Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2012 March 8-31

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Paul/Romney Deal in the Making, Time Magazine Strongly Hints

As the last regular mainstream media following Ron Paul gives up, a new piece up at Time gets the closest with what appears to be real meat to the oft-said, little-proved notion of a Ron Paul/Mitt Romney secret alliance (though it too repeats the outright lie that Paul never attacks Romney, which he did in both debates and ads).

Anyway, the parts that are closest to meat from Time:

Paul’s campaign has sent discreet signals to Camp Romney that the keys to Paul’s shop can be had for the right price....

Even as they tamp down rumors of a pact, Paul’s advisers concede that the friendship between Paul and Romney is the initial step toward a deal. And behind the scenes, discussions between the two campaigns — as well as initial discussions with the Santorum and Gingrich camps, according to one Paul adviser — are slowly taking shape.

An alliance could benefit both camps. Paul’s support would go a long way toward helping Romney with a bloc of young Republicans who have been turning out in huge numbers for Paul and who otherwise might stay home in November. It might also help Romney grab all of Paul’s delegates. Such an arrangement would help Paul get what a Romney ally called “an important speaking role at the convention.”....

Paul’s acolytes insist their man cannot be bought. “Romney wants the ring of power. He wants it so bad,” says Doug Wead, a Paul senior adviser. “Negotiating with Ron Paul is very difficult because he doesn’t want anything. If he got the ring, he would throw it into Mount Doom.”

Maybe so, but...Aides say if Paul can’t win the nomination, four legislative priorities would top  the Texas Representative’s wish 

list: deep spending cuts that lead to a balanced budget; the restoration of civil liberties; a commitment to reclaim the legislative branch’s right to declare war, which it abdicated to the executive branch in recent decades; and reforms that shore up the U.S. monetary system, such an audit of the Federal Reserve or competing-currency legislation. The Texas Representative might also be enticed, says campaign chairman Jesse Benton, by the prospect of serving as a presidential adviser, a Cabinet position for someone in his orbit or “perhaps a vice presidency.”

Not for himself, but rather his son. Rand Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky and a Tea Party icon, is expected to launch his own White House bid in 2016. Being on the ticket now – or even being mentioned for it – would be a helpful step. Says one Paul adviser: “If you’re talking about putting Rand on the ticket, of course that would be worth delivering our people to Romney.”....

At the same time, Paul’s backers recognize that selling supporters on an alliance with Romney carries special risks, since Paul’s bond with his backers is predicted on his record of principled stands. A pact would have to be done “very cautiously,” says Benton. “We wouldn’t ask our people to do that if we worried they were just being coopted or that we were in some way selling out.” 

The sourcing and strength of the assertions seem a little weird to me in this, with the "discreet signals" perhaps meaning the actual quotes from Benton later or perhaps hinting at knowledge too terrible to share or reveal.

And I would think that unnamed "Paul advisor" should know enough about the world of his candidate and his supporters to realize there ain't no easy way to "deliver our people" even if he merely means "release delegates" and even then I'm not sure most Paul delegates would have any interest in voting for anyone else.

As for his potential voters in November, that's an even harder sell. Pundits need to realize votes are not something like matter that can neither be created nor destroyed; that Paul created a fresh electorate largely from the near-majority who usually don't vote, and they could disappear from whence they came if he or someone like him is not around.

Jesse Benton had this to say about the Time story tonight to me: "As the article reports, we have talked with all three campaigns, usually at their request, at a variety of levels and generally about state convention activity. A brokered convention is now our stated goal, and winning the nomination for Dr. Paul will require extensive politicking. Anything past that is just innuendo." 

What does he reasonably think might actually entice Paul devotees to vote for a GOP candidate not Paul? I asked Benton. "We are fighting full throttle for Dr. Paul to  be the nominee, but if we fall short of the nomination and can force Ron into the VP slot, I think most of our supporters will consider voting Republican in the fall." 

I did some rough surveying of Paulite feelings on this tonight (including via Facebook, a site sufficiently vast to prove or disprove any trend). Specifically on Benton's guess about a VP slot, the Facebook page of the Paulite RevolutionPac did a survey, with nearly 700 responses, which found only 100 who said they would vote for Romney with Paul as VP, and 583 saying either "no" or "would write in Paul."

Some other Paul fans responses I got to the question, what would it take from a non-Paul presidential candidate to make you think of voting for him?

Bretigne Shaffer says that "Speaking for myself, there is no promise or concession a non-Paul candidate could make that would win my support, for the simple reason that I don't trust any non-Paul candidate to keep any promises. Paul has integrity, which makes him the anti-politician. It's why I support him." Michael Malice (read his cartoon biography by late comics legend Harvey Pekar) said "A promise that next year's budget will be smaller than this year's." Kyle Walker said "Ron Paul gets to pick the next Fed chair."

Some people said they could not imagine Paul would actually ever endorse any of the others, and that nothing could make them vote for a non-Paul Republican. And Joshua Clement Broyles said that "No deal. The records of those other GOP douchebags are all bad enough that I would't trust them if Ron Paul had them all installed with Harkonnen heart plugs, just in case. If voting for a shameless douchebag is the only choice, I'll just keep voting for Democrats, thanks" then added that "Actually, if you put Gingrich, Romney and Santorum in a 3-way caged death match, I would consider voting for whoever survives, provided, of course that all Presidential Veto powers are to be ceded to Ron Paul, regardless of the survivor."

There you go. More on this developing story/supposition as it develops.

In other Paul news tonight, he draws what his campaign reports as 4,600 people to the University of Illinois in Champaign for an event.

And you can buy now and read later my out-in-May book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

You Just Might Fall in Love with Mia Love

 

Via Instapundit and PJTV comes this interview with a GOP candidate in Utah. Here's the writeup:

Mia Love is running for Utah's Fourth Congressional District on a platform of "fiscal discipline, limited government, and personal responsibility." She is also one of the smartest congressional candidates, and can quote Frederick Bastiat with the ease of an economics professor. Is the Tea Party focusing too hard on the presidential race, and what should the President be doing to lower gas prices? Find out what Mia Love has to say and see why she just might be the next star of the Tea Party movement.

Anecdotes About Horrible, Sexist "Quiverfull" Families Probably Proof That Homeschooling Needs More Government Oversight

Tedious critiques of homeschooling, like bad poetry, seem to be an infinite resource in the world. So, if you enjoyed Dana Goldstein's recent Slate tribute to the progressive greater good of not homeschooling, Kristin Rawls, writing at Alternet, has an article which doubles as anecdotal sob story about homeschooling as vehicle for sexist, uneducated, overly-religious familial tyranny.

Where to begin?

First of all, Rawls focuses almost entirely on former "Quiverfull" families in her article. Quiverfulls are Christians (about 10,000-strong according to various nervous, left-leaning sources, compared to more than 1.5 million homeschoolers in the U.S.) who feel like God should be the one to plan how many children they have. (Psalm 127, baby: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.")  

A few years ago Quiverfull became a hot topic for a minute. This was particularly thanks to TLC's 19 Kids and Counting Duggar clan, but also due to Kathryn Joyce (who has some dubious things to say about homeschooling in Rawls' article) and her book about the practice; it was highlighted in places like in Bitch, Mother Jones, and Feministing because, not for nothing, it's a tailor-made nightmare for certain folks. 

And some of these folks eventually became disenchanted with the God as birth control lifestyle! They have stories! Stories of being either the mother of, or the actual barely-literate ex-homeschooler who grew up clueless about socialization, stupid about science and math, and with heads full of sexism and fear about the big, bad secular world. 

Here's one of Rawl's horror stories for ya:

Take Vyckie Garrison, an ex-Quiverfull mother of seven who, in 2008, enrolled her six school-age children in public school after 18 years of teaching them at home. Garrison, who started the No Longer Quivering blog, says her near-constant pregnancies – which tended to result either in miscarriages or life-threatening deliveries – took a toll on her body and depleted her energy. She wasn’t able to devote enough time and energy to homeschooling to ensure a quality education for each child. And she says the lack of regulation in Nebraska, where the family lived, “allowed us to get away with some really shoddy homeschooling for a lot of years.”  

“I’ll admit it,” she confesses. “Because I was so overwhelmed with my life… It was a real struggle to do the basics, so it didn’t take long for my kids to fall far behind. One of my daughters could not read at 11 years old.” 

At the time, Garrison was taking parenting advice from Quiverfull leaders who deemphasized academic achievement in favor of family values. She remembers one Quiverfull leader saying, “If they can do mathematics perfectly but they have no morals, you have failed them.” 

I, former homeschooled lass, also have more morals than math skills, but this is still a woman blaming a lack of regulation for her own mistakes. Garrison goes on to to critique her previous views about public schools:

“We became so isolated because the Quiverfull lifestyle was so overwhelming we didn’t have time or energy for socialization. So the only people we knew were exactly like us. We were told that the whole point of public school was to dumb down the children and turn them into compliant workers – to brainwash them and indoctrinate them into this godless way of thinking.” 

Garrison believes that homeschooling has become so popular with fundamentalist Christians because, “there is an atmosphere of real terror among some evangelicals. They are horrified by the fact that Obama is president, and they see the New Atheist movement as a vocal, in-your-face threat....

But is this just an anomaly? Rawls wonders and writes:

Unfortunately, it’s hard to know. The federal government only maintains very broad demographic statisticsabout homeschoolers in this country; federal data only keeps track of what kinds of people are homeschooling and why. You can find plenty of information about homeschoolers according to race, family income or highest education obtained by the parents. But as regards neglect related to homeschooling? The government cannot tell you -- and there is no systematic state-by-state record of the percentage of truancy convictions (possibly the best measure of educational neglect at present) that involve homeschooling families versus those involving enrolled students and/or their parents. 

Capturing that kind of data is essential to understanding the scope of this problem, but getting real numbers will always be complicated by the fact that many homeschooling families choose not to comply with the law by submitting to state homeschool regulations, or even report their homeschool activity to the state. While it’s possible that some forget, others intentionally fail to report because they fear too much government intervention in their lives.

"Fear too much government intervention in their lives" — Rawls doesn't outright say that to fear such a thing is a sign of Christian wackiness, but she most assuredly ties them together; to distrust public school is to be extreme.

See one reason she's not entirely sure about homeschooling is this lack of regulation thing necessitates lots of anecdotal evidence. The article gives a token nod towards not all homeschoolers are this way, but it's very half-hearted. Her only interview with a pro-homeschooling person seems to be a cranky unschooling mother who can't discus this issue without being offended. Rawls also damns one homeschooling mom with faint praise:

Maria Hoffman Goeller is one of those. A lifelong family friend, Goeller is a homeschool graduate raised in a conservative Christian home, where she never lagged behind in academics. Now she has a son with special needs in the California public school system but educates two other school-age children at home. “Part of the reason we homeschool is because I’m choosing what worldview or what subjects I want to introduce my child to,” she says. But she understand the limits of her own skill, which is why she placed her special-needs son in public school. “While I can teach my children reading, writing and arithmetic, I am not trained in special education,” she says. “I want my child to have the best education he can get, which at this time is public school.”

Though she considers herself conservative, Goeller does not demonize public schools as some families do. And contrary to stereotypes about Christian homeschoolers, Goeller is adamant that she will not sacrifice academic rigor, or shield her children from views different from her own. In fact, she says she would welcome more opportunities for them to interact with public school students, for example, in sports and even in certain classes now and then. 

She wouldn't mind them interacting with public school students! Imagine! 

Rawls goes on:

Luckily, more than a few adult homeschool graduates are eager to talk. And as I talk to more and more people who recount first-person stories of homeschool-related neglect, it becomes hard to write off what homeschool advocates would call “exceptions” simply as fringe outliers.

Erika Diegel Martin’s story is particularly haunting. A homeschooling graduate of the mid-1990s, and an ex-Quiverfull daughter I have known for many years, Diegel Martin was pulled out of public school at 14. Because she was old enough to remember several years of public schooling, she says she never really believed her parents’ dire warnings about it. Her younger brothers were another story. “When the school bus would come by, my youngest brother would go, ‘There goes the prison bus.’ Our parents had them believing that public schools were these horrible places, just dens of iniquity.” 

The narrative about public schools, she says, went something like this: “How would you like to get stuck in a building with no light – and secular, godless, atheist teachers for seven hours of the day without even being able to see your parents or go out to play?” As a result, she says, “My brothers were terrified of the public schools.” 

If Martin's parents piled the rhetoric on that little thick and sheltered to the extent described, that's maybe not so good. But Rawls (and Martin here, if she is being quoted honestly) completely destroy their own premise — their maybe not totally bullshit premise that there are truly neglected children out there who are going totally unnoticed by authorities— by incessantly implying that to distrust government-run schools and to describe them as places of restriction is abusive or at least suspicious brainwashing. 

And does it need to be said, since the spelling bee champ nerdy homeschooler is a cliche, that yes, their test scores tend to be in the 70th and above percentile? That one is easy. It's the lingering questions about socialization and abuse that bother people like Rawls and Slate's Goldstein.

Never mind Goldstein's abstract progressivisms for now, maybe these families Rawls describes got screwed over by weird parents. But so do lots of people in public school. And lots of other people generally resent their parents, their education, and their upbringing. This is how society works when we have religious choice, reproductive choice, and (some) education choice.

Really, what would be the solution to fathers who teach their little girls to be "stay-at-home-daughters" until marriage? Beyond a socially-free libertopia where these girls might notice quicker that they do have other options, there just isn't a fix for parental brainwashing. And I am curious whether Rawls (and Goldstein) thinks that there is. 

Rawls does not clarify where her recommended official line between parenting choice and education neglect lies. But after lightly touching on how truly awful homeschooling laws are in Sweden and other parts of Europe, Rawls ends her article with:

No one I speak to who is homeschooling today mentions that this sort of oppressive regulation is a reality for current homeschooling families. Instead, they say that today’s regulation consists mostly of bureaucratic paper-pushing – hardly the kind of homeschool persecution some fear. It may be annoying, but so far as I can tell, it’s not trampling on anyone’s rights – though that doesn’t keep homeschoolers from worrying. 

The fights that homeschool groups have won in the United States are not mentioned. Nor is the fact that it wasn't until 1993 that it was legal to homeschool in all 50 states; and never mind the few months in 2008 where 50,000 California homeschoolers had to wait and wonder if they were suddenly breaking the law. There is only, from Rawls the worry about the children, the shrug and the "what's the big deal about regulation?" attitude.

In 2007, 83 percent of responders to a survey said "moral or religious instruction" was why they homeschooled their children. Moral or religious; I might argue that my homeschooling libertarian agnostic parents qualify under the former definition. (They certainly imparted their morals to me and I noticed after a while that much of the world seemed to disagree with their bold government-ain't-so-hot message.) And my dad, knowing the rhetorical heaviness, but more or less meaning it, more than once in my childhood described schools as "minimum security prisons." (Is that alarming rhetoric to Rawls? She also frustratingly uses lazy cues like "anti-government extremist" to describe Erika Diegel Martin's parents without clarifying what that means beyond the aforementioned anti-school talk.)

Every parent, from the biggest, most public-sphere-friendly communitarian atheist, to the most bunker-dwelling religious fanatic, imparts their morals to their children in some fashion. All else, good and bad, follows. What's the alternative?

Read Rawls' whole thing here. And check out Reason on homeschooling.

Stratfor on the Futility of the War on Meth

A new Stratfor primer on the illicit methamphetamine market cites some numbers that illustrate the risk premium associated with prohibition, which delivers big profits to murderous thugs all over the world:

Depending on the price of chemicals used—determined by the quantity of chemicals purchased and the legitimacy of the supplier—the cost of manufacturing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meth comes to anywhere between $150 and $4,000....According to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Illicit Drug Prices Mid-Year 2009 report, the wholesale market price for meth is $19,720 per kilogram while its street value is $87,717 per kilogram. Needless to say, this is a huge markup.

Indeed. Based on Stratfor's range of estimates, meth sells for between 20 and 600 times as much as it costs to make, and almost all of that value is added after the drug has been broken down into relatively small quantities—one reason interdiction has little impact on retail price. Stratfor also notes that "since the product can be made anywhere and can be fabricated into a variety of forms, it is very easily transported." Nor is Stratfor sanguine about the prospect of shutting down the market by controlling precursor chemicals such as pseudoephedrine and methylamine:

For meth manufacturers, lawmakers' attempts to stop meth production and regulate the drug's requisite precursor chemicals are at best temporary obstacles. For example, meth manufacturers in the United States have begun mixing methanol and anhydrous ammonia to circumvent regulations on methylamine. These chemicals can be purchased at a variety of locations, such as hardware stores.

Regulatory measures are reactive and have failed to stop manufacturers from finding ways around the law, giving manufacturers a distinct tactical advantage....

As of May 2011 the United States was home to 1.4 million known meth users—certainly a massive market on which criminal manufacturers can capitalize. Due to the drug's popularity and high profit margins, methamphetamine will continue to be manufactured, distributed and used regardless of regulation.

There's the prohibitionist conundrum in a nutshell: Banning a product people want creates the very incentives that ensure the ban will be ineffective.

[Thanks to Victor McDonald for the tip.]

Jack Kerouac Wrote Marlon Brando a Letter, or Maybe He Just Typed It

Collectors Weekly’s always fascinating Fresh Copy blog has a typewritten gem of 20th Century culture in the U.S.A.: author Jack Kerouac "praying" that actor Marlon Brando might "buy ON THE ROAD and make a movie of it." 

Helen Hall, a memorabilia expert who liquidated Brando’s estate for Christie’s in 2005, posted the letter last year, but the find is still fascinating even if you’re lukewarm about Kerouac’s writing: 

I spent around 10 days at [Brando’s] house. By my last trip out there, we had gone through the house with a fine-tooth comb. We had discovered all his movie memorabilia in a bunker in the garden, including his annotated "Godfather" script. I really doubted that there was anything left at the house that would top that...

And then, tucked inside a file of unexciting correspondence, was a letter that appeared to be much older than everything else. I pulled it out, trying not to get excited, but there it was, a typed letter signed at the bottom in bold blue ink, "Jack Kerouac." I nearly fainted. As I read the letter, it became clear that it must date from at least the late 1950s. 

On the scale of might-have-beens, unmade movie adaptations of beloved of-their-moment novels rank pretty low. Still, there’s something moving in Kerouac’s Mount Nebo vision: "I visualize the beautiful shots could be made with the camera on the front seat of the car showing the road (day and night) unwinding into the windshield, as Sal and Dean yak." 

Hall is also moved by Kerouac’s hopeful "You play Dean and I’ll play Sal." But the real poignancy is in a parenthesis that immediately follows this sentence, shimmering with Hollywood’s casual lies and willing self-deceptions:  "(Warner Bros. mentioned I play Sal)."

Brando doesn’t appear to have replied. Both men became fabled as icons of vigorous and beautiful youth who turned into hideous middle-aged blobs, as you can see in this must-watch episode of Firing Line, wherein William F. Buckley has a good laugh about Kerouac’s obvious drunkenness right after he himself drops a critical bomb that could only have come from an inebriated mind: saying Kerouac’s late novel Vanity of Duluoz was "widely regarded as his best." 

If Brando had supported this project, it’s likely a film equal in greatness to One-Eyed Jacks or Teahouse of the August Moon might have resulted. It also possible that having had the movie jones taken care of, Kerouac in his pickled premature senescence would not have tried to sue Stirling Silliphant – the actual greatest writer of the 20th Century – over the knockoff TV series Route 66

Title explained

And what do you know: There actually is a star-studded movie version of On the Road

Reason.tv on the Beats:

 

Obama Says Iran Diplomacy Window is "Shrinking," New Greek Bailout Approved, Polish Soldiers to be Re-Tried for War Crimes Related to 2007 Killing of Afghan Civilians: P.M. Links

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Nick Gillespie on Why Independents Will Decide the 2012 Election

A raft of new polls about the presidential race drives home what everyone has always known: This election will turn on independent voters, the ever-growing plurality of Americans who refuse to sign up for Team Red or Team Blue. If Barack Obama wants to win a second term and Mitt Romney, who will almost certainly be the GOP standard-bearer, wants to snag his first, writes Reason.com Editor in Chief Nick Gillespie, here are three keys to winning those independent voters.

View this article

How Many Law Enforcement Agencies Does it to Take to Prosecute One Man for Buying $200 Worth of Crack?

