Both teams are listening to a Madonna performance that sounds eerily similar to a Lady Gaga song they'll hear 10 years from now.
It's halftime in America too.
People are out of work and they're hurting.
And they're wondering where all their money went.
Well, $12.5 billion of it went to Chrysler.
In the form of a bailout.
But it's okay, because Chrysler is all-American.
Though technically 58.5 percent of Chrysler is owned by an Italian corporation.
And Chrysler manufactures many of it's vehicles in Canada. And Mexico.
But I guess that doesn't make for a great commercial.
Unlike polar bears. Or dogs. Or that digestive yogurt.
Yeah, Americans are hurting.
And their dollars are being used to bail out the chosen ones.
Instead of themselves.
What happened to freedom?
What happened to choice?
We need to guard them like Ben Roethlisberger's friends guard a bathroom door.
Written by Remy and produced by Meredith Bragg.
About 1.30 minutes.
"Halftime in America" is one of a series of collaborations between Remy and Reason.tv. To watch all of them, including "Grandma Got Indefinitely Detained (A Very TSA Christmas)," "The Occupy Wall Street Protest Song," "Raise the Debt Ceiling Rap," and "Why They Fought," go here now.
To watch Remy's other videos, go to youtube.com/goremy
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Sometime this week Virginia lawmakers are expected to vote on a law which would allow the state's "tens of thousands of" homeschooled kids to play sports on public school teams; in fact it would prevent public schools from being part of any intramural-type organizations which barred the presence of homeschoolers.
HB 947 is known to its friends as as the "Tim Tebow law" because the Denver Broncos quarterback was homeschooled in Florida, but played on his local school's football team after pushing for the bill which gave him permission to do just that. Said bill is expected to pass in in the State House, having already cleared the House Education Committee.
Fourteen states allow for homeschooled kids to play public school sports. Thirteen more allow kids to play with certain conditions attached.
So, who are the folks objecting to this bill? (You know they're out there.) Various news reports summarize objections along the lines of: hey, public school kids have to keep up certain academic standards to do extracurriculars, why do those pajama-clad-until-noon, weirdo spelling champs get out of that? The Governor of Virginia supports the bill, but the 60,000-strong Teacher's Association is not keen for reasons both tentatively practical (public schools say their belts are tight enough as it is) and school spirit-heavy (you didn't want to be a part of this whole experience, so no, you don't get to play soccer!).
Washington Post columnist John Kelly is also displeased with this legislative notion. After mentioning the problem with Teacher Mom or Dad grade-inflating so that little Josiah can be the school's starting quarterback, and comparing the bill to Kelly's old drama teacher casting students from a girl's school and a college student in high school plays, the columnist continues:
[M]y main objection is philosophical.
School does a lot of things, just one of which is educating students. School is a place children learn to get along, learn what it means to work in a group, to navigate the shoals of cliques and conflicts. It’s where you learn some of the basics of what it means to be a citizen.
We often despair about our public schools in this country, but they’ve been a common experience for millions of us. If you happen to not agree with that common experience, you might decide, as is your right, to home-school your child.
You may have all sorts of reasons. Perhaps our public schools are too secular for you. Or maybe our public schools aren’t rigorous enough for you. Maybe our public schools aren’t safe enough for you. Maybe you love your children more than the rest of us love ours and you just want them around you all the time.
Whatever the reason, you’ve made a decision. You have the courage of your convictions. Except now, supporters of this bill want to loosen their convictions a bit.
“They just want to try out,” the bill’s sponsor, Del. Robert B. Bell (R-Charlottesville), told The Washington Post’s Anita Kumar. “They just want a chance to participate with their friends, their neighbors, their community members.”
Guess what: They do have the chance. They can go to public school.
And the vital point, which everyone else who objects to the bill seems to be making in one way or another:
I’m not against home-schooling. I’m against people wanting to pick and choose the parts of a public education they agree with.
Libertarians or homeschoolers who vehemently dislike public schools are often accused of being purists, but the people making these arguments are real hard-liners.
One choice is being opened up to students here, the choice to be homeschooleled and also to play sports with kids their own age. Even without the compelling hey, my parents pay the taxes which help this school exist argument, what's so terrible about one more choice for kids and their families? Kelly's column is carefully in favor of homeschooling's legality, but he really doesn't seem to like the practice, he's more wearily resigned to it.
Bob Cook over at Forbes.com is initially less snotty about the fact of homeschooling, but this attitude of "you made your education bed, now lie in it" still lingers throughout. That gets real, as the kids say, about here:
I just find it so rich that homeschool advocates are more than happy to run down public schools and explain why they’re just not good enough for their little budding geniuses, yet they’re begging to lean on and cherry-pick the public school for things they can’t provide.
"So rich" is a pretty strong rhetorical cue. Cook thinks homeschoolers are elitist egg-heads! But he then goes on to make the point that private school families have to pay taxes but are not offered this option.
But why aren't they? If a private school doesn't have a football team or a soccer team, but the local school does, well, why not let kids get their chance to play? Or even let each school decide instead of mandating at the state-level, which the Tebow bill admittedly does?
Maybe that's a bad idea, but having just celebrated School Choice Week at Reason DC, I'm feeling particularly keen on choosing. The columnists and other dissenters say kids can't have an education buffet, but why can't they? Why can't they take physics at school, but read history at home, or any another variation?
I suggest that with super-optimism and a general love of freedom but also, dammit, if you want the parents' tax dollars, there should be some education options. Parents pay, so you had better let in a thousand homeschooled Christian dorks so that they too can be future football stars who provoke an ire I cannot began to understand. That's fair. And that's one small step towards real school choice.
(Still, in my day in Pennsylvania we played touch football in the park near the house where we had our homeschool group. We didn't need no dad-gummed public school for that. Sometimes we didn't even have shoes. Really, there was a memorably muddy spring day in about seventh grade where we all played shoeless.)
And here's a 2007 story from the Daily Mail about the proliferation of closed-circuit TV cameras (CCTV) in Orwell's old neighborhood.
The end is not nigh argues X Prize guru Peter Diamandis and journalist Steven Kotler in their new book, Abundance. Instead they assert that humanity stands on the threshold of a period of radical transformation in which technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standards of living for every man, woman, and child on the planet. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey explains why he thinks that the two techno-idealists are on to something.View this article
- The DOJ is dedicating still more resourches to investigating Rupert Murdoch.
- SCOTUS likely won't hear Prop 8 appeal.
- Organizing for America defends Obama's super PAC decision.
- Rick Santorum replaces Newt as Not-Romney of the week.
- Komen Foundation VP resigns over Planned Parenthood kerfuffle.
- Argentina to restart the Falklands War.
- Russian envoy makes nice with Syrian butchers.
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At Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, students can now buy the morning-after pill from a vending machine.
"We had some conversations with them and did a survey of the student body and we got an 85 percent response rate that the students supported Plan B in the House Center," said Dr. Roger Serr, Vice president of Student Affairs at Shippensburg.
The university does not profit from the sales. It pays $25 for one dose and that's exactly what the student has to pay.Dr. Serr says that somewhere between 350 and 400 doses are sold each year to the female population. The pill can be legally sold over-the-counter to anyone 17 or older.
We're a little bit obsessed with vending machines here at Reason. I reviewed the Senate's hotdog vending machine, and hollered about the provision in the House health care bill requiring nutrition labeling on vending machines. I've celebrated veterans who get their beer from vending machines. I've also written about machines that vend gold in Abu Dhabi, pizza in Rome, and meat in Spain.
Plus, we reviewed a book chronicling the empowering effect of being able to buy stuff without the complicity another human being:
For nearly a century before the Internet put the anonymous consumption of vices literally at the world’s fingertips, vending machines dispensed taboo wares, experiences, and entertainment free from the gaze of prying eyes....
Be it the condom machine in the gas station bathroom, the coin-operated peep show, the pinball craze that prompted a moral panic in the 1940s, truant hoods spending afternoons in smoke-blanketed video game arcades in the 1980s, or the rebellious rock ’n’ roll dispensing jukebox, there has always been a subversive element to coin-operated commerce.
The Plan B machine continues this theme (whether or not you consider the use of the pill a vice) letting consumers make their own moral choices, on their own schedule, with the company they choose to keep.
As Colorado and Minnesota caucus today (educated expectations have Ron Paul doing not so well in the former, probably second in the latter), a Reuters/Ipsos poll has the libertarian leaning congressman second place. Extra special good for the rest of the campaign, if and when it gets to just Romney and Paul, Romney is dropping (while Santorum also gains a lot).
Romney was backed by 29 percent of Republican voters in the telephone poll conducted February 2-6, down from 30 percent in a survey in early January. The former Massachusetts governor's three rivals in the race to oppose President Barack Obama in November were in a close race for second, the poll showed.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul's support grew by 5 percentage points to 21 percent, moving him into second place and ahead of former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich, whose support slipped to 19 percent from 20 percent.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum also rose by 5 points to reach 18 percent, just behind Gingrich, according to the poll.
Big margin of error, though, of 4.9 points for Republicans, which Paul's lead over both Gingrich and Santorum falls within. Still, it marks a candidacy by no means out of the running.
Bonus video making the rounds of Paul fans: a collection of pretty blatant media ignoring of Paul:
As Peter Suderman noted below, a 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voted today to strike down California’s Proposition 8, which had amended the state constitution in order to forbid gay marriage. While this is a big win for the cause of gay rights, it is not a definitive judicial ruling in favor of gay marriage. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt states in his majority opinion, the court refused to touch the big question of whether the Constitution protects a right to gay marriage:
Whether under the Constitution same-sex couples may ever be denied the right to marry, a right that has long been enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, is an important and highly controversial question. It is currently a matter of great debate in our nation, and an issue over which people of good will may disagree, sometimes strongly. Of course, when questions of constitutional law are necessary to the resolution of a case, courts may not and should not abstain from deciding them simply because they are controversial. We need not and do not answer the broader question in this case, however, because California had already committed to same-sex couples both the incidents of marriage and the official designation of ‘marriage,’ and Proposition 8’s only effect was to take away that important and legally significant designation, while leaving in place all of its incidents. This unique and strictly limited effect of Proposition 8 allows us to address the amendment’s constitutionality on narrow grounds.
In other words, Reinhardt attempted to craft a relatively narrow decision both to minimize the likelihood of the Supreme Court hearing an appeal in the case (if one is filed), and to postpone the ultimate battle over the constitutionality of gay marriage until some later date. Had he issued a sweeping opinion that found gay marriage to be a protected right, the Supreme Court would almost certainly have agreed to hear the appeal. So why not force the vote? Perhaps Reinhardt doesn't think there are five current Supreme Court justices in favor of gay marriage and he doesn't want to give the Court a chance to rule on the issue just yet.
The president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, has just resigned after facing weeks of violent protests and policy mutiny. The first democratically elected president of the Maldives, Nasheed was also a darling for environmentalists. Back in 2009, Nasheed donned scuba gear and held an underwater press conference to protest inaction on global warming. He even planned for the Maldives to become the first "carbon-neutral" country by 2020. Since most of the Maldives is just a few feet above sea level, climate change could overwhelm this island nation. According to Nasheed, “If we can’t save the Maldives today, we can’t save London, New York or Hong Kong tomorrow.”
But it looks like Nasheed couldn't save the Maldives today. Uprisings began after he ordered the arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed, chief judge of the Criminal Court. Mohamed had recently released an illegally detained a government critic, so his arrest was incredibly controversial in the Maldives:
The vice president, Supreme Court, Human Rights Commission, Judicial Services Commission and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights all called for Mohamed to be released.
Outraged, demonstrators took to the streets, and were soon joined by rebel police, Islamic fundamentalists, and a few soldiers. To keep the peace, Nasheed decided to resign and has been replaced by his vice president, a former top official at UNICEF.
No government has been more forthright in the climate fight than President Nasheed's. He is a hero of our time.
Aside from unknowingly comparing Nasheed to a manipulative, cynical Russian antihero, McKibben overlooks a few inconvenient truths about the Maldives. Like its struggles with Islamic fundamentalism. Only Islam can be practiced publicly in this archipelago. So when a restaurant put up Christmas decorations last year, a riot broke out. (The war on Christmas is real! It's just on the other side of the planet.)
In addition, alcohol is outlawed through the island nation (except for tourists). In December 2011, the tourism ministry banned all spas and sports centers, after Islamists claimed they were fronts for prostitution and featured "lustful music." But perhaps the most troubling practice is that the Maldives publicly flogs women accused of adultery. Nasheed's Foreign Minister, Ahmed Naseem, even blasted the UN for suggesting that the Maldives should ban flogging:
What’s there to discuss about flogging?...There is nothing to debate about in a matter clearly stated in the religion of Islam. No one can argue with God.
It's clear that residents of Maldives are more worried about the role of religion and the rule of law today than uncertain sea level changes in the future. The Maldives was long portrayed as the first possible casualty of global warming. But Maldivians have more pressing concerns:
An Asian diplomat serving in Male told Reuters on condition of anonymity: “No one remembers the underwater cabinet meeting. They remember Judge Abdulla Mohamed,” a reference to the arrested judge.
Meanwhile, concern about climate change is falling amongst Americans. In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, only 25 percent of Americans viewed global warming as a "top policy priority" for 2012. Five years ago, that figure was 38 percent.
Reason on climate change.
Last Friday, I appeared on Fox Business' Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano to talk about the politics of home ownership and how it's distorted the economy to bad ends.
The short version: There's no way that the government can guarantee or heavily subsidize a class of assets without it all ending in tears.
Check out this blog post: "If Housing Was Overpriced, Is it a Bad Thing that Fewer Americans Own Homes?"
About 4.30 minutes.
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Constitutional law professors should be kept as far away from nuclear weapons as possible. The skill-sets they bring to the presidency just gives them the sophistry and brazenness necessary to invent new and creative ways of violating the constitutional oath of office. Obama is the fourth former con law prof to serve as president, joining William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Bill Clinton. While Taft did comparatively little damage, writes Gene Healy, the rest hardly inspire confidence that familiarity with constitutional scholarship encourages fidelity to the national charter.View this article
Gay marriage gets a win: A federal appeals court ruled today that California's ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, is illegal. Via The Los Angeles Times:
The 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, violated the U.S. Constitution. The architects of Prop. 8 have vowed to appeal.
The ruling was narrow and likely to be limited to California.
“Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California,” the court said.
That’s Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s proposed method of “fixing” Medicare’s physician reimbursement scheme, the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which has been causing multi-billion dollar budget headaches for roughly a decade. Sen. Kyl’s idea is to use imaginary war spending that’s currently included in the federal budget baseline to pay for the actual spending on Medicare’s physician payments. Problem solved!
Kyl’s revealing remark comes via The New York Times, which has a yet another lengthy report on the latest iteration of the long-running fight over what’s become known as the “doc fix.” The wonky details are there for those who want them, but the larger picture remains depressingly familiar.
As usual, it’s total gridlock on Capitol Hill, even though both parties in Congress agree on what they want: Giving doctors a slight raise from their current temporary reimbursement rate, and permanently resetting Medicare’s physician payments at a much higher level than the SGR formula calls for. (If no changes are made, physicians will take a 27 percent cut in March.) Doctors, of course, insist on being paid more too, and say they might not be able to take Medicare payments if the low rates go into effect. The hangup, as always, is how to pay for the increased rates.
But the larger problem that tends to go unmentioned is the technocratic mindset, shared by both parties, that assumes that Congress should control payment rates for Medicare, the single largest health payer in the country. As I reported in my January story, “Medicare Whac-a-mole,” Congress has been fiddling with centrally set Medicare payment schemes for decades, only to find that each new plan produces a new and unexpected set of unintended consequences, which then have to be fixed through more technocratic tinkering. But surely "fixing" the SGR's problems through an obvious gimmick swap will work where previous attempts to control the system have failed.
