Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2012 April 1-31

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ATTN, DC Reasonoids! Join John Stossel at Reason's DC HQ on Wednesday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m.!

In his new book, No, They Can't: Why Government Fails But Individuals Succeed, Fox Business Channel's John Stossel dissects the myth of government infallibility and the failure of the nanny state—and he offers a hopeful vision of the ways in which freedom empowers individuals to create a better world.

Join Stossel and Reason's DC-area staff on Wednesday, April 11 from 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. for a reception in celebration of this exciting new book about how freedom lets individuals prosper.

  • What: Reception with John Stossel
  • When: Wednesday, April 11, 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Reason's DC HQ, 1747 Connecticut Ave. NW (Metro: Dupont Circle, Q Street exit)

Beer, wine, and light refreshments will be served.

RSVP by April 9 to Mary Toledo: mary.toledo@reason.org or 310-391-2245.

Nick Gillespie on Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld featuring Ann Coulter


On Thursay, April 5, I was on Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld with guests Ann Coulter and defense attorney Remi Spencer and regulars Bill Schulz and Andy Levy.

Among the topics: Whether the Marines should cashier the soldier who spoke out against Barack Obama on Facebook, the recent Supreme Court ruling on whether strip searches were A-OK, Mitt Romney's lameness, and more.

Watch by clicking above. About 40 minutes. Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of our videos and subscribe to our YouTube Channel to get automatic notifications when new material goes live.

The last time Ann Coulter and I squared off was at the Colorado-based Indpendence Institute Founders' Night debate about whether libertarians and conservatives could ever get along. (See flattering caricature to the right.)

Read more about how that turned out here.

How Gauche: American Yokels Actually Obey Their Own Laws

Whether you're looking to feel some jingoistic resentment at continental snobbery, get nostalgic for the Lewinski-scandal days when the cognoscenti's greatest fear was that the sophisticated French might think we were prudes, or just enjoy the tradition of Hollywood Nazis saying things like "You Americans are so naïve," you'll enjoy John Hudson's round up of European shock over the Supreme Court’s individual mandate arguments

"The Supreme Court can legitimately return Obamacare?" asks a headline on the French news site 9 POK. The article slowly walks through the legal rationale behind the court's right to wipe away Congress's legislation. "Sans précédent, extraordinaires" reads the article. In the German edition of The Financial Times, Sabine Muscat is astonished at Justice Antonin Scalia's argument that if the government can mandate insurance, it can also require people to eat broccoli. "Absurder Vergleich" reads the article's kicker, which in English translates to, "Absurd Comparison." In trying to defeat the bill, Muscat writes, Scalia is making a "strange analogy [to] vegetables."

I don't get the whole complaint that referring to a broccoli or cell phone mandate is some kind of reductio ad absurdum. The health benefits of eating broccoli are well established and direct. The safety and connectivity benefits of carrying a cell phone are immediate and clear. Mandating either would be more justifiable as necessary and proper to promote the general welfare than mandating buying insurance, whose connection to good health is at best indirect. 

In an event, the greatest absurdities are not coming from the French or the Germans, but from our own cousins in the common law tradition. When the U.K. Telegraph's Mark McKinnon pillories the Supreme Court as "these six men and three women," you can almost feel his pain at not being able to seethe "these nine men in black robes!" And how's this for a deep understanding of the difference between essential rights and government handouts: 

The Guardian's Kevin Powell called the debate "surreal" in his Monday column. "Wasn't the point to make sure the richest and most powerful nation on the planet could protect its own people, as other nations do?" he wrote. "If Americans are promised not just liberty but life and happiness, is there not a constitutional right to affordable healthcare?"

When your own country's national health service is being bankrupted by a sceptred isle full fat slobs, the idea that the individual mandate violates human liberty must seem slightly insulting. But England is the country of the Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution, where William Blake stood up for the right to throw a soldier out of his garden. Has socialism really made the right little tight little island this dumb? 

Baylen Linnekin on Broccoli Mandates and Food Freedom

Does the government have the power to compel a person to buy broccoli? That question came up last week during the Supreme Court’s unprecedented three-day hearing on the national healthcare mandate. And as Baylen Linnekin, the executive director of the nonprofit Keep Food Legal, explains, this isn’t the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on the topic of food freedom.

