenant identified him as the perpetrator while looking out a fourth-floor window at the parking lot. At that point Perry was the only black man in the area, and he was standing next to a police officer. Perry argued that the judge should not have allowed the jury to hear this eyewitness testimony because it was tainted by impermissible suggestion. He cited Supreme Court rulings saying eyewitness testimony should be excluded when it is the product of unnecessarily suggestive procedures that create a "substantial likelihood of misidentification." The Court, in a majority opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rejected Perry's analogy, noting that the circumstances of his arrest were not deliberately arranged by police, so a rule excluding such evidence would not deter improper procedures. Generally speaking, the Court said, the remedy for inaccurate eyewitness testimony, like the remedy for other kinds of potentially unreliable evidence, is convincing the jury that it should be discounted.
That seems reasonable to me, as long as defense attorneys have the means and opportunity to present expert testimony about the perils of eyewitness testimony. I think there remains a substantial gap between public perceptions and scientific research on the question of how much trust to put into someone's confident in-court identification of a defendant. Even when the witness is completely sincere, there are so many ways in which memories can be biased or manufactured, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that such testimony probably should never be enough by itself to convict someone. The research suggests eyewitness identifications are wrong about a third of the time.
In Perry's case, there was other evidence: When a police officer arrived at the parking lot, she heard what "sounded like a metal bat hitting the ground." Then she saw Perry standing between two cars, a metal bat on the ground behind him. He was holding two car-stereo amplifiers, which he claimed to have found on the ground. But in Smith's case, there was no physical evidence and no witness testimony except Boatner's. It seems to me the contradictory statements withheld by the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office would have created plenty of reasonable doubt. Yet Clarence Thomas disagrees, and I worry that a lot of jurors may likewise be unreasonably impressed by eyewitness testimony.
One would think that the California Assembly’s Transportation Committee would be deeply concerned with planning cost-effective ways to meet the transportation needs of a growing population during tough economic times. Yet as Steven Greenhut reports, the committee actually spends nearly a third of its time on a task that few people would consider of vital importance: naming highways. As usual, Greenhut writes, California legislators are lousy at serving the public but great at self-aggrandizement and catering to the special-interest groups that assure their re-election.View this article
The Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus has a long post examining the Montana Supreme Court’s recent decision in Western Tradition Partnership v. Attorney General of Montana, where that court essentially ignored the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Citizens United v. FEC and instead voted to uphold the state’s campaign finance regime:
[W]hat they were thinking is abundantly clear: they wanted to register their dissent with Citizens United as well as cling to a distant hope that the Supreme Court might review the scope of their decision. Unfortunately for them, because of the method in which they chose to do so, coupled with the recentness of Citizens United and a blistering dissent that catalogs their errors, the Supreme Court will not seriously examine their reasoning.
The only remaining question is whether the Supremes will unanimously vote to reverse the Montana court and thus resolutely affirm the status of SCOTUS within the judicial hierarchy. There remains a possibility, however, that one or more of the justices who disagree with Citizens United (and recall that Justice Kagan argued the case before the Court as solicitor general) will use the case to voice their opposition to the decision. This would be unwise, and it would only contribute to the perception of the Court’s fractured nature. The justices should not be fractured on condemning a lower court that blatantly ignores controlling precedent.
Yet the opinion is still worth reading for anyone interested in campaign finance law generally or in Citizens United itself. Not only does the majority opinion make a woefully inadequate attempt to distinguish Montana’s “unique” situation from facts already addressed by the Supreme Court, but it highlights fundamental differences in political philosophy that Citizens United has brought to the surface.
On Tuesday, Ron Paul shocked the nation with a strong second place finish in the New Hampshire primary. Amidst the ephemeral rise and fall of most of the GOP field (Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum) Ron Paul has found a steady and consistent rise in the polls. In effect, writes Emily Ekins, the once-considered-fringe candidate has vaulted into the GOP top tier.View this article
In 2008, Research Institute for Global Change climate modeller James Annan and David Whitehouse, an astrophysicist who is a scientific advisor with the Global Warming Policy Foundation in Britain bet a £100 that, using the HadCrut3 data set, there would be no new global temperature record set by 2011. The HadCrut3 data set is put together by the Hadley Centre's Climatic Research Centre in Britain. The bet was made at the instigation of the BBC radio program "More or Less." The result?
Whitehouse has won.
Over at the GWPF website, Whitehouse offers his view on global temperature trends and his take on the bet:
Back in 2007 many commentators, activists and scientists ... said the halt in global temperatures wasn’t real. It is interesting that the Climategate emails showed that the certainty some scientists expressed about this issue in public was not mirrored in private. Indeed, one intemperate activist, determined to shoot my New Statesman article down but unable to muster the simple statistics required to tackle the statistical properties of only 30 data points, asked the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office, to provide reasons why I was wrong, which they couldn’t.
What was true in 2007 is even more so in 2012. Since 2007 the reality of the temperature standstill has been accepted and many explanations offered for it, more than can possibly be true! We have seen predictions that half of the years between 2009 and 2014 would be HadCrut3 records (a prediction that now can’t possibly come to pass) which was later modified to half of the years between 2010 and 2015 (likewise.) The Met Office predict that 2012 -16 will be on average 0.54 deg C above the HadCrut3 baseline level, and 2017 -2021 some 0.76 deg C higher. Temperatures must go up, and quickly.
So how long must this standstill go on until bigger questions are asked about the rate of global warming? When asked if he would be worried if there was no increase in the next five years James Annan would only say it would only indicate a lower rate of warming! Some say that 15 years is the period for serious questions.
In a now famous (though even at the time obvious) interview in 2010 Prof Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia confirmed that there was no statistically significant warming since 1995. There was an upward trend, but it was statistically insignificant, which in scientific parlance equates to no trend at all. In 2011 Prof Jones told the BBC that due to the inclusion of the warmish 2010 there was now a statistically significant increase between 1995 and 2010. Since 2011 was cool it doesn’t take complicated statistics to show that the post 1995 trend by that method of calculation is now back to insignificant, though I don’t expect the BBC to update its story.
The lesson is that for the recent warming spell, the one that begins about 1980, the years of standstill now exceed those with a year-on-year increase. It is the standstill, not the increase, that is now this warm period’s defining characteristic.
Unfortunately, the polarization in the climate change debate makes the partisan shenanigans in the U.S. Congress look like a kumbaya campfire singing circle at a girl's summer camp.
In December, Grant Foster, proprietor the global warming proponent blog, Open Mind, and Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research published a new analysis in Environmental Research Letters that asserts that there has been no "standstill" in global temperatures. In their article they claimed to have teased a steady global warming temperature rise from five different temperature data sets by accounting for the noise of El Ninos, solar variations, and volcanic eruptions. After making their adjustments to the data, the two find that 2009 and 2010 are the two warmest years on record. Go here for Foster's explanation.
In addition, the World Meteorological Organization issued in December a provisional statement which declared:
Global temperatures in 2011 have not been as warm as the record-setting values seen in 2010 but have likely been warmer than any previous strong La Niña year ....
La Nina years occur when the eastern Pacific Ocean cools substantially and thus affects the global average temperature.
As background, in December University of Alabama in Huntsville climate researchers John Christy and Roy Spencer after analyzing 33 years of their satellite temperature data report:
While Earth’s climate has warmed in the last 33 years, the climb has been irregular. There was little or no warming for the first 19 years of satellite data. Clear net warming did not occur until the El Niño Pacific Ocean “warming event of the century” in late 1997. Since that upward jump, there has been little or no additional warming.
“Part of the upward trend is due to low temperatures early in the satellite record caused by a pair of major volcanic eruptions,” Christy said. “Because those eruptions pull temperatures down in the first part of the record, they tilt the trend upward later in the record.”
Christy and other UAHuntsville scientists have calculated the cooling effect caused by the eruptions of Mexico’s El Chichon volcano in 1982 and the Mt. Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines in 1991. When that cooling is subtracted, the long-term warming effect is reduced to 0.09 C (0.16° F) per decade, well below computer model estimates of how much global warming should have occurred.
Interestingly, the Foster and Rahmstorf analysis finds that global warming has increased at almost twice the rate (0.16 C per decade) that Christy and Spencer report.
Remember when pundits accused the GOP of abandoning its big tent—the one big enough to include a broad diversity of views? You can kiss that meme goodbye. This year’s presidential candidates span the political spectrum. They are both pro-abortion and anti-abortion. They have both embraced and opposed bans on assault weapons. They have both accepted and rejected the idea of human-induced climate change, both promoted and derided a government takeover of health care, supported both amnesty for illegal aliens and building a giant wall on the border. And that’s just Mitt Romney, writes A. Barton Hinkle. We haven’t even touched on the rest of the field yet.View this article
In today's Washington Times, Reason Associate Editor Peter Suderman reviews In the Land of Blood and Honey, Angelina Jolie's film about love and atrocity in the Bosnian War.
“In the Land of Blood and Honey,” directed and co-written by Angelina Jolie, refuses to spare its audience or its characters.
A grim twist on “Romeo and Juliet” set amidst mass rape and ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war of the early 1990s, the film is part parade of war-crime horrors, part harrowing melodrama. It’s hard to watch, but Miss Jolie’s vision of social breakdown and affectless barbarism is so powerful that it deserves to be seen.
Writing at CNN.com's Opinion section, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch talks about the awkward position that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has put the Republican Party in after his strong second-place showing so far in the primary season. Sample:
In both 2000 and 2008, the top two GOP delegate-winners ran on explicitly anti-libertarian platforms. As John McCain wrote in his campaign memoir "Worth the Fighting For," "I welcomed a greater, if still limited, role for government in national problems, anathema to the 'leave us alone' libertarian philosophy that dominated Republican debates in the 1990s. So did George W. Bush, I must add, who challenged libertarian orthodoxy with his appeal for a 'compassionate conservatism.'"
The mix of compassionate conservatism, with its emphasis on domestic spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Part D, and neo-conservatism, with its emphasis on interventionist foreign policy, produced results that were both predictable and predictably repellent to libertarians: A 60% increase in federal nondefense spending under Bush, and a federal government that recognized no corner of the globe or hospital room as off-limits to American police power. [...]
What are poor Republicans to do? Many of them hate Ron Paul's ideas on foreign policy, roll their eyes at his talk about the Federal Reserve, deem him to be several fries short of a Happy Meal, and -- correctly -- see his constitutional radicalism as a threat to both the philosophies behind compassionate conservatism and neo-conservatism, and to the practical gravy train of bipartisan big government. But he's the only Republican game in town when it comes to drawing in the independents and young voters they need.
- ATF had a second gun-smuggling operation, called White Gun, and "apparently guns got away again."
- Romney rolls out ad in South Carolina defending his private sector record.
- 2006 transcripts of Federal Reserve meetings reveal nobody saw housing crisis coming.
- Leon Panetta calls video of Marines pissing on Taliban bodies "utterly deplorable."
- Rudy Giuliani defends...Newt Gingrich against...Mitt Romney?
- Stephen Colbert will be running for president.
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New at Reason.tv: "Who's Lethal? Police or Tasers"
If you thought Gov. Rick Perry's Iowa ad about what a shame it is that gays and lesbians can openly die in combat while kids have to secretly meet in abandoned fallout shelters to merely discuss Christmas during school was the low point of the 2012 Election season so far, get a load of this:
Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for the power to shrink the federal government, a White House official said Friday.
Obama plans to speak at 11:20 a.m. about his plans to make the federal government "leaner, smarter and more consumer-friendly," the official said.
The president's proposal includes plans to combine several agencies that focus on commerce and trade.
This transformational vision courtesy of the guy who voted for TARP as a senator, pushed an $800 billion stimulus that did squat (never forget that the stimulus failed by its proponents' own yardstick), passed a health-care bill that has managed to increase public and private sector spending even before going operational, and jacked the debt like nobody's business.
And then there's the one statement that he's made about where he wants to see federal spending go in a decade: The budget plan that he released in 2011, which envisions annual spending growing from its current $3.8 trillion or so to $5.7 trillion a year in 2021.