Having been driven out of McPherson Square in Washington, D.C., Occupiers are now planning to set up camp at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel, where they will harass the "bigots, media mouthpieces, corrupt politicians, and their 1 percent elite puppet masters" slated to attend this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC.
Occupiers will join up with the "AFL-CIO, SEIU, National Nurses United, Metro Labor Council, [and] OurDC" at Malcolm X Park (located at Euclid and 16th Streets NW). From there they will march to the Marriott in Woodley Park (that's a 1.2 mile hike.)
Once at the hotel, the Occupiers and their Big Labor compadres will "have actions" and "make our voices heard."
Occupiers are inviting "ANYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF REAL DEMOCRACY, EQUALITY AND POSITIVE DISCOURSE" to help them shout out people whose politics they find intolerable.
Here is 1-percenter (and friend of Reason!) Peter Schiff speaking to the 99 at Occupy Wall Street:
Bonus: Here's a video of me asking women at CPAC 2010 if they were there to find boyfriends; a question that got me flogged by every corner of the Internet for being a leering misogynist. (Not a single one of those sites, nor the conservative commenters who lit into my ass in the Youtube comments, awarded me mitigating points for having soundtracked the video with Jemina Pearl-led Be Your Own Pet.)
George W. Bush had one small office devoted to faith-based initiatives, and was savaged for it, writes A. Barton Hinkle. By 2004, several million gallons of ink already had been spilled warning that Bush’s “faith-based presidency” was “nudging the church-state line” (The New York Times) and was “turning the U.S. into a religious state” (Village Voice) and was “arrogant” and “troubling” (St. Petersburg Times) and was “pandering to Christian zealots” (Salon). Barack Obama, on the other hand, says faith drives much of his domestic agenda—and no one even blinks.View this article
In the wake of budget overruns in the Massachusetts health care overhaul Mitt Romney signed in 2006, Romney's successor, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, has already raised business and cigarette taxes in order to help fund the program. Problem solved? Hardly. In fact, Gov. Patrick is now proposing yet more tax hikes to help pay for the program. Via yesterday's Boston Herald:
Senate President Therese Murray declined to say Monday whether she’d support a 20 percent increase in the state cigarette tax proposed last month by Gov. Deval Patrick to help fund the exploding cost of health care programs.
Supporters of the tax defend it by pointing to estimates that suggest higher taxes on cigarettes will reduce smoking. Given that neighboring New Hampshire recently cut its cigarette tax, it may be that the effect turns out to be shifting cigarette purchases across state lines. But what if it works, and smoking rates drop? That means that cigarette tax revenue will also drop. Gov. Patrick's proposal seems to be an attempt to raise revenue by taxing behavior that he'd like to discourage. It's not a defense, but Massachusetts isn't the only state to try funding public health programs with smoking revenues. In the late 1990s, Arizona attempted to pay for an expansion of its Medicaid using revenues from the Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and the states. The state ended up with an odd public health problem: Too few smokers.
"The new debate in the Republican party needs to be between conservatives and libertarians," says Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). "A lot of the libertarian ideas that Ron Paul is talking about...should not be alien to any Republican."
Yet right after the 2010 midterm elections, the influential Tea Party favorite proclaimed that "you can't be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative," a comment that was widely viewed as a slap at libertarians. And South Carolina's junior senator is also a staunch pro-lifer, has favored a constitutional ban on flag burning, and is on the record saying that gays shouldn't be allowed to teach at public schools.
More recently, DeMint has been leaning libertarian. His new book, Now or Never: Saving America from Economic Collapse, is a warning to the nation that we need radical spending cuts (including putting defense spending on the table) or else face economic oblivion. And he was instrumental in getting Tea Party Republicans elected in 2010, including the most libertarian member of the caucus, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who also wrote the foreword to DeMint's book.
Reason's Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch sat down with DeMint for a wide-ranging discussion about fiscal vs. social conservatism, cutting spending, the GOP presidential nomination, whether the Tea Party still matters, and much more.
Approximately 29 minutes.
Shot by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein; edited by Epstein.
Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.
It’s hard to imagine a more favorable climate for an opposition party to gain voters than an election year with an unpopular White House incumbent under whose watch the economy has been and likely will continue to be awful. Yet a mere nine days before the beginning of 2012, a USA Today study found that Republican registration in the 28 states where party affiliation is recorded was down 800,000 since 2008, including 350,000 in eight swing states.
Who’s gaining? Not the governing Democrats, who deservedly lost twice as much. It’s the ranks of the unaffiliated that have grown by 400,000, including 325,000 in those eight swing states. Even amid the clarifying up-or-down, Team Blue or Team Red exercise of high-profile politics, Americans are increasingly choosing to jump off the political pendulum, reject tribalism, and declare themselves swing voters. And if the first week of 2012 is any guide, writes Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch, these are the people most likely to support practical libertarian politics.View this article
On Wednesday, Feb. 8 (tomorrow!), at 6:30 p.m., I will be locking horns with National Review columnist (and American Enterprise Institute scholar) Jonah "Liberal Fascism" Goldberg over where us libertoodlians belong in the American political scheme of things. The event is in the belly of the beast AEI Conference Center, at 1150 17th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036, two blocks from Farragut North metro station, so I need all the minority rooting-section support I can get!
Registration begins at 6:15, debate from 6:30-7:30, wine & cheese reception to follow. The good folks at America's Future Foundation are co-sponsoring.
Goldberg was one of our three contributors to the contentions "Where Do Libertarians Belong?" cover package in August 2010, which you can read here. He then debated co-debaters Brink Lindsey and Matt Kibbe live at Reason D.C. HQ, which you can watch below, and he also tussled with Reason columnist Veronique de Rugy over the subject six months prior to that.
Corporal Rick Alexander of the Anne Arundel County Police Department has been arrested and charged with obstruction for tipping off five men about an impending drug raid on their house. Phone records showed that Alexander had been communicating with one of the men, and all five suspects confirmed to police that Alexander had given them a heads up. After the 10 p.m. raid turned up nothing, police made their way to a second location, where the suspects had moved the drugs.
There they found and seized a grand total of $829 worth of marijuana.
It wasn't a wardrobe malfunction but it's close enough, especially given that there's really nothing else going on in the world or the country right now.
The singer in question, M.I.A., is British-born and of Tamil descent, and the NFL and NBC have apologized and tried to blame each other.
"The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans," said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, which produced Madonna's halftime show. He said that M.I.A. had not done anything similar during rehearsals and the league had no reason to believe she would pull something like that during the actual show.
The risque moment came during the biggest TV event of the year. The screen briefly went blurred after M.I.A.'s gesture in what was a late attempt — by less than a second — to cut out the camera shot.
"The NFL hired the talent and produced the halftime show," NBC spokesman Christopher McCloskey said. "Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers."
Isn't it about time we cut ties with England anyway?
It was an excellent Super Bowl game and the only thing that worries me about all this is that the Supreme Court will be ruling on the FCC's ability to police the broadcast airwaves this session. Given that part of the current cycle of fear of fleeting expletives and nipple slips stems from Janet Jackson's and Justin Timberlake's half-time show from what frankly seems like a thousand years ago, this probably ain't good for that.
Rather than building on already onerous content regulations and ultimately arbitrary speech restrictions ("fleeting expletives" have no place in a world filled ExtenZe ads featuring Jimmy Johnson, right?), can we just agree that next year, the Super Bowl will carry a warning sticker noting that despite high-level of play, some viewers may be disturbed by on-field activities? That should solve it.
- Rick Santorum is shaping up to be the winner in Missouri and Minnesota.
- Obama now loves Super PACs.
- WaPo unveils a massive pork-documentation project.
- White House reminds GOP of triggered defense cuts.
- The right-wing response to Think Progress launches.
- Catholic League is ready to go to the mat over birth control.
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New at Reason.tv: "Arab Spring Update: Freedom House's Arch Puddington on How 2012 Will Be Like 1989."
Last week, Indiana became the first state in a decade (and the first state in the Rust Belt) to adopt a right-to-work law. This means that Indiana’s working men and women, like their comrades in 22 other states, will no longer have to pay mandatory dues to union bosses as a condition of employment. Big Labor was apoplectic, but as Shikha Dalmia observes, regardless of how the unions feel, Indiana’s law may very well go down in history as the watershed moment that decisively stemmed the awesome power Big Labor has exerted on American politics for about a century.View this article
The New York Times today introduces America to the mysterious Ron Paul, candidate for president.
It's a pretty positive piece, actually, certainly giving the reader sufficient reason to admire the man's character and steadfastness if not explaining the whys and whats of his ideas with much depth.
It also buries the lead a bit, I think, in stressing Paul's hard-working upbringing from parents of German descent with family tales of hyperinflation as the cause of his ideas first. That's explains too much, I think, as plenty of Americans were born in the Depression to parents with Old World memories and worked hard and ended up New Dealers.
Rather, I think, like most of his libertarian brethren, one should look a little more to those books Ron Paul read--Pasternak, Rand, Hayek, Mises--to explain Paul more precisely. And the story does get to them as well.
The New York Times's Paul comes across as a decent man--hard working all his life, treating destitute patients for free, married to his one and only youthful sweetheart for over 50 years, no angry voices from family or associates to be seen. Of course, they paint him as a good man with peculiar, though well-thought-out and consistent, beliefs, and the sort of guy who is going to let you know about them, whether you care or not.
It may or may not matter to anyone anymore whether Ron Paul is or isn't a card-carrying member of the John Birch Society, a matter the Times always finds fascinating, fighting old ideological wars being a great pleasure apparently for their readers (regardless, Paul has been on the masthead of the JBS's magazine, spoken at their gatherings, and praised their members). I suspect it might have been more useful to readers considering Ron Paul in the context of running for president in 2012, not 1964, to discuss his prescience on the dangers of our Middle Eastern wars and Federal Reserve policies, neither of which get specific significant play in the story.
All told, though, being psychobiographized by the Times is a hazardous situation, and Dr. Paul came through it mostly unscathed.
For my own book-length take on the whats, whys, and hows of Ron Paul, see my forthcoming book Ron Paul's Revolution.
The end results for Ron Paul in Nevada were nearly heartbreakingly disappointing--third behind Gingrich with 18.7 percent, just 6,175 total votes in a very low turnout caucus vote, with more than 10,000 fewer GOP caucus goers than 2008. This was for a campaign and candidate that expected at the least a strong second and, if they continued their pattern of enormous state-by-state increases vs. their vote totals in 2008, maybe even win. See this chart to see what a bizarre outlier Nevada was in terms of Paul improving over 2008:
In some good news, Paul outperformed and Gingrich underperformed the last Public Policy Polling poll leading up to the vote, Paul outperforming by around 4 percentage points and Gingrich underperforming by the same.
What went wrong? Reports of general human error incompetence in the Nevada vote counting and caucus locations abound, and Paul fans more darkly suspect shenanigans that deliberately undercount Paul's vote. (Best I could gather from in-the-know campaign officials indicates that no one thinks there's enough evidence on the table of deliberate cheating to raise a public stink.) Some precinct irregularites might have resulted in precincts being "thrown out," reports the Las Vegas Sun, and Washoe County claimed the state was misreporting results and Clark County's counting process was suspiciously drawn-out over days.
What went wrong for Paul's team? Paul's vaunted ground game did what it usually did in terms of input--lots of bodies on ground, and calls made--100,000 of them in the three days prior to the vote, a one-day possible world record of 40,000 calls made from one location, according to one volunteer.
The campaign had identified as many as 24,000 supposedly committed voters in their phone call operation (that's far more than the 16,486 Romney got, which explains why wild dreams of a win for Paul's people were not so outrageous). But only a bit more than 6,000 actually voted. Unlike the Paul campaign's success in actually generating turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire, that final crucial step, the one that's up to the voters themselves, the one that no amount of Ron Paul campaign staff or volunteer work can do for them--getting off their ass and going to the caucus meeting--was neglected by far too many voters.
The result was a huge morale blow to the campaign and the candidate. It was also somewhat confusing and infuriating. "I don’t know, 6,000 just seems astonishingly low," one volunteer on the ground there says. "Out of all the different public events I went with him to, I swear well more than 6,000 attended those events. And I didn't even go to Reno and the west side of the state." This same activist said that though his and many other fans heads can't wrap their heads around how this happened, "I know the campaign's mentality is, just move on to the next state and get to work."
But the campaign did collect five committed delegates to Gingrich's six, Paul supporters (though bound to the state's proportional results at the Tampa national convention, if those candidates are still running) did their usual game of waiting it out to make sure delegates to the convention are disproportionately from the Paul movement, which will effect the shape of the party's ideology down the road in interesting and likely good ways whether or not Ron Paul is the GOP candidate. Maine and Minnesota and Colorado loom ahead, all nonbinding straw poll caucuses, where Paul is expected by some in the know to wrack up a possible win in Maine, very likely second places in at least Maine and Minnesota (and probably not much in straw vote terms in Colorado), with the usual caucus game of making sure Paul people move ahead to their state and later national GOP conventions as delegates.
In total, the result was disappointing, and bad for media expectations, and surely disappointing and aggravating to Ron Paul himself. (I witnessed in the Ames straw poll in Iowa how let-down he can feel when he has a realistic expectation of doing much better than he does.) All the campaign can tell their supporters is: it's great to express your support for Paul; please try to do it by showing up to vote for him.
And the larger game continues, with no foregone conclusions: collecting delegates, making sure Ron Paul people begin inhabiting the Republican Party in greater numbers, and showing the importance of the ideas of limited government, fiscal sanity, sound money, and sane foreign policy to politicians and media of all parties via the vehicle of Ron Paul. Candidates do not have to win elections to shape political parties and the political future, and despite Gingrich's "in it for the long haul" bravado, right now Ron Paul still seems like the most likely not-Romney to have the cash and juice to do it, because Paul people don't just give because they think he might or will win--they also give because they want to show their support for the ideas he uniquely represents in American politics.
Media bias lesson via Politico: When Paul people are well organized enough to show up and win a caucus, that means they "hijacked" it. CNN reports from that Paul-dominated late-night caucus:
My forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution.
UPDATE: Some relevant info I didn't have in front of me when I posted this originally: youth turnout, always good for Paul, was dismal in Nevada Saturday; only one percent of under 30s voted, compared to 5 percent in 2008. And yes, Paul dominated that one percent, getting 41 percent of their vote.
The death of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in Brooklyn last Friday was the third time that week that a member of the New York Police Department shot a citizen. It now seems likely that that the Graham shooting will be the incident with the most controversial teeth. After all, the teenager was killed in his Grandmother's bathroom, and the Grandmother and Graham's six-year-old brother were in the apartment at the time.
And not only is the initial story — that Graham struggled with police before he was shot — already falling apart (even Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has admitted this) but some newly-released surveillance footage of Graham and the police on his trail makes the NYPD look very bad indeed, and like probable-violators of the Fourth Amendment.
(Though maybe not, thanks to Kentucky vs. King which upheld the right of police to kick down a door if they smelled marijuana; Justice Samuel Alito took the stance that if someone bars police entry on Constitutional grounds that's legal, but if they instead attempt to destroy evidence (making sounds to suggest they are doing that), a warrant-less home invasion is justified. Does the legality of entry also depend on how whether the drugs were visible during the alleged buy? Or the threat of Graham's non-existent gun which cops twice reported over the radio? I don't know, but I would be interested to see what brainier, more legal-minded people have to say, including the folks over at Volokh Conspiracy.)
The footage below shows Graham returning home at a walk. Two police officers are several seconds behind him, but they're running. Graham goes inside and then the cops spend several minutes trying to kick down the front door. They finally move to the back where they successfully broke into the apartment. Below is a New York 1 news report on the footage, and a WPIX report with clearer picture can be found here.