View this article

Sheldon Richman on How Serfdom Is One Executive Order Away

Sometimes a step back helps to provide perspective on a matter. President Obama provided such a step with his March 16 Executive Order—National Defense Resources Preparedness. In it, observes Sheldon Richman, we see in detail how completely the government may control our lives—euphemistically called the “industrial and technological base”—if the president were to declare a national emergency. It is instructive reading.

View this article

Wayne Root, former Libertarian Party Vice Presidential Candidate and Current Member of the LP's National Committee: "It's Gotta Be Romney, There is No Choice"

Wayne Root, who ran as Bob Barr's VP candidiate with the Libertarian Party in 2008, currently a member of the Libertarian National Committee that runs the Party, exhibits a lack of dedication to the LP by saying this on a Bill Cunningham podcast, right in the first couple of minutes:

I think the important thing now is to make sure Obama is not elected,and that means in my mind, I would love for a libertarian like Gary Johnson the two term governor of New Mexico would actually get elected President, but I think we all know that’s not going to happen so therefore it’s got to be Romney there is no choice.

Root tried to defend himself in this Independent Political Report comment thread:

I said in a perfect world I’d like to see Gary Johnson elected President, he’d be the best choice out there…I also said several times on the call that Mitt Romney is a big spending, big government Northeast liberal…that he will make very little difference because of this…

And that the difference between Obama and Romney…

Is that Romney will slow down our path off a cliff just a bit…and Obama will take us off the cliff in a matter of minutes.

But neither is good enough to save USA from long decline towards mediocrity.

And that Romney’s victory will most probably prove that neither party can change our problems enough to save the economy…so hopefully it will lead to a serious Libertarian third party threat in 2016…of which I plan to be the Presidential candidate.

It's true, he did say the above. But before saying all that, he said that "it's got to be Romney, there is no choice." 

That quote is accurate, and is clearly an LP official telling the world it has no choice but to vote for a GOP candidate--even if he goes on to say that GOP candidate is highly flawed.

The great advantage of telling the world there is no point in voting for his own party's candidate in 2012? It leaves the possibility of voting for his party's candidate in 2016--when Root predicts it will be him. I daresay this statement makes that far less likely.

Reason on the Libertarian Party.

Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Puts Up Pro-Legalization Billboard

First NORML put one up in Florida, now RegulateMarijuana.com has one for Colorado; perhaps billboards can win the war against marijuana prohibition? No, probably not without some help. Nevertheless, Raw Story has the scoop on a shiny new $5,000 billboard, prominently placed near Denver's Mile High Stadium.

The group's official name is the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and as Jacob Sullum has previously noted, it has thrown its support behind a ballot initiative to fully legalize marijuana in 2012. Colorado has had legalized medical marijuana since 2001, but that doesn't stop the state from staging the occasional SWAT raid on legal users just in case they're using slightly more weed than is allowed.

This organization's name kind of makes me twitch, if only because I have an aversion to overtly advocating for regulation. But regulation would of course be a damn sight better than illegality. And look! Look at the normal-looking lady! She's probably someone's mom or something! 

Take it away, Raw Story:

“That’s what we want to talk to Coloradans right now,” Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the campaign, told Raw Story on Friday. “We’re trying to educate them about why it is that marijuana is safer than alcohol. If you look at every objective study comparing the safety of the two, you’ll see that marijuana is clearly safer than alcohol.”

Not only is the billboard near Mile High Stadium, it’s also right next to Mile High Liquors. The group said on its website that the location was optimal because it will force some drinkers to confront their bias toward marijuana users. It was also a good deal, too: the campaign told Raw Story that their sign only cost $5,000.

Their claims aren’t just a clever pitch for the drug, either: Marijuana has in fact been shown to be less addictive than alcohol, and its more enthusiastic users tend to exhibit fewer adverse health effects than alcoholics. It is also impossible to overdose on marijuana, which its adherents see as an advantage over the relative ease of alcohol poisoning.

That’s the message the campaign is trying to bring to Coloradans, and Aldworth explained that they’ve only just begun. “We’re asking volunteers to talk to their neighbors, their family members — and particularly aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents, people in the next two generations up,” she said. “Young people, for the most part, get it, they’ve seen their friends use marijuana and alcohol, and how they affect people. They understand… There is no logical reason to punish people for marijuana.”

