One of the many privileges of having kids in the Los Angeles Unified School District is the accelerated education they get in official corruption, the stupidity of grownups, union strong-arming and many other topics – any topics other than reading, writing and arithmetic, that is.
The recent sex-abuse arrests of two teachers at Miramonte Elementary have become a feature of playground scuttlebutt and official conniptions. The school my children attend (separated from Miramonte by more than 15 miles, though both schools score in the “Least Effective” category in the L.A. Times’ value-added assessment) is no exception.
Yesterday my daughters brought home copies of a flyer containing the principal’s thoughts on the scandal. I guess this page of skylarking was intended to reassure us or something. I wouldn’t take note of it at all except that one paragraph illustrates the pathology of public employees with stunning clarity:
As I reflect on the disturbing occurrences at Miramonte, I am more confused over the fact that the children did not report. How is it that the children did not believe that what the teacher was doing to them was wrong? How could being blindfolded, placed in a closet, and having cockroaches placed on them not be wrong? I believe that the teachers involved in these heinous acts preyed on the most vulnerable of the children; children of poverty, children of abuse, children with uninvolved parents, and children of undocumented parents.
The principal’s insistence on repeating lurid details from the newspapers is between her and her god. This person is a martinet with a habit of logorrhea that expresses itself in nightly robocalls and long assemblies during which parents are upbraided for such crimes as parking on the street while delivering and picking up students, cutting into the school’s funding by keeping kids home from classes, not contributing during fundraisers, and so on.
But look again at that paragraph. There is no way around the logic: She is arguing that it was the kids’ fault for not reporting the incident. And since public school is a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims, the children are also described as victims who have suffered from the depredations of poverty and abuse, of “uninvolved” and undocumented parents. Her focus on the kids’ purported failure to speak up may be intended as an “if you see something say something” advisory, but the focus itself is what is revealing. The inadequacy of the students and their parents, not the negligence of the school or the district, is to blame.
As it happens, my kids’ principal is wrong on the facts: Mark Berndt, the more prominent of the two accused teachers at Miramonte, was the subject of complaints on at least two occasions: in 1994 and 2008. Administrators at the school and the district failed to take action either time.
Another thing that the principal fails to note: Berndt has been accused, not convicted. For criminal purposes he is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and that would be true even if he were not represented by a public-sector union. The difference between a schoolteacher and, for example, an employee of Disneyland or Burger King, is that Berndt couldn’t be fired when the suspicions first came up. That’s not an idle comparison. Here’s what happened to a Burger King employee, his co-workers, and his manager, when he was caught doing something a lot less objectionable than what Berndt is accused of:
I generally dislike this principal’s jawboning (and I’m particularly bothered that her campaign of petty discipline has coincided with a nose dive in the school’s Academic Performance Index score). But in this case I appreciate her candor. That both teachers and administrators view parents and students as the enemy is an open secret. But it’s rare that you see it expressed so baldly.
L.A. teachers doing what comes naturally — telling lies:
Carolina Journal reports that a state inspector at West Hoke Elementary School in Raeford, North Carolina, recently deemed a 4-year-old girl's home-packed lunch nutritionally inadequate, decreeing that it be replaced by food from the school cafeteria. The magazine, which is published by the John Locke Foundation, explains the source of this lunch review authority:
The Division of Child Development and Early Education at the Department of Health and Human Services requires all lunches served in pre-kindergarten programs—including in-home day care centers—to meet USDA guidelines. That means lunches must consist of one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables, even if the lunches are brought from home.
But Jani Kozlowski, the division's fiscal and statutory policy manager, tells Carolina Journal the rejected lunch—which consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, potato chips, and apple juice—did in fact meet USDA guidelines, which call for one serving of meat, one serving of milk, one serving of grain, and two servings of fruit or vegetables. By contrast, the meal the girl ending up eating thanks to the state employee's prodding—three chicken nuggets—did not. Adding insult to injury, the school billed the little girl's mother (who complained to her state representative but did not want to be publicly identified) $1.25 for the mandated substitution.
During his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned the American people that one of the greatest threats to freedom came not from enemies abroad but from “the conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry,” which over time would lose sight of defending the United States and become devoted only to its own perpetuation. Today, writes Contributing Editor Veronique de Rugy, we are living Ike’s nightmare. Defense spending is not just one of the most sacrosanct parts of the budget but also one of the largest and most inscrutable. Adjusting for inflation, military spending has grown for an unprecedented 13 consecutive years and is now higher than at any time since World War II.View this article
While the United States frames their drug legalization debates around the still-news-hooky premature demise and possible overdose of Whitney Houston, Central Americans still have that whole cartel thing and that particularly-literal war aspect to their drug problems.
Sometime next month, newly-elected Guatemalan President Otto Perez plans to propose legalization of drugs, including the decriminalization of drug transportation, to other Central American leaders.
It took Perez just one month in office to shift to calling for drug legalization. The retired general ran for the presidency on a platform of hard-line action against drug smuggling, but it seems like the sheer force of the drug trade has changed his mind; 95 percent of all cocaine sales to the United States go through Mexico, the most prominent and bloody face of the drug war, but 60 percent of them begin in central America.
The cartels, including the fearsome Zetas, are really not just in Mexico anymore. And like former Mexican presidents Vincente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo, Perez can clearly see that the policies which lead Mexico and Central America towards this literal drug war are not working and are not helping anyone. So why not legalize?
Perez recently met up with El Salvador's president, Mauricio Funes, who at least was willing to talk legalization. According to the Associated Press:
After returning to El Salvador, Funes said he personally doesn’t support legalization because it would “create a moral problem,” though he supports Perez’s right to bring up the issue for consideration.
“Imagine what it would mean,” Funes said. “Producing drugs would no longer be a crime, trafficking drugs would no longer be a crime and consuming drugs would no longer be a crime, so we would be converting the region in a paradise for drug consumption. I personally don’t agree with it and I told President Otto Perez so.
Hell, being open to discussing legalization means that Funes is doing better than most U.S. politicians. But no matter how fast things move towards legalization, it's always going to be too slow for the people caught in the crossfire of this God damn unnecessary war.
Reason.tv on the drug war in Guatemala
- Congress critters near deal on payroll tax cut, Medicare reimbursement rates, other stuff.
- Gov. Chris Christie pooh-poohs the idea of a brokered GOP convention.
- Former Obama staffer Anita Dunn stops crapping on Wall Street, starts flacking for it.
- Syrians fear an out-and-out war.
- Elie Wiesel tells Romney to tell the other Mormons to stop baptizing dead Jews.
- Colorado man pisses off local animal control, spends seven hours in the clink.
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In his State of the Union speech last month, President Obama touted natural gas, claiming that the U.S. has an estimated 100-year supply of it. Critics responded that natural gas is an evil fossil fuel and that a 100-year supply is a "myth" anyway. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey looks into the matter and finds that the president knows what he's talking about.View this article
The Wall Street Journal reports that police in New York City stopped and questioned a record 684,330 people without probable cause last year. Judging from the pattern in previous years, about half of the stops included pat-downs, ostensibly for weapons. Ninety-two percent of the people stopped were male, and 87 percent were black or Hispanic. Only 12 percent of the stops resulted in an arrest or summons. Although the NYPD says this strategy has reduced crime, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, notes that "crime rates were going down before the skyrocketing stop-and-frisk campaign."
The NYCLU says these stops have increased more than 600 percent since Michael Bloomberg's first year as mayor. Arrests for pot possession, which the New York legislature supposedly decriminalized in 1977, have shot up during the same period—not coincidentally, since many of the arrests stemming from the stop-and-frisk program are for "public display" of marijuana, a charge that transforms what would otherwise be a citable offense into a misdemeanor. As I noted in my column last week, New York cops frequently trick or coerce people into committing that offense by instructing them to take out any contraband they are carrying or by removing it from their pockets during pat-downs—a tactic Police Commissioner Ray Kelly tolerates even though he says it's illegal.
The Journal reports that "critics of stop-and-frisk say the tactic is used disproportionately among minority men." That's an odd way of putting it, since that point is not a matter of dispute. According to the 2010 census, New York City is 23 percent non-Hispanic black, 29 percent Hispanic, and 33 percent white. By contrast, the breakdown for people detained by the police under the stop-and-frisk program in 2011 (88 percent of whom turned out to be innocent) was 53 percent black, 34 percent Hispanic, and 9 percent white. The proportions in prior years were similar. Lieberman comments:
It is not a crime to walk down the street in New York City, yet every day innocent black and brown New Yorkers are turned into suspects for doing just that. It is a stunning abuse of power that undermines trust between police and the community.
[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]
A fair amount of evidence suggests that consumer-driven health plans, which typically pair high-deductible insurance with health savings accounts (HSAs), offer one of the most promising mechanisms for controlling the growth of health insurance premiums as well as overall health spending. Naturally, it looks like ObamaCare's insurance regulations will impact people with consumer-driven plans more than others, and make it hard for CDHP plans to survive.
According to a new study prepared for the American Bankers Association (ABA) by analysts from the consulting group Milliman, high deductible health plan costs are likely to increase faster than on other types of plans thanks to new rules governing health plans' medical loss ratios (MLRs), which require health insurers to spend at least 80 or 85 percent of their total premium revenue on federally defined clinical services. One reason why the MLR rules are expected to hit CDHPs is that they don't count HSA dollars, despite the fact that high-deductible plans are often matched with HSAs. That makes it harder for the the high-deductible plans to meet the MLR standards. That could have consequences for many of the roughly 10 million individuals enrolled in such plans: In a statement, the ABA warned that "consumers who rely on HSA-qualified plans to finance their health care may experience greater costs in their current health plans and may eventually have to find more expensive replacement coverage."
Tax cheat Tim Geithner, the only member of the Obama economic brain trust who has not yet been fired, testified to the Senate Finance Committee today in favor of the president’s proposed trillion-dollar-deficit budget.
Geithner, a Dartmouth man esteemed more for his tennis skills than for his understanding of markets or business, peddled much Keynesian voodoo before a nation whose economy he helped destroy while employed by the Federal Reserve Bank and then the Department of the Treasury. To get a sense of the mixed metaphors and confused logic that characterized the treasury secretary's testimony, ponder the Reuters headline “Geithner: Year-end fiscal cliff to hit U.S. growth,” and tremble to reflect that this word salad accurately describes Geithner's comments.
Mostly, Geithner pressed the need to lay heavier tax burdens on the “top 2 percent” of Americans. In proof that the second version of history is farce, the same rhetoric that characterized the birth of the modern central banking system – that the income tax would be levied only on the rich – is being used again at its death. But the Tax Foundation, citing data from Geithner’s Internal Revenue Service, suggests why the political goal of raising taxes on people who earn more than $340,000 in a year will not achieve the fiscal goal of raising more revenue:
Earners in the top 1 percent pay 37 percent of the income tax. Earners in the top 5 percent pay 59 percent. Raising tax rates for these people may feel good, but the iron judgment of history is that it will not increase the total tax haul. As you can see from the chart here, top marginal rates have varied from above 90 percent to below 30 percent over the past 70 years, but federal revenue as a percentage of GDP has remained steadily in the 19-percent neighborhood.
The chart also gives strong evidence of what brought Uncle Sam’s cut of GDP from the single-digit range to the 19-percent range. That happened in the mid-1940s, when the government and the Federal Reserve broke their original promise to soak the rich and broadened taxable income to include every penny earned by every American.
While the Geithner plan will not succeed in raising revenue, it does have the capacity to raise the volatility of revenue collections. High earners experience more severe ups and downs in their income than the rest of us. This is the particular danger in California’s own effort to service its spending addiction through higher top rates, as I explained a few weeks ago:
Geithner’s top-2-percent strategy risks putting federal revenues on the same roller coaster. Here is a look at just how contingent and temporary millionaire status is in the United States. As Geithner knows from his own experience using TurboTax to conceal income from Washington, high earners also have more opportunities to earn in ways that will not be captured by the IRS – even though in the final stages of its decadence the U.S. government is becoming far more punitive on overseas earnings, charitable donations, expatriation of wealth and people, and other hallmarks of personal freedom.
This is not novel stuff. Even First Baron Keynes understood that the relationship between tax rates and revenue raised is not one-to-one. In fact, if Keynesians were truly attentive to their master, they would have a better understanding of the importance of depressive taxation in centrally planning an economy. What’s truly worrying is that Geithner doesn’t seem to grasp the concepts he’s trying to put into practice. Plenty of people want to soak the rich:
But if Warren Buffett or Hillary Clinton or even Stephen King believes in garbage, that has at most a tangential effect on me. Geithner, on the other hand: He’s the guy who takes money directly out of my pocket.
"The fall of the (Berlin) Wall only occurred 20 years ago. It's very recent, but it's very important, perhaps one of the most important historical events of our age," says Justinian Jampol, the founder and Executive Director of the Los Angeles-based Wende Museum.
The Wende's mission is to preserve Cold War artifacts and personal histories from the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain, with a special emphasis on the former East Germany. Many of the materials that make up the museum's collection come from former Stasi secret police agents, Berlin Wall border guards, and members of the other Eastern European and Soviet communist regimes that would have otherwise been lost to history.
Jampol describes one of the museum's treasures: the Berlin Wall border guards' log books from the day the Wall fell. These books demonstrate the devotion some guards had for defending the Wall, both as an idea and a physical presence, as they continued to detail the thousands of "illegal border crossings" that took place after the Wall had already fallen.
The museum is also behind the "Wall on Wilshire Project," where 10 pieces of the monstrous Berlin Wall were flown to LA, reconstructed along a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard and painted over by street artists to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall.
Approximately 4.25 minutes. Produced by Anthony L. Fisher. Shot by Sharif Matar.
Music: "Warzaw Express" by Pharaos
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The latest trial in what seems like an endless series of ginned-up "domestic terror threats" is under way now in Detroit. Let's check in with some details.
From the Huffington Post, summing up the charges and the defense's basic line:
The seven are charged with conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion...
A Midwest militia whose members prosecutors say were willing "to go to war" against the U.S. government was more like a "social club" whose talk was little more than fantasy, defense attorneys say.
Displaying guns, vests and other military gear, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline told jurors Monday that members of anti-government Hutaree wanted to kill a police officer as a springboard to a broader rebellion against the U.S. government...
Two defense attorneys offered an opening rebuttal to the government's introduction, telling jurors there was no specific plan to do any harm to anyone in authority.
Jurors will hear more opening statements from defense attorneys Tuesday in the case against seven members of the Hutaree.....
Graveline showed the jury a video clip of leader David Stone declaring, "Welcome to the revolution." The government placed an undercover agent inside the Hutaree and also had a paid informant. More than 100 hours of audio and video were recorded....
Todd Shanker, attorney for David Stone Jr., acknowledged there are "offensive statements" on the recordings but said the words were "almost fantasy" made among people who were comfortable with each other....adding later that the Hutaree really was more of a "social club" than any organized militia.
William Swor, attorney for David Stone...told jurors the government was displaying weapons in court to "make you afraid." Swor said members lived hand-to-mouth and couldn't even afford transportation to a regional militia meeting in Kentucky, a trip that wasn't completed because of bad winter weather. He said it was the undercover agent who supplied the van, gas and a secret camera that captured Stone on video.
Of the original nine defendants, Joshua Clough, of Blissfield, Mich., is the only one to make a deal with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty in December to illegal use of a firearm, faces a mandatory five-year prison sentence and could be called as a witness to testify for the government.
Besides the Stones, the other defendants are Tina Mae Stone and Joshua Stone, both from Lenawee County; Thomas Piatek, of Whiting, Ind.; Michael Meeks, of Manchester, Mich.; and Kristopher Sickles, of Sandusky, Ohio. Jacob Ward, of Huron, Ohio, will have a separate trial. Besides conspiracy charges, all face at least one firearm charge and some have more.
More from the defense, via the Detroit Free Press:
"You will have to decide whether this is a real conspiracy or David Stone exercising his God-given right to blow off steam and open his mouth," Stone's lawyer William Swor of Detroit told jurors. "The United States government has never been the enemy of David Stone or his family. ... These are ordinary people living ordinary lives. Doing this stuff was merely their form of recreation."
Details from the Free Press on the jury selection process.
"Patriot movement" mag Republic sums up some of the issues with the government's legal case:
Rather than charging the Hutaree members with overt criminal acts, the Feds are prosecuting them for “sedition” – that is, criminal “offenses” that consist of expressing opinions about government corruption and making physical preparations to for self-defense against criminal violence by government authorities.
Lloyd Meyer, a Chicago attorney and former terrorism prosecutor, points out that this kind of prosecution is very unusual:“How often do American citizens get charged with sedition or inciting discontent and resistance against big government? Heck, most citizens are discontented with the government. In this case, no one pulled a trigger and no one got hurt. … A jury could believe that the feds went after this group with a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel.
Federal prosecutors initially attempted to have all nine members of the Hutaree militia held without bail as a severe threat to public safety. In May 2010, Federal District Judge Victoria Roberts granted them bail...
Defense attorneys, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 Brandenburg v. Ohio decision, maintain that seditious speech — including speech that constitutes an incitement to violence — is protected by the First Amendment as long as it does not indicate an “imminent” threat.