Puh-lease. Obama's late-breaking interest in shrinking the federal government or making it "leaner, smarter" carries about as much credibility as Kim Jong-il's treatises on opera. Which at least had dancing.
Not that there's anything wrong combining or killing certain agencies altogether. In fact, according to the latest Reason-Rupe Poll, 45 percent of us want to abolish or consolidatae the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 41 percent want the same for Energy, and 40 percent for the EPA. Check it out:
When a president who has shown no restraint in spending and growing the government rolls out a plan for a half-dozen bureaucrats to squeeze into a shared office, it's tough not to be cynical. This sort of election-year, phoney-baloney hand wave is precisely the sort of gesture that heardens the hearts and the ears of voters. Who, not surprisingly, are going independent in historic numbers.
In today's Friday Funny, Chip Bok notes that frontrunner status comes with a target on your back.View this article
Roelof van Ark, we hardly knew ye.
The CEO of a California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) that is now described as "embattled" even by the establishment media has announced his resignation less than two years after taking office. From the office of CHSRA spokeswoman Rachell Wall, who didn't have enough to worry about on her last day on the job:
At the regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Directors, held in Los Angeles today, Chairman of the Board Thomas J. Umberg issued the following statement after CEO Roelof van Ark announced his resignation, effective in two months:
"With admiration, I would like to thank Mr. van Ark for his service to California and the high-speed rail project. The announcement of his resignation will resonate throughout the State. His energy, passion and dedication to this critically important project are a testament to his character and his professionalism. We are extremely lucky to have his continued counsel and advice as we move to implement high-speed rail in California. I remain grateful for his professionalism and friendship."
Van Ark's resignation came during a board meeting, and the CHSRA flubbed the announcement. The reaction to his announcement followed by just ten minutes a press release in which van Ark is quoted speaking on a decision to run the line through the Antelope Valley rather than paralleling Interstate 5 over the Grapevine:
The Authority recently re-examined the Central Valley to Los Angeles Basin segment, including a route along I-5 in Southern California that extends over the Grapevine. The Grapevine alignment was originally studied in the 2003-2005 Statewide Programmatic Environmental Review and did not advance because preliminary information suggested it could cost more than the Antelope Valley route.
“Due to many changes which had occurred over time, we had to look at as many alternatives as possible to ensure the best statewide system possible,” said Roelof van Ark, CEO of the Authority. “We conducted a conceptual study to update the engineering data from 2005 to see if the Grapevine route would save us time, distance and money. This was a prudent time to reevaluate both routes, which have changed since the initial studies.
“This re-evaluation makes it clear that running the train through the Antelope Valley will connect people in one of the county’s fastest-growing areas, have fewer environmental impacts, and afford more flexibility in route selection,” van Ark said.
Wall explains that van Ark will stick around until March and board chairman Umberg will leave as soon as a replacement can be found.
The CHSRA is under tremendous pressure to begin work on the Obama Administration's chosen first leg of the project, a line connecting Merced and Bakersfield. The September deadline for groundbreaking and the odd location were needed to qualify the project for ARRA stimulus funds. Wall says the federal requirement is for the ARRA funds to be spent by 2017, and the September 2012 target was selected by working back from that. Should the project not meet that deadline, she says, the federal funding would not necessarily be jeopardized because the Golden State's contract with the federal government only "memorializes the schedule."
The project remains on schedule, Wall says: "We anticipate groundbreaking by fall of this year. The next stage is to outline the capital-outlay budget."
We all know that Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 case in which the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on political speech by corporations and unions, was responsible for Democratic losses in that year's elections. (Or maybe not.) What fresh horrors does greater respect for the First Amendment have in store for us this year?
According to The New York Times, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's $5 million donation to Winning Our Future, a group supporting Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination, "underscores how the 2010 landmark Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance has made it possible for a wealthy individual to influence an election." But as The Washington Post notes in an editorial decrying the impact of Citizens United, "individual supporters long have been free to spend...as much as they wished as long as they did not coordinate with campaigns." So it's not true that Citizens United suddenly "made it possible for a wealthy individual to influence an election."
But it is true that Citizens United, combined with subsequent court decisions, made "super PACs" like Winning Our Future possible. Unlike standard political action committees, which donate money to political campaigns and must obey contribution limits, super PACs spend their money on independent advertising and can receive unlimited contributions, including money from unions and corporations as well as individuals. While billionaires like Adelson do not need Super PACs to express themselves, such organizations do enable people of more modest means to pool their resources, and they offer one way for unions and corporations, including nonprofits organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, to exercise the speech rights recognized in Citizens United.
Why is that bad? In a CNN interview on Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who co-sponsored the law that imposed the speech retrictions overturned in Citizens United, said it's bad because the speech is so negative. He blamed the Supreme Court, even though one of the main examples discussed in the interview involved words coming out of Newt Gingrich's own mouth, which have always been a cost we must pay for freedom of speech. McCain, like the Times, cited Adelson's donation to the pro-Gingrich group, which is using the money for ads attacking Mitt Romney, the candidate McCain favors. That seems only fair, since a pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, has been running anti-Gingrich ads. McCain said negative campaigning works, which is why it is so common, but also backfires on the messenger. "I think it's a real danger," he said, "and obviously I'd like to see it over with a Romney win in South Carolina followed by one in Florida." Translation: Negative campaigning is a necessary evil until my guy wins.
I have never understood the complaints about negative ads, which on the whole seem much more useful and informative than positive ads. The only positive ad I can recall that helped clarify things for me was the one in which Rick Perry expressed dismay at openly gay soldiers, and that was effective only in the sense that it lowered my opinion of him. Richard Hasen, an election law expert at U.C.-Irvine, has a more plausible concern about super PACs:
Given the expected vast spending by presidential candidates and parties in the general election, I am not very concerned that Super PAC spending will influence the outcome of the presidential election, though it might.
I am not even that concerned about Super PAC negative advertising, which can serve to educate the public and mobilize some voters to become more politically engaged.
But I am concerned that Super PAC spending will influence the outcome of close Senate and congressional races. And I am greatly concerned that when Election Day is over and the public will stop hearing about Super PACs, contributions to these groups will skew public policy away from the public interest and toward the interest of the new fat cats of campaign finance, as members of the House and Senate thank their friends and look over their shoulder at potential new enemies.
As Hasen points out, the Supreme Court's shaky distinction between spending (speech) and campaign contributions (not speech) is even shakier now that groups like Winning Our Future, Restore Our Future, and Back to the Future (my suggestion for a pro-Paul, constitutionalist super PAC) are run by politicians' former staffers and funded by familiar campaign supporters. The super PACs are prohibited from "coordinating" with candidates' campaigns, but politicians are still apt to be grateful to the people who help them win elections, which is a tendency to keep in mind while evaluating the performance of elected officials. Still, the possibility of corruption does not override the First Amendment. If super PACs are yet another attempt to get around the contribution limits upheld in Buckley v. Valeo, why not avoid the pretense by scrapping those limits once and for all, instead of imposing new rules that give rise to new "loopholes," which trigger new rules, ad infinitum? As The Wall Street Journal notes in a recent editorial, "the real loophole is the U.S. Constitution."
I considered the overwrought reaction to Citizens United in the December 2010 issue of Reason.
Contraband wastes considerable energy, and several likable performers, including Mark Wahlberg, in taking us to a place we’ve visited far too many times before. Although the story concerns drug-smuggling, and is set in New Orleans and at the Panama Canal, writes Kurt Loder, this is a by-the-numbers heist flick of such predictability that at several points you wonder why it’s even unfolding.
We Need to Talk About Kevin, on the other hand, writes Loder, considers the dark question of where monsters come from. The movie is arctic in its emotional tone, with a carefully reined-in pace; and while it nods lightly in the direction of the old nature-versus-nurture debate, it settles firmly on the side of nature, demonstrating that sometimes evil just is.View this article
First instance of desecration of battlefield dead in history of world causes controversy. Video of alleged Marines allegedly tinkling on alleged Taliban fighters makes Afghan President Hamid Karzai lead a "chorus of condemnation"; leads press corps to inquire about White House urolagnia; causes Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to exhaust the thesaurus in search of deplorably inappropriate unacceptabilities; complicates negotiations with Taliban.
Old barflies of the world, unite. Americans over 65 binge drink more frequently than any other age group, says (say?) Centers for Disease Control. New study, which defines binge drinking as four drinks for a woman and five for man, daringly says it’s a "bigger problem than previously thought."
Deadbeats swamp government loan bailouts. OCC Mortgage Metrics report [pdf] for Q3 2011 shows half of all modified loans still end up going bad again. Foreclosures are up, yet Center for American progress claims the Federal Housing Administration’s books of guaranteed loans "are expected to have significant positive net economic value" for the agency that "prevented a more devastating over-correction in the housing market." AEI’s Edward Pinto lists a dozen reasons this rosy scenario is unlikely.
Blood money! Why is it still so hard to advertise tampons?
Fed funnies. Wear a corset to protect your sides from the side-splitting hilarity of Federal Reserve officials in meeting notes. Non-surprise: Tim Geithner is not funny.
Hey libertarians and small government fans, some of your leftist friends probably turned into dewy-eyed Obamatrons in 2008, but dammit, Glenn Greenwald didn't! Today, due to another assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist, Greenwald delivered one of his trademark columns which make partisan hacks sob into their pillows at night, wondering why he can't just fall into line. This time it's on the hypocrisy of the word terrorism.
Does anyone have any doubt whatsoever that if Iran were sending hit squads to kill Israeli scientists in Tel Aviv, or was murdering a series of American scientists at Los Alamos (while wounding several of their wives, including, in one instance, shooting them in front of their child’s kindergarten), that those acts would be universally denounced as Terrorism, and the only debate would be whether the retaliation should be nuclear, carpet-bombing, or invasion? As always, Terrorism is the most meaningless — and thus most manipulated — term of propaganda; it’s always what They do and never what We do. [Emphasis added]
* * * * *
Regarding the question of who is responsible for the spate of scientist murders and explosions in Iran, it is true that there is no dispositive evidence on that question; that’s one of the benefits of conducting most consequential governmental action behind a wall of secrecy: no public accountability. But as the links above demonstrate, there is strong circumstantial and even direct evidence that (a) Israel is involved and (b) the U.S. has engaged in substantial covert acts of war aimed not only at the Iranian nuclear program generally but at Iran’s nuclear scientists specifically.
Speaking of convenient definitions, Gawker had some words about the controversy over footage of U.S. Marines urinating on some dead Afghanis who may or may not be Taliban soldiers, (notes The Guardian, they are not pictured with weapons). But, isn't it interesting that "desecration of a corpse" is a war crime when, ya know, war is kind of a war crime in its self?
So Gawker's Hamilton Nolan rants on this mass-media outrage rather splendidly below, but first the video if you feel a compelling urge to watch it.
Do you know what is worse than having your dead body urinated upon? Being killed. Being shot. Being bombed. Having your limbs blown off. Having your house incinerated by a drone-fired missile that you don't see until it explodes. Having your children blown up in their beds. Having your spouse killed. Having your hometown destroyed. Being displaced. Becoming a refugee. Having your entire life destroyed as a consequence of political forces far, far beyond your control.
War is horrible. War is sickening. Wars started for supremely righteous causes are just as horrible and sickening in their consequences as wars started for less than righteous causes. Politicians who sit in office chairs and start wars and wave flags as young men and women go off to kill and die and be psychologically and emotionally damaged for life are the most sickening of all. Politicians start wars and are rewarded with an appearance on weekend talk shows and Very Respectable Discussions with Very Respectable media figures and jokes at the White House Correspondent's Dinner and appearances on Leno and ghostwritten self-glorifying memoirs and lavishly catered fundraising parties with corporate executives. They should be rewarded with outrage. They should be rewarded with scorn. Starting a war is a monstrous, monstrous crime against humanity, as we know when it begins that no matter how cleanly it is conducted it will result in thousands upon thousands of bullets smashing men's skulls and arms and legs blown off by shrapnel and mothers and children incinerated by high explosives. And every extra day that a war is perpetuated unnecessarily is a crime anew.
Read both Nolan and Greenwald in full, they're worth it.