Young people definitely do support legalization at a much higher rate than senior citizens. And though the the Florida NORML campaign linked to above actually involved trying to change elderly minds about the devil weed, the children may be, in the cause of anti-prohibition, the future.

As for Rocky Mountain high, commentators, including the Raw Story editor, seem to think that Colorado's 2012 legalization chances are pretty good. But Jacob Sullum has previously reported on the trials and tribulations and general confusion of state legalization and licensing of medical marijuana in Colorado in a post-Gonzales vs. Raich era. And particularly under Obama's Department of Justice, it seems like state legalization doesn't matter much at all.

Hat tip to commenter jasno

Reason on drug policy

Reason Writers at the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews The Hunter

Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews The Hunter, an indie thriller about a mercenary sent to hunt down a species of tiger long though to be extinct, in today's Washington Times:

There’s a scene in “The Hunter” when Martin (Willem Dafoe), the titular gunman, helps a family string loudspeakers from a giant tree near their Tasmanian home before letting music blast through the countryside. It’s a strangely beautiful moment, and it says plenty about the movie and its interests: “The Hunter” is deeply attuned to the music of the planet, and lush with environmental metaphor.

Long stretches feature little or no dialogue, replaced instead with the crackle and song of the woods. Director Daniel Nettheim frequently frames a tiny Mr. Dafoe against grand natural backdrops. The state of the natural world provides a sort of chorus to the main story, changing with the movie’s mood, commenting on the action with heavenly rays of sunshine or foul grey storms. Staged as a brooding, conspiratorial thriller, this quiet, intense, and surprisingly affecting movie is more of a naturalistic tone poem. The scenery isn’t merely the background; it’s the subject.

Whole thing here. 

Matt Welch Talks Pot Raids, Gun Sales, and Stones Songs on Varney & Co.

This morning I appeared on Fox Business Network's Varney & Co. to discuss the federal government's raid on the medical marijuana normalizers at Oaksterdam University, the private sector's gun-purchase binge, and the Rolling Stones' best (or at least best unknown) song. Less than four minutes of your time:

OK, OK, here's the Stones:

Anthony Randazzo on How Laundry Soap Became the New Sound Money

Over the past few months, the police force in Prince George’s County, Maryland has been dealing with a strange rash of robberies. Thieves have been going into grocery stores and drug stores, loading their carts up with Tide laundry soap, and then rushing out the door where they have a get-away car waiting. As Anthony Randazzo explains, it turns out that the detergent is street currency for buying pot and cocaine. Briefcases full of cash are being cast aside in favor of blaze-orange containers of laundry soap. Tide, as the money gods would have it, carries nearly all the characteristics of sound money.

View this article

Newt Gingrich Apparently Still Running, Obama Just Loves Those Jobs Numbers, Afghanistan Faces Big Challenges After U.S. Leaves: P.M. Links

  • My campaign isn't dead yet, insists Newt Gingrich.
  • Obama says he's thrilled about not-so-thrilling jobs numbers.
  • Afghanistan may not be quite poised to thrive after the U.S. pulls out.
  • New Mexico mayoral election results in an empty office after the winner runs into a little trouble involving blackmail and lap dances.
  • Same-sex marriage may get a boost in Maryland, courtesy of a divorce case.
  • British granny bounced from doctor's office because her two-mile roundtrip drive makes Mother Earth cry.

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Debt and Loving It, Fiscal Year 2012 Edition

Trillion dollar budget deficit, here we come...again. According to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government racked up a $780 billion deficit during the first half of the 2012 fiscal year—yet another reminder that the feds are well on the way to another fiscal gap that well exceeds the $1 trillion mark; CBO projects that this year the deficit will hit $1.2 trillion.

If there's good news, it's that the deficit during the same time-frame last year was slightly larger, by about $53 billion. This time around, the federal government spent slightly less on a few programs and took in slightly more in corporate tax revenues. But given the scale of the deficits Washington has been running for the last few years, and the trillions in debt that federal policymakers have piled on in the process, this hardly counts as a significant improvement. We moved an inch when we needed to move a mile. 

Bronx Legislators Push To Hold Incarcerated Parents Closer to Children

Two Bronx legislators want to establish a pilot program that would let 60 parents be incarcerated near their minor children, reports the New York Daily News. New York State’s Department of Corrections doesn’t factor in parenthood when assigning inmates to prisons, even though 73 percent of female inmates are moms.