The prosecutors’ brief, invoking the the 1995 seditious conspiracy trial of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, maintained that it was not necessary to demonstrate a threat of imminent harm, but rather only that the defendants had formed an “agreement to oppose by force the authority of the United States.”
There are signs that the judge is unimpressed with the state's case, and she has stressed that prosecutors must demonstrate that the arrestees were guilty of an actual conspiracy to kill cops, not just loose talk. Even "hate-filled, venomous speech," she said, is "a right that deserves First Amendment protection."
Obviously we don't know what evidence has yet to be introduced at trial. Perhaps there really is more at issue here than some chest-beating chatter; perhaps there's a good reason to think a genuine murder plot was underway. But either way, we've learned enough about the Hutaree in the last month to know that the media narrative that greeted their arrests hasn't held up. Assume the worst-case scenario: that the defendants really were planning a massacre and that they really were capable of carrying it out. They still aren't the vanguard of the right-wing revolution. The Hutaree are isolated and despised, not just by the American mainstream but by the bulk of the groups on the SPLC's Patriot list. Indeed, the government may have had the help of some anti-Hutaree militiamen as it forged its case against the accused.
More Reason on the Hutaree.
This month's Esquire has the best extended reporting on another case of sleazy government informants enticing some angry white men into saying or planning things that the government can then make a "big terror bust" on, the Georgia "Waffle House terrorism" case. As with the Hutarees and even more so, this arrest and prosecution is much government effort expended in a way that isn't really protecting anyone from anything.
In a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg last summer, Santorum declared, "I am not a libertarian, and I fight very strongly against libertarian influence within the Republican Party and the conservative movement." In that regard, writes Gene Healy, Santorum has a pretty impressive record.View this article
Has President Obama finally come around on entitlements? Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the new White House budget plan was expected to "duck big benefit cuts" and "leave largely unchanged the biggest drivers of future government spending"—entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. But now I see Reuters reporting that the new budget blueprint proposes "more aggressive deficit reductions through savings from Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal healthcare programs." Obama is indeed backing some $360 billion worth of cuts, mostly provider payment reductions, to health programs over the next decade, much as he did during the debt ceiling showdown last year.
But even ignoring the virtual certainty that Obama's budget won't pass, I wouldn't call these payment reductions "aggressive," or anything like it. The president himself has insisted that he only supports "modest" changes to Medicare. And as I reported in my January feature on Medicare's payment history, "Medicare Whac-a-Mole," federal policymakers have been attempting to control health costs and spending through various payment games for decades with minimal success.
Indeed, the federal government is still hundreds of billions in the hole thanks to ongoing problems with a payment formula instituted more than a decade ago, the sustainable growth rate (SGR). Thanks to the SGR's convoluted rules, doctors are continually set to take Medicare pay cuts, and every time Congress overrides those cuts, the long-term cost of fixing the system permanently goes up: At this point, a long-term fix would cost at least $316 billion (according to the Congressional Budget Office) and perhaps as much as $522 billion (according to GOP Sen. Jeff Session, although I'm not sure where he got the number). The administration's budget pegs the ten-year cost at $429 billion, and assumes that it will be covered—but, as it has done before, provides no way to pay for the full cost. What that means, though, is that using the administration's own numbers, the proposed provider payment "cuts" don't even add up to the price of the payment system fixes it assumes will be made.
The Drug War
President Obama’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013 contains something akin to good news for Americans affected by the drug war. While light on specifics, the summary for the Department of Justice’s FY2013 budget mentions several provisions to reduce America’s appalling incarceration rate:
The Budget provides $153 million in prisoner reentry and jail diversion programs, including $80 million for the Second Chance Act programs and $52 million for problem-solving grants supporting drug courts, mentally ill offender assistance, and other problem-solving approaches. With 2.3 million people in U.S. prisons and 1 in 32 American adults under some kind of correctional supervision, these programs aim to divert individuals from incarceration, reduce recidivism, and achieve public safety in a more sensible way.
The section addressing federal prisons also hints at a public-health approach to drug law enforcement. While the the budget increases federal prison spending by 4 percent over FY2012 “due to projected growth in the Federal detainee population,” the section also says “the Administration will also continue to explore opportunities to reduce the prison population, with a focus on non-violent offenders.”
Typically when we refer to police militarization, we’re talking about raids, the rush to violence when dealing with citizens who may or may not have committed crimes, and the use of military grade weapons/vehicles/toys. Obama’s budget calls for specific militarization of police, by promising local law enforcement more federal funds if they hire veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan:
The Budget provides $257 million to support America’s first responders and the hiring and retention of police officers and sheriffs’ deputies across the country, and includes a preference for the hiring of post–9/11 veterans. This funding builds on the $166 million in COPS Hiring Grants funding enacted in 2012. These investments assist in building capacity to enable State and local law enforcement partners to make the most of their resources and encourage their most promising and effective public safety efforts. The Budget includes $4 billion in immediate assistance for the retention, rehiring, and hiring of police officers in 2012, as requested by the President in the American Jobs Act. States and localities will gain a preference for implementing programs and policies that focus on the recruitment of post–9/11 veterans for law enforcement positions.
If there’s evidence that veterans make worse cops than civilians, I haven’t seen it. But there is something disconcerting about shuffling veterans from the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan to American streets.
The raid and shut-down of file-sharing site Megaupload was likely the first of many, if Obama’s budget is an indicator:
Recent technological advances, particularly in methods of manufacturing and distribution, have created new opportunities for businesses of all sizes to innovate and grow. These advancements, however, have also created new vulnerabilities, which tech-savvy criminals are eager to exploit. As a result, there has been an alarming rise in intellectual property (IP) crimes, illegal activities that not only devastate individual lives and legitimate businesses, but undermine our financial stability and prosperity. Therefore, the Administration is devoting nearly $40 million to identify and defeat intellectual property criminals, an increase of $5 million over 2012. The Administration’s efforts have already resulted in shutting down 350 websites engaged in the illegal sale and distribution of counterfeit goods and copyrighted works. Additionally, international partnerships and joint initiatives have enabled experts to train or educate in IP protection more than 2,500 foreign judges, prosecutors, investigators, and other officials from over 30 countries.
Self-appointed food police have been pitching Twinkie taxes, soda taxes, and so on for years, writes A. Barton Hinkle. And like advocates of every stripe, they are sometimes prone to exaggerating. Last month researchers (including one at Virginia Tech) claimed slapping a penny-per-ounce tax on soft drinks would raise $13 billion in revenue, save $17 billion in health costs, and prevent (kid you not) 2,600 premature deaths a year—all because it would lead the average adult American to cut nine calories a day. Nine.View this article
"Stop the apocalyptic rhetoric. The alarmist scenarios dominating policy discourse may be good for the cybersecurity-industrial complex, but they aren’t doing real security any favors," write former Reason intern Tate Watkins and Mercatus' Jerry Brito today at Wired.
The dynamic duo—who have debunked the cybersecurity threat in Reason's pages as well—lay out the mechanism whereby threats of cyber war are systematically inflated by the devout fearful and those who stand to gain—panicked Internet Baptists and their military-industrial-complex bootlegger buddies:
Rhetoric about cyber catastrophe resembles threat inflation we saw in the run-up to the Iraq War...
The media may be contributing to threat inflation today by uncritically reporting alarmist views of potential cyber threats. For example, a 2009 front page Wall Street Journal story reported that the U.S. power grid had been penetrated by Chinese and Russian hackers and laced with logic bombs. The article is often cited as evidence that the power grid is rigged to blow.
Yet similar to Judith Miller’s Iraq WMD reporting, the only sources for the article’s claim that infrastructure has been compromised are anonymous U.S. intelligence officials. With little specificity about the alleged infiltrations, readers are left with no way to verify the claims. More alarmingly, when Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) took to the Senate floor to introduce the comprehensive cybersecurity bill that she co-authored with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the evidence she cited to support a pressing need for regulation included this very Wall Street Journal story.
And now, some alarming large numbers in a paragraph studded with the names of defense contractors:
The U.S. government is expected to spend $10.5 billion a year on information security by 2015, and analysts have estimated the worldwide market to be as much as $140 billion a year. The Defense Department has said it is seeking more than $3.2 billion in cybersecurity funding for 2012. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, L-3 Communications, SAIC, and BAE Systems have all launched cybersecurity divisions in recent years.
Check out the smartypants academic version of Watkins and Brito's report.
Read lots more skeptical approaches to cyber war (plus a great deal of hate for the word cyber in any context).
Before joining the federal judiciary in 1980 and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg got her start as a feminist Columbia University law professor and chief litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project. Given that legal background, you probably wouldn’t expect Ginsburg to criticize the Supreme Court’s abortion-affirming 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. But as the Associated Press reports, that’s precisely what she did last week:
"It's not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far too fast," Ginsburg told a symposium at Columbia Law School marking the 40th anniversary of her joining the faculty as its first tenure-track female professor....
Alluding to the persisting bitter debate over abortion, Ginsburg said the justices of that era could have delayed hearing any case like Roe while the state-by-state process evolved. Alternatively, she said, they could have struck down just the Texas law, which allowed abortions only to save a mother's life, without declaring a right to privacy that legalized the procedure nationwide.
"The court made a decision that made every abortion law in the country invalid, even the most liberal," Ginsburg said. "We'll never know whether I'm right or wrong ... things might have turned out differently if the court had been more restrained."
Answering historical “what ifs” can be a fun way to pass the time, but these comments from Ginsburg actually take on real weight in light of last week’s decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down California’s Proposition 8, which had amended the state constitution in order to forbid gay marriage. If UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh is correct that the Prop. 8 case is definitely “going up to the Supreme Court,” the comparison to Roe v. Wade becomes more than just academic.
Let’s say the Supreme Court hears the Prop. 8 case in the next year or so and Justice Anthony Kennedy continues his trend of voting in favor of gay rights by authoring a sweeping five-justice majority opinion recognizing a right to gay marriage in the 14th Amendment. This landmark decision would strike down all state-level bans on the practice, much like Roe did for abortion laws. Should proponents of gay marriage favor this aggressive approach or should they heed Ginsburg’s warning about the political backlash from moving “too far too fast”?
President Obama’s new budget proposal notes that ‘Americans are already enjoying many of the protections put in place” thanks to the 2010 health care overhaul. But the White House appears less keen to mention the trade offs that those alleged benefits entail. For example, the proposal notes that “young adults under age 26 can now stay on their parents’ policies.” This is true, but what the report doesn’t note is that this requirement contributes to the rising cost of insurance. The same goes for the budget’s brag that “all new private market health insurance plans now must cover critical preventive care services such as mammograms and colonoscopies without charging a deductible, copay, or coinsurance.” Despite how ObamaCare boosters have described this policy, the preventive care mandates in the law are far from free to the patient, and, as Cato Institute health policy director Michael Cannon has noted, not likely to be cost effective either. The budget also touts changes to children’s health insurance regulations: “Because of the ACA, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children under the age of 19 due to a pre-existing condition.” And because of that rule, many big-name health insurers have decided to simply stop offering child-only health insurance policies altogether. Somehow I suspect that parents looking for individual health insurance policies for their children aren’t exactly enjoying this so-called protection.
The AP does a fact check on Obama's budget and concludes that like all such documents, this one is full of "phantoms."
When a president introduces a budget, there are always phantoms flitting around the room. President Barack Obama's spending plan sets loose a number of them.
It counts on phantom savings from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's underpinned by tax increases Republicans won't let happen and program cuts fellow Democrats in Congress are all but certain to block.
Specifically, Obama counts $850 billion in war savings and pushes a chunk of that "savings" toward road construction. The problem is that since the wars are being paid for by borrowing, there's no peace dividend this time around. And that's assuming defense spending goes down as planned.
Then there's this. The budget
Forecasts healthy growth in years ahead, with GDP growth predicted to reach a robust 4 percent in 2014 and 4.2 percent in 2015....
Last year, the administration built its proposed budget on a projection of 2.7 percent growth in 2011; it turned out to be 1.7. The forecast for 2012 was 3.6 percent, which the White House lowered in the new budget to 3 percent. IHS Global Insight, a leading forecaster in Lexington, Mass., projects 2.1 percent.
Rosy scenarios of economic growth are pervasive in government planning. They rarely come to pass.
The AP story also notes that the budget assumes that taxes will go up on the wealthy ("a non-starter before the election") and also that programs favored by influential congressfolks will be cut or zeroed out (no chance).
More on the budget from Reason here. The short version: flat spending for next year, but higher taxes on the rich. And lots more deficits and debt over the next decade.
- Obama is stumping for the extension of the payroll tax cuts.
- Moody's threatens to downgrade the Brits.
- Rick Santorum is on top for the first time ever.
- NRO: Move over Gingrich, we want some Santorum.
- Pentagon to reduce troop numbers to meet so-called budget cut.
- WaPo fact-checks Obama on defense budget.
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New at Reason.tv: "Wende Museum: An Archive of the Cold War"
There’s not a lot to like in this year’s federal transportation bill, or for that matter in any year’s transportation bill. But as Managing Editor Tim Cavanaugh reports, there is one proviso that might get the lead out: The House version of the "American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Financing Act of 2012" could end the Highway Trust Fund’s transit account—a 1980s concoction whereby a fifth part of your federal gasoline tax goes to fund public transportation.View this article
Earlier this month was the birthday of Ayn Rand, the controversial philosopher and novelist, who emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1926. Regardless of what one thinks of her ideas, there is no denying that she was a great American. When the American intelligentsia was playing footsie with Soviet communism, Rand unabashedly defended liberty and individual rights. But as Shikha Dalmia explains, this proud naturalized American, who arguably did more than any contemporary figure to restore the faith of Americans in America, might have been hounded out of the country if one of our current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls had been president when she arrived. Why? Because Rand lied and bent every rule to gain entry into the United States.View this article
You have probably heard over the weekend that Mitt Romney won the nonbinding straw poll that arose from Maine's caucuses over the past week (or so), 39 to Ron Paul's 36, despite some hopes expressed by Paul's fans and campaigns he could win the poll outright.
Well, maybe. Some good old fashioned complications in the narrative from the world around Ron Paul:
*First, those results are nonbinding; the delegate selection process won't be finished until May. Even if things fall our roughly proportionately, that still, according to the very useful Greenpapers, will have Romney and Paul each snatching 8 of the state's 24 delegates.
*But Paul's campaign is confident that they will do far better than proportional, and that they will "control the Maine delegation" as per this press release:
Paul performed well throughout the state, although his campaign’s stronghold of Washington County did not report today for inexplicable reasons. Congressman Paul was barely bested by Gov. Romney by about 194 votes, a margin the campaign is confident it will make up with the 200 plus votes expected to come out of Washington County’s caucus.
“Today’s results show once again that Congressman Paul’s campaign for liberty and a return to Constitutional principles is strong and growing,” said Ron Paul 2012 National Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton. “We are confident that we will control the Maine delegation for the convention in August. Our campaign is so thankful to all of our supporters in Maine, and all over the nation, and we want them to know that we plan to take this message all the way to the White House.”
*More on the mystery of Washington County's caucus, from the Portland Press Herald:
The Paul campaign says a local caucus meeting in Washington County that was canceled Saturday afternoon because of a snowstorm would have provided the margin of victory over Romney.
But Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster is standing behind the results showing that Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, won the nonbinding presidential straw poll by 194 votes.
Washington County GOP Chairman Chris Gardner says he is pushing for his county’s votes to be counted next weekend, but conceded that it seems improbable those votes could provide Paul what he needs to overcome Romney’s statewide lead.
Still, “The people of Washington County, they certainly deserve to have their votes counted,” said Gardner. “We are going to proceed and we will push to have our votes counted."...
The Paul campaign also cried foul.
“In Washington County – where Ron Paul was incredibly strong – the caucus was delayed until next week just so the votes wouldn’t be reported by the national media today,” said John Tate, Paul’s campaign manager, in a statement late Saturday night. Tate dismissed the rationale that the caucus had to be canceled due to snow, saying the weather wasn’t that bad.
“The votes of Washington County would have been enough to put us over the top,” he said....
That would have been a great media victory--"frontrunner" Romney bested again, this time, for the first time, by Ron Paul--but again, nonbinding on the actual eventual delegates voting for candidates in Tampa later this year. John Tate's full comments on the Washington County non-count.
*Nate Silver at New York Times runs the numbers on the meaning of Washington County to the possible final straw poll results, and says Paul would have to pull out an Iowa-level turnout miracle of his folk to sway the outcome:
All if this will be moot unless Mr. Paul is able to make up 194 votes in the county.
Based on how the county voted in 2008, that seems unlikely. Just 113 votes total were cast in the county in 2008, and only 8 of those were for Mr. Paul. John McCain, instead, won the plurality.
In addition, Mr. Romney narrowly won the two counties, Hancock and Penobscot, that border Washington County to the west and which are probably the best demographic match for it — although Mr. Paul won sparsely-populated Aroostook County, which borders it to the north, where he took 81 votes to Mr. Romney’s 26.
However, Washington County might theoretically have some untapped potential for Mr. Paul. It is rural and relatively poor — demographics that tend to suit him more than Mr. Romney. And it is relatively conservative, having split its vote about evenly between Barack Obama and Mr. McCain in 2008 when Mr. Obama won Maine as a whole fairly easily.