Really, treating humans like humans is not a bad idea — nor is respecting the bodies of humans, even those who are ostensibly your enemies — but this outrage still feels archaic in a World War I Christmas Truce-I'm-going-to-try-to-kill-you-again-come-January-1-but-for-now-let's-play-soccer-and-be-gentlemanly sort of a way. Even though there is some potential that the nasty video will become something for enemies of the U.S. to rally around, comparisons to Abu Ghraib are a little silly because most of the people in those photos were still alive and still suffering.
And hell, if the U.S. had anything to do with the Iranian scientist assassinations (which they deny) that would still not be as bad as all-out war, would it? Yet we're stuck with this attitude that one must be open and sporting about war and play by the rules; and if you think too hard about what war really is, that concept starts to seem more and more absurd.
It's not that urinating on corpses isn't disgusting and inhuman, and the Marines aren't doing the right thing by investigating, it's just that legally killing people is inherently a great deal more offensive than desecrating their bodies.
It's a shame people don't get more outraged over the deaths from drone strikes (which are now back for the New Year) and which have killed maybe 2400 Pakistani citizens since 2004, but that's maybe because the program doesn't officially exist. Which doesn't seem very sporting at all, now that I think about it.
At the new Library of Law and Liberty website, George Mason University law professor (and Reason contributor) Ilya Somin looks at the Supreme Court’s recent 10th Amendment ruling in Bond v. U.S., which “focuses attention on the ways in which limits on federal government power really do promote individual liberty.” He writes:
Bond arose out of a tragic domestic situation. Philadelphia resident Carol Anne Bond discovered that a close friend of hers was pregnant, and that Bond’s husband was the father. In an effort to get revenge on this woman, Bond allegedly placed dangerous chemicals in areas the other woman was likely to touch, with the result that the latter got a burn on her hand. Prosecutors charged Bond with violating a federal law that forbids the use of chemicals that can cause death or serious injury to persons or animals, except for a “peaceful purpose.” Bond’s lawyers contended that this law is unconstitutional because it violates the Tenth Amendment, which holds that “the powers not delegated” to the federal government by “the Constitution” are “reserved to the States… or to the people.” Only states, Bond argued, have the authority to regulate criminal behavior of this type.
The federal government claimed that Bond is not allowed to raise this argument because the Tenth Amendment’s constraints on the scope of congressional power are intended to protect state governments, not individual citizens. The Supreme Court, as we have seen, decided otherwise because federalism protects individual freedom as well as state sovereignty.
Reporting from New Hampshire, Senior Editor Brian Doherty details how the Ron Paul campaign and its army of enthusiastic young volunteers propelled the Texas congressman into a solid second place finish on Tuesday night with a stronger-than-expected 23 percent of the primary vote. As Doherty explains, Paul’s Tea Party bona fides and his longstanding principled objections to the warfare-welfare state place him in an excellent position to face off against GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in a two-man race for the Republican nomination.View this article
Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's powerful film about eminent domain abuse in New York, Battle for Brooklyn, is starting a weekend-long run tomorrow at the Artisphere Theater in Arlington, Virginia. (Details here.)
My Reason.tv documentary short, The Tragedy of Urban Renewal, will be opening for the film, and I'll be participating in a Q&A after Friday night's screening. I'll be joined by Galinsky and Daniel Goldstein, the protagonist of Battle who fought a seven-year battle to keep his apartment after New York State conspired with developer Forest City Ratner to take it away.
Both films will also be playing at the Roxie in San Francisco on January 13th and 19th. (Details here.)
Obama’s Justice Department has kicked around many legal strategies on how to gain the control of the NCAA football system that the federal government currently does not have. DOJ is well-versed in the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution, since that is its justification for the individual mandate provision of Obamacare.
Maybe now it could say the University of Alabama, in recruiting Flint, Michigan's Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram, violated laws against kidnapping, smuggling or transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of commerce. We have so many laws in this country; there has to be one the Department of Justice can contort into fitting its goal.
If Obama had his way with “equity” in college football, he could work toward his dream of "fairness" so that every team in the country would have a record of 6 and 6. He would love that, because then he would get to decide the national champion. In Obama’s view, since he is granted the right under our Constitution to dismiss the head of General Motors, Inc., he should certainly have the right to fire the offensive coordinator at LSU.
As a long-suffering college fan who graduated from three schools (Rutgers, Temple, SUNY-Buffalo) that have historically sucked at football (despite one of them, Rutgers, winning the very first collegiate game and then losing every other one until a few years ago), I have no opinion on how the NCAA should do things.
I like college sports a lot (esp. football and basketball), but as a taxpayer and a Ph.D. with many faculty friends, I think there is something tremendously sickening with the massive amounts of subsidies that go into college sports. There is simply no question that sports do not serve any conceivable educational mission and they definitely drain resources from the sorts of research and teaching that colleges supposedly exist to produce and support. The ultimate resource on this matter is USA Today's database of how much college athletic departments are subsidized, especially by mandatory student fees.
While schools such as LSU and Alabama don't rake off student fees to cover sports programs, most Division I schools do. For instance, in the 2009-2010 academic year, Rutgers spent $8.4 million a year in student fees on sports teams, while the school kicked in another $18.4 million in "direct institutional support." Then there's about $9 million in scholarships and another $11.2 million in coaches' compensation.
Especially because the college sports system is built upon the worst sort of cartelization, labor practices, and exploitation. It's essentially impossible for players in basketball and football (the only two sports that throw off cash) to route around the college system due to collusion by the NCAA and the pro leagues. Spin the college sports teams off already and let schools focus on research and teaching; allow pro sports leagues to figure out what to pay junior players in junior leagues; let voluntarily funded clubs and associations cover the costs of other sports.
Last Friday the Supreme Court agreed to hear Florida v. Jardines, which raises the question of whether police need probable cause to use a drug-detecting dog outside someone's home. As I noted last week, the Court has said that a dog sniff in other contexts—luggage inspection at an airport and car inspection during a traffic stop—does not amount to a "search" under the Fourth Amendment and therefore does not require a warrant. The question is whether that same analysis applies to sniffing a residence, where the expectation of privacy is especially strong. Even if we accept the dubious premise that police dogs infallibly detect the presence of contraband and nothing else, using them immediately outside a home certainly seems more intrusive than using them at an airport or on the side of a road. In ruling that such an inspection requires a warrant, the Florida Supreme Court warned that police otherwise would have complete discretion to subject anyone, for any reason, to the "public spectacle" of cops camped out on their doorstep for hours while Franky and his handler conduct what looks an awful lot like a search of a suspect's private property. Furthermore, courts view a dog's "alert" as probable cause for a warrant, even though that signal can be misperceived, triggered by a handler's subconscious cues, erroneously displayed by a poorly trained dog, or simply faked by an officer determined to get a bad guy. The practical result is that probable cause to search anyone's house can be manufactured at any time, unless the courts insist on real evidence before they let the dogs out.
[via the Drug War Chronicle]
A Los Angeles government agency with a long history of fraud, theft, graft, blight, abuse, corruption and failure is winding down quickly, and there may be no way state or local officials can rescue it.
The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) will cease operations and lay off 192 government employees at the end of this month, under terms laid out in a law signed last year by California Gov. Jerry Brown and upheld in December by California's supreme court.
CRA/LA board member Madeline Janis, with characteristic self-dramatization, confirms the glorious news that she will be out of a job come February 1. Janis, who has managed a comfortable existence as a union lawyer and anti-business activist, concedes that she will lose only power, not money. But she sheds hilarious tears for the CRA employees who must now find other ways to drain $109 million a year (the projected cost to the city of taking over CRA's blight-creating tasks) from taxpayers.
Rescue from the city does not appear to be in the cards. Nor does rescue from Los Angeles County. A county politician, who has his own two-decade history of involvement with a large failed CRA project run by a corrupt local developer, concedes as much to the L.A. Times:
"The liabilities associated with redevelopment in the city of Los Angeles are just too big for the county to absorb," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former Los Angeles city councilman.
Readers know I will not believe the CRA is dead until I can refuse to piss on its smoldering ashes. So please note that State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) is already trying to slide through a bill that would delay the termination of the Golden State's redevelopment agencies (RDAs) until April 15.
But that train may (just may) have left the station. Although RDAs remain favorites of politically connected developers, chambers of commerce and lawmakers from both parties, the California Redevelopment Association's lawsuit attempting to block the new law ended in a decision that destroyed the rescue package Brown and other Democrats had cobbled together for them. Under this plan, RDAs would have been able to lay dormant for a few years and return to destroying wealth in the future. By suing, the RDAs ended up negating their own rescue package.
The suit also exhausted the patience of Brown and probably other Democrats, all of whom have no appeal from the broken condition of city, county and state finances throughout California. And it exposed the arrogance with which thugs like Janis have been operating for decades. This is an appropriate end. RDAs do not deserve a decent burial.
On May 10, 2011, 43-year old Allen Kephart died after having a Taser applied to him multiple times by three San Bernardino, California, sheriff's deputies during a routine traffic stop in Lake Arrowhead.
"I feel that my son was murdered, I feel that something has to be done about law enforcement," says Alfred Kephart, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit in San Bernardino Superior Court, August 30, 2011.
High profile police related deaths like Allen Kepharts' are pushing activists, families and courts to question whether Tasers or officers are to blame, but the answer to that question is a tricky one.
Numerous studies and reviews from the National Institute of Justice, Amnesty International and the Police Executive Research Forum have come to different conclusions on Tasers and how officers use them. A study in the American Heart Journal even revealed that studies funded by Taser International were "substantially more likely to conclude Tasers are safe."
Former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson says that when it comes to Tasers, safety depends on the circumstances in the case.
"We can remember back to the Rodney King case and in fact they did try to use a Taser there and it didn't work, where we had police using so much force, it was almost lethal," says Levenson. She points out that often questions of force from officers using Tasers come up after minor traffic violations.
According to Peter Bebring , staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, that is because when police are led to believe Tasers can't cause harm, they "are more likely to use them in circumstances where they would never consider using more serious force, like a gun."
Those types of circumstances led the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2011, to look at more incidents involving Tasers and policing, one being the Tasing of a woman eight months into her pregnancy. The court found that when police use a stun gun it may be a violation of Constitutional law.
In the year 2000, around 5,000 law enforcement, correctional and military agencies were using Tasers, by 2011, that number climbed to 16,000.
About 6:33 minutes.
Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Associate producer is Tracy Oppenheimer.
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The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, or so the saying goes. Thousands of people have been sleeping outside in tents for months as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement in large part because they believe this statement is both accurate and important. But as Veronique de Rugy explains, while there is a nugget of truth there, this critique obscures the great news that income mobility is actually alive and well in the United States of America.View this article
Following a pattern on displays in states such as Texas and South Carolina, e-commerce giant Amazon has agreed to start collecting state sales tax in Indiana in two years’ time, reports the Washington Post (full disclosure: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a donor to Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website).Counties and localities that tack on increments to the state rate will be out of luck and the new arrangement will net somewhere between $75 million to $250 million for Hoosier coffers (that sort of variance is an indicator that nobody knows how much of the state's 7 percent sales tax is being left on the table).
Retailers are required by federal law to collect sales tax only in states where they have a “physical presence,” i.e. a warehouse or storefront. Amazon created warehouses in Indiana in 2007 and this current development is the final act of a prior agreement.
As the biggest kid on the e-commerce block, Amazon now advocates the federal government forcing all online merchants to collect sales taxes on every sale.
Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy, said at a news conference in the governor’s office that the company supported federal legislation requiring all sales tax collections by all online companies.
“It’s the only way to level the playing field for all sellers,” Misener said. “It’s the only way for Indiana to obtain all the sales tax revenue that is already owed.”
Last fall in Reason, Veronique de Rugy explained why the push to collect state and local sales taxes in states where a business has no physical presence is a form of taxation without representation.
For any number of reasons - from basic self-interest (saving 6 percent to 8 percent off purchases that get delivered for free to my door is no small advantage) to philosophical premises (the idea that the federal government might pass legislation dictating how non-federal taxes get collected is disturbing, to say the least) - I hope that at least large parts of the Net stay tax-free. But it shouldn't suprise anyone that those days are almost certainly numbered. As the eugenics-loving, pro-involuntary-sterilization legal giant Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. would tell you, taxes are the price we pay for civilization. Or more precisely, the amount of protetction we pay not to be thrown in jail.