A Cedar Rapids lawyer was sentenced today to 15 days in jail and one year of supervised release for buying $200 worth of crack cocaine late last year. Stanley Roush will also have to pay a $2,500 fine and $250 in court fees. 

Roush was seen leaving a drug buy in November. Officers stopped him in a gas station parking lot. Roush claimed he had swallowed the crack, but officers found it behind the driver's seat.

Apparently, putting Roush away for two whole weeks required the cooperation of nearly every law enforcement agency in the state of Iowa, per the WCF Courier

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant United States Attorney Justin Lightfoot and investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Task Force consisting of the DEA; the Linn County Sheriff’s Office, the Cedar Rapids Police Department; the Marion Police Department; the Iowa City Police Department; the Clinton Police Department; the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services; and the Iowa National Guard.

The Iowa National Guard!  

When Is Quoting Van Halen a Crime?

This week Gary D. Russi, president of Oakland University in Michigan, rejected a request from the Foundation for Inividual Rights in Education (FIRE) to reconsider the three-semester suspension imposed on a student for commenting on the attractiveness of his creative writing instructor in a journal he maintained as part of the course. The "daybook" was supposed to be "a place for a writer to try out ideas and record impressions and observations," including "freewriting/brainstorming" and "creative entries." The student, Joseph Corlett, says his instructor, Pamela Mitzelfeld, repeatedly assured him that no topic was off limits, which turned out to be not exactly true. In an entry titled "Hot for Teacher," Corlett reflected on the challenge of paying attention in classes taught by attractive instructors:

Then there's Mrs. Mitzelfeld, English 380. She walks in and I say to myself "Drop [the class], motherfucker, drop." Kee-rist, I'll never learn a thing. Tall, blond, stacked, skirt, heels, fingernails, smart, articulate, smile. I'm toast but I stay. I'll fuck up my whole Tuesday-Thursday class [schedule] thing. I'll search for something unattractive about her. No luck yet. Shit. 

Two pages further in the journal, Corlett imagined a (fictional) warning from Mitzelfeld:

Dear Joseph:

While your writing is fair, it is completely inappropriate. I have broken your rule and torn out the offending pages. If this continues, I am obligated to report you to the Dean. Otherwise I shall consider the matter closed.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Mitzelfeld

Corlett nevertheless continued the "Hot for Teacher" theme. In an entry dated September 23, 2011, he likened Mitzelfeld to Ginger on Gilligan's Island while comparing another instructor to Maryanne. According to Corlett and FIRE, these two entries are the sole basis for Mitzelfeld's claim that he had sexually harassed her, which she made after collecting his journal at the beginning of November. In a November 29, 2011, memo to various colleagues, Mitzelfeld called Corlett a "Dangerous Student," citing letters he had written to the school newspaper "defending the right to carry concealed weapons on campus." Because of his Second Amendment advocacy, she said, "I cannot feel safe knowing that he might have a weapon on him at any time." She complained that Corlett's presence had created "an unacceptable and dangerous work environment" and concluded, "Either Mr. Corlett leaves campus or I do." As a result of Mitzelfeld's complaints, Corlett was banned from campus, suspended for three semesters, and ordered to undergo "sensitivity" training.

FIRE argues that Oakland University, as a government-run school, is bound to respect Corlett's First Amendment rights, which include "germane, class-related expression" such as the journal entries that offended Mitzelfeld. Adam Kissel, FIRE's vice president of programs, notes that Corlett's conduct falls far short of sexual harassment as it has been defined by the federal courts. Oakland's response, as expressed by Russi, General Counsel Boyd C. Farnam, and  Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management Mary Beth Snyder, is that Corlett cannot use a First Amendment defense in an internal disciplinary proceeding and that the university's definition of "unlawful conduct" (the official charge against Corlett) need not conform to the case law dealing with sexual harassment. As Snyder put it, Corlett seeks to use "technical legal definitions and standards in defense to charges that are neither technical nor legal in nature, but rather, would be considered intimidating, harassing, threatening or assaultive behavior in the context of the University's academic, educational environment." In essence, says FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, "Oakland University made up its own definition of the 'law' in order to punish a student for his creative writing."

If you reject FIRE's premise that a state-sponsored university should face different legal constrants in policing student speech than a private university would, you may agree with Oakland's adminstrators that the First Amendment is irrelevant in this situation. But there is still the question of whether an institution supposedly devoted to free inquiry should be punishing students for writing things that offend their teachers. It's pretty clear that Corlett's journal entries did not amount to sexual harassment. Are they nevertheless a kind of disruptive speech that universities should punish? If so, was Corlett's penalty proportionate? Is your answer affected by the knowledge that Corlett is a middle-aged man who has been married for three decades? And what, if anything, do his views on gun control have to do with it?

FIRE's latest update, which includes links to relevant documents, is here.

Addendum: As I noted, the "warning" from Mitzelfeld was fictional, written by Corlett himself before she had seen the journal, so it is not the case that he persisted after being asked to stop.

Yes, Mitt Romney Flip-Flopped on the Mandate

Earlier this week, Glenn Kessler, author of The Washington Post's Fact Checker column, took issue with the following Democratic National Committee ad accusing Mitt Romney of flip-flopping on his support for requiring people to buy health insurance:

Kessler says the accusation doesn't fly:

Romney has been consistent in saying that he would apply a state-based approach to health care. He has said the individual mandate worked well for Massachusetts, he may have even predicted that most other states would eventually adopt it, but he has never advocated or supported a federal mandate — as contained in the president’s law.

Romney may not have ever said "I support a federal mandate to purchase health insurance" in so many words, but if you look at his record, it's hard to conclude that he did not support copying the Massachusetts plan at the federal level, including the mandate—which is essentially what Democrats did with ObamaCare. 

As Kessler notes, Romney has repeatedly stated his belief that the Massachusetts plan should be a model for the nation. Sometimes he has said that the plan can provide lessons for other states. But at other times, he has recommended that Washington's leaders, including President Obama, follow the Bay State's lead. As Matt Welch previously noted, in a 2009 USA Today op-ed framed as a message to the president (title: "Mr. President, What's the Rush?"), Romney criticized the legislative process of previous Obama administration priorities and declared: "There’s a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it." Among those lessons? 

Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn’t cost the government a single dollar. [bold added]

There you have it. In the summer of 2009, as the health care debate was reaching one of its most heated moments, Romney argued to President Obama that the federal government would be well served by adopting Massachusetts-style tax penalties for the uninsured—in other words, a mandate. 

The Romney campaign maintains that this doesn't prove anything. The campaign claims that Romney was merely suggesting that those who decline to purchase health insurance should be required to forego a tax credit or deduction. In a separate Newsweek op-ed, published several months earlier than the USA Today piece, Romney makes this suggestion. 

Even if this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it's not much of a defense. In that same piece, Romney frames these policies as possible ways to "get everyone insured," which, despite talk of "unleashing market forces," he seems to believe is the job of government policymakers. It's clear, then, that Romney favors reworking the tax code in order to penalize the uninsured. But please don't call it a mandate! 

More to the point, however, is that the USA Today op-ed is very open in arguing that federal policymakers, President Obama in particular, can learn lessons from the policies implemented in Massachusetts, which has a mandate. Yet since then, he's denied ever favoring a federal mandate. And for the most part, he's gotten away with it. 

Read my cover story on Romney from the March issue. 

Why Santorum and Libertarianism Don't Mix

Speaking of Rick Santorum and libertarians, Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz tells Washington Post "Right Turn" blogger Jennifer Rubin why Santo gives us limited-gubmint types the creeps. Excerpt:

What scares you about Rick Santorum?

Being philosophically minded, what scares me most about Rick Santorum is not his specific policy mistakes but his fundamental objection to the American idea of freedom. He criticizes the pursuit of happiness! He says, "This is the mantra of the left: I have a right to do what I want to do" and "We have a whole culture that is focused on immediate gratification and the pursuit of happiness ... and it is harming America." And then he says that what the Founders meant by happiness was "to do the morally right thing." He really doesn't like the idea of America as a free society, where adults make their own decisions and sometimes make choices that Santorum disapproves. In practice, I worry that he would continue and intensify Bush's big-government conservatism, a federal government committed to reshaping individuals according to a religious-conservative blueprint. [...]

Is Santorum a fiscal conservative?

Santorum is broadly speaking a fiscal conservative. He did try to reform entitlements, both welfare and Social Security. He got As and Bs from the National Taxpayers Union on spending issues, ranking anywhere from top 10 to middle of the Republican pack. But he supported No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription drug entitlement, the massive highway bill of 2005 and even the notorious Bridge to Nowhere. He bragged about his pork-barrel spending and trade protectionism for Pennsylvania. As president he'd probably resist tax increases, intend to spend less than Obama and come up with lots of schemes to subsidize marriage, children and local schools.

Read Reason's Santorum candidate profile here, scroll through his Topic page, then check out these critiques, listed in reverse chronological order:

* "Ron Paul vs. Rick Santorum: Is the soul of the Republican Party even worth fighting for?", by Brian Doherty

* "Rick Santorum: Against contraception, against online gambling," by Nick Gillespie

* "Santorum Is Severely Wrong: The former senator from Pennsylvania is libertarianism's sweater-vested arch-nemesis," by Gene Healy

* "Rick Santorum v. Ron Paul on Constitutional Interpretation: Santorum Fail," by Ronald Bailey

* "Rick Santorum's Moral Delusions: Is America really on a downhill slide?", by Steve Chapman

* "Rick Santorum: The 10th Amendment Does Not Mean What It Says," by Damon W. Root

* "The Dreamy Thing About Rick Santorum Is That He Has Met the Enemy, and He Is Individual Freedom," by Matt Welch

* "Rick Santorum Is a Conservative Technocrat: If you favor an intrusive Republican government, he's unquestionably your candidate," by David Harsanyi

$2 Trillion For a Decade of Expanded Health Coverage Under ObamaCare?

Early in the process of drafting the recent health care overhaul legislation, Democrats realized that they had a spending ceiling: Somehow, they would have to coax the official price tag of the final legislation down below the trillion dollar mark. So they started bailing. They threw out a proposed update to Medicare’s physician’s reimbursement system and fiddled with the numbers until the headline figures were in an acceptable range. In a major speech, President Obama promised the law would cost “around $900 billion over 10 years,” and the final tally was close enough: According to the Congressional Budget Office, the gross cost of the law’s health coverage provisions came in at $938 billion for the first decade.

But what Democrats didn’t highlight was that the first decade as scored by the CBO was not actually the first decade in which the law was fully operational. The major coverage provisions do not kick in until 2014, and neither do the associated costs. Yet the CBO started the clock on its cost estimate in 2010, meaning that the initial estimate really only looked at the cost of six years of coverage (2014 through 2019). As I pointed out several months before the law passed, the true cost of paying for the law’s coverage expansions over a full decade was more like $1.8 trillion—well above either the unofficial ceiling in Congress or the president’s public estimate.

Now that we’re closer to 2014, those costs are plain to see. Indeed, the cost of a full decade could hit $2 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office released updated estimates for the health law yesterday and reported that the gross cost of the coverage provisions between 2012 and 2022 is expected to come in around $1.76 trillion. That’s an 11 year estimate, but it still only looks at nine years of fully expanded coverage; 2012 and 2013 add just $9 billion to the tab. But coverage in 2022 alone clocks in at $265 billion, a little more than the $250 billion cost projected for 2021. Add another year like that to the tally and the total skips past the $2 trillion mark.

All this is separate from whether the law reduces projected federal budget deficits. The law also includes a variety of tax mechanisms intended to raise revenue and Medicare payment tweaks designed to reduce spending by a little more than the cost of the expanded coverage provisions. The CBO sticks by its assessment that the law will reduce the deficit on net. But there are good reasons to be skeptical of those projections as well, especially now that we now have evidence that President Obama signed off on health reform budget gimmicks.

Read Philip Klein, who makes a similar point at The Washington Examiner.

Here's a great song about big numbers:

Reason Writers at CNN.com: Matt Welch on What a Second-Place Rick Santorum Might Mean for the GOP

Writing at CNN.com's Opinion section, Reason Editor in Chief warns "If Santorum finishes second, watch out." Excerpt:

Question: What do Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan (twice!) have in common? Answer: Before winning the Republican Party's nomination to run for president, each of these men first finished in second place during a GOP primary season.

Though it is by no means a lock that the Republican silver medalist will emerge as the party's front-runner in 2016 (just ask Pat Buchanan and Nelson Rockefeller), a significant second-place finish, the likes of which we will certainly see this year (unlike, say, John Buchanan's showing in 2004), carries the weight of a planted flag: Here, even in defeat, lies the embodiment of an important if temporarily unsuccessful political strain, one that is ready to break back out around that candidate at the next available opportunity.

Be very afraid, and read the whole thing here.

Reason.tv: How Sex Offender Registries Fail Us

You can be put on the sex offender registry for urinating in public, having consensual sex as a teenager or even for “sexting.” And in California, once you are on the list, you are on it for life.

The registry has become the medieval stocks of the 21st century and, as attorney Janice Bellucci says, once someone is on the registry, "he is treated like a leper". 

There are violent sexual predators who should be on the registry for life, but 95% of those on the registry never commit another sex offense, according to the California Department of Corrections.

Reason.tv spoke to a registrant ruined by the registry. His crime: having sex with his teenage girlfriend.

“It was actually illegal for me to be anywhere near her for three years,” he says, “but she waited for me. And I waited, too.”

They are still married today, 10 years after he was convicted.

Harsher laws for registrants continue to be passed while proposed reforms to the registry have struggled to gain ground.

California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano introduced a bill for a tiered registry in January, but it was defeated thanks to opponent's scare tactics. 

"There have always been stories, especially this summer, about child predators in the area," says Mission Viejo Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht, who introduced a bill banning sex offenders from public parks and beaches. 

Bellucci is going to keep fighting for reform. “We’re not thinking from a logical and rational place,” she says, “instead we are acting from fear."

Produced by Tracy Oppenheimer. Shot by Paul Detrick, Zach Weissmueller and Sharif Matar.

Approximately 7.30 minutes.

Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv’s YouTube Channel for automatic notifications when new material goes live.

Is Dharun Ravi Guilty of 'Bias Intimidation'?

Today jurors begin their deliberations in the trial of Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student who surreptitiously watched his roommate, Tyler Clementi, kiss another man on the night of September 19, 2010. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge a few days later for reasons that remain unclear. Although Ravi officially is not charged with culpability in Clementi's death, he would not be on trial, facing a possible sentence of 10 years in prison, if Clementi were still alive. Ravi's brief invasion of Clementi's privacy, via a webcam in their dorm room, and his attempt to remotely view a second encounter with the same visitor would almost certainly have been treated as an internal university matter. Clementi had already requested a room change, and Ravi probably would have been disciplined, perhaps by suspension or even expulsion—not by five to 10 years in prison, the prescribed penalty for "bias intimidation" under New Jersey law.

In a column last month, I explained how that law, like other hate crime statutes, effectively punishes people for their opinions—in this case, opinions about gay people. But Middlesex County prosecutors were never able to show that Ravi hated gay people in general or Clementi in particular. It does seem clear that he was uncomfortable about having a gay roommate and that his discomfort was compounded by Clementi's liaisons in their dorm room with an older man who was not a student. Ravi claimed he decided to remotely activate his webcam from a friend's room across the hall because he worried that the visitor (who testified during the trial, identified only as M.B.) might steal his stuff. Friends confirmed that concern but added that Ravi also wanted to see if he had been correct in surmising that Clementi was gay. Ravi nevertheless was taken aback by his glimpse of the makeout session and turned off the camera after a few seconds. His discomfort is apparent in the notorious tweet he sent afterward: "I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay." Ravi's attempt to spy on Clementi and M.B. during a second encounter two days later, prior to which he sent a tweet "daring" his friends to watch, likewise suggests an ambivalent curiosity about gay sex. His actions make him out to be an insensitive blowhard, not a felon. There is essentially no evidence that Ravi spied on Clementi "with a purpose to intimidate" him "because of" his sexual orientation, as the prosecution asserts.

But that is not the end of the matter, because the jury could still convict Ravi of bias intimidation if it concludes that Clementi "reasonably believed" Ravi was trying to intimidate him. The problem for the prosecution, as Ravi's lawyer, Steven Altman, emphasized in his closing argument, is that Clementi did not seem intimidated. As Ian Parker points out in his detailed New Yorker article about the case, Clementi was not hiding his sexual orientation, and "there's little to support the idea that he was mortified by the thought that he'd been outed." And contrary to popular belief, images of Clementi's encounter with M.B. were not recorded and were never available online. Clementi initially dismissed what he called Ravi's "five sec peep" as no big deal. Upon reflection, he was angry, and after he saw Ravi's second tweet he requested a new roommate. But he nevertheless met with M.B. a second time in their dorm room (after unplugging Ravi's computer). As Altman said, these do not seem like the actions of someone who has been intimidated.

Still, it is possible that Clementi thought Ravi was trying to intimidate him. It is questionable whether that belief would have been reasonable, given that Ravi never expressed hostility against Clementi, either to him or to anyone else. In any event, the prosecution had to establish Clementi's state of mind beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that he repeatedly checked Ravi's Twitter feed to see if there were any more messages about him does not seem like enough.

In the end, it all comes back to Clementi's suicide, which happened just as Ravi was sending him an apologetic text message that Altman shared with the jury: 

I've known you were gay and I have no problem with it. In fact one of my closest friends is gay and he and I have a very open relationship. I just suspected you were shy about it which is why I never broached the topic. I don’t want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding, it's adding to my guilt. You have a right to move if you wish but I don’t want you to feel pressured to without fully understanding the situation.

Even then, Ravi did not fully own up to what he had done, claiming the spying had been accidental. But there seems to have been some genuine regret mixed in with his fear of getting into trouble (which would later lead him to try covering his electronic tracks by altering or deleting tweets and instant messages, giving rise to charges of "hindering apprehension"). As immature and thoughtless as Ravi's behavior was, the prosecution has not shown his intent was malicious. A prison sentence for Ravi can be justified only by blaming him for Clementi's death—something the government insists it is not doing.

Tate Watkins on the Old-Fashioned War Propaganda of KONY 2012

The 30-minute documentary KONY 2012 is closing in on 100 million YouTube views. How did filmmaker Jason Russell achieve the improbable goal of getting Americans excitedly talking about child soldering in Africa, after years of failed media efforts by a constellation of NGOs and four national governments? As Tate Watkins explains, the film’s success is due in no small part to the fact that Russell boils down Uganda’s agonizing history into a simple call for the arrest of Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.

View this article

What’s the Left-Wing Case for Federalism?

At the Volokh Conspiracy, George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin discusses a new article in the left-wing journal Democracy which urges progressives to give federalism a chance. Here’s how the author of that piece, liberal Yale law professor Heather Gerken, begins her case for “A New Progressive Federalism”:

it is a mistake to equate federalism’s past with its future. State and local governments have become sites of empowerment for racial minorities and dissenters, the groups that progressives believe have the most to fear from decentralization. In fact, racial minorities and dissenters can wield more electoral power at the local level than they do at the national. And while minorities cannot dictate policy outcomes at the national level, they can rule at the state and local level. Racial minorities and dissenters are using that electoral muscle to protect themselves from marginalization and promote their own agendas.

Read the whole article here.

As I observed in a November 2010 column, it’s beyond strange to hear so many liberals smearing federalism at the very same time that many of those same liberals embrace federalism on issues ranging from gay marriage to medical marijuana to consumer protection. Perhaps Gerken’s argument will help some of them reconcile their internal contradictions.

Ferraris (For All) Just Become More Affordable!

 

Daniel Ben Ami's excellent Ferraris for All: In defence of economic progress is out in paperback in the U.K. Reason interviewed him when the hardcover came out in 2010. Take a look by clicking above. Here's our original writeup:

Uploaded by  on Oct 11, 2010

Who the hell's against economic progress?

Author Daniel Ben-Ami tackles that question in his new book, FERRARIS FOR ALL, which looks at how concerns over inequality, the environment, and excessive greed slow economic growth and hurt the poor. A regular contributor to the British online magazine SPIKED, Ben-Ami believes these rationales are partially a cover for the real agenda of the super rich: keeping all the wealth (and Ferraris) for themselves.

Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie sat down with Ben-Ami to talk about the repercussions and ulterior motives of growth skepticism.

Approximately six minutes. Shot by Dan Hayes and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Josh Swain.