Then things gets hazier. Residents of the apartment say that police didn't identify themselves. You can see "police" on the back of their jackets in the video, but you could also understand some disorientation or confusion over the identity of two gun-toting people who just broke down your back door. Graham definitely was in the bathroom when he was killed, supposedly while trying to flush his recently-purchased marijuana. As mentioned, even Commissioner Kelly is backing away from the allegations that there was a scuffle. The officer who shot Graham, as well as his Sergeant, are both now on restricted leave (desk duty, with their guns and badges revoked). Again, no gun was found on Graham, or in the apartment.
The New York Post reports that NYPD Commissioner Kelly's verdict is promisingly not-100 percent in support of police. He said at a press conference that "the evidence will be presented to a grand jury" and “At this juncture, we see an unarmed person being shot. That always concerns us."
Further stoking the controversy are allegations about how poorly Graham's Grandmother was treated by police. She says she was held for seven hours and denied access to her heart medication.
Iranian kids can't watch The Simpsons; the government has been jamming satellite transmission of the cartoon sitcom for decades. But just to be sure that Iranians are protected from Western moral contamination, Simpsons merchandise is now being banned as well.
The anti-Simpsons edict comes from Mohammad Hossein Farjoo, Secretary for Policy-Making of the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (IIDCYA), an organization founded by the deposed Shah's wife in 1961 with the goal of shaping the cultural and intellectual landscape of Iran. The ban may overstep his mandate. Technically, the Iranian Department of Commerce, which actually is a government agency, has dibs on cultivating the selection of ayatollah-approved goods. Such goods include the traditional Iranian boy and girl pair Dara and Sara (pictured right), similar to Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy, but without the raggedyness. Reuters reports:
A range of officially approved dolls launched in 2002 to counter demand for Barbie have not proven successful, merchants told Reuters.
The dolls...arrived in shops wearing a variety of traditional dress, with Sara fully respecting the rule that all women in Iran must obey in public, of covering their hair and wearing loose-fitting clothes.
"My daughter prefers Barbies [which have been off the market since January]. She says Sara and Dara are ugly and fat," said Farnaz, a 38-year-old mother.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has long been obsessed with what he sees as a campaign of cultural infiltration by the West. That's probably why he's been increasing censorship and imprisonment of Iranian journalists, activists, and computer programmers lately.
He's leaving the cutesy stuff to the private organizations, though: Last month, I reported on the intention of a private Iranian company to produce toy replicas of the American spy plane RQ-170 Sentinel which was captured by Iranian military forces last November. (I also erroneously identified the makers of the toy as Iranian officials, thereby perpetuating the crude misconception that the often disparate goals of a government and those of the civilians to which it lays claim are one in the same. Bad Julie.)
Thus the warning about the moral pitfalls hanging out with "the Simpsons, a famously self-centred and irreligious bunch" in the form of plastic figurines. The IIDCYA, an institution older than the Islamic Revolution itself, has enough influence over these matters that Iranian children may indeed have to settle for fat, ugly, conservatively dressed toys.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino teamed up for a pro-gun control ad that aired during yesterday’s Super Bowl. At The Daily Beast, liberal UCLA law professor Adam Winkler argues that not only is the ad likely to backfire, it might just hurt President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign as well. He writes:
Gun-control proponents can only pray that Obama doesn’t take Menino and Bloomberg’s bait. Making gun control a more important issue in the election would be a terrible mistake for the president—and for the cause of gun control....
For many pro-gun independents, Obama is not seen as a real threat to gun rights. They are focused on more pressing issues, like the economy and jobs. If Obama starts talking about gun control, however, they may begin to believe the NRA’s dire warnings. And the impact will be felt not just in the presidential race. It will hurt Democrats all the way down the ballot. Recall that when the Newt Gingrich–led Republicans seized control of the House in 1994, President Bill Clinton blamed the gun-control laws he himself had pushed through during his first two years in office. Obama’s talking about guns would be a disaster for Democrats and—necessarily—for the prospects of new gun control.
Two perverted teachers may not be enough to make a sex ring, but it’s getting kids two days off from a Los Angeles elementary school this week.
Miramonte Elementary, an L.A. Unified School District school in the unincorporated Florence neighborhood, will be closed tomorrow and Wednesday following the arrests of two teachers charged with sexual abusing their students. From the L.A. Times:
The district said the school would be closed to students Tuesday and Wednesday. It was open as usual Monday, and a number of parents went to the campus to protest the district's handling of situation.
Teacher Mark Berndt has been accused of feeding his students his semen, blindfolding them and placing cockroaches on their hands and faces. Berndt was put on leave a year ago and subsequently fired. He was arrested Jan. 30.
Teacher Martin Bernard Springer was accused of allegedly fondling students. He was ordered out of his classroom Thursday morning and was arrested Friday.
The New York Daily News has details on one girl whose parents complained about Berndt to Miramonte Principal Martin Sandoval in 2008. Rather than addressing their concerns, Sandoval transferred the girl to Springer’s class. Both teachers remained in place. During this time Berndt (not to be confused with an L.A. photographer of the same name) allegedly took more than 400 dirty pictures of children. Amazingly, Berndt was taking his photos in an archaic medium called “film” and was only caught when a CVS film processor blew the whistle on him.
The story is getting national attention, and I don’t want to be too opportunistic in using it against United Teachers Los Angeles (whose law firm represented Berndt after he was removed from class and will probably ensure he continues to get his pension).
But a note about Miramonte: Florence isn’t the worst place in the world, but it’s a lower-income area where the kids actually do fit the description union activists invariably use when telling their sob stories. In my experience, every teacher claims that his or her students are the wretched refuse of the education system. Nobody ever has the grace to allow that one or two kids might be motivated workers with attentive parents. As I said a while back:
It's a math miracle: Every single teacher only teaches kids who are at risk or underprivileged or special needs or special ed. Using teacher math I calculate that every kid in L.A., my own included, would instantly become a drooling homicidal gangbanger if not for the teachers unions.
The vicious class-based slander about parental inattention is belied by the uproar among Miramonte parents. This is exactly the kind of school that supposedly is why we need to spend so much money on public education for the neediest. Yet the school’s customers couldn’t even get a response to credible evidence that their kids were being sexually abused.
- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attacks the LDS Church for selling guns.
- Judge: Four more months to determine if Jared Loughner is sane enough to stand trial.
- Clint Eastwood's Detroit ad wasn't filmed in Detroit.
- Syrian violence causes world leaders to fidget with concern.
- Former JFK intern says he never kissed her on the lips, tried to make her service Teddy.
- Tea Partiers on Mitt Romney: "Meh."
Puerto Rico will soon allow people to hunt down iguanas and sell their meat. Interested hunters can earn up to $6 per pound of iguana flesh, which would be processed and then exported to the United States. Unlike Florida, which strictly limits hunting Burmese pythons, Republican Gov. Luis Fortuno sees the iguanas as a source for new jobs: "It is a way to generate self-employment."
With over 4 million iguanas on the island, they actually outnumber humans in Puerto Rico. These reptiles first came to the island as exotic pets, and were released into the wild by pet owners in the 1970s. But with no natural predators, the iguana population has blossomed. Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources and Environment banned importing iguanas in 2004, but their numbers kept growing.
Now these lugubrious lizards have become massive pests, causing blackouts by burrowing under electric plants and unsettling building foundations. Iguanas have even created flight delays, costing $80,000 annually to remove them from San Juan's airport. (Ironically, many iguana species are vulnerable or endangered throughout most of Latin America.)
Fortunately, iguana is a fairly common ingredient in many Latin American countries, earning the nickname, gallinas de palo, or "chicken of the tree." There's even a cookbook of iguana recipes. The author, George Cera, has personally killed over 16,000 iguanas in Boca Grande, Florida, often shooting them from a golf cart.
Iguana meat isn't quite legal in the United States. Last year, U.S. Customs officials seized over 200 pounds of tree chicken, worth $6,000, from two different individuals. Both were charged with violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Lacey Act.
Ronald Bailey on invasive species. For more on culinary freedom, be sure to check out Keep Food Legal and its founder, Baylen Linnekin. And here's Reason magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch with Gov. Fortuno for Reason.tv:
The victory of the New York Giants in the National Football League’s Super Bowl is the latest in a series of recent news developments that underscore a principle that might be called Manning’s Law, after the Giants quarterback Eli Manning: The predictions of “experts” are often wrong. You can look it up. Sports Illustrated, the venerable, highly profitable jewel of the Time Warner Corporation’s magazine empire, employs a veteran sportswriter named Peter King. The magazine describes him as “one of America's premier pro football writers,” writes Ira Stoll. And yet, Mr. King’s 2011 NFL preview predicted that the Giants wouldn’t even make the playoffs.View this article
Tremble for your nation when you reflect how the leaner, smarter, more adaptable military gets into fighting trim. The 50-year-old carrier USS Enterprise will start its final deployment with a training exercise against a bunch of made-up civilizations Gene Roddenberry himself would have found hard to dramatize. From Navy Times:
The carrier and its entourage of support ships are in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere east of Florida, with land completely out of sight. But for the purposes of the drill, they’re cruising near the fictitious Treasure Coast. Maps displayed on the bridge’s monitors show the contours of the Eastern Seaboard, the Gulf of Mexico and a good chunk of the Midwest, but all state borders have been removed and replaced with a handful of countries that come with their own boundaries and political allegiances.
Enterprise and its strike group are focused on Garnet and North Garnet, countries that support terrorism on the Treasure Coast. They’re fundamentalist Shahida states — a faux-theocracy — and they want to reunite with Pyrope, one of the nine other made-up countries.
On Enterprise, intelligence analysts evaluate the situation, fighter squadrons plan sorties, and the ship’s newspaper, “The Shuttle,” prints an extra section that details the international political situation. It’s a novella set at sea that grows more complex as hours past.
“Those pesky Garnetians,” strike group commander Rear Adm. Walter Carter Jr. told sailors after a day packed with maneuvers, launches and landings.
The Navy says the training isn’t specifically tailored to a possible U.S.-Iran scenario.
“We’re training for all the mission areas,” said Rear Adm. Dennis FitzPatrick, commander of Strike Force Training Atlantic. Those include anti-submarine warfare and counterpiracy missions.
The drills do have applications for potential tension with Iran, however. Treasure Coast includes a fake strait about 200 miles east of Orlando that, like the Strait of Hormuz, is about 35 miles wide at its narrowest point.
“There obviously is an emphasis on where we think the ship will go,” FitzPatrick said.
Thanks, Admiral. You might even put a little more emphasis on where the ship will go. Is there some pattern of revanchist governments looking to form a Bismarckian superstate in the Persian Gulf that the liberal media haven’t been reporting on? (And wouldn’t that be just like the liberal media?)
I’m no supporter of U.S. policy in the Middle East, but the situation there is pretty clear: A country (Iran) led by a demagogue with dwindling popular and political support may or may not be making the necessary effort to develop nuclear weapons while at the same time meddling in the affairs of one country (Syria) whose dictator appears to be on his last legs, solidifying its gains in another country (Iraq) whose hostile dictator was helpfully removed by force of American arms, and supporting a militia in another country (Lebanon) nobody cares much about.
Bonus points for blurring the distinctions between U.S. territory and that of other nations, however. That will certainly come in handy when the Navy finally cracks down on Occupy Guam.
Courtesy of Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge, who writes: "[T]he farcism that has defined capital markets for the past 3 years is slowly migrating to military planning."
Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty (author of the forthcoming book Ron Paul's Revolution and Reason magazine's forthcoming April cover feature on his campaign) appeared with fellow guest Leslie Sanchez on Friday on Erin Burnett's CNN show OutFront, focusing largely on where Paul's fans will or might go if he's not the GOP candidate. This was pre-Nevada vote:
This week the backers of a California ballot initiative aimed at regulating the medical marijuana business are expected to get the approvals they need to start collecting signatures. The Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act (PDF) would let patients and their "designated primary caregivers" form "collectives, cooperatives and other business entities in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate, acquire, process, possess, transport, test, sell and distribute marijuana for medical purposes." The initiative would create a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Enforcement within the California Department of Consumer Affairs to oversee these entities, collecting application fees from them and issuing "mandatory registrations" that would shield them from criminal penalties under state law. In addition to the fees, the initiative would impose a special 2.5 percent sales tax, on top of the existing sales taxes (7.25 percent state plus up to 2.5 percent local). It would allow cities and counties to collect their own medical marijuana taxes of up to 2.5 percent and "enact reasonable zoning regulations and other restrictions applicable to the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana based on local needs." But the initiative says there has to be at least one dispensary per 50,000 residents, and jurisdictions with populations above that threshold could ban dispensaries only with voter approval.
The initiative's supporters, which include Americans for Safe Access as well as various growers and retailers, hope this system, which is similar to Colorado's but with less of a role for local regulation, will discourage federal interference by clarifying the rules for supplying medical marijuana. But as The Sacramento Bee notes, Colorado's regulations have not stopped that state's U.S. attorney, John Walsh, from threatening dispensaries that comply with state law. Although Walsh's threats so far have been aimed at dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school, at least some of them are following state and local regulations. Walsh emphasizes that "the Department of Justice has the authority to enforce the federal law where appropriate even when such activities may be permitted under state law." I have been trying to get his office to clarify whether that means compliance with state law makes no difference to Walsh, but his spokesman, Jeff Dorschner, has not returned my calls. At this point it is not at all clear that Attorney General Eric Holder's assurances regarding medical marijuana suppliers who follow state law amount to anything in practice. The Bee's story reflects that uncertainty:
University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin said the federal actions are likely a surgical strike, not a broad assault. But he said "if the feds don't respect" Colorado's regulatory program, "they're not going to respect the watered-down version that we see (in the measure proposed) in California."
Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said he met recently with his region's top U.S. prosecutor, Melinda Haag of San Francisco. He said she "wasn't very encouraging" that an initiative – or legislation – could inoculate California's pot industry against federal actions.
Another possible problem with the California initiative is that it seems to conflict with the state appeals court ruling that overturned Long Beach's licensing system for dispensaries. Last October the 2nd District Court of Appeal said Long Beach violated the federal Controlled Substances Act because it went "beyond decriminalization into authorization." Specifically, the court cited the city's application fees and its awarding of permits via a lottery. The Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act does not call for a lottery, but it does establish application fees, and its "mandatory registrations" seem to be a euphemism for permits, since dispensaries could not legally operate without them. Then again, the California Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the Long Beach case, and it may overturn the 2nd Circuit's decision.
"As significant as 1989 when the Berlin wall came down, overwhelmingly the story of 2012 is centered in the Middle East,” says Freedom House's Arch Puddington. "People were inspired by events in Egypt, they started demanding their rights.”
Puddington has helped record the long-overdue revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and countries in the Freedom in the World 2012 index. Founded in 1941, Freedom House quantifies and ranks the political freedom and civil liberties of every country in the world as "Free," "Partly Free," or "Not Free."
Though the Arab Spring has led some regimes to respond with arrests and killings, Puddington remains confident political rights and civil liberties will succeed in the longer run. Since the first Freedom in the World index was published in 1973, he notes, free countries have doubled in number and not-free countries have declined. In the 2012 edition, 87 countries are listed as Free, 60 as Partly Free, and 48 as Not Free.
About 4.55 minutes.
Interview by Matt Welch. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Joshua Swain; edited by Swain.
From the good people at Pew: The American people are even less fond of Washington insiders than they were in 2007.
The public expresses mixed views of presidential candidates who have extensive Washington, D.C. experience -- 26% say they would be more likely to support such a candidate, while about as many (25%) say they would be less likely.
This is a change from 2007, when 35% of people said they would be more likely to support a candidate who has spent a long time in Washington; 15% said they would be less likely.
Maybe that's because of stuff like this:
Over at the Washington Examiner, Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy provides a crash course in tax progressivity. It turns out that despite America's lower nominal rates, top U.S. earners kick in more than their European counterparts when it comes to federal taxes:
Over the last 30 years, the progressivity of the rate structure has decreased in the United States. In the 1980s, the top marginal rate used to be 70 percent while it stands at half that today....