What such an outcome would require is for Mr. Paul’s campaign to make a concerted effort to turn out any supporters it has in the area. There are 6,907 registered Republicans in Washington County, and another 8,247 unaffiliated registered voters, who are eligible to participate by changing their registration to Republican at the caucus site. Unregistered voters, for that matter, are also free to participate provided that they register at the caucus site.
Imagine, for instance, that voters turned out in the county at a rate comparable the Iowa caucuses, where Mr. Paul had a strong turnout operation. In Iowa, 122,255 Republicans participated in the caucuses as compared to a total of 644,220 voters who were registered as Republican prior to caucus night.
Were turnout in Washington County to occur at the Iowa rate, it would produce about 1,300 participants at the caucuses,enough to swing the outcome if Mr. Paul received about 15 percent more of their votes than Mr. Romney.
*The Bangor Daily News on some delegate voting discrepencies in Portland.
*Waldo County, which held its caucus the week before, also had its votes not counted, organizer Raymond St. Onge explains, and says Paul won there, edging out Santorum by two votes.
*U.S. News and World Report on Paul's disappointment:
"You know, we were a little bit disappointed last night," theTexas congressman told CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, hours after losing Maine. "We did very well up there. But we're going to continue to do what we do, and do the very best and keep accumulating delegates."
He declined to criticize Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, but did throw some zingers at the other two candidates in the GOP presidential race, former House SpeakerNewt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
"Their records are far from being conservative," Paul said.
*Although CPAC was Ron Paul-less, the head of the American Conservative Union tells the Washington Times they can't ignore him:
“It would be a dramatic error for the winning campaign to disavow Ron Paul’s contributions to the process,” said Al Cardenas, chairman of theAmerican Conservative Union, which hosted the CPAC gathering. “I am a firm believer that Ron Paul has found a niche and found a movement that he wants to have a voice. It may not be a majority movement, but it’s a growing movement. So, if we are smart, he’s going to have his fair opportunity at convention, and a platform committee to have his points of views discussed and expressed.
He added, “Any winning campaign of the nomination, if it is not his, should embrace him and his followers if we are going to win in November.”...
David Keene, former ACU chairman, said the party’s slow embrace of Paul supporters reminded him of how Republicans were reluctant to welcome the evangelicals who followed Pat Robertson into the political fray during his 1988 presidential bid. In one instance, Mr. Keene recalled, a national committeeman likened attending a Robertson campaign meeting to “the bar scene in ‘Star Wars.’ “
“Party leaders, like the leader of any club, love to have your dues, or your vote in this case, but they really don’t want you hanging around voting for the offices or the leadership,” Mr. Keene said. “[Evangelicals] came in, they were attracted by Pat Robertson, who couldn’t get nominated, but attracted hundreds of thousands of millions of people. Some of those people went home because they were just attracted to him, as will some of the Paul people, and some of them stuck around, and today a lot of them are leaders in the party.”
My forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution.
The distant spheres of people deeply interested in birth control and Ludwig Von Mises met violently when blogger "Rortybomb" (Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute) did some libertarian-baiting by claiming that libertarians should be against mandated insurance that covers birth control because Ludwig Von Mises didn't approve of birth control. (I am not a regular reader of his blog, so sophisticated strategic ironies that may or may not have been at work will zoom over my head.)
In the first place, Mr. Bomb's supposition is openly based on some intellectual sleight of hand to begin with, taking a stated opposition to "free love" as an alleged tool of socialism and extending it to birth control:
I think it is fair to lump “free love” as he means it with birth control. He writes Socialism in 1922, a year after Margaret Sanger founds the group that becomes Planned Parenthood (which she does after a decade of writing sex education for women columns in a variety of socialist and anarchist magazines while trying to evade arrest). He doesn’t mention Sanger but he’s pretty obsessed with this book Woman and Socialism (“no other German socialist book was more widely read or more effective as propaganda than Bebel’s Woman and Socialism, which is dedicated above all to the message of free love”).
Let’s get some more quotes onto the internets and then encourage our libertarian friends to have at it. Help that whole fusionist project by spending 2012 finding increasingly esoteric ways of denouncing birth control alongside the religious conservatives – the future of private property depends on it!
That daring leap was dead wrong, which Rortybomb later tweetmitted. See this, from Mises' longest book, Human Action:
Those fighting birth control want to eliminate a device indispensable for the preservation of peaceful human cooperation and the social division of labor. Where the average standard of living is impaired by the excessive increase in population figures. irreconcilable conflicts of interests arise. Each individual is again a rival of all other individuals in the struggle for survival. The annihilation of rivals is the only means of increasing one's own well-being. The philosophers and theologians who assert that birthcontrol is contrary to the laws of God and Nature refuse to see things as they really are. Nature straitens the material means required for the improvement of human well-being and survival. As natural conditions are, man has only the choice between the pitiless war of each against each or social cooperation. But social cooperation is impossible if people give rein to the natural impulse of proliferation. In restricting procreation man adjusts himself to the natural conditions of his existence. The rationalization of the sexual passions is an indispensable condition of civilization and societal bonds. Its abandonment would in the long run not increase but decrease the numbers of those surviving, and would render life for everyone as poor and miserable as it was many thousands of years ago for our ancestors. [p. 673]
Thanks to Gene Callahan for being the first to get that quote into the record in response to Rortybomb.
And Mises was a general fan of the basic feminist message, as Rortybomb himself quotes, from Mises' early opus Socialism:
So far as Feminism seeks to adjust the legal position of woman to that of man, so far as it seeks to offer her legal and economic freedom to develop and act in accordance with her inclinations, desires, and economic circumstances—so far it is nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution.
Mises does go on to address "natural barriers" that socialists want to overturn, and doubtless some of his own personal opinions about what those natural barriers might be would differ from moderns, liberal or conservative, which is exactly why Rortybomb's entire implied point doesn't make any sense to begin with. Those concerns are far more matters of opinion, not political philosophy, and in no sense should bind even those who have sworn fealty to Mises' general views on economics and liberty. (For example, I'm quite the Misesian in most questions of politics and economics, but can imagine an intelligent conservative argument that the "rationalization of the sexual passions" is in some sense harmed by birth control, though not in the specific procreational sense he is addressing specifically.)
But let's address the larger point, if there is one, besides that atop all of our heads for even talking about this: That polemical points can rightly be earned laying some judgment, whether real or imagined, of an intellectual founding father or influence on a political movement or tendency on to the backs of its younger followers--either to mock them or to insist that, no, this is really what their intellectual mission is: not to promote liberty, but to work for whatever Ludwig Von Mises liked or didn't like.
It is interesting, for those interested in intellectual history, that Mises saw free love as part of some larger socialist mission to destroy the family. But for the libertarian the relevant question is, is this voluntary or not, does this infringe on anyone's life, liberty, or property or not? "Anything that's peaceful," baby, as Leonard Read, one of Mises' great popular disciples in Amerca, wrote.
Thus, there's a libertarian case to be made against forcing anyone to cover any specific medical care, birth control or whatever, in the insurance deals they make with their clients. But it has nothing to do with whether Ludwig von Mises was comfortable with free love, or birth control, or with catheters, or blood transfusions, or any other specific medical procedure that might or might not become a political controversy when the government tried to force people to sell insurance only on the condition that that insurance cover that procedure or medication's use.
That said, I won't even do the nyaa-nyaa-nyaa Keynes was into eugenics!
Much on Mises and more in my very long book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the American Libertarian Movement.
Most Democratically Revolutionary Bolívarian Father of the Presidency For Life Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has had enough of socialism on one planet:
"Venezuela has stepped onto the road to space," Chavez said on national television.
"Nobody has ever reached Mars but Venezuela will. It's our goal for 2030-2040."
People's Fifth Republican International Anti-Imperialist Communal Counciliar First Among Equals Chávez declared the opening of the interplanetary class struggle after agreeing to pay China's space agency $140 million to build and launch the Miranda spy satellite, which will "monitor troop movements and illegal mining as well as study climate change and the environment."
While expanding the glory of the Venezuelan people, Chávez also graciously acknowledges the social and scientific advancements won by his East Asian partners in the liberation of the Martian Proletariat. "One day Venezuela will arrive on Mars but China will do it first," Chávez says.
In the context of the federal budget, the National Endowment for the Arts is a drop in the bucket, amounting to about 0.004 percent of total spending. At the same time, the program is completely unnecessary, so preserving it while claiming to make "hard choices" and "difficult decisions" signals a lack of seriousness. It should come as no surprise, then, that President Obama's plan to "re-establish fiscal responsibility" includes an $8 million increase in the NEA's budget.
"The administration request of $154 million for the National Endowment for the Arts is a greatly needed increase of $8 million from the $146 million that Congress appropriated last year," says Robert L. Lynch, CEO of Americans for the Arts. "Since 2010 the NEA has been cut $22 million to $146 million, which threatens its ability to make critical grants throughout the county." He adds that "the higher appropriation enhances the ability of the NEA to fund projects in every congressional district," which presumably will improve its chances of getting more funding in the future.
Mitt Romney, Obama's likely opponent in November, is a not much better on this fiscally trivial but symbolically significant issue. Romney calls for "deep reductions" in the NEA's budget yet still cannot bring himself to abolish it, thereby implicitly putting it in the category of "absolutely essential" federal programs, which he says are the only kind he would preserve.
On February 7, an Orange County deputy, still unnamed, fatally shot an unarmed former Marine in front of the latter's children while all three of them sat in the Marine's car.
Sgt. Manuel Loggins Jr. was driving at 4:45 a.m. with his two children and he had apparently crashed his van through a gate and ended up in a school parking lot. He then exited the van, stood on the football field for a while, and then started to return to the van, ignoring orders from the deputy (and three others who had arrived) to stop.
The deputy says he feared for the safety of Loggins' 9 and 14-year-old children because Loggins has been making "irrational statements" and was about to drive away.
Loggins' friends say he was an extremely religious man who liked to take his daughters for walks in the early mornings at that school and talk to them about the Bible. Former colleagues also say he was great soldier who always listened and obeyed orders.
Some news reports suggested that the deputy's fears for his own safety were what motivated the shooting. However, no weapon was found on Loggins and sounds like the safety of the children is being made out as the main motivation by police (not that it couldn't have been both). The deputy is now on administrative leave pending an investigation.
It's possible that Loggins was having some sort of nervous breakdown. It's even possible that his children were in danger. But since it it apparently needs to be repeated, what good are police if they can't help someone in mental distress and turn so quickly to lethal force? Where were the deputy's less-lethal weapons if these now-fatherless children really were in trouble? Considering some recent, nasty police incidents in Orange County, you have to wonder how this investigation is going to turn out. Shooting into a van when there are children in the back seat is a very desperate move. Hopefully it was justified. It certainly makes you wish for mandatory cameras on every police officer.
[Updated] It seems that the dashcam captured "the entire incident." I guess we'll see.
Reason.tv on the killing of Kelly Thomas by Fullerton, California police:
Despite a proposed compromise last week, the firestorm rages on over the Obama Administration rule under which all employee health insurance plans, including ones at religiously affiliated institutions such as Catholic charities and schools, must include full coverage for birth control. The battle has been framed as one of religious freedom versus reproductive rights. But as Cathy Young observes, it also illustrates two troubling phenomena unrelated to religion: intrusive micromanagement of insurance options under the new federal health care law, and the redefinition of contraception as a public good rather than a personal choice.View this article
The Cato Institute’s Walter Olson highlights a little-known federal program aimed at encouraging the states to pass more restrictive swimming pool regulations in exchange for federal grant money. As he explains, the end result of this and similar arrangements has been the undermining of our system of checks and balances:
This forlorn little program is a tiny and failed example of a genre of federal initiative that all too often enjoys success: using federal tax dollars to bribe states and localities into raising spending and extending regulation. The proliferation of such programs helps explain why the earlier and sounder idea of federalism — which saw the national and state governments as checking each others’ overweening powers — has given way to a spirit of mutual enablement (“cooperative federalism”) at the expense of the citizenry and its freedom. Thus the Obama administration, realizing that public opinion is not yet ready for a federal-level campaign to demonize fattening and salty foods, is happy to drop millions of dollars on local governments like Mayor Bloomberg’s in New York City to do exactly that. And for decades Congress has been creating programs subsidizing local hiring of teachers, police officers and other public employees — with the presumably unintended result of saddling localities with unsustainable payrolls and pension obligations when times turn tough.
I'm greatly honored and deeply saddened to be part of the last episode of Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano. The show airs on Fox Business at 8pm ET and reruns later in the evening as well. You will not want to miss his end-of-show commentary, which is certainly a speech for the ages. Go here for more details.
Matt Welch gives some background on the show's cancellation here.
Freedom Watch was great in its early webcast days and it remained absolutely the greatest "daily dose" of liberty ever to grace the small screen so far. On behalf of Reason, I'd like to take a moment to thank the Judge and producers such as George Szucs and Patrick McMenamin for all they did to heighten the visibility of our staffers and broaden the reach of our ideas. Far more important, I'd like to thank them for all they did to inject a truly alternative viewpoint into ongoing debates about politics, culture, and ideas. Along with the weekly Stossel show (which will continue on Fox Business), Freedom Watch was unapologetically libertarian and also one of the most wide-ranging and provocative news programs anyone could want.
The Judge will continue to grace many Fox News and Fox Business programs. And he will certainly continue to appear in the pages of Reason magazine, Reason.com, and Reason.tv, where he has already done so much to further the debate about freedom and liberty. Read his Reason archive here and watch the most recent of our video interviews with him below.
- Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are tied.
- Catholic bishops reject birth control compromise.
- U.S. to hold talks with North Korea.
- Stocks rally following news of Greek austerity plan.
- Al-Qaeda wants to help Syrians overthrow Assad.
- Obama campaign has a "truth squad," and you can be part of it!
- Judge throws out part of BP shareholder suit.
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Before shedding any tears for the insurance companies, check their stock prices. One of the most remarkable moments of the administration came on June 24, 2009, when Mr. Obama told Aetna’s CEO, “Aetna is a well-managed company and I am confident that your shareholders are going to do well.” If you took that stock tip from President Obama, you would have done pretty well, writes Ira Stoll. Shares in Aetna are up 89% since then, assuming reinvestment of dividends, far outpacing the 49% return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index over the same period.View this article
On Friday, I wrote about Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year old Saudi writer who tweeted about the Prophet Muhammad. His tweets were seen as "apostasy," which could merit the death penalty under Sharia law. He soon fled Saudi Arabia, but was arrested in Malaysia, while en route to to seek asylum in New Zealand. Amnesty International even called him a "prisoner of conscience." However, on Sunday, the Malaysian government deported Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia.
Malaysian Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein defended the decision, arguing that Malaysia is not a "safe transit" for those wanted by their home nations. He also labeled Kashgari a "terrorist." In addition, Hishammuddin blasted the idea that Kashgari could be executed for tweeting as "illogic," claiming:
Allegations that he would be executed, abused, do not make sense. The country being accused is a dignified country. These are serious allegations against Saudi Arabia.
I hope this issue is not politicised on the basis of freedom and human rights...We received a
request from Saudi Arabia and we will not protect anyone who is wanted.
Unfortunately, capital punishment is all too common in Saudi Arabia. Since Wahabi Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia, it enforces a very strict (and literal) form of Sharia law. Between 2008-2010, Saudi Arabia executed almost 200 people, all by public decapitation. In December 2011, a Saudi woman was beheaded for practicing "witchcraft and sorcery," while in 2009, the leader of a jewelry thief gang was "crucified:" He was decapitated, his severed head was impaled, then his body was publicly displayed. As for Kashgari, if he is convicted of apostasy, he would be guilty of hadud, or "crimes against God." These crimes often led to the death penalty.
In addition, Kashgari's supporters in Saudi Arabia might also face a similar fate. According to Khaled Abu Rashid, "Those who supported the contents of Kashgari's tweets are considered criminal exactly like him," and thus, would merit the same type of punishment Kashgari receives. However, this comes with Kafkaesque legal contortions:
If the support was for general principles like freedom of expression, then this is a different matter, but if the support was for the attacks on Allah and His Prophet, then the supporters should be tried for apostasy.
The criminal was tied and blindfolded. With one stroke of the sword I severed his head. It rolled metres away...People are amazed how fast it can separate the head from the body.
No one is afraid of me. I have a lot of relatives, and many friends at the mosque, and I live a normal life like everyone else. There are no drawbacks for my social life.
The first chart tallies up Obama's proposed spending and proposed "spending cuts" over the next decade. The spending is easy to calculate. The spending cuts are a little more dicey. Obama has said he will trim possible future debt by $4 trillion in this budget. About $1.5 trillion of that total will come from tax increases, so the other $2.5 trillion will come from foregone outlays. [Note: an earlier version of this first chart was mislabeled. The current title is correct; sorry for any confusion.]
This chart adds up the increase in debt held by the public over the next decade if everything goes according to Obama's plan. Though the president likes to stress the need to be responsible in fiscal matters, debt will increase by at around $8 trillion over the coming 10 years.
I find the chart below to be the most interesting of the bunch. Budget plans always include projections of outlays, revenues, shortfalls, etc. The blue bars represent Obama's projections of deficits in the budget he submitted for fiscal year 2010. The red bars are the actual deficits and, in the case of 2012 and 2013, the projections in this year's budget. In 2010 and 2011, the deficits were worse than projected. And the new projections for 2012 and 2013 are worse than what Obama figured they would be in 2010. Which hardly fills you with enthusiasm or confidence about his ability to figure out the budget, right?