According to the Women’s Prison Association’s Institute on Women & Criminal Justice, drug offenses make up about 28% of the female state prison population nationwide, with nearly 2/3 of women in state prison there for non-violent offenses. Why focus on mothers? Department of Justice statisticians report incarcerated mothers are more than two and a half times more likely than fathers to have been head of a single parent household prior to their incarceration.

While New York State’s prison population has declined over the last decade, the Daily News suggests transferring inmates downstate to be closer to their children could be politically problematic because of upstate politicians who want to keep prisons, and, crucially, prison staff (jobs!) upstate, even when the inmates (most of them, given the denser population) are from downstate.

The New York State prison system is routinely managed as a jobs program, a symptom of government engaging in spending as policymaking. So while the war on drugs is touted as an ‘absolutely critical’ investment that only Social Darwinists would oppose, doing something humane for incarcerated parents and, more importantly, their children, gets tied up in regional politics.  

Katherine Mangu-Ward Talks Happy Meal Toys and Lawsuits on Fox Business Network

Reason Managing Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward appeared on Fox Business to talk about the lawsuit over McDonald's Happy Meal toys that was thrown out by a California judge. She says that even though this is one good step away from the nanny state, there is still a long way to go in combating the food police. 

About 3 minutes.

Will Google's Augmented Reality Glasses Facilitate an All-Seeing Surveillance State?

Ever wanted to wear the Internet on your face? With a nifty pair of Google Glasses, now in an early prototype phase, you may soon be able to. Here's the demo video released yesterday by Project Glass at Google[x], the company's bleeding edge innovation lab: 

Neat, right? And potentially as revolutionary as Internet-enabled mobile phones and tablets.

But it's also slightly scary for anyone concerned about the prying eyes of government surveillance. Forbes' Kashmir Hill predicts that when we're all recording everything all the time, we'll all become tools of the state:

If we all start wearing glasses with cameras, the process of seeing and recording will become that much easier and possibly continual. I could imagine a feature — which life loggers and quantified selfers would love — that would allow you to record and save everything. Or, if you prefer not to accumulate that much private data about yourself, you could set your camera to continually record (and consistently erase) chunks of time — it could be five minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour, or a day, depending on your privacy settings. If something awesome (or horrible) happens that you want to save, you could instruct your Glasses to permanently store that file or upload it to your YouTube account. No more “Whoops, I didn’t get my smartphone out in time to record that!”

Imagine how helpful this could be for reporting crimes. If you witnessed a boy being attacked in your yard, or a hit and run, or a robbery, you could immediately upload that file to police databases. Inevitably, we would all become watchmen, critical parts of the surveillance society. Alternately, law enforcement could use cell location tracking to figure out who was in a certain area at a certain time and get a warrant (or subpoena) for access to their vision logs.

On the other hand, this could also complicate laws that make it a crime to take videos and photos of cops

Oaksterdam Founder, Prop. 19 Funder, Driven Out of His Peaceful, Productive Business by Government

From Huffington Post:

The founder of a Northern California medical marijuana training school said Friday he was giving up his downtown Oakland-based pot businesses after a federal raid bankrupted him.

Richard Lee has been instrumental in pushing for ballot measures to legalize the drug, giving more than $1.5 million as the lead financial backer of a 2010 initiative to legalize the drug in the state. He said he will now focus solely on his advocacy work.

"I am now in this legal situation, so it's better for me to step aside," Lee said.

Internal Revenue Service and Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Monday raided Oaksterdam University, Lee's home and a medical marijuana dispensary he also founded. The purpose of the raids hasn't been disclosed...

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco, who have been leading a months-long crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, did not immediately return messages seeking comment. Lee said he was not interrogated but simply detained while the agents conducted the raids. He was not arrested.

Lee said his decision to step back from the businesses was not part of any deal with investigators.

"We don't know if it will make any difference at all to them," he said.

Mike Riggs blogged about the raid last week. I wrote about the saga of Lee's Proposition 19 in Reason's February 2011 issue.