Go to http://reason.tv for HD, iPod and audio versions of this video and subscribe to Reason.tv's Youtube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.

How ObamaCare-Style Preexisting Condition Regulations Failed In the States

Republicans like Sen. John Cornyn have occasionally suggested that although ObamaCare's individual mandate—the requirement to purchase health coverage or pay a fine—should be struck down, the law's preexisting condition exclusions should be left in place. But at this point, even the Obama administration agrees that if the mandate goes, the major preexisting condition regulations should be thrown out too. Why? In part because, as I've noted before, we've watched what happens in states that have enacted the two key insurance market regulations: community rating, which limits how insurers can charge based on health history, and guaranteed issue, which requires insurers to sell to all comers. Those insurance markets have essentially melted down, with prices going through the roof and enrollment declining. 

Ian Millhiser at the Center for American Progress has more detail on what happened in the seven states that tried such regulations:

  • Kentucky: Forty insurers left Kentucky’s market by some estimates, and only two remained before the law was repealed.
  • Maine: Thirteen of Maine’s 18 major insurance carriers stopped issuing new individual policies. Many also doubled their premiums.
  • New Hampshire: New Hampshire’s insurance law left it with nearly no carriers in its individual insurance market. The state enacted an emergency tax to compensate insurers for the costs of the law, which was repealed in 2002.
  • New Jersey: Premiums rose as much as 350 percent in New Jersey after its pre-existing conditions law took effect. Even HMO plans, which tend to resist premium increases, nearly doubled in price.
  • New York: The percentage of nonelderly New Yorkers without insurance grew 21 percent, with premiums increasing as much as 40 percent per year.
  • Vermont: Vermont fared better than other states with similar laws, but its premiums spiked an average of 16 percent in two years.
  • Washington: Nonmanaged care options disappeared entirely from Washington’s individual market. Eventually, entire counties had no private individual insurance options at all.

With these regulations in place, it becomes too easy to game the system: Wait until you're sick, then buy insurance. Insurers have no choice but to sell, and can't charge special rates because you're buying in late. In theory, the mandate mitigates these effects by forcing everyone to buy in, which is why Millhiser and CAP argue in favor of a mandate. Millhiser points to Massachusetts as an example of a successful mandate. (The Bay State, however, has seen individuals game its rules as well.)

And as John Goodman of the National Center Policy Analysis points out, "a weakly enforced mandate with minor penalties would produce the same results" as a no-mandate evironment. Which may be the case. In January, Princeton professor Paul Starr, author of a Pulitzer Prize winning book on American health policy, argued in The New Republic that the mandate as written is "soft" and will be difficult to enforce:

The word “mandate” suggests to most people that a failure to comply will bring serious consequences. But the law explicitly bars the government from the means available to the IRS to collect taxes: the government cannot threaten to seize property, garnish wages, or levy any other source of income, much less impose criminal penalties for failing to insure. What can it do? Withhold a tax refund. In other words, the mandate is enforced only by a forfeiture—the forfeiture of a tax refund, if someone who fails to insure is due a refund.

This does not make the mandate any less offensive. But it may well make it less effective. 

So although it is not a foregone conclusion, it is at least possible that if the Supreme Court does not strike down the mandate, we may be left with the worst of all world: an unbound Commerce Clause and a newly dysfunctional health insurance market. 

Andrew Napolitano on Obama's Assassination Powers

Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder attempted to justify presidential killing in a speech at Northwestern University law school. In it, he recognized the requirement of the Fifth Amendment for due process. He argued that the president may substitute the traditionally understood due process—a public jury trial—with the president's own novel version of it; that would be a secret deliberation about killing. Without mentioning the name of the American the president recently ordered killed, writes Andrew Napolitano, Holder suggested that the president's careful consideration of the case of New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki constituted a substituted form of due process.

View this article

Reminder: Mitt Romney Probably Won More Delegates Yesterday

The Associated Press does the math:

There were 107 Republican National Convention delegates at stake on Tuesday, 47 in Alabama, 37 in Mississippi, 17 in Hawaii caucuses and six more in caucuses in American Samoa.

Romney picked up all six delegates from American Samoa, plus the endorsement of three members of the Republican National Committee. The GOP caucus on the island 2,300 miles south of Hawaii was held Tuesday at Toa Bar & Grill in Pago Pago and about 70 people attended, with all nine delegates publicly backing Romney.

Last weekend, Romney captured all 18 delegates at caucuses in two other U.S. possessions in the Pacific -- Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Like American Samoa, residents there are U.S. citizens but not allowed to vote in presidential elections.

Santorum's two victories Tuesday were worth at least 29 delegates. Gingrich won at least 24 and Romney at least 31, including the nine from American Samoa. The delegate split underscored the difficulty that Romney's rivals face in overcoming his big lead.

The partial allocation of delegates from Tuesday's voting states left Romney with 485 in The Associated Press count, out of the 1,144 needed to win the nomination. Santorum had 246, Gingrich 131 and Paul 47.

That gave the former Massachusetts governor more than his rivals combined. And while Santorum in particular challenges the mathematical projections, Romney still is amassing delegates at a rate that puts him on track to clinch control of nomination before the convention next summer.

Do you want to know how a President Romney might govern? The first place to look is Peter Suderman's terrific March 2012 cover story, "Consultant in Chief."

Watch/Listen to Matt Welch and Peter Schiff Talk Presidential Politics & Economic Policy

Yesterday I went on Peter Schiff's radio show for 20 minutes and jawboned about John McCain, housing policy, the 2012 election, the entitlement bomb, and whether there's a moral imperative to raise taxes instead of running deficits, among many other topics. You can listen to the exchange below while watching Señor Schiff's side of the conversation:

Reason's Schiff file here.

A.M. Links: Romney Wins Hawaii and American Samoa, Santorum Wins Actual U.S. States, Newt Vows to Stick Around, Paul Wins a Single Delegate

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New at Reason.tv: "John Stossel on the Media, Liberty, and Why He Doesn't Miss Working for ABC"

Jacob Sullum on Why Rich Super PAC Donors Are Good for Democracy

In the two weeks before this month's Super Tuesday primaries, The Wall Street Journal reports, "outside political action committees supporting the Republican presidential hopefuls spent three times as much as the candidates themselves." Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) says the "undue influence" of these so-called super PACs, which can collect and spend as much as they want as long as they do not coordinate with candidates, "strikes at the heart of our democracy." If so, argues Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, super PACs are more like a jolt from a defibrillator than a dagger in the chest.

View this article

ObamaCare and Employers

Yesterday I looked at how the 2010 health care law might discourage employers from hiring. Today, Scott Gottlieb of The American Enterprise Institute notes a new report on how ObamaCare will affect employers. The Willis Group surveyed over 2,300 employers about what they expect from the law. The group ffound that a lot of employers are taking a wait and see approach, and are still uncertain about how the law will affect them. But there are already some signals of how the law will affect businesses. Gottlieb picked out a few key points:

– Employers report that their healthcare costs have increased by about 2-5%—mainly due to new mandates in the new health law such as requirements that young adults can continue coverage under their parents’ policies, first dollar coverage of routine services, and the removal of annual lifetime limits for “essential health benefits.”

– More than half of the employer respondents expect to pass on these ACA-endowed rising costs to employees.

– Moreover, fewer than 30% of employers say they were able to maintain grandfathered status of their healthcare plans. This rapid loss of grandfathered status far outpaces Obamacare’s original estimates of what would happen. The preamble to the June 2010 regulations noted that by the end of 2011, the Obama administration expected 78% of employers would retain grandfathered status. By the end of 2012, they forecast that 62% would still be grandfathered, and by the end of 2013, 49% would retain their grandfathered status.

The new report states: “The accelerated loss of grandfathered status suggests that employers have had to make many plan changes to offset cost increases, and perhaps employers have been more willing to give up grandfathered status in order to take other steps to control costs.”

Wind Energy Tax Credits Defeated in Senate

The Senate defeated the Stabenow Amendment that would have among other things, extended the Production Tax Credit for wind energy one year and revived the expired 1603 Treasury grant. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) [PDF] provides an income tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the production of electricity from utility-scale wind turbines. It is set to expire on December 31, 2012. Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allows wind project developers to choose to receive a 30 percent investment tax credit (ITC) in place of the PTC or the equivalent cash payment from the Department of Treasury for the value of the 30 percent ITC.

The Stabenow Amendment was defeated on 49 to 49 vote and according to Senate rules needed 60 votes to pass. In an earlier letter to various senators, the free-market coalition, the American Energy Alliance succinctly explained [PDF] why the tax credit should not be extended:

It is increasingly clear that the intervention of politicians and bureaucrats in the energy sector has had devastating economic consequences and led to embarrassing scandals. Yet the Senate is considering amendments to extend disastrous subsidies for windmills and other form of politically-preferred energy sources. We urge you to oppose these amendments.

The PTC was created by the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The wind industry insisted at the time that it needed short-term help from taxpayers and would soon be able to compete on its economic merits. Twenty years later, wind is still uncompetitive, unreliable, and expensive, as reported by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Yet Congress increased subsidies for wind dramatically in recent years, to a record $5 billion in 2010 according to the EIA.

Even with lavish subsidies and renewable mandates in many states, windmills provide just 2.3 percent of America’s electricity generation and according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration, wind will only produce about 4 percent of our electricity by 2035. Worse, redundant back-up capacity is required for when the wind isn’t blowing and demand is high.

Wind has been used to generate electricity for over 100 years and can no longer be seen as an infant industry. After decades of subsides and special treatment, wind must someday stand on its own as an economically sustainable industry. Now is a great time to start....

Sounds about right. 

For background, see my 2010 column, Wind Turbines Are Beautiful

I Don't Think Doonesbury Should be Censored, But I Do Wish It Was Funny Once or Twice a Year.

Ziiing! That's one of the controversial Doonesbury abortion/contraceptive mandate strips that many outlets are deciding not to run this week. And by controversial, I mean about as funny and insightful as a daily Crankshaft strip or a Mary Worth peregrination on milk of magnesia. And despite all the pretense that Doonesbury is a serious venue for serious thought, the strip is about as intellectually daring as a Mark Trail Sunday strip about tidal waves and fauna.

For the record: I think it's totally within the rights of newspapers not to run particular strips whenever they feel like it; that's not censorship, that's editorial oversight.

I am old enough to remember a time when Doonesbury was considered hip and cool and smart and funny. It never was really any of those things; we just had better drugs back then.

More signs that it's all downhill for comic strips after the first one: Here's the original Peanuts strip. There were some that equalled this one, but none of the subsequent ones ever topped it (IMO).

A decade ago in Reason, Jesse Walker wrote of "the decline of Garry Trudeau - and baby-boomer liberalism." A big part of the problem was the safe-as-milk controversies in which Trudeau engaged. Here's a snippet:

Controversy and quality are not the same thing, of course. But there is a direct link between Doonesbury's declining relevance and Doonesbury's declining merit, a common cause for both afflictions. Trudeau's career arc mirrors the evolution of baby-boom liberalism, from the anti-authoritarian skepticism of the 1970s to the smug paternalism of the Clinton years. 

Ten years on, Trudeau is still widely published and suffered all around the country. Good for him and good for the rest of us, who live in a world where censorship is largely a thing of the past and reader empowerment (especially the power to ignore and go elsewhere) just keeps getting stronger every day.

Read Walker's whole piece.

Ronald Bailey on Newt Gingrich's Despicable Gasoline Price Promise

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is pandering to voters with the promise that when he occupies the Oval Office the price at the pump will be $2.50 per gallon or less. Who knew that Gingrich was more powerful than the law of supply and demand? Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey wonders why the former House speaker doesn't promise unlimited free cake and ice cream to voters too.

View this article

Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem: Rush Limbaugh “is not constitutionally entitled to the people’s airways”

At the Volokh Conspiracy, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh highlights a recent CNN op-ed by Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, and Robin Morgan calling on the FCC to stop allowing Rush Limbaugh to “[hide] behind the First Amendment” and instead punish the conservative talk radio host for his offensive comments about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke. The problem with this, Volokh explains, is that the First Amendment does protect Limbaugh's offensive speech. Volokh writes:

they’re urging the government to suppress Limbaugh’s speech based on the ideology that it expresses. And this is precisely what the Supreme Court has rightly said is impermissible. In FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978), the Court did uphold restrictions on vulgar words on the radio — a question that’s now being reconsidered by the Court, in FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. — but in the process the plurality said:

“[I]f it is the speaker’s opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional protection. For it is a central tenet of the First Amendment that the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas.”

Read the whole thing here. For more on the Limbaugh-Fluke controversy, go here.

51 Percent of Americans Support Targeted Strikes Against Iran, Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich "neck and neck" in Alabama and Mississippi, U.K. Student To be Extradited to U.S. For Linking to Pirated Content: P.M. Links

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A. Barton Hinkle on Opposition to Legal Immigration

You only have to scratch the debate over illegal immigration a little to see the degree to which legal technicalities are orthogonal to the main issue. Take the bill this year in Virginia’s General Assembly requiring a citizenship check of everyone taken into custody. Why citizenship? Plenty of resident aliens are present in the country lawfully. The notion that immigrants, legal or otherwise, are taking “our” jobs relies on the assumption that one person has more claim on an open position than another. This isn’t so, writes A. Barton Hinkle. The only person with a claim on the job is the one cutting the paycheck, and he should be able to hire whomever he wants.

View this article

Invisible Children, Invisible Finances? Kony 2012 Creators Stonewall Critics

Last night, Invisible Children (IC) released a new video to address criticisms of their widely seen Kony 2012, a documentary about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. In this video, IC's CEO Ben Keesey adamantly insists IC is not a "slacktivist" organization. He also addresses some criticisms of their financial record, like travel expenses. In addition, since IC claims to be "fully transparent from top to bottom," you can even tweet questions to IC. Keesey promises he'll answer some of them in a future video.

But despite this new video, IC still has not addressed serious criticisms of the organization. First, IC has refused to disclose information to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In a press statement, the BBB declared:

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance has tried for six years to get Invisible Children to cooperate in a charity review. Since 2006, BBB has sent 18 letters (12 via Certified Mail) to the non-profit behind the Internet phenomenon Kony 2012 video, but has received no response.

H. Art Taylor, President and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, seem befuddled by IC's intransigence:

I don’t understand their reluctance to provide basic information. The whole point of the effort is to shine the light of truth on a terrible atrocity, and yet they seem to be reluctant to turn that light on themselves. It’s really unfortunate, because their campaign has the potential to inspire and galvanize millions of young activists and future philanthropists.”

We don’t assume that nondisclosure is proof of bad faith, but the vast majority of national charities we contact (70%) demonstrate their commitment to transparency by providing the Alliance with requested information so that we can produce reports for public inquirers.

Furthermore, the new IC video did not comment on the nonprofit's new source of windfall. One of the first blogs to call attention to IC's finances, Visible Children, notes that IC has sold over 500,000 action kits over the past week. At $30 a piece that equals roughly $15 million in revenue. The action kits include posters, stickers, a Kony bracelet, etc. According to IC, if you buy an action kit, "people will think you’re an advocate of awesome."

But not a humanitarian.

In an interview with GOOD magazine, Jedidah Jenkins, IC's director of ideology (yes, that's his real title), explained IC's finances and mission:

Thirty-seven percent of our budget goes directly to central African-related programs, about 20 percent goes to salaries and overhead, and the remaining 43 percent goes to our awareness programs. Those include things like flying Ugandans to America to go on cross-country awareness tours we pay for. And our staff in America has to go to Uganda, too. We got criticized for spending $1 million on travel expenses, but getting 130 people around the country and around the world is expensive. But aside from that, the truth about Invisible Children is that we are not an aid organization, and we don’t intend to be. I think people think we’re over there delivering shoes or food. But we are an advocacy and awareness organization. [Emphasis added.]

How many people who bought these action kits know they're funding hipsters uploading videos to Vimeo? Unless IC radically overhauled it financial structure, only 37 percent of the money raised from these action kits will directly help people in eastern Africa. At best. Everything else will fund overhead, salaries and raising awareness. But with over 75 million views on YouTube, Kony 2012 is already the most viral video ever. How much more awareness does this organization need?

Indeed, now that Kony is world famous, there will be more calls to take action to "stop Kony." But once again, IC's new video didn't elaborate on what actions the U.S. and the rest of the international community should take. President Obama has already deployed 100 "combat equipped" miltary advisers to not just Uganda, but the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.  However, IC has said it will outline the "next steps" in a future video (I'm sensing a trend here.)

In a previous post, I elaborated on the human rights abuses committed by the nations that pursue Kony and raised questions about sending these advisors:

Placing ground forces on eastern African soil has already escalated the fight against the L.R.A. The movie shies away from Operation Lightning Thunder as well as the policy implications for Obama's deployment decision: if these 100 advisors fail to stop Kony, what's the next step for the United States? More advisors? Drone strikes? Selling weapons to Uganda et al.? And what happens if Kony is arrested, but the L.R.A. continues to fight on?

While these questions have yet to be answered by IC, the organization does link to a February 2012 white paper, "Peace Can Be: President Obama's chance to help end LRA atrocities in 2012," drafted by Paul Ronan for Resolve, a research organization dedicated to "ending the LRA's reign of terror." IC calls this "the best researched paper supporting the policy position of the Kony 2012 campaign"

Yet according to the very white paper IC links to, stopping Kony won't stop the L.R.A.:

...even if Kony and the two other ICC-indicted LRA commanders, Ongwen and Okot Odhiambo, are apprehended, remaining LRA commanders could still pose a significant threat to civilian populations. (13)

Currently, there are around 60-70 L.R.A. commanders (9) and anywhere from 200 to 400 L.R.A. fighters in total. So while arresting and/or killing Kony would be a poignant symbol, it would not do much to stabilize the region. Some other commander would merely take Kony's place.

Tellingly, Uganda, which suffered the most from L.R.A. attacks, has reduced its commitment to stopping Kony. Currently, Uganda has only 1,500 soldiers pursuing the L.R.A. That's "one-third of its original force." Instead, Uganda has been redeploying its forces to join the African Union's mission to combat al-Shabab (AMISOM) in Somalia. Right now, Uganda has deployed 6,000 soldiers to AMISOM and has even promised to send an additional 2,000. According to the Resolve paper,

Al-Shabab poses a far more dangerous threat to Ugandan and U.S. national security interests than the LRA, especially following the July 2010 bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people, including one American. (18)

So even the Ugandan government deprioritizes the L.R.A. Yet Resolve wants the U.S. to "encourage more troops and more helicopters to counter-LRA operations," while the United States should fund these helicopters and communications equipment. (20)

In addition, the U.S. hasn't had that much success with the other nations who fight the L.R.A. One of Resolve's policy recommendations is to:

Directly engage with senior Congolese officials to immediately allow Ugandan forces to resume operations against LRA commanders and groups in Congolese territory (5)

That's easier said than done. In an interview with a Resolve reporter, it's revealed that

Congolese President Joseph Kabila claimed that he was not consulted about the deployment and found out about it while surfing the internet. (13)

Either there was a severe lack of oversight in the Obama administration or the administration has little confidence in the Congolese military. If the latter, this would have been quite prescient. These U.S. advisers haven't had much luck training the local forces:

In Congo, the U.S. advocated for the U.S.-trained 391st battalion of the national military to deploy to northern Congo in April 2011 to protect civilians from LRA raids, and contracts two advisers to counsel the battalion. Though initially welcomed by local communities appreciative of the battalion’s professionalism compared to other Congolese forces, the battalion has yet to prove it can actively protect civilians from LRA raids. (15)

Ronan's report even mentioned some of criticisms about sending soldiers into Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan:

At the hearing, some Members of Congress expressed reservations about sending advisers to help defeat a rebel group that poses no direct national security threat to the U.S. at a time of mounting concern over budget deficits and ongoing military engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya...

The President’s decision to invoke the War Powers Resolution without clarifying whether it intends to follow reporting requirements rekindled frustration from some Members of Congress over his refusal to request permission for the use of military force in Libya. (12)

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Here's my original post on Kony 2012. Buzzfeed on Kony 2012 racism.

“I’m looking for a leader who’s not going to play into a war-weary public.”

Thus spoke Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in response to Newt Gingrich, who is no longer sure America has "the willpower or the capacity to do the things you have to do to fundamentally change” Afghanistan. That's not all Graham said,

"We’ve got enough people in politics who are playing the polls and blowing with the wind...I’m not interested in nominating someone who doesn’t understand the strategic importance of Afghanistan. I’m not interested in being in a party that can’t support a general who’s got a good plan to withdraw. I have no desire of being the isolationist party."