Today at 10 AM Pacific Time, I'll be on Your Call with Rose Aguilar, on 91.7 KALW San Francisco, tussling with The Nation's Katha Pollitt for an hour over "Who Is Ron Paul?" You can listen live at this link, and please call in & send your comments/questions using the Internet buttons.
Katha Pollitt made some waves last week with a piece entitled "Ron Paul's Strange Bedfellows." Excerpt from that:
I, too, would love to see the end of the "war on drugs" and our other wars. I, too, am shocked by the curtailment of civil liberties in pursuit of the "war on terror," most recently the provision in the NDAA permitting the indefinite detention, without charge, of US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism. But these are a handful of cherries on a blighted tree. In a Ron Paul America, there would be no environmental protection, no Social Security, no Medicaid or Medicare, no help for the poor, no public education, no civil rights laws, no anti-discrimination law, no Americans With Disabilities Act, no laws ensuring the safety of food or drugs or consumer products, no workers' rights. How far does Paul take his war against Washington? He wants to abolish the Federal Aviation Authority and its pesky air traffic controllers. He has one magic answer to every problem—including how to land an airplane safely: let the market handle it. [...]
Add in his opposition to basic civil rights law—he maintains his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and opposes restrictions on the "freedom" of business owners to refuse service to blacks—and his hostility to the federal government starts looking more and more like old-fashioned Southern-style states' rights. No wonder they love him over at Stormfront, a white-supremacist website with neo-Nazi tendencies. [...]
If Ron Paul was interested in peace, he wouldn't be a Republican—that party has even more enthusiasm for the military-industrial complex than the Democrats.
See you on the radio!
It’s election season, and so once again people look for heroes. Is Ron Paul one? Maybe. He’s fought a long, lonely battle to limit the power of government. "As government grows," writes John Stossel, "I yearn for champions of freedom who fight back. Rep. Paul has done that. But it’s a mistake to look for heroes in politics. It’s too ugly a business. My heroes are people like Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek and Ayn Rand, and others."View this article
Over at the Cato Institute, David Boaz handily debunks a Heritage Foundation chart—shown below—allegedly demonstrating that defense spending has dropped to its lowest level in 60 years in our great nation.
But Boaz pulls out a Cato chart showing that Pentagon spending in real, inflation-adjusted dollars has roughly doubled since 2000 and is up about 50 percent since 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War—not including the cost of the ongoing wars.
So what’s going on? Why the difference in the charts? Boaz explains:
The Heritage chart, of course, focuses on Pentagon spending as a percentage of the federal budget. And what has happened to the federal budget in the past 40 years? Well, as it happens, another Heritage shows that pretty clearly:
Does the Heritage Foundation really want to suggest that when spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid rises, military spending should rise commensurately? That when President Bush creates a trillion-dollar Medicare prescription drug entitlement, he should also add a trillion dollars to the Pentagon budget to keep “Defense Spending as a Percentage of the Federal Budget” at its previous level?
If total federal spending in 1820 was $19.4 million, and 53 percent of it was for defense, what that tells us is that the federal government was wonderfully small in the early years of the Republic.
Reason.tv's video explaining "3 Reasons Why We Should Cut Defense Spending Now" here.
Via The New York Observer, I see that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has urged the Food and Drug Administration to put a hold on the sale of Aero Shot, a new breathable caffeine and vitamin product, out of fear that club goers might use it to party later into the night. According to the company that developed the product, each "shot" contains 100mg of caffeine, as well as some Vitamin B. On the product website, Tom Hadfield, the CEO of the company, notes that the shots contain "the same amount of caffeine as a cup of premium coffee." Compared to the java served at Starbucks, however, that's not quite correct: According to the Mayo Clinic, a 16 oz cup of Pike Place roast has about 330mg of caffeine on average, making it far more caffeinated than an Aero Shot. So why go after Aero Shot but not Starbucks? There doesn't seem to be any clear reason to make a distinction. And it's not as if Schumer has a problem with coffee drinkers getting their fix. Indeed, he's actually fought for policies explicitly on the grounds that they would make coffee more affordable; in 2010, he went on a minor crusade against overseas coffee growers for stockpiling coffee beans, which he warned would hike retail prices for a cup of joe. The only notable difference between coffee drinkers getting their fix in the morning after staying out too late and Aero Shot shooters ingesting breathable caffeine power in order to stay out a little later seems to be that Schumer wants to protect the former and prohibit the latter.
Watch Reason.tv on why the feds, encouraged by legislators like Sen. Schumer, banned Four Loko:
Lawyers for the bankrupt Fremont, California maker of tube-shaped solar panels at the center of a half-billion-dollar taxpayer loss have asked a judge's permission to give out bonuses (boni?) to high-paid employees.
Solyndra LLC entered bankruptcy this fall after liquidating a $518 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan. Reason's Mike Riggs earlier noted this story by Jim McElhatton in the Washington Times:
The attorneys say the extra money will add motivation at a time when workers at the solar company have little job security and more responsibilities because so many of their colleagues have been fired.
The names of the bonus-eligible employees are not disclosed in the court filings that outline the bonus proposal. None of the employees is among the so-called corporate “insiders” — top officers or members of the board of directors, records show.
The proposed bonus recipients include nine equipment engineers, six general business and finance employees and up to two information technology workers.
The biggest bonus, for $50,000, would go to a Solyndra employee whose job title is listed as a senior director with a base salary of $206,499 per year. Two senior managers stand to receive bonuses of $30,000 and $32,500.
Bankruptcy attorneys said the so-called “key employee incentive plan” aims to keep important personnel from leaving the company.
The saddest part is that you can understand how this might make sense to somebody. If the needs of the bankruptcy process are best served by maintaining the Solyndra rump as a functioning business, you do need to attract top talent at competitive salaries. (And employee compensation has continued to creep up in this devastating recession of grinding poverty and brutal austerity.)
But why, beyond fulfillment of as many existing contracts as possible, is there any value in maintaining a business? The auction of Solyndra drew very little interest. The product drew little demand in the market. Yet it maintains a sales mechanism and, according to a court filing, sales people:
Within the last few months, the debtors have experienced a serious loss of personnel, which has made the continuation of the sales process in an orderly fashion more difficult.
Here’s the Solyndra sales page, where you can still read up on the white-roof tax break that is available, thanks to intercession from the Department of the Treasury, to buyers of Solyndra panels. Recommended: Question 13, explaining what lease terms "may improve the likelihood" of your becoming eligible for the Internal Revenue Service's investment tax credit.
Nobel laureate Steven Chu fails to explain what a Secretary of Energy does to the House of Representatives.
And who can forget “They about had an orgasm in Biden’s office when we mentioned Solyndra”?
I said the Solyndra scandal seemed to be winding down a few months back, but I did reserve the right to break out the tanning mirrors and the Bermuda Shorts and continue soaking in the energy right up on glory’s own white roof.
For my comeback, I catalogued the Solyndra bag of goodies with Allen Barton on The Front Page.
Is it a market failure or a market success that Hostess Brands, maker of such well-remembered but apparently little-purchased commestibles as Twinkies, Suzy-Qs, and Ho-Hos, wants to declare bankruptcy to restructure its business and dodge its creditors? Will the streets run red with cherry fruit pie filling? In its Chapter 11 filing, the Texas-based company lists assets of between $500 million and $1 billion, debt of $1 billion, and annual sales of about $2 billion. It employs 19,000 people.
If Twinkie the Kid and the rest of his posse are looking for a culprit, they might pull the trigger on changed eating habits:
Last year, 36% of Americans ate white bread in their homes, down from 54% in 2000, according to NPD Group. Meanwhile, about 54% ate wheat bread, up from 43% in 2000.
Consumption of healthy snacks is growing, too. About 32% of Americans ate yogurt at least once in two weeks in 2011, for instance, up from 18% in 2000.
"We're less likely to be snacking on items that we shouldn't be snacking on," said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, a consumer marketing research firm.
I'm not sure I'm buying that argument in its totality, but there's no question that sliced white bread, especially Wonder Bread, went from being the staff of life for upward-striving post-War middle-classers to being a cultural touchstone for all that was bad and wrong with America. Whether we're buying less of the stuff - or feel less in need of the myriad ways it supposedly enriches our bodies - I don't know. But there seems less a role for white bread in a world where even the Olive Garden is pushing rustic loaves of yeast and flour.
Catch a sugar-rush flashback with this 1972 commercial selling the sweet, sweet snacks of Hostess as a way to shut up the whining kids who are now holding the company's paper:
- Sen. Jim DeMint's South Carolina advisors will all endorse Mitt Romney today.
- Organizing for America strategist: "Having the Republicans eat their own actually makes the Bain story more potent than we ever could."
- Solyndra employees could receive bonuses of up to $50,000 in exchange for not quitting their jobs.
- Is the GOP holding Rand Paul hostage?
- Swine flu is back.
- Video surfaces of U.S. Marines urinating on dead Afghans.
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New at Reason.tv: "3 Takeaways from the New Hampshire Primary"
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch appeared on Russia Today to discuss the surprising-to-some primary-season success of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). About five minutes:
Do you know how easy it is to get on the ballot in Arizona? So easy that a candidate "merely had to fill out and submit a simple nomination form." So easy that there are 23 names on the GOP primary ballot. So easy that one of those names is Matt Welch. It's true; right there at #19.
And still Jon Huntsman didn't get on the ballot. That's because the secretary of state (who is an Arizona co-chair of the Romney campaign, go figure!) ruled that the simple nomination form did not have a properly notarized signature. Huntsman is challenging, but it's equally likely that Huntsman's campaign is about to take a dirt-nap.
As for that Welch character, if nominated I will not serve, because I am not now and have never been a Republican. No seriously, it's some dude from Tucson with a P.O. Box. Go get 'em, Matt Welch!
On Wednesday, Jan. 11, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch discussed the New Hampshire primary, the misfired attacks on Mitt Romney's Bain Capital record, and the significance of Ron Paul's second-place showing with Raw Story Executive Editor Megan Carpentier and host Paul Jay of The Real News Network. Around 20 minutes:
The Republican presidential race now moves from New Hampshire to South Carolina, but it's really taking place in an upside-down Lake Wobegon—where all the men are homely, all the women are weak and all the candidates are below average. Voters are often told that modern campaigns generate rivers of pointless trivia and shameful misinformation, writes Steve Chapman. But this one has served ably to do something that is as valuable to voters as it is unwelcome to the Republican Party: put a merciless spotlight on the mammoth flaws of every aspirant.View this article
Emboldened by the Indian government’s two-decade-long ban on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, some Indian Muslim clerics are now trying to get the author himself banned from the country. They want the government to stop Rushdie from attending the Jaipur Literary Festival, the biggest and most prestigious powwow of its kind in the subcontinent, where the author is scheduled to dissertate on the topic of 'Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The chutnification of English,' later this month.
Darul Uloom Deoband Islamic Seminary’s vice chancellor, a man obviously unfamiliar with the concept of free speech, urged the government to cancel Rushdie's visa for hurting the sentiments of Muslims in the past.
But fortunately there are plenty of sensible Indian Muslims this time around resisting such calls, including the law minister Salman Khurshid. He has steadfastly stood up for Rushdie’s right to come and go as he damn well pleases from his native country without a visa since he is a duly certified Person of Indian Origin. “This should not be made an issue. These are matters of normal processes of legal rights,” Khurshid said. “”A person of Indian origin’ can visit the country without visa and Rushdie can come here likewise.”
The book, readers will recall, earned Rushdie a fatwa on his head for, among other things, suggesting that Muhammad had unwittingly included some verses from Satan in the Quran.
Padma Lakshmi, the super model who stole and broke Rushdie’s heart here.
And my 2005 interview with Rushdie here.