Despite the raid, and before Lee's announcement he's leaving his leadership role, Oakland North wrote of the Oaksterdam crew's efforts to keep going:

For Oaksterdam employees, the question is what comes next. Jones said all of the employees “lost their jobs” when the raid happened because as [executive chancellor Dale Sky] Jones said, Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee “can’t guarantee any of us have a paycheck.” The former employees now have to volunteer to work at the training center or the dispensary located two blocks north on Broadway, which was also raided. Jones said the dispensary re-opened Tuesday with the help of “local patient cultivators that understood our collective needed to be replenished. And they came through.

Reason.tv went to Oaksterdam in better times:

Watch John Stossel's "No They Can't!" Special Tonight, Featuring Reason's Lisa Snell

Fox Business host and Reason regular John Stossel has a new book and a new special out. They're both called No They Can't and they explore "why government fails and individuals succeed" at making the world a better, richer, and more interesting place.

Buy the book now and watch the special tonight at 10pm ET on Fox News Channel. It will air again on Saturday night at 10pm ET too.

From the show's website:

Government grows, despite its repeated failure.

Politicians are wrong when they say, "Yes, we can," but the fact that government can't doesn't mean that we can't. Free people accomplish wonderful things. While government wastes billions on boondoggles like Solyndra, X PRIZE founder Peter Diamandis explains how private investors have created cars that get 100 mpg, space ships and much faster ways to clean up oil spills, all without charging taxpayers a penny.

Reason is particularly excited that

Lisa Snell from the Reason Foundation explains how the government's own research found that Head Start did not help poor kids. Government's response? Spend even more.

Read more.

Dissenting While Enlisted Will Get You Fired, Dissenting While Commanding Gets You Retired

Sergeant Gary Stein enlisted in the Marines right out of high school. After nine years, he's both a few months away from ending his service, and a few weeks away from being discharged under a black cloud. The latter possibility is a result of Stein's colorful politics: He started an Armed Forces Tea Party website, where he's selling NOBAMA 2012 bumper stickers, and he called President Obama "the economic and religious enemy" on Facebook.

After a hearing yesterday, during which Marine lawyers argued that Stein's political expressions were "prejudicial to good order and discipline," a Marine Corps board recommended that Stein immediately be "given an other than honorable discharge"--basically, that he be fired and deprived of whatever benefits he's accumulated over nine years of service and several tours in Iraq.  

Stein's legal team has argued that his political activities were private and did not interfer with his soldiering; and more broadly that members of the military should be free to enjoy the Constitutional rights they have sworn to uphold and protect. Stein's fate is now in the hands of the commanding general of the Marine Corp Recruit Depot in San Diego. 

While Stein's fate is processed, I'd direct your attention to how a similar case was handled two years ago, when another member of the military gained prominence for challening the authority of the commander in chief: 


Steven Greenhut on America’s Bipartisan Reefer Madness

How many times, writes Steven Greenhut, have we heard Republicans say that Barack Obama is obliterating states’ rights, shredding the Constitution, abusing his authority to punish political enemies, backing away from campaign promises, and misallocating federal resources? So why is it that GOP activists and candidates don’t ever say a word of protest about the Obama administration’s pointless crackdown on medical marijuana?

View this article

Unemployment Rate Drops, But Fewer People are Working

Newly gainfully employed as I am, I admit to feeling a little warmer and fuzzier about the economy than I did not so long ago. That shiny, new 8.2 percent unemployment rate people are pointing to with a tentative sigh of relief? Yeah, that's me. (Hi, mom!) But even as news stories note a bit of a dark cloud to that silver lining in the form of fewer-than-expected new jobs -- even leading their coverage with that datum -- there's still more reason to take that dipping unemployment rate with a grain of salt. That's because, even as jobless numbers have dipped, so have the ranks of people who actually have jobs.

In February 2012, or so says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the labor participation rate was 63.9 percent. In March, it dropped to 63.8 percent. That's down from 64.2 percent in March of 2011. And, if you're not participating, you don't get counted -- whether or not you have a job. So, despite an unemployment rate nominally moving in an encouraging direction, 31,000 fewer people were drawing paychecks last month than the month before.

In fact, the labor participation rate has been consistently spiraling down for several years now, and there really isn't a soft landing for numbers of this sort.

Cruddy labor numbers aren't an Obama-specific problem -- the participation rate has been dropping for over a decade, ever since the halcyon days of the dot-com bubble.