Go here to read highlights of the plan and to access the full budget document.
Washington State Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law late Monday morning legislation that would enable same-sex couples to marry in the Evergreen State as advocates prepare for a possible fight over the measure at the ballot.
“I’m proud that our same-sex couples will no longer be treated as separate but equal,” Gregoire said in her remarks. “They will be equal in the great state of Washington.”
Gregoire signed the legislation surrounded by LGBT advocates, including gay State Rep. Jamie Pedersen and gay State Sen. Ed Murray, champions of the legislation who introduced the governor at the ceremony.
After signing the bill, Gregoire exclaimed, “It is signed!”
Murray said during his remarks, “My friends, welcome to the other side of the rainbow!” Prior to the signing the legislation, the audience at the signing ceremony chanted “Gre-goire! Gre-goire!” Later during the event, they chanted, “Thank-you! Thank-you!”
Gregoire asserted during her remarks that the legislation enables gay couples to obtain marriage licenses while allowing churches and religious organizations to opt out of recognizing these unions. Repeatedly throughout the remarks, Gregoire thanked the legislature for approving and conducting a civil, respectful debate on the issue.
Related: Salon's excellent and surprisingly even-handed profile of hetero paladin Maggie Gallagher.
President Obama didn’t have much to say about his health care overhaul during his State of the Union this year, but his new budget plan makes sure to remind readers how fiscally responsible the trillion-dollar plan is and take credit for its alleged deficit reduction. Here’s what the introduction to the new budget proposal has to say about the health law’s budgetary impact:
We took many steps to re-establish fiscal responsibility, from instituting a statutory pay-as-you-go rule for spending to going line by line through the budget looking for outdated, ineffective, or duplicative programs to cut or reform. And, most importantly, we enacted the Affordable Care Act. Along with giving Americans more affordable choices and freedom from insurance company abuses, reform of our health care system will, according to the latest analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, reduce our budget deficits by more than $200 billion in its first decade and more than $1 trillion over the second
This is true...or at least it’s true provided you make the right set of assumptions. For example...
- if you assume that the law will successfully raise roughly $500 billion in taxes
- and if you assume that it will reduce Medicare payments and other expenditures by another $500 billion
- and if you expect that the law's alleged delivery system reforms will keep producing savings year after year
- and if the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) it sets up works exactly as planned and isn’t repealed
- and if you ignore the cost of the doc fix, which Obama’s new budget plan does.
But relying on this set of assumptions may not be the best way to project the law's actual budgetary effects, especially given that we now know for sure that President Obama signed off on the use of health care budget gimmicks right before the law passed. For example, the Medicare cuts may be difficult to sustain, and the delivery system reforms may not pay off. Members of both parties are already looking to repeal IPAB. And while the budget proposal is right to note that the CBO officially scores the law as a net deficit reducer, the CBO has also implicitly cautioned that the assumptions used to produce the deficit reduction projection might not be pan out, and that, in later years, ObamaCare may not be able to hold down Medicare spending.
Does the first lady know about this? The Suffolk Times reports that North Fork Potato Chips of Mattituck, Long Island, recently received a $50,000 USDA grant to promote its salty, fat-laden, calorie-packed products. The grant, which the company will use to update its website and brochures, was awarded under the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, which is "designed to help companies expand their businesses to a wider audience." Maybe the folks at the the farmers' markets that the federal government is subsidizing as a way of improving nutrition and curbing obesity.
[Thanks to Ted Balaker for the tip.]
"The kind of economic arrangements that we see in our world today, which are dominated by cronies of those with state power, that's not the kind of economic arrangement that anyone who believes in freedom ought to favor," says Gary Chartier, associate dean at La Sierra School of Business and co-editor of the new book Markets Not Capitalism: Individualist Anarchism Against Bosses, Inequality, Corporate Power, and Structural Poverty.
Chartier, who co-edited the book along with Charles W. Johnson, sat down with Reason.tv's Zach Weissmueller to discuss why libertarians should stop embracing the word "capitalism," why there's reason to take the concerns of the political Left seriously, and why the economic system in the United States does not even begin to resemble a free market.
"If we want freedom, it's something to be achieved," says Chartier. "It's not a matter of celebrating what we have now. It's a matter of making something dramatically different and exciting happen."
Approximately 8 minutes.
Shot by Paul Detrick and Alex Manning; edited by Zach Weissmueller.
Visit Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.
full document (pdf). This is the budget "blueprint" or what the president would like to see spent, raised, etc. for the fiscal year that starts on October 1, 2012 and runs through September 2013.Go here for the
The most important stuff - that is often maddeingly left out of articles about government spending - is the basic breakdown of overall outlays and revenues.
My first thought is that I'm glad to see spending (outlays) up by just a few nickels from last year: Obama is proposing spending $3.803 trillion dollars in the next year, up from $3.796 trillion this year. If we keep spending $3.8 trillion a year for the next 10 years, the budget would basically be balanced without having to change any current revenue streams (a.k.a. taxes). (For more on this, see "The 19 Percent Solution.")
Keeping 2013 spending flat still means the feds would be spending 23.3 percent of GDP, down as a percentage from the past two years but it's a number that would have been virtually unthinkable even five years ago.
For much of the post-World War II era, the feds rarely cracked the 20 percent-of-GDP figure when it came to spending (check table 1.3 here). Then came the 1970s and the 1980s and part of the 1990s. But between 1997 and 2005, spending didn't crack the 20 percent figure. The normalizing of such high levels of expenditures ain't good - government spending crowds out private spending and restricts the choices of supposedly free people. Big spending is especially bad when it's financed by debt, which is easy to get into and tough to get out of, both as an individual and as a country. As I've noted elsewhere, the best five-year-run of revenue (1997-2001) in the post-war era averaged receipts of 19.8 percent of GDP; the typical year came in around 18 percent. Look at the estimates above and you'll see that through 2022 even Obama is estimating nothing but big gaps between receipts and outlays. As a percentage of GDP, debt held by the public will be higher than it is right now. And these are under the rosiest projections imaginable.
In the budget, Obama proposes increasing revenue through a variety of measures that are already in play, including ending the current tax rates on high-income earners (i.e. the Bush "tax cuts" that have been in place for a decade), employing "the Buffet rule" (which will force millionaires to pay effective rates of at least 30 percent), some changes in tax expenditures, tax breaks, and eligibility requirements for some other spending. None of that gets us close to balancing the budget because, as the table above shows, spending goes up in each year. And its increase outpaces the growth in receipts.
Yesterday, Obama chief of staff Jack Lew said that "the time for austerity is not today." He's right in at least one way: The time for austerity was yesterday. We've witnessed gratuitous increases in spending by the federal government for at least the past decade.
That was a mistake that will continue to have big consequences for years to come. But Obama's budget makes it clear that despite the president campaigning back in 2008 on a "net spending cut" and telling us all that we were going to have to stop spending like drunken sailors, we're not going to have to make any seriously tough choices for the next decade. Spending will continue above 22 percent of GDP for the foreseeable future with no way to pay for it, other than taxing future generations. Or getting lucky in Powerball.
In November of last year the Federal Trade Commission settled its suit against Facebook for violating users' privacy. Among other things, the settlement requires Facebook to undergo “privacy audits” for the next two decades. There’s something deeply absurd about an agency under President Obama hammering anyone for violating users’ privacy, much less Facebook: This administration has snooped egregiously and unlawfully since its earliest days; you’d think the FTC would be too embarrassed to go after a site whose users give away information voluntarily.
Take, for instance, the Obama administration's new tactics for catching and prosecuting whistle blowers. Gone are the days when reporters will be able to protect a source’s identity by refusing to comply with a subpoena. Hell, gone are the days when reporters will even be subpoened. By reading email, listening to phone conversations, and intercepting texts, security agencies already know who journalists are talking to, and what they’re talking about. The New York Times published a piece yesterday on the DOJ's increasing ability to prosecute with as little due process as possible. The standard is evolving in front of our eyes:
MR. ASHCROFT authorized a single subpoena for reporters' testimony or records in his four years in office, Mr. Corallo said. He would not say so, but that subpoena was probably the one that troubled Judge Sack in 2006. The reporters lost. In a dissent, Judge Sack said he feared for the future.
"Reporters might find themselves," he wrote, "as a matter of practical necessity, contacting sources the way I understand drug dealers to reach theirs - by use of clandestine cellphones and meeting in darkened doorways. Ordinary use of the telephone could become a threat to journalist and source alike. It is difficult to see in whose best interests such a regime would operate."
What he imagined may now be reality. Consider the most recent prosecution, of John C. Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. agent who is said to have disclosed classified information to journalists in 2008 about the capture and interrogation of an operative of Al Qaeda.
The criminal complaint in the case says it is based largely on "e-mails recovered from search warrants served on two e-mail accounts associated with Kiriakou."
Only one of the journalists involved in the Kiriakou case has been publicly identified: Scott Shane of The Times. A spokeswoman for The Times has said that neither the paper nor Mr. Shane had been contacted by investigators or had provided any information to them. The digital trail, it seems, was enough.
In a second case, against Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former C.I.A. officer accused of providing classified information to another Times reporter, James Risen, for a 2006 book, the government has been more aggressive, insisting that Mr. Risen must testify. He has refused to say anything about confidential matters, and Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., has sided with him. She said there were other ways to prove the case against Mr. Sterling, including "numerous telephone records, e-mail messages, computer files and testimony that strongly indicates that Sterling was Risen's source."
The government has appealed that ruling. "The circumstantial evidence of guilt, though compelling, is simply not comparable to Risen's eyewitness testimony," prosecutors told the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., in a brief filed last month.
The appeal in Mr. Risen's case may, at first blush, suggest that the new primacy of digital surveillance in leak investigations is overstated. But Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said the case was a vestige of another era.
She described a conference in June organized by the Aspen Institute that brought together lawyers, journalists and intelligence officials to talk about government secrecy. The ground rules, she said, were that the identities of those involved were to be kept confidential, but what was said could be reported.
"I was told in a rather cocky manner" by a national security representative, Ms. Dalglish recalled, that "the Risen subpoena is one of the last you'll see."
She continued, paraphrasing the official: "We don't need to ask who you're talking to. We know."
While rent seeking tech companies continue to partner with the Obama Administration (including one whose motto is "Do No Evil"), journalists and government employees will soon be reduced to "meeting in darkened doorways."
In today's budget message, President Obama condemns "special interest loopholes" and complains that "for too long we have tolerated a tax system that's a complex, inefficient, and loophole-riddled mess." The solution? More loopholes, including "tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed workers," "tax cuts...for small businesses," "tax credits to help families make ends meet and afford to send their kids to college," "extension of the American Opportunity Tax Cut," "tax incentives" for electric vehicles, "100 percent expensing on the purchase of equipment" (including corporate jets?), and "an extension of the research and experimentation tax credit."
For more on this contradiction, see my February 1 column.
Are you an impulsive marshmallow eater? Your success—or failure—in life may depend on how you answer that question, says New York Times science writer John Tierney. “The marshmallow test,” explains Tierney, was an experiment “where 4-year-olds would be given a marshmallow. They were told they could eat it but if they waited 15 minutes they would get two marshmallows.…The kids who managed to resist the marshmallow did much better in school, did much better in life. That’s what really kicked off the modern self-control movement.” From our March issue, Tierney discusses his new book on the subject, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, with Managing Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward.View this article
In the past two weeks, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera has published a couple of insightful columns about President Obama's cave-in to the environmentalist lobby on the Keystone pipeline. That pipeline would transport about million barrels of oil a day from Canada to refineries in the U.S. Environmental activists oppose the building the pipeline largely on the grounds that the oil it transports will exacerbate man-made global warming. The hope of activists is that stopping the pipeline will result in keeping the petroleum derived from Canada's oil sands in the ground forever. That won't happen explains Nocera. Why? One word: China.
Instead of blithely assuming the United States would purchase its oil, Canada is now determined to find diverse buyers so it won’t be held hostage by American politics. Hence, the newfound willingness to do business with China. Canada has concluded that it simply can’t expect much from the United States, even on an issue that would seem to be vital to our own interests.
In fact, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in China just last week to peddle his country's abundant energy supplies. As the National Post reported:
... with major U.S. media outlets covering his speech [in China], Harper also delivered a not-so-subtle reminder to the United States: if you don’t want Canadian oilsands crude, China is a waiting customer with a growing energy appetite....
Canada has an abundance of petroleum and is looking to “profoundly diversify” its trade relationships, Harper said, as well as deepen its economic cooperation with a booming China that needs resources to fuel its growth.
“We are an emerging energy superpower,” Harper told corporate leaders at the Canada-China business dinner in the city of 13 million people.
“We have abundant supplies of virtually every form of energy. And you know, we want to sell our energy to people who want to buy our energy. It’s that simple,” he said, to applause from the crowd....
Harper noted that virtually all of Canada’s energy exports currently go to the U.S. and that it’s increasingly clear the country’s commercial interests are best served by diversifying its energy markets.
In his second column, Nocera notes that his support of the Keystone pipeline has gotten him called a climate change "denier" in certain circles. As he notes, it is quite possible to believe that man-made global warming is a problem while simultaneously thinking that the trade-offs with regard to energy security and job creation currently favor buying oil from Canada. Nocera also points out:
You want to know another little secret about the tar sands? It’s already coming here, thanks to existing pipelines — and it is already doing us a great deal of good. The influx of Canadian oil is partly why our imports from OPEC are at their lowest level in nearly a decade. And because the crude from Canada is selling at a steep discount to Saudi Arabian crude, it is stabilizing the price at the pump.
Go here to read my column, The Miracle of Oil from Sand, about my industry junket to oil sands production facilities in northern Alberta earlier this year.
General Motors released some very impressive profit targets for 2012. But does this mean that taxpayers will recover their “investment” in the company any time soon—or ever? Not a chance, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst in a column at Bloomberg. GM has many problems and is facing a very tough competitive environment going forward. But, she reports:
If GM manages to address all its issues, notes Sean McAlinden of the Center for Automotive Research, its share price might go up $40 to $45, leaving taxpayers still $5 billion to $8 billion in the red. But that’s under the best scenario. If stock prices remain at the current $25 level, the losses could mount up to $15 billion. That’s not counting the $15 billion in tax write-offs that GM got as part of the bankruptcy deal. All in all, taxpayers are facing somewhere from $20 billion to $30 billion in losses.
That’s not all the exposure that taxpayers will have going forward. The GM bailout has distorted the playing field so badly that its competitors are demanding their own handouts to even things out.
In fact, the taxpayer "investment" was designed not to be paid back.
Read the whole thing here.
That's Jack Lew, White House chief of staff, talking to David Gregory of Meet the Press.
Despite years of growing spending and growing deficits, this ain't the time to cut spending, says Lew, who offers up the hope that "Congress should take long-term deficit reduction seriously."
Obama's budget plan will be released sometime this morning. Check back here for analysis.
Return now to the thrilling yesteryear of January 2009, when the Wash Post titled a piece, "Stimulus Aside, Obama Vows Future Budget Restraint."
Tomorrow never comes, don't you know?
- President Obama to propose another budget, pray that it passes.
- Romney never objected to contraception mandates before.
- Athens burns as one in five employees of the Greek government learn they will have to find real jobs.
- Mitt Romney wins (absolutely meaningless) CPAC straw poll.
- Israel blames Iran for embassy attacks.
- Ahmadinejad's backers and Khamenei loyalists have their own spat.
New at Reason.tv: "CPAC 2012: Occupy Protesters & Anti-gay Activists"
The prevailing wisdom among policymakers on Iran bears an eerie resemblance to the Iraq consensus of 2002. We and the Israelis allegedly faced an intolerable peril from a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction and a lust for aggression. Fortunately, we were told, it was nothing that a short, sudden military attack wouldn't solve. But in Iraq, writes Steve Chapman, it turned out the solution was anything but quick or easy—and the danger was vastly exaggerated. And in Iran? Ditto.View this article
Boulder City, Nevada has found a new way to pay off its debt: solar power. The city is home to not only Hoover Dam, but two of the largest solar power plants in the United States, Copper Mountain Solar I (58 megawatts) and Nevada Solar One (65MW). Both solar facilities are leased on land owned by Boulder City in a specially designated "energy zone."
Combined, these solar lease payments provide at least $12 million a year, increasing Boulder City's revenue by 50 percent. Since the leases last 20 years, Boulder City is expected to obtain $480 million in rent revenue. By comparison, in 2011, the city's total debt burden topped $96 million. If its spending levels don't increase (granted, a big if), the city could eventually eliminate its entire debt.
However, it's not always sunny in Nevada. Both solar facilities are pitiful sources of green jobs. Although they did create hundreds of temporary construction jobs, Nevada Solar One now employs only 30 people, while Copper Mountain Solar I has only 5 full-time positions.
Still, thanks to minimal regulations, both Copper Mountain Solar I and Nevada Solar One are expanding, while three Korean companies are finalizing plans for new solar projects. All together, these projects aim could soon have 1.4 GW of capacity, which could power 420,000 homes. (And unlike Germany, Nevada actually has sunlight.)