However, this decline in nominal progressivity doesn’t tell you much about the actual progressivity of a tax system. That depends on the size of the exemptions, which are relatively large and frequent for U.S. taxpayers.
The OECD data shows that other countries tend to have much higher tax rates than the U.S. does but the threshold of income at which the top rate in applied is much lower.
For instance, it takes almost 3.4 times less income in France than in the U.S. to be taxed at the highest French rate. It means that other countries have higher rates but also more regressive systems.
By contrast, the United States has lower top lower rate but these lower rates kick at a much higher level—meaning that it take much more income to face the highest rates--hence the steeper progressivity.
Other factors, such as Europe's reliance on consumption-based taxes such as the V.A.T., also mean that a higher percentage of the tax burden in America is borne by high-income earners.
De Rugy's original article on progressivity is here. A snippet:
The richest 10 percent of U.S. households (those making $112,124 or more) contribute a greater share of taxes (45.1 percent of all income taxes) than their counterparts in any other industrialized nation.
Meanwhile, the average tax burden for the top 10 percent of households in OECD countries is 31.6 percent of the revenue collected, well below the percentage in America.
Interestingly, in France, a notorious welfare-state government, only 28 percent of revenue comes from the top 10 percent of income earners. As for the top 1 percent of Americans, their share of federal taxes paid is roughly 30 percent.
A week or so ago, I talked with my frequent collaborator de Rugy about why the Occupy movement should recognize the elderly rather than "the 1 Percent" as its true enemy:
Washington Post left-wing columnist E.J. Dionne explains today that people with whom he disagrees should not be able to buy ad space to explain their political views and candidate preferences to the public. Of course, Dionne is merely expressing the dismay that the Left's decades-long efforts to shut up political discourse that offends its minions or challenges their policies was overturned in what he calls the "outrageous" Supreme Court Citizens United decision. As Dionne expostulates:
The Citizens United justices were not required to think through the practical consequences of sweeping aside decades of work by legislators, going back to the passage of the landmark Tillman Act in 1907, who sought to prevent untoward influence-peddling and indirect bribery.
If ever a court majority legislated from the bench (with Bush’s own appointees leading the way), it was the bunch that voted forCitizens United. Did a single justice in the majority even imagine a world of super PACs and phony corporations set up for the sole purpose of disguising a donor’s identity? Did they think that a presidential candidacy might be kept alive largely through the generosity of a Las Vegas gambling magnate with important financial interests in China? Did they consider that the democratizing gains made in the last presidential campaign through the rise of small online contributors might be wiped out by the brute force of millionaires and billionaires determined to have their way?
“The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.” Those were Justice Anthony Kennedy’s words in his majority opinion. How did he know that? Did he consult the electorate? Did he think this would be true just because he said it?
Actually, Dionne is right. In fact, the "justices were not required to think through the practical consequences of sweeping aside decades of work by legislators." What the justices are "required" to do is to determine if the laws conform to the restrictions established by the U.S. constitution. In this case, the Court correctly decided that the campaign finance laws violated the First Amendment. As the Court decided [PDF]:
Although the First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech,” §441b’s [McCain-Feingold campaign finance law's] prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions [emphasis added]. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a [political action committee] PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is a separate association from the corporation. Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence.
Dionne ends his screed against free speech:
In the long run, we have to hope that a future Supreme Court will overturn this monstrosity, remembering that the first words of our Constitution are “We the People,” not “We the Rich.”
Why do Dionne and his ilk have such a hard time remembering the plain words of the First Amendment?:
Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press....
What's so hard to understand about the phrase "Congress shall make no law"?
For lots of insightful Reason coverage on free speech and campaign finance go here.
Our entire February 2012 issue is now available online. Don’t miss Matt Welch on how the Moon landing became a government-aggrandizing metaphor, Katherine Mangu-Ward on the 21st-century pioneers who want to take you into space, and Robert Zubrin on NASA’s irrational response to risk, plus Mike Godwin’s review of Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Apple founder Steve Jobs, the compete Citings and Briefly Noted sections, the Artifact, and more.
Asset forfeiture, when done by the book, is essentially a "license to steal." Cops conducting or serving a drug-related raid or warrant often don’t just confiscate drugs; they also seize cash, computers, cars, and recreational electronics. While there’s no apparent justification for confiscating these items, the law allows it and police department higher-ups encourage it, so cops do it. The only thing required of the officers who walk away with your stuff is that they document what they’ve taken.
When cops fail to document their haul, it’s theft-theft. This appears to be the case in New Orleans, where NOPD officers serving a search warrant at the art studio of a suspected drug dealer walked out with two personal safes and a ton of other loot that likely wasn’t on the warrant, and that the officers then failed to document. The Times-Picayune reports:
Ashley Boudreaux, the caretaker at ArtEgg studios, said she was there when police arrived. Stefen Daigle had signed a "consent to search" form allowing police to search his unit.
Later, while outside smoking a cigarette, she watched the officers carry boxes of evidence out of the building, including two safes. At one point, one of the safes toppled off a handcart used to wheel it out, she recalled.
When Boudreaux went to check on the studio after police left, she found that a door between Daigle's unit and the neighboring unit had been forcibly opened. The baseboard that covered the locked door between the two units was removed, and scratches on the frame seemed to indicate it had been pried open, Boudreaux said.
The two units -- Nos. 215 and 216 -- were both leased by Scott Bean, a friend of Daigle's who has since died. Kitchens on Monday said most of the materials that police seized were taken from No. 215, which Boudreaux said was mainly used by Bean.
Boudreaux said she had been in that unit a few days before the police raid. The door appeared to still be closed and locked at that point.
In the police report about the raid, NOPD Detective Ray Veit wrote that he and three other officers went into No. 216 with Daigle, where they saw a partition and an open door that led to another room. The report describes officers seizing a substance they believed to be crystal methamphetamine, along with other containers. Veit and another officer then went into the other room and seized other drugs, along with digital scales and a black suitcase containing a food "sealer" from an open closet, the report stated.
Officers also reported seizing "three glass smoking devices," but photographs takens by Boudreaux show that police left behind what appeared to be at least a couple homemade pipes.
There is no mention of any safes in the report.
The theft of the safes from the ArtEgg Complex by New Orleans’ finest is not the most troubling thing about NoLa PD’s case against 24-year-old artist Stefen Daigle. That would be the video evidence of extortion, which led Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to drop charges against Daigle late last month:
[Daigle's attorney] Roger Kitchens said arresting officers extorted money from his client. He showed prosecutors a video that captured his client, Stefen Daigle, going into a French Quarter apartment with two law enforcement officers. When the officers return, one is holding a bag.
Kitchens says the bag contains $3,500 that was in Daigle's French Quarter apartment, money the officers forced him to turn over. The video -- obtained by WDSU-TV and first reported Friday -- does not show what is in the sack.
However, Kitchens says the video undercuts sworn testimony given last month by Detective Ray Veit, who Kitchens said was waiting in a New Orleans Police Department squad car outside Daigle's apartment while other officers went upstairs.
The three officers initially arrested Daigle outside his art space at the ArtEgg studios in Mid-City. But according to Kitchens, they then drove him to his apartment on St. Peter Street in the Quarter.
Veit testified "that they never went anywhere with my client," Kitchens said. "There is video of the cops leaving the apartment with a bag. Inside the bag, was the $3,500, my client will tell you. That money was never put into evidence. He dug himself into a hole as deep as the Grand Canyon.
"He was asked, 'Was there any other evidence, anything else?' He said no."
After the officers came back downstairs, they booked Daigle with distribution of methamphetamine and took him to lockup, Kitchens said.
WDSU reported that a "consent to search" form that authorities filed before entering Daigle's art studio listed the St. Peter Street apartment. But it was scratched out later, and Veit "testified it was a mistake, that they never went there," Kitchens said.
More on the ArtEgg/Daigle story, which has sparked a wide-ranging internal investigation, from Times-Picayune reporter Laura Maggi.
While the U.S. has been busy trying to bring order to failed states in Afghanistan and elsewhere, The Daily’s Mara Gay reports that its own failed city, Detroit, is continuing its steady descent into the state of nature. Residents, unable to rely on a dwindling police force to keep them safe, are taking matters into their own hands. Justifiable homicide in the city shot up 79 percent in 2011 from the previous year. The local rate of self-defense killings now stands 2,200 percent above the national average.
How it got this bad in Detroit has become a point of national discussion. Violent crime settled into the city’s bones decades ago, but recently, as the numbers of police officers have plummeted and police response times have remained distressingly high, citizens have taken to dealing with things themselves.
What’s more, courts are doing the decent thing and looking the other way. Gay recounts:
Signs that vigilantism was taking hold in the city came earlier, around Memorial Day 2009, when former federal agent Alvin Davis decided he’d had enough of the break-ins at his mother’s home on the east side. She called the police again and again, but the brazen robberies continued. Davis, then a 32-year-old Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, snapped.
Prosecutors said he spent days chasing and harassing the teenagers who were allegedly robbing his mother, even shoving his federally issued firearm into one of their mouths. No one was killed, but by the time he was done, Davis had racked up charges of unlawful imprisonment and assault. In August 2010, he was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
But many residents in his mother’s Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood are sympathetic to Davis, whose case is on appeal.
“He basically did what a lot of us wished we could do,” said Ken Gray, 58, who lives down the street from Davis’ mother.
One high-ranking official in the county legal system, speaking to The Daily, said the rise in justifiable homicides mirrors a local court system that’s increasingly lenient of the practice.
“It’s a lot more acceptable now to get your own retribution,” the official said. “And the justice system in the city is a lot more understanding if people do that. It‘s becoming a part of the culture.”
Detroiters are arming themselves with shotguns and handguns and buying guard dogs. Anything to take care of their own. And privately, residents say neighborhood watch groups in Detroit are widely armed.
And as a neighbor of Detroit's, all I can say is more power to them.
Incidentally, I am not a connoisseur of the minarchy vs. anarchy debate. But it seems that if Detroit’s citizens can find some way to create a sphere of law and (spontaneous) order in the face of this massive government failure, they will offer some support for the viability of the latter.
Gaya’s whole story is well worth a read.
In Michigan, a state that has been an economic disaster for going on 30 years, there's a Senate race gearing up between incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow and Republican challenger Peter Hoekstra, a former long-time congressman.
The ad below was paid for by Hoekstra, a.k.a. "Pete Spend It Not" and aired during the Super Bowl in certain Wolverine State markets. It attacks "Debbie Spend It Now" and uses a Chinese-American actress speaking broken English to drive home the idea that our government borrowing lots of money is helping the Chinese get rich.
Bonus points, too, for the using stereotypically "Chinese" music, including shimmering gong sound, and footage of rice paddies. In terms of cinematic cliches, about the only missing is a blind Shaolin monk, a ritual incantation that "we need more Calgon," and maybe Sir John Gielgud playing an inscrutable and unconvincing Asiatic.
But is it racist? The Detroit Free Press reports
Black ministers in Detroit and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote group’s Michigan chapter both called the ad racially insensitive. The other Republicans running for the Senate nomination said it proved that Hoekstra is not the best candidate to take on Stabenow in November. Democrats were united in their criticism and even some Republicans called the ad racist, xenophobic and “really, really dumb,” in social media postings.
To which Hoekstra says
the ad, which was filmed in California and featured an actress whose parents are 100% Chinese, was only insensitive to Debbie Stabenow, whom he called “Debbie Spend-it-now.”
“The Chinese benefit from the recklessness of U.S. spending. It doesn’t criticize the Chinese at all,” he said.
Regardless of the race issue, there's a tougher issue that "Pete Spend It Not" should be forced to confront:
Democrats were quick to challenge the premise of the ad, referring to Hoekstra's 18 years in the U.S. House and the fact that he joined a Washington-based law and lobbying firm last year.
"Hoekstra's ad is nothing more than a hypocritical attempt at a Hollywood-style makeover because the fact is, Pete spends a lot," Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said. "Hoekstra voted for the $700-billion Wall Street bailout and voted for trillions more in deficit spending before quitting Congress to get rich at a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm."
Which really gets to the heart of the matter of why Michigan is such a sorry place: The folks there really don't have good choices to make, except to leave the state altogether. Which is of course what people have been doing.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune tells the world how painful it was for his lobbying group to stop taking millions in donations from natural gas companies. And what organization wouldn't be happy to rake in $26 million in donations?
Now the Sierra Club has decided that natural gas is just another evil fossil fuel that it getting in the way of the solar, wind, geothermal future that the organization wants to impose on Americans. And that's OK. Environmentalism as an ideology is driven by the constant need to create an endless series of monsters to fear - natural gas is now one of the newer ones. The Sierra Club flip flop on natural gas as a "bridge fuel" to the low-carbon energy economy was motivated by NIMBY concerns of local chapters and the fact that cheap abundant natural gas makes the case for expensive renewable energy sources even less economically plausible.
Fred Smith, president of the free market think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has an insightful article, Countering the Assault on Capitalism, on the puzzling fact of why corporations continue to supply millions of dollars to lobbying groups that are inimicable to their long term interests. Smith quotes economist Joseph Schumpeter's 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy:
‘[Rather than educating its] enemies, [business] allows itself . . . to be educated by them. It absorbs the slogans of current radicalism and seems quite willing to undergo a process of conversion to a creed hostile to its very existence. . . . This would be most astonishing and indeed very hard to explain were it not for the fact that the typical bourgeois is rapidly losing faith in his own creed.
[Business leaders] . . . talk and plead – or hire people to do it for them; they snatch at every chance of compromise; they are ever ready to give in; they never put up a fight under the flag of their own ideals and interest.’
As a result Smith explains:
Entrepreneurs doubt the morality of their own endeavours and accept political restraints. They internalise the accusations flung against them and become, as Schumpeter described, ‘state-broken’. It need not be this way; an alternative is clear to see. Businesses spend vast sums crafting and disseminating narratives to reach consumers, to persuade them that their products and services are good and worthwhile.
Why don’t businesses seek to direct their advertising narratives to gain legitimacy? They are under political attack from government regulations as well as intellectual ideologues who blame them – and capitalism – for all society’s problems. As much as they employ Vice Presidents of Environment, Community Relations, Public and Government Affairs, Employee Relations and a host of other political positions, businesses should similarly hire agents to legitimise their social role.
So what to do? Instead of participating the protection rackets faithlessly run by the ideological enemies for free markets, Smith argues that business people should seek to save capitalism by supporting classical liberal intellectuals:
Schumpeter presciently warned that capitalism would create an unholy alliance of anti-market intellectuals and rent-seeking businesses. But he did not envision challengers to that view – a holy alliance of classical liberal intellectuals and pro-market entrepreneurs. Competing on a more level playing field, integrating more effectively with like-minded classical liberals offers a promising resolution to Schumpeter’s gloomy prediction.
Business and free market intellectuals together could create robust strategies to encourage experiments in the private sphere. To do so, the business community must understand the scope and consequence of their value in the political sphere. Incremental reforms that remove the rocks from the path to the future are the most likely way to restore capitalism and ensure a prosperous tomorrow. Emerging concerns and resources must be evaluated in the market – the world of voluntary exchanges – rather than in the public sphere.
Being a classical liberal, it is not surprising that I would find Smith's analysis compelling. The Sierra Club episode is just one more example showing that industries cannot permanently buy protection from their ideological enemies. The (self-serving) take-away lesson to business leaders: Support your friends.
Finally, why doesn't the Sierra Club give back the $26 million if it feels sullied by taking evil fossil fuel money?