For more occupation flop sweat, see Bruce Riedel and Michael O'Hanlon's op-ed in Foreign Policy, titled "Mission Incomplete": 

[T]here are reasons for observers to have doubts about the future of the Afghanistan mission. But this is far from a quagmire: Even without further accelerations of the U.S. troop drawdown, there is a clear campaign plan for reducing the U.S. role and presence over the next 30 months. This will happen, for better or worse -- nobody should fear an unending military commitment in Afghanistan.

And then, on page two of the very same op-ed

Even after 2014, the Afghan government will still need international support. Perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 foreign troops will be needed in Afghanistan to help with training, mentoring, air support, special operations, and logistics. If the United States cannot work out a deal on this matter now with Kabul, it should simply keep trying next year, after the U.S. presidential race.

 What does "unending" mean, again? 

Check Out Google+'s Drug Legalization Debate Happening Right Now

If this is part of Google+'s attempt to become relevant, it's not a bad start. Happening now, a British debate on drug legalization starring journalist Peter Hitchens, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, former U.S. Drug Tsar Barry McCaffrey, and others for the opposition; Comedian/Actor Russell Brand, Wikileaks' Julian Assange, the former presidents of Brazil and Mexico and others represent pro-legalization. At the moment, 92% of the Internet audience is in favor of legalization and about 60% of the in-studio audience agrees.

So far Russell Brand has made a lot more sense than McCaffrey, the latter of whom just said "as a general statement...in fact people behind bars are not arrested for smoking two joints."

Check it out:

"What if Bush Had Done That?" or, Hypocrisy Alert When it Comes to Barack Obama

Politico reports on the amazing inconsistency of the political class and its counterparts in the media. They very things that George Bush did that teed off Dems and libs don't seem to bother them anymore. And vice versa when it comes to Reps and cons. Not an original point perhaps, but one worth pondering.

Snippets:

“Virtually all the Democrats who were apoplectic about Bush and were constantly complaining about him ‘trampling on our values’ over eavesdropping and detention have been silent about assassination, even though it’s so much more severe,” [Salon.com's Glenn] Greenwald said. “It isn’t that Obama is necessarily any worse on civil liberties than Bush. The point is he’s able to get away with so much more.”...

He’s attended 103 reelection fundraisers — about double the 52 such events Bush had attended at this point in 2004, according to tallies kept by CBS’s Mark Knoller.

Obama also changed course and recently blessed the efforts of super PAC Priorities USA Action, allowing top campaign aides and even Cabinet members to appear at its fundraising events....

Since Obama took office, prosecutors have filed six criminal, Espionage Act cases over leaks — more prosecutions than under all prior presidents combined. In one, the Justice Department is trying to force New York Times reporter James Risen to identify his confidential sources and has argued to a federal appeals court that journalists enjoy no privilege against being called as witnesses in a criminal case. If the government prevails, Risen is likely to end up in jail for contempt....

Obama has hit the links more than 90 times since assuming the presidency in 2009. The outings, often weekly during the spring and summer months, draw scant attention from the press, save for a few complaints from pool reporters about being stuck for the day at an Andrews Air Force Base food court.

Bush’s golfing was a frequent subject of mockery by his critics. Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” immortalized the 43rd president on the links in 2002 decrying the scourge of terrorism before declaring, “Now watch this drive!”

Whole story here.

Political hypocrisy is nothing new, of course, and it cuts both ways. The same folks who are bitching about Obama for X, Y, and Z may well have been defending Bush a few years ago. But none of that makes it less seemly, especially when the media insists that it is the watchdog of democracy and all that jazz.

Reason.tv: John Stossel on the Media, Liberty, and Why He Doesn't Miss Working for ABC

"At ABC, it was like, 'This is mainstream. This is correct. And then there are you whackos," said Fox Business host John Stossel.

Stossel made a keynote speech at Reason Weekend 2012, Reason Foundation's annual donor event. He talked about why liberty is counter-intuitive to most people and how being accepted by conservatives more easily than by liberals surprised him. He also shared horror stories from his days working on 20/20 at ABC, where he says anchors like Peter Jennings would regularly look at him with disgust.

About 35 minutes. Filmed by Joshua Swain and Anthony Fisher. Edited by Zach Weissmueller.

Visit Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notifications when new material goes live.

California Dispensary Fights City Extortion Scheme, Gets Raided By DEA Twice in Four Months

G3 Holistic, a medical marijuana dispensary based in California's Inland Empire, was raided by the DEA for the second time in four months on Monday. Reason.tv profiled G3 Holistic and its owner Aaron Sandusky in a video about the Obama Administration's hypocritical crackdown on medical marijuana.

The San Bernardino Sun says no arrests were made but that the DEA siezed 25 pounds of marijuana and 89 pounds of edible products, handcuffing patients in the process:

Law enforcement "is acting like a terrorist organization," Sandusky said.

DEA officials came into the dispensary with guns drawn about 9:30 a.m., he said.

"I had four patients in here, and they were all handcuffed and interviewed," Sandusky said.

Sandusky has been in a battle with city, state, and federal officials stretching back to 2010, and it's a battle that could have implications for California's entire medical marijuana industry.

The city of Upland filed an injunction against Sandusky in 2010, saying his dispensary violated a city zoning ordinance. Sandusky fought the decision and in the intervening months claimed that Upland's mayor at the time, John Pomierski, tried to extort money from his business earlier in the year, offering to allow the dispensary to remain in business in exchange for a $20,000 "tolling agreement." Using the testimony of Sandusky and another local business owner, a federal grand jury indicted Pomierski in 2011. 

Despite the corruption and cronyism that appears to pervade Upland's permitting and zoning regime, the West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga and the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside have each ruled that Upland is allowed to ban dispensaries even though California's Prop 215 allows them to exist statewide. As Reason's Jacob Sullum has noted, the California Supreme Court will decide later this year whether or not local governments can thwart state law and effectively ban dispensaries.

Regardless of the court's decision, it is curious that the DEA, a federal agency, has injected itself so forcefully into a local conflict, especially one involving alleged corruption, extortion, and the disgraced resignation of top city officials. Check out the San Bernardino Sun for a nice timeline of the Upland case. And watch Reason.tv's video about the Obama administration's crackdown on medical marijuana, featuring Sandusky and G3 Holistic. 



Meet Maj. Joseph Floyd, Leading Candidate for Most Crooked Cop in America

A grand jury indictment unveiled last week accuses a Northwest Florida cop of sexually harassing his colleagues, forcing his subordinates to torture suspects, forge incident reports, and alter their testimony; soliciting sex from residents in his jurisdiction; beating handcuffed suspects and prisoners; intimidating members of the community; and causing a pregnant woman to miscarry when he intentionally rammed the vehicle in which she was traveling. If the allegations against Major Joseph Floyd of the Crestview Police Department are true, he may be the most crooked cop in the country. 

Floyd joined the Crestview Police Department in the Florida Panhandle in 2007 after a brief stint with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Unbeknownst to his new colleagues at the time of his hiring, Floyd had a rap sheet that stretched back more than a decade. Over the course of eight years, Floyd was terminated, forced to resign, or quit three police departments while under investigation for insubordination, lying, and falsifying records. Before becoming a cop, Floyd had been arrested for battery, disorderly conduct, and assaulting a law enforcement officer. 

In 2007, Floyd was made a lieutenant and put in charge of the Crestview PD’s Street Crimes Unit, which investigates vice, drugs, and gangs. According to the grand jury's indictment, which Reason obtained from the office of State Attorney Bill Eddins, Floyd’s malpractice began shortly after his hiring and continued right through the grand jury's investigation. 

The higlights of the indictment are below:

Allegations of excessive force:

- “On multiple occasions, Floyd or officers acting at his direction used excessive force on person who were not resisting and were in custody, posing no risk to him, other officers, or the public.”

- Including, but not limited to “tasing suspects without cause, striking a suspect in the head with an assault rifle, elbowing suspects in the throat and neck and beating a handcuffed suspect.”

- Floyd “initiated” one female officer into his unit by ordering her to “tase a suspect without cause, even though Floyd knew, at the time, that she was not certified to use a taser.”

- While conducting surveillance during a drug investigation, Floyd rammed his cruiser into the side of a truck that was leaving the scene of a drug sale. The truck was not endangering any of Floyd’s men, and Floyd did not have his lights on. The truck flipped over, and its pregnant passenger “who was not involved in the drug transaction...subsequently lost her baby.” Floyd then instructed his unit not to report what they saw him do, and instead wait for him to write his report and then “mirror" it.

- Floyd “bragged about his physical abuse of suspects and prisoners” to other officers, and “stated in profane language that he did not care about people’s civil rights, that he had beaten a civil rights suit before, and if they wanted to keep their jobs they must do it his way.”

Allegations of falsifying testimony and reports:

- Floyd planted drugs on a suspect and then charged him with possession of crack-cocaine.

- He instructed his subordinates to write in their reports that suspects had resisted arrest when they had not.

- Floyd “directed an officer to redact a video recording of a drug buy to remove the sounds of a suspect screaming while being repeatedly tased.”

Allegations of sexual harassment and assault: 

- Floyd called Crestview’s female officers “department sluts” and “department whores.”

- He offered “employment opportunities, work assignments, or ride-along opportunities in exchange for sex acts.”

- He “fondled a female subordinate against her will.”

- He was accused of sexual battery by a woman who refused to press charges out of fear for her safety. When Floyd learned that “the case would not be pursued, he directed a female officer to purchase a Barbie doll and to duct tape the doll’s mouth and hands behind her back. Major Floyd placed it in a dish on a buffet line at a city holiday dinner.” 

Allegations of misusing department resources:

- Floyd used the SWAT team and and assault rifles to “effect the purchase of small quantities of street drugs and arrest the offenders.”

- He instructed his subordinates to “target people who were not otherwise disposed to deal in drugs.”

- He invited the media to film a “major drug bust” that was in fact a harassment campaign against a candidate for mayor and the candidate’s 15-year-old son. The son had sold “small quantities of marijuana” to an under-cover officer on three separate occasions, and his father had promised, if elected, to fire Clearview Chief Brian Mitchell and Floyd.

- Floyd invited the media to film interrogations, and once “forcibly held a suspect’s head up by the throat and hair to allow a publicity photo to be taken of the suspect and himself.”

- Floyd instructed his subordinates to investigate “public employees of other departments of the City of Crestview.”

- Floyd’s unit “used city time and funds to travel to and maintain a camper for their use at a campground in Holt, an area over which the officers had no jurisdiction.”

Allegations of intimidation of other officers: 

- “If officers refused to follow Floyd’s directives, they were threatened with termination, demotion, reassignment, and even isolation from other officers.” 

- Floyd demanded that officers in his unit “report to Floyd about the activities of officers who were not loyal to Floyd.” 

- Floyd taunted officers who disagreed with him by bragging about his relationship with chief of police Brian Mitchell. 

- In 2010, a local business owner filed a civil rights suit against Floyd for harassing and assaulting him. Officers who were deposed in the suit were pressured to lie. Of those who refused to alter their testimony, once has since resigned, one was fired, and two have “been repeatedly harassed and slandered” by Floyd.

- The harassment continued throughout the current grand jury investigation.  

In a statement to the Crestview News Bulletin, Floyd said, "The fact is I'm innocent until proven guilty. Now I know what they say I did and now I can prove the truth in my defense." You can read the full indictment here

Gene Healy on Unauthorized Wars and Impeachment

Is unauthorized war-making an impeachable offense? Certainly. As Hamilton explains in "The Federalist," the impeachment power serves as "an essential check in the hands of that body upon encroachments of the executive," aimed at "those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust." The impeachment power is there for a reason, writes Gene Healy, and unauthorized war is one of them.

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Ron Paul Roundup: Somewhat Ironic Win in Virgin Islands, Delegate Strategy Paying Off? And Is Ron Paul the Next Black Swan?

You may have heard Ron Paul finally won a caucus outright--in the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands on Saturday.

Paul campaign spokesman Jack Hunter finds it ironic that a press that always reports victors in terms of popular vote, not delegate counts, chose to declare this a Romney victory since he walked away with more delegates.

Paul fans also are annoyed that the Virgin Island GOP's official web page changed to not even mention the 29 percent of votes for Paul delegates, more than the 26 percent for Romney ones, though the original results are still visible in this post from former Reason man Dave Weigel at Slate.

The convoluted, poorly-reported-on rules for the Virgin Island caucus state that no one is voting for the candidate per se, they are merely voting for delegates who are committed to a certain candidate (or not). It seems as though a larger percentage of people voted for delegates who said they were for Ron, but those votes were too spread out among different potential delegates for many of his delegates to actually get selected. Each voter had six different votes to case for delegates.

Residents of the Virgin Islands can't actually vote for president in the general election. And while it is inaccurate to say "Ron Paul won the popular vote," since no one was voting for Ron Paul per se, more people did cast votes for delegates committed to Ron. (384 total votes were cast in the VI caucus.) And yet he's walking away with only one committed one going to Tampa. The New American with more on the double-standard in reporting victors, and Independent Voter Network on the same; how bitterly ironic that the first time the media is scrupulously mindful of the importance of delegate accumulation over raw votes, a point Paul's campaign emphasized early and often, it is to deny Paul a moral victory.

Now for some snapshots of the Ron Paul delegate fight from GOP conventions 'cross the land:

*Paul people rock Clark County Nevada, reports the Las Vegas Review Journal. Details:

Supporters of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul on Saturday effectively took control of the Clark County Republican Party by winning election to 14 executive board positions, or two-thirds of the ruling body.

The election came during the county GOP convention where Paul delegates dominated, winning as many as half of the 1,382 delegates nominated to the state convention May 2-4 in Sparks.....

"This is the grass roots taking a stand to change the direction of the party from the county level," said Carl Bunce, Nevada chairman of Paul's campaign and a delegate. "This is bigger than just Ron Paul. This is about liberty and openness and fairness and changing the party."....

Still, the Paul factor could complicate things at the state convention for Mitt Romney, the GOP front-runner who won the Feb. 4 GOP presidential caucus in Nevada with 50 percent of the vote....

The 2012 state GOP convention will elect 28 delegates to the Republican National Convention this summer in Tampa, Fla.

Romney earned 14 of those delegates because of his 50 percent caucus finish. The rest of the delegates also were awarded proportionally, depending on the percentage of the caucus vote that each candidate won in Nevada.

■ Newt Gingrich got 21 percent of the caucus vote to pick up six delegates.

■ Paul won 19 percent for five delegates.

■ Rick Santorum won 10 percent for three delegates.

Bunce said Paul supporters would follow the rules, which require the 28 delegates elected at the state level to attend the national convention and be bound on the first ballot to vote in line with the GOP caucus winning percentages.

That could mean a Paul delegate would have to vote for Romney on the first ballot if he's the GOP nominee based on delegates won during the primary season. However, a contested convention could lead to more than one ballot, and delegates could then switch to other candidates.

*Angry non-Paul fan reports from Minnesota:

Up until yesterday, I really hadn’t taken the Ron Paul campaign very seriously.  Most non-Paul voters probably felt like I did, and laughed him off as that “kooky Uncle” who didn’t have a chance in hell to win the Republican nomination for President.

Well, I’ve changed my mind.  Big time.

Yesterday I attended the Republican organizational convention for my Senate district here in Minnesota, and what I witnessed was an organized take-over of our nomination process by Ron Paul cultists.  They came to this convention with the sole intent to take over as many of the delegate seats as they could, and sadly, they succeeded....

As soon as the man leading the convention(the Convention Chair) began to ask if there were any motions to bring to the floor, several Paulbots lept to their feet to make motions asking to “suspend” the rules so that people who were in attendance could add their names to the delegate nominations....

The Paulbots, who did NOT submit their names prior to the convention, were now demanding that they should added to the list of nominees that very day.  This is normally outside of the rules, but the Paulbots(there were at least 50 of them spread throughout the auditorium) through a suspension of the rules, demanded that they be added to the list of nominees...they were able to add all of their names to the delegate nominations.

*Daily Caller also sees Paul fan caused "chaos" in a Denver County Colorado GOP convention, with video.

*Nick Weltha, a Ron Paul supporter from Iowa, reports to me personally that "Paul has at least half if not maybe 4/5ths of the delegates in Polk County, Iowa (biggest county in the state) from the historic 12-hour county convention last weekend. This is just my estimate, of course, but the turnout was enormous and every person I ever saw walk into the Central Iowa Paul office seemed to be there, including some of the fringe left-libertarians...we seem to have stacked the state GOP convention in favor of Paul."

*Paul Alaska delegates fear possible skullduggery aimed at them with delegate payments delayed deliberately til after the official deadline. More warnings of possible GOP intimidation against Paul people.

*In Wyoming, the Washington Times reports, Paul's delegate strategy fails with a 21 percent popular vote turning into only one delegate going on to the national convention.

*Paul fans analyze fine-grained data from New York in 2008 and find that merely dragging a buddy or two to vote could be very meaningful in that primary state.

*Rick Santorum has his own delegate strategy, detailed in this long memo that does a decent job explaining why the unbound caucus state delegates will likely not go the way the straw poll votes might indicate. Santorum, like Paul, thinks his people will be better organized and passionate enough to pull off surprises.

*Black Swan author Nassim Taleb hearts Ron Paul: "Only one candidate, Ron Paul, seems to have grasped the issues and is offering the right remedies for the central problems we are facing, so I came out just to support....I think one candidate represents the right policies...and that's Ron Paul."

*My forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution. My April Reason cover story, "The Ron Paul Moment."

Jim Epstein on How Stimulus Fails

It’s not hard to make the case that President Barack Obama’s $840 billion stimulus was a failure. The economy, which was supposed to recover as a result of the massive spending, has largely remained in the doldrums. The administration’s prediction in the event that the stimulus didn’t pass—an unemployment rate of 8.8 percent—was exceeded within two months of February 2009, when the bill was signed into law. (At the time, the total cost was said to be $787 billion; that figure was later adjusted upward by more than $50 billion to align with the president’s budget.) Democratic dead-enders claim this laughably inaccurate employment projection was based on a lack of knowledge about how lousy the economy really was. They tend to overlook another broken stimulus promise: that 90 percent of the jobs “created or saved” would be in the private sector. In fact, the biggest beneficiaries of stimulus funds have been public school teachers.

These big-picture truths paint a picture damning enough. But to better understand the fallacies of stimulus economics, it helps to take a close-up look at how the money was spent. To capture such a cross-section of stimulus reality, Reason.tv’s Jim Epstein went to Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., that is home to many government contractors and other recipients of money earmarked for the “shovel-ready” projects that were supposed to bring the economy back to life.

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Attn. Students and Recent Grads: Apply for a Free IHS Summer Seminar Today!

Discuss the past, present, and future of liberty all day and late into the night at a seminar sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies. Choose from more than 10 weeklong, interdisciplinary seminars covering topics such as public policy, advancing liberty in academia, and morality and capitalism from the libertarian perspective. From breakfast until the evening reception, you can debate and discuss the ideas of liberty with enthusiastic professors and peers from around the world.

Good news for your wallet: IHS covers meals and program costs; participants only pay for travel. Undergraduates, graduate students, and recent graduates are eligible to apply. Learn more: http://www.theihs.org/reason.

Apply by March 15 to qualify for a free book offer! Final deadline: March 31

Fracking Misinformation Corrected

Notoriously, activists like Josh Fox, producer of the disinformation docudrama Gasland, claim that the process of blasting open cracks in deep shale deposits to release trapped natural gas, a.k.a. fracking, has contaminated water wells. Not so, concluded a report released last month at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Now it seems that at least one environmental group now recognizes that these claims are false. In an article headlined, Faulty Wells, Not Fracking, Blamed for Water Pollution, the Wall Street Journal today reports: 

The energy industry has been struggling to convince critics that fracking is safe. If the industry can persuade them that the chief pollution risk is poorly constructed wells—and that risk can be minimized—it might encounter less resistance from the public to expanding oil-and-gas production.

Mark Boling, executive vice president and general counsel of Southwestern Energy Co., a major natural-gas producer, said he has examined several incidents in Colorado and Pennsylvania where gas drilling appears to have caused gas to get into drinking water. "Every one we identified was caused by a failure of the integrity of the well, and almost always it was the cement job," he said.

