Tampa, Fla. – If you do the math you know pretty quickly we are in for a long race.
The delegate count is as follows:
- Mitt Romney 87
- Newt Gingrich 26
- Rick Santorum 14
- Ron Paul 4
- Jon Huntsman 2
- Rick Perry 2
Add all those up and you get a total of 135 delegates out of a possible 1,144 awarded after four contests. That’s around 5 percent. Florida, with its winner-take-all system, is an outlier when it comes to most primary contests before April, because the vast majority of the races before then award their delegates in some proportional manner. Some of the races that are coming up are more complicated as their elections and caucuses are only the first step in selecting delegates for the convention in August. The races do not revert to winner-take-all until much later in the race, the biggest prize among those later states is California with 172 delegates at stake.
The states that award their delegates in proportional manner are good for every candidate not named Mitt Romney. The states with a complex delegate selection process, particularly the ones where the delegates can be what is known as unbound, are good for Ron Paul. The legions of Paul supporters across the country have been organizing in these states since 2008, often independent of the national Paul campaign. Plus, Paul’s supporters have been down this road before and they are no longer rookies when it comes to the delegate selection process.
Even though the road ahead is complicated for all the candidates, this doesn't mean Romney’s win in Florida should be tossed out. His win here was a very impressive display of organizational prowess. His victory here should instill confidence in the national Republicans that support him about their chances here in Florida and nationally. Florida is a vast and complicated state requiring an immense undertaking that few campaigns can successfully handle. Only Romney, and to a lesser extent Paul, are equipped to handle what is now a national race because they have had national organizations in place since 2007. Tomorrow, for example, the candidates will be spread across three time zones and three states. Candidates can no longer focus with laser-like precision on some county in Iowa or a precinct in New Hampshire.
This race is far from over.
CORRECTION: This post originally stated 12% of the delegates have been awarded. The figure is actually closer to 5%. - GQ
Tampa, Fla. - In his victory speech tonight Mitt Romney acknowledged the fact this race is looking more and more like it will be a long one.
"A competitive primary does not divide us; it prepares us. And when we gather here in Tampa seven months from now for our convention, ours will be a united party with a winning ticket for America!" he proclaimed to a joyful crowd at the Tampa Convention Center.
With 95% reporting, Romney won the Florida Republican primary with 46% of the vote. Gingrich finished second with 32% while Rick Santorum and Ron Paul finished a distant third and fourth with 13% and 7%, respectively.
Romney spent little time worrying about the potentially divided primary and quickly pivoted from pleasantries to general election campaign mode. Romney went after President Obama question his leadership abilities, particularly his handling of the economy. "Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses. In another era of American crisis, Thomas Paine is reported to have said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way!", he said, throwing a bit of red meat to the crowd.
Romney got in another great zinger mocking the president's 2008 slogan before wrapping up.
"Together, we will build an America where “hope” is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker," he said.
Meanwhile, the Romney campaign was busy hawking these "Believe" t-shirts in the lobby.
Orlando, Fla. - Shortly after declaring, "Forty-six states to go," Former Orange County Mayor and Gingrich supporter Rich Crotty announced to a thin-but-vocal crowd of Newt supporters, "It's not over."
And the wake came alive.
Minutes later, Gingrich took the stage and thanked Floridians. Though they didn't give him any delegates for the Republican convention, they made "clear this will be a two-person race between the conservative Newt Gingrich, and the Massachusetts Moderate." (Mitt Romney, I presume.)
"I just want to reassure the media we will contest every place and we are going to win and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August."
The money line, in this humble reporter's opinion, was Gingrich's promise to "impose the future on the establishment, and on both parties."
That's a campaign slogan if I've ever heard one.
Tampa, Fla - There is a weird mix of people outside of Mitt Romney’s victory party here in Tampa. There are Tampa Bay Lightning fans all decked out in silver and black garb, a mostly well dressed crowd of Romney supporters milling about, there are PETA protesters decked out in pig costumes passing out flyers about farm subsidies and there are the usual handful of Occupiers.
Before you even get inside there is an senior with a cane inspecting bags as people come. Once you get by him the professionalism of the Romney operation really stands out. At the door there are volunteers slapping “Romney” stickers on all attendees as they enter. In the center of the check-in area there is a huge merchandise table selling all kinds of Romney wares.
I talked to this couple, the Pennoyers, after they were finished picking through the wares the campaign was selling. They were very happy with Romney’s inevitable victory here.
Outside there were Billionaire For Bush types with suits and hats hanging around and then there was this Occupier who called Romney a fascist because he said America needs a “CEO in chief.” He told me that they have people inside and plans for after the event. It was not clear if actual Occupiers made it by Romney’s lines of security before the event.
The Rachel Maddow Show is reporting a fascinating shift on the issue of illegal immigration among GOP voters in Florida. In 2008, 29% said illegals should get a path to citizenship. Now, 36 percent say they should—a 7 percent increase. Likewise, 40% then said that illegals should be deported. Now 31 percent want that—a 9 percent drop.
Could this mean that in their zeal to out-tough each other on immigration, Republican presidential candidates have actually moved rank-and-file opinion in the opposite direction? It is hard to know without figures from other states, but one thing is certain, there has been a sea change in the rhetoric of the Republican leadership.
There was a time not that long ago when the GOP was a much kinder, gentler party on this issue. In 1996, Sen. Spencer Abraham, a Republican Lebanese American from Michigan, was heading the Senate’s Subcommittee on Immigration and fought hard for freer immigration policies on every front—high-tech and low-tech; family and work etc. etc. He thought E-verify-type proposals to snag illegals were wrong because they would require employers to get the “federal government's permission before hiring anyone - citizen or not.”
And he penned sentences like:
Anti-immigrant panic is unjustified. Illegal immigration is a manageable problem calling for prudent law-enforcement measures. Legal immigration is a controlled and limited process…Punish the lawbreakers, but don't extinguish Lady Liberty's lamp for honest immigrants who are willing to work hard and wait to become Americans.
Now Republican candidates want to deploy drones, boots and electrified fences capable of killing crossers on the Southern border to stem a tide of illegals that has already stopped thanks to a tanking economy.
Orlando, Fla - Minutes after FOX News projected that Mitt Romney would win Florida, Newt Gingrich’s final Florida event went from being a victory party to, well, not quite a wake. Wakes for famous people are generally well attended, and the crowd at Newt’s party is sparse and mostly media. Wakes are also generally somber, yet as I type, a DJ is spinning “Play That Funky Music White Boy.” There are two cash bars, but the bartenders are twiddling their thumbs.
Gingrich talked a big game in Florida well into the 11th hour, despite the release of several polls over the last week showing him to be trailing Romney by an increasingly wide margin. He criss-crossed the state by plane and bus, packing so many events into each day that he frequently showed up late. True to form, he’s already one minute late for whatever speech he plans to give tonight: a campaign staffer told reporters earlier that Gingrich would address the assembled at 8:15; it’s now 8:17 p.m..
After the DJ kills Wild Cherry, he unleashes “Love Shack,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and Wang Chung’s "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." Soundtrack to the contrary, it appears that whatever fun happens tonight will likely be had by Gingrich reporters who get to head home tomorrow and kiss their spouses/babies/cats.
On a large screen TV, FOX is carrying the footage of Mitt Romney’s victory speech, while at Newt’s own party, there’s still no sign of Newt. (According to Politico’s Ginger Gibson, on scene here, a number of the people in attendance tonight are in town for a hardware convention and decided to check out the DJ.)
At 8:34 p.m., the bleachers in front of which Newt will speak begin to fill up to the sound of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling (Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night).” The crowd unleashes an occasional cheer, though the effect is more bachelorette-party-at-Chili’s than presidential-candidate-rallying-the-troops, mostly because there is no presidential candidate, and no troops.
I'll update when/if Gingrich arrives.
Feeling a little too upbeat? A little happy, or satisfied with the state of the world? The Congressional Budget Office has a cure for you. This year’s Budget and Economic Outlook—the budget office’s annual preview of projected federal spending, revenues, and deficits over the next decade (or, as I like to call it, the Budgepocalypse)—begins with the following line: “The federal budget deficit—although starting to shrink—remains very large by historical standards.” How large? According to the latest number, “the federal budget will show a deficit of nearly $1.1 trillion in fiscal year 2012.” That’s roughly seven percent of America’s total gross domestic product—a couple points below last year’s megadeficit, but, the CBO notes, “still higher than any deficit between 1947 and 2008.”
In 2012, the agency projects that the federal government will spend about 23.2 percent of our total economic output. But it will only bring in revenues equal to about 16.3 percent of the economy. That mismatch is what creates our deficit. Keeping that mismatch, or something like it, going year after year is what creates our long-term debt. Now, liberals might say that the problem is that we don’t tax enough. But remember: Even when top tax rates were much higher, we’ve never managed to tax that much. The federal government has never once collected revenues in excess of 20.9 percent of GDP (and that was a one-time deal). Overall, it has averaged about 18 percent since World War II, regardless of tax structure or top tax rates. Which means that we’re not just spending more than we’re taking in now; we’re spending more than we’ve ever managed to take in. And the projections show that we’re planning to spend even more.
Now, it’s true that current law, and thus CBO’s “current law” baseline, calls for us to tax even more, and to cut some hundreds of billions in spending on physician payments out of Medicare: But that’s because current law assumes that we’ll cut payments to physicians by nearly 30 percent in a few months, despite years of both parties supporting overrides to such cuts. And it assumes that tax hikes, including allowing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally designed to hit just 55 very wealthy earners, will eventually hit half the country (meaning much of the middle class)—something neither party is going to support.
As is now common, liberal wonks are pointing to the baseline scenario as evidence that we don’t really have a deficit problem. After all, Congress just has to follow current policy in order to keep revenues nearly in line with expenditures. But even forgetting about the country’s historical inability to raise tax levels substantially above 20 percent of GDP, there’s simply no plausible near-future political environment in which this happens. It’s a cute fantasy designed to comfort those who don’t want to cut federal spending.
And ultimately, it’s the increases in spending that kill us: “If that rising level of spending is coupled with revenues that are held close to the average share of GDP that they have represented for the past 40 years...”, the CBO says, “the resulting deficits will increase federal debt to unsupportable levels.”
As usual, the CBO says there are three basic ways out of the current deficit mess: "To prevent that outcome, policymakers will have to substantially restrain the growth of spending for those programs, raise revenues above their historical share of GDP, or pursue some combination of those two approaches.” Liberals might take comfort in the thought that we can fix the budget through tax hikes. But as I’ve written before, they shouldn’t. Tax hikes may not bring in enough revenue. And regardless, any tax hikes big enough would represent a unprecedented increase and fundamental change in the American tax burden—and wouldn’t be politically plausible. At some point, then, the federal government will have to substantially cut spending; the sooner the better.