After many political battles and court fights, it’s finally over. California’s heavy-handed and arrogant redevelopment agencies, which dispensed corporate welfare and abused eminent domain, are kaput. There may be weeping and gnashing of teeth in redevelopment circles, writes Steven Greenhut, but other Californians should rejoice.View this article
Reason contributor and Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin weighs in on what used to be the best part of any Super Bowl (before the Giants beating the Patriots became a regular thing at least):
The Teleflora ad promising that your girlfriend will turn into a hypersexual supermodel if you just send her some flowers? Seen it. The college kid who thinks he’s just gotten a Chevy convertible for graduation but really it’s a mini-fridge? The Toyota Camry ad featuring a couch made of lingerie models, a poopless baby and a crime-fighting plant? The polar bears fumbling a Coke bottle like a pack of furry Dolphins wide receivers? Seen ’em all.
The ad leakage to the Internet was so profound that the website SuperBowlAdsForGeeks.com actually ran a list of ads that weren’t released on-line before airing. (The site’s name is no exaggeration; it also posted a list of frequently asked questions that started off: Q. What is the Super Bowl? A. A professional football championship game.)
As Garvin notes, it was hard not to see many, maybe most of these ads pre-game:
More than half of the 70-odd ads that aired during Sunday night’s Super Bowl telecast had been circulating on the Internet for days or even weeks. At $3.5 million a pop for a 30-second commericial, advertisers want to leverage every eyeball they can -- and they’ve discovered the way to do that is to preview the ads on-line.
Honda’s CR-V ad with Matthew Broderick reviving his Ferris Bueller’s Day Off character, goofing off from work instead of school? It had already been seen more than 10 million times before game time. No hyperbole — literally, 10 million mouse-clicks on American computers.
What's interesting about this to me is that for all the talk of the internet segmenting and isolating people, the fact is that it's created whole new audiences and extended the news cycle not just for news but for all sorts of cultural discussions and products. The Soft Launch has replaced the Grand Opening; thanks largely to the computer industry and the web, we expect things to be tested in real-time and go through various versions and iterations on the way to becoming truly useful. That's a good thing, rather than pegging so much of our time and hopes to the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass (sorry, Pats' fans).
A pet peeve regarding Broderick being used in a car ad: Do Americans really have that short a cultural memory that Matthew Broderick can now pitch autos? In 1987, he killed two people while driving (and not drinking[**]) in Ireland, and was let off with a $175 fine, leading to the memorable New York Post headline "Ferris Bueller Gets Off." He has reportedly made peace with the past and his victims' families, which is all to the good. But it's just kind of weird to see him hawking Hondas.
[**] Corrected dropped word.
In case you're not among the 13 million people who have watched the long version of the Honda ad:
- Barack Obama is polling above Mitt Romney for the first time "this cycle."
- Organizing for America has its sights set on Mitt.
- Newt Gingrich plummets in the polls.
- Nevadans looking for the "true conservative" voted for Ron Paul.
- There's not much left at Occupy D.C.
- Ford didn't like GM's taxpayer-funded Super Bowl hit job commercial.
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New at Reason.tv: "Mormons for...Ron Paul?!"
We know why most candidates undertake the race—Al Gore to avert environmental catastrophe, George W. Bush to carry on the family business, John McCain to serve his country and Obama to heal racial and ideological divisions. Romney just seems like a rich guy who needs a new challenge, writes Steve Chapman. About Gingrich's motive, there has never been any doubt: to feed an insatiable ego that makes him imagine he has a historic, God-given mission to transform the country.View this article
Las Vegas – Ron Paul’s distant third place finish in the Republican caucuses did not live up to the high expectations his campaign set for him in Nevada. For months now we have been told about his caucus state strategy and how it would allow him to gobble up delegates all the way to the convention. If a brokered convention went down Paul might be in a position to play kingmaker, we were told. Paul, with his devoted legions, was supposed to thrive in this tediously complex low turnout environment. It was Paul supporters that would not oversleep on a Saturday and show up to their caucusing station before 9:00 a.m.
At the time of this post Paul’s highly touted Nevada operation failed to overcome the nearly nonexistent operation of Newt Gingrich. We are still waiting on a quarter of the precincts to report their totals. But as it stands right now, Mitt Romney won with 47.6% of vote; Newt Gingrich placed second with 22.7%; and Paul finished third with 18.6%. Rick Santorum, who pretty much wrote this state off, finished in fourth with 11.1%.
If this result holds it is a significant setback for Paul, as caucuses like this are the core of his campaign strategy, one similar to Barack Obama’s in 2008. Paul supporters are the most fanatical of any of the candidates remaining but Nevada demonstrated that he cannot rely on them alone to carry him to victory in caucuses. His plans are running into another bump with at least one of the candidates taking the caucuse states very seriously. One bright spot for Paul is that his followers are versed in the state delegate process while most campaigns appear to be focused on just the ballot box. Paul may have finished poorly here but according to people in his campaign they are optimistic about their efforts to elect delegates to the state convention in Reno.
“We’re liking what we’re hearing,” one operative told me.
In emails, Paul supporters frequently reported disappointing caucus results but were giddy over the election of their compatriots to the convention in Reno. It was not uncommon to read or hear about every delegate at a caucus being a pro-Paul delegate. This is a positive development for his campaign but it is not a process that is replicated in every state. If Paul continues to struggle in caucus states he will have to find more unorthodox ways to increase his delegate count.
In the Washingtion Examiner, Glenn Instapundit Reynolds writes about a new book arguing the real divide in today's America is between moochers and producers:
"Fifty thousand for what you didn’t plant, for what didn’t grow. That’s modern farming -- reap what you don’t sow.”
That’s a line from a song about farm subsidies, “Farming The Government,” by the Nebraska Guitar Militia.
But these days it applies to more and more of the U.S. economy, as Charles Sykes points out in his new book, A Nation Of Moochers: America’s Addiction To Getting Something For Nothing.
The problem, Sykes points out, is that you can’t run an economy like that. If you tried to hold a series of potluck dinners where a majority brought nothing to the table, but felt entitled to eat their fill, it would probably work out badly. Yet that’s essentially what we’re doing....
And, after a while, people who pay their bills on time start to feel like suckers. I think we’ve reached that point now:
* People who pay their mortgages - often at considerable personal sacrifice - see others who didn’t bother get special assistance.
* People who took jobs they didn’t particularly want just to pay the bills see others who didn’t getting extended unemployment benefits.
* People who took risks to build their businesses and succeeded see others, who failed, getting bailouts. It rankles at all levels.
And an important point of Sykes’ book is that moocher-culture isn’t limited to farmers or welfare queens. The moocher-vs-sucker divide isn’t between the rich and poor, but between those who support themselves and those nursing at the government teat.
Plenty of the wealthy are doing the latter, and that has its own consequences, which are often worse than those stemming from goodies for the poor.
In a world of bailouts and crony capitalism - which is to say, in the world we live in today - a rational businessperson has to compare the return on investment between improving a product or service, or lobbying the government for goodies....
Henderson, Nev. - Ron Paul may have finished second in the caucus here, but according to his supporters, he did very well in the battle for delegates to the state convention. Here Paul delegates Miles Planette and Karen Manning talk about their caucus experience. Karen, 52, was active in 2008 while this is the first rodeo for Planette, 21.
Henderson, Nev. - Covering a caucus is a bit different from covering a primary or general election, because you only get to visit one site. You cannot jump from caucus to caucus because they all start and end at about the same time. Some reporters luck out and end up at really interesting caucuses like mine; others end up having really bad experiences.
One thing that struck me about the caucus I attended was that despite its chaotic beginings, everybody remained civil. Nobody started screaming and yelling when a new chair was chosen. Below are some quick videos of caucus day at Green Valley High School.
This is a clip of what it looks like outside the caucus place when people first arrive. It is a bit chaotic and confusing, especially if you have no idea what you're doing or where you're going.
In this video the people of precinct 7683 nominate and select a caucus chairman after the designated one failed to show up.
From CBS News, updated around 10.25 pm ET:
With the doors closed at caucus precincts across Nevada, CBS News projects that Mitt Romney has won the Nevada Republican caucuses by a sizable margin, giving him his third victory in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
With 148 of 1,835 precincts reporting, Romney has 41 percent of the vote. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with 25 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul, with 22 percent, are battling for second place. Former Sen. Rick Santorum has 13 percent of the vote.
Henderson, Nev. – When people gathered at Green Valley High School to participate in the 2012 Republican caucus, it looked like organized chaos. Lines of people were snaking from three different directions to a series of small tables where caucus participants could find out where to go. Confused voters cut lines and interrupted caucus workers trying to help people find their own caucus rooms. Peppy cheers from a cheerleading competition across the quad added to the noise.
At the caucus for precinct 7683 there was momentary confusion when the caucus chairman did not appear at the start. Eventually the group elected a chair, Valerie Blake, 47, from among those present. From there the group had instructions on a sheet that they had to follow.
- Check voter eligibility
- Select delegates to the state convention
- Speeches from the candidates supporters
- Open floor discussion
- Vote for president
After the instructions were given there were occasional delays due to paperwork issues but the caucus moved quickly without any major problems. Six delegates were elected to the state convention of which two were Ron Paul supporters.
Karen Manning, 52, one of the delegates elected to go the state convention, spoke for Paul at the caucus.
“It’s all about small government and staying within the confines of the constitution. If it’s not outlined in the Constitution, government should not be doing it,” she said, encouraging caucus goers to vote for Paul.
Mitt Romney won this precinct with 23 votes, followed by Paul with nine. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich both had five.
Manning was disappointed, but she expected Paul to finish at least second.
“I wanted more. We were really organized in this precinct but there were just more broad based Romney supporters here. Plus, he’s been given more media support and a larger platform nationally,” she said.
The other Paul delegate, Miles Planette, 21, said that people should vote for Paul because he is the only candidate who wants to stop the welfare state at home and abroad. “We talk about curtailing spending at home but we can’t forget so much of our budget is devoted to things overseas,” he said.
One Romney supporter said he liked Paul but did not like his libertarian approach to social issues. “Ron Paul’s policies will give people access to drugs so they can destroy themselves,” said David, the Romney supporter.
Planette countered, “I don’t do drugs myself and would not recommend them but it’s not of my business or the government’s business what my neighbor does in the privacy of his own home.”
“As long as he isn’t hurting anyone, what does it matter?” said Planette.
The discussion then shifted from the War on Drugs to electability and beating President Obama.
Las Vegas - After starting his day in the remote town of Pahrump Ron Paul returned to Sin City to make one last push before today's caucuses. Paul visited a gun store and an American-Filipino veterans event at a Leatherneck Club.
The event at American Shooters was borderline chaotic as people jammed the doorways to get a glimps of Paul. As Paul was leaving the event a mother startled Paul by thrusting a baby at him. The candidate obliged her with picture. Paul's security team struggled to make a path for him on his way across the street to the Leatherneck Club.
At the Leatherneck, Paul pledged his support for HR 210, the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act. Paul deviated from his standard stump speech and focused on his support of the bill while emphasizing his efforts as a congressman to find lost medals and commendations for veterans.
"I think it's definitely possible to be a libertarian and a Mormon," says Dustin Peterson, BYU-Idaho student and board member of Latter-Day Saints for Ron Paul.
Peterson, who spent time volunteering for the Paul campaign in Iowa, spoke with Reason.tv while in Spokane, WA about why Ron Paul might take Mormon votes away from the only Mormon in the race.
While many political analysts believe Mitt Romney has a near-monopoly on the Mormon vote, Ron Paul has spent considerable time courting LDS members living in Western caucus states like Nevada and Idaho (which happen to be the states where he performed best in 2008).
While he expects most Mormons to fall into line behind Romney, Peterson says Mormons have many reasons to support Ron Paul, including theological ones.
"Within our faith, there's a concept called 'agency,' and that's close to liberty," says Peterson. "We're taught to make choices and to decide based on our agency."
While Peterson believes that Mitt Romney will still win most of the Mormon vote, he's hopeful about the future.
"About half the students at BYU-Idaho are Ron Paul supporters, and the other half support Mitt Romney," Peterson says. "There's a battle going on right now on the campuses about the future of the Republican Party."
About 2 minutes. Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Sharif Matar. Edited by Weissmueller.
Visit Reason.tv for downloadable versions of our videos. And subscribe to our YouTube channel to get automatic updates when new material goes live.
Pahrump, Nev. - This is the only county Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) won in the 2008 Nevada Caucus, and Paul's campaign event at the Skate Zone today made it pretty clear why. The entirely volunteer-run event had all the trappings of a professional campaign: people providing information on where to caucus, merchandise hawkers, audio and visual people, and a massive map for people just to make sure, again, that they knew where they were going tomorrow.
Even before arriving at the event I had to drive by several massive "Ron Paul for President" signs that dotted the main roads into town. Paul's event in Elko was well run but this was on a whole different level.
"Like all the grassroots Ron Paul things, there's nobody really in charge. Somebody says something needs to get done somebody steps up and does it," said, Pat Kerby, one of the main Paul organizers in Nye County.
Sources in the Paul campaign said the candidate relied on the local organizers to select the venue and do the rest. All the campaign did was put up the money to rent the facility and cover incidentals.
"We learned all about this process in 2008 and we're ready to repeat our victory again by a much bigger margin," said Kerby, a retired project manager with the Clark County School system.
There was even a local security team comprised of several men openly carrying handguns, uniformly dressed in black "Ron Paul 2012 Freedom Tour" shirts. In addition to these volunteers, Paul has his own security.
Sam Jones, one of the local security volunteers, was carrying .45 Long Colt on his side. Jones said that he’s been volunteering with the campaign since he heard Paul was running.
“All the signs you see around the valley, we build and put ‘em up,” he said.
Jones said he will not vote for another candidate if Ron Paul is not the Republican Party nominee, but he said he was open to Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson.
Paul’s Nevada campaign chairman, Carl Bunce expects Paul to win Nevada tomorrow as long as his campaign turns out its identified supporters. Bunce said the campaign did not have a problem with people openly carrying guns at campaign events. “Ron Paul is strong on the Second Amendment. We have the right to bear arms,” he said.
Months after Lance Armstrong’s attorney sought an investigation of federal government leaks to the establishment media, U.S. attorneys have ended their investigation of the cycling champion.
United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. capitulated in a press conference today, announcing that his office "is closing an investigation into allegations of federal criminal conduct by members and associates of a professional bicycle racing team owned in part by Lance Armstrong."
Birotte failed to specify his reasons for closing down the investigation into claims of blood doping. Since July, Armstrong attorney Mark Fabiani has been demanding an investigation to find whether prosecutors were actively leaking damaging details to reporters.
Armstrong, who survived advanced testicular cancer at age 25 but went on to win the Tour de France seven times and date Sheryl Crow, was targeted not only by the federal government but by 60 Minutes. Anchorman Scott Pelley devoted nearly an hour of broadcast time and several "Overtimes" to hawking an anti-Armstrong interview with cyclist Tyler Hamilton, an admitted serial doper whose Olympic gold medal has been revoked. (Armstrong during his career passed 24 unannounced tests for performance-enhancement violations.)
"Blood doping" is a process of concentrating red blood cells so that your blood will somehow be more vigorous than that of other cyclists, who presumably must make do with whatever hemotherapeutic benefits can be derived from eating liver and oysters. Although doping once required an uncomfortable process of blood extraction and transfusion, advances since the 1980s have made it easier and more convenient.
I have never met Lance Armstrong and have no particular feelings about him. Although I find his public persona more agreeable than those of the only other cyclists I can name – Floyd Landis and Greg LeMond – Armstrong was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, a legally protected monopoly that should not require any advertising. As far as I’m concerned, the only Tour de France winner who matters is Pee Wee Herman.
But I do wonder why the squares went after him with such a vengeance. U.S. attorneys have broad discretion to pick their targets. So does 60 Minutes. What possible upside did they see in tearing down a beloved athlete and cancer activist?