But then, we already knew that the lousy economy was a success of bipartisan cooperation. It takes a lot of cross-aisle hand-shaking to drive the national debt from simply disturbing levels to Greek-style over-achievement in the course of a decade. Why wouldn't that sort of talent work equal magic with the labor market?

GOP "Social Darwinism" Quantified! Spend 50 Percent More than Clinton, Pennies Less Than Obama!

Over at Investors Business Daily, the essential John Merline puts the Paul Ryan/GOP budget plan - the one being castigated as the second coming of Herod's babykilling hit squad and worse by spendthrift critics - into the awful perspective it deserves.

When expressed in terms of percentage of GDP (far right), Ryan's plan is higher than historical averages when it comes both to outlays and revenues. When stacked up against Bill Clinton's 2000 budget using constant 2005 dollars, Ryan's plan pulls in the same amount of money while spending 50 percent more.

If that's what passes for "thinly veiled social Darwinism" - President Obama's phrase - the English language is as broke as the federal treasury.

To put the dime's worth of difference between the Ryan plan and Obama's for spending over the next decade, take a look at this chart by Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy.

Total projected spending for 10 years under the Ryan/House GOP plan runs to $40 trillion. Under Obama's framework, it comes to $45 trillion. The only real difference between the two is that Ryan zeroes out spending on The Affordable Care Act.

Under the Congressional Budget Office's "alternative scenario," which is based on likely renewal of certain policies, historical spending patterns, and a passing engagement with reality that is largely missing from legislative and executive branch budget plans, we'll spend $47 trillion over the next 10 years.

Talking Occupy on Libertarian Radio

Last Sunday, April 1, Bob Zadek had me on his San Francisco-based KKSF-AM radio show to discuss the Occupy movement from a libertarian point of view.

I documented the early days of Occupy Wall Street for Reason.tv in several videos, and Zadek and I discussed the roots of the protest, the parallels to the Tea Party movement, and what effect Occupy will have on the 2012 campaign season.

Listen to the whole show here:

Or click here.

Mali Collapse: Libyan Blowback Edition

The West African nation of Mali is on the verge of collapse following a military coup in late March that ousted President Amadou Toumani Touré. A coup, on its own, of course, is not a sufficient condition for the collapse of a country. But there is also an Islamist insurgency in Mali. The AFP reports:

Armed Islamists stormed the Algerian consulate in northeastern Mali and abducted seven diplomats Thursday amid fears Al Qaeda-linked fighters are turning the country into a rogue state and fuelling a humanitarian crisis.

USAID, which has been involved in Mali since 1961, had this to say about the recent democracy’s prospects, which as of post time is still on their site

Since holding its first democratic election in 1992, Mali has become one of the most enlightened democracies in Africa. In 2012, Mali is expected to hold its fifth generation of presidential and legislative elections.

The military coup in Mali came just a month before the presidential election scheduled for April 29. President Touré was not seeking re-election.

Where did the Tuareg rebels overrunning Mali suddenly come from? Libya. The ethnically Berber fighters were used by Colonel Moammar Khadafi during his 40+ year rule in Libya, and were displaced after the Western-backed insurgency toppled Khadafi’s government.  The Tuareg rebels had to travel the Saharan expanse across Algeria to get to Mali, where they are now declaring independence.

Algeria’s state press agency, meanwhile, reports that General Carter Ham, head of Africacom and Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson visited top Algerian officials Wednesday to talk about counter-terrorism on the African continent.

The dispersal of Libyan weaponry and rebels has long been a concern so Mali’s young democracy is unlikely to be the only victim in the aftermath of the Libya intervention.

Nick Gillespie Talks Augusta National, The Master's, IBM & Sexism

I was on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront to talk about whether the club hosting the Master's golf tournament should open its door to women members. Our writeup:

Should Augusta National golf club, which hosts the Master's, give IBM CEO Ginni Rometty an honorary membership? Big Blue is the chief sponsor of the event and each of Rometty's four predecessors got a green jacket. But the club refuses to allow women as members.

Reason's NIck Gillespie discusses the legality and wisdom of sexism with OutFront host Erin Burnett. Air Date: April 4, 2012.

About 6 minutes.