With half of Florida's votes counted, President Barack Obama has won the Sunshine State's Democratic Primary.
Also, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is handily winning the Republican primary with 48 percent of the votes.
Romney opens a gaping hole in the carcass of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who pulls down only 31 percent.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is right now bringing in 13 percent.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) comes in with 7 percent.
People whose delegate-count and ballot-access fu is better than mine: Speak up in the comments about how this does or does not spell the end of Gingrich, why Rick Santorum should or should not have tended to his sick kid, what this means about Ron Paul's failure or success in meeting his Florida expectations, and so on.
Just yesterday we listened in as California Gov. Jerry Brown made some truly bizarre arguments for maintaining the state’s high-speed rail initiative despite warnings from every expert analyst, objections from two-thirds of the state’s population, opposition from governments and residents in the bullet train’s path, and the state’s dire fiscal condition. In the past, Brown has likened the railroad project to the Interstate Highway System as well as the Suez and Panama Canals.
But for sheer rail-maddened desperation, even Jerry Brown must take a bow to my former pals on the Los Angeles Times editorial board. In a piece I missed earlier this month entitled "Keeping faith with California's bullet train," the ed board praised the High-Speed Rail project because it is similar to Boston’s notorious Big Dig and the building of the pyramids by slaves:
The project's current political ills remind us of the firestorm that erupted over L.A.'s subway, when sinkholes appeared on Hollywood Boulevard, construction mismanagement led to cost overruns, and voters became so disillusioned with subways that they approved a measure in 1998 forbidding the expenditure of county sales tax money to pay for them ever again. A decade later, they realized how shortsighted they had been; failure to complete a subway to the sea contributed to worsening gridlock on the Westside, and the subway had such clear benefits for riders that its construction troubles were largely forgotten. The result: County voters approved a new measure in 2008 to raise the sales tax to pay for, among other things, more subway construction.
The same phenomenon is already happening in Boston, home of the nation's most expensive transportation project. The Big Dig highway tunneling scheme was a political catastrophe a few years ago, what with mistakes that prompted severe delays and caused the price tag to skyrocket. Although the Big Dig is nobody's idea of the right way to build infrastructure, Bostonians are now reveling in a downtown park built on what used to be an expressway, and a tangled traffic mess has been unsnarled. In a few more years, the headaches will probably have been forgotten.
Worthwhile things seldom come without cost or sacrifice. That was as true in ancient times as it is now; pharaoh Sneferu, builder of Egypt's first pyramids, had to try three times before he got it right, with the first two either collapsing under their own weight or leaning precipitously. But who remembers that now? Not many people have heard of Sneferu, but his pyramids and those of his successors are wonders of the world.
The tradition of the unsigned editorial is one of the many ways the establishment media have found to fulfill their mission of concealing truth from readers. So I can’t say for sure that board member Dan Turner penned this one, though I do know he wrote the classic "Believe in the bullet train" and I’m pretty sure he was the brains behind the more recent "Yes, the price tag has tripled and its completion date is 13 years later. But it's still a gamble worth taking." I always found Dan to be a reasonably inoffensive person to spend the working day around, so I have to ask: Dan, what the fuck? What the fuckity fucking fuck?
Maybe this piece was a type of performance art, with the editorial board deftly poking fun at its own aristocratic indifference to the common folk by choosing the comparison most likely to sound like it came from a spoiled heiress in a play by Oscar Wilde. That’s the only way I can figure the pyramid thing.
As for Boston’s Big Dig, I haven’t been to Beantown in a while, so maybe that "reveling" description (drawn from a 2011 story in the Globe) is accurate. I know Boston’s people and media tend to be boosterish about their burg in a way I always distrust. (One charm of Southern California is that its mightiest thinkers – from Nathanael West to Joan Didion to The Eagles to Roland Emmerich – exclusively depict Lotusland as a corrupt, mindless hellhole deserving of apocalyptic destruction.)
But that stuff about the local subway system is putrid. First, subway building was one of eight "other things" included in 2008’s Measure R, which passed after shenanigans involving creative editing of the opponents’ arguments and the MTA’s illegal use of taxpayer funds for a political campaign. Among the other items were "synchronize traffic signals, repair potholes, improve freeway traffic flow" and something called "community traffic relief." The only thing Measure R proved was that people in L.A. are not happy about traffic.
Second, any discussion of the u-bahn’s "clear benefits for riders" needs to take into account that the number of people riding the entire county rail network has been flat over the last five years and counterintuitively seems to go down during times of economic hardship. Add to this that the Transportation Authority’s own method for counting riders was changed in 2007 and it’s possible the Red Line (the Downtown-to-North Hollywood line singled out for praise by the Times) has seen no growth in usage since 2001.
This still puts the subway ahead of the bullet train, which, according to the most recent laceration by the state auditor [pdf], has made no effort to get a realistic projection of how many people will ride the thing.
I don’t expect the auditor’s analysis or any other objective report on this doomed project to penetrate the skulls of editorial writers. The California High-Speed Rail Authority, after losing the confidence of nearly every transportation reporter in the state, has for the last few years been focusing its PR efforts on newspaper editorial boards.
This pharaonical fandango in the L.A. Times is the most recent fruit of that campaign, but it may be one of the last. The CHSRA recently fired Ogilvy after that ad agency took the authority for $3 million, and the authority’s in-house PR staff has also jumped off the train like hobos fleeing from a railroad cop. The surest sign that this ill-conceived project is coasting toward euthanasia is that its proponents can’t even do wrong right.
- The upside of Newt Gingrich's imminent loss in Florida? Now he can become an edgy, grass-roots candidate.
- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress that Iran is upping its spying and its support for terrorism. Clapper also said the country has the capacity to build a nuclear weapon if and when it feels like it.
- Four more years! For the fourth year in a row, the U.S. will have a trillion-plus dollar budget deficit declares the Congressional Budget Office.
- The CBO also says that federal taxes will go up 30 percent by 2014.
- Many Western and Arab nations are pushing for it, but Russia is worried that a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and calling for his removal could push the country further towards civil war.
- Priorities: New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly has banned his officers from wearing unofficial NYPD swag.
- California is on track to run out of money by early March. Needed amount of cash: $3.3 billion.
- Stop it: Newt Gingrich is being sued for unauthorized use of the song "Eye of the Tiger" while President Obama's rendition of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" provoked fawning tweets from the producer of American Idol.
Yahoo News reports that Newt Gingrich staffers stomped on the flip-flop-wearing feet of a sign-toting Ron Paul supporter in Windermere, a small town outside of Orlando:
Noticing the awkward optics, Gingrich aides and security personnel swarmed Dillard, trying to intimidate him into moving. One of Gingrich's security agents stepped in front of him. When Dillard didn't budge, the agent lifted his heeled shoe over Dillard's bare foot and dug the back of it into his skin, twisting it side-to-side like he was stomping out a cigarette. Shocked, Dillard kept his ground and took a picture of the agent with his phone, which was quickly knocked out of his hand. Dillard slipped off his flip-flop to pick up the phone with his foot, and a Gingrich supporter kicked the sandal away.
"Don't kick me!" Dillard said to the man who knocked away his sandal. More members of Gingrich's security retinue approached, shoving their shoulders and chests in front of him.
"Just block him!" a Gingrich campaign aide said. "Everyone step on his toes!"
In response, Jesse Benton of the Ron Paul campaign issued the following statement:
They say the culture of an organization is a reflection of its top executive and today’s deplorable behavior against Ron Paul supporter Eddie Dillard in Florida reflects very poorly on Congressman Gingrich.
I call on Congressman Gingrich to publicly apologize to Mr. Dillard.
In addition, we ask that those Gingrich campaign staff directly involved in the episode be immediately terminated.
There is simply no excuse for the type of violent, boorish and abusive behavior demonstrated by Mr. Gingrich's campaign. We hope Mr. Gingrich understands this and takesthe actions we recommend.
BBC News reports that two British tourists were stopped at Los Angeles International Airport last week and barred from visiting the U.S. because one of them joked on Twitter that he planned to "destroy America" (meaning have a good time) and dig up Marilyn Monroe's remains (a Family Guy reference). Customs and Border Patrol agents questioned Leigh Van Bryan, a 26-year-old bar manager from Coventry, and his 24-year-old friend, Emily Bunting, for five hours, then kept them in cells for 12 more hours before sending them back to the U.K. "Mr. Bryan confirmed that he had posted on his Tweeter website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe," the CBP officers reported. "Also on his tweeter account Mr. Bryan posted he was coming to destroy America." Here are the messages that ruined Bryan and Bunting's trip:
January 3: "3 weeks today, we're totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin' Marilyn Monroe up!"
January 16: "@MelissaxWalton free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?"
Bryan told The Sun CBP officers took the threat to the long-dead movie star seriously, looking for shovels in his luggage. "The Homeland Security agents were treating me like some kind of terrorist," he said. "I kept saying they had got the wrong meaning from my tweet, but they just told me, 'You've really fucked up with that tweet, boy.'...It's almost funny now, but at the time it was really scary." In response to the incident, a British travel industry trade group warns tourists that "airport security staff do not have a sense of humour when it comes to potential risk."
[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]
Recently, two research teams announced that they had created strains of the avian flu virus that were transmissible between mammals. In the wild, this virus has killed about 60 percent of the 600 people who caught it. Today, based on fears of bioterrorism, the U.S. National Scientific Advisory Board on Biosecurity recommended that the journals Nature and Science restrict scientific communication of these research results. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey argues that the best defense against bioterrorism is not secrecy, but more open and transparent science.View this article
Celebration, Fla.—Celebration used to be one of the happiest and wealthiest towns in Florida. Last year it had its first murder, which put a damper on the happy talk. But it’s still something of an economic anomaly along US-192, a concentration of high incomes perched between the poverty and decay of West Kissimmee, where homeless families pay by the week or the night to live in ratty hotels, and Disney World, where dreams come true.
A sea of polo shirts and pleated Dockers shorts formed into a line outside Newt Gingrich’s campaign bus in Celebration earlier today to have their pictures taken with the former House speaker and likely loser in the Sunshine State’s GOP primary.
Standing at the edge of the crowd of Gingrich admirers are Clark and Shane. They are anomalies themselves; young, shaggy-headed, and holding Ron Paul signs.
Are they the only two Paul supporters in town? “I know of at least a few others,” says Clark. Shane nods. “It’s growing.”