According to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, thanks to Barack Obama, “we are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy.” Actually, writes Sheldon Richman, the U.S. never had a free market. What we have is a corporatist system, and the sooner we get rid of it the better.View this article
Institute for Justice lawyer Paul Sherman makes some incisive points regarding Stephen Colbert's supposedly satirical super PAC, noting that Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow is not the indictment of Citizens United that the comedian and fans such as Slate's Dahlia Lithwick think it is:
Virtually everything Stephen Colbert is doing was legal before Citizens United.
Although Colbert has often used the phrase “unlimited corporate money” in reference to his Super PAC, last Tuesday's disclosures paint a very different picture. Colbert’s PAC, which raised more than $825,000 through the end of the year, has raised almost no corporate money. Indeed, the only two corporate donations he reported to the Federal Election Commission amount to $714, total. In addition to barely raising any corporate money, Colbert's Super PAC accepted only one contribution from an individual (of $9,600) in excess of the $5,000 limit that applies to regular PACs.
In other words, more than 99% of the money Colbert has raised to mock Citizens United and Super PACs is money that has been legal under the campaign finance laws for decades.
While people with easy access to mass media have never had a problem getting their messages out, the restrictions overturned in Citizen United were a real impediment for people who were neither rich nor famous but still wanted to exercise their First Amendment rights. Yet Colbert and Lithwick apparently think we were better off when a political activists could be imprisoned for pooling their resources to criticize a politician on TV:
There will always be those who use their free speech rights to advocate that others' be restricted. And it is surely their right to do so. But such people aren't—as Colbert and Lithwick seem to believe—cleverly using the tools of the Machine to attack the Machine. They're simply advocating censorship for speech they disagree with, and weakening the basis of their own rights in the process.
For more on misguided criticism of Citizens United, see my story in the December 2010 issue of Reason. I considered the rap against super PACs in a column last month. Last year I questioned Lithwick's take on the constitutional challenge to Arizona's subsidies for political candidates, which she claimed was all about protecting "America's defenseless bajillionaires."
An 18-year-old in the Bronx was shot to death in his own home by the NYPD because he ran from police and because an itchy-fingered cop says the suspect/victim reached towards his waistband, meaning he was reaching for a weapon.
18-year-old Ramarley Graham was gunned down Thursday inside the bathroom of his Bronx home following a foot pursuit by a team of plainsclothes cops. He was unarmed.
Investigators say police spotted Graham--who's had 8 prior arrests on charges including robbery, marijuana possession and resisting arrest-- on White Plains Road when he started to run.
The always-repulsive NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly first said that Graham struggled with cops, now he's admitting that's not the case.
On Thursday afternoon, Graham was spotted engaged in a drug deal and cops radioed that in, including the fact that Graham appeared to have a weapon. A witness, according to The New York Post, heard police identify themselves, which is good, but the fact that they were apparently in plainclothes makes reasonable doubt in identification something worth raising. It sounds like Graham was trying to flush the drugs down the toilet while he was shot by police who "burst into the apartment" after a foot chase. Officers yelled "show me your hands!" according to Kelly, and then "gun!" and then it was over. Gramam's mother and Grandmother were there, as well as his six-year-old brother (who may have witnessed the shooting).
If Graham was indeed trying to flush drugs, that implies that he knew his pursuers were cops. But it also further clarifies that the penalty for disobeying police orders is occasionally death. There are lots of words for this kind of incident, but somehow "unnecessary" sums it up perfectly
If you look closely at the picture to the right, you'll see what appears to be the flag of Al Qaeda haphazardly Photoshopped over none other than the White House. The picture is a screen-cap from a documentary that has drawn the New York City Police Department considerable scrutiny, following the revelation that at least 1,400 officers were shown the propagandist, anti-Muslim film on a continuous loop during counter-terrorism training in 2010. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who appears in interviews for the film, has tried pretty hard to cover his tail. From Human Rights Watch:
The police department’s spokesman also told the media last year that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s appearance in the film came from old video clips and that Kelly had no direct participation in the film’s production. However, after the New York Times recently obtained information from the filmmaker confirming that Kelly was specifically interviewed for the film, the spokesman conceded that this was the case.
The documentary, called The Third Jihad, claims that Muslims in America are implementing "a strategy to infiltrate and dominate America," and that "this is the war you don’t know about." It was made by the Clarion Fund, "an independently-funded non-profit organization that produces and distributes documentaries on the threats of Radical Islam."
I'm sure the Muslims (yes, all of them) prefer the term "kinetic military action."
Between the NYPD's illicit spying on Shiite Muslims and its repeated screenings of The Third Jihad, it's worth wondering who has the intention of infiltrating and dominating: The NYPD or Muslims in the United States? Though sensationalist, there's much truth to this Huffington Post op-ed on the story, including:
What we have is a rogue police department that is completely out of control with no sense or obligation of transparency or accountability to anyone but themselves. This police department is engaging in a long list of highly inappropriate activity from extensively spying on mosques, entrapping into terrorism plots, stop and frisks, corruption scandals, fudging crime statistics, the Schoolcraft scandal, racial profiling, and brutalizing people engaged in expressions of free speech and dissent such as Jazz Hayden, journalists, and the Occupy movement.
The trailer for The Third Jihad is available for viewing on YouTube and is pretty terrifying on a number of fronts:
A new study in the journal Psychological Science by two Canadian researchers suggests that the answer is yes. And worse yet it causes racism and homophobia too. The abstract from the article, "Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact." reports:
Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit underappreciated, role in prejudice. Consequently, we recommend a heightened focus on cognitive ability in research on prejudice and a better integration of cognitive ability into prejudice models.
IQ actually exists? I thought IQ was a fiction imposed by the patriarchy as yet another way to exclude women and minorities. Who knew?
That being said, it is probably true that less intelligent people are more fearful people which likely inclines them toward sticking with what they know and avoiding social, economic, and technological novelty. Interestingly, the Huffington Post does note:
"Reality is complicated and messy," [University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek] told The Huffington Post in an email. "Ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simpler solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies."
But Nosek said less intelligent types might be attracted to liberal "simplifying ideologies" as well as conservative ones.
Simplifying liberal ideologies? You think? Maybe something along the lines of a simplistic ideology based on the belief that "fairness" is the same as "equality"?
In any case, my fellow libertarians need not fret. Research shows that libertarians - out of the major socio-political groups - score highest on "need for cognition" and "openness to new experiences." However, it must be said that many of my fellow libertarians do tend exhibit just a bit of "prejudice" against rigid liberals and conservatives.
For further background, see my 2004 column, Pathologizing Conservatism: Is it an unfortunate evolutionary holdover, or the product of a bad upbringing.
Thanks to Mark Sletten for the tip.
At The Huffington Post, Supreme Court reporter Mike Sacks has a very interesting take on what the Court's recent decisions may reveal about the upcoming vote on the constitutionality of ObamaCare’s individual mandate. After first noting that the justices have achieved “unanimity in major cases that pit religious liberty against civil rights, Republicans against Democrats, and law enforcement efficiency against personal privacy,” which might portend at least some similar agreement on the health care law, Sacks wonders if maybe this is all just the calm before the storm:
There remains the chance that Roberts' work this term has simply served to collect enough good will to spend on an explosive second half headlined by the demise of the individual mandate. Supreme Court history is heavy on early-term unanimity and late-term divisiveness.
The actress, comedian, and mother is calling for a divine matriarchy, as part of her campaign for the "Green Tea Party's" presidential nomination (and the Prime Minister position of Israel, simultaneously, she says).
According to ABC, she has actually legally filed seeking the actually existing Green Party's nomination, but she says "Green Tea Party" in the clip below.
- "There’s a growing concern...that the Israelis...might launch a strike without approval, warning or even foreknowledge."
- Susan G. Komen tries to make nice with Planned Parenthood.
- Nevada is full of GOP candidates.
- Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will have to pay $1.5 billion in taxes if Facebook goes public.
- FBI and Scotland Yard got hacked by Anonymous today.
- Nasdaq at 11-year high.
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Under a new revision to the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, second (and third) homes—whether owned as a rental property investment, as a vacation home, or just as an extra mortgage from a house-flipping project gone array—are now eligible for taxpayer subsidies to reduce the principal on the underlying mortgage. As Reason Foundation Director of Economic Research Anthony Randazzo explains, this means that even though those investors made a poor economic decision, taxpayers will still be forced to help foot the bill.View this article
It’s hard to imagine Mitt Romney’s inner life. Even if you presume that he has one (which is not entirely obvious), guessing as to what form it might take seems like the sort of challenge better suited to, say, science fiction writers who specialize in telling stories about alien cultures than it does magazine profile writers or literary novelists.
Getting inside his head is a job that no one has yet been able to accomplish; it’s easier to imagine Romney as some sort of administrative system made flesh, or perhaps living software, with code and programming instructions rather than recognizably human thoughts and personality.
Yes, there is ample evidence that Romney is in many ways an individual worthy of respect, perhaps even admiration, at least for his private sector accomplishments. By all accounts, he is dedicated and hard working, intelligent and rational, deeply devoted to his family and religious community. People I’ve spoken to who have known Romney personally or studied his career all praise his work ethic and his value as a business partner. But there is little to suggest what, if anything, lies underneath that perfectly polished exterior.
But that isn’t stopping publications with the words “New York” in their titles from attempting to crack Romney’s code. In New York Magazine and The New York Review of Books, Frank Rich and Michael Tomasky respectively attempt to solve the mystery of the man who will probably be the Republican party’s next presidential nominee. What is Mitt Romney’s dark secret? It turns out he’s a Mormon...with a father.
In a piece titled “Who in God’s name is Mitt Romney?,” Rich argues that the key to the man must be his murky background as a Mormon lay minister:
He seems to have no cultural passions beyond his and his wife’s first-date movie,The Sound of Music. He is not a sportsman or conspicuous sports fan. His only real, nonnumerical passions seem to be his photogenic, intact family, which he wields like a weapon whenever an opponent with multiple marriages like John McCain or Gingrich looms into view—and, of course, his faith.That faith is key to the Romney mystery. Had the 2002 Winter Olympics not been held in Salt Lake City, and not been a major civic project of Mormon leaders there, it’s unlikely Romney would have gotten involved. (Whether his involvement actually prompted a turnaround of that initially troubled enterprise, as he claims, is a subject of debate.) But Romney is even less forthcoming about his religion than he is about his tax returns.
When the Evangelical view of Mormonism as a non-Christian cult threatened his 2008 run, Romney delivered what his campaign hyped as a JFK-inspired speech on “Faith in America.” This otherwise forgotten oration was memorable only for the number of times it named Romney’s own faith: once.In the current campaign, Romney makes frequent reference to faith, God, and his fierce loyalty to “the same church.” But whether in debates, or in the acres of official material on his campaign website, or in a flyer pitched at religious voters in South Carolina, he never names what that faith or church is. In Romneyland, Mormonism is the religion that dare not speak its name. Which leaves him unable to talk about the very subject he seems to care about most, a lifelong source of spiritual, familial, and intellectual sustenance. We’re used to politicians who camouflage their real views about issues, or who practice fraud in their backroom financial and political deal-making, but this is something else. Romney’s very public persona feels like a hoax because it has been so elaborately contrived to keep his core identity under wraps.
And in the New York Review of Books, Michael Tomasky takes the Darth Vader route and pins Romney’s emptiness on his determination to learn from his father’s mistakes:
For men like Romney, everything comes back in one way or another to father. Mitt was the “miracle baby,” the fourth child born nearly six years after the last of the other three, and named in part after J. Willard Marriott—like George, a nationally prominent and respected Mormon. He “grew up idolizing” his father, write Kranish and Helman. He walked the factory floor with him at the American Motors Corporation, which the elder Romney made profitable; he listened closely to his father’s religious and civic lectures; he wanted to become his father.
His pursuit of the presidency surely has much to do with the fact that his father didn’t make it there, torpedoed by his famous comment about having been “brainwashed” about American progress in the war by generals on a visit to Vietnam.George Romney didn’t back down from that remark, made to a Detroit television interviewer in 1967. He never backed down, not even to Nixon, with whom, asHUD secretary, he had numerous skirmishes. The son—unable even to view the “brainwashed” clip, Kranish and Helman write, until thirty-nine years later—seems to have decided that backing down is often a pretty good idea.
Commentators have spent countless hours speculating whether Romney is “really” moderate or conservative. The answer is that he is neither, and both. The lessons he learned from watching his father fail to make it to the White House are: don’t stick to your guns; be flexible; suit the needs of the moment. And so, in order to complete his father’s unfulfilled destiny, he has decided to become his father’s opposite.
I find Tomasky’s explanation more convincing in part because it reaches essentially the same conclusion about Romney that I did in my March cover feature: Romney’s path to success has always benefited from flexibility over ideology, narrow problem-solving acumen over larger principle. And while pinning Romney’s pandering on his father’s daddy issues might smack of psychological gimmickry, it’s also probably true to some extent: His father may have been a moderate, but he was a deeply committed moderate, and he lost his shot at the presidency in part because of that commitment. No doubt this served for young Mitt as a powerful early illustration of the dangers of stubborn commitment. In response, Mitt Romney has spent his life committed only to avoiding any kind of ideological commitment.
In the end, however, both Rich and Tomasky recognize that there’s no solving the Romney riddle. Whoever he is, or isn’t, we’ll probably never know, and even the most intriguing Theories of Romney tell us little about what’s actually important, namely: how he might govern. In fact, as I argue in my story, at this point, the best way to view Romney’s long-running campaign for president is not as a window into who Romney is, but as a reflection of the divided and uncertain party he’s trying to please. It may be impossible to truly understand Mitt Romney, but his campaign tells us an awful lot about the conflicted inner life of the GOP.
*Post updated to make a few edits and clarifications.
Both are important, of course, but this Yahoo! Finance account of who holds U.S. debt is still interesting:
About 40 percent is held by public entities, including parts of the government. Here's who owns the most. Foreign countries listed include private and public investors, according to monthly U.S. Treasury data.
1. Federal Reserve and Intragovernmental Holdings
U.S. debt holdings: $6.328 trillion
That’s right, the biggest single holder of U.S. government debt is inside the United States and includes the Federal Reserve system and other intragovernmental holdings. Of this number, The Fed's system of banks owns approximately $1.65 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities (as of January 2012), while other U.S. intragovernmental holdings - which include large funds such as the Medicare Trust Fund and the Social Security Trust Fund - hold the rest.
In the monthly Treasury bulletin, both are combined into one category and the total accounts for a stunning $6.328 trillion in holdings as of September 2011 (the most recent number available). The amount is an all-time high as the Federal Reserve continues to expand its balance sheet, partially to purchase U.S. government debt securities....
Presidential candidate Ron Paul has introduced a bill to cancel that debt owed to Fed. Back to the top 10 debt-holders....
U.S. debt holdings: $1.132 trillion
The largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities, China currently has $1.132 trillion in American debt, although it is down from all time highs of $1.173 trillion in July 2011. ...
3. Other Investors/Savings Bonds
U.S. debt holdings $1.107 trillion
With the most recent numbers from June 2011, this extremely diverse group includes individuals, government-sponsored enterprises, brokers and dealers, bank personal trusts, estates, savings bonds, corporate and noncorporate businesses for a total of $1.107 trillion....
U.S. debt holdings: $1.038 trillion....
5. Pension Funds
U.S. debt holdings: $842.2 billion
Pension funds control large amounts of money, reserved for personal retirements, and thus are obligated to make relatively safe investments. This group, which includes private and local government pension funds, holds $842.2 billion in U.S. debt. The private pension fund category also includes U.S. Treasury securities held by the Federal Employees Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan G Fund.
6. Mutual Funds
U.S. debt holdings: $653.5 billion
According to the Federal Reserve, mutual funds hold the sixth-largest amount of U.S. debt compared to any other group, although mutual fund holdings have diminished by more than $105 billion since December 2008....