Since the land is owned locally by Boulder City, these firms can bypass the onerous Bureau of Land Management. One Korean investor explains:
The bureau's environmental impact studies take three or four years and the permits cost ($5 million to $6 million)...Boulder City did its due diligence in terms of who they do business with and the environmental impact, but the fact Boulder City doesn't require the environmental studies makes it a very preferable situation for Boulder City and the solar companies.
Unfortunately, this is rather rare in Nevada, since the federal government owns almost 85 percent of that state's land.
In addition, with no state corporate or individual income taxes, Nevada has the 2nd lowest tax burden in the United States, while its business tax climate ranks 3rd nationwide, according to the Tax Foundation. By comparison, neighboring California ranks 48th. In addition, Sempra Generation (the energy company behind Copper Mountain Solar I), was further enticed by state tax policies:
Incentives amounting to $12m came in the form of sales tax abatements for equipment purchases and a 55% property tax reduction for 20 years. These incentives were provided by the state officials.
Meanwhile, on the federal level, the devlopers of both projects were able to keep more of their money, thanks to the federal investment tax credit (ITC) program. This provides a 30 percent tax credit on a renewable energy project, which deducts the total amount of taxes owed to the federal government.
Of course, the ITC and other narrow tax policies still constitute a form of political favoritism. The best course of action would be to repeal all of these energy tax breaks and deductions, and lower rates for everyone. Speaking of which, this precisely is what Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) hope to do with their new bill, the Energy Freedom & Economic Prosperity Act. Boulder City, Nevada is proof that low taxes, minimal red tape and federalism can boost a local economy.
Reason on solar power. For more on tax breaks, be sure to read A. Barton Hinkle on "The Difference Between a Tax Break and a Subsidy." And if you want to know more about municipal debt crises (as well as Portland microbrews and the Plastic People of the Universe), get a copy of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America.
Pop star Whitney Houston is dead at the age of 48. While the official cause of death has not yet been announced, she had a long history of drug problems and was in and out of rehab over the years and it's likely that substance abuse played some role. As USA Today reminds us
[In 2002]she did an interview with Diane Sawyer to promote her upcoming Just Whitney. She admitted using drugs in the highly watched TV interview, which included her infamous declaration, "Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. OK? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is wack."...
In a 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey to promote I Look To You, Houston...confessed that she laced her marijuana with rock cocaine and revealed that she'd spent time in rehab and had undergone an intervention by her mother.
Here's a question for proponents of the drug war: Does prohibition - which demonstrably fails to keep illegal drugs out of the hands of people who want them - simply make it that much harder for people like Houston to admit and seek problems for their problems? Everyone knows that it's no easy thing for addicts or problem users of anything to admit they need help. Does criminalizing the behavior on top of everything else make it that much harder to for such people to seek the help they need?
Here's one of Houston's signature songs:
Washington, D.C. - Former New York gubernatorial fringe candidate Jimmy McMillan stormed into the CPAC Bloggers Lounge on Saturday and began yelling about bailouts and housing and how everything is unfair. McMillan is one of those side shows you really should ignore, but he made that impossible. As you can see in the video below some people were not happy with his stunt.
McMillan is famous for being part of The Rent Is Too Damn High party of New York State. His bombastic appearances in the gubernatorial debates made him a viral sensation on the internet. He appeared at CPAC in 2011.
Washington, D.C. – In previous years Ron Paul supporters have dominated the annual Conservative Political Action Conference by gobbling up booth space and flooding the place with flyers. Paul’s organization helped bring his supporters to CPAC in droves by paying their way just so they could vote for him in the meaningless straw poll. This year is different, though, as he skipped the conference to campaign in Maine. Neither Paul nor his various organizations have reserved booth space.
The lack of an organized Paul presence means a lack of young libertarians. Many attendees say that there is a lack of buzz at the event though it is a presidential year. The void has hurt business for some vendors, too.
“It hasn’t nearly been what we've experienced in past years. It’s honestly about a third of what we are use to,” said Daniel Williams, part owner of MASSHQ, a Houston based marketing firm.
In between selling various Paul knick-knacks like golf balls, Zippo lighters, and shirts for his other venture, RonPaulSwag.com, Williams said that many people booked their CPAC trips because they expected Paul to be here and if they knew he was going to skip the conference they would have done the same.
“I am disappointed he is not here but it’s probably better that he spend his time in Maine campaigning,” said Megan Puffield, 25, a Paul supporter.
Her partner, Wes Messamore, 25, agreed with Paul’s decision to go to Maine but lamented his absence from CPAC.
“It’s a much different feel this time. There is less energy, the crowd is older,” he said.
Backers of the other candidates noticed the lack of a Paul presence, too.
“I’m a moderate Republican so I tend to like libertarian views more than social conservatives,” said Jessica Fugate, 29, a Romney supporter.
Fugate fumbled with her phone while waiting in the lobby to catch a glimpse of actor Allen Covert.
“It’s bad that he’s not here because he tends to bring out more young people. Libertarians tend to attract more young people,” she said.
Outside Rick Santorum’s booth Paul supporters were heckling a stand up of him with a sign mocking his Google problem. Santorum’s staffers continued to pick at their lunch while Paul supporters posed to take pictures with the standup. Eventually a Santorum staffer stood up and shooed them away
When asked how he felt about Paul supporters pranking their booth, a Santorum staffer said, “They are free to do it. It’s a free country.”
According to The Washington Times:
Mr. Romney won 38 percent of the straw poll, which counted the votes of 3,408 activists gathered for the Conservative Political Action Conference, which ran from Thursday through Saturday at a hotel in Washington.
Mr. Santorum was second with 31 percent, Newt Gingrich was third with 15 percent and Rep. Ron Paul was fourth with 12 percent — far below his showing the last two years, when he won with 31 in 2010 and 30 percent in 2011.
In the national survey, meanwhile, Mr. Romney barely topped Mr. Santorum 27 percent to 25 percent, with Mr. Gingrich in third place at 20 percent and Mr. Paul again trailing at 8 percent.
The rest here.
Washington, D.C. – Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker defended his efforts to reform government employee unions while addressing the Reagan Banquet at CPAC as the keynote speaker tonight. Walker’s move to bring about reform in Wisconsin has resulted in him facing a major recall effort that could see him removed from office before the fall, making him a cause célèbre for conservatives and right-to-work activists.
Walker noted that since he started challenging the entrenched government employee unions, he has received all kinds of threats involving him and his family, but that his support is still strong in the Badger State.
“Every week when I am out visiting the factories and farms of my state and there are people that come up to me and tell me ‘Governor, we are praying for you and your family,’” he said.
When Walker took office he was staring down a major state budget deficit of approximately $3.6 billion. When this came up as an issue on the campaign trail Walker said that one of the ways he would plug the hole was by asking government employees to pay more toward their pensions. To those paying attention it was not a secret that Walker was going to change the way budget problems were addressed in Madsion. Walker felt that long term changes needed to be made instead of using short term stopgaps.
“Some states have also chosen budget gimmicks to balance the budget. We did not do this in Wisconsin because that is part of what caused the budget deficit in the first place,” he said.
Sounding like a presidential candidate, Walker explained how the collective bargaining reforms helped local communities.
“We chose long-term structural reforms that helped us balance both our state and our local governments budgets for years to come. We thought more about the next generation than we did about the next election,” he said
Walker mentioned how he has made Wisconsin more hospitable for private businesses, but the heart of his speech was about his budget reform efforts.
“Collective bargaining is not a right. In the public sector collective bargaining is an expensive entitlement,” he said.
Walker’s reform efforts severely limited the ability of unionized government employees to collectively bargain, increased the amount they pay toward benefits, and altered the way union dues were collected.
Before closing Walker made a pitch to those present to help him beat back his recall effort, saying, “This election is about making courageous and bold decisions now and in the future.”
Walker's complete prepared remarks are here. Be beware: He deviated from them frequently.
Washington, D.C. - In his speech at CPAC conservative activist and online publisher Andrew Breitbart called liberals the "the least tolerant people you will ever meet in your entire lives." When asked about libertarians in American politics and the fight with the left, Breitbart said that he thinks libertarians need to develop a free speech movement on college campuses.
"I have no problem with them entering the political fray at the highest possible levels and saying 'We want Ron Paul for the presidency,' but they seem conspicuously absent from the trenches where it really counts, where they really exist right now," he said.
Breitbart, who admits to having libertarian leanings, thinks libertarians should not be discouraged by the media's portrayal of the conservative movement. "[Libertarians] don't want to be in the same room as conservatives because it will hurt their street cred. Conservatives, especially right now, have a hell of a lot more in common with libertarianism than Barack Obama and what the progressive left stand for," he said.
There is more in the video below.
More on Breitbart from Reason here.
"The Occupy movement, if it weren't so dangerous to the American ideal, would be comical," says John Thompson, a Rick Santorum supporter who attended The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which kicked off in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, February 9th, 2012.
CPAC is the premier annual gathering of the conservative movement, but this year not all the action was inside the convention center. Occupy D.C. was joined by the AFL-CIO, SEIU, National Nurses United, Metro Labor Council, and OurDC for a demonstration right outside. The group says it was protesting a "gathering of bigots, media mouthpieces, corrupt politicians, and their 1 percent elite puppet masters."
Reason's Lucy Steigerwald was on hand to see what all the fuss was about.
Produced by Jim Epstein, with help from Joshua Swain and Julie Ershad.
Approximately 4.30 minutes.
When Neela Banerjee’s summary of a Department of Energy audit went up on the Los Angeles Times site at two minutes after noon on the west coast, it seemed to imply that Energy Secretary Steven Chu had a less-than-sure hand on the DOE’s green loan guarantee program:
Then, maybe sometime before three minutes after noon, the same story shed its headline and grew a new one, which retroactively manages expectations of how damaging the audit was going to be:
In my day a switch like that might have been necessitated by another story competing for paper real estate, or to avoid butting headlines, or due to the cancelation or addition of an advertisement. I don’t miss those days, but sometimes I miss the non-malleability of paper and ink.
I don't imagine such scarcities apply at a news web site, but I did hear a while back that the FCC is in charge of the internet now. So there's that.
Otherwise, why did this headline change?
Washington, D.C. – Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speechified about “bold solutions” to close out the second day of CPAC. His speech was so close to what he delivers on the campaign trail that some in the media room Bloggers Lounge groaned that there was nothing new in his speech.
“This is straight from the campaign trail. I’ve heard this all before,” one grumbled.
The crowd reacted differently giving him long applause and standing ovations throughout the speech. It was a very different scene compared to Rick Santorum’s speech earlier in the day. Santorum was received warmly; Gingrich made them roar.
While Santorum’s speech zeroed in on social issues, Gingrich focused on reviving the American economy with a multipoint plan that included proposals to lower the corporate income tax to 12.5% and reform the unemployment system.
“Unemployment compensation should be changed so you sign up for a business led training program. Never again should we pay somebody for 99 weeks for doing nothing. In 99 weeks you can earn an associate’s degree,” he said.
In the remainder of his speech Gingrich did not attack the other Republican candidates including Mitt Romney, who spoke before him. Gingrich is the only candidate at CPAC with a campaign booth in the exhibit hall.
About a month ago, New York Times' columnist David Brooks asked "Why aren't there more liberals in America?"
Leaving aside partisan politics, this is an interesting question. The Harris Poll has been surveying Americans on the topic of "political philosophy" since 1968 and the percentage calling themselves liberal had never risen above 20 percent through 2008 (the latest year for which I could find data online).
Part of the reason might be that people who publicly identify themselves as liberal often come across as smug, self-righteous jerks who, even when they swear they are not being patronizing, are in fact being patronizing.
For a recent example, consider New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, who writes:
People often ask, “Why is Jonathan Chait so mean?” It is a fair question, one that...merits a suitably thoughtful reply....
[T]his is why I am forced to be so mean. There are just a lot of people out there exerting significant influence over the political debate who are totally unqualified. The dilemma is especially acute in the political economic field, where wealthy right-wingers have pumped so much money to subsidize the field of pro-rich people polemics that the demand for competent defenders of letting rich people keep as much of their money as possible vastly outstrips the supply. Hence the intellectual marketplace for arguments that we should tax rich people less is glutted with hackery.... A similar problem exists, perhaps to an even worse extent, with climate change denial.
Most people don’t follow these issues for a living and have a hard time distinguishing legitimate arguments from garbage. I don’t mean this patronizingly: I certainly would have trouble distinguishing valid arguments from nonsense in a technical field I didn’t study professionally. But that's why there’s a value in signaling that some arguments aren’t merely expressing a difference in values or interpretation, but are made by an unqualified hack peddling demonstrable nonsense. Being so mean is a labor of love, I confess, but also one with a purpose.
This sort of thinking is about as convincing as Newt Gingrich's claim that he cheated on his wives out of surfeit of patriotism.
Chait, late of The New Republic, is no stranger to these pages, as he semi-regularly spews contempt, anger, exasperation, and Lucy Van Pelt-level psychologizing in Reason's general direction. To the extent that he exemplifies character traits associated with liberals, it's no surprise that self-described liberals are few and far between. That he quickly received an attaboy from economist-cum-insult-comic Paul Krugman only underscores the assocation of liberalism with an off-putting, holier-than-thou mentality. "Actually," wrote Krugman at his Conscience of Liberal blog, "I think [Chait']s not mean enough here; some of the hacks know that they’re being hacks, and are putting out deliberate falsehoods." This from the Nobel prize winner who just earlier this year said "I've never gone ad hominem," a demonstrably false assertion that Bloomberg Businessweek has some fun with in this infographic.
The object of Chait's ideological noblesse oblige during this particular blood-sugar spike is Veronique de Rugy, Reason columnist, Mercatus Center economist, and my frequent collaborator. Or, as Chait prefers to call her, that "ubiquitous right-wing misinformation recirculator."
De Rugy had the temerity to cite OECD data suggesting that contrary to the conventional wisdom, the U.S. federal tax system is more progressive than those in most developed countries. What do we mean by "progressive?" Chait defines it as "the degree to which a tax system increases tax rates on higher-income earners."
Which is what de Rugy is talking about. Specifically, the spread in effective tax rates (that is, the progressivity in the system) is greater over here because the U.S. gets most of its revenue from income taxes and because the U.S. gives all sorts of exemptions to lower- and middle-class citizens, many of whom pay no income tax (note: de Rugy is talking about all taxes, including payroll taxes, and not just income taxes). In contrast, the higher marginal income tax rates common to Europe kick in at much lower levels of income, large chunks of the overall revenue is raised via universal consumption taxes such as the V.A.T., and exemptions and refunds common to the American system are minimal.
So the effect is that the spread in effective tax rates in Europe is smaller than in the U.S. For more on this, check out Greg Mankiw's discussion of the OECD data (check the data out here) at the heart of things and Scott Sumner's Money Illusion blog. Sumner, a Bentley College economist, writes that "many American progressives keep insisting that we can get closer to the (egalitarian) European model by making the US tax system more progressive, by having the rich pay more."
Throughout her work on the topic, de Rugy notes that the European system is more regressive and raises more revenue as a percentage of GDP. And she's interested in calling attention to the paradoxes of such a situation. To wit,
Progressive public finance experts like Peter Lindert have shown that most European tax regimes are able to collect more revenue than ours (as a share of gross domestic product, not in total) by having a more regressive -- not progressive -- tax system.
In other words, European Union governments understand that in order to feed their welfare states, governments must collect taxes from all citizens, including those at the bottom of the income ladder.
At the same time that the U.S. revenue mechanism charges higher rates to the wealthy (that is, is more progressive), however
Government spending here is significantly less progressive than it is in Europe. According to the OECD, European countries devote a significant share of their budget to progressive social transfers.
In the United States, on the other hand, only 14 percent of the budget goes to lower-income Americans. That's because much of the budget is spent on the middle class and better-off members of our society -- among other things in the form of Social Security and Medicare payments.
Over at The Atlantic, Clive Crook, who stresses that he respects Chait, weighs in on the matter thus:
When Chait, with all the authority of a leading light of the intellectual world, says "Rich Americans pay a bigger share of the tax burden because they earn a bigger share of the income, not because the U.S. tax code is more progressive," he is making the same kind of sloppy bias-driven error he falsely accuses de Rugy of making. (I'll refrain from wondering whether he made the mistake deliberately.) According to the OECD, rich Americans bear a bigger share of the tax burden because they earn a bigger share of the income and because the US income tax system is more progressive....
Why, according to the OECD, is the US system so progressive? Not because the rich face unusually high average tax rates, but because middle-income US households face unusually low tax rates--an important point which de Rugy mentions and Chait ignores.
Crook concludes that "on the topic in question, De Rugy is right and Chait is wrong....I'd say he owes de Rugy an apology."
Yeah, well, here's hoping. Indeed, in his latest foray on the subject, Chait brushes aside Crook and writes:
It’s possible that, by pairing my critique of de Rugy’s error (which I would describe as an extremely elementary error) with a broader disparagement of her credentials, I have made it impossible for her to actually concede error. Or possibly she genuinely does not understand the problem here. I’m not sure. My general experience is that the conservative movement is filled with polemicists who repeat very basic statistical fallacies like this, and seem immune to correction regardless of the level of politeness that correction takes. But, she is an individual and deserves the chance to be judged on her own terms.