A. Scott Anderson, a senior policy adviser with the Environmental Defense Fund who is working with Mr. Boling, agreed. "The groundwater pollution incidents that have come to light to date have all been caused by well construction problems," he said.

See my September column, Natural Gas Flip Flop, where I reported: 

The shale that contains natural gas lies below thousands of feet of impermeable rock, so the fracking process itself will not contaminate drinking water aquifers, which generally are only a few hundred feet below the surface at most. A 2010 Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection report noted that, according to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Watershed Management, “no groundwater pollution or disruption of underground sources of drinking water have been attributed to hydraulic fracturing of deep gas formations.”

As with conventional wells, it is possible that natural gas can escape into aquifers if the wells are not properly sealed using steel and cement casings. An April study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found elevated levels of natural gas in groundwater wells within 3,000 feet of active gas well sites. The researchers concluded that the source is likely leaky casings. More reassuringly, the study “found no evidence for contamination of the shallow [water] wells near active drilling sites from deep brines and/or fracturing fluids.” In any case, should their findings stand up to subsequent research, the problem is not fracking but improperly sealed well casings.

In other news, scientists at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources believe that a series of small earthquakes (magnitude 4.0) near Youngstown are related to injection wells in which excess fracking water is disposed. 

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rushed a preliminary report which claimed that the agency had detected chemicals associated with fracking in groundwater wells near Pavillion, Wyoming. Gas industry officials objected that the EPA's own monitoring wells could be responsible for for the chemicals. Last week, the agency agreed to further testing

It should go without saying, but I'll say it anyway - if gas production harms someone else's property, then the owners must be compensated in full for the harms. 

Damon Root on the Case Against Rent Control

James Harmon, a former federal prosecutor who owns a five-story brownstone apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, has filed a powerful legal challenge asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down New York City’s four-decades-old rent stabilization law. At first, New York officials thought so little of Harmon’s challenge that they waived their right to file an opposing brief with the Supreme Court. But as Senior Editor Damon Root observes, those officials got a rude awakening when the Supreme Court asked them to respond to Harmon’s petition anyway, signaling that somebody at the Court took the legal challenge seriously. Does the case against rent control have merit?

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Does Obama Have a Secret Plan to Deal with Runaway Debt? And Does it Involve Taxing Us Up The Ying-Yang?

Over at The American, Jim Pethokoukis picks up on a passage in the recent book on Obama's economic team by Noam Scheiber, The Escape Artists. Here's the passage from the book subtitled "How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery":

In May 2009, the president asked [White House budget director Peter Orszag] to draft a secret memo laying out the government’s options in the event of a fiscal crisis, in which a runaway deficit sent interest rates spiraling upward. No other member of the Obama economic team was even aware of the assignment.

Pethokoukis runs through various scenarios and reflects on Orszag's past and current statements about various policy matters to suggest that the "secret plan" is likely based first and foremost on letting all the Bush tax rates expire - not just the parts affecting top-income earners, the possible imposition of a VAT style tax on top of that, and really tight price controls on medical procedures under Obamacare.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that the secret Obama-Orszag memo contains some options on massively raising taxes to send markets a signal that the United States is getting its fiscal house in order, ASAP.

Orszag, when he worked for Obama, was also the guy behind the creation of Obamacare’s Independent Medicare Payment Advisory Board. Starting in 2015, IPAB will have the power to making binding recommendations to cut Medicare provider payments if Medicare costs rise too quickly. As Orszag has put it: “This could well turn out to be as consequential for health policy as Federal Reserve policy was for monetary policy. The commission will put its proposals forward and if Congress does not act on them, or if it votes them down and the president then vetoes that bill, they will automatically take effect. Huge change.”

So perhaps the plan recommends giving the powerful IPAB technocrats even more power, not to just limit Medicare spending, but all healthcare spending in the age of Obamacare, public and private. In effect, use IPAB to fully nationalize U.S. healthcare and then ration care, as they do in the U.K., to reduce spending.

But again, this is all just speculation. Mr. President, how are you going to deal with a debt crisis? What’s in the Orszag memo?

Read the whole thing here.

For a list of the various rate increases that would kick in if federal taxes reverted back to Clinton's last year in office, go here. Recall back in 2010 when renewing the Bush tax rates, the typical number bandied about was that it would mean an extra $3.9 trillion in revenue over the coming decade. About $700 billion would come from the top 2 percent of income earners, with the other $3.2 trillion coming from the bottom 98 percent. The plain fact is that Bush's tax cuts, love 'em or hate 'em, is the reason why nearly half of households don't pay income tax anymore. In 2001, for instance, the bottom 50 percent of tax filers paid 3.97 percent of all federal income tax. That figure in 2008 was 2.7 percent.

Pethokoukis emphasizes his guesswork and it is just that. The Obama team should definitely have a plan of what to do if international markets go haywire due to interest rates spiking. The government is clearly benefitting from historically low interest rates, which keeps the cost of our borrowing cheaper. Raise the feds' interest rate a couple of points and interest payments go through the roof. That means less money available for government services and the need for more and more revenue. Not good.

Because the US economy and government is by far the largest in the world, we've got a lot more leeway in all things related to international finance than, say, Greece, or even China. But planning for a rainy day when the heavens start showering flaming toads, hail, and brimstone down upon us shouldn't be done in secret and shouldn't wait until the creditors are at the door. You can always start trimming spending NOW and bringing it toward convergence with expected revenues. That's exactly the sort of long-term, responsible behavior that makes nervous creditors convinced you just might keep paying your bills.

Related: Obama's budget for 2013 envisions flat spending (for now) and higher taxes.

Tune Into The Peter Schiff Show and Hear Me Get Grilled on Ron Paul, Kochs vs. Cato, and the Symbolic Presidency!

At 10:00 AM ET, the always-worth-listening-to Peter Schiff Show will begin. At around 10:33, the investment/bubble guru will have me on to talk about the non-controversial topics above. Should be fun; give 'er a listen!

Some Schiffania from the Reason archives:

Schiff at Occupy Wall Street!

Schiff talks to Nick Gillespie in 2011!

Schiff talks to me in 2010!

A.M. Links: Yahoo! Plays Patent Troll, Murdoch Confidant Rebekah Brooks Arrested, Afghans React to Kandahar Slaughter

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New at Reason.tv: "How Housing Policy Caused the Financial Crisis"

Reason Writers on The Alyona Show: Matt Welch Talks Voter Access, Plea Bargaining in America, and Public Attitudes About War

Last night, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch went on The Alyona Show's "Monday Hangover" segment to talk about all of the above for just under 10 minutes:

Shikha Dalmia on Affirmative Action and the Supreme Court

The charming assumption of the plaintiffs in Fisher v. University of Texas—a racial prefences case the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear—is that if five robed justices behind mahogany desks tell universities to stop discriminating by race in their admissions policies, universities will stop. Yet regardless of what the justices say, writes Shikha Dalmia, university officials will give up their firstborns before they let go of their beloved racial preferences.

View this article

Beantown Blasts Cavanaugh Over Romney, Obama and John Kerry's Ghost*

In a great leap forward for Marconi-set technology, Boston's WRKO (AM 680) makes its guest appearances available in recorded form on the positronic computerwebs. 

That means my appearance the other day with Reason campaign correspondent Garrett Quinn is available for your listening pleasure. 

We talked about Mitt Romney's prospects against Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election. 

In another proof that you never know what part of anything you write will catch people's attention, my throwaway observation that this year's Republicans are in a position similar to that of 2004's Democrats (rejecting candidates who actually move their hearts in favor of one they don't care for but believe will be electable) turns out to be what got Boston fired up. WRKO's listeners spent most of the air time making the point (with which I agree) that John Kerry and Mitt Romney are actually pretty dissimilar people. (That said, why can't all radio shows have live call-in? It's the best thing about radio.)

You can listen here, and the audio is embedded below.

Warning: Boston accents dead ahead...

Watch this at WRKO

* Sticklers will claim that John Kerry cannot be a ghost because he is not yet dead, but this is not correct. He can't be a ghost because he has no soul. 

Reason Writers on TV and Radio: Brian Doherty talks Ron Paul on Russia TV and with Daily Paul

I've been doing some media on the Ron Paul campaign post-Super Tuesday, and here it is.

First on Russia Today, shot on Wednesday:

And yesterday I taped an approximately 20 minute radio segment with Kurt Wallace of Daily Paul Radio, which you can listen to here.

For much, much more, available in mid-May, my forthcoming book Ron Paul's Revolution.

Rick Santorum Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It: "Vote for Ron Paul, That's What You Should Do"

A citizen is bugging Rick Santorum about voting for No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D and debt ceiling increases; Ricky is peeved and mutters back, "Vote for Ron Paul, that's what you should do." 

Unsure where it was shot, the video was uploaded today. Here it is, the money quote at 7 seconds in, approximately.

And buy my forthcoming book about Ron Paul, just like Rick Santorum would want you to.

Is There Really Such a Thing as a Bad Teacher?

Earlier this month, one of the most popular pieces at The New York Times website was titled "Confessions of a 'Bad' Teacher." The author, William Johnson, is a special ed teacher in New York and he movingly conveys the frustrations and aspirations that many teachers encounter:

My students have learning disabilities ranging from autism and attention-deficit disorder to cerebral palsy and emotional disturbances. I love these kids, but they can be a handful. Almost without exception, they struggle on standardized tests, frustrate their teachers and find it hard to connect with their peers. What’s more, these are high school students, so their disabilities are compounded by raging hormones and social pressure....I don’t just want to get better; like most teachers I know, I’m a bit of a perfectionist.

Johnson's eloquence sharpens the irony that he is officially "a bad teacher."

That’s not my opinion; it’s how I’m labeled by the city’s Education Department. Last June, my principal at the time rated my teaching “unsatisfactory,” checking off a few boxes on an evaluation sheet that placed my career in limbo. That same year, my school received an “A” rating. I was a bad teacher at a good school. It was pretty humiliating.

It's easy to sympathize with Johnson. Teaching high school is doubtless a ring of hell inexplicably overlooked by Dante in the Inferno. And I take Johnson at face value when he asserts that, "At the school where I work today, my 'bad' teaching has mostly been very successful."

But he - and many like him the education establishment - lose me when they turn to the reason why they do not do well on evaluations. Critics have spent decades blaming teachers, administrators, curricula, you name it, for why outcomes haven't improved. Rather than rehash those excuses, Johnson blames the students:

That said, given all the support in the world, even the best teacher can’t force his students to learn. Students aren’t simply passive vessels, waiting to absorb information from their teachers and regurgitate it through high-stakes assessments. They make choices about what they will and won’t learn. I know I did. When I was a teenager, I often stayed up way too late, talking with friends, listening to music or playing video games. Did this affect my performance on tests? Undoubtedly. Were my teachers responsible for these choices? No.

But all his creativity in denouncing high-stakes testing and teacher evaluations ultimately leads back to the same-old, same-old. Nobody dast blame a teacher for anything, he argues, especially since who can say that one is better than another.

If you give some students green fields, glossy textbooks and lots of attention, you can’t measure them against another group of students who lack all of these things. It’s bad science.

Until we provide equal educational resources to all students and teachers, no matter where they come from, we can’t say — with any scientific accuracy — how well or poorly they’re performing. Perhaps if we start the conversation there, things will start making a bit more sense.

Read the whole thing here.

Come on already. Teachers consistently argue that, like doctors and lawyers, they are professionals who deserve the respect of everyone and even more money than they already make. Yet in the same breath, teachers are always asserting that their profession is uniquely incapable of being evaluated in any sort of meaningful and fair way. There are just too many variables - some schools spend more per student, some students are smarter or dumber to start with, parental involvement is varied, etc. - to get a good sense of who's good and who's not.

I'm sure most evaluation schemes are designed and executed by idiots (however well meaning) and I'm glad to hear that Johnson (by his own admission) is flourishing at his new school (perhaps his shakey rating helped him after all?). But arguing that it's so impossible to control for variables that we can't judge teacher performance is no way to lobby for more resources or be taken seriously. Especially since school systems have gotten more and more money per pupil for decades now without improving outcomes. If teacher pay and classroom resources haven't kept pace with the overall increase in funding, that's maybe a reason for Johnson and his fellow teachers to question paying union dues. But it's not a reason to make taxpayers pony up more dough for people who say that teachers are really important but can't be judged.

Reason on Education.

Orange County Cop Who Killed Manuel Loggins Returns to Duty Amid Allegations that Loggins' Daughters Were Held for 13 Hours by Police After Watching Their Father Die

On February 7 at about 5 in the morning, Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Sandberg had an encounter with Manuel Loggins in a school parking lot. When it was over, Loggins, a Marine at nearby Camp Pendelton, was dead, shot "multiple times" in front of his 9 and 14-year-old daughters as the three of them sat in the Loggins family van.

Loggins had, according to the Deputy, crashed through the school fence, parked his van, wandered around the soccer field, and then returned to the van, and attempted to drive away. Sandberg ordered Loggins to stop and says that Loggins didn't listen and was saying "irrational statements", so he fired. Tasers are optional in his department and there's no word on whether Sandberg was carrying one that morning or not. 

Patch.com reported on February 10:

Due to Loggins' failure to follow the commands and his irrational behavior, including statements he made, the deputy had a deep concern for the safety of the children," [Orange County Sheriff's Department Spokesman Jim] Amormino said. "In the deputy's mind, it was unsafe for [Loggins] to drive away with the girls."

Amormino said he couldn't disclose what the alleged "irrational" behaviors or statements entailed, but said Loggins didn't appear to be intoxicated.

When Loggins got back into the Yukon and either started the engine or began trying to drive away, the deputy opened fire, shooting Loggins through the driver side window, which shattered. (The girls were in the back seat and not injured.)

Amormino acknowledged that this version of events differs from an earlier account released by the Sheriff's Department, in which the deputy reportedly opened fire because he feared for his own life.

"The real threat was for the lives of the children," Amormino said Friday. In a case like this, "some information becomes immediately available and some takes longer to get because witnesses have to be interviewed," he noted.

Amormino said this account came from the deputy who fired the shots. Another deputy was nearby, but "I don't know what he saw," Amormino said.

Loggins' daughters were also interviewed by investigators, but Amormino said he didn't know what they said or if their story lined up with the deputy's.

According to the Orange County police union, even Loggins' daughters said their father was acting strange. And the reason that police supposedly know this fact makes the case even worse; Loggins' wife is now filing a claim for $10,000 in damages on behalf of herself and her four children. Along with the wrongful death suit, the family lawyer alleges that after witnessing the shooting of their father, the two daughters were detained for 13 hours by the Sheriff's Department. According to the Los Angeles Times:

They just basically incarcerated them," attorney Brian T. Dunn said[.]...

The accusation is contained in a claim Dunn said he would file Wednesday with the county, giving notice that the Loggins family plans to file a wrongful death suit in Superior Court against the Sheriff's Department and the deputy....

The girls were held at the Orange County Sheriff's Department and not allowed to see their mother until 6 p.m. that day, Dunn said, describing the treatment as a form of "false imprisonment."

"They had games for them to play, but they wouldn't let them go," Dunn said. "They probably kept asking them over and over and over what was going on till they got the answer they wanted."

He said Loggins had committed no crime, posed no threat to anyone's life and that Sandberg shot him "multiple times."

The sheriff's union, in early comments, said Loggins had been acting "irrationally," putting his daughters at risk and ultimately setting up his own death.

The shooting has driven a wedge between the Marine Corps and sheriff's deputies in San Clemente, a beach town in south Orange County where both uniforms are a common sight. Camp Pendleton, where Loggins was based, is next to San Clemente, and sheriff's deputies patrol the city's streets.

Dunn said in addition to a wrongful death suit, he would file suit in federal court on the grounds that Loggins' civil rights had been violated.

There were reports in February that dashcam footage of the entire incident existed, but nothing has been released yet. Let's hope the footage is compellingly in favor of Sandburg, since he made the decision to fire into a vehicle where two children were residing. There had better be some really good reasons for that sort of action, which endangered the kids, in theory to save them from something worse. (Something which was proven by Loggins' disobeying of police orders and his still entirely non-specific "irrational statements.)  

Let's hope the Orange County Sheriff's Department sees fit to share the footage with the public, and more to the point, the family.

Regardless of justification for the shooting its self, it's further unconscionable to keep two undoubtedly-traumatized children away from one parent after witnessing the death of the other. 

Reason on police

Global Warming's Short-People Virtuous Cycle

Ron Bailey reports below on the not-so-novel suggestion of New York University and Oxford University researchers to give people the option of stunting themselves to cure climate change. But another paper in the journal Science suggests why there might be no need for this. Global warming will produce short people. The study found that during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a period when temperatures on the planet rose by around 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, small horses shrunk even smaller in size.

Reports The State Column:

The team of scientists say the resulting shrinkage was the result of natural selection. The team of scientists noted that the small horses likely evolved to be smaller during warming because smaller animals did better in that environment, perhaps because the smaller more easily shed excess heat.

The researchers, led by Ross Secord of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Jonathan Bloch of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, studied the geochemical composition of the horse’s teeth to document the decrease of the horses body size through the geologic timeframe of the PETM.

“Horses started out small, about the size of a small dog like a miniature schnauzer,” said author Jonathan Bloch from the Florida Museum of Natural History. “What’s surprising is that after they first appeared, they then became even smaller and then dramatically increased in size, and that exactly corresponds to the global warming event, followed by cooling.”

One was the fossils themselves, recovered from the Cabin Fork area of the southern Bighorn Basin near Worland, Wyoming, Stephen Chester, an undergraduate student at Florida at the time, had the task of measuring the horses’ teeth. What he found when he plotted them through time caught Bloch and Secord by surprise.

“He pointed out that the first horses in the section were much larger than those later on,” Mr. Bloch recalled. “I thought something had to be wrong, but he was right — and the pattern became more robust as we collected more fossils.”

A postdoctoral researcher in Bloch’s lab for the first year of the project, Secord performed the geochemical analysis of the oxygen isotopes in the teeth. The results caught scientists by surprise.

“It was absolutely startling when Ross pulled up the first oxygen isotope data,” Bloch said. “We looked at the curve and we realized that it was exactly the same pattern that we were seeing with the horse body size.

“For the first time, going back into deep time — going back 10s of millions of years — we were able to show that indeed temperature was causing essentially a one-to-one shift in body size within this lineage of horse. Because it’s over a long enough time, you can argue very strongly that what you’re looking at is natural selection and evolution — that it’s actually corresponding to the shift in temperature and driving the evolution of these horses.”

The study is the first to suggest that mammals may become smaller as global temperatures rise. In response to the increase in greenhouse gas, one-third of mammal species decreased in size, the study found. The findings raise questions as to how plants and animals respond to changes in the climate, including the changes in today’s climate. A number of scientists, including researchers at NASA, predict that the Earth’s temperature could rise upwards of 7 degrees Fahrenheit over the next couple of centuries, due to a 40 percent increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

In other words, we don’t have to stunt ourselves. Global warming will stunt us. We don’t have to put ourselves on an energy diet. Global warming will mean we will automatically consume less energy. In contrast to capitalism that Karl Marx said carried the seeds of its own destruction, global warming is carrying within it the seeds of its own cure. This is what is called a virtuous cycle. Can we now call a détente in the fight against global warming, please?

Tate Watkins on Port-au-Prince's Aid Economy

The earthquake that rocked Haiti's capital in 2010 drastically reduced housing stock and sent prices soaring. But the earthquake is not the only factor pushing Haitians out of their homes. The presence of foreign NGOs and government organizations, who pay premiums for office and housing space in the capital pressures local rental markets as well. In fact, the disaster economy created by international aid groups, writes Tate Watkins, will negatively affect life for Haitians for years to come.

View this article

Will ObamaCare Discourage Employers From Hiring?

Politicians love branding legislation as either job killing or job creating, but the empirical data underlying these claims is usually pretty murky. Just look at the 2009 stimulus package. The bill was pitched explicitly as a way to foster job creation. As part of the law, the federal government set up an unusual tracking and reporting system that, for all its flaws, remains far more robust than the sort of employment-effects analysis that accompanies most legislation. Academics and independent analysts across the political spectrum conducted their own analysis of the law’s job creation. And yet it remains practically impossible to pin down its overall effects on the hiring and employment within any reasonable range. 