7. State and Local Governments
U.S. debt holdings: $484.4 billion
U.S. state and local governments have nearly a half-trillion dollars invested in American debt, according to the Federal Reserve. The level of investment has remained stable since 2006, moving within the range of $484 billion and $576 billion....
8. The United Kingdom
U.S. debt holdings: $429.4 billion
The U.K. currently holds $429.4 billion in U.S. debt, but the country's investment has fluctuated dramatically during the past two years. Now at its all-time high (and rapidly increasing), British holdings were as low as $55 billion in June 2008.
9. Depository Institutions
U.S. debt holdings: $284.5 billion
As of June 2011 (the most recent numbers available), the Federal Reserve Board of Governors lists depository institutions as holding about $284.5 billion in U.S. debt.
This group includes commercial banks, savings banks and credit unions. In 2011, its holdings more than tripled from the 2008 low of $105 billion....
10. Insurance Companies
U.S. debt holdings: $250.1 billion
According to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, insurance companies hold $250.1 billion in Treasury securities. This group includes property-casualty and life insurance firms.
Apparently British people sometimes buy six-packs of teaspoons at the grocery store. Who knew? Perhaps their spoons get worn out from stirring all that tea?
Anyway, a gal who happens to be a reporter for a grocery store trade publication called (unsurprisingly) The Grocer was innocently buying some teaspoons at Sainsbury's when beep, an I.D. check alert went off at the self-checkout scanner.
When she asked why the purchase had to be verified, she was told the spoons “could be used as drug paraphernalia”.
Sainsbury's later changed its story, saying that the alert calling for age verification had been an error. Whew. Sanity restored, right? Wrong.
“The self-scan system recognised the spoon’s SKU as one for a knife,” said a spokeswoman. This had now been rectified.
Of course you have to be 18 to buy cheap cutlery with a dull blade. That makes perfect sense.
An Oklahoma state representative wants to tax gamers. Introduced by the ironically named William Fourkiller, the bill would impose a 1 percent tax on "violent video games." Half of the revenue raised would go to an anti-obesity fund (the "Childhood Outdoor Education Revolving Fund"), and the other half would go to a bullying prevention fund. Taxing video games to stop childhood obesity and bullying—it's a nanny state trifecta!
As used in this section, “violent video game” means a video or computer game that has received a rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board of Teen, Mature or Adult Only.
In other words, Teen-rated games like The Sims, Dance Central, or Guitar Hero would be included in the tax, even though they're non-violent. Brilliant.
Second, Fourkiller claims, “Violent video games contribute to some of our societal problems like obesity and bullying."
That's not actually true. A Michigan State University study tracked almost 500 kids' media habits and weight. Their results:
The team found that while video games were used more than the internet and cellphones, none of these activities predicted a child's weight or BMI. Instead they found that race, age and socioeconomic status were the strongest predictors.
In addition, Fourkiller assumes video games are for kids. But in fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a gamer is 37. So taxing adult gamers to fight childhood obesity is not exactly the most rational course of action.
Meanwhile for minors, the ESA points out, "Parents are present when games are purchased or rented 91 percent of the time." If parents truly objected to video games, then they shouldn't buy them for their kids. Children are the responsibility of their parents, not the state.
During his first presidential press conference, Barack Obama defended federal economic intervention, stating "there are several who have suggested that FDR was wrong to intervene back in the New Deal. They are fighting battles that I thought were resolved a pretty long time ago." "We were just amazed to hear him say that," says historian Anita Folsom. While this "idea is taught in colleges all over the country, we have to come to the realization that these big government ideas do not lead to prosperity."
In his 2008 book, New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America, historian Burton Folsom took on the idea that the New Deal "worked." Now he's collaborated on a new book with his wife Anita, FDR Goes to War: How Expanded Executive Power, Spiraling National Debt, and Restricted Civil Liberties Shaped Wartime America, which tackles the idea that Roosevelt was a great wartime leader. During the war, the book argues, the Roosevelt Administration stomped on civil liberties, fixed prices throughout the economy, ballooned the national debt, and brought the top income tax rate up to 94%.
The Folsoms see Roosevelt's big government approach as instrumental in shaping the modern world. From ObamaCare to the Community Reinvestment Act, they draw a direct line from FDR's actions to the worst public policies of today, along with the general view that "government programs are the solution to economic and political problems."
Bert and Anita Folsom sat down with Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie to discuss their new book and the enduring myths of FDR's presidency.
About 9:30 minutes. Shot by Meredith Bragg, Jim Epstein, and Joshua Swain and edited by Bragg.
The above is an actual headline from the Washington Post today. First, I told you so - see my column, Natural Gas Flip Flop. From the Post here's some of the fear provoked by cheap abundant natural gas:
Rachel Cleetus, a senior climate economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that “the problem is [natural gas] can take over the entire pie and crowd out renewables. Part of the reason this is happening is there’s a boom and there’s a sense that natural gas resources will be around forever.”
...the economic issue is disruptive, too. The rush to produce shale gas “is forcing all of us to seriously address what it means for us,” said Ralph Izzo, chief executive of Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), a New Jersey-based utility that relies on nuclear energy for half of its power supply. Izzo said it would mean “the delay of the nuclear renaissance for years to come.”
Can an energy source be all that bad if it scares the two most heavily subsidized sectors of the electric power generation industry?
Last week, I blogged about protests in Geneva against the Iranian government's expanding program of Internet and satellite censorship. Taking place outside of Iran (and consisting of what appears to be a fairly small crowd from the pictures in this post), the protest was a mostly symbolic act—but we're likely to see more and stronger reactions to what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei calls his country's soft war against Western cultural influence in the months to come.
This week the Iranian supreme court upheld the death sentence handed down to an Iranian-born Canadian resident named Saeid Malekpour, who was arrested while he was inside Iran visiting his ailing father. Malekpour is charged with "insulting the sanctity of Islam" and "corruption on earth," two regularly invoked grounds for execution in Iran, because of photo-uploading software he designed that was then "used by a porn website without his knowledge," reports The Guardian.
This is equivalent to Mark Zuckerberg being put on trial because someone uploaded a nudie pic to his or her Facebook profile.
According to the Amnesty International report, there were at least 600 executions in Iran last year, compared with 43 in the United States. Last year Iranian-Dutch citizen Zahra Bahrami was executed before Dutch officials could move for her release from Iranian custody, and recently, American citizen and former U.S. Marine Amir Mirza Hekmati was sentenced to death in Iran on highly questionable espionage charges.
Confessions from both Hekmati and Malekpour were broadcast on national television, but the letter Malekpour wrote after more than a year in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison sheds serious doubt on his and any other political prisoner's confession:
Some of the confessions they forced me to make were so ridiculous and far-fetched that they are not even possible. For example, they asked me to falsely confess to purchasing software from the UK and then posting it on my website for sale. I was forced to add that when somebody visited my website, the software would be, without his/her knowledge, installed on their computer and would take control of their webcam, even when their webcam is turned off. Although I told them that what they were suggesting was impossible from a technological point of view, they responded that I should not concern myself with such things.
He also elaborated on the conditions under which his confession was extracted:
While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with their fists, cables, and batons struck and punched me. At times, they would flog my head and neck. Such mistreatment was aimed at forcing me to write what the interrogators were dictating...Sometimes, they used extremely painful electrical shock that would paralyze me temporarily. Once in October 2008, the interrogators stripped me while I was blindfolded and threatened to rape me with a bottle of water.
Read Malekpour's full letter here (Persian and English).
The recent increase in Internet censorship, arrests, and intimidation are widely viewed as an effort by the government to preemptively suppress protests during the country's upcoming parliamentary elections in March. Considering the massive protests following the highly disputed 2009 presidential election, the results of which were apparently counted at miraculous speed and announced only two hours after ballots were cast, it's not hard to understand why the ruling powers might be a little nervous.
Elko, Nev. – Ron Paul delivered his typical stump speech during his only northern Nevada appearance last night before a crowd of over 300 inside the Elko Indian Colony Gymnasium. While touching on subjects like the Federal Reserve, eliminating the income tax, slashing the federal budget, restoring civil liberties, and scaling back America’s intervention in foreign affairs, Paul often sounded, and appeared, like a professor giving a Libertarianism 101 lecture. The crowd did not treat it as a lecture, though, and frequently cheered and applauded. At one point late in the speech the crowd even broke into a “President Paul!” chant.
“Believe me, if you defer to the government and think that they should tell you how to run your life and how you should spend your money, then, I’ll tell you what, we’re not going to get over this. It should be in a free society, it should be the people’s decision on how they run their life and how they spend their money,” said Paul.
The crowd was very favorable to Paul but a series of interviews conducted before the speech indicated that there were several undecided voters in the gymnasium.
“I am not sure about Ron Paul and some of his stances. Particularly the border, how he would deal with illegal aliens,” said William Graunke, 66, a retired civil engineer who is leaning towards Romney, but appreciates the fact that Paul served in the military.
Paul did not touch on any local issues during his speech here, instead focusing on larger national issues. This played well with Tyler Cummings, a local gold miner. “The Federal Resreve is able to print money without any accountability to anyone, [that] is kind of disturbing to me,” said Cummings, 24. "I’d like to see the Federal Reserve audited."
After Paul finished speaking he signed some autographs and spoke to the handful of reporters there. The press gaggle was local except for me and former Reason writer Dave Weigel. A boisterous group of Idaho voters that traveled here to see Paul shouted to him frequently while he answered questions.
I asked Paul two questions, both local. One was about his thoughts on the controversial Travel Management Plan for the Humboldt/Toiyabe National Forest. This was a subject that came up frequently during my interviews with Paul supporters here. Paul could not answer specifically about the plan for the forrest but he said he thinks the state should make the decision, not the US Forest Service. "I don't want the federal government dictating to the state of Nevada. Period," he said.
The other local question I asked him was if he would strip funding for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an annual event currently going on in Elko that became a national story after Harry Reid referenced it on the floor of the Senate early last year. The event recieves a very small amount of federal funding but its supporters contend it never would have got off the ground almost 30 years ago without federal start up cash.
When I described it to Paul he said it was not something that he would be in support of but that it was minor. "Some of these programs that might be small in amounts and seem to be wonderful they don't motivate me to run for congress or president. I'm motiviated to stop hundreds of billions of overseas spending," he said.
"These are minor programs but philosophically, no, I would not support it," he said.
In a new Cato Institute paper, Clayton Cramer and David Burnett review the controversy over how often Americans use guns in self-defense each year. Estimates range from about 100,000 to more than 2 million, and the surveys used to generate the numbers are subject to weaknesses that plausibly lead to undercounting or exaggeration. Cramer and Burnett's contribution, an analysis of defensive gun uses reported in the press during an eight-year period, does not resolve this issue. As they emphasize, the vast majority of defensive gun uses seem to be encounters where brandishing a weapon suffices to interrupt or prevent a crime. When no shots are fired and no one is injured or killed, the incident may not even be reported to the police, let alone be deemed newsworthy. Still, Cramer and Burnett's analysis, based on a randomly drawn sample of nearly 5,000 incidents, sheds light on the details of cases that are considered interesting enough to report in a newspaper.
The most common situation, accounting for 1,227 of 4,669 incidents, was a "home invasion," where intruders try to force their way into a home they know to be occupied. Burglaries were also common, accounting for 488 incidents. In 285 cases, the defender had a concealed carry permit, and most of those incidents occurred in public. There were very few cases where a permit holder became involved in an avoidable dispute that turned deadly because he had a gun—a scenario that figures prominently in arguments against nondiscretionary permit laws. Also contrary to the warnings of gun controllers, victims in this sample were rarely disarmed by their attackers; the reverse happened more than 20 times as often. Criminals took away defenders' guns in 11 out of 4,669 incidents, and the defender ended up dead despite being armed in 36 incidents, less than 1 percent of the time. Cramer and Burnett describe many specific cases (mapped by Cato here) in which a gun prevented robbery, rape, serious injury, or death, illustrating their general point that policy makers need to take these benefits into account instead of focusing exclusively on criminal uses.
Cramer and Burnett note that journalists often seem irrationally hostile to the very idea of armed self-defense, as reflected in a 2009 Miami New Times story:
It was pouring rain just after 1 p.m. Monday, July 20, when a man burst into a Honduran grocery store on NW 36th Street in Miami. A shirt was wrapped around his face as he gripped a black semiautomatic handgun. Twenty-year-old Charles Bell shoved the pistol into the face of a manager behind the counter. Then he demanded the contents of the cash register and cartons of cigarettes in a plastic bag. Next he began herding customers to the back of the small market.
After the store's manger shot and killed the robber, police deemed it a justifiable homicide. The headline on the article: "South Florida Store Clerks Go Vigilante."
All patriotic Americans ought to stand up and say enough is enough. We need a law to put a stop to this literally-abuse. If we don’t get one—and soon—then the Almighty is sure to send another Flood as punishment for our transgressions. In fact, it may already be too late, writes A. Barton Hinkle. As these words are written, it is raining cats and dogs outside. Literally!View this article
It's hard to imagine a better environment in which to test a government-run health information technology system than Britain's National Health Service. The system is fully socialized, with a single government payer, universal enrollment, and doctors employed directly by the state. There are roughly 60 million beneficiaries, which is big enough to see if the system can scale, but perhaps not so big that it's sure to be overwhelming. It's popular enough that in 2010, the country's conservative party successfully ran on a health platform where the top item was a promise to increase spending on the system every year. In other words, it's about the best possible testing ground for instituting a complex, integrated system of computerized health records through government oversight.
And yet it still hasn't worked. As Greg Scandlen notes, it seems that the country's health system is canceling a multi-year, $20 billion Health IT project after a report concluding that it was impossible to deliver on the plan's ambitious goals. The Independent reports:
A plan to create the world's largest single civilian computer system linking all parts of the National Health Service is to be abandoned by the Government after running up billions of pounds in bills. Ministers are expected to announce next month that they are scrapping a central part of the much-delayed and hugely controversial 10-year National Programme for IT.
Instead, local health trusts and hospitals will be allowed to develop or buy individual computer systems to suit their needs – with a much smaller central server capable of "interrogating" them to provide centralised information on patient care. News of the Government's plans comes as a damning report from a cross-party committee of MPs concludes that the £11.4bn programme had proved "beyond the capacity of the Department of Health to deliver".
The NHS's failure isn't the only government-managed health IT debacle. The 2009 stimulus package included $30 billion to help fund a major health IT rollout here in the U.S. In addition, doctors are spending an average of about $40,000 each to build out electronic health records systems in their offices. But as Marketwatch reported last summer, "even after all that expense, few physicians will be able to send patient records to other doctors who could benefit from having rapid access to medical histories."
As with so much bureaucracy, the biggest problems with publicly managed health IT systems tend to be practical in nature—poor administration and unexpected challenges with implementation. According to The Independent, "The project has been beset by changing specifications, technical challenges and clashes with suppliers, which has left it years behind schedule and way over cost." Technology contractors walked out on the project or failed to deliver. Leadership inside Britain's health service was unable to cope with the competing demands of elected officials and on-the-ground project management. It was a typical bureaucratic mess.
This is not to suggest that electronic health records are themselves a bad idea. But these government-funded efforts to encourage their use don't have a great track record.
The Vermont State Police recently discovered that the decals on the sides of its patrol cars had been subtly altered by the addition of a pig-shaped splotch on the cow in the state seal. Pig, the Associated Press reports, is "a derogatory term for police." The 16-inch decals were first produced two years ago by inmates at the state prison in Windsor, and about 60 are in circulation. "While some may find humor in the decal modifications," state police Maj. Bill Sheets said yesterday, "the joke unfortunately comes at the expense of the taxpayers." A.P. says replacing the decals will cost $780, which "will be be covered by a surplus in the revolving fund that supports the offender work program." That's just one-tenth of a cent per Vermonter. Where can you get a better entertainment value?