The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 today in the case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which looked at whether the “ministerial exception” to federal anti-discrimination law shielded a parochial school from a workplace disability lawsuit filed by a discharged teacher. As the Cato Institute’s Walter Olson observes, “The Obama administration had taken the disturbing position that there should be no ministerial exception at all to stand between churches and the full panoply of official employment regulation.” The Supreme Court saw things differently.
You are less likely to die a violent death today than at any other time in human history. In fact, violence has been declining for centuries. That is the arresting claim made by Harvard University cognitive neuroscientist Steven Pinker in his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. The title, taken from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, refers to the way in which the modern world encourages people to suppress their inner demons and let their better angels fly. From our February issue, Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey talks with Pinker about about ideology, empathy, and why you are much less likely to get knifed in the face these days.View this article
From the web-soundings of movie reviewer, blogger, and writer extraordinaire Alan Vanneman comes this tale of life in Nanny McBloomberg's New York City.
New York Magazine reports on the case of Aaron Vansintjan, McGill University student visiting the Big Apple over the holidays. After shopping at Macy's and heading way uptown to meet some friends at The Cloisters (sight of the one of the very dumbest chase scenes in one of the very dumbest Clint Eastwood flicks,1968's Coogan's Bluff), Vansintjan was tackled and arrested by some of the NYPD's finest.
Someone had identified him as the burglar in the theft of a Macy's bag that it turned out never happened. The accuser was sent to a psychiatric hospital, but no one told the kid that. Instead, Vansintjan was interrogated and scolded for his antique pocketknife. He says police never explained to him his right to stay silent or get a lawyer.
The wrongfully accused tourist was eventually released in the evening, but probably wouldn't have been "[i]f I weren't white," Vansintjan said; he noticed that everyone else in his holding cell was of color and being held on marijuana charges.
Just so there's no discussion about my evaluation of Coogan's Bluff, here's a great nightclub scene from that flick. It takes place at a hippier-than-thou club called the Pigeon Toed Orange Peel, fer chrissakes. Come for the flower children who look like 4-F rejects from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but stay for the naked black chick who zip lines down from the ceiling and into Clint's 10-gallon hat around the 1.35 minute mark.
Was it really only 14 months ago when Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) was celebrating the freshman Tea Party wave in the House of Representatives by insisting that you "can't be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative"? Well, he might not be backing off from that specific statement, but DeMint–who will be one of the most important figures in national GOP politics for the next week–is urging his co-partisans to start playing nice with Ron Paul and the libertarian movement. Here's The Hill:
"One of the things that's hurt the so-called conservative alternative is saying negative things about Ron Paul," DeMint told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham. "I'd like to see a Republican Party that embraces a lot of the libertarian ideas." [...]
DeMint said he does not agree with the Texas congressman on everything but that the rest of the GOP presidential field should capture some of what Paul's been talking about for years because the Republican Party "needs" the libertarian movement.
"You don't have to agree with everything he's saying, but if the other candidates miss some of the wisdom about what he's saying about monetary policy ... that will be to our detriment," DeMint said.
DeMint, who is an influential conservative lawmaker with a key role in the Tea Party movement, said the debate within the Republican Party he's most comfortable with is between conservatives and libertarians.
- Newt says he shouldn't have attacked Romney's Bain record, because Obama is a class warrior.
- Joran van der Sloot admits to killing Peruvian woman; Natalee Holloway still a mystery.
- U.S. denies killing Iranian scientist.
- Rick Santorum makes big promises in South Carolina.
- Protestors celebrate Gitmo's 10th birthday.
- Evangelicals fret over Romney.
Police are being pretty button-lipped about some of the basic questions about the case, though there have been strange reports in the last few fays that Stewart had a "possible bomb" in his house.
"There was a device that was fashioned in a way that concerned those who found it that there were materials that could have been used as a bomb," Weber County Attorney Dee Smith told reporters.
But over at the Agitator, Radley Balko is skeptical. It's certainly possible that Stewart had something strange rigged up, but Balko notes an ATF spokesman who said to The Salt Lake City Tribune, “to characterize it as a bomb or device is not accurate at this time.” [Balko's italics] It seems entirely likely that this was something involving fertilizer, perhaps involved with Stewart's grow operation. A supposed photo of a bearded Stewart in a suicide-vest was "a Halloween costume," according to his father.
It's a weird, terrible story. But even if Stewart turns out to be a bomb-building nutter after all, that was notwhat this raid was about; cops saw their armed invasion of Stewart's home as another opportunity for the "Narcotics Strike Force team" to go in and do its thing.
However, this extremely unnecessary tragedy is getting a few cops to consider rethinking the terrible tactics which lead to their brother-in-arms being shot.
"It's time to change our thinking," says Pat McCarthy, who advises police agencies across the country. "Cops are exposing themselves to increasing danger many times over, and it's just not necessary."
Harvey Hedden, executive director of the International Law Enforcement Trainers and Educators Association, said the group is urging its 4,000 members to "look at everything" in an effort to avoid potentially dangerous complacency on the streets.
"Police work can be 99% boredom and 1% panic," Hedden said. "Routine can be the most dangerous of all. We need to go back to the basics."
Federal and local officials have been troubled for the past two years by the number of firearms-related fatalities. Gun-related fatalities last year were up 15% from 2010. So far in 2012, four officers have been killed by gunfire — one more than at the same time in 2011....
Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson said that the incident and the officers' actions remained under investigation and that the activities of the strike force are "on hold" because about half of the unit was involved in the shooting.
McCarthy said the deadly confrontation underscores a need for police to rethink their tactics.
"The days of knocking down doors in drug cases should be over. Given what's going on now, you have to consider other options," McCarthy said.
He said law enforcement officials should focus more on attempting to lure suspects out into the open or simply "wait them out."
Libertarians, or Agitator aficionados might draw a different lesson from the shooting beyond drug raids endanger cops, but certainly going "back to basics" and not treating every drug user or even dealer as a potential Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold would be a great step in preventing this kind of waste of life.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a powerful legal challenge filed against Florida’s notorious law requiring that all interior designers carry an occupational license from the state. Not only do 47 other states currently permit unlicensed interior design without any accompanying risk to innocent civilians, Florida’s own attorney general’s office even admitted that “neither the defendants nor the state of Florida have any evidence that the unregulated practice of interior design presents any bona fide public welfare concerns.” So why didn’t the Supreme Court take this opportunity to strike down a blatantly arbitrary and unnecessary law? Senior Editor Damon Root explains how the Court’s past mistakes now prevent it from protecting economic liberty.View this article
Raising the current Medicare eligibility age of 65 by two months each year until the eligibility age reached 67 in 2027 would reduce the federal budget deficit by $148 billion over the next 10 years, according to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office this week. That's not pocket change, but in the context of a decade of federal spending and $15 trillion in government debt, it's not a whole lot either. But the real reasons to raise the age have less to do with short-term savings and more to do with the necessity of long-term entitlement changes.
1) Raising the retirement age would encourage more people to work and keep their job-based health insurance until they're older. In addition to reducing the cost of the program, that contributes to a more thriving economy and a broader tax base. Granted, according to the CBO, this effect would be small, but partly because the health insurance subsidies in ObamaCare mean that lots of individuals would retire anyway and purchase subsidized insurance through the state-based exchanges that are scheduled to go into effect in 2014. But if ObamaCare is repealed, the effect would be larger.
2) It would save more money in the long run. Fiscally, the more important effects of raising the retirement age show up down the road. By 2035, CBO estimates that Medicare spending would be reduced by about 5 percent relative to what it would be otherwise. Given the program's explosive projected growth and its singular burden on the long-term budget, a 5 percent reduction in projected spending seems like a significant and worthwhile gain in return for an mild, decidedly incremental change.
3) Raising the Medicare eligibility age would make additional reforms easier. The most important likely effect is political. Reforming Medicare is difficult in part because of resistance by beneficiaries, who hold a lot of political influence; indeed, the fact that some beneficiaries might have to pay more for their insurance (CBO estimates that nearly all would still end up insured) is the primary argument cited by opponents of raising the eligibility age object to the change. That people who benefit from a program like it and/or get financial rewards from it, however, is not much of an argument for refusing to accept reforms, especially with an obviously unsustainable entitlement like Medicare. Diminishing the size of the beneficiary class is likely to diminish resistance to further change, and while it's not enough, it might ultimately make reform easier.
The New York Post reports that the Bloomberg administration, as part of its nanny city-state agenda, wants to make it harder for New Yorkers to get a drink. The city's Health Department is requesting proposals for initiatives aimed at "reducing alcohol retail outlet (e.g. bar, corner store) density and illegal alcohol." The projects would be funded partly by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which allocates grant money for community "transformation." The department declined to specify what the anti-alcohol initiatives might include, but it said the effort is "in line with our ongoing strategies of promoting healthy eating and physical activity and discouraging tobacco, excessive alcohol use and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages."
California’s rapid unwinding of its toxic redevelopment agencies is creating opportunities for reform of city corruption. To his credit, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is seizing one opportunity: He is urging City Council members to liquidate the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) and walk away from the money-losing real estate swindles the agency has created and exacerbated.
The council is voting on whether or not to become the CRA/LA’s “successor agency.” Villraigosa is urging the city to decline that role and just roll the redevelopment agency up.
David Zahniser of the Los Angeles Times is covering this story nicely, with a fact-rich co-bylined print piece and a follow-up from today’s council deliberations, which have been struck by thugs and lobbyists trying to keep the corporatist agency alive. (Various state politicians are trying to sneak through legislation to the same effect.)
Madeline Janis, a CRA/LA board member, tells the council: “You’ve got $400 million worth of projects in the pipeline already. This is your legacy. This is the mayor’s legacy.”
In the world of honest business, they say your first loss is usually your smallest. Janis doesn’t know that, but even L.A. politicians must face up to the truth that there are no more dollars to flush down this hole.
In my column today, I note that the Supreme Court upheld content-based regulation of broadcasting in FCC v. Pacifica on the grounds that the medium is "uniquely pervasive" and "uniquely accessible to children," premises that have been invalidated by technological developments in the three decades since the case was decided. In defending the ban on "broadcast indecency," the Obama administration offers a different rationale: Speech restrictions are part of the deal when the government allows a broadcaster to use "the public airwaves." Here is how Solicitor General Donald Verrilli put it during oral argument yesterday:
Respondents in this case have for years benefited enormously from their free and exclusive use of public spectrum. They argue, however, that neither Congress nor the commission may as a condition of their licenses require that they refrain from broadcasting indecent material when children are most likely to be in the audience.
Justice Antonin Scalia seemed receptive to this way of looking at the FCC's censorship, saying:
These are public airwaves. The government is entitled to insist upon a certain modicum of decency. I'm not sure it even has to relate to juveniles, to tell you the truth.
The "public airwaves" argument, which Fox and the other TV networks challenging the FCC's regulations call "a hail-Mary attempt to salvage [the FCC's] indecency-enforcement regime," was not cited in Pacifica. But it does play a conspicuous role in Red Lion Broadcasting v. FCC, the 1969 decision that upheld the "fairness doctrine," a policy of requiring broadcasters to provide balanced coverage of public issues (which the FCC abandoned in 1987 because of concerns that it had a chilling effect on political speech). "Because of the scarcity of radio frequencies," the Court said, "the Government is permitted to put restraints on licensees in favor of others whose views should be expressed on this unique medium."
As Fox et al. note, "the scarcity doctrine has never been the basis for indecency enforcement." Furthermore, the doctrine "has been subjected to withering criticism" during the last few decades. All economic resources are scarce, and all forms of communication use economic resources, so it is hard to see how scarcity can justify restrictions on one medium of speech that would be unconstitutional if applied to any other. The proliferation of TV and radio outlets since 1969 further undermines the scarcity rationale. "There are more than twice as many over-the-air broadcast stations than there were 40 years ago," the networks note, and "the number of additional media outlets has exploded during that time with the development of cable and satellite television and the Internet."
Justice Anthony Kennedy put his finger on a deeper problem with this argument yesterday when he called the government's reasoning "circular": We license broadcasters so we can regulate them, and we can regulate them because we license them. Instead of treating broadcasting rights as transferable property, the government chooses to give broadcasters revocable licenses and then cites that decision as grounds for further meddling. By similar logic, the government could nationalize the paper industry or the silicon chip industry, then use the resulting power to dictate the content of newspapers or websites.