Clark, 24, has lived in Celebration for 12 years. He and Shane both went to Celebration High School, one of the best high schools—public or private—in the region. Clark then went to the local community college and the University of Central Florida. Along with Shane, he now works in a pizza shop in the center of Celebration called Upper Crust.
“The anti-war angle is his best thing,” Clark says. “The war on drugs is a big problem. It’s a war on Americans, basically.”
They care about the Federal Reserve, but it’s not their chief concern. “I found out about that stuff two or three years ago,” Clark says. “It definitely concerns me.”
The two thought about making a ruckus at Newt’s event, but decided instead to walk over to the polling place and cast their votes for Paul. “I think he should’ve come to Florida,” Clark says. “He’s probably thinking there are a lot of old people who want their Social Security, and he’s not for that, so the odds are against him down here. But they’re better than he thinks.”
Working at Upper Crust is “laid back,” Clark says. (His boss also came to Gingrich’s event, and is torn between Gingrich and Rick Santorum.) I ask them if they have big plans for the future.
“No,” Clark says.
“Ron Paul 2012!” Shane says, laughing and shaking the sign.
“We probably look like stereotypes,” he says. “A couple of dudes working in a pizza shop who like Ron Paul. But I do think about the future, and it does scare me. I don’t like everything Ron Paul stands for, I don’t like letting corporations do whatever they want, but Ron Paul also tells it like it is. All the other guys are war-mongering for Iran. It’s like they didn’t learn anything from Iraq. It’s time to bring the troops home, and Ron Paul knows it.”
President Obama didn't just use the Google+ "hangout" to not answer questions about marijuana. (Okay, that might have been Youtube and Google's fault, but never underestimate the powers of not talking about the drug war which happen when media and politicians' powers combine.) He also used the opportunity to admit that the United States' program of targeted drone strikes and assassinations, used throughout the Middle East, most heavily in Pakistan, does in fact exist. With the incredibly low standards that the Obama administration and politics in general demands, that's pretty bold. After all, the program still doesn't officially exist and most U.S. officials who have spoken about it with any detail of knowledge have been anonymous. Officials from the Obama administration noted that this confirmation was not a mistake from the president (not sure how it could have been when he talked about the program for four minutes).
The downside to Obama's declaration is that he also assured the Internet-viewing public that the strikes had "not caused a huge number of civilian casualties" and that it is "important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash." These strikes are "for the most part very precise — precision strikes against Al-Qaeda and their affiliates" most often in Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Areas.
Also, the way targets are chosen is apparently "not just a bunch of guys in a room somewhere making decisions." No, according to a December Washington Post article it's actually a bunch of guys in two rooms making decisions; there's a CIA list and a military list, with some overlap between them, but enough bureaucracy and secrecy to make sure that nobody has a completely clear view of how strikes happen and who is being targeted and why.
But yes, according to Obama the program exists but it has led to practically no civilian casualties, also everyone killed (which is in the the neighborhood of 2000 people since Obama took office) was a terrorist; also there's a lot of accountability and careful oversight. I guess it's supposed to be nice that the transparency-loathing president thinks his citizens are man enough to know that yes, that drone program the media talks about sometimes does exist.
Here's the clip if you feel like suffering through the whole four minutes. Props to the citizen who asked the hilariously cautious follow-up question about whether using drone strikes might cause other countries to "perceive" that we're "intervening in their affairs." How might America fix that crazy perception? Well, the president says that drones are an alternative to intervening more heavily in other countries, they in fact help us "respect the sovereignty" of those places because a strike is better than an all-out war. Which is more or less true and we already knew that, but it's a pretty damned arrogant and unsatisfying answer all the same. And yes Obama addressed the recent controversy over drone flights in Iraq —he said they're surveillance, not strikes — but maybe someone should remind him that the Iraqis already had their all-out war. So it would be more than fair if any American aircraft, even those flying peacefully over that U.S. embassy of 16,000 personnel, gives an Iraqi pause.
I would have preferred to hear him try to evade the pot question yet again.
Clearwater, Fla.—It was impossible to find voters who supported anyone other than Mitt Romney at the polling place located inside Cove Cay, a snowbird community which just recently opened its exclusive golf course to the general public to help offset financial difficulties. Given those challenges one might expect to hear economic concerns from local voters, but everyone I talked to was focused soley on electability.
"Huntsman looked like the adult in the room, I liked him, but he dropped out so I went with Romney. I think he is the most electable," said Steve Cohn, 69.
Cohn said that he has received over nine phone calls about the election in the last 24-48 hours. "Even Chuck Norris called me," he said.
When asked if he had gone to see any of the candidates in person his response hammered home how different Florida is from the traditional early primary states. "No, I don't think that's neccessary," Cohn declared.
Meanwhile at Cove Cay's shaded, poolside polling station, voters trickled in. The polling officers told me that turnout was below normal so far but emphasized that meetings and activities in the community clubhouse were scheduled for later in the day.
Many here, like retired Marine Harry Goble, 87, called themselves Ron Paul fans but said they could not vote for the Texas congressman because of his age.
"If he was a little younger I would have voted for Paul. He served during Korea. I like that," Goble said.
Like Cohn, Goble said he ended up voting for Romney because he thought the former Massachusetts governor is the most electable and "beating Obama" is the most important thing.
Nobody here had anything nice to say about Newt Gingrich.
Ken Comer, 69, a native of Indiana and a Romney voter, said he briefly considered Gingrich but that his debate performances turned him off. "I think Newt needs an anger management class," he said.
Comer's wife Suzzane, also a Romney voter, said Gingrich "was not trustworthy" and too negative.
"We need to vote Obama out and screaming and yelling will not do that," she said.
The threat of terrorism has radically diminished, observes Gene Healy. So why is President Barack Obama now trying to expanding the Transportation Security Administration’s reach beyond airports and onto highways, sporting events, and train stations? Haven’t innocent people already suffered enough pointless indignities?View this article
"To me, the 'canna-business,' it's a great example of community-level capitalism working well," says Heather Donahue, Hollywood actress-turned-marijuana farmer and author of the new book Grow Girl.
Donahue sat down with Reason.tv's Tim Cavanaugh to discuss why she left acting only a few years after her iconic role as "Heather" in The Blair Witch Project and how she ended up cultivating marijuana in a small Northern California community known as "Nugget Town."
Although Donahue favors legalization of marijuana and acknowledges the terrible toll that prohibition has taken, she also thinks that California's medical marijuana market has flourished in the legal "grey area" that currently exists.
"By creating this grey area, you're actually creating a system that works," says Donahue. "This is a system on a human scale, and that's part of why it works so well."
Approximately 9:43 minutes. Interview by Tim Cavanaugh. Shot and edited by Zach Weissmueller.
Visit Reason.tv for HD, iPod and audio versions of this video and subscribe to Reason.tv's Youtube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.
If anyone still wonders why 20-century newsmagazines are facing an uncertain future, gaze up this cover of the latest issue of Newsweek, which has played Alain Mamoun to Time's Emil Zatopek from the earliest days of its existence.
Unless there's a $100 taped inside, who the hell is going to open this magazine?
As a former print mag editor who published quite possibly the worst cover in history (that would be this one, IMO) and at least one very good one (here!), I know how freaking impossible it is to hit even a slap single every time you come up to the plate. But this craptacular image proceeds directly from the lackluster imagination of the story and coverage angle of the story it illustrates as well.
And that's the real reason Newsweek has been an also-ran going back to the days when it was covering Wendell Wilkie. It has rarely if ever added anything to the conventional wisdom perpetrated by Time and other bastions of generally boring obviousness.
Good luck, Newsweek, you're going to need it in a future that is less and less beholden to lumbering sources of yesterday's news.
In the back, no less, according to witnesses.
In fairness, the lapdog-walking perp was not carrying a legal ID, and allegedly did not give the park ranger his real name. For which he was "arrested on suspicion of failing to obey a lawful order, having dogs off-leash and knowingly providing false information," in addition to being electro-shocked from behind. Also, walking dogs without a leash in that location was perfectly legal until last month.
Watch Reason.tv's latest video about Tasers:
The glories of free-market capitalism are capacious, writes A. Barton Hinkle. It has lifted hundreds of millions of people from bare subsistence to astonishing wealth. It has given us life-saving medical marvels, grocery shelves groaning with plenty, and phones that let you dial long-distance in the middle of a cornfield. Better yet, it has done it all without the help of a central planning board. The fact that some of us want to enjoy various flavors of potato chips means that our local chip aisle will contain a dazzling bounty.View this article
When it comes to the Fed, the press plays more like one of those toy poodles that sits in your lap. Just last week, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who regularly entertains readers with his astounding ability to insert his head further up the digestive tract of the inside-the-beltway establishment than anyone ever thought possible, reached new heights in a paean to the Fed. “Bernanke’s Fed has been a model of good government: apolitical, efficient, brutally effective — and transparent,” Milbank wrote.
If, by transparent, Milbank meant “somewhat more open to public inspection than the space-alien cemetery in Area 51,” he has an arguable case. Otherwise, he’s suffering from journalistic dementia. The Fed has been the most compulsively furtive part of the U.S. government since the plans for it were hatched during a secret 1910 meeting of powerful bankers and Taft administration officials on a private island....
“The Fed is so inscrutable that big banks employ PhDs whose entire lives are dedicated to trying to figure out what the Fed is doing,” says Johns Hopkins economist Steve H. Hanke, himself a venerable reader of Fed tea leaves....
Bernanke has fought like a tiger to keep the Fed shielded from the prying eyes of the American peasantry. When Bloomberg News and Fox News filed Freedom of Information Act requests to find out exactly how much money the Fed spent on bailouts after the 2008 financial meltdown and to whom it went, Bernanke stonewalled them for two years before a court order forced him to comply. He also battled ferociously against a proposal for an audit of the Fed proposed by a couple of strange ideological bedfellows — socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and libertarian GOP Rep. Ron Paul — united by their disgust at the Fed’s stealth policy-making.
When the Occupy movement and the tea party agree on something, maybe the rest of us ought to pay attention.
Garvin's recent work generated what just may be the greatest correction of the decade so far:
A column by Glenn Garvin on Dec. 20 stated that the National Science Foundation “funded a study on Jell-o wrestling at the South Pole.” That is incorrect. The event took place during off-duty hours without NSF permission and did not involve taxpayer funds.
Step aside Solyndra. Germany is the true leader when it comes to solar boondoggles. Over the past decade, Germany has spent over €100 billion subsidizing solar energy. In 2011 alone, these subsidies topped €8 billion ($10.2 billion). Yet solar is still a niche industry in Germany, generating only 3 percent of its electricity. That's about the size of two nuclear power plants.