[Thanks to Mike Spinney for the tip.]
As a teenage, mostly non-practicing heterosexual libertarian regularly accused of being gay and communist simply for playing soccer in the 1970s, Nick Gillespie gets annoyed when some dumb game is larded up with ideological meaning. Over the years, characters as distinct as Ethel Rosenberg and Peggy Noonan have done just that and, with the Super Bowl just days away, the conservative National Review is even making the case that mixed-martial arts is "the true conservative sport"—even more than NASCAR.
Seeing your favorite sport through political filters is no way to while away your weekends, Gillespie writes, and it is a real buzz kill when it comes to enjoying athletics.View this article
Associate Editor Peter Suderman reviews Chronicle, a viral-video inspired riff on the superhero origin story, in today's Washington Times:
What happens when you give a trio of teen boys superpowers?
Maybe they’ll goof off. Or maybe they’ll decide to wreck a major city in a fit of adolescent angst.
In “Chronicle,” they do both.
A cleverly twisted take on the superhero origin story, “Chronicle” is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of superpowers: There may be a superhero in all of us - but there might also be a supervillain.
Shot in a faux-documentary, found-footage digital video style that at first resembles the fake monster-invasion movie “Cloverfield,” “Chronicle” is the story of three teenage boys who gain superpowers, including the mysterious ability to ensure that the camera is always on and pointed in just the right direction whenever something important is happening.
Convenient, right? Well, yes, but unlike “Cloverfield” and other similarlyYouTube-inspired genre riffs, “Chronicle” pulls it off by making the camera an integral part of the story.
Every month University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer report the latest global temperature trends from satellite data. Below are the newest data updated through January, 2012.
The 3rd order polynomial fit to the data (courtesy of Excel) is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as having any predictive value whatsoever.
Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.14 C per decade
January temperatures (preliminary)
Global composite temp.: -0.09 C (about 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit) below 30-year average for January.
Northern Hemisphere: -0.06 C (about 0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) below 30-year average for January.
Southern Hemisphere: -0.13 C (about 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) below 30-year average for January.
Tropics: -0.13 C (about 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) below 30-year average for January.
Go here to see the monthly satellite temperature database.
- Obama has a jobs plan proposal for veterans. It will cost $5 billion.
- Unemployment falls to 8.3 percent.
- Israel is getting ready to bomb Iran.
- Westerners really don't want that to happen.
- Planned Parenthood doesn't need Susan G. Komen anyway.
- Lawmakers offer to slap themselves on the wrist.
New at Reason.tv: "China and Transportation: What We Can Learn In The United States"
I was asked to participate in a Time forum on the current state of conservative thinking and politics. Here's part of my answer:
The current crisis in the conservative movement is embodied in a GOP presidential primary season in which the two frontrunners used to support the health care mandate that is supposedly the ultimate sign of President Obama’s Third World socialist tendencies. Conservatives never really believed in shrinking the size and scope of government, at least not when they were running the show. That’s why we’re $15 trillion in debt as a country and poised to reelect a President whose stimulus was an utter failure by his own predictions, whose extrajudicial killings of American citizens are justified by Bush Administration dicta and whose health care plan has managed to increase premiums even before being put into practice, and whose bailout of GM has created the Terri Schiavo of car companies, a living corpse that will never again rise from its deathbed.
And in case anyone is wondering whether GM has really turned the corner and is back (as President Obama said in his State of the Union address), check out the latest Treasury estimate on the losses on the GM and Chrysler bailouts.
Henry Payne imagines the Florida primary as a trip to the beach.View this article
Elko, Nev. – A few years back the Lion’s Mane Barbershop relocated from the Red Lion Hotel & Casino to the small complex that serves the residents of the Double Dice RV Park. Its residents, a combination of mine workers, drifters, and people just passing through, provide a steady stream of customers for owner Tyler Vavak, a Ron Paul supporter. It is to these customers that he preaches the libertarian gospel while providing the only straight razor service in town. “I voted for Bush in 2004. I was always Republican leaning but I get a lot of customers that are veterans and they told me about this guy named Ron Paul,” he said
Vavak first heard about Paul in 2006 from a veteran who was venting about the Federal Reserve and the gold standard. It is not just about the Federal Reserve for Vavak though. One of the issues here is the US Forrest Service’s creation of a Travel Management Plan for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, a popular place of recreation for local residents. The plan would create restrictions that Vavak thinks go too far. He believes Paul would stop its implementation.
Inside Vavak’s shop, just below some Oakland Raiders memorabilia and pictures of haircuts, is a table full of Paul stickers and pamphlets. (Oh, and there is this sweet Ron Paul clock.) Vavak says his shop is a place not only for people to get a great haircut and shave but a place of discussion, too. “I have customers with all kinds of opinions. Some are private about them and others love to mix it up,” he said.
Later today Vavak is headed to Elko Regional Airport to pick up Paul and take him to his afternoon campaign appearance. Ron Paul Elko MeetUp organizer Marla Criss suggested him for the task. While he is out with his favorite congressman from Texas, Vavak's barber apprentice, Dave Shinn, will be holding down the shop.
Shinn, 29, is a big fan of Paul too and he credits Vavak for his “political awakening. “I didn’t really care about politics until I started working for Tyler last year. He really opened my eyes to the Constitution and stuff,” he said.
“Now he’s got me making phone calls and talking to customers,” he said.
When asked about having to go through Nevada’s official barber licensing process, Shinn said it’s a pain but added, “I wouldn’t want just anybody cutting my hair. I think you should have to be licensed to do a lot of things.”
In the American Prospect, Tom Carson yokes together two recent developments – the National Film Registry's choice of Forrest Gump in its annual list of 25 "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films" and the Village Voice’s firing of highly regarded critic J. Hoberman after 24 years at the paper – to conclude that the “Yahoos are winning” the Kulturkampf. Carson writes:
Watching the Voice lobotomize itself over the past decade or so—a process pretty much complete now that he's been canned—has been something I can't help feeling a personal stake in, even though business is business, and I should know better.
Whether or not he'd care for the title, Hoberman, along with The Nation's Stuart Klawans, is the most honorably anti-yahoo movie critic in the country. The art of film is his beat, and that's all there is to it; when it comes to deciding what's consequential and what isn't, compromises with the non-cinephile public's proclivities aren't in the cards...
With Hoberman's departure, the paper has gone from being a shell of its former self to a shell of its former shell—a process most people blame exclusively on finky New Times Media, the Voice's owner since 2005 and the single outfit most responsible for gutting the alternative press in general.
I can sympathize with what Carson, to his credit, admits is a fogey’s lament. During my own salad days in the Big Apple, the Voice’s main attraction was Carson himself, and the weekly generally had more pages but less interesting content than the rival New York Press (speaking of shells of their former husks). And I will say Hoberman (who recently spoke with a fair amount of optimism about the current state of cineastery) has become one of the LA Weekly’s few remaining points of interest, excluding the American Apparel ads.
But is movie criticism really the frontal lobe of the culture? I am, ahem, an actual Hollywood professional in addition to being an occasional movie writer. (Dig my woolgathering about Night Nurse, The Thing, Mildred Pierce, The Road Warrior and other pictures in Chris Fujiwara’s Little Black Book of Movies, yours for a reasonable $0.93 at Amazon.) I’m tempted to say that film analysis by somebody who’s never made a movie is like a sex column written by a virgin. That isn’t fair of course.
But I question the idea that the highbrow movie critic is being undone by the ruthlessness of the competitive market or the triumph of conventional wisdom. I think the critic’s job has been obviated by surfeit. It’s just not that hard to find a variety of opinions on any movie. I don’t need to leave the site you’re reading right now to find strong arguments that some year’s Oscar-winner is in fact the worst movie ever made, that Men Behind the Sun is a lost masterpiece, or that you are no better than a blind cave fish if you haven’t seen every movie made in Korea (South Korea! South Korea!) in the last decade.
Carson is right that there’s a generational element and a political element at work here. I think both of those resolve themselves into the auteur theory, that durable French import which holds that the director is the author of the film. Hoberman was not precisely a prominent auteurist only because by the mid-seventies the theory was universally accepted. (Talk about conventional wisdom!)
Writers are supposed to hate the auteur theory, but my reason for thinking it is of little value has nothing to do with any confidence in scripts. The problem is that for once the Academy has it right in giving the Best Picture Oscar to the producer. In all but a vanishingly small number of movies, the producer(s) is/are responsible for the largest share of the outcome.
That doesn’t mean the producer could be called the author in any conventional sense. Sometimes the biggest contribution is made by the editor or the writer or (more rarely than you’d expect) the financier. In some cases the star has the biggest impact, and that’s true even with the mightiest directors: I’m pretty sure if you took a group of reasonably dedicated movie fans and asked them to categorize a pile of DVD boxes by type of movie, more people would stack The Searchers with John Wayne movies like Hondo and Chisum than with John Ford movies like What Price Glory? and My Darling Clementine. (For my money The Quiet Man is the Ford/Wayne movie that truly could not have been made by anybody else.) The Mission: Impossible pictures have all been helmed by very distinctive directors: Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird. The scripts are by some of the most successful writers in Hollywood. Yet Tom Cruise is the closest thing to an author those movies have.
It’s a mystery why a bunch of socialist critics came up with a Great Man theory to describe the most collaborative art form outside of North Korean mass-gymnastic exhibitions. What we really need is a death-of-the-auteur theory. Making a movie is such a crap shoot, involving so many parties with conflicting motives, that we should consider it a fluke when something gets made that holds together as well as My Cousin Vinny. An actual masterpiece (whatever your choice of masterpiece may be) has to be considered a heroically improbable event, and one that depends on both the movie itself and the audience’s response to it.
In that respect I’m not sure the hardcore cinephile is all that rare a bird. I enjoy Hoberman’s phrasings and laughed at one of his zingers of yore about how Steven Spielberg’s vision encompasses the world like an infinitely expanding piece of Saran Wrap. (You can always count on these guys for cheap shots at Spielberg.) But a real contrarian would be able to argue that Forrest Gump is in fact a masterpiece, not for the way it flatters conservative boomers with repotted history but for the surreal vision with which it embraces its own artificiality, as Forrest Gump is sent to every Vietnam movie ever made, dashes through a perfectly representative college football film, attends an obvious Hollywood mockup of a sixties protest, and so on, while the audience is let in on the joke through all the wry stock-footage chicanery.
A good critic might even plug Gump into the series of movies Tom Hanks made in the 1990s that in one way or another revisited the “generation gap” between the Greatest Generation and the Dearest Generation, and resolved most of the old issues in favor of the squares. Tellingly, Hanks did this in some movies as an actor, in others as a director and/or producer, but he deserves at least some author credit for all of them. As motion picture stars from Boris Karloff to David After Dentist can tell you, there are many ways to get your personal stamp on a movie.
Jesse Walker named Hoberman’s An Army of Phantoms as one of his best of 2011, and I dug his comments on zombie films back in the Bush Administration. More recently I raised my monocle in praise of Carson’s book Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter. And for movie criticism so hard and gemlike you might cut yourself on it, check out Reason’s Kurt Loder.
Call it the circular firing squad or the pot calling the kettle black or the hoisting of the jackanapes on his own petard (actually, please call it that last one). Years ago, esteemed Hit & Run commenter R C Dean considered the law under which anybody who points out a "typo, misspelling or grammatical error" will in turn commit "some kind of typographical, spelling, or grammatical offense."
Now Scott Stein sifts through a CNN comment thread that puts the snicket in persnickety to find a tragic example of Dean's Law in action. (Will we ever learn?)
One or two commenters blow the whistle on the author's violation of the underpublicized "I've got" injunction. But no sooner have the grammar constables taken off after the illiterate wordstress than they are besunken in a slough of misplaced subjunctives and possessive pitfalls:
“I’ve got nearly 20 years of experience in the classroom…”
I’ve got – if it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny.
You’re opinion died at “got”. Sorry.
Very funny. All the usual characters show up for the Hobbesian copyedit of all against all. Even the romantic who sings that we must cast aside these Latinate chains that bind our rough Teutonic tongue and give full Nordic will to the Queen's English. That person goes by the name Uthor and calls people Nazis. (Isn't there a Web 1.0 rule about that too?)
If anybody knows the logic behind the prohibition on "I’ve got," please pipe up in the comments. Extra credit to anybody who can explain why "the fact that" is grounds for public ridicule.
One positive thing to be said about Madonna’s new movie, W.E., writes Kurt Loder, is that it is leagues better than her first directing effort, the 2008 Filth and Wisdom. But then many things are, periodontal surgery among them. The new shaky-cam “real footage” movie Chronicle, on the other hand, features good (if little-known) actors, a solid genre plot, and surprisingly slick effects. The Woman in Black, meanwhile, reaches back into the horror-movie past, long before mad slashers and crazed gore frenzies infested the genre, to present us with an unapologetically old-fashioned haunted-house exercise. Kurt Loder reviews all three.View this article
Over at Jezebel, Anna North blogs the story of transgendered woman Temmie Breslauer who was arrested on January 12 by the NYPD for the misdemeanor charge of using her father's discount subway fare card. Soon after, Breslauer alleges that "The arresting officers — the suit names one, Officer Shah — laughed at her" and asked about the status of her genitals. Then, says Breslauer's complaint (which Gothamist has in full):
"[S]he was fingerprinted, seated on a bench, then painfully chained to a fence wherein, for no apparent reason, her arm was lifted over her head and attached to the fence to make it appear that she was raising her hand in the classroom. She sat there in that position for 28 hours.
She also says officers not only refused to call her "she," they instead referred to her as "He-She", "Faggot," and "Lady GaGa," and asked her "So you like to suck dick? Or what?" Meanwhile, people arrested for the same minor crime (misdemeanor "theft of services") she was were calmly processed and allowed to leave. Finally, she was able to go before a judge, who gave her two days of community service. She says the whole ordeal aggravated her existing PTSD and left her sleepless and suicidal.
Breslauer's suit names the City of New York, Officer Shah, and several other officers as defendants. It accuses them of assault, battery, false imprisonment, and violation of Breslauer's civil rights, and asks for compensatory and punitive damages.
A transgendered man who was arrested at that massive Occupy Wall Street Brooklyn Bridge protest last fall alleges similar harassment and painful handcuffing by the NYPD. And it's not just transgendered individuals; after Pittsburgh G-20 in 2009, several women who were arrested said they were leered at and harassed by police, with calls from one officer to separate the women and "get the hot ones out" and several accusations of excessive pat-downs. Another woman at G-20 said she heard an officer threaten to put a male arrestee in with "Bruno" who would make the man "his girlfriend." (Prison rape is not just for horribly unfunny comedies and police officers who were apparently auditioning for said comedies, it's also for 90,000-plus actual prisoners a year.)
This isn't just about women or transgendered people; it's not a demand for politically correct accommodations (though cops should recognize prisoners who might be in more danger and decline to toss them in with the general population). This is about excessive punishment for minor crimes and it's about (sadly relatively) small petty, nasty abuses of people who are in a vulnerable position. Anybody in handcuffs in police custody is in a vulnerable position. They might be innocent, or guilty. They might be afraid (I know I would be). They might know that regardless of cops' freedom to indulge their dislike of transgendered people, or their misogynistic tendencies, or their racism, or maybe just general misanthropy, people die in police custody for all sorts of reasons. Or, famously in the case of Abner Louima (NYPD sighting!), they might just get beaten and then raped.
This isn't some Law and Order: SVU-type interrogation of a suspected child killer or serial rapist. There was no gain for the officers perpetuating this treatment except a bored, twisted power trip; a desire to make their prisoner uncomfortable and afraid. There's no way to spin that except deny that it happened at all. But as North pointed out, other transgendered individuals say it has happened to them as well.
Mike Riggs blogged a horror story a few months ago on what happened to a transgendered woman while she was being held in an immigrant detainment center awaiting deportation back to Mexico.