What a big, big man with a heart as big as all outdoors. I think that Chait is flatly wrong in his analysis in this situation, but even if that weren't the case, his reflexive belligerence and quickness to cry hack, misinformation recirculator, and what have you - along with his grandiosity and sense of being embattled despite a perch at a high-profile establishment outlet - undermines his persuasiveness. I'm not making a plea for civility here; I'm simply observing that people who comport themselves like Chait make it excrutiatingly hard for anyone to agree with them. Even on the rare occasion when they're right.
Which returns us to the question with which this post starts: "Why aren't there more liberals in America?"
Certainly, there's no shortage of big-spending politicians (Democratic and Republican) who see the federal government as an instrument of social and economic transformation, which accords with one contemporary definition of liberal. But if the Harris numbers are even vaguely right that only about one-fifth of Americans are willing to call themselves liberal and Jon Chait is a liberal, then the question pretty much answers itself, doesn't it?
And suggests the next question: Why are there so many conservatives in America?
- Warren Buffett made $154 million off Obama's foreclosure fraud settlement.
- Catholics do not all feel exactly the same about Obama's concession on birth control mandate.
- Kim Jong-Un may have been assassinated, but nobody knows for sure.
- A Sioux Tribe in South Dakota is suing beer manufacturers and sellers for making them alcoholics.
- L.A. school paid alleged teacher-molester $40,000 not to appeal his firing.
Controversy rages over the Obama administration’s proposed (and then modified) mandate that all employers—including Catholic hospitals and universities—include free contraception in their employee health insurance policies. Catholic officials object that since their church forbids contraception, the decree violates the First Amendment’ s protection of religious freedom. Others have joined in the protest, prudently anticipating that this violation of freedom of conscience could spread to other matters and other faiths. As Sheldon Richman argues, the principle that no one should be forced to finance that which he or she finds abhorrent is sound. In fact, it should be generally applied.View this article
Today Romney spoke before a large and applauding audience at the American Conservative Union’s CPAC 2012. Careful attention to his speech’s underlying themes revealed a core focus on upward economic mobility being the crux of the American Dream. While some speakers focused on societal virtue, foreign policy, and Democrats ruining America, Romney strategically re-weaved many of the same rhetorical phrases used by other CPAC speakers to focus specifically on upward economic mobility. I would argue he did so with good reason.
My research of the Tea Party movement and interviews with dozen of Tea Party leaders across the country have revealed Tea Partiers are most concerned over losing what they like best about America: upward economic mobility. Certainly other issues play a role, but concern that government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis would hinder the American Dream is what fundamentally brought libertarian and conservative Tea Partiers together and drove their mobilization. (I’ve written about this here and here). In speaking to concerns over upward economic mobility and the American Dream, Romney reveals he's done his homework for how to resonate with Tea Party voters.
For instance, he began by talking about how his father was born in Mexico, moved to the U.S. when he was five, and—although he never earned a college degree—went on to own a successful car company and eventually become governor of Michigan. Just one generation later, Mitt Romney attended the country’s top business and law schools and then embarked on a very successful private sector career. He spoke about how he turned around failing business, a troubled 2002 Winter Olympics, and a struggling state. He explained that he believes in the American Dream because he’s lived the American Dream and understands what makes it possible: founding principles that secure peoples’ freedom to “achieve success in their own way, propelling themselves forward.” Because of this, Romney said, “one’s birth is not prohibitive for one’s ability to achieve their dreams.”
Theda Skocpol, writing in a recent Washington Post op-ed, agrees with me to an extent that Mitt Romney is angling himself (maybe successfully) to be a Tea Party candidate. Skocpol writes, “Romney has become the stealth tea party candidate, endorsing the essence of the movement while remaining unburdened by its public label.” Where Skocpol and I disagree is that the essence is less about immigration fears and more about the American Dream of upward economic mobility.
Although Romney is surely not the “Tea Party Candidate” he appears to be taking conscious measures to connect with Tea Party voters, but discreetly enough to continue resonating with non-Tea Party voters as well.
Source: CNN Exit Polls
Last December the Montana Supreme Court decided to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. F.E.C. and instead allow Montana’s 99-year-old ban on corporate spending in political campaigns to remain on the books. It’s not everyday that you see a state court dodging applicable Supreme Court precedent with such gusto, so it comes as no surprise that the losing side in that decision has now asked the Supreme Court to step in and set things straight. As Lyle Denniston reports at SCOTUSblog:
The application and motion were filed with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is the Circuit Justice for the part of the country that includes Montana — the Ninth Circuit. It will be up to Kennedy to decide whether to act alone on the controversy, or to share it with his eight colleagues.
The Montana law at issue — the Corrupt Practices Act enacted by the states’ voters in 1912 — was interpreted by the state court as a flat ban on independent spending of corporations’ internal funds to support or oppose specific candidates for state office (independnet in the sense that the financial effort was not coordinated with a candidate). The measure thus was nearly identical to the ban in federal law that was struck down by the Citizens United ruling....
In suggesting that the full Court reach out and overturn the state decision without delay, the new filing argued that the state court’s “refusal to follow Citizens United” is such an obvious, blatant disregard of its duty to follow this Court’s decision that summary reversal is proper.”
Over a three day period in January, Washington, D.C. celebrity chef Geoff Tracy received three $150 tickets from a single newly installed traffic camera. In an attempt to alert other motorists of the speed trap, Tracy hired a sign spinner for a full week to caution passing drivers. But helping people avoid costly tickets doesn't sit well with at least one fan of D.C.'s $43 million revenue generating traffic cameras .
About 2:25 minutes. Written and produced by Rob Raffety
Mitt Romney knows how to sell a client on his services. He did it countless times as a business consultant and the head of the private equity firm Bain. Romney’s business partners have told me that one of Romney’s greatest strengths was delivering delicate messages to potentially difficult partners and clients. As his Bain colleage Eric Kriss told The New York Times in 2007, “Mitt ran a private equity firm, not a cement company…He was not a businessman in the sense of running a company. He was a great presenter, a great spokesman, and a great salesman.”
Today, his job was to sell his conservative credentials to wary activists and attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. And although he wasn’t great, he was pretty good. His over-capacity main stage speech this afternoon probably didn’t seal the deal with conservatives, but I doubt it scared anyone away: Romney portrayed the coming election as a “fight for America” and said that now is “a time to reaffirm what it means to be conservative.” He insisted on the inherent conservatism of his career and family background, touted selected elements of his record, and made vague promises to cut government spending, and declared his willingness to get rid of ObamaCare—without once mentioning the near-replica health care law he signed as governor of Massachusetts. “I know conservatism,” he said, “because I have lived conservatism.” In other words, he told the audience more or less what it wanted to hear.
Will that be enough? Romney still has the most plausible path to the nomination, but it remains hard to make any prediction with great confidence. A new survey from Public Policy Polling shows that Santorum has taken a lead nationally. Here at CPAC, people started lining for a small-space Santorum meet-and-greet at least two hours early; by the time it was scheduled to start it stretched hundreds deep. Nearly every person in line had skipped Romney’s speech to wait in a long line for a chance to hear Santorum.
Read my cover feature on Romney from Reason's March issue.
Washington, D.C. - After being introduced by SuperPAC benefactor Foster Friess, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum took the podium here surrounded by his family and delievered a speech that went after both his nearest rival for the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney, and President Obama. Santorum, coming off three major-but-delegate-free victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, talked briefly about fiscal matters, but eventually returned to his bread and butter: social issues. He really drove things home with his red meat comments about Obamacare.
"We've seen the president of the United States tell what insurance coverage you should have, how much you are going to pay, how much you will be fined if you don't. He's now telling the Catholic Church that they are forced to pay for things that are against their basic tennants and teachings," Santorum said after comparing Obamacare to the National Health Service of Great Britian.
Santorum excited the crowd but it was not at the rock star level you would expect from somebody with so much momentum at his back. His only standing ovation during the entire speech came when he talked about social issues, in particular the Obama administration's moves on contraception.
"Ladies and gentleman, this is the type of coercion we can expect. It's not about contraception. It's about economic liberty, it's about freedom of speech, it's about freedom of religion, it's about government control of your lives and it's got to stop," he said, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Last night Public Policy Polling tweeted that they have a new poll in the field and it shows Rick Santorum is, again, the front-runner nationally for the Republican nomination.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), authored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) at the behest of Hollywood and the recording industry, inspired one of the largest and most organic opposition campaigns in recent memory. Twitter users put "STOP SOPA" banners on their user avatars; numerous sites—including Wikipedia, Google, and Reddit—"blacked out" in protest; and Congress eventually tabled the bill. While Smith bore the brunt of the backlash, writes Associate Editor Mike Riggs, his primary opponent, Oath Keeper Richard Mack, has ridden the outrage like a wave.View this article
Associate Editor Peter Suderman reviews the new Denzel Washington action thriller Safe House in today's Washington Times:
The producers of “Safe House” have done potential viewers exactly one favor: They’ve turned the movie’s title into a hint as to where it’s best viewed — in the safety and comfort of one’s own home.
“Safe House” is the sort of mostly competent but entirely skippable cinematic trifle that’s better enjoyed as a cable-matinee complement to an afternoon nap: You probably won’t be sorry if you see it, but you won’t be missing anything if you don’t.
Those who do venture out of their own domains will be treated to a ho-hum mashup of “Training Day” and the Bourne series that’s not as tough or engaging as either.
Maine has been caucusing for a week now and will announce the results tomorrow. Turnout tends to be very, very low, and Paul was third there in 2008 with 18 percent, one of his best states when it was still a three-way race then.
The Washington Post speculates on yet another defeat for frontrunner Romney:
Neither former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) nor former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has made a play for Maine, meaning that Saturday’s contest will essentially be a battle between Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman whose enthusiastic supporters have made caucus states a focus of their efforts.
In an interview Thursday with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Paul – who has not held a campaign-trail event since Tuesday night – said that he believes he has a shot at winning in Maine.
“Are you going to win the Maine caucuses Saturday?” Blitzer asked.
”I think we have a chance to do that,” Paul responded. “And I’ll be up there and struggling up to the last minute. But every time I’ve been up there so far, it has been wonderful. And I’m so pleased that they’re very receptive to the ideas of liberty, and I’m cautiously optimistic about Saturday.”....
In 2008, only about 5,500 voters participated in the Maine GOP caucuses -- a turnout of just over 2 percent of the state’s roughly 253,000 registered Republicans.
Paul held six town hall meetings in the state over two days at the end of January. Meanwhile, Romney’s town hall in Portland Friday night will be his first visit to the state this cycle, although he held a tele-town hall and has sent surrogates – including his son, Tagg – to campaign on his behalf....
With 17 days between tomorrow’s caucuses and the next nominating contests in Arizona and Michigan, the caucus results in the Pine Tree State could resonate on the campaign trail well past Saturday night — particularly if Paul ekes out his first-ever win in a nominating contest.
*A Nevadan writes about his caucus experiences with a positive spin, though he believes the campaign overemphasizes phone calling far too much over door-to-door interaction with voters. (I have heard the same from other locals in both Iowa and New Hampshire, that the weeks of advanced phone work aren't as optimal as the Paul campaign's strategy and tactics seem to believe.)
*Good magazine reports on the phenomenon of former Obama folk turning in their grief to Ron Paul. Meantime, Cafe Press notes that for the first time, in the wake of his highly publicized State of the Union address, that Obama merch is now outselling Ron Paul's. In a press release received via email from MBooth communications that I was not able to find online, they note:
CafePress, an e-commerce platform that powers user-designed merchandise, has been tracking 2012 election presidential candidate support via the 2012 Meter graph. With an average of over 137,000 new designs uploaded every week, it’s no surprise many of them are political in nature.... The Meter graphs track merchandise sales trends for each presidential candidate and, through such trends, successfully predicted Barack Obama’s victory in 2008......
Since The Meter poll launched in November, Ron Paul has held the top spot in product sales (e.g., t-shirts, etc.) each week in a commanding fashion—a testament to his loyal supporters, as they’ve been able to counter surges from the rest of the Republican field, as well as the incumbent, President Barack Obama...
However, since Obama’s SOTU speech, Paul has fallen to 2nd place for the first time ever, demonstrating a sudden and significant surge in Obama support. Last week, Obama edged out Paul 46% to 33% and now, this week, we see that Paul is still runner-up. His numbers rose slightly, from 33% to 36%, but so did Obama’s—from 46% to 47%...
In total, Paul still dominates Obama 57 to 27 in the Cafepress T-Shirt metric.
One of the most frustrating things about California, writes Steven Greenhut, is seeing how every serious public policy issue is driven by what’s best for government employees, not what’s best for the public. Thankfully, Greenhut reports, one California judge is introducing a new level of transparency that will bring some much-needed scrutiny to government officials working in the children and family services system.View this article
This week Mexican drug warriors are bragging about a record seizure of methamphetamine. The New York Times describes it as "15 tons, found in pure powder form at a ranch outside Guadalajara." That supposedly amounts to "13 million doses worth $4 billion—more than double the size of all meth seizures at the Mexican border in 2011." Progress? Not really:
While the authorities proudly showed off the seizure to local reporters, the sheer size of the find set off alarm among experts and officials from the United States and the United Nations. It was a sign, they said, of just how organized, efficient at manufacturing and brazen Mexico’s traffickers had become even after expanded efforts to dismantle their industry.
"The big thing it shows is the sheer capacity that these superlabs have in Mexico," said Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration. "When we see one lab with the capability to produce such a mass tonnage of meth, it begs a question: What else is out there?”...
"It's important to keep the seizure in perspective," said Eric Olson, a security expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "It's huge. Eye-popping. But seizures, even huge ones, don’t generally change the demand for the drug in the long run. If a seizure of this magnitude raises the street price, consumption may go down for a time, but it is only a matter of time until the market adjusts and the supply comes back up."
Those Mexican superlabs got a boost from the U.S. government's restrictions on retail sales of cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, a meth precursor. That policy inconvenienced people with colds and allergies, hurt domestic mom-and-pop labs, shipped meth jobs across the border, and encouraged a shift to a more dangerous production method here in the U.S. But it had no discernible impact on meth consumption. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, meth use by Americans 12 or older has been flat or falling since 2002, with the exception of a spike in 2006, the year the federal restrictions took effect. Numbers for high school seniors from the Monitoring the Future Study show a similar pattern, but with no uptick in 2006. Yet back in 2008 Bush administration drug czar John Walters was claiming (per A.P.'s paraphrase) that "laws restricting the sale of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine...and efforts to thwart drug trafficking from Mexico have disrupted the market for meth."
No matter. Ever-bigger seizures, indicating utter failure, only mean drug warriors must redouble their efforts.
My colleague Nick Gillespie made the excellent point two days ago that if health insurance coverage were de-linked from government funding and mandates, then the current "war on religion" nonsense that some politicians are peddling with regard to the requirement that organizations run by the Roman Catholic Church buy health insurance the covers contraceptives would never have occurred. People could use their own money or (as Nick suggested) vouchers to buy whatever kind of health insurance they wanted.
One more issue: health insurance is just a form of compensation offered by an employer. It's not the employer's money; it belongs to the employees. Since that is so, why should the employer's views on the morality of health insurance coverage trump that of their employees?
University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan has posed an interesting hypothetical in his latest MSNBC column:
Imagine that the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is based in Brooklyn, NY, creates a printing company that happily employs people from many faiths and cultural backgrounds. The company’s sole task is to print all the Witness literature that its followers distribute door-to-door all over the world. That literature clearly states the Jehovah’s Witnesses adamant opposition to blood transfusion. Then the federal government then issues a national set of minimal standards which all companies operating as public entities must provide as part of the health insurance coverage they offer.
The Governing Body is outraged because on that list are blood transfusions. They issue a statement accusing the President of trying to crush religious liberty by forcing their printing company, which employs many non-Jehovah’s witnesses, to cover transfusions.
In that instance, would politicians be rushing to slam the health care plan on the basis of religious freedom? Would anyone in the media be sympathetic if the entire leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said they would not budge an inch in including coverage of blood transfusions at their printing company no matter what government, doctors or even their own employees believe that ought to have covered? I doubt it.
And yet, this is exactly the reaction that has greeted the pronouncement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that they feel persecuted by the inclusion of birth control in the list of covered benefits that they need to provide when they operate institutions in the public arena.
Get employers out of the business of buying health insurance and the whole stupid issue goes away. But as far as I know none of the members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy nor any of the grandstanding politicians on either side is making that sensible suggestion.
Unless things have changed dramatically since the last time I attended an open-casket funeral, the process for preparing a body for burial still involves injecting a corpse with preservatives, draping it in an ill-fitting suit or dress, and smearing its face with clown makeup. Which is to say, whatever dignity there is in being dead is still derived solely from the imaginations of the living.
If you have ever seen a body that’s been cold for more than a day, you probably know this. (If you haven’t, I both envy you and advise you to find a less visceral way to pay respects to your deceased Pep Pep.)
In Massachusetts, acknowledging the reality of death is apparently a no-no, at least for embalmers. Troy Schoeller, frontman for punk band Razors in the Night and a licensed embalmer, got real on the topic with the Boston Phoenix, telling the alternative weekly that he does not enjoy embalming fat people and that a dead baby is like a "bearskin rug.”