The main source for these subsidies have been feed-in tariffs (FiT). One blogger vividly described FiT:
Imagine if the government forced supermarkets to buy bread from plain white bread bakeries, ordered them to pay these bakeries a fixed price that’s 5 times higher than normal for 20 years, and forced them to buy up all the white bread these bakeries could produce, whether needed or not...that's exactly what Germany is doing with electricity.
First used in the early 1990's, FiT became a lavish subsidy after the German Renewable Energy Act (EEG) was enacted in 2000. Basically, FiT mandate utilities to buy renewable energy at a higher cost, with the tariff benefiting the owner of the renewable energy project. As a sweetener, these tariffs are locked in for 20-year contracts. Because of this, the German think tank RWI estimates that the contracts for solar installations just in 2011 will top €18 billion over the next two decades.
Technically, utilities are supposed to bear the higher costs, not the ratepayer. But as RWI elaborates:
While utilities are legally obliged to accept and remunerate the feed-in of green electricity, it is ultimately the industrial and private consumers who have to bear the cost through increased electricity prices.
Unsurprisingly, Germany has the second-highest electricity prices in Europe. (Denmark, another heavy green energy subsidizer, is first.) Currently, this green energy surcharge is 3.59 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity. Each year, this surcharge adds up to €200 more in electric bills.
To justify these higher rates, proponents claim that FiT for solar are essential to thwart global warming and incentivize clean energy innovation. But even by the logic of reducing carbon emissions, heavily subsidizing solar is a poor choice:
To avoid a ton of CO2 emissions, one can spend €5 on insulating the roof of an old building, invest €20 in a new gas-fired power plant or sink about €500 into a new solar energy system.
Meanwhile, using renewable energy avoided 120 million tons of carbon in 2010. But solar energy represents just 7.6 percent of these avoided emissions, even though solar took more than half of all renewable energy subsidies.
In addition, the spurring innovation argument falls flat. German solar manufacturers only re-invest 2-3 percent of their revenues in research and development. By comparison, German car manufacturers spend 6 percent and Silicon Valley invests more than 15 percent on R&D. Besides, if energy innovation requires government intervention, then why not directly subsidize energy R&D?
However, the feed-in tariff has been very successful in installing new capacity. Currently, Germany has 25GW of solar capacity—half of all solar capacity on the entire planet. In fact, Germany installed more capacity last December than the United States did in all of 2011.
But capacity isn't the same as actually generating energy. Der Spiegel explains:
Solar lobbyists like to dazzle the public with impressive figures on the capability of solar energy. For example, they say that all installed systems together could generate a nominal output of more than 20 gigawatts, or twice as much energy as is currently being produced by the remaining German nuclear power plants.
But this is pure theory. The solar energy systems can only operate at this peak capacity when optimally exposed to the sun's rays (1,000 watts per square meter), at an optimum angle (48.2 degrees) and at the ideal solar module temperature (25 degrees Celsius, or 77 degrees Fahrenheit)—in other words, under conditions that hardly ever exist outside a laboratory.
Unsurprisingly, Germany rarely has peak conditions for solar power. While FiT might work in places that are actually sunny (e.g. Gainesville, Florida), Germany averages only 1,528 hours of sunshine a year, or one-third of all daylight hours. That's actually less sun than Seattle gets. One utility CEO even compared subsidizing German solar to "growing pineapples in Alaska."
Thankfully, fiscal sanity is starting to catch up with FiT. In Germany, a proposed new reform would slash FiT rates each year by 24 percent, and ultimately end the program by 2017.
We knew he wouldn't shut the hell up about "America the Beautiful," but now Mitt Romney is actively warbling in public:
What's worse–that slice of canned ham, or President Obama's choreographed leg-tingler to his fans?
Well, let's not leave out the Rick Santorum Fight Song! Do it for the children!
Me, I prefer Newt Gingrich's version of "Like a Virgin":
And of course, the terrific new Autotune the News number, "Cash Money," starring Newt (and featuring John Stossel and Ron Paul).
Speaking of the doctor-congressman, did you know that there is something called "The Ron Paul Song"? And that one time, probably in the late 1990s, his grandchildren sang it, to him, with the cameras rolling?
In case you need a quick memory scrub after that, please allow me to introduce May Palmer, "The Queen of Ivory Soul":
Polling places in Florida opened at 7 a.m. this morning. Newt Gingrich stopped by one at the First Baptist Church of Windemere, where ABC's Jon Karl asked him about his post-Florida plans:
I asked Newt Gingrich how much longer the battle for the Republican nomination will go on. He told me “six or eight months” and then added: “unless Romney drops out earlier.”
When I asked what he says to those who say the race will effectively be over if he loses big in Florida, Gingrich said, “You mean those who said I was dead in June? Those who said I was dead in December? They are about as accurate as they were the last two times they were wrong.”
Gingrich has a handful of events scheduled for the rest of the day—his election HQ in "Imperial" Polk County, Fred's Southern Kitchen in Plant City (home of the world-famous Strawberry Festival), the Disney-founded rich-person oasis known as Celebration, and a vote tally party on International Drive. Seeing as all four of those stops are on the I-4 corridor, there's a good chance Gingrich will actually be on time to some of them; I'll be reporting from the latter two. (He's been chronically late to events for the last several days, in some cases as late as an hour. As my grandmother said yesterday, "That will not do. Old folks down here are always on time. We don't like to be kept waiting.")
Drive-time DJs this morning are dedicating their programming to talking about the election, even though 603,000 early voting ballots had already been cast as of yesterday (that's more than the 601,000 GOPers who voted in all of South Carolina.) Polls will stay open to 7 p.m.
Some quick takes:
- SaintPetersBlog: "51 percent of people who voted early say they voted for Romney."
- Nine candidates appear on the ballot, according to the St. Pete Tampa Bay Times, which has already done some exit polling: "I voted for Newt Gingrich but I'm honestly not sure why," one woman told the paper.
- Five Thirty Eight gives Romney a 97 percent chance of winning Florida, and currently has him polling 44 percent to Gingrich's 29.3 percent.
- Immigration advocacy group America's Voice has Romney winning the Cuban vote, both in the primary and the general, but losing the wider Hispanic vote: "The Hispanic Florida primary voter is a Cuban American voter. However, Cubans comprise only 5% of the nation’s Hispanic voters, and not all of them vote Republican in the general. This share is a far cry from the 40% of Hispanic voters needed by any GOP nominee to win the White House."
- Tampa's WiLD 94.1, a hip-hop station that broadcasts as far east as Lakeland (where Gingrich's Polk County HQ is located), dedicated their morning show to discussing candidates' personal lives. A number of callers said that Romney strapping his dog's kennel to the roof of the family vehicle for a road trip was unforgivable. But the most fascinating call came from a woman who said her close friend trains service dogs, and that Newt Gingrich once complained to an airline employee that the woman got to board the plane with her service dog before he was allowed into first class.
Although national polls find Romney the most favored GOP candidate among the general electorate, and the most likely to beat Obama, Gallup finds Gingrich and Romney statistically tied among GOP primary voters. Perhaps this will signficantly change today if Romney succeeds in his predicted 13-point margin win in Florida.
The Electable Mitt Romney
According to the Real Clear Politics’ poll aggregator, averaging national polling numbers from hypothetical match-ups between Obama and the GOP presidential candidates respectively, Romney is the only GOP presidential candidate to come within the margin of error of beating Obama. In contrast, Gingrich is the least likely to beat Obama, losing on average by 12.8 percentage points.
A new USA TODAY/Gallup Swing State survey, polling registered voters in the nation’s most competitive battleground states including Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, finds Romney tying Barack Obama. In contrast, Newt Gingrich trails by 14 percentage points. According to this poll, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum both lose to Obama by only 7 points.
Florida’s primary polls show Romney leading Gingrich, again, by an average of 13 percentage points.
By these measures, we should expect Romney to be clearly winning in polls of national GOP primary voters as they seek out the least objectionable candidate who can also beat President Obama in November.
Gingrich Slides But Maintains Slight Lead Among GOP
Somehow, however, Gingrich has managed to stay atop of national polls among GOP primary voters, only recently sliding into a statistical tie with Mitt Romney. A January 24th NBC/WSJ poll found Gingrich leading 37 to 28, a January 26th Gallup poll found Gingrich with 32 percent and Romney with 24 percent, and as of January 29th, Gingrich and Romney were statistically tied with 28 and 27 percent respectively. Newt is sliding, but not sliding as fast as some might have expected.
It may be useful to recap the recent timeline of Newt’s rise and decline:
- As I explained in an article on Newt’s second surge, the January 16th and 19th South Carolina debates indicate to primary voters that a candidate other than Romney could be electable.
- Gingrich closes Romney’s 23-percentage point lead in less than a week to win with 40 percent to Romney’s 28 percent in the January 21st South Carolina primary.
- Immediately after South Carolina, the Florida primary polls flip in Newt’s favor: Romney’s 15 point lead on the 16th turns into a 9 point Gingrich lead by the 22nd.
- Then the next day, January 23rd, Florida holds its GOP debate and Romney trounces Gingrich. Romney also takes to the stump in Florida town halls aiming to tie Gingrich to the establishment and reminding voters of Gingrich’s failed leadership in the 1990s.
- Two days after, January 25th, Romney is again leading in Florida by 7 points (Monmouth/Survey/USA), 8 points (Insider Advantage and Rasmussen) and 9 points (Quinnipiac), but continues to trail nationally 24 percent to Gingrich's 32 percent (Gallup). (Averages found here).
- By January 26th major GOP establishment players break silence and levy mounting condemnatory charges against Gingrich, including: Elliot Abrams in the National Review, editors at the National Review, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. in the American Spectator, Ann Coulter, Bob Dole, and Tom Delay to name a few. Their charges echoed the same theme: 'Gingrich is no outsider, but rather an insider just like us, and we can tell you he’s not fit to be President.'
Despite Newt’s decline in Florida and inability to obtain traction among general voters, he maintains his statistical tie with Romney among national GOP primary voters. It may take a definitive loss in Florida today before GOP voters nationwide will be willing to admit Gingrich is not the electable alternative to Mitt Romney they hoped he'd be.
On January 29 the Miami Herald ran a full-page ad excoriating Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney for their “abysmal” constitutional records. The ad wasn’t paid for by Ron Paul or his supporters, but by the American Civil Liberties Union, which invited the GOP field to its annual staff convention in Orlando to “face the nation’s largest gathering of real experts on the Constitution and explain yourselves.” Neither Gingrich nor Romney showed up. But as Mike Riggs reports from Orlando, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson did appear, and he charmed the ACLU crowd with his positions on executive power, drug policy, gay marriage, and abortion.View this article
I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at problems with various arguments making the case that the stimulus worked. But in some ways, debates about the effectiveness of Keynesian stimulus spending just don’t matter. Because even if stimulus spending works in theory (and there isn’t strong evidence to suggest that it does), it still doesn’t work in practice. The every day headaches of bureaucracy and government oversight virtually guarantee that stimulus dollars will be spent ineffectively.