ObamaCare May Be in Legal Trouble, But the New Deal Is Not

What doomsday scenario will unfold if the Supreme Court strikes down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate? Here’s the parade of horribles envisioned earlier this week by President Barack Obama:

“We have not seen a court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on an economic issue, like healthcare, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce,” the president said. “A law like this has not been overturned at least since Lochner. Right? So we’re going back to the ‘30s, pre-New Deal.”

Wrong. Lochner v. New York concerned a state regulation, not a federal one; the law was struck down under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, not the Commerce Clause; and the decision came down in 1905, not “the ‘30s.” Also, the Supreme Court struck down all sorts of state and federal economic regulations after Lochner was decided, so the case hardly represents some sort of outer marker. These aren’t earth-shattering errors by the president, of course, but they are a little unfortunate coming from a former constitutional law lecturer. (Nor is this the first time Obama has been wrong about Lochner.)

But more important, the legal challenge to the individual mandate has nothing whatsoever to do with overturning any New Deal era precedents. When Randy Barnett, Paul Clement, and the other legal challengers argue that it would be unprecedented for the federal government to force us all to buy health insurance from a private company, they mean precisely that. The Supreme Court has never before recognized such a sweeping form of congressional power under the Commerce Claue. The individual mandate is thus without legal precedent. And because the mandate cannot be justified under any existing line of cases, the Supreme Court doesn’t need to overturn any of its previous decisions if it decides to strike the mandate down. So the New Deal’s landmark Commerce Clause rulings, like Wickard v. Filburn (1942)—which allowed Congress to regulate purely local economic activity if that activity has a “substantial effect” on genuine interstate commerce—won’t be touched at all.

The president may breathe a sigh of relief.

"Ideas Having Sex" A Conversation with John Tierney and Matt Ridley

"Where ideas have sex, is in technologies," says author and biologist Matt Ridley, "we give far too much credit to individuals for innovation...all of them are standing on the shoulders of lots of other people."

Ridley discussed his views on trade, invention and creativity with the New York Times' John Tierney at a Reason Foundation event at the Museum of Sex in New York City on March 8, 2012.

The author of "The Rational Optimist," tells Tierney that "Every technology we possess has ideas that occurred to different people in different times and different places...most innovation happens by perspiration not inspiration, it's tinkering...rather than geniuses in ivory towers."

Tierney and Ridley also discuss how traders and businessmen, much maligned throughout history as exploiters and "social parasites," have actually contributed enormously to the spread of ideas and new technological breakthroughs. Ridley describes how Fibonacci, the son of an Italian trader who lived in North Africa, brought the Indian numeral system (the numbers we all know and love today) to Europe as one of the greatest tangible benefits of trade facilitating the exchange of ideas. Ridley implores the public to "Just stop knocking traders, they're great people, they do wonderful things."

Runs about 20.26 minutes.

Produced by Anthony L. Fisher, shot by Jim Epstein and Fisher.

Go to http://reason.tv for downloadable versions of this video and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.

Brickbat: Now You Say You're Sorry

Former New York City police officer Jason Arbeeny was convicted of planting crack cocaine in a couple's car in an effort to frame them. He faced up to four years in prison. But Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach sentenced him to five years probation and 300 hours community service. Reichbach said Arbeeny's tearful apology, after he was convicted, made the difference. "I came into court this morning determined that the nature of this crime requires some jail time," he said. "I frankly didn't expect the defendant, at the 11th hour, to be making these claims."

Brickbat Archive

A.M. Links: Unemployment Falls to 8.2 Percent, EPA Approves More Corporate Welfare for Ethanol Makers, Marine to Be Discharged for Criticizing Obama

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New at Reason.tv: "What We Saw at the San Francisco Marijuana Rally"

Kurt Loder Reviews The Hunter and ATM

If a movie is going to brood, there are probably few better places to do it than the misty forests and mountains of Tasmania. And what better actor to do the brooding than Willem Dafoe, whose chiseled features are by now an emblem of stony concern. Unfortunately, writes Kurt Loder, The Hunter, a new movie from Australia, gives us a few too many things to brood about—the film is a mystery, a thriller, and a (tepid) romance, as well as a tale of spiritual redemption and a cautionary instruction about the incursions of industry into the pristine natural world.