God love Schoeller for inhaling the stink of mortality on a daily basis, and for his honesty. Unfortunately no one will ever have to pretend to like his handiwork ever again, as the Massachusetts board that gives licenses to embalmers has revoked Schoeller’s:
After his comments were published in The Boston Phoenix, the state board that licenses funeral directors and embalmers revoked his license. Now Schoeller is challenging that punishment before the highest court in Massachusetts, arguing the revocation violates his constitutional right to free speech.
"I didn't lie about anything," he said. "I didn't say anything that was wrong."
Schoeller argues that state regulators chose to enforce a vague and overly broad provision of the code of conduct that prohibits funeral directors and embalmers from commenting on the condition of a body entrusted to their care.
Funeral directors and embalmers routinely talk about their work in trade journals and other publications to inform a curious public, and the provision should not be interpreted as barring them from ever talking publicly about what they do, said his lawyer, Jason Benzaken. Schoeller is the first embalmer in Massachusetts to be disciplined on those grounds, the lawyer said.
Schoeller's statements were truthful, did not disclose confidential information and pertained to a matter of "legitimate public concern," and were therefore protected by the First Amendment and the state constitution, Benzaken said.
"People are interested in it; people have a right to know what happens to their deceased family members when they are brought into a funeral home," he said.
But the state Board of Registration of Funeral Directors and Embalmers found that Schoeller violated the code of conduct by talking about bodies in his care in an "unprofessional" manner.
"Sensitivity, dignity, respect are at the very heart of this profession," Assistant Attorney General Sookyoung Shin said.
The dignity claim is a lark. Shortly after the soul evacuates the body, shit and urine follow. Rigor mortis sets in, blood pools in the ass, and the flesh turns sheet white. These are not secrets. That dead bodies are less pleasant to look at than live ones is not a secret either. Surely the same imaginative powers that allow us to see remnants of joy in a powdered and waxy visage can provide folks who don’t work in the embalming business with a sense of how unpleasant it might be to inject a corpulent husk with formaldehyde; of the psychological distance required to handle a dead infant.
If the funeral home that employs Schoeller canned him after reading the Phoenix story, that would have been unfortunate for Schoeller (these are hard times we’re living in!), but perfectly acceptable. It would also be perfectly acceptable for Boston families to rebuke Schoeller by taking their dead loved ones to a different mortuary.
Not only is this an obvious First Amendment violation, it's a perfect example of mission creep in occupational licensing regulations. If there's a role for the government in the embalming business (and I'm not sure there is), it's (perhaps) overseeing the use of chemicals, protecting records, and responding to allegations of necrophilia and the like. Policing the speech of embalmers is a ridiculous overreach.
Charles Murray has a new book out: Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but it's very much of an update of basic themes in The Bell Curve (read Reason's review by future Nobel Prize-winner James J. Heckman). For a taste of Coming Apart, read Murray's recent Wall Street Journal piece.
Former Reason editor Virginia Postrel writes up Murray's latest in her Bloomberg column. Anything she writes is worth a read, especially when it relates to how elites interface with the hoi polloi. At the heart of Murray's take is the belief that America's "new upper class" is pulling away from the rest of the culture (a theme that pervades The Bell Curve as well). Postrel argues that the notion that elites are somehow more alienated from the masses than they used to be is wrong.
“Instead of feeling sorry for the exceptionally able student who has no one to talk to,” Murray writes, “we need to worry about what happens when exceptionally able students hang out only with one another.”
As someone known for writing defenses of chain stores and explaining Plano, Texas, to puzzled pundits, I agree that way too many smart people, particularly on the coasts, are quick to condemn middle-American culture without understanding why people value one or another aspect of it. But they were even worse in 1963.
That’s the second problem with Murray’s fable: The cultural consensus was not just an illusion. It was an unhealthy one. Instead of promoting understanding, it fed contempt.
One piece of evidence is right on page 2 of the book: “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the highest-rated TV show the week Kennedy was killed. As Murray points out, nearly a third of American households watched it on CBS every week -- astounding numbers by today’s standards. “The Beverly Hillbillies” was not just popular. It was, by most measures, the biggest hit in sitcom history. By its fourth week on the air, it had knocked Lucille Ball out of her top spot, and it only fell from the top 10 in its ninth and final season. It even saved “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” a flop in its original slot, by providing a big lead-in audience in an era when it was hard to change the channel. In a true consensus culture, everyone would have loved it....
With five decades’ distance it’s clear that books as seemingly different as “The Organization Man,” “The Lonely Crowd,” “The Feminine Mystique” and “Atlas Shrugged” were really all about the same thing: the alienation and discomfort of gifted, independent-minded individuals in a society in which the “normal” ruled. The “cognitive elite” felt left out of or oppressed by the country’s culture and, as a result, scorned it.
Now these people have one another. “People like to be around other people who understand them and to whom they can talk,” Murray writes. “Cognitive segregation was bound to start developing as soon as unusually smart people began to have the opportunity to hang out with other unusually smart people.” If you care about happiness, that seems like a good thing.
Interestingly, when smart people feel less alienated, they seem to buy different sorts of books. Instead of condemning American society for not honoring the author’s personality or tastes, the new bestsellers explore the mysteries of human behavior. Think of Malcolm Gladwell’s various books or Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Perhaps once you accept that people really are different -- that nobody’s normal and, at least when it comes to food or entertainment or vacations, there’s no one best way to live -- you can, paradoxically enough, start to think about the commonalities known as human nature.
The title of Postrel's piece comes from a quiz that Murray includes in the book (take it here). The goal of the quiz is to ascertain just how thick your "bubble" is - how hived off from mass culture you are. It's worth taking, especially if you fancy yourself either close to the masses or oh-so-alienated from them.
As something of a public service, I include below a full episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. It's the one where Granny mistakes an escaped kangaroo for a giant-sized jackrabbit. I read somewhere that when it aired, it became the highest-rated episode of TV (discounting specials, finales, etc) for many years. Certainly it showcases that The Beverly Hillbillies was a pretty smart and funny show, Newton Minow be damned.
Yesterday the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota sued five big beer companies—Anheuser-Busch InBev, SAB Miller, Molson Coors , MillerCoors, and Pabst—for making crappy beer. Just kidding. The tribe actually blames the brewers for making too much beer, enough to supply Oglala Sioux on the officially dry Pine Ridge Reservation. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska, also names four beer stores in Whiteclay, a tiny Nebraska town near the reservation where nearly 5 million cans of beer were sold in 2010. "You cannot sell 4.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer," says the tribe's attorney, "and wash your hands like Pontius Pilate, and say, 'We've got nothing to do with it being smuggled.'"
If you think the tribe's demands that people outside the reservation help enforce its ban on alcohol are unreasonable, consider how the U.S. treats "source countries" that provide the illegal drugs Americans want. Its efforts to destroy and intercept those drugs go well beyond filing lawsuits. If the Oglala Sioux had the resources to wage a War on Alcohol that involved bombing breweries and raiding liquor stores, on what moral grounds could the U.S. government object?
“You can observe a lot just by watching,” said Yogi Berra. A national group has been watching Virginia’s colleges and universities, and much that it has observed is not flattering. Grumpy old skinflints and youthful Occupy protesters alike should take note. A new report by ACTA, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, notes research indicating nearly half of all college students make no learning gains in their first two years, and 36 percent show no significant intellectual growth even after four years. Yet, writes A. Barton Hinkle, GPAs have been trending upward.View this article
After tweeting about the Prophet Muhammad, 23-year old Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari could face the death penalty for blasphemy. His tweets ignited a firestorm of controversy in Saudi Arabia, leading to over 30,000 tweets in less than 24 hours. In response, Kashgari lost his job as a columnist for the Jeddah-based al-Bilad, while the Saudi Information Minister has censored reprinting and carrying Kashgari's writings. Meanwhile, Saudi Sheikh Nasser al Omar pulled a Ed Muskie as he asked the Saudi King Abdullah to execute Kashgari for his "apostasy."
Al-Jazeera has translated a few of Kashgari's tweets:
On your birthday I find you in front of me wherever I go, I love many things about you and hate others, and there are many things about you I don't understand.
On your birthday I won't bow in front of you, I won't kiss your hand. Instead, I will shake it as an equal, I will smile at you and you will smile back and I will talk to you as a friend, no more.All the great gods that we worship, all the great fears that we dread, all the desires that we wait for impatiently are but figments of our imagination.
No Saudi women will go to hell, because it's impossible to go there twice.
Kashgari has since deleted the tweets and has recanted:
I deleted my previous tweets because after I consulted with a few brothers, I realized that they may have been offensive to the Prophet (PBUH) and I don't want anyone to misunderstand.
I swear to God, I wrote what I wrote because I love the Prophet, but I made a mistake and I hope that God forgives me and all those who were insulted forgive me as well.
After receiving death threats and finding his home address leaked to the public, Kashgari fled the country and sought asylum. However, he was just arrested in Malaysia. His extradition is currently being coordinated with the Saudi government. If he returns to Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Fatwa Committee is calling for Kashgari to be punished in accordance with Sharia law, which could be execution.
For a while now, John Merline at Investors Business Daily has been putting out always-interesting charts and data.
His latest is over there on the right. Despite claims by politicians ranging from Barack Obama to Rick Santorum that U.S. manufacturing is dead and buried, Merline shows that sector is alive and kicking.
"By all relevant measures of economic performance — growth in profits, output gains, employment growth, and unemployment rates — American manufacturing remains the shining star of the U.S. economy," said Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who closely tracks this industry.
Others have noted that, even without Obama's tax code inducements, manufacturers are starting to bring some jobs back from overseas, known as "on-shoring."
And while Santorum is right that fewer people work in manufacturing — the industry lost more than 7 million jobs since its peak in 1979 — and the industry accounts for less of the nation's GDP than it once did (less than 13% today compared with nearly 25% in 1970) — these aren't necessarily bad indicators.
Indeed, for those of us who have worked in factories, it most certainly is not a bad thing that fewer of us work in such places. A lot of industrial work is necessary and not awful, but getting off an assembly line is rarely a bad thing. Even in terms of wages. As this Cafe Hayek post from a couple of years back notes, service-sector jobs, which typically have easier conditions, also typically pay better.
It's always the right time to listen to Bob Dylan's incredibly non-prescient "Union Sundown" which proclaimed circa 1983,
Well, you know, lots of people complainin' that there is no work.
I say, "Why you say that for
When nothin' you got is U.S.-made?"
(click to listen)
If the Maestro was as wrong about American manufacturing as he was about the spelling of John Wesley Hardin, he was dead-on in another fevered premonition from "Union Sundown":
They used to grow food in Kansas
Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw.
I can see the day coming when even your home garden
Is gonna be against the law.
Reason's Nanny of the Month for September 2010 covered the travails of a DeKalb, Georgia man who got busted for growing...vegetables.
- With a foreclosure fraud settlement all but done, U.S. banks will resume foreclosing on delinquent properties.
- The chair of the House Financial Services Committee is under investigation for insider trading.
- Mitt Romney is only mildly worried about Rick Santorum.
- White House to water down birth control mandate.
- Rand Paul gave a rousing speech at CPAC yesterday.
- The LAPD has a "war room." Because, says Chief Charlie Beck, "We are targets on our own soil."
New at Reason.tv: "Halftime in America: Remy Chrysler Ad Parody"
I meant to blog this when it first aired in January (go here for Frontline's page). It's an interesting documentary about the Fukushima, Japan nuclear plant wipeout and what lessons might be drawn for a U.S. audience.
[We] need a better grid that can store electricity for later or transport it far more efficiently than is currently possible. Until we get that, we'll need to rely on some source of power that is completely controllable, that can produce exactly as much electricity as we need. No more. No less. There are four options for that: Coal, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear power. Hydroelectric power can't operate everywhere. And the other three all come with serious risks, to local health and to the planet**.
Yet we will still need them for decades to come. So how do we decide which risks we're willing to live with? The only way to do that is to set aside reactionary fear and anger and start having conversations that account for all the risks in an honest way. We have to talk about mitigating risks as best we can—because, as Nuclear Aftershocks points out, we aren't currently doing that in relation to nuclear power, at least not consistently. We have to prioritize our fears. And we have to recognize that, for right now, there is no such thing as a right decision. No such thing as eliminating risk. No matter what we choose, someone will get hurt.
HT: Boing Boing's Xeni (who didn't write the review quoted above).
Washington, D.C. – Before trekking down to CPAC I asked Ron Paul's national campaign chair why the Texas congressman was skipping out on a convention that the other candidates are attending. His quick one sentence response:
Too much campaigning to do across the country.
Paul's absence is notable at this CPAC because in previous years he has packed the place with supporters to assure that he would win the meaningless straw poll, often paying their way. His campaign website calendar does not list any events through Sunday but in a follow up email Benton said that Paul will be in Maine this weekend.
Meanwhile, in Vacationland, speculation is running rampant that Paul could win the caucuses on Saturday. In 2008 Paul finished third in Maine, just three points behind eventual nominee John McCain. Romney won Maine with 52% of the vote. Paul won the northernmost county, Arostook.
If Paul wins Maine it will validate his caucus strategy and likely lead to a surge in campaign donations. It does not mean that Paul is suddenly a serious contender for the GOP nomination as Paul has styled his run more as a movement-building campaign. It would be Paul's first time winning a state in any of his presidential runs.
While a Paul victory brings him closer to his goal of having some serious leverage at the nominating convention in Tampa, it also helps his rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich by creating another problem for Romney. On paper Maine is a state that Romney should win easily and not have to campaign or spend resources in. Paul's strong grassroots operation has forced him to campaign there when he could be spending time and money in states where his support, historically, is not as strong.
When it comes to groups with "super" in their name, Obama only likes to listen to the one that ends in PAC, jokes Chip Bok.View this article
Here's a snippet of what GOP House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said in tonight's big speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. Via the Washington Examiner:
Everybody knows this is politically risky territory. Republicans have their battle scars on entitlement reform. That’s why some argue that we should downplay bold agendas and simply wage a campaign focused solely on the President and his party.
I firmly disagree. Boldness and clarity offer the greatest opportunity to create a winning coalition. We will not only win the next election – we have a unique opportunity to sweep and remake the political landscape.
Of course we will highlight the President’s failed agenda. But Americans deserve to choose an alternative agenda – one that aligns with our needs. One we can rally behind.
...My friends, America deserves a choice – and if it is an honest choice between these two visions, well, then we win, they lose.
Yes, the challenge before us is daunting. The President and his allies will do all in their power to try to make our philosophy of freedom seem radical.
But I believe the President and his party’s leaders are profoundly mistaken.
They are growing increasingly isolated from the American mainstream. They just don’t understand that Americans are seeking political leaders whose solutions are reassuring precisely because they are bold.
The President’s partisans are underestimating the ability of Americans to do basic math. They don’t realize that the sheer magnitude of our challenges has shifted the center of gravity under their feet, putting them at a disadvantage. The history of our own movement shows that we can win these fights – if we are willing to fight them.
As constitutional conservatives, let’s offer Americans the choice they deserve. This is the moment we were made for. It is time to prove that the Founders got it right, both for centuries past and for centuries to come.
Let’s contrast the President’s path to decline with our own path that lifts the debt, promotes prosperity, and restores the greatness of the American Idea.
Ryan has been delivering similar messages—be specific, be bold, take risks—for a while. But it's hard to avoid seeing this speech as a challenge, and perhaps a warning, to all of the potential Republican presidential nominees, and to Mitt Romney in particular.
Read my 2010 feature, "Paul Ryan: Radical or Sellout?"
The Supreme Court late last month declined petition to take up more Second Amendment cases. A news release I received today from the Michel and Associates law firm (that does not seem available yet on its web site dedicated to gun law) explains what was at stake. It also discusses other Second Amendment cases that people have tried, and failed, to take all the way to the Supreme Court since 2008's Heller case created a brand-new landscape for weapons possesion law:
On January 17, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States declined to accept and review People v. Delacy...
In his Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, lawyers for Mr. Delacy asked the Supreme Court to decide whether language from its 2008 opinion, District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), concerning "presumptively lawful" restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms allowed courts to simply hold restrictions on the Second Amendment rights of those with certain misdemeanor convictions constitutional without applying any level of heightened judicial scrutiny. The Delacy case also touched on what level of judicial scrutiny should apply to an Equal Protection challenge asserting the government is creating discriminatory classifications that deprive those so classified of their Second Amendment rights.
Even though the Supreme Court requested a response to the Delacy petition from the government in October 2011. Delacy ended up being another in a line of recent Second Amendment-related cases which the Supreme Court declined to accept for review.
Certiorari was also denied on the same day as Delacy in Lowery v. United States....The Lowery case sought review of whether the right to keep and bear arms as set forth in Heller applied retroactively to a person convicted of possessing a handgun in his home in violation of the very restriction struck down as unconstitutional in Heller.
Other Second Amendment-related cases recently denied review by the Supreme Court include Williams v. State (Maryland), U.S. v. Masciandaro, and Winters v. Willis.
Williams v. State (Maryland)....asked the Supreme Court to decide whether the Second Amendment protects a right to carry or transport a registered handgun outside the home. Mr. Williams was appealing his conviction for possessing a handgun in public without the required state permit allowing him to do so.