In his new book, “Money Well Spent? The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History,” ProPublica reporter Michael Grabell looks at how poor planning, poor management, and layers of red tape ensured that the 2009 stimulus package would go to waste. The New York Post carried an excerpt over the weekend; here’s a sample:
Obama billed the stimulus as a program that would “immediately jumpstart job creation” with “shovel-ready” projects to rebuild “our crumbling infrastructure.” Such rhetoric conjured New Deal images of blue-collar workers heading out to the heartland with sledgehammers and pickaxes over their shoulders.
Indeed, minutes after the president signed the bill, sparks flew on a rusty Depression-era truss bridge in Tuscumbia, Mo., as construction crews went to work on the nation’s first stimulus project.
But other projects were more like the bridge over the Conodoguinet Creek in central Pennsylvania, which Biden had highlighted, but which was delayed to avoid detouring school buses that depended on the bridge for their routes.
The timing of the stimulus was poor to bring about the flood of construction projects everyone expected in the first year. States had to advertise the project to allow contractors to submit bids. They needed to review those bids and sign the contracts.
Then, they had to go back to the US Department of Transportation for the final OK.
The red tape had noble intentions. But it also delayed the program’s impact and may have even prevented more workers from being hired. Some projects in public housing, waterworks and home insulation remained paralyzed for six months to a year as short-staffed agencies reviewed Buy American waiver requests and calculated prevailing wages for weatherization work in every county in America.
In Michigan, human services officials estimated that 90% of the homes in line for weatherization work would need a historic preservation review. But as of late fall 2009, the office responsible had only two employees.
Grabell seems to think the stimulus could have been designed in such a way that it would have been much more effective. I’m skeptical. The combination of administrative challenges and political pressures is just too great.
Getting the money out the door faster would have meant spending in ways that were clearly wasteful, or at least not ideal. At minimum, that’s a political disaster. Meanwhile, spending just to spend ultimately creates a greater long-term drag on the economy—not only do we end up adding to a debt that we have to pay down later, but we have nothing (or perhaps negative impact) to show for it. Jugging nearly a trillion dollars of spending on what amounts to an emergency basis is just too complex: As research from Dan Rothschild and Garret Jones of the Mercatus Center suggests, even the money that was spent wasn’t tracked very well, often resulted in useless make-work projects, and went to hire people who already had jobs rather than the unemployed. In the end, even President Obama was forced to admit that there’s “no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”
Link via Jim Pethokoukis. More on the practical reality of stimulus spending in my column, Use the Tiny Tiles, and Other Tales From the Stimulus.
Last week was National School Choice Week (NSCW), a non-partisan effort to increase support for all forms of educational choice.
Reason Foundation, the nonprofit publisher of this website, was a sponsor of NSCW and we hosted events in DC and LA and traveled to the week's kickoff event in New Orleans, where political operative James Carville explained why he wanted more kids and parents to have more choices when it comes to K-12 education.
Here's our final NSCW video, featuring former Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty talking about the need for school choice and what it will take to push that agenda. He's joined by Reason's education analyst Lisa Snell and others at the Bel Air home of foundation friend Judd Weiss.
About 4 minutes; shot and edited by Zach Weissmueller.
After the vid, stick around for a full playlist of our NSCW 2012 videos.
On Thursday, February 16, I will debate Ann Coulter on the question: Can fiscal & social conservatives pull together in 2012?
It's happening at the Independence Institute's 27th Annual Founders' Night Dinner, in Glendale, Colorado.
Here's the full info breakdown:
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.
- Today is the Florida GOP primary. Polls show Mitt Romney in a comfortable lead. Here are five counties to watch. Nearly 600,000 votes have already been cast in the state. In related news, Romney likes Cheetos.
- Political ad spending by outside groups is up 1,600 percent this campaign season versus the 2008 election.
- Thanks to a new deficit treaty, 25 of 27 European leaders agree: They'll try to avoid letting their countries' public finances end up buried in debt. And this time they really mean it.
- Europe's commitment to the new treaty will be tested soon enough: New reports suggest that the euro zone might be on the brink of a recession.
- Occupy D.C. protestors remained in their tents after a noon deadline to remove camping gear from the park yesterday. "We're just having a great party," Occupy DC protester Sara Shaw told CNN.
- President Obama participates in Google chat, offers to help woman's out-of-work husband find a job.
- Things the U.S. government does: Pays contractors to design computer programs intended to train giant rats and puppies to sniff explosives.
- Stem cell experiments are beginning to see small successes.
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New at Reason.tv: Why geezers are Occupy Wall Street's true enemies:
President Barack Obama declared in his State of the Union address that the U.S. has a major opportunity to bring manufacturing back and fight unemployment. “Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed,” he thundered. But as Shikha Dalmia writes, all one can say to that is, “Good luck.” Maybe Obama can also spin gold from hay and pay off the national debt. The truth is that the president’s economics simply don’t add up.View this article
Tampa, Fla.—The tension between Newt Gingrich's campaign and the traveling press corps has increased significantly in the last 48 hours. Whether this is a results of Gingrich's turbulence in the polls here is unclear but there is an increased level of stress emanating from his campaign staff. Gingrich's press secretary, R.C. Hammond, briefly held court with a restless media gaggle before telling everybody he was not hosting an availability himself and ordering all non-local press to go back behind the current to the main rally area. Here's a portion of that exchange:
This dust up stemed from a miscommunication between his campaign and the press. Gingrich's campaign said that they had to cut back on interactions with the press because they were running late. They were not particularly clear about this at their event in Tampa. Today's confrontation adds to Gingrich's press woes from yesterday when his campaign tossed the traveling press from his plane and disinvited them from their flight to Nevada. It is standard practice to accomodate the traveling press on campaign swings like this. Chris Moody was on the Gingrich charter when all of this went down:
Then, the campaign dropped a bomb: No reporters would be allowed to fly with Gingrich on his campaign swing on Monday, when his schedule calls for more than 1,000 miles of travel, complete with campaign stops from the panhandle near the Alabama border to Miami. Without a plane, it would be virtually impossible to cover Gingrich on the day before voting begins in the primary that political observers think will make or break his campaign.
Also, the press was no longer invited to fly with Gingrich to the next contest in Nevada, which will hold its Republican caucuses on Feb. 4.
Reporters who covered the former House speaker's campaigns in South Carolina and Iowa say Gingrich was very accessible during those contests. I found this to be the case in New Hampshire as well. The last two days have brought a substantial change in the way the campaign is dealing with the press.
Gingrich's speech at a rally here today was similar to his previous campaign events. He brought up eliminating White House Czars, promised to end President Obama's "war on religion", and attacked George Soros.
At one point he addressed a frequent punching bag for conservative activists, the author of Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky. "I'm a Reagan conservative, Obama is a Saul Alinsky radical," he said.
Near the end of his speech he brought up a Pam Geller favorite in the looming specter of Sharia Law being accepted in American courts.
"I am unalterably opposed to the use of Sharia in an American court," he said, eliciting one of the larger cheers of the afternoon.
"I am comfortable with legal immigrants of every background, including Islam, who want to come to America. I have no confusion in my mind about our background, our laws, our civilization. If they wish to join us, that's fine. We are not going to accept Sharia, " he said.
I tried to talk to Gingrich while he was shaking hands and talking to voters after his event. When he came down the line I talked to him about his unique lapel, the Federal Reserve holding rates at the current level indefinitely, as Gingrich's recent kind words Ron Paul. Gingrich did not respond:
Gingrich also declined to elaborate on his sharia law comments.
At his "crossing the finish line rally" in Orlando Gingrich avoided interacting with the press again, shaking hands and leaving quickly after the event finished.
Gingrich is slated to attend a series of campaign events in the Orlando area tomorrow before attending an election night party at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. Mitt Romney is holding court in Tampa at the Tampa Convention Center.
Update: The answer is no, Obama didn't answer the top vote-getting YouTube question, which was about drug prohibition. As the link and headlines below indicate, there just wasn't enough time, especially since the president, an admitted drug user, had to talk more pressing matters such as late-night snacks. Emphasis in original posting from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
Posted by LEAP
Site Finds Time for Questions About Dancing, Late-Night Snacks and Playing Tennis
Back before he was president, admitted drug user Barack Obama was known to question the sagacity of the drug war. Now that he's occupying the Oval Office, Obama regularly laughs off the subject of legalizing marijuana when it comes up. Which might be kind of funny if his Justice Department wasn't busy cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries with a ferocity that easily surpasses anything evinced by the Bush or Clinton admins.
Today, maybe he'll actually talk about this issue at his latest gimmicky online town meeting, which takes place at 5.30pm ET.
As it happens, the good folks at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) had one of their members submit a YouTube vid question to today's event. Stephen Downing is a retired deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and his question about legalizing pot
came in first place for video questions and ranked second out of all questions (with the overall top spot going to a text question about copyright infringement). Many of the other top-ranking questions are about marijuana policy or the failed "war on drugs," as has been the case every other time the White House has invited citizens to submit and vote on questions via the web.
In similar past situations, Obama has either literally joked away the question or bluntly said he's not in favor of legalization of marijuana, which is a position that puts him at odds with most Americans.
Last year, in response to a LEAP question, he acknowledged that legalization is a "legitimate" topic for discussion, but then went on a long, rambling answer about "shrinking demand" and treating drug use as a public-health issue. That's not promising on its own but is especially bad when put in the context of his actual drug war bona fides. The simple truth is that Barack Obama, the latest in an increasingly long line of presidents and candidates who have admitted using illegal drugs, is every inch a drug warrior.
Watch Downing's question here:
As California’s high-speed rail project runs out of steam, you’d expect a savvy politician to shunt the thing onto a siding and earn points with the voters for making a tough-but-necessary decision.
Not Gov. Jerry Brown.
Taking a page out of President Obama’s green-loan-guarantee playbook, Brown only fights harder to keep the California High-Speed Rail Authority doing whatever it is that the authority does. Most recently, Brown took to the airwaves to say that his own team’s estimate of the project’s projected cost is “way off.”
In an interview with ABC 7 News in Los Angeles, Brown laid out a new plan for funding a project whose projected cost has more than doubled since voters approved a rail bond offering in 2008. "Phase 1, I'm trying to redesign it in a way that in and of itself will be justified by the state investment," Brown said. "We do have other sources of money: For example, cap-and-trade, which is this measure where you make people who produce greenhouse gasses pay certain fees - that will be a source of funding going forward for the high speed rail…It's going to be a lot cheaper than people are saying."