Rich people who like Newt Gingrich are making hate-documentaries about evil Mitt Romney, and you can watch a new one by clicking here.
I'm two minutes in, and ROFLMAO. "Romney took foreign seed money from Latin America"!!!! "He had a Harvard pedigree"!!!! There are few things in political life more telling, and clarifying, than watching modern Republican Party lifers not named Ron Paul gaze upon the target-rich environment that is Mitt Romney and decide it's his private sector behavior that's beyond the pale.
Please mention highlights in the comments. Nick Gillespie wrote about dumb attacks on the eminently attackable Romney earlier this week.
According to Mexico's attorney general, the 2011 death toll for Mexico's drug war was 12,903 people. According to The Brownsville Herald, 10,200 of those deaths were homicides. Counting just the homicides, that comes out to 27.9 people a day. Let's just say 28. Or to think about it another way: An entire classroom of people every day. An entire bus full of people every day. Five-and-a-half passenger cars. Four-and-a-half nuclear families. Fourteen bicycles built for two. Twenty-eight moms, dads, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews. Shot, blown up, burned, decapitated, tortured, and/or stacked like firewood by their neighbors, their government, and their business competitors at the behest of, and with bullets and guns sold/given directly to them, by the United States Government. Every. Single. Day.
Marijuana, on the other hand, killed exactly zero people in 2011.
CORRECTION: Those numbers are only for the first nine months of 2011; January through September. That comes out to 37.7 homicides a day.
The ageless, beardful non-wonder of CNN takes time between situations to pen a love-letter to those selfless souls who sacrifice so much just for the opportunity to spend your money on things you don't like. Sample:
I know it will probably sound weird, but I admire these politicians who put themselves out there before the American public knowing full well that all their warts will be exposed big time.
Most of them already have lots of money. They could easily coast at this point in their lives and sit back and relax.
Instead, they are working hard on the campaign trail.
I've seen them in action, and it's tough. [...]
You think it's easy going out there all the time and appealing for campaign cash?
Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul and Rick Perry could have taken the easy path and relaxed and enjoyed life. Instead of playing golf and hanging out with their children and grandchildren, they are working hard trying to get the Republican presidential nomination.
First of all, yes, it's "weird." Second, there's nothing "relaxing" about "playing golf"–all those annoying Type-B+ A-holes sighing and looking at their watches just because you're 7-putting the par-3 2nd hole do not a relaxing afternoon make. But mostly, WTF, Wolf?
As Salon's Alex Pareene notes, "In their pursuit of more power these already powerful men have allowed themselves to be scrutinized and even occasionally criticized, which is quite a sacrifice."
Mitt Romney won a decisive victory in the New Hampshire primary last night, the second-largest margin of victory for a non-incumbent in over 30 years. But will Ron Paul's second place finish turn this into a two-man race? Can Romney win on electability alone?
Reason Magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch gives three quick takeaways from the New Hampshire primary.
About 3 minutes long.
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Remember last week, when Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers wanted the power to arrest you? This week brings a partial solution to that problem: Handy sheriff's deputies with Tasers.
[Sacramento County sheriff's department spokesman Jason] Ramos said the incident began about 1:30 p.m., after the man deboarded a plane and walked outside the airport's secure area into the baggage claim area, then turned around and tried to get back into the secure area. He told the TSA agent who greets arriving passengers that he left something behind on his plane, Ramos said.
The TSA agent would not allow the man back into the secure area, and directed him to get a pass at the ticketing counter. The man returned to the security checkpoint with the pass, but reportedly refused to submit his bag for screening, Ramos said.
The man began arguing with TSA officials, and nearby deputies intervened, Ramos said. The argument turned into a physical altercation, and deputies used Tasers several times on the man before he stopped fighting, Ramos said.
The man was "taken to a local hospital for a 'precautionary evaluation,'" but don't worry, "no flights were affected."
More on the TSA, and enjoy reason.tv's TSA playlist below:
Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website, is proud to help sponsor National School Choice Week, an annual event designed to bring attention to the need for and possibilities of allowing parents and students to, you know, pick where they get educated. This year, NSCW is Jan. 22-28.
The big kickoff event is being held in New Orleans, where a record level of K-12 students attend public and private schools of choice.
The details, courtesy of Reason Foundation education analyst Lisa Snell:
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Lakefront Arena at the University of New Orleans
6801 Franklin Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70122
10:30 AM to 12:30 PM
It’s going to be a huge party, with musical performances by The Temptations and Ellis Marsalis, and thousands of likeminded students, parents, teachers, and community activists who are celebrating school choice across the country. In addition to these legendary entertainers, you’ll hear from elected officials, celebrities, and students, parents, and teachers who will share how school choice has given them a chance at a quality education. In fact, if you represent a school choice organization, National School Choice Week will even provide you with a free table on our concourse to distribute materials on-site.
You can find a great hotel rate at our two partner hotels, too. The Saint, a new hotel on Canal Street, is offering NSCW guests a rate of 149.00 plus two complimentary drink tickets to their bar! www.thesainthotelneworleans.com/. And the Chateau Bourbon (A Wyndham Hotel) is offering a rate of 159.00. www.chateaubourbonneworleans.com/ When booking either of these two great French Quarter hotels, please refer to the “National School Choice Week” room block--but you MUST register before January 16.
Reason Foundation is an integral planning partner for National School Choice Week (January 22-28, 2012), and we’re so excited to invite you to attend this huge party and help raise awareness about school choice. And this is just the first party of the week! Between January 22-28, thousands of Americans will come together at seminars, rallies, schools, movies, and other places to shine a spotlight on the need for effective education options for children.
Please RSVP online and remember to invite your friends and family. Everyone is welcome to this massive celebration of school choice!
The folks behind National School Choice Week are a broad-based coalition of liberals, conservatives, libertarians, right-wingers, left-wingers, you name it, who believe that the more choices kids and parents have, the better K-12 education will be.
Reason will be hosting events near the end of January in both LA and DC; details to come.
All of the Republican presidential hopefuls who are so strenuously trying to out-do each other in defending family values may be overlooking one of the chief causes of moral and social decay: increased fossil fuel use. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey parses this surprising suggestion recently made by a couple of conservative intellectuals.View this article
More than four years after arresting Simon Glik for using his cell phone to record another man's arrest, the Boston Police Department has admitted the officers who were involved used "unreasonable judgment." That conclusion, which contradicts the position the department has taken since 2007, comes five months after a federal appeals court ruled that Glik had a First Amendment right to record the arrest on the Boston Common, which he did because he thought the police were using excessive force. Superintendent Kenneth Fong, superintendent of the department's Bureau of Professional Standards, revealed the reversal in a letter to Glik last Thursday. The Boston Globe reports that the officers, Sergeant Detective John Cunniffe and Officer Peter Savalis, "face discipline ranging from an oral reprimand to suspension."
Sarah Wunsch, acting legal director of the Massachusetts ACLU, which helped Glik with his federal lawsuit against the department, tells Ars Technica "they're hanging the individual officers out to dry." Glik argues that the city failed to properly train Cunniffe and Savalis, and until now the city has insisted the officers acted reasonably, even though the charges against Glik, including an alleged violation of the state wiretap law, were dropped or dismissed. "Mr. Glik did not articulate a violation of law or the department's rules and regulations by an officer," said a February 2008 memo from the Internal Affairs Division. "Mr. Glik was advised that the proper forum for this matter was with the courts." Glik, an immigration attorney, tells the Globe:
As far as I knew my complaint was summarily dismissed....I was basically laughed out of the building....From what I understand, it takes filing a federal lawsuit in order for internal affairs to review a complaint.
I noted Glik's case in a September column about prosecuting people for recording public officials. Radley Balko reported from the front lines of "The War on Cameras" in the January 2011 issue of Reason. Reason.tv has covered the issue as well:
[Thanks to Ron Steiner for the tip.]
Two L.A. County Sheriff's deputies tried to remove a woman with special needs from a public bus. When she refused, one of the deputies clocked her in the face. NBC has the video, which was taken on a cell phone by another passenger. The deputies attempted to confiscate the video, but the passenger said no. Upon his refusal, one of the deputies asked the passenger if he had any outstanding warrants.
According to NBC, "A sheriff's department spokesman told NBCLA over the phone the department would not comment on this case and would not look at the videotape, but the spokesman said the department does investigate all use of force claims."
Yes, it's true that unlike some Republicans, Democrats don't "enjoy firing people." They enjoy "investing" your money in exploding electric vehicles, bullet trains, and other highly unprofitable but morally satisfying economic misadventures. Venture socialism is certainly empathetic, writes David Harsanyi. Venture capitalism, on the other hand, happens to be useful.View this article
The GOP primary race so far has resembled nothing so much as a reality TV show. And in the way that reality TV stars are famous for being famous, Mitt Romney increasingly looks to be inevitable because of his inevitability. With a celluloid-thin win in Iowa earlier this month followed up by a decisive win in New Hampshire last night, Romney is the clear front runner in the race, despite continued lukewarm feelings toward him from much of the Republican elite as well as the conservative activist base.
That’s not to say that the base hasn’t made its discomfort known. Party activists and leaders have strained and fumbled for a credible anti-Romney since last summer, but never found one with staying power. The hunt is still on. The Washington Post reports that some conservative activists are now engaged in a last minute scramble to find a viable alternative to Romney. Their repeated failures so far, however, do not bode well for any last-ditch efforts to find and promote a consensus alternative.
One by one, the parade of GOP not-Mitts up until now has fallen by the wayside—Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and now Santorum have all had their 15 minutes and then been yanked off stage. Huntsman, whose third place finish last night barely passes for a moment in the sun, can almost certainly expect similar treatment. Each of these candidates has been greeted with excitement, only to be pushed to the sidelines after revealing significant weaknesses. Early contenders—Bachmann, Perry, and Cain—simply didn’t appear up to the task of running a competent campaign, much less a White House. More recent possible alternatives—Gingrich and Santorum—have proven themselves to be flaky big-government conservatives with unappealing personalities and ideas.
Each of the candidates has different problems, but the thread that unites them is that they’ve all offered some variant on relatively conventional Republicanism. And if you’re going to nominate a conventional Republican, then why not nominate Romney, who (at least since he left office in Massachusetts) has offered nothing if not dutiful adherence to convention. At this point, practically his whole appeal is based on some abstract collective ideal of generic Republicanism—pro-business, anti-tax; pro-America, anti-Obama.
There’s one candidate, of course, who I have yet to mention: Rep. Ron Paul. Unlike the numerous GOP flavors of the week, Paul has been building his support and his momentum slowly. After his solid second-place finish in New Hampshire last night, Paul has arguably emerged as the most effective anti-Romney candidate in the GOP field. And one thing you can say about Paul is that he is not offering anything that could be described as conventional Republicanism; his campaign is built on opposition to defense spending and overseas adventurism, a critique of the Federal Reserve, and a return to constitutionally limited government. Compare this to the shrugging acceptance with which Romney’s vanilla campaign and laundry list of GOP priorities have been greeted; Paul, in contrast, has managed to generate tremendous, unusual enthusiasm. Indeed, he’s the only candidate in the race who has been able to sustain and build such enthusiasm over time. Who knew? The most effective anti-Romney turns out to be someone who is genuinely not like Mitt Romney.
For the uninitiated, Lewis played the weird girlfriend in Natural Born Killers, the weird daughter in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and is the former weird lead singer of Juliette and the Licks. She is NOT a Republican.
(Rumor had it that California ska-pop band No Doubt also endorsed Ron Paul on Twitter last night, but really their account was hacked.)
In other news from the celebrity/politics nexus, fashion prince Simon Doonan tries "to read at least one thing" on the New York Times Op-Ed page every day "because I don't want to become a complete idiot"; Snoop Dogg, recently arrested for having too much fun, would like to get high with President Obama: “Before I even said ‘Hi’ to President Obama, I would change the aroma of the room. And then we could start conversing after we had that aroma change. You know what I’m talking about?” Yes, Snoop, we know exactly what you're talking about. So does the president, for that matter.