The reports produced by the Congressional Budget Office do not actually track real-world job creation, but they do reflect much of the diversity of the economic models created by those studying the stimulus; CBO’s models estimate that the stimulus created anywhere from 500,000 to 3.3 million jobs. A range of that size tells us more about the uncertainty of the estimates—and in turn about the larger uncertainty about the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus—than it does about the law’s likely job creation.

Yet it would obviously be a mistake to say that just because it is difficult to quantify the job creation or destruction involved in a law, there is no effect at all. Specific claims about the precise employment effects of the 2010 health care overhaul, for example, are somewhat dicey at best . But as Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow and Former Labor Department Economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth argues, there’s good reason to believe that it will discourage many employers from hiring:

The mandated $2,000 tax per worker in the new health care law, effective 2014 and levied on employers who do not provide the right kind of health insurance, is discouraging hiring. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will raise the cost of employment when fully implemented in 2014. Companies with 50 or more workers will be required to offer a generous health insurance package, with no lifetime caps and no copayments for routine visits, or pay an annual penalty of $2,000 for each full-time worker. Moving from 49 to 50 workers will cost a firm $40,000 a year.

…The $2,000 per worker penalty raises significantly the cost of employing full-time workers, especially low-skill workers, because the penalty is a higher proportion of their compensation than for high-skill workers, and employers cannot take the penalty out of employee compensation packages.

Suppose that a firm with 49 employees does not provide health benefits. Hiring one more worker will trigger a penalty of $2,000 per worker multiplied by the entire workforce, after subtracting the statutory exemption for the first 30 workers. In this case the tax would be $40,000, or $2,000 times 20 (50 minus 30). Indeed, a firm in this situation might have a strong incentive not to hire a 50th worker, or to pay him off the books, thereby violating the law.

In addition, if an employer offers insurance, but an employee qualifies for subsidies under the new health care exchanges because the insurance premium exceeds 9.5 percent of his income, his employer pays a penalty of $3,000 per worker. This combination of penalties gives a business a powerful incentive to downsize, replace full-time employees with part-timers, and contract out work to other firms or individuals.

Is it possible to determine with any certainty how many jobs won’t be created as a result of ObamaCare? Probably not. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the law will reduce employment by roughly 800,000 jobs over the next decade, primarily as a result of individuals choosing not to work in order to maintain health insurance. I wouldn’t bet too much on the precise numbers. But it seems reasonable to believe that many employers will respond to the law’s disincentives to hiring full-time workers.  

Reason Nominated for 8 "Maggie" Awards

I am pleased to announce that Reason has been nominated for a record (for us! I think!) eight different journalism awards from the Western Publishing Association, which covers magazines and weekly newspapers and websites headquartered west of the Rocky Mountains. The nominations, for work published in 2011, include a fourth straight (at least!) finalist nod for "Magazine of the Year" in the category of "Politics & Social Issues," an award we won under Nick Gillespie's editorship back in 2004.

Here's the complete haul:

Magazine of the Year
July issue
Up against: Mother Jones, Ode, Sierra

Best Digital Version of a Print Publication

Best Web Publication Blog
Hit & Run!

Best Special Theme Issue
July

Best Public Service Series or Article
"Perverted Justice: Sex offender laws represent the triumph of outrage over reason," by Jacob Sullum

Best News Story
"Fear of a Muslim America: In the fight against radical Islam, conservatives are trying to limit the property and speech rights of peaceful American Muslims," by Cathy Young

Best Regularly Featured Web or Digital Edition Column
Nick Gillespie, for
"Lanny Friedlander, Founder of Reason Magazine, RIP"
and
"3 Essential Facts about the Current Moment: We're Out of Money, the Public Sector is Overpaid, & We Can't Tax Our Way Out of This"

Best Web or Digital Edition Article
"Justice for Sal: After five years, the family of a Virginia optometrist killed by a SWAT team finally gets some closure," by Radley Balko

We ended up going 1 for 7 in each of the past two years, so here's hoping we can bring the average up to at least a respectable .250. And as always, you should be subscribing to us already, via whatever media you feel most comfortable with. We won't get bought by a president-hearting Facebookie, and we do some pretty interesting work, damn it!

NATO Says the U.S. is Still Staying in Afghanistan Until 2014,Washington Post Poll Doesn't Bode Well For Obama, DOJ Disapproves of Texas Voter ID Bill: P.M. Links

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Will Chief Justice John Roberts Uphold ObamaCare?

Two weeks from today, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments over the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Writing in The New York Times, Adam Liptak offers an interesting look at the various judicial and political views jockeying for control inside the mind of Chief Justice John Roberts, whose vote on the health care law is most likely up for grabs. As Liptak writes:

The case will require the chief justice to choose between two competing instincts.

On the one hand, he views himself as a steward of the court’s prestige and authority, and he has called for incremental decisions from large majorities rather than broad but sharply divided rulings....

At the same time, Chief Justice Roberts has embraced an array of assertive judicial projects that have interpreted the Constitution in ways that have fundamentally reshaped American law. The court he has led since 2005 has cut back on campaign spending limits, gun control laws, procedural protections for criminal defendants and the government’s ability to take account of race in decisions about employment and education.

Read the full story here.

In an August 2011 column, I examined some of the conservative legal arguments in favor of upholding the individual mandate and concluded that Roberts was the one right-leaning justice most likely to find such arguments persuasive. Here’s part of my case:

Remember that during his Senate confirmation hearings, Roberts stressed his belief that the Supreme Court should practice “judicial modesty," a respect for precedent and consensus that he extended all the way to the abortion-affirming Roe v. Wade (1973), which he called "the settled law of the Land." Roberts may approach the Court’s expansive Commerce Clause precedents in the same way and vote to uphold the individual mandate as a deferential application of that “settled law.”

There’s also Roberts's expansive view of congressional power to consider. This was exhibited most recently in U.S. v. Comstock (2010), where he sided with the Court’s liberals and endorsed a sweeping interpretation of the Necessary and Proper Clause that allowed federal officials to order the indefinite civil commitment of “sexually dangerous” persons who had already finished serving their prison sentences. The Obama administration’s legal defense of the individual mandate rests, in part, on an equally broad reading of that same clause.

In other words, a five-vote majority against the health care law is not a sure thing.

Contest: Guess Why This Jacket Has Been Recalled

Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a voluntary recall of this boys' jacket:

Ten points to the commenter who correctly spots the (visible) reason for the recall.

Answer: here. Note particularly what happened between 1997 and 2011.

Hint: Via Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids.

Plus this, from the Reason archives.

Ira Stoll on Why Bureaucrats Shouldn't Set Interest Rates

Personal interest income received by Americans in 2011 was $997.5 billion. That’s down 28% from the $1.382 trillion in interest Americans earned in 2008. Now, if President Obama or Congress announced that they were going to raise taxes in a way that would take $384.5 billion a year out of American pockets, there would be a huge uproar about it. But with the Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate policy, writes Ira Stoll, the silence has been deafening.

View this article

More Unintended Consequences from Libya: Gaddafi Allies on the Warpath in Mali

Since January 2012, over 172,000 Malians have been displaced because of attacks by Tuareg fighters. Of those displaced, 90,000 are  refugees in neighboring Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Amnesty International even declared this is the "worst human rights crisis" in 20 years for the region. Yet this is the surprising aftermath of U.S. foreign policy.

Throughout 2011, Tuareg forces went to Libya to help Col. Muammar Gathafi against the U.S. led "kinetic military action." According to the BBC, each Tuareg fighter received $10,000 to join Qaddafi. Some soldiers reportedly earned $1,000 a day to fight for this self-proclaimed "King of Kings" of Africa. (By comparison, Mali's GDP per capita was $1,200 in 2010.) Trained by Libya's military, these mercenaries obtained military-grade hardware more powerful than their usual weaponry. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Drew Hinshaw elaborates:

Tuareg militants have staged insurrections in the 1960s, 1990s, the mid-2000s. But they have rarely been so well armed. Rocket launchers, missiles and machine guns capable of downing aircraft are circulating in the desert region, say U.S. and West African defense officials, after mercenaries plundered Gadhafi's arsenal at the end of Libya's conflict.

After Kadafi was killed, these Tuareg soldiers returned to Mali where they formed the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, a rebel group that seeks independence from the rest of Mali. Thanks to their Libyan armaments, they have been able to take control of one of the largest military bases in northern Mali, and one of the few with an airport.

Now Mali could face its own foreign intervention. The head of the armed forces for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is considering an armed intervention to stabilize the region. Meanwhile, a top official in Nigeria's military believes there is "a need to send peacekeepers to Mali."

Just because a bad guy gets killed, it doesn't mean a region will become peaceful. Since the world's attention is turning to Joseph Kony, that's a lesson the Kony 2012 crowd should remember.

Reason on Libya. Reason.tv on Libya and the president's ability to wage war.

Koch/Cato Update: Charles G. Koch Speaks, Bob Levy Responds

There have been two substantial developments in the Cato Institute's bitter ownership dispute (which I previously blogged about here and here). The first is that on Thursday Cato co-founder Charles G. Koch, who initiated the suit against Cato, Cato President Ed Crane, and the widow of former Cato shareholder William Niskanen, issued a statement about his position and intent. The second came this morning–Cato Board Chair Bob Levy has issued a response.

Excerpt from Charles Koch:

We did not want to address this shareholder issue at this time. Although our legal filing has accelerated media coverage of this issue, this was not our desire. For months we made every effort to resolve, avoid, or delay this issue. We proposed a standstill agreement to delay for one year or longer any discussion on the shareholders agreement. We asked to delay any shareholders meeting, which would have left the pre-March 1 board of directors in place during this period. We proposed third-party mediation. We proposed alternative corporate structures. We made every effort to avoid this dispute –finally requesting just an additional four days to negotiate a potential resolution – but all of our proposals were rejected. Every counterproposal we received required we forfeit our shareholder rights and act contrary to the corporate governance documents.

The third Cato shareholder, Ed Crane, insisted that we have a shareholder meeting on March 1 to vote on new directors. At this meeting, a new shareholder was to be recognized in violation of our long-standing written agreement and the Institute's bylaws and articles of incorporation. We warned Cato's leaders about the negative consequences of forcing a shareholder meeting. They scheduled the meeting anyway. Faced with this intransigence, we did not seek damages or make claims of misconduct by individuals. Rather, we merely filed a declaratory relief action asking the court to confirm the meaning of the relevant corporate documents.

The actions of Cato's leadership since the filing have provided evidence of their strategy. They thought we would back down rather than risk additional criticism from them and others on top of the many attacks we already face from opponents of a free society. They thought wrong. We will not capitulate to these threats and mistruths any more than we have bowed to other threats.

We have been asked why we did not choose to simply walk away from this dispute. Principle is not a matter of convenience. We firmly believe this is a pivotal moment in Cato's history. We want to ensure Cato remains consistent with the principles upon which it was founded. The furtherance of this vision is possible only if Cato fosters a culture that adheres to core principles such as integrity, humility, and treating others with dignity and respect. We view recent events as evidence that Cato's leadership has turned its back on these core principles. As we see it, we would not be acting honorably if we failed to stand up for these principles.

There is a great deal of speculation as to what direction we would take Cato if we were to be in a position to elect a majority of the board. Some have speculated that we would micro-manage the enterprise. Others have suggested we would turn Cato into a partisan Republican organization. These rumors are absolutely false.

Excerpt from Bob Levy:

It should have been obvious to Charles Koch that filing this suit would necessarily result in a public battle that would threaten the Cato Institute's credibility – wounding allied organizations and scholars in the process.  You be the judge.  Imagine that Charles Koch prevails in his lawsuit against Cato, and that he and his brother then "own" two-thirds of Cato's stock.  Would an Institute whose board of directors is appointed by the Kochs be viewed as a credible source of non-partisan, non-aligned, independent commentary on vital public policy questions?  Or would the think tank now known as Cato cease to exist because its 35-year unimpeachable reputation is critically damaged by the (unfortunately accurate) perception that Cato is literally "owned by the Kochs"? [...]

Yes, the Kochs proposed a standstill agreement that Cato rejected because the status quo could not be maintained.  Too many key people had learned of the looming problem.  Several of Cato's largest donors had announced they would discontinue their donations until it became clear that the Kochs would not control Cato.  A number of Cato benefactors said they would change their wills to eliminate Cato as a beneficiary if Koch dominance was an ongoing threat.  Essential employees had expressed their intent to leave Cato unless the governance issue could be resolved in a timely manner.  Cato's search for professional talent, including most particularly a successor to president Ed Crane, was frustrated by the obligation to disclose the impending shareholder conflict.

The purpose of the Kochs' disingenuous standstill proposal – confirmed in a meeting with me – was to "get past the election," after which the Kochs would be less anxious about alienating the army of Cato's libertarian loyalists.  Put bluntly, a standstill would have jeopardized Cato's day-to-day operations while resolving nothing. [...]

Here is the bottom line:  Cato cannot function as an independent voice for liberty if it is thought to be under the thumb of Charles Koch or Rich Fink – indeed, literally owned by the Koch family.  Nor, if the lawsuit succeeds, will Cato be considered a reputable and credible source of "intellectual ammunition" by anyone outside the small circle of already committed libertarians.  Instead, the Kochs will control a shell think-tank that can be dismissed out of hand as a front for Koch Industries.  That's the clear consensus of nearly everyone who has seen this lamentable and unwelcome dispute unfold.

Nothing good can come of this – not for Cato, not for the Kochs, and not for the libertarian movement.  It's time to restore common sense and adopt a governance structure for Cato that eliminates the prospect of Koch control.

Ordeal by Trial: Sowing Chaos With the Sixth Amendment

Writing in The New York Times, Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, ponders what might happen if a substantial percentage of criminal defendants suddenly started insisting on their Sixth Amendment rights. It would "crash the justice system," she argues:

The Bill of Rights guarantees the accused basic safeguards, including the right to be informed of charges against them, to an impartial, fair and speedy jury trial, to cross-examine witnesses and to the assistance of counsel.

But in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation’s prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury....

The system of mass incarceration depends almost entirely on the cooperation of those it seeks to control. If everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation. Not everyone would have to join for the revolt to have an impact; as the legal scholar Angela J. Davis noted, "if the number of people exercising their trial rights suddenly doubled or tripled in some jurisdictions, it would create chaos."

Alexander is mindful of the dangers this strategy would entail for individual defendants, who would risk years in prison by insisting on their day in court. But she suggests the chaos imagined by Davis would force a much-needed debate about who belongs in prison and why.

Cato Insitute scholar Timothy Lynch (whom Alexander quotes) discussed the implications of relying so heavily on plea bargains in the July issue of Reason. (His essay was part of a package on our overloaded criminal justice system.) Last September I noted the connection between plea bargains and mandatory minimum sentences.

Newspaper Lead of the Month: “Orange County deputies will now be trained to weigh the risk to the public before opening fire.”

Great news from the Orlando Sentinel: Cops in Orange County, Florida, will be trained to think before firing 130 rounds in the parking lot of an apartment complex, as they did in January 2010 while trying to apprehend/obliterate car-jacking suspect Torey Breedlove after he rammed into a police cruiser: 

The public-safety recommendation, several on the nine-member [Citizens Advisoriy Committee] said, stemmed from the Breedlove case. Deputies fired more than 130 bullets at Breedlove, a car-theft suspect, in the parking lot of the Alta Westgate apartment complex Jan. 5, 2010.

Deputies' bullets didn't just hit their target, but also sprayed across the area, striking an occupied apartment building.

"That is not going to happen anymore," said committee member Andrew J. Jarrell. "The bad publicity of that was extremely bad" for the Sheriff's Office and the gunfire dangerous for the public, he said.

The new policy instructs deputies, when considering using force, to think about "the risk to the public, including but not limited to, whether the deputy's use of force creates a substantial risk to the safety of the public, exceeding the danger" created by allowing the suspect to "remain at large."

Other recommendations instruct deputies to "use reasonable means" to apprehend suspects before they get behind the wheel and to consider firing at a vehicle only "as a last resort to protect the deputy or another from an imminent threat."

Bad publicity indeed!

The hasty adoption of the committee’s recommendation coincides with the Orange County Sheriff Department’s fight against the creation of an independent review board with subpoena power (such as that wielded by Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel). Currently the Citizens Advisory Committee can only review cases that the OC Sheriff's office instructs it to review. A new proposal would create a permanent and independent committee that could review whatever it wanted: 

The Sheriff's Office opposes the proposal, arguing that it is redundant and could potentially be expensive for taxpayers.

The measure has been recommended by local attorney and charter-board member Earnest DeLoach, who argues that the Sheriff's Office should be reviewed by an entity that's completely independent.

"By all accounts, [the CAC] appears to be doing exactly what it is that [Demings] said it will do," DeLoach said. But the board can only review what the sheriff asks it to review.

"It's a little disturbing that the sheriff gets to choose what they'll review," DeLoach said. He argues the proposed Citizen Review Board, if adopted into the county charter, would be more permanent — and less subject to the whims of future sheriffs.

Fun fact from Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell's 2010 reporting on the Breedlove case: All nine deputies involved in the killing of Breedlove had fired on suspects before. 

The Short People Solution to Climate Change

Short people are more climate-friendly argue researchers at New York University and Oxford University in a provocative new paper, Human Engineering and Climate Change, to be published in the journal Ethics, Policy and the Environment. This is not the first time that environmental concerns have motivated such a suggestion. For example, back in 1967 Technology Review published an article which argued:

A reduction in man's size might be compared to an increase in the size of the earth....Consider, as but one example, the relation of man's size to the facilities provided for his transportation. Smaller man could mean smaller vehicles, either smaller highway rights of way or greater capacity for existing highways, easier provision for off-street parking ... Similar benefits of smaller human size become apparent in buildings.

In 1984, the Washington Post in article on how to feed an allegedly overpopulating world cited futurist Graham Molliter as envisioning "an outer-limits scenario: using genetic engineering to produce smaller people--who need less food." 

In the new article, the researchers point out that international treaties and markets have not had any real impact on the amount of atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide humanity is producing by burning fossil fuels. So perhaps something more drastically creative should be done - thus their proposal to shrink the average size of human beings. As their article points out: 

[One] more striking example of human engineering is the possibility of making humans smaller. Human ecological footprints are partly correlated with our size. We need a certain amount of food and nutrients to maintain each kilogram of body mass. This means that, other things being equal, the larger one is, the more food and energy one requires. Indeed, basal metabolic rate (which determines the amount of energy needed per day) scales linearly with body mass and length. As well as needing to eat more, larger people also consume more energy in less obvious ways. For example, a car uses more fuel per mile to carry a heavier person than a lighter person; more fabric is needed to clothe larger than smaller people; heavier people wear out shoes, carpets, and furniture more quickly than lighter people, and so on.

Reduced average human size might be achieved by pre-implantation genetic diagnosis of embryos in which only those expressing genes for shorter stature are implanted; using hormone treatments to stop growth earlier in children; or encouraging low-birth weight infants.

In addition, the researchers suggest deploying pharmacological treatments to induce meat aversion in people since livestock production results in a lot of greenhouse gas emissions per calorie. We could also use less electricity for lighting if humans were genetically modified to have eyes more like those of cats that can see better in the dark.

Another possible technique would be to treat people with cognitive enhancements since a side effect is that smarter people tend to have fewer children. Also, it might be possible to pharmacologically boost empathy in people so that they will cooperate more easily to address environmental problems.

I am not sure what pharmacological treatment might be implied by the authors' observation that "testosterone appears to decrease aspects of empathy." Why pull punches when it comes to saving Mother Earth: If men are bad for the planet, why not suggest getting rid of the bearers of Y chromosomes? 

What about the ethics of meddling in this way? The authors stress that adoption of all of their proposals should be voluntary. 

Via The Atlantic blog

Disclosure: Although I am six feet and five inches in height, most of my best friends are shorter (but a few are taller). 

Michael Young on Christopher Hitchens, Romantic

Polemicist and author Christopher Hitchens, who died in December of esophageal cancer, cultivated a flamboyant persona. Like many men moved by ideas, he also had a weakness for style, and for the louche men of action with whom he frequently crossed paths. Yet ideas generally won out. If there are any doubts, writes Michael Young, Arguably, Hitchens’ last collection of articles, should dispel them.

View this article

California Pot Legalization Initiatives in Disarray

The Los Angeles Times over the weekend reported on the chaotic state of attempts to get a fresh marijuana legalization initiative on California's ballot this year:

Just weeks before the deadline for state ballot initiatives, the effort to put a marijuana legalization measure before voters in the general election is in disarray....