To recap: The high-speed rail authority recently lost its top brass and has been panned in reviews by the state auditor, the legislative analyst’s office, the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley and the state inspector general. The state is facing a September deadline to break ground or lose more than $2 billion in federal funds for the project.
Brown has responded by shutting down the inspector general’s office and accusing rail skeptics of calling for the decline of California. When Brown refers to Phase 1, he means what is now optimistically named the Bakersfield-to-Fresno (formerly Corcoran-to-Borden) line, a route selected by Washington rather than Sacramento. When he refers to cap-and-trade Brown means a piece of legislation called AB 32, the signature achievement of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which made California the first and only state requiring generators of carbon to pay hefty taxes.
At his inestimable CalWhine blog, Chris Reed follows the money, only to find that the money is both reelin’ in the years and out where the woodbine twineth:
I’ve been waiting for years to see what Sacramento did with the billions of dollars in cap-and-trade fees that will roll in if AB 32 is allowed to proceed even though its original rationale is now preposterous and demonstrably false. (No, it didn’t inspire the rest of the world to copy California by forcing residents to accept a broad switch to cleaner but costlier energy.)
I remember a discussion with former Schwarzenegger adviser David Crane and other fans of AB 32 about the fact that higher energy costs are going to be much harder on poor people than the middle class or rich. I was told, no, the cap-and-trade fees would be used to insulate them from the economic pain caused by the regressive effects of higher energy costs.
And I snickered. Yeah, sure, that’s who is going to benefit. Yeah, sure.
I always assumed cap-and-trade billions would be diverted to government employees’ compensation instead of to poor people. Now, hilariously enough, the governor wants the billions to go for a boondoggle transportation project of the sort favored by wealthy suburbanites and rail cultists.
A point I have tried to emphasize in my own Calwhining about Jerry Brown’s proposed budget [pdf] is that its revenue assumptions do not appear to have accounted for the depressive effects of cap-and-trade. But Reed points out an equally dangerous assumption: the budget refers to "potentially $1 billion" in annual revenues from this new exhalation tax. Is there any reason to believe this revenue estimate is accurate?
ABC News introduces its readers to Roscoe Filburn, the Ohio farmer whose 1942 loss at the Supreme Court now serves as one of the key legal precedents cited by the Obama administration in its defense of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate:
[Filburn] felt wronged by Congress and, particularly, a law that was meant to regulate wheat prices. It had been Filburn's practice to grow wheat in the fall and use it in part to feed livestock on his farm and make flour for home consumption.
But the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 limited the number of acres Filburn could plant. The law allotted him 11.1 acres, and he harvested 23 acres. He was subject to a penalty of 49 cents a bushel for the wheat that went over the limit. He sued.
Filburn said the law went beyond the reach of Congress. He argued the government had no business regulating wheat that was local in nature with only an indirect effect upon interstate commerce. His wheat was not being sold on the open market, it was for his own personal use.
The Supreme Court unfortunately disagreed, ruling in Wickard v. Filburn that growing and consuming wheat entirely on your own farm still counted as interstate commerce that could be regulated by the federal government under the Commerce Clause. In 2005, the Court reinforced this decision, holding in Gonzales v. Raich that medical marijuana cultivated and consumed entirely within the state of California also counted as commerce “among the several States” and was therefore open to regulation under the Controlled Substances Act. That’s the case where Justice Clarence Thomas remarked, “If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything—and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”
The legal challenge to the health care act therefore faces a significant hurdle. If Wickard and Raich do in fact allow Congress to “regulate virtually anything” under the Commerce Clause, why can’t Congress force us to buy health insurance? The answer, according to the law’s opponents, is that while Wickard and Raich allow Congress to regulate economic activity, the failure to buy or secure health insurance is by definition an inactivity, which means that Wickard and Raich do not apply and the mandate may be struck down for exceeding Congress' powers under the Commerce Clause without violating those precedents. Since Justice Antonin Scalia famously sided with the majority in Raich, he may find this approach particularly attractive. The problem with it, as my colleague Jacob Sullum has pointed out, is that while the activity/inactivity distinction may defeat the individual mandate, it will not correct the Court’s previous errors in Wickard and Raich. Old Roscoe Filburn may have to wait a little longer for justice.
"When you look at government policies, there's a massive transfer of wealth from the young and relatively poor members of society toward the old and relatively rich members of society," says Veronique de Rugy, a Reason magazine columnist and economist at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
In 1970, de Rugy notes, transfers from the young to the old took up about 20 percent of the federal budget. In a few years, that figure will break the 50 percent barrier as the population ages and Social Security and Medicare ramp up. Those programs are paid for by payroll taxes that suck up around 15 percent of every dollar most workers will ever make.
Yet the #Occupy movement spends most of its energy railing against "the 1 Percent" richest Americans, whose wealth is not gained at the expense of the "99 Percent." Rather, it comes from providing goods and services that people want to consume.
As transfer payments to elderly Americans - irrespective of wealth or need - increase in absolute and relative terms, de Rugy argues that we should scrap entitlements and replace them instead with a "social safety net" that helps poor Americans of whatever age. "There's absolutely no reason to continue paying for lots of people who have accumulated wealth their entire lives," de Rugy tells Reason's Nick Gillespie.
About 3.40 minutes. Shot by Meredith Bragg and Joshua Swain and edited by Swain.
Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of our videos. And subscribe to this channel to get automatic updates when new material goes live.
So far in the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, Rep. Ron Paul has more than doubled the number of votes he received in Iowa in 2008, more than tripled his vote count in New Hampshire, and nearly quintupled his vote count in South Carolina. The strength of his campaign has forced the other GOP candidates into humiliating and unpersuasive attempts to parrot Paul’s economic policies, his warnings on unsustainable government spending, and particularly his attempt to end the reign of the Federal Reserve. But as Lucy Steigerwald observes, the policy area in which Paul seems to have the most trouble influencing the conversation is on war and foreign policy, an area where Paul is a staunch anti-interventionist. Would Paul go farther in the 2012 campaign if he toned down this anti-war stuff?View this article
- Mitt Romney is going to win Florida tomorrow. Almost everyone except Newt Gingrich has accepted that.
- European Union heads have almost reached a budget deal. They promise to be more austere in their spending this time, but there's still lots to figure out when it comes to fixing some busted economies.
- Representatives from the Afghan Taliban and the U.S. are chatting in Qatar.
- The U.S. Treasury says the government lost $170 million more on the auto bailout than previously thought, bringing the total tax-payer funded losses up to a cool $23.77 billion.
- That 16,000-person embassy the U.S. left when the war in Iraq "ended" also includes patrolling drones and Iraqi officials aren't happy.
- A new Gallup/USA Today poll ties Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama in a hypothetical match-up, with both receiving 48 percent of the vote; Ron Paul got 45 percent.
- Newsweek has discovered that secular, urban families homeschool sometimes, too.
In the closing stretch of the Florida campaign, Newt Gingrich has stopped stressing his pro-growth plans to cut taxes and has instead remade himself as a kind of Occupy Wall Street Republican. “I do not believe Wall Street can give enough money to run enough negative ads to hide from the truth,” Gingrich said Sunday at a rally in a retirement community. But as Ira Stoll explains, Gingrich’s new strategy is bound to fail. If voters want a president who will demonize Wall Street, Stoll writes, they’ve got a perfectly fine incumbent in Barack Obama.View this article
There are good charter schools and bad charter schools. But even the bad charter schools can do good, because they provide data.
One of the underplayed benefits of broad national experimentation with charter schools is that having lots of schools trying lots of different educational philosophies means lots of fodder for folks like education scholars Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer. They write:
Charter schools were developed, in part, to serve as an R&D engine for traditional public schools, resulting in a wide variety of school strategies and outcomes. In this paper, we collect unparalleled data on the inner-workings of 35 charter schools and correlate these data with credible estimates of each school's effectiveness.
Their new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that fretting about class size and per-pupil spending may be misguided, whereas teacher quality and classroom culture actually matter:
We find that traditionally collected input measures -- class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree -- are not correlated with school effectiveness. In stark contrast, we show that an index of five policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research -- frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations -- explains approximately 50 percent of the variation in school effectiveness.
Of course, kids in bad charter schools deserve better than to just become data points in an economics paper. But hey, that's the nice thing about school choice—they choose try a different school next year. Plus, properly implemented school choice means charters that consistently fail to serve students and their parents can, and should, lose their charters and shut down. Their peers in places where a neighborhood public school is the only choice aren't so lucky.
Lots more on school choice, including last week's School Choice Week video extravaganza here.
Is this Doonesbury strip from Saturday mocking Ron Paul and libertarianism, mocking the way the press treats Ron Paul (the Hedley character, in the days I followed th' Doones regularly, was always supposed to be a representative of media self-important jackassery), or both? You decide and/or deride. (Bonus guess: Garry Trudeau is part of the Rothschild-Rockefeller conspiracy.)
p.s. Buy my forthcoming book Ron Paul's Revolution, receive it in May.
U.S. News and World Report on how the Baptist Ron Paul (only old-style Protestant in the GOP race, for those studying shifts in what's considered "normal" religiosity in American power centers) is reaching out to the Mormons:
He's the only Mormon in the presidential race, but that doesn't mean Mitt Romney is the only candidate Mormons support. Another favorite White House hopeful? Ron Paul, whose demand that Washington strictly adhere to the Constitution has some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints singing his praise.
"You cannot grow up in the church and not hear of and be taught that the Constitution is an inspired document," says Connor Boyack, a Mormon who heads the Utah Tenth Amendment Center. "And when it comes to who best supports and defends the Constitution, Ron Paul is that guy."
In Paul's hunt for convention delegates, the Mormon vote will be key in early caucus states such as Nevada, where 25 percent of GOP caucus-goers in 2008 were LDS members. Exit polls from 2008 show nine of 10 Mormon voters cast ballots for Romney, but the Texas congressman is seeing a surge in support there and elsewhere.
While the Salt Lake City-based church does not officially endorse any candidate for president, members like Boyack have been preaching the gospel of Ron Paul. Boyack explains that Romney might be a brother in faith, but Paul's commitment to upholding the tenets of the Constitution make him a more ideological choice for Mormons.....
Paul's team has been quick to highlight the Mormon support,setting up a special "Latter Day Saints for Ron Paul" Facebook page ("liked" by over 1,300 fans). It's one of a number dedicated to pro-Paul coalitions, including evangelicals, Protestants, and Catholics, as well as truckers, gamers, and accountants. The candidate is also featured in a five-minute Web ad, recycled from the 2008 campaign, titled, "Ron Paul preserves, protects, defends LDS Constitution view."