Manchester, N.H.—After a strong second place finish in New Hampshire last night the Ron Paul campaign will move on to South Carolina, Florida, and Nevada. Yet despite his success in both Iowa and New Hampshire, people are still asking Paul when he will drop out of the race and whether he will run as a third party candidate. Jesse Benton, Paul’s national campaign chairman, thinks these suggestions are pure hogwash.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t think we could win. We’re gonna surge in South Carolina like we did in New Hampshire. Then we’re on to the caucuses,” he said.
Benton also confirmed that the campaign is reevaluating its Florida plans because the state may make changes to the way it awards delegates that would help the Paul campaign.
“We have strong organizations in Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Nevada, Kansas, Missouri, Washington state, and Arizona. We’re going to win some of those caucuses,” Benton said as victory music and chants of “Ron Paul” punctured the air.
One of the other places where the Paul campaign has exceeded expectations is ballot access.
“I think deadlines have only passed for about half of the states but we’re on all the ballots where deadlines have passed and we will be on all the ballots,” said Benton.
Benton also criticized Paul’s opponents for failing to make the ballot. “Jon Huntsman isn’t on in Illinois, Virginia, or Arizona. That’s pretty disgraceful actually. Arizona has the easiest ballot laws in the country; that means they’re not serious. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, not on in Virginia. If you’re not on the ballot in those states you’re not a serious candidate.”
Benton summed it up quickly before moving on to other interviews: “This race is coming down to two candidates now. There’s Mitt Romney who’s a nice guy and he represents the status quo, and there’s Ron Paul who represents real change. We’re in this thing to win it.”
For additional Reason coverage of Ron Paul's campaign, click here.
As the Supreme Court hears arguments over the Federal Communications Commssion’s right to regulate content on broadcast radio and TV, Entertainment Weekly reports a toddler character on the offensive-only-to-comedy show Modern Family will drop the f-bomb.
A long way from Scout’s “Pass the damn ham!” in To Kill a Mockingbird, and arguably a rare sign of progress in American culture and expression.
'You’ve been warned, America. If you stumble across this safe-as-milk moment which is doubtless one of the reasons why the terrorists hate us, it's your own damned fault. There is a plenitude of tools designed for viewers to avoid ever seeing anything that might somehow offend or annoy them. Get off your duff and use them, despite that fact that the kid won't actually be heard saying fuck.
Jacob Sullum has just written a column about the FCC should just die already when it comes to regulating broadcast content. Read it and then go watch cable shows or internet porn.
Corrected alt-text: That's not Dan Aykroyd in the cast, but an incredible simulation.
To get a full sense of how slack the brainpower at the FCC is, travel back to 2005, when then-FCC honcho Kevin Martin actually said in a discussion of "indecency":
From the vault of Seinfeld, a simpler way to deal with cursing kids:
- Mitt Romney may have won in New Hampshire, but Ron Paul beat out Jon Huntsman and the Ricks for second place.
- Fannie Mae's CEO has done enough damage, is stepping down.
- Hostess, owing money to the Bakery and Confectionery Union pension fund and others, files for bankruptcy.
- Prepaid college plans are becoming less useful by the year.
- Pakistan could be facing a military coup.
- Outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned nearly 200 people.
New at Reason.tv: "3 Reasons Conservatives Should Cut Defense Spending Now!"
Three decades ago, in FCC v. Pacifica, the Supreme Court upheld content-based regulation of broadcasting on the grounds that the medium was "uniquely pervasive" and "uniquely accessible to children." Yesterday the Court heard a case that gives it an opportunity to reconsider that ruling. Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says such a re-examination is long overdue, since Pacifica has allowed arbitrary censorship based on assumptions that were always questionable and are now technologically obsolete.View this article
Ron Paul came in second with 23 percent, roundly outperforming all polls leading up. This is not just living up to expectations. This is exceeding them. This is, as his campaign announced, very good reason for everyone not Paul and Romney to give this campaign up. Those two define a division in style and substance that will shape the Republican Party this year, and in the future. Paul's anti-interventionist, scrappy, radical libertarianism smashed Gingrich's 90s think tank conservatism, Santorum's outmoded social conservatism (which Paul nearly matched in Iowa as well) and Jon Huntsman's smarty-pants mealy-mouthed mainstream moderate Republicanism (even with its "I don't seem like a total jerk or fool" veneer).
Paul, being Paul, took this moment of great attention to give a tight and passionate version of his usual stump speech, as boredom and confusion flitted over the faces of many of the line of professional national media in the back. Paul talked of the unity of liberty, of intellectual revolution, of unstoppable momentum, and of course of the importance of monetary policy. Big political rah-rah cheer lines would segue in a second to Paul schooling us on the Fed, an amusing hush falling over the room: Professor Paul is getting down to business.
The vibe in the room where Paul gave his speech and many, many hundreds of his campaign volunteers celebrated for many hours after the candidate left the building was pure exhausted, proud joy, combined with resolution for the necessary next steps. These folk are both earnest and joyful, serious and witty, pleased and proud but by no means ready to rest on laurels. They all did their days or weeks of months of door-knocking, phone calling, poll watching, sign waving, and often very dedicated one on one discussion about how and why liberty was the right thing for America, to every New Hampshirite who would listen.
My night ended with a hundred of so of the die-hards crowding into the background shots for big TV standups. They were chanting: "Ron Paul Revolution! Give Us Back Our Constitution!" and "President Paul!" (Someone suggested tossing in a "Free Nelson Mandela" or "Fur is Murder.") Vermin Supreme, the boot-on-his-head joke Democratic candidate who was stopped a dozen or more times for photo ops by Paul volunteers, alas, was escorted out of the shot by a Paul campaign worker.
The campaign tries to be a little too button-down at times; in fact, they seem to actively not want the rather filled-with-glory story of how their supporters pull off political near-miracles like here and Iowa to be told thoroughly and on record, trying to hold nearly everyone to "don't talk to strangers journalists" expectations. (It's as if they think it will toss victory to their opponents to expose the secrets of lots of enthusiastic fans, a great message, voter identification, poll watching, and phone calls phone calls phone calls. In fact, it can just lead journalists to focus on the sort of random fans who actually don't always paint Paul supporters in the most voter-friendly light.)
The giddy spirit of the Paulistas will march on; every single one of the youth volunteers I spoke to, whether the ones put up by the campaign in hotels or sleeping on Free Staters floors, said they were quite confident they'd be moving on to work for Ron Paul's victory in South Carolina, in Nevada, in Maine, in Massachusetts, in New York, in Florida.
As I moved through the Paul fans' resolute and well-earned good cheer and joys and in-jokes of weary gangs who have been through the wringer together, I started thinking: how will the significance of what's going on here with the Paul movement continue to be misread or ignored?
I heard on local NPR on the way out from the party what I imagine is going to be the standard "this doesn't matter" spin on this: that Paul's success in trouncing all but the anointed frontrunner will be no more meaningful than was Pat Buchanan's actual win here in 1996, which sputtered out with four more states won. Paul is just the new leader of that weird, intractable pitchfork-wielding rabble that the respectable and proper, in media and politics, rightly ignore. (Fox isn't bothering with sophisticated historical analogies; they just keep saying, mostly, against all evidence: Naaah.)
I do not know the future; it is possible that this will be the high point of the Paul 2012 campaign.
But Paul has things Buchanan does not have; a coherent set of beliefs about domestic, fiscal, monetary and foreign policy that fit the crises the country now faces in a way that I've found, and his supporters confirm over and over, is pretty easy to sell and understand if listened to with sympathy. Paul has a set of ideas with a clear and widespread ability to inspire energetic and effective activism. To be a libertarian triumphalist for a moment: Ron Paul has a set of ideas that make sense and are correct, and fit the historical moment, in a way that Buchanan's largely backward looking culture war resentment did not.
Am I going to be enough of a fool to utter the heresy that "Ron Paul can win"? Well, unless you are the sort of conspiracy theorist who believes that votes are not at least within reason honestly counted, anyone on the ballot can win. All it takes it enough people voting for you. But whether or not he wins, he and his supporters have after tonight created the faultline on which American politics could well split. It seems quite possible that within 10 years the form of politics that Romney represents will have to seek third party succor.
By any rational assessment, all the forces called "Tea Party" or "true conservative" should be able to fall in line behind Paul. This doesn't mean it will happen. But it is a perfectly reasonable expectation about what can happen from here. I've talked to enough undecided GOP voters this past year to be aware that rational assessments are not always or even often what drive them. Tribalism and the forces of apparent inevitability have much power. I'm not forgetting that Mitt Romney did win this election, and win it by a huge margin.
Still. I have held my expectations in check for five years about the political possibilities of the whole "Ron Paul for President" thing, and he and his fans have exceeded them every step of the way. I vaguely saw the shape of what 2012 could mean for the ideas of liberty as represented by Paul, as written about in my forthcoming book Ron Paul's Revolution, but never mustered enough hubris to predict its success with confidence. That confidence is beginning to seem justified about now. (Success, here, does not necessarily mean being the Republican candidate. But it does mean creating the solidified movement of ideas and passion that can grow to dominate American politics. That is, Romney is Rockefeller; Paul is Goldwater.) Paul's encouraging early results this year are the most significant political results for the cause of liberty I could have imagined, arriving faster than I could have imagined. I expect it to only get more interesting from here.
Paul's speech at the results-watching party tonight:
Buzzfeed has the statement from Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton. Excerpt:
When added to Paul's top-tier showing in Iowa, it's clear he is the sole Republican candidate who can take on and defeat both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
The race is becoming more clearly a two-man race between establishment candidate Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, the candidate of authentic change. That means there is only one true conservative choice.
Ron Paul has won more votes in Iowa and New Hampshire than any candidate but Mitt Romney.
Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have been shown in national polls to be the only two candidates who can defeat Barack Obama.
And Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are the only two candidates who can run a full, national campaign, competing in state after state over the coming weeks and months. Ron Paul's fundraising numbers -- over $13 million this quarter -- also prove he will be able to compete with Mitt Romney. No other candidate can do all of these things.
Ron Paul is clearly the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney as the campaign goes forward.
We urge Ron Paul’s opponents who have been unsuccessfully trying to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney to unite by getting out of the race and uniting behind Paul’s candidacy.
Pretty funny stuff. Bottom line: Paul tripled his vote in New Hampshire over 2008, after more than doubling it in Iowa. Romney was the same in Iowa, and slightly up in New Hampshire. He's got the Mitt-mentum, and the glide path to the nomination, but something very interesting is happening in the underbrush.
Thanks to eagle-eyed commenter TomD for the link.
MANCHESTER, NH – I hit local polling places today and pestered some New Hampshire voters about their choices and why they think their state should continue to have its coveted First In The Nation status.
I didn’t know that the Buddy Roemer voter existed, until today. They were like a mythical creature in a kids fantasy/adventure story. Fortunately, I came across two of these strange creatures in their natural habitat of Bow this morning.
“We saw him on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and he impressed. He didn’t have the extreme conservative, social conservative views of the other candidates that really turned us off to the other candidates, like Santorum,” said Joe Lessard, 38.
They weren’t deterred by his long odds, though.
“Yeah, he’s a long shot but (my vote is) more of statement,” said Joe.
Joe and his wife, Rebecca, both said they would probably vote for President Obama in the general election if Roemer is not the nominee.
“I guess he is better than the alternatives on the Republican side,” said Rebecca, also 38.
Near the famous Philips Exeter Academy I came across the first sign touting Ron Paul of the day. Austin Coad and Taylor McGuinness, two teenagers too young to vote, were encouraging voters to vote for Paul with signs and flyers talking up Paul’s financial support from the military.
“He wants to restore our Constitution back to its original, our founders. He’s been saying the same thing for 30 years, unlike Mitt Romney,” said the Sublime t-shirt clad and dreadlocked McGuinness, 17.
Coad said he liked Paul because of his “health freedoms amendment” and positions on the pharmaceutical industry.
“The disease scurvy can be cured by eating citrus fruit because you just need Vitamin C, but according to the law if you hold up an orange and say this is the cure to scurvy you can be arrested for a federal crime,” said Coad.