After Proposition 19 received 46% of the vote in 2010, proponents took heart at the near-miss. They held meetings in Berkeley and Los Angeles and vowed to put a well-funded measure to fully legalize marijuana on the 2012 ballot...

Instead, five different camps filed paperwork in Sacramento for five separate initiatives. One has given up already and the other four are teetering, vying for last-minute funding from a handful of potential donors.

Backers need more than $2 million to hire professional petitioners to get the 700,000-plus signatures they say they need by April 20 to qualify for the ballot. But they are getting little financial support from medical marijuana dispensaries that have profited from laws that pot activists brought forth in earlier years....

Of the four possible initiatives, the one apparently with the most vocal support within the movement is the Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act, written by defense attorneys who specialize in marijuana cases. The measure would repeal state criminal statutes on marijuana possession, except those for driving while impaired or selling to minors. The state Department of Health would have 180 days to enact regulations before commercial sales became legal.

Libertarian activists came up with Regulate Marijuana Like Wine, which would have the department of Alcoholic Beverage Control oversee marijuana sales, same as beer and wine. Backers commissioned a poll they say found that 62% of Californians would support the measure. But time is against them. They filed early, so their deadline for signatures is March 20. So far, they have collected only about 50,000.

A third proposal comes from the Reefer Raiders, friends and disciples of the late pot guru and author Jack Herer, who have filed pot initiatives in one form or another since 1980. Led by a wild-bearded Bert "Buddy" Duzy, the California Cannabis Hemp & Health Initiative would legalize "cannabis hemp" for industrial, medicinal, nutritional and "euphoric" use.

The fourth idea comes from more staid groups: Americans for Safe Access, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 and the state chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML). They are pushing the Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act, which would give more legitimacy to medical marijuana by adding state oversight and controls that the Legislature has been unable to enact.

At a recent forum in Marin County, Dale Gieringer, the state director for NORML, elicited consternation from the audience when he said that voters were more likely to go for regulating medical cannabis than allowing commercial sale — a key rift within the movement.

Proponents of all the initiatives have lamented that they had to compete with one another. "We're all chasing the same dollars," said Steve Collett, a Libertarian activist and Venice CPA who's behind the marijuana-like-wine measure.

Collett said that given the federal crackdown on dispensaries that began five months ago, he hoped the marijuana industry would pour money into the ballot initiatives, particularly his, which includes a provision to prohibit local and state authorities from aiding the Drug Enforcement Administration on pot cases. But the industry hasn't come through in any notable way.

"This is very difficult to understand," said Steve Kubby, a longtime activist who worked on the medical marijuana Proposition 215 in 1996 and is the main proponent of Regulate Marijuana Like Wine. "Here's an industry that was able to come up with $100 million in taxes last year but is unable to come up with money to ensure its own future in the face of a federal government trying to exterminate them."

The state Board of Equalization estimates it annually collects between $57 million and $105 million in sales tax from dispensaries....

Debby Goldsberry, a longtime activist and co-chair of the Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act, said some dispensary owners don't put much hope in being saved by ballot initiatives. They view the current crackdown as a backlash to the near-success of Proposition 19.

Details on the heating-up war on medical marijuana in California 

In California, the DEA has raided at least 36 dispensaries and growers, confiscating marijuana, cash and computers. The state's four U.S. attorneys have sent at least 150 letters to landlords of dispensaries, ordering them to evict their tenants or face seizure of their property and prosecution. They've also threatened cities and counties that have tried to set up a permit system for dispensaries and growers.

On the financial front, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has pressured banks to close accounts linked to marijuana. And the IRS has audited dozens of dispensaries using an obscure provision of the federal tax code that prohibits drug traffickers from making any deductions.

Harborside was ordered to pay $2.5 million in back taxes. "All our funds that we could have used for political purposes are tied up in litigation," [Steve] DeAngelo [executive director of the state's largest dispensary, Harborside Health Center in Oakland] said.

The wealthy donors who helped fund Proposition 19, including billionaire George Soros and retired insurance executive Peter Lewis, are more likely to fund measures in Colorado and Washington state that have already qualified for the ballot. Those are cheaper states to win, requiring far less media buys.

Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance and an advisor to Soros, said measures in those states are "tightly drafted initiatives and the polling is looking good."

My February 2011 feature on the rise and fall of the last California pot legalization initiative, Proposition 19.

Charles Murray on Forcing Classes to Mix

In a recent New York Times op-ed piece, Charles Murray, who not so long ago was explaining What It Means to Be a Libertarian, advocates two policies that interfere with freedom of contract in the name of a goal he admits they will not achieve. The goal: narrowing "the divergence between the professional and working classes in white America," the subject of Murray's new book Coming Apart. Toward that end, Murray recommends "four steps that might weaken the isolation of at least the children of the new upper class." Two of these steps—replacing the SAT with achievement tests and ethnic with socioeconomic affirmative action in college admission decisions—seem to rely on private action. But the other two would be implemented by force. Murray says "we should get rid of unpaid internships," requiring nonreligious organizations with more than 10 employees to pay the minimum wage for summer work. The idea is to make internships at "places like the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute (where I work) or a senator’s office" more accessible to middle- or working-class kids. Murray also argues that employers should not be allowed to demand a bachelor's degree as a condition of employment:

The bachelor's degree has become a driver of class divisions at the same moment in history when it has become educationally meaningless. We don't need legislation to fix this problem, just an energetic public interest law firm that challenges the constitutionality of the degree as a job requirement.

After all, the Supreme Court long ago ruled that employers could not use scores on standardized tests to choose among job applicants without demonstrating a tight link between the test and actual job requirements. It can be no more constitutional for an employer to require a piece of paper called a bachelor's degree, which doesn't even guarantee that its possessor can write a coherent paragraph.

It's a mystery how a private employer's educational requirements can be unconstitutional. Presumably Murray is referring to Griggs v. Duke Power Co., which dealt not with the Equal Protection Clause but with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The former applies only to the government, while the latter bans racial discrimination in employment and authorizes class action lawsuits against alleged violators. By advocating such lawsuits against employers who hire only college graduates, Murray is recommending government intervention, via the courts, to achieve the outcome he wants. The fact that it would not involve new legislation does not make the meddling less objectionable.

Worse, Murray concedes these measures "won't really make a lot of substantive, immediate difference," which is why he did not suggest them in his book. He adds that "there may, however, be a symbolic value in these reforms." So Murray is saying two common employment practices that violate no one's rights—hiring unpaid interns and requiring job applicants to have a B.A.—should be forcibly abolished because doing so might have a symbolic effect. 

Murray does reject "a compulsory civilian national service program"—not on principled grounds but because it would dragoon "young people who mostly didn't want to be there, without being able to enforce military-style discipline." He worries that it "would probably create more resentment than camaraderie." Is that really the main problem with forced labor as means of promoting social cohesion?

More on unpaid internships hereherehere, and here.

How Housing Policy Caused the Financial Crisis: Q&A with AEI's Peter Wallison

The 2008 financial crisis "proved that financial markets are not self-regulating," says political scientist Francis Fukuyama in a recent interview with the website TheBrowser:

"[Peter Wallison] lays it all at the door of Fannie and Freddie and government intervention. It seems to me transparently designed to exonerate free markets...I like free markets...[but] that particular conclusion I just find astonishing."

Fukuyama isn't alone in depicting Wallison as an uncompromising ideologue who thinks government deserves all the blame. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera called Wallison's work "loony" and accused him of helping to concoct "what has since become a Republican meme." Even pro-free market economist Russ Roberts took Wallison to task for downplaying the role of investment banks in causing the crisis.

So who is Peter Wallison? He's a scholar at The American Enterprise Institute and was a leading member of the 10-person Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a government-created body charged with looking into the causes of the 2008 meltdown. After a year of hearings and deliberation, the commission produced its official report which laid most of the blame on deregulation and private sector avarice. Wallison publicly broke with the commission over the report.

"Instead of pursuing a thorough study," says Wallison, "the commission's majority used its extensive statutory investigative authority to seek only the facts that supported its initial assumptions - that the crisis was caused by 'deregulation' or lax regulation, greed and recklessness on Wall Street, predatory lending in the mortgage market, unregulated derivatives, and a financial system addicted to excessive risk taking."

Wallison published his version of what caused the crisis in a 93-page dissent, which argues that the meltdown was largely a consequence of government housing policy that underwrote unsustainable economic activity. He draws heavily on the research of Fannie Mae's former chief credit officer, Edward Pinto, which found that federal housing agencies drastically underreported the number of high-risk mortgages on their books. According to Wallison and Pinto, there were about 28 million high-risk mortgages in the U.S. in 2008; roughly 70 percent of those mortgages were owned by government-sponosored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Wallison sat down with Reason Foundation's Anthony Randazzo in January to talk about the causes of the 2008 financial crisis, what to do about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and why he's not guilty of trying to "exonerate" Wall Street banks.

This interview was excerpted from a much-longer conversation, a transcript of which can be found here, here, and here.

Produced, shot, and edited by Jim Epstein.

About 6 minutes.

Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material goes live.

Facebook Co-Founder and Obama 2008 Social Media Guru Chris Hughes Buys The New Republic

At the ripe old age of 28, Chris Hughes will now be the editor in chief and publisher of the 98-year-old liberal opinion magazine. From The Washington Post:

A 2006 graduate of Harvard University, Hughes was among the group of college classmates who started Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg, Hughes's roommate, in 2003. Forbes has estimated Hughes's net worth at $700 million, but that was before Facebook filed this year to offer its first shares to the public.

Hughes left Facebook in 2007 to serve as social-media director for Obama's campaign, organizing an effort that raised record amounts of money. [...]

Hughes will have a big challenge in turning around a biweekly publication that has had three owners in the past five years and has been losing readers for more than a decade. The magazine reportedly has a circulation of 50,000.

From The New York Times:

His focus, he said in an interview in advance of the announcement, will be on distributing the magazine’s long-form journalism through tablet computers like the iPad. Though he does not intend to end the printed publication, "five to 10 years from now, if not sooner, the vast majority of The New Republic readers are likely to be reading it on a tablet," he said. [...]

The terms of the sale were not disclosed. Mr. Hughes said he was motivated by an interest in "the future of high-quality long-form journalism" and by an instinct that such journalism was a natural fit for tablets. He said he would "expand the amount of rigorous reporting and solid analysis" that the magazine produces. [...]

Asked how he would turn a profit for the money-losing magazine, Mr. Hughes said, "Profit per se is not my motive. The reason I'm getting involved here is that I believe in the type of vigorous contextual journalism that we — we in general as a society — need."

He added that he hoped the magazine could be profitable. "But I'm investing and taking control of The New Republic because of my belief in its mission, not to make it the next Facebook," he said.

Political magazines, which as a rule do not cover expenses through subscriptions and advertising, have two basic ownership models: Get an ideologically and/or culturally sympatico rich person (or "vanity mogul," in Jack Shafer's memorable phrasing) to subsidize the losses, or just organize as a nonprofit (Reason chose the latter road decades ago).

There are plusses and minuses to both–as Shafer points out, "Hughes should be able to sustain the magazine's annual losses — which Anne Peretz, the ex-wife of former owner Martin Peretz put at $3 million a year — for a couple of hundred years after his death"–but one aspect I certainly enjoy about the Reason way is that it is literally impossible for a single person (let alone a single person with deep political connections to the sitting U.S. president) to impose his or her will on the editorial decisions of a normally configured nonprofit publication. The basic editorial thrust is therefore much more resilient and consistent in the long term, much less subject to the temporal whims and temper tantrums of a lone deep-pocketed journalistic novice.

More Jack Shafer on the legacy of the man who steered the ship of TNR to the lowlier state it has found itself recently:

Martin Peretz came closer to becoming a pariah than a player in the four decades he controlled the magazine. [..]

Perhaps [Hughes will] be a terrific editor-in-chief, hiring talented journalists as he makes good on his promise to enlarge its staff while soaking up the magazine's deficit. Or maybe he'll be an editor-in-chief like Martin Peretz was, hiring talented journalists as he enlarges its staff and covered its deficits, but insisting that the editors publish his loopy columns.

But vanity moguls who say their primary focus isn't profits still tend to lose interest in their publications in direct proportion to the amount of money they lose. Pariah Peretz was unique in his perseverance. But then again, it was his wife's fortune that stoked the magazine's furnace for so many years.

From Hughes' inaugural column:

The New Republic has been and will remain a journal of progressive values, but it will above all aim to appeal to independent thinkers on the left and the right who search for fresh ideas and a deeper understanding of the challenges our world faces.

TNR founder Herbert Croly was one of the most influential progenitors of political Progressivism in these United States. Read this classic and prescient 1997 column by beloved former Reason editor Virginia Postrel about Croly's modern legacy.

Americans Elect...to Pay Off Big Donors to Feckless Centrist Third Party

Buzzfeed sees something fishy in an announcement earlier this month from that not-setting-the-world-on-fire Internet-based centrist third party, Americans Elect, which is supposed to put the candidate that you-the-people-of-the-Net select:

The group made the shift public in a cryptic statement on its website on March 2:

The Board of Directors voted unanimously on 20 February 2012 to ensure that no supporter would cover more than 20% of the Americans Elect budget. In the event that any one supporter exceeds that percentage, there are provisions created to expedite repayments to that supporter.

Americans Elect, whose leaders have said they expect to spend $40 million this year getting on the ballot in 50 states and building a sophisticated platform for a secure online primary, casts the move as one in service of its populist goal of having no donor give more than $10,000. But its immediate effect may make it extremely difficult for the group, which is heavily bankrolled by its chairman, financier and philanthropist Peter Ackerman, to raise any more money at all, and particularly the kind of small, grassroots donations it seeks on its website.

"The first goal" of the new measure, spokeswoman Ileana Wachtel told BuzzFeed, is to begin repayment of any supporter who has provided more than 20% of the group's budget. The group does not disclose details of its funding, but she confirmed that repayment would begin immediately. "The ultimate goal for no one to have given more than 10,000," she said.

Ackerman had given $5.5 million to the group as of last November, his son Elliott — who is its chief operating officer — said on Hardball at the time. The group's fundraising and spending aren't public, but the new 20% threshold and the acknowledgement that repayment has begun suggests that he, or another donor, has given more than that.

The decision to begin repaying its wealthy backers makes its current fundraising pitch difficult to explain.....Americans Elect's executive director, Khalil Byrd, told BuzzFeed that the group's "core budget" for 2012 is $40 million....

Byrd also advised a reporter not to "get weedy" about the new rule, and said repeatedly, in response to questions about the new threshold, that the organization is "fully financed" and "transparent."

"We don't talk about how we’re financing things," he said. "We just want to make sure that people understand our aspiration."...

But the group's real issue may be the opposite: It's now fundraising entirely to repay the rich, a pitch which, if it's made clear, will likely mean that it's not doing any fundraising at all.

Americans Elect is on the ballot already in 17 states as of start of this month, according to Associated Press.

Alex Pareene writes amusingly of his experiences with Americans Elect at Salon. Pareene is a registered and confirmed Americans Elect delegate (and you can be too!)

As a delegate I have a very important role in selecting the Americans Elect candidate, and it involves some sort of eventual online caucus that Ron Paul will probably win. (Though the candidate has to actually commit to running under the Americans Elect banner, and make Web videos answering questions from delegates, and he or she eventually has to pick a running mate from a different political party. And the secretive Candidate Certification Committee, appointed by the Americans Elect board of directors, has veto power over the candidates. So maybe not Ron Paul.) Americans Elect CEO Kahil Byrd swears AE won’t overrule its delegates, but they created various complicated institutional hurdles making it more difficult for candidates not from the centrist political establishment to succeed.

From its rules for “automatic qualification” of potential candidates:

The Candidate Certification Committee shall automatically certify as qualified any natural person who is eligible to serve as President and who has served in any of the following positions without removal from office of current criminal indictment or conviction: Vice President, United States Senator, Member of Congress, Presidential Cabinet Member, Head of a federal agency, Governor, Mayor of any of the largest 100 cities in the United States, Chairman or Chief Executive Officer or President of any corporation or nonprofit corporation or philanthropic organization with 1,000 or more employees, President of a national labor union with 100,000 or more members, military officer who has attained flag rank, Ambassador, and President of an American-based university with more than 4,000 members.
This, though, was penned back when they were expecting a Michael Bloomberg to sign up for their effort. Now they can’t even manage an Olympia Snowe. Primary voting begins in less than two months, and the only declared candidate who actually meets those qualifications is … Buddy Roemer...

Pareene on the "we are raising money to repay our rich early donors" angle: 

AE swears, though, it never meant for a few rich people to fund the whole thing.

According to the Americans Elect model as originally designed, an eventual flood of passionate small donors would eventually cover most of the organization’s funding. The huge donations from rich people were loans, which would be paid back. This was supposed to be reassuring — secret millionaires will in the end have no more ownership over the process than regular folk! — but it actually meant that everyone giving Americans Elect money was effectively donating directly to a secret millionaire....

It is probably safe to assume that regular folk have not been lining up to send Americans Elect their cash. While AE has promised that no individual will have donated more than $10,000 once future donors help AE repay those multimillion-dollar “loans,” John Lumea noticed last week that the board of directors had introduced a rule change suggesting they were going to relax that limit.

No supporter may cover more than 20 percent of the budget. Or, in other words, five supporters may cover 100 percent of the budget. (And, as Lumea notes, one supporter could put up the money too: “In fact, the provisions clause suggests the possibility of a loophole that would enable a 20 percent donor to exceed 20 percent by contributing to one or more other donors an additional sum — an offset that would bring the other donor’s contribution “up” or “down,” depending on the bookkeeping.)

Americans Elect is all about you, the delegate! Sort of. Pareene explains exactly how you can object to and change things coming down from the top

AE delegate/gadfly Jim Cook, of Irregular Times, attempted to formally object to this rule change, which is his right as a delegate. He had 72 hours to respond. Then he had 48 hours to get 10,000 delegates to join his objection. There is no means of contacting AE delegates en masse. AE posted his objection on its website — under the “About” tab, and then under a link titled “Board Decisions.” By the time the window for objections closed, on Friday night, about a dozen delegates had managed to click through and register their complaint. The board's decision stands.

Americans Elect decides, then Americans Elect!

The Nation tries to explain what Americans Elect is all about, at length.

Matt Welch mentioned Americans Elect in his epic December 2011 cover story on the dangers of American simplistic centrism, "The Simpletons."

Note those who would use its name in vain: Americans Elect is now a trademark.

I casually mocked the 2008 version of this centrist third party dream, Unity08, back in February 2007.

Former Carter Staffer Attacks Pat Robertson for His Stance on Pot, Over-Incarceration

During a 700 Club broadcast earlier this month, evangelical firebrand Pat Robertson repeated his belief that marijuana should be decriminalized, and that “every time the liberals pass a bill—I don't care what it involves—they stick criminal sanctions on it. They don't feel there is any way people are going to keep a law unless they can put them in jail.”

Right on cue, Jimmy Carter’s former secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano has an op-ed in the Washington Post begging—nay, demanding—that Robertson think of the children:

I can’t understand why an evangelical leader like the Rev. Robertson, who claims to be so devoted to protecting the young in our materialistic, instant-gratification, sexually-charged modern society, would want to legalize a third drug like marijuana, when we have shown such little ability to keep our two legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol, out of the hands of our children and teens.

In World War II we used to say, “ Loose lips sink ships.” In debates about the war on drugs, loose lips can sink children and teens.

Parents and teachers, clergy, and everyone involved in a child’s life should understand that marijuana is a risky and addictive drug with serious health and social consequences. Rev. Robertson, before you speak again on this subject please remember this: Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are dangerous.

As for Robertson’s suggestion that pot be regulated like alcohol and tobacco, Califano rejects it out of hand:

Contrary to Robertson’s belief that legalizing marijuana will reduce our nation’s incarceration rates, the fact is that only 2 percent of all inmates are incarcerated for marijuana possession as their controlling or only offense.

Indeed, legalizing marijuana will likely increase criminal activity. Some two-thirds of incarcerated felons (1.5 million) meet the medical criteria for addiction and marijuana is commonly one of the first steps on the road to other drug addiction.