Paul spokesman Gary Howard says, "Members of the LDSchurch make up one of those important coalitions, all of which are great assets in this campaign. Dr. Paul's message resonates with everyone who believes in the principles he espouses: limited government, personal and economic liberty."
Last week a federal jury in Oregon awarded damages to an environmental activist who sued the city of Eugene after a police officer seized his video camera and arrested him for wiretapping. In March 2009, Josh Schlossberg was distributing leaflets outside Umpqua Bank in downtown Eugene when Sgt. Bill Solesbee told him to move along. Schlossberg replied that his lawyer had advised him he was not breaking any laws. Solesbee then entered the bank and came back out. When he approached Schlossberg again, Schlossberg took out his camera and announced that he was recording the encounter. The Oregonian describes what happened next:
Solesbee told Schlossberg he needed a permit to set up a table in front of the bank and accused him of blocking pedestrian traffic. Then he asked, "Are you taping me?"
As the two men argued over whether Schlossberg had notified him he was shooting video, the sergeant pointed at the camera and said, "Gimme that. That's evidence."
Schlossberg's lawyer [Lauren Regan] said the sergeant then charged the activist, roughly grabbed for his camera and wrenched his arm behind his back. Schlossberg was thrown to the ground, where his head struck the pavement, and felt the sergeant's knee on his neck, Regan said.
Solesbee seized Schlossberg's camera and arrested him. He was jailed for five hours on charges of resisting arrest and intercepting communications. Prosecutors later dismissed the charges.
As Simon Glik did after he was arrested for recording an arrest in Boston, Schlossberg complained to the police department, which said Solesbee had not done anything unconstitutional or contrary to policy. Like Glik, Schlossberg filed a federal lawsuit to vindicate his constitutional rights when the police department was unresponsive. In a pretrial hearing U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin ruled that Solesbee had violated the Fourth Amendment by examining the contents of Schlossberg's camera without a warrant. As a result of last week's verdict, in which an eight-person jury concluded that Solesbee arrested Schlossberg without probable cause and used excessive force, the city is supposed to pay Schlossberg $4,083 for injuries, $1,500 for pain and suffering, and $200,000 for legal fees.
Regarding the verdict's broader significance, Regan tells The Oregonian, "Across the country right now, legal scholars and lawyers are just eating it up, because it's actually a solid statement of the right to privacy in the age of technology." The outcome also reaffirms that photography is not a crime. In both the Glik and Schlossberg cases, courts found that trumped-up wiretapping charges against people recording public events are unconstitutional. Eugene Police Chief Pete Kerns says the department has changed its policy in light of court rulings since 2009 and now discourages such arrests.
Radley Balko covered "The War on Cameras" in the January 2011 issue of Reason. Reason.tv on the same theme:
[via Radley Balko's Twitter feed]
On Thursday, Jan. 26, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch appeared on Fox Business Network's Stossel program, along with The Atlantic's Megan McArdle, to discuss Obamanomics in the year 2012. Around six minutes:
I think my Irony Meter just overheated: Mitt Romney, who signed into law the nation's only mandate to purchase health insurance and has continued to defend the provision, is bashing Newt Gingrich for the former congressman's support of a mandate to purchase health insurance.
Watching these two guys go after each other is like watching a fight between flip sides of the same coin.
He also continues his ability to smash all rivals in straw polls, with 63 percent at the Tennessee Republican Assembly and more than five times as many votes as everyone else combined at the Arizona state GOP's "mandatory meeting."
In other Paul talk:
*Al Jazeera questions five economists about Paulonomics, focusing on the Federal Reserve and spending cuts.
*Conor Murphy at the Washington Times site presents the evidence that Paul is running to win.
*The Occupy movement fights the Ron Paul infection.
*Brent Budowsky at the Hill believe Paul will beat Romney in Virginia.
*Interesting roundup at Washington Times of Paul's often-controversial views on Israel.
*Paul-supporting SuperPAC RevolutionPAC will host a Paulcentric Florida election returns webcast event.
*The L.A. Times follows Paul on the campaign trail in Maine.
*Very interesting video being aired in Florida, sponsored by another Paul-supporting Superpac, Endorse Liberty, trying to sell Paul's foreign policy:
I will be talking about "Loony Liquor Laws" at a Liberty on the Rocks event in Euless, which is about midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, this Thursday night. Among other examples of alcohol-control insanity, I will discuss Pennsylvania's "wine kiosks" (one of which can be seen on the right) and Texas restrictions on beer marketing that were recently overturned on First Amendment grounds. The event is open to the public and admission is free. Here are the details:
Liberty on the Rocks
8 to 11 p.m., Thursday, February 2
210 South Industrial Boulevard
Euless, TX 76040
Mike Masnick at TechDirt discusses a new study of his, The Sky is Rising, that looks at the positive signs of growth in the entertainment industry, for both consumers and producers, in an age when we are told we need to empower the government to shut down the Internet because of digital piracy of (largely) entertainment goods.
the overall entertainment ecosystem is in a real renaissance period. The sky truly is rising, not falling: the industry is growing both in terms of revenue and content. We split the report up into video & film, books, music and video games -- and all four segments are showing significant growth (not shrinking) over the last decade. All of them are showing tremendous opportunity. The amount of content that they're all producing is growing at an astounding rate (which again, is the most important thing). But revenue, too, is growing. Equally important is that rather than consumers just wanting to get stuff for free, they have continually spent a greater portion of their income on entertainment -- with the percentage increasing by 15% from 2000 to 2008.
This all points to the fact that what is happening within the industry is not a challenge of a business getting smaller -- quite the opposite. It's about the challenge of an industry getting larger, but doing so in ways that route around the existing structures....
Some of the key points:
- Entertainment spending as a function of income went up by 15% from 2000 to 2008
- Employment in the entertainment sector grew by 20% -- with indie artists seeing 43% growth.
- The overall entertainment industry grew 66% from 1998 to 2010.
- The amount of content being produced in music, movies, books and video games is growing at an incredible pace
Read the whole study, which is contained within the story itself.
As Nick Gillespie noted in Reason back in the last century with history-making scope and precision, the age of cultural abundance is still here, still clear, still great, and not destroying people's ability to sell as well as get for free cultural product.
Mike Riggs on "Who Needs SOPA?," noting the continuing dangers of government attempts to crack down on the piracy supposedly but not really killing the culture industries.
OK boys, strap on your rubbers, it's raining nonsense. The Los Angeles City Council voted 9-1 to require male porn actors to wrap their rascals and wear condoms when they're shooting. And when they're filming. As Kennedy explains, this job-killing regulation is certain to force the profit-making porn industry away from L.A.’s safe and welcoming bosom.View this article
Who knew this was a problem? The anti-cannibalism bill [download] introduced by State Senator Ralph Shortey (R), reads:
No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.
Apparently, the senator has heard that, Senomyx, a flavor research company in San Diego, has patented a taste receptor system using proteins derived from the cell line Human Embryonic Kidney 293 (HEK 293) as a way to test novel flavors. The Miami New Times reported that HEK 293 is:
... a cell line that started in the 1970s from human embryonic kidney cells. The line was cultured by scientist Alex Van der Eb in the early 1970s at his lab at the University of Leiden, Holland. Since then, the cell line has been cultured and grown in laboratories (you can buy some here). It's primary use is as a protein or a protein vessel -- sort of a natural test tube. It's also pretty common and seems to be available at most laboratory supply companies and used by many R&D facilities. In short, maybe not such a big deal.
Senomyx apparently works with leading food companies, including PepsiCo, Nestle, Kraft Foods, and Campbell Soups on flavor research. Introducing the bill has not too surprisingly garnered Sen. Shortey numerous headlines. The senator tells The Atlantic blog:
"The unfortunate thing is, this has been framed as 'this guy doesn't like fetuses in food,' " Shortey said via telephone on Thursday. "I'm under no delusion. I don't think that's actually happening. The headlines are phrased as 'this guy thinks there's chopped up fetuses in your food.'"
Well, yes. One might think that since the bill does say "contains aborted human fetuses."
Mea culpa: My colleague Nick Sibilla was much faster in addressing the fetal food ban.
Picture of the day, courtesy of Snoop Dogg's Facebook page.
To mix music styles, periods, and more: There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear. But it's the shizznet.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that the Arab League was temporarily suspending its one-month-old monitoring mission in Syria pending a final decision this week. The League, apparently, is scared that its observers might get caught in the crackdown that the Assad regime is unleashing against its citizens. Notes the Times:
The head of the Arab League, Nabil al-Araby, said in a statement Saturday that after discussions with Arab foreign ministers, the 22-member body had come to its decision because of “a severe deterioration of the situation and the continued use of violence.” And he blamed the Syrian government for the bloodshed, saying that it had decided “to escalate the military option…
Their [the League’s] hesitation outside Rankous on Saturday, a town emptied of people after five days of clashes and government shelling, seemed to encapsulate the shortcomings of a mission accused by government opponents of providing cover to President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown. Warned by army officers that insurgents could use explosives against them, a driver working with the observers refused to drive their heavily armored Mercedes into town.
Opposition activists in Rankous said they would have welcomed the visit. Despite the criticisms, the observers, with offices in several cities, were often the only outside witnesses to fighting that the United Nations said has killed more than 5,400.
But my question is: what exactly did the League expect? Rose garlands and olive tapenade? It’s entering a war zone for allah’s sake! Of course, its observers are going to be endangered.
The whole point of sending the mission was to force the regime to restraint its brutal tactics. Calling it off now when Assad is escalating his crackdown means that the League is turning tail just when it is most needed. This will do more damage than if the League had desisted from sticking its nose in Assad’s business in the first place. It has showcased its utter impotence to the world, signaling to all aspiring Mideast tyrants that they have absolutely nothing to fear from it, not even the prospect of being held to account later for crimes against humanity.
Does Mars have rights? The 1967 Outer Space Treaty requires spacefaring nations to conduct exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies “so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter.” The goal of the treaty is to prevent both back contamination (the introduction of extraterrestrial life to Earth) and forward contamination (the introduction of Earth life to extraterrestrial environments). From our February issue, Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey makes the ethical case for terraforming the Red Planet.View this article
The NY Post introduces the world to 66 year old New York City public school teacher Alan Rosenfeld, the rajah of the city's "rubber room," or holding pen for teachers on full pay who are kept away from the classroom.