United States v. Masciandaro...involved a man convicted of violating the federal prohibition on carrying or possessing a loaded weapon in vehicles in National Parks after he was found asleep in his vehicle with a loaded handgun in a national park. He sought review from the Supreme Court of whether that prohibition violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms; asking the high court, like the petitioner in Williams, whether the right extends beyond the home.
Willis v. Winters....involved a group of Oregon sheriffs asking the Supreme Court to clarify whether they could disregard an Oregon State Supreme Court decision requiring them to issue licenses to carry firearms to medical marijuana patients, which would arguably make them violate federal law. One question that potentially would have had to be resolved – as with several other cases seeking review from the Supreme Court – was whether there is a right to carry firearms outside the home for self-defense. Willis also could have potentially had a wide-reaching effect regarding who is considered an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance (a disqualifier for firearm possession under federal law).
While you might think these decisions on the Court's part to not hear these Second Amendment cases means it's reluctant to reconsider the Amendment at all, that's not quite right:
Despite the of certiorari denials in all the aforementioned Second Amendment cases, the fact that the Supreme Court has been requesting responses in these cases shows the Justices are paying unusually close attention to the Second Amendment issue. Of the roughly 8,000 petitions for review filed with the Supreme Court every year, only in a few hundred cases does the Court request a response from the opposing party. When the Court requests a response brief, it is a strong sign that the Court is interested in hearing argument in that case. And, such a request increases the probability that the Court will grant oral argument by roughly 9 times, from 0.9% to 8.6%....
The fact that the Supreme Court requested a response in all these cases suggests the Court is interested in further clarifying the scope of Second Amendment rights after Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago...but is searching for the right case vehicle to do so.
The Court has two cases awaiting its consideration that might finally mark the return of the Second Amendment to the Supreme Court since McDonald:
Perhaps one of the two remaining Second Amendment cases pending before the Court that we are aware of (United States v. Portillo-Munoz, 643 F.3d 437 (5th Cir. 2011), petition for cert. filed, No. 11-7200 (Nov. 2, 2011) (a challenge to federal law prohibiting gun possession by illegal aliens) or United States v. Booker, 644 F.3d 12 (1st Cir. 2011), petition for cert. filed, No. 11-6765 (Oct. 3, 2011) (a challenge to federal law prohibiting gun possession by persons convicted of domestic violence)) will become the case that settles some of the issues that remain outstanding in the wake of the Heller ruling.
Indeed, Heller and McDonald raise so many questions about the reach of and proper standard of review of laws that infringe on the Second Amendment that a revisit is certainly in order, and I hope one happens soon, and the right way. I've written about the newly wide-open field of Second Amendment law here and here (this latter specifically mentions Willis v. Winters, and another burgeoning case in federal court about whether medical pot card holders can be denied Second Amendment rights, Wilson v. Holder).
An interview by me with Heller and McDonald lawyer Alan Gura on the immediate post-Heller shape of Second Amendment law.
Reason's gun archives.
I wrote a book about the Heller case, Gun Control on Trial.
Damon Root from last week on why the Second Amendment does too protect us from states and localities.
Washington, D.C. - Are you young, single, and conservative? Are you uncomfortable around women? Do you struggle when asking members of the liberal media out on a date? If you answered yes to any of these questions and you skipped the conservative dating seminar at CPAC you probably missed out on some of the most important advice you will ever receive. Ok, not really. But you still missed an entertaining time.
Wayne Elise, founder of Charisma Arts “a company devoted to helping people become more charismatic though fun online content and in-person instruction,” gave attendees an overview on how to approach and deal with members of the opposite sex. He briefly performed what seemed like a comedy routine before he explained to people not only how to act on a date, but how to get a date with an attractive member of the opposite sex.
"Rick Santorum, isn't he the handsomest man running for president now? Isn't that how it goes? The best looking guy wins?” he asked.
He continued talking about the attractiveness of the candidates before a young woman chimes in.
"Mitt Romney's sons."
"Can we talk to security and get Mitt Romney's sons in here? I am sure that guy can, he looks important."
"They are all married," replies the woman, sounding disappointed
Then there was an awkward silence before he moved on with his routine.
The hour long presentation was heavy on political references but it could have worked with any audience. The former juggler and street performer encouraged people to just “be themselves” on dates.
“When you’re on a date, instead of trying to impress your date, make her feel more comfortable. That means you can make fun of yourself,” he said.
Elise encouraged those present to be more assertive with others but not to the point where you scare them off. “You don’t have to be a pick up artist. When you’re at a bar don’t go talk to the hot girl immediately,” he said
It was an event that, at first glance, looked as if was designed to distract members of the press from covering Rick Perry’s speech rather than help awkward conservative singles. During the question and answer session most of the questions asked were by media rather than participants.
In this video a member of the British press asks Elise why dating for conservatives is dating for others. Elise said conservatives tend to be too stiff and referenced how he had a good time at a party with a socialist. He then talks about what would be a good date for a couple. One of the attendees at the event suggests going to a gun club.
Bad news, freedom fighters! Judge Andrew Napolitano's Freedom Watch, the best damned daily libertarian news & argument show in the history of television (name a better one!), has gotten the axe from Fox Business Network. From the press release:
FOX Business Network (FBN) will debut a new primetime schedule featuring encore presentations of the channel's top post-market programs, announced Kevin Magee, Executive Vice President of the network. Starting February 20th at 8 PM/ET, viewers will find additional airings of The Willis Report (5PM & 8PM/ET), Cavuto (6PM & 9PM/ET) and Lou Dobbs Tonight (7PM & 10PM/ET). The new lineup will replace FreedomWatch with Judge Andrew Napolitano, Power & Money with David Asman and Follow the Money with Eric Bolling. [...]
In making the announcement Magee said, "Neil Cavuto, Lou Dobbs and Gerri Willis are the most trusted names in business news and this new lineup affords FOX Business viewers additional access to their no-nonsense take on the day's financial events. We look forward to Judge Napolitano, David and Eric continuing to make significant contributions to both FOX Business and FOX News. In addition to daily branded segments, each of them will be showcased throughout future programming on both networks."
Currently one of the leading judicial analysts on television, Judge Napolitano will continue his role on both FOX Business and FOX News, providing key legal insights surrounding the growing intersection between Washington and Wall Street. [...] Stossel, hosted by John Stossel, will continue Thursdays at 10PM/ET.
Well, boo (except for that last sentence).
Freedom Watch was a great friend to Reason, of course, but more importantly to anyone worried about the size and growth of government in all aspects of our lives. And despite (or maybe because of?) the show's stronger-than-usual ideological/philosophical content, the judge knew (and knows!) how to run a perfectly respectful debate with people who disagree strongly with him, which is a rarity in the cable world. Television needs more spaces like that.
And here's the judge speaking at a Reason event in 2007:
In Darkness, Poland’s submission for this year’s Best Foreign Film Oscar, is a movie that drives home the abomination of the Holocaust in a freshly chilling way, based on true events as recalled by survivors in a 1991 book. Safe House, on the other hand, is a faux Bourne movie, starring Denzel Washington as the ace CIA operative condemned as a rogue and now hunted by the Company throughout colorful foreign locations. Kurt Loder reviews them both.View this article
- Global Catholic Network files suit against the Obama administration over contraception rule.
- FBI releases its file on Steve Jobs.
- Poll: New Yorkers love NYPD Chief Ray Kelly, despite his organization's mounting problems.
- Poll: Santorum has it all over Gingrich.
- U.S. and Pakistan are murder-droning together.
- Stocks close high!
A couple of weeks ago, Senior Editor Jacob Sullum explained "How GPS Tracking Threatens Privacy":
The case decided [by the Supreme Count] this week involved Antoine Jones, a Washington, D.C., nightclub owner who was convicted of cocaine trafficking in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison based largely on information that investigators obtained by surreptitiously attaching a GPS tracking device to his Jeep Grand Cherokee. All nine justices agreed that a warrant was constitutionally required for this surveillance.
But what about situations where users give permission to slap a GPS on thier cars to monitor their driving habits in exchange for cheaper insurance?
Welcome to installment #4,762 of the Upsides of Zero Privacy series.
The service would provide users with cheaper quotes, but prices could be pushed up if driver logs show recklessness or dangerous driving....
Drivers on the scheme will be given a TomTom PRO 3100 as part of the package, and the device will include Active Driver Feedback and LIVE Services to warn drivers when they were cornering too sharply or braking too hard.
The TomTom will also have a LINK tracking unit fitted in their vehicles, allowing driver behaviour and habits to be monitored.
This particular deal is taking place in the U.K., where group profiling to set insurance prices—charging more for men than women, for instance—is now verboten. (Similar developments are underway in the U.S.)
South Korea is significantly less awful than North Korea— though what country or thing isn't? — but it can't be all giving money to escaped North Korean refugees and helping them resettle; in their efforts to be the superior Korea, South Korea is overcompensating.
In early February, 24-year-old Socialist Party member and South Korean Park Jeonggeun was charged under his country's 1948 National Security Law which criminalizes any glorification of North Korea. Pro-North Korea sites are also blocked in the South.
One of his crimes? He retweeted "Long Live Kim-Jong Il" from the official North Korean twitter account. He also doctored photos of North Korean soldiers when he "replaced a smiling North Korean soldier’s face with a downcast version of my own face and the soldier’s weapon with a bottle of whisky.” Jeonggeun is a member of a party which opposes North Korea (it takes extra effort to spin slavery and gulags into worker solidarity, in spite of the dire associates that "socialist party" brings up.) He pleads that his retweets and other forms of expression were just mocking his cousins to the North. But he also is making the argument that he has the right to do this; “Even though I disagree with North Korean communism, I'm interested in North Korean culture and have a right to know about it," he said.
Jeonggeun faces up to seven years in prison for his crimes. Amnesty International have taken up his case and their Asia-Pacific director summed it up, “This is not a national security case, it’s a sad case of the South Korean authorities’ complete failure to understand sarcasm."
South Korea has stepped up enforcement of the NSL in recent years. According to Amnesty, there were a rash of tortures and forced confessions over the law in the '70s and '80s when South Korea's military ruled; today it's often used to squish people who are not keen on every single aspect of South Korean policy toward the North; the BBC says prosecutions under the law "tripled under the current administration."
Of course it's not all oppression in response to satire or honest questioning of foreign policy. Sometimes it's oppression in response to this guy who is accused of building a shrine to sincerely honor Kim Jong-Il.
Reason on North Korea
When the Supreme Court hears the state challenge to ObamaCare later this year, most of the attention will likely be on the challenge to the law’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance and its implications for the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. But, writes Associate Editor Peter Suderman, in a somewhat unexpected move, the Supreme Court has decided to allow for a full hour of oral argument regarding another part of the case: the expansion of Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program for the poor and disabled, which is expected to account for half of the law’s health coverage expansion.View this article
Washington, D.C. – Former Republican presidential candidate and current Texas Governor Rick Perry took some questions from the Bloggers Lounge at CPAC today. Perry, a one-time frontrunner, addressed issues ranging from the Keystone pipeline to helping Republicans get elected in the fall.
“I’m going to be working all across this country asking men and women who are running for Congress or are in Congress to sign on to a Tenth Amendment effort, that they’re going to devolve power out of Washington, D.C., give this back to the states, and allow the states to be the deciders on a huge number of issues,” he said when asked about his efforts to influence the 2012 campaign.
“You have an administration that has taken the most sweeping steps to impede states rights from the standpoint of our environmental issues. There are about ten or eleven rules coming out of the EPA that are not the EPA’s business,” he said.
When asked about what he would have done differently during his presidential run he said, “Oh yeah I would have probably have do a lot of things differently.”
Perry called his run for president a “great experience” and he said he does not regret running.
Warren Buffett is often seen as a grandfatherly figure above the rough-and-tumble of politics. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska, in a house he purchased in 1958 for $31,000. He made a fortune for himself and his investors through the humble-sounding approach of value-based investing. He uses folksy expressions. He frequently takes to the nation’s op-ed pages with populist-sounding arguments, such as his August 2010 plea in The New York Times for the government to stop “coddling” the “super-rich” and start raising their taxes.
But as Peter Schweizer observes, this grandfatherly image does not always reflect reality. Warren Buffett is very much a political entrepreneur; his best investments are often in political relationships. In recent years, Buffett has used taxpayer money as a vehicle to even greater profit and wealth. Indeed, the success of some of his biggest bets and the profitability of some of his largest investments rely on government largesse and “coddling” with taxpayer money.View this article
One of the world's most infamous prisons is quite popular among Americans. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 70 percent of Americans support President's Obama decision to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open.
The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of President George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed.
But's there's a silver lining for progressives: Guantanamo Bay is going green!
The Miami Herald elaborates:
“From my perspective certainly the greening of Gitmo is important,” says U.S. Navy Capt. Kirk Hibbert, the base commander. National security is paramount, he said, but the Navy mandate to curb consumption “has an effect on almost everything we do here.”
The Navy wants to halve its reliance on fossil fuels by 2020, primarily to reduce costs. (Meanwhile, the military has no plans to reduce its dependency on indefinite detention.) Guantanamo Bay is the most expensive prison on Earth, costing 30 times as much as the average American prison to detain the 171 captives there. On diesel fuel alone, Gitmo spends $100,000 each day.
To go green, the base has installed solar panel arrays, smart meters, LED lights, and windmills. Electric car use is on the rise, while Navy cops have been riding bikes instead of SUVs for patrols. Gitmo has also acted a testing ground for energy efficiency and innovation, including a possible NASA experiment to "grow algae, as biofuel, inside a floating field of wastewater discharged into Guantánamo Bay." Glad to see the Navy has its priorities straight.
In a story anticipating the home mortgage deal that was announced today, The New York Times conflates "the millions of borrowers who are delinquent and facing foreclosure," many of whom presumably are delinquent because they can no longer afford their payments, with "borrowers owing more than their houses are worth," who may be perfectly capable of paying their mortgages, although perhaps not eager to do so given the crappy investments they have made. This seems to be a common error in press coverage of the housing market, perhaps because the decline in home prices and the recession are tied together in people's minds. But the fact that your house is suddenly worth half what you paid for it does not mean you are suddenly unable to make your payments, unless you have lost your job or suffered some other misfortune that reduced yor cash flow or increased your living expenses. Conversely, people whose mortgages are smaller than the value of their homes might nevertheless be struggling to make ends meet because of recent financial setbacks. Yet the Times says "about one in five Americans with mortgages are underwater," implying that all of them, including multimillionaires who bought mansions at the height of the bubble, are the intended beneficiaries of the loan modifications to which the banks have agreed.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson called the pursuit of happiness an unalienable right. This was a radical idea. For most of history, most people didn’t think much about pursuing happiness. They were too busy just trying to survive. Then came the liberal revolution based on the idea of individual freedom. Only then did they start thinking that happiness might be possible on earth. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, writes John Stossel, the right to pursue happiness has been perverted into a government-backed entitlement to happiness.View this article
Yesterday, I participated in The Conservation run by host Ross Reynolds at the Seattle public radio station KUOW. The topic centered on regulating sugar in much the same way that the government already regulates alcohol and tobacco based on a new article published in Nature, The Toxic Truth About Sugar [sub required]. The program featured Laura Schmidt, a sociologist working at the San Francisco School of Medicine arguing in favor of regulation. She outlined some of her proposals in a CNN op/ed including a "substantial tax on products loaded with sugar," imposing age limits on purchasing high sugar products, and controlling the opening hours of fast food outlets near schools.
I was called in to "balance" the discussion. First, excessive consumption of sugar is bad for you. So don't do it. That's what public health officials should be focusing on rathering than figuring how to jigger taxes and regulations to make our behavior conform to their views on what's best for us. The chief problem is that nearly everything we do or don't do can affect our health. That means from public health bureaucrats' points of view there is no aspect of our lives in which they may not meddle for "our own good."
In any case, during the segment of the program in which I got to speak, I argued against further infantalization of Americans by health nannies who assume that people are too stupid to know what's best for them. I note that Schmidt's editorial says, "We think that the public needs to be better informed about the science of how sugar impacts our health." Yes. That is the proper role for public health bureaucrats. And they have had notable successes. For example, per capita cigarette smoking began to decline from nearly the moment that the Surgeon General declared it a health hazard back in 1964.
During the program, I argued that I surely must be considered a shining example of a public health success. I took to heart all the warnings about tobacco. I used to be a 3-pack per day smoker, but I stopped smoking 27 years ago. And I quit when cigarettes cost under a dollar per pack.
With regard to public health warnings about excessive consumption of sugar and carbohydrates, I again took public health warnings to heart. In the last three years I have lost 45 pounds dropping my body mass index from nearly 30 (borderline obese) to a healthy normal 23 now. (It's only been a couple of years, so let's see if I can keep the weight off.)
I expect that public health information about various disease risks posed by eating too much sugar can and will help my fellow Americans to make the same sorts of risk/reward decisions on their own.
During her segment, Schmidt pointed out that excessive sugar consumption is associated with metabolic syndrome, a kind of pre-diabetes, if you will. She's absolutely right. But so are a lot of other activities (or inactivities). For example, as I pointed out during the program, television viewing is also associated with metabolic syndrome. Is the next proposed public health recommendation going to be regulations on how much TV people may watch per day?
The host Ross Reynolds, asked me about the possibility of adding sugar warning labels to sweets the same way the government requires warning labels on cigarettes. I asked if this meant that he would favor big pictures o