Most violent felonies, such as murder, rape and aggravated assault, occur when the perpetrator is high or drunk, and the lion’s share of property crime involves people seeking money to buy drugs. And the legal drug alcohol that Robertson wants marijuana to be treated like is implicated in more violent crime than any other substance.

The notion that taxing sales of marijuana will provide a windfall for our public coffers is another (bong) pipe dream. For every $1 of taxes on tobacco and alcohol, our nation incurs $9 in state and federal health-care, criminal justice and social-service costs. These costs will skyrocket if legalization becomes the norm, increasing the drain on our public coffers.

Perhaps Califano hasn't read up on Portugal, which decriminalized drugs across the board and saw its addiction rates plummet; the occurrence of new HIV cases plummet; drug-related crimes plummet; and drug-related law enforcement spending plummet.

As for the one-dollar-in-nine-dollars-out claim: The Office of National Drug Control Policy will have a budget of around $25.6 billion next year, and local and state governments will spend billions more of their own tax revenue investigating, arresting, trying, and locking up users and dealers; treating uninsured meth makers for third degree burns (incurred via the shake-and-bake method, itself a product of anti-meth policies); giving public assistance to drug-war widows and orphans; and drug-testing unemployed people applying for both jobs and unemployment benefits. Forget one dollar in, nine dollars out: This year, just like last year and every year before it, the U.S. will takes zero dollars in—because you can't tax something that's illegal—and fork out billions. 

Cathy Young on the Limbaugh-Fluke Contraception Controversy

Contributing Editor Cathy Young catches a lot of flak for taking a "pox on both your houses" stance in political conflicts. But given the way so many political conflicts unfold, what else is one to do? Take the firestorm over Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke's congressional testimony about health insurance coverage for contraception and talk show king Rush Limbaugh's rants calling her a slut. There are good reasons to question Fluke's image as a courageous Everywoman—just as there are good arguments against the contraceptive coverage mandate, particularly for faith-based institutions. But now, we're all discussing Limbaugh's sexist slurs and squabbling over who's got worse misogynists, the right or the left.

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Reason Writers Around the Internet: Peter Suderman Talks Mitt Romney, Game Change, Political Consulting, and Video Games on Bloggingheads

Why is Mit Romney so robotic? And why are his policy proposals so hollow? Are consultants now the primary force in American politics? Have video games like Mass Effect 3 displaced novels and movies in pop culture? Business Insider Politics Editor Michael Brendan Dougherty and Reason Associate Editor Peter Suderman discuss these questions and more on Bloggingheads:

Nick Gillespie on the Great TARP Cover-Up

From our April issue, Nick Gillespie reviews Thomas Frank’s new book Pity the Billionaire: The Hard Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right, where Frank asserts that “the main political response to [the financial crisis of 2008] is a campaign to roll back regulation, to strip government employees of the right to collectively bargain, and to clamp down on federal spending.” As Gillespie explains, not only is Frank wrong on the economics, he wants to pretend that TARP and other massive government interventions never happened.

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A.M. Links: Taliban "Vows Revenge" for Kandahar Massacre, Men's Health Bill Would Require Visit to Sex Therapist, Blago Goes to Prison This Week

  • After a lone U.S. soldier allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians Saturday night, the Taliban vows revenge
  • New bill would require men seeking a Viagra prescription to "see a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency." 
  • Poll: GOP voters resigned to Romney getting nomination. 
  • Harrisburg, Pa., to skip two debt payments. (For more on why Pennsylvania's capital city is failing, see this Reason.tv video.)
  • Rod Blagojevich goes to prison this week. Formerly incarcerated pols weigh in on what he can expect
  • Former Israeli spymaster doesn't want a war with Iran.

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New at Reason.tv: "Remy: Cough Drops-The Mandate (feat. Sandra Fluke)"

Kiribati Buying Land from Dictatorship to Flee Rising Sea Levels

Faced with the threat of rising sea levels, the Pacific island nation of Kiribati is negotiating to buy land in Fiji to relocate its citizens. Many of Kiribati's atolls are just a few feet above sea level, so it's particularly climate sensitive. Endorsed by Kiribati President Anute Tong, over 6,000 acres (around 9 square miles) on Fiji's second largest island would be sold for $9.6 million.

Kiribati has around 113,000 people living on its islands, while Fiji is relatively larger, with 860,000 residents. In an interview with the state-run television network Fiji One, President Tong wanted the relocation, if necessary, to be gradually phased in:

We don't want 100,000 people from Kiribati coming to Fiji in one go. They need to find employment, not as refugees but as immigrant people with skills to offer, people who have a place in the community, people who will not be seen as second-class citizens.

Leaving aside the fact that I-Kiribati would be fleeing one Pacific island nation for another, Fiji is currently an autocratic state. In 2006, Commodore Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama led a military coup and has since become prime minister. According to Human Rights Watch:

Over the past five years, Fiji’s military government has aggressively curtailed Fiji Islanders’ rights to freedom of speech, press, peaceful assembly, and association, the groups said. The military and police have arbitrarily arrested and detained human rights defenders, journalists, and labor and religious leaders.

In addition, Bainimarama has restricted religious freedom, most prominently Methodists. (His coup was widely criticized by Methodist leadership, while over one-third of Fijians are Methodist). While Bainimarama technically lifted martial law earlier this year, he has replaced it with emergency laws that are just as restrictive. Human rights activists argued this merely "cuts and pastes" from martial law.

Instead of relocating to Fiji, Kiribati should consider Seasteading, autonomous communities that would based in international waters. It's not that far-fetched. President Tong actually wanted to build floating islands off the coasts of Kiribati. The proposed price tag would have topped $2 billion. But since Kiribati's entire GDP in 2011 was $612 million, Tong wanted the international community to pay for it. They declined.

In addition, the Seasteading Institute has actually toyed with the idea. After all, seasteads are "geographically flexible." This would be mutually beneficial for both parties: Seasteading would get first adopters and I-Kiribati can live in a place that isn't sinking or ruled by an autocrat. In addition, the islands do have some capital to invest in Seasteading. In 1956, the Gilbert Islands established the Revenue Equalisation Reserve Fund, to save money from mining guano, which was used in fertilizer. In 2008, the fund was worth $400 million. (So yeah, Kiribati literally made money from shit.)

For more on obscure island nations, climate change, and Seasteading, here's me on St. Kitts and Nevis and the Maldives.

Unions and Democrats: Labor’s Love Lost

Is the lucrative romance between organized labor and the Democratic Party headed for the rocks? Not really, but the Los Angeles Times’ Matea Gold and Melanie Mason try to find some tensions

Concluding they need to be more independent of the Democratic Party, many unions are increasingly financing their own efforts instead of writing large checks to candidates and the party.

The shift in tactics is already apparent in this election season: Labor political action committees gave federal Democratic candidates and committees $21 million last year, a drop of 20% from the same period in the 2008 election, according to data provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Several major unions, as well as the AFL-CIO itself, now have their own "super PACs," independent political organizations that can raise unlimited funds.

A broader philosophical debate is also underway as union leaders discuss whether they can afford to invest the estimated $400 million overall that organized labor spent on Obama and congressional Democrats four years ago.

The phrasing "last year…from the same period in the 2008 election" is pretty obscure: Is the idea that unions gave $26,250,000 in 2007 but only $21,000,000 in 2011? 

If so, that drop seems both unspectacular and easily explained: In 2007 there was a Republican in the White House and an open presidential race coming up the following year; unions (public sector unions in particular) were flush with cash during a period of soaring public spending and an inflated stock market; and the then-ascendant McCain-Feingold rules had succeeded in subordinating the right of free speech to the purpose of protecting the power of the major parties. In 2011 there was a Democratic incumbent who had already delivered handsomely for his union cronies; we were four years closer to the inevitable extinction of organized labor; and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United had partially restored the right of the American people to petition the government for redress of grievances. All these factors would tend to depress giving by unions to Democrats. 

Gold and Mason do entertain one part of the above: the post-Citizens United rise of Super PACs. But as always when the L.A. Times covers labor, there’s 1) a lot of discussion from the bosses and speculation about what the "rank-and-file" will think, but no discussion from the actual rank-and-file; and 2) no attention paid to the paper’s own backyard. 

California pols continue to rake in big union bucks. Unions are typically in first or second place among contributors to Democrats. And not only Democrats: Just the incidental bipartisan hedging that any big political donor must perform means unions are typically among the top-10 contributors to Republicans as well. Spot-checking Maplight’s list of donations for the California Assembly, for example, we find public and/or private-sector unions among the top givers to Republicans Katcho Achadjian (San Luis Obispo), Tim Donnelly (Claremont), Nathan Fletcher (San Diego), Kristin Olsen (Modesto) and even GOP Assembly Leader Connie Conway (Visalia). The figures are even more significant if you count giving by "health professionals," "TV & Movie Production/Distribution," and other heavily unionized industries. 

Golden State Democrats get plenty more from unions, of course, and there’s a lot of variety in how much an Assembly seat costs. Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), for example, raises more money from unions alone than several of the Republicans raise overall. My own neighborhood’s champion in Sacramento, Democrat Mike Feuer, raises more 20 percent of his war chest from labor and labor-captive industries like entertainment. (Feuer, class all the way, isn’t completely beholden to the unions because his largest donor group by far, amounting to 25 percent of his funds, is "Lawyers and Lobbyists." Give ‘em hell, Mike!) 

That’s a pretty amicable divorce, if it can be called a divorce at all. The idea that labor can quit the Democrats is wishful thinking for other reasons. The 2010s have seen Republican governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich trying to dismantle union power and Democratic governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Jerry Brown trying to escape from union power. Either way, the politicians are the ones with the momentum, and time is not on organized labor's side. In this climate it’s the unions, not the Democrats, that have nowhere else to go. 

U.S. Soldier Murders 16 Afghan Civilians in the Dead of Night

I can't believe it's possible to say this with a straight face, but the situation in Afghanistan, which the U.S. has been occupying for more than a decade, just got worse: 

A U.S. soldier shot to death 16 Afghan civilians in their homes before returning to his base and being taken into custody, Afghan and NATO officials said.

The shooting spree yesterday threatens to reignite anti- American protests weeks after a Koran-burning incident triggered violence. Women and children were among those killed in the attacks in the southern province of Kandahar, which has been a stronghold for the Taliban.

The soldier went to three houses in the villages of Najib Yan and Alokozai in Kandahar’s Panjwayi district and opened fire, according to villagers who spoke to Bloomberg News by telephone.

“The soldier killed four of my family members including my wife, sisters and a baby nephew,” Habibullah Khan said by telephone. “I was out of the district in the city of Kandahar, but when I came back I saw blood and all four people had been killed in their beds.”

The attacker brought 11 of the dead into one home and set the bodies on fire, according to Mohammed, a tribal elder in the district who asked that his last name not be used. The Associated Press and Reuters also reported that bodies had been set alight. AP and the BBC said the soldier was a staff sergeant.

The soldier is 38 years old and is married with two children, ABC News said, citing a U.S. official it didn’t name. The soldier was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan after three tours in Iraq, according to the report on ABC’s website.

Read more at Bloomberg

New at Reason: How Andrew Breitbart Changed the Media

New media impresario Andrew Breitbart may be dead, writes Nick Gillespie, "but the conversation pits he built will live on for a long, long time. A lot of people theorize about democratizing the public square and bringing new voices and sources into conversations about politics and culture. Breitbart actually did it."

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Romney Beats Obama 48%-43% In New Rasmussen Poll

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for today has former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama by five percentage points: 

With the perception growing that he will be the GOP nominee, Romney leads President Obama by five points in a hypothetical 2012 matchup. Today's numbers show Romney at 48%, Obama at 43%. That’s Romney’s largest lead since December. Matchup results are updated daily at 9:30 a.m. Eastern (sign up for free daily e-mail update). 

If Santorum is the Republican nominee, he is up by one point over the president, 46% to 45%. This is the second time since polling began in 2011 that Santorum has had a slight lead over Obama. Romney is the only other candidate to lead the president more than one time in the polls. See tracking history   for Obama vs. all four Republican candidates.

The other day I laid out my arguments — based on voter turnout so far and the differing capacities of the Republican and Democratic machines — for why Obama will defeat Romney in November. I'll defend my logic against all comers, but of course, predictions are hard, especially about the future. 

What dismays me in this is not the risk that I might be the one buying drinks on election day. It's that no matter who wins, Obamacare, with its individual mandate and cementing of a broken employer/insurance cartel, will never go away. Obamacare is by a country mile the worst thing Barack Obama has accomplished. It is an essential change in the relationship of the state to the individual, and thus its poison is more lethal than all the money the administration has wasted, all the laws it has broken, and all the jumping jacks the first lady has pressured tubby schoolchildren into performing. It was passed in a sordid backstairs intrigue on a Saturday night and is hated not only by libertarians but by normal people too. It is the one agenda item where the Obama Administration has beyond any doubt been worse than a John McCain administration would have been. 

And now the only option open to an electorate unhappy with Obamacare is to vote for the man who invented it in Massachusetts. 

Ron Paul Campaign: Reports of Its Death Exaggerated

The American Conservative's Phil Giraldi reported this morning--with no citation of names or numbers--that he's heard reports that "the Ron Paul campaign laid off most of its staff nationwide yesterday."

Paul campaign chair Jesse Benton responds to me this morning that what in fact happened was "We simply cut field staff in the states that already voted, which is par for the course"  and that implications of campaign death or serious retrenchment "are completely false."

More if specific facts warrant later, and for the detailed story of how Paul's career and campaign got to where they are, see my forthcoming book Ron Paul's Revolution.

Paul is still drawing crowds of more than 2,000 to college campuses, as his campaign reports from yesterday at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. For a long report on the state of the campaign this week, see my article from yesterday, "Ron Paul Revolution What Now?"

Kennedy on Why Atheism Is a Religion

In a recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, former MTV VJ and current LA radio host Kennedy declared, “atheism is a religion.” In response to that comment, she has been called names and insulted in ways not heard since the first Clinton administration, when leading scientists still believed the Internet was created by Al Gore in only seven days. So like the Buddha seeking truth, Kennedy left the hostile waters of social networking in search of a fresh perspective. Along the way she met a scientist whose research focuses on the intersection between biology and the divine, uber-atheist and diehard libertarian Penn Jillette, and the widow of Frank Zappa, the legendary musician who also founded the Church of American Secular Humanism. Is atheism really a religion after all?

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90-pound Ohio Woman Who Was Tasered by Police Files Federal Lawsuit

Akron college student Chelsea Garrett, 23, told Fox 8 Cleveland that footage of her reckless driving last November 5 is disturbing. "I would never deny that, I was scared watching the video, seeing myself drive like that, ” she said. But Garrett, a diabetic who media describe as 5'2 and 90 pounds, was disoriented (worsened, she says, by some cold medicine) that day. When Stow, Ohio police pulled her over after she caused an accident, left the scene, then almost clipped a police cruiser, Garrett left her car and approached Officer Jesse Reedy. He Tasered her at least twice, after initially knocking her backwards onto the ground. Garrett describes it as Reedy having "punched her in the chest" with the Taser, which may or may not be accurate. However, you can see Reedy knocking her down in dashcam footage that is just slightly out of frame.

Now Garrett, who pled guilty to "reckless operation," is suing the Stow police for brutality in federal court.

According to Patch.com, Reedy, a four and a half year veteran of the Stow police force, and who was cleared of any wrong-doing in December:

told the Use of Force committee (made up of three Stow officers), initially it did not seem like the woman was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or in diabetic shock. 

"Yeah, someone that size is not so much really that I think that she is a huge threat, but I realize that she can still hurt me, she can bite me, she can scratch me," said Reedy during an interview with the Use of Force Committee. "She knew what I was saying and she just didn't care ... she didn't want to listen to it."

Further description from the official police summary mostly matches the video, Garrett:

"almost immediately opened her driver's side door upon being stopped and sat in her vehicle for 12 seconds. She then exited her vehicle and stood next to the driver's door for 35 seconds. She looked back into her vehicle three separate times."

Before shocking Garrett, who according to the report was "staggering," Reedy drew his weapon out when she got out of the car and then drew out his Taser while giving verbal commands. 

The officer said he initially pushed Garrett to the ground instead of shocking her when she approached him because of her size, but after repeatedly not listening to his orders, he used the Taser, it says in the report.

Because Reedy gave verbal commands that were not obeyed and because the woman got out of the car and approached the officer which could be a threat, the committee ruled that Reedy handled the situation properly.

"If an officer perceives a threat through the totality of circumstances, he/she does not have to wait until they are harmed to deploy the Taser," the committee said in its ruling.

Except there's clearly something wrong with Garrett. She doesn't look falling-down inebriated, but she definitely looks hesitant and confused in the dashcam footage. Her movements are odd and when she's on the ground, her struggling with Reedy looks pretty feeble. In her lawsuit, Garrett says she was Tasered a third time while handcuffed. She says police could have just handcuffed her and her goal with filing a lawsuit is to change the policies for Taser usage. 

Not very much happened to Garrett and she certainly faired better than Allen Kephart or any of the 500 other people in the U.S. since 2001 whose deaths are associated with Tasers. But Tasers seem to be most likely to go from less-than-lethal to lethal when used on suspects who are drunk, on drugs, or disoriented, (that is to say, not in a state to listen to police commands)  so that's all the more reason to be extremely cautious with their usage.

(Hat tip to commenter rather)

Reason on police and Tasers, including Reason.tv's latest "Who's Lethal? Police or Tasers"


 

California Convulses Over Dead Mountain Lion In Non-Bordering State

The Orange County Register's Brian Joseph takes a Golden State safari

Once again, California faces a budget crisis. Revenues are projected to come in lower than anticipated. The governor and special interest groups are sparring over competing tax measures. Angry college students are occupying the Capitol.

And yet the most talked about issue in Sacramento these days is a Fish and Game Commissioner who legally killed a mountain lion in Idaho.

Ever since news of Dan Richards‘ hunting trip came to light in late February, the Watchdog has been patiently waiting for the story to burn itself out.  But after three weeks of intense scrutiny, the story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. News organizations, state policy makers and callers to legislative offices continue debating this only-in-California controversy.

This parody of the land of the nuts and the fruits is not intentional. Although Californians have turned out by scores to support Richards, his fellow commissioners quietly voted to demote him the other day. 

Felicity Barringer of New York's Times newsparchment takes readers on a misty watercolored journey through the history of her own hunter-gatherer ancestors before settling in to describe California's Idaho mountain lion controversy in this way: "Local newspaper opinion polling on Mr. Richards’s actions continues."

Barringer doesn't mention that this polling not only continues but shows public support for Richards at 67 percent

California doesn't just oppose the death penalty for mountain lions in other states. It insists on coddling mountain lions as they begin their careers of conscienceless predation upon other animals (including humans). Local media are celebrating the nursing back to health of a couple of mountain lion cubs found recently in downtown Burbank, with a Santa Barbara TV station noting, "Now a documentary will feature Olive and Magnolia and the issue of urban expansion into wildlife habitats." 

Mountain lion controversies are ending gainful public careers in other states as well. AP reports that South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks Department has fired a big-game biologist after he waited almost a day to report having made the final legal mountain lion kill of the hunting season. Biologist Lowell Schmitz appears not to have violated regulations, which allow a one-day grace period for reporting kills to the government. But his delay tragically cost three more Feline-Americans their lives. The Rapid City Journal has details

Schmitz said last week that he was in a hurry after he shot the lion to get back to town and pick up his children from school. Then, Schmitz said, he got involved in helping with their homework and ended up with a migraine headache, so he waited to check in the lion until the next day.

Hunters have 24 hours to check in lions they shoot. Schmitz didn’t violate regulations, but he was criticized for not in bringing the cat in sooner or at least calling GF&P in Rapid City where he worked as a biologist.

On the evening of Feb. 29, the lion kill on the GF&P website – one of the options hunters have in checking the status of the season – was at 69, one short of the season-ending quota of 70.

But the 70th lion was actually already in Schmitz’s possession but unreported.

So the season remained open on March 1, and hunters killed three more lions that day.

I've never killed a mountain lion, but I'd like to hope such an experiences would be exhilirating enough that you wouldn't get a migraine after the hunt. Getting a migraine just doesn't seem very hunter-like to me.

Meanwhile, the mountain lions get payback: One cat ripped a six-year-old at Big Bend National Park in Texas last month. California mountain lions have been repaying humans for their concern with more than a century's worth of killings and maulings. And another cat recently clawed a child and a family dog in the Gem State itself.