In 2001, Rosenfeld was accused (but not convicted) of "ogling eighth-grade girls’ butts at IS 347 in Queens" and the typing teacher has been kept away from students as a result. He pulls a salary of $100,049 and can't be fired or forced to retire.
“It’s an F-U,” a friend of Rosenfeld said of his refusal to quit.
“He’s happy about it, and very proud that he beat the system. This is a great show-up-but-don’t-do-anything job.”...
Rosenfeld and six others whose cases have long been closed are “permanently reassigned.” Rosenfeld reports to the Division of School Facilities, which maintains DOE buildings, in a warehouse in Long Island City.
Asked what work he does, Rosenfeld laughingly told his friend, “Oh, I Xeroxed something the other day.”
Rosenfeld could have retired four years ago at 62, but his pension grows by $1,700 for each year he stays — even without teaching. If he quit today, his annual pension would total an estimated $85,400.
“Why not make it bigger?” the friend said.
The rubber room was officially closed in 2010, so the specifics of Rosenfeld's situation won't be repeated in exact detail. But does anybody - certainly anybody with kids in the New York City school system or the taxpayers who fund it - really think that the system has been or will be cleaned up of such atrocious outcomes?
Of course not. And until school systems start over, from the ground up with the kids' interests first and last, you can rest assured that some future monstronsity is busy being born.
In 2006, John Stossel showed how impossible it was for New York to fire incompetent teachers. Check out the incredibly funny-but-crying-on-the-inside-illustrated chart here.
Last week was National School Choice Week, a trans-partisan effort to increase interest in letting kids and parents pick their schools. If you want to avoid the Rosenfelds of the world, that's a good place to start. More info on school choice here.
The idiot box isn't a mortal threat, at least in the medium term, according to a new study by a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study looked at adults over the age of 20, all of whom were participants in the more comprehensive National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2002. 7,350 of those participants were then selected for further study, and were asked about the their screen time, including television, videos, and computer usage, through 2006. The result? Increased screen time did not correlate with increased mortality; in fact, those who sat in front of the screen for four or five hours a day actually showed a lower mortality rate than those who watch one or two hours a day (though this doesn't suggest that watching more TV is safer). The study cautions that the mortality effects of sedentary viewing remain somewhat uncertain, but conclude that within their sample, "screen time did not significantly predict mortality from all-causes and diseases of the circulatory system." So tune in and turn on—you'll probably be fine. (Link via Aaron Carroll.)
The Ocala Star-Banner writes about a little-discussed phenomenon in advance of Tuesday's Florida primary vote:
Whether voting or waiting, however, the faithful within the major parties are a dwindling lot.
The overall percentage of voters identifying with the Democratic and Republican parties — in Marion County and the state as a whole — has ebbed to its lowest point at any time in recent memory. [...]
Nearly one in four voters in Florida is registered as something other than a Democrat or a Republican, or not affiliated with any party at all, according to state Division of Elections records.
In Marion County, the rate is about one in every five.
Headed into Tuesday's Republican primary, the percentage of election-year voters in Florida who identify themselves with the GOP is at one of the lowest points since 1994, the last year of election-year voter registration data posted on the DOE's website.
I'll say it again–Republicans bleeding market share in this ridiculously favorable market is a bungle of truly historic proportions. And let's give it up for Paul Truesdell, chairman of the Florida Whig Party:
"Each day, more Americans are coming to the conclusion that duopolistic politics is more about profiteering through a spoils system disguised by a byzantine bureaucracy than maintaining government by the people rather than of the people," Truesdell said in an email.
"What we have are always-competing medusa-octopui that spin the media and general public opinion nonstop for the sole purpose of controlling the purse strings."
There's rich and there's really rich. As the poet and well-paid insurance executive Wallace Stevens supposedly once said, "There's a difference between appreciating art and owning it."
So take pity on Harvard's Elizabeth Warren, the scold of the 1 Percent who is currently running for the Senate in Massachusetts after getting hosed by the Obama administration. Warren is widely credited with pushing for the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency that would simplify credit offerings so that all of us idiots who bought houses we couldn't afford could blame somebody else. Faced with opposition from Republicans, Obama tossed Warren aside as the first hea of the CFPA.
Buzzfeed reports that Warren, like Marie Antoinette and Bruce Springsteen, only likes to play poor:
“I realize there are some wealthy individuals – I’m not one of them, but some wealthy individuals who have a lot of stock portfolios" she told [MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell].
Hard to see how Warren wouldn't be, by most standards, wealthy, according to the Personal Financial Disclosure form she filed to run for Senate shows that she's worth as much as $14.5 million. She earned more than $429,000 from Harvard last year alone for a total of about $700,000, and lives in a house worth $5 million.
She also has a portfolio of investments in stocks and bonds worth as as much as $8 million, according to the form, which lists value ranges for each investment. The bulk of it is in funds managed by TIAA-CREF.
Making a ton of dough - she's well into the 1 Percent of income earners based on her salary alone - doesn't mean she can't understand with special care the problems of the rest of us.
But it's worth pointing out that Warren is in fact out of touch with those for whom she claims to speak. She consistently says that folks "didn't know the deal" when they signed up for credit cards that charged interest on balances, mortgages that required monthly payments, or loans that charged interest. She is the embodiment of a paternalist (maternalist?) who thinks that jes' plain folks are dolts who are always getting screwed by mustache-twirling bankers that exist mostly in the imagination of Faulkner's Jason Compson. Hence, her longstanding desire to "simplify" the offerings of financial institutions down to a few types of loans, all of which can be read "by the average American" in a couple of minutes.
It may be quaint for a Harvard prof to want to help the great unwashed, but if she seriously thinks that people overextended on houses and more because they didn't understand their credit terms, she's fighting the wrong battle and we'll all be the poorer for having fewer credit options.
And for those of us who don't make $429,000 a year, or live in $5 million homes, or have as much as $8 million in stocks and bonds, that's not good.
Here's some vid of Warren commiserating with another honorary 99 Percenter, Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC:
On Friday, Jan. 27, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch went on The Real News program to discuss 2012 politics with host Paul Jay and The Raw Story Executive Editor Megan Carpentier. Just over 20 minutes:
- After slipping in the Florida polls, Newt Gingrich promises a "wild and wooly" primary fight, declares he won't be "namby-pamby."
- Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush still hasn't endorsed any of the GOP candidates.
- F.D.A. doctors and scientists who warned Congress that the agency was approving dangerous medical devices have sued the agency for surveillance of their personal email.
- New Orleans has banned loitering on Bourbon Street "for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise."
- The SEC has filed a complaint against four online trading companies that unwittingly aided a hacker.
- Tweeps are upset after Twitter announced that it will block some messages in countries where those messages are illegal.
Do you want hot links and other Reason goodies delivered to your inbox twice a day? Sign up here for Reason's morning and afternoon news updates.
New at Reason.tv: Andrew Campanella explains why there is hope for education in America.
Many teenage kids regard school as the functional equivalent of prison—where they are forced to endure oppressive rules, bad food, and unpleasant company. For them, Barack Obama has a message: There will be no parole. Obama wants every state in the union to require that all students remain in high school until they graduate or turn 18. As Steve Chapman explains, the issue here is not whether most students are better off finishing high school; it's whether the kids who otherwise would drop out are better off being forced to finish.View this article
Naples, Fla.—On-again/off-again Republican front-runner Mitt Romney blasted his chief rival, Newt Gingrich, for his ties to the mortgage industry at a rally here this morning. Speaking before an overflow crowd Romney chided Gingrich for his "excuse making" about the debates before pivoting to his ties to Freddie Mac.
"The first debate audience was quiet and Speaker Gingrich said that threw him off, he can't debate before a quiet audience. The next audience was very loud, very loud, and he said that threw him off. He can't debate before a loud audience," Romney said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
"He's like Goldilocks, ya know, and at this point it has to be just so," he said.
The woman behind me was puzzled.
"Goldilocks? I don't get it," she whispered to her companion.
"One of the greatest contributros to the collapse of housing here and across trhe country was government," Romney said. "At the time some people were standing up saying we need to reform the system. Speaker Gingrich was being paid $1.6 million dollars to stand up and say, 'These programs should continue the way they are.'"
"BOOO!" came the response from the crowd.
"The people of Florida have had enough of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and government interference, and it's time to get back to free-market princpiples!"
Moving on from Gingrich, Romney proceeded to give his standard stump speech attacking President Barack Obama for his handling of the debt and involvement with Solyndra's failure, all while Romney touted his own private sector experience.
Occasional shouts and murmurs could be heard in the crowd. At first this consisted mainly of people bitching about not being able to see.
Then the noise in the back began to sound more like yodeling. A handful of Occupy Wall Street protestors had arrived late to the event and were milling about at the back with fake dollar bills taped across their faces, supposedly representing how "money is speech".
One Occupier was carrying a poster that featured the words "OCCUPY" and was shaped like the solidarty fist.
One Romney staffer I talked to said the Occupiers haven't been a problem for them in Florida.
"New Hampshire was rough though," he said.
When Kodak filed for Chapter 11 earlier this month, it wasn't just the end for one of the longest-lived blue-chip companies of the past 100 years.
It was an object lesson in what happens when firms with massive market share get too fat and happy and start to treat their customers as captives rather than as free agents who will go elsewhere given half a chance.
Reason's Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, co-authors of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, argue that the lessons of Kodak apply to partisan politics, where the Democratic and Republican parties are facing record-low levels of voter identification. Despite the high stakes of the 2012 election, Americans are in open revolt against a duopoly that's been around since the 19th century. If the GOP and the Dems want to keep their customers happy, they need to learn the lesson that Kodak ignored all the way to liquidation.View this article
Reason contributor Terry Michael conjures the ghosts of 1964 and warns about the coming GOP fratricide:
The bitterness with which Mr. Obama is bludgeoned reflects a tunnel vision that shouts the third reason Republicans are in danger of blowing a serious chance: They’re losing touch with the sensible center - independents and leaners watching the spectacle from the sidelines.
When Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum assert that only they are conservative enough to provide a winning contrast to Mr. Obama, both reflect willful ignorance of how you must campaign for November, focusing on persuadables. Possibly learning from his own fruitless pandering to social conservatives in 2008, Mr. Romney uses language that addresses independents as well as his own right flank. (On a libertarian mission, Ron Paul is fighting for a philosophy, not a nomination.)
Meanwhile, as the Republican cage-fight continues, Mr. Obama recently paid a YouTube-winning happy 90th birthday tribute to Betty White and performed a brief but crowd-pleasing rendition of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” - something the four warring wings of the Republican Party might want to consider.
Michael, an open "libertarian Democrat," wrote about why a former DNC press secretary is considering voting for Romney. Check that out here.