Rick Santorum voter Kate Copland, 34, said she voted for him because she was looking for the “Romney alternative.” The mother of three said she did not like Romney because of his positions on health care and his “Mormon views.” This was the one and only instance of Romney’s religion that I have come across during my entire time in New Hampshire.
In the more working class Salem turnout was high. Paul supporters were, again, displaying an imposing black and white sign about his military supporters. Stephanie Hamilton of Saugus, MA, holding a sign for Paul said that an independent group of veterans put the signs together.
The entrance to Manchester’s Ward 5 polling place had over ten voters outside of it with large Ron Paul R3VOLUTION signs. “His ideology is more what I believe. I got to see what a military intervention was like when I served in Germany a few years back,” said James Coakley, 42, a member of the Free State Project. Paul won that ward with 233 votes followed by Romney with 192.
Link here. Current percentages are 36-24-18, Romney-Paul-Huntsman. I have no idea how Huntsman, who tried to Santorum New Hampshire, can recover from a third-place finish there, though he just told CNN that there will be "three tickets out of New Hampshire," etc.
We'll be updating throughout the night, including our various eyes on the ground. But if these numbers hold up, Huntsman and Rick Perry don't seem long for this world, and the second-place position after the first two elections belongs to the guy who finished 5th-5th four years ago: Ron Paul.
8:23: CNN now projects Ron Paul in 2nd, Huntsman in 3rd.
8:29: Have you ever watched a Mitt Romney stump speech this election cycle? Don't start now. Or shall I say, just go to Youtube; chances are you'll see the exact same talk as he's giving right now. Ron Paul, I would think, can't wait to get the other non-Romneys out of this campaign. That moment would/will be interesting indeed.
8:54: Exit polls are more interesting in early-state primaries than just about anywhere else. What do they show? Paul stomps Romney among the under-30 crowd, 46%-21%. Also among those who hadn't previously voted in a GOP primary (37-22). Among "independents or something else," which make up 47% of the electorate, Paul squeaked out a plurality: 31-27-23 (Huntsman). Huntsman, meanwhile, dominated among Democrats: 41-22 (Paul)-12 (Romney). Republicans preferred Romney over Paul, 45-15. More in a minute after Ron Paul speaks.
9:16: "We are dangerous to the status quo of this country!" And: "What should the role of government be in a free society? ... The role should be to protect ... our ... LIBERTY!" "Freedom is a wonderful idea....Freedom is popular, don't you know that?" Also, "maldistribution"–DRINK! Rip-roaring and rambling, giddier than I've ever remembered, and 100% Paul-thentic.
9:25: More fun with exit polls–atheists totally love Ron Paul! (48% to Huntsman's 23 & Romney's 19.) A more important number, which is bad for Paul and mirrors what happened in Iowa, is that those for whom the economy is the #1 issue, the preferred choice is Mitt Romney, 42-21. Paul has convinced people that he's the debt/deficit/cut-government guy, but not that those policies will help the economy.
Another repeat oddity from Iowa exit polling: Paul does not win among those who describe themselves as "very conservative" (33-26-18, Romney-Santorum-Paul), but he does win among those for whom the #1 issue is backing a "true conservative" (42 Paul, 21 Santorum, 16 Gingrich, 14 Romney). The former category, obviously, is bigger than the latter. And Romney's main selling proposition continues to be electability: A ginormous 62% of people for whom beating Barack Obama is the #1 issue voted for Mitt Romney.
Final note on exit polls: Why, oh why isn't foreign policy a category here, people? For crying out loud, this stuff's important!
As the voters continue to vote their votes here on voting day in New Hampshire, Ron Paul predicted a good number two for himself, hit some polling places, and continued to lead a multi-state revolution of ideas and actions.
Paul this morning told me he wasn't trying to keep his eyes on early poll numbers that might trickle out today, and had a "stoic" attitude about whatever might happen. (Which is good, because it isn't looking good right now for his second place according to Fox News early exit poll data--they are claiming Huntsman will very possibly get second.)
[UPDATE: Off to the Paul campaign's returns-watching event so I can't update this all night, but actual 5 percent of real returns from CNN have Paul keeping his second place handily, with 25 to Huntsman's 15. We'll see. If Paul maintains this lead, all the Huntsman-on-the-rise chatter up to this second will need some 'splaining.]
I've been following him and his supporters around for the past five days; herewith some scenes and observations from the Ron Paul Revolution on the march in New Hampshire.
*While his opinions and judgments of his fellow seekers of the nomination are the least interesting aspect of Ron Paul as an important figure on the American scene (which is why Saturday's debate, where Paul was forced to defend his campaign's attack ads or comments on Santorum and Gingrich, didn't thrill me), talking crap about each other is often considered the newsiest news there is when it comes to presidential campaigns. Thus, Paul's refusal to join the scrum of attacks on Romney for either Bain Capital or his "fire people" comment was big news. Paul's campaign issues two press releases today on the topic, accusing the other candidates of using leftist, moveon.org tactics, questioning the value of business and capitalism.
I heard Paul saying something on the same topic this morning in front of a polling place in Nashua, about the Bain Capital attacks on Romney. Paul called it "typical politics." He admitted he doesn't know anything specific about how Bain was run, but says such chatter "is not addressing the real issues, the financial crisis...probably by real calculations we have 20 percent unemployment, so to talk about how he managed a company? I don't see it." Paul stood up for the idea of restructuring specifically: "This is a policy in the marketplace, it saves businesses. If a business is in big trouble and goes under everyone loses their job. If you restructure you might save some."
The idea that Paul never attacks or is a benefit to Romney has been floating around lately; Paul Gigot in the Wall Street Journal says that if Romney wins, he'll owe Paul "a fee for services rendered." The Washington Post, without suggesting collusion either open or secret, points out as long as Paul keeps fighting it out, it will be harder for any other challenger to unseat Romney. (No matter what happens today, I still think this will be a Romney-Paul race a month from now.)
From my months covering the campaign for my forthcoming book, I did catch some wind--with no specific details--that there was reasonably open communication between the two camps and possibly something that amounted to an uneasy truce in these early stages. Romney hasn't been very vicious against Paul either. But it is not at all true that Paul never attacks Romney, even beyond his generic attacks on all his opponents as the representatives of an unsupportable status quo. Paul's campaign ran specific Romney attack radio ads in the last days before the Iowa caucus. And while both may be looking forward to the day when the other is the only one they have to worry about, any uneasy alliance of convenience between the two will, I think, clearly become the war over the soul of the Republican Party moving into the summer and beyond.
*Big reason why the demonstrated public crowds and affection for Paul at his various appearances here may not be reflected in the election results: lots and lots of them are young road warriors from out of town---Syracuse, Philadelphia, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, anywhere. I commiserated on this aspect with other reporters: the first one, two, three people you approach at any Paul event in New Hampshire are likely to not be from New Hampshire.
This is great for both the demonstrative and more directly effective (according to the campaign pros) aspects of his campaign: lots of people knocking doors, handing out literature, sign waving on big corners or at polling places, filling the rooms he appears to more than capacity, and phone banking. Maybe not as many people voting as they might like. (I've heard calls for the road warriors to not go to campaign appearances, or at least to wait outside until would-be voters have filled the room.) If you are a New Hampshire resident doing Paul activism, there's a decent chance you are a member or fellow traveler of the Free State Project.
*If you show up to a Ron Paul event in New Hampshire within 10 minutes of the announced start time, you'll be parking a mile away and won't be able to get in the door.
*The old-fashioned stenciled Ron Paul Revolution, Ron Paul Freedom, Ron Paul Prosperity, banners can once again be seen from most freeway overpasses in New Hampshire.
*More word on yesterday's media-scrum-heard-round-the-world, where Paul's wife Carol was shoved by a reporter and the candidate had to disappoint possible supporters at MoeJoe's diner in Manchester: an old-hand Associated Press photog who gave me a needed lift today when a polling place address differed from what the campaign had told us told me that he had in all his decades as a news photographer only once seen a media scrum as difficult and out-of-control: outside the grand jury hearings for Betty Currie (Clinton's secretary during the Monica days). He said yesterday's crowd included lots of straight-up New York professional paparazzi, not even all news cameras. It is indeed strange; I've been to a lot of Paul events in the past week, and that was the only one that overwhelmed, though when Paul showed up to a Manchester school/polling place this afternoon, there were about 30 people and cameras blocking his every step from vehicle to polling place.
*Paul's speeches are still unscripted and unrehearsed, and still meander through his core and some of his peripheral ideas in an unpredictable order. You will almost always hear about his plan to cut a trillion in year one and balance the budget by year three with no new taxes; how he thinks this can be done without attacking aid to the poor or dependent in the short term; how we need to bring troops home and end undeclared wars not fought in our own defense, and that military spending is not defense spending, for the most part.
*More on this in later writings, but the Paul on the ground and on the phone campaign operations seems to me as strong and thorough as it could possibly be, and any deficiencies in Paul's results tonight are far more likely to be the fault of citizen's willingness or ability to actually accept Paul's political beliefs than it is any fault of professional execution of a campaign.
*I talked to a lot of Paul fans. The more Paul fans you talk to, the less surprising or revealing the experience of talking to them is. It's not that complicated, really. They believe that government is in fiscal trouble, and they believe that changes in monetary and foreign policy are necessary to deal with it. They believe in American constitutional liberty as they traditionally understand it. Some of them were already marinated in this libertarian set of ideas before discovering Paul, but most of them were lead to it by Paul. Many, many of them have Paul fan origin stories set in seeing one of the 2007 debates or having friends send them YouTube videos of some sort, many just of Paul talking. Many of them get their information from "alternative" sources, from Daily Paul to Infowars, though the meaning of "alternative sources of information" is probably getting less and less meaningful. They generally think the status quo media and powers-that-be have it in for their man Paul. I've met here in New Hampshire Occupiers from two states, homeschooling families, Comcast technicians, mortgage brokers, sports journalists, young camera jockeys who claim they were responsible for the filming and spreading of Gingrich's embarassing "Jefferson and Washington would have wanted to punish people for growing hemp" video, three different state representatives, combat veterans among many others. Some of them will appear in my later Reason magazine feature on the Ron Paul campaign, in our April issue, subscribe today!
*Meeting Ron Paul is no longer just a coveted "get" for his fans; he's become a full-on general interest political celebrity. Lurking around the back door of his Meredith appearance Sunday I met a family who just enjoy meeting and having their children meet prominent political celebs; they weren't sure they were going to vote for Ron Paul, but they were waiting in the cold with their kids to meet him anyway.
*When asked questions about campaign strategy, Paul still says that as far as he's concerned, he'll keep doing the same thing he's been doing for 30 years: telling people about the benefits of liberty, personal and economic, and the dangers of out-of-control spending, debt, and foreign policy, in as many venues as he can. That strategy has gotten him farther than he expected already.
During his 2008 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney had this to say about federal interference with state medical marijuana laws:
I'm not talking about arresting sick and dying people, but I am talking about keeping marijuana from being a product on the street and being misused. The drug czar of our nation says it is the gateway drug for people becoming involved with drugs and drugs are a scourge of this country....
I as a candidate support keeping marijuana illegal, because I don't want to encourage more involvement in or allow more people to get involved in the marijuana and the drug culture....
Marijuana is the entry drug for people trying to get kids hooked on drugs. I don’t want medicinal marijuana; there are synthetic forms of marijuana that are available for people who need it for prescription. Don’t open the doorway to medicinal marijuana....
I'd continue to enforce the law as it is, and in my view the law ought to be that medical marijuana is illegal. Marijuana is the gateway to illegal drug use in this country. Drug use is a plague on American society; I want to eliminate it. I do not want to expand it....
We'll follow the law....Medical marijuana is, if you will, a Trojan Horse for bringing marijuana into our society, and I think that's the wrong way to go.
This time around, The Raw Story notes, Romney is a bit more evasive on the subject of the marijuana and the drugs in general:
At a campaign stop in Bedrock on Monday, a student asked Romney if he thought the drug war was working.
"It's a long question that deserves a full answer, and not just in a photo line like this," he responded