ATM, on the other hand, is a bare-bones horror film that feels a little long even at 90 minutes, thus giving us more time than it should to savor the story’s basic silliness. The movie isn’t quite as claustrophobic as the 2010 Buried, also the work of screenwriter Chris Sparling, but it’s largely confined to a single dismal setting, Loder writes, which hurries the onset of an inevitable monotony.

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Henry Payne on the Obamacare Hearings

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and Frankenstein star in Henry Payne's latest. 

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Historian Writing in Newsweek Forgets He Was Talking About Actual Titanic, Not Metaphor for Financial Collapse

As fascinating as the sinking of the Titanic truly is, it's also been an exhausted metaphor for about 99 years now. Or, as The Onion so flawlessly put it: "The Royal Mail Steamer Titanic, the ill-fated emblem of man's pride, took 1,500 to a watery grave on her doomed, allegorical maiden voyage."  

Now, since we're less than a fortnight from the centennial of the sinking of the once-largest ship in the world, over at The Daily Beast/Newsweek, historian Simon Schama has written up an overview of both the tragedy, and humanity's instantaneous need to react to the event. Schama demonstrates this by noting that the very first Titanic film was a 10 minute silent one made by an actress who survived the sinking. And obviously that is bookended by James Cameron's 1997 Titanic which was the most successful movie of all time for more than a decade. Basically, humanity cannot get over this one damn shipwreck and Cameron firmly cemented this fact, but he is not the cause. 

Schama moves through some of the more heart-breaking tales from the night of April 14-15, 1912: Ida Strauss refusing to leave her husband; Benjamin Guggenheim who said he and his servant were "dressed in our best and prepared to go down like a gentleman;" the epic adventures of Second Officer Charles Lightoller who should have a miniseries about his entire life; the disturbingly low survival rate of children in third class, etc. And yes, Schama notes certain class conflict inevitabilities. Hell, there were literal classes on board; First, second (the existence of those folks wasn't interesting enough for Cameron to include in his film because the middle ain't class warfare-y enough) and third. Third got the short end of the stick, but there are also practical factors like the location of their cabins (the belly of the ship) and language barriers. Call it neglect, not malevolence. 

The old story of the hubris of a lack of lifeboats, though, is true. And the crew of Titanic fared badly. Schama notes, dipping a toe into the political scene:

Many had come from worlds embittered not just by poverty but by brutal class conflict: strikes, strike-breaking, and quasi-military industrial lockouts. Some of this acrimony touched the White Star Line directly and the crew closest to steerage—the stokers, firemen, and stewards—knew it. Titanic’s original master during trials at Belfast—one Captain Haddock (yes, honestly)—faced a strike precisely over the inadequacy of lifeboat accommodation on the liners: the very thing that condemned 1,500 to death.

Chillingly, the shortage of lifeboats was due to shipboard aesthetics, the concern not to clutter the promenade deck of first class. But it was supposed by the likes of Ismay that a full complement of lifeboats would not be needed because of the sophistication of that “unsinkable” technology: the Marconi wireless equipment that in the event of an accident would send out distress messages so quickly that other vessels would be on the scene well before the ship could founder.

All interesting, all good. But eventually something goes wrong. This article is 2055 words long. 1887 of them are a solid, evenhanded, moving look at a real historical event. And then Schama can't help himself. He goes from a grim description of shellshocked survivors sobbing for their husbands in lifeboats at dawn to these last 168 words:

Of course, the supposedly unsinkable liner that is global capitalism recently hit an iceberg, and its name was Lehman Brothers. And lo, in the twinkling of an eye there was much screaming, and the fanciest and most sumptuous vessel looked as though it would slide right into the deep. Now, too, it is steerage that gets the short end of the stick, just as it did in 1912. Will we ever learn that the best systems, the most money, the cleverest engineers, and their most infallible designs are of no avail when it’s that imperfect thing—the human being—that drives them at a reckless speed? Forgive me if I doubt it. But as we sail on into that dark ocean of the future where who knows what perils lurk in the darkness, is it too much to ask that there be at least enough bloody lifeboats for everyone—for us in third class as well as the ladies and gents living it up in the state rooms?

And that's the end. Go read it. There is no segue from history to metaphor. It just appears like a pop-up ad.

The Wall Street Journal noted back in September 2008 that the collapse of the financial sector provoked a surge of awful metaphors. As of October last year Heather Stewart at The Guardian was pretty tired of economic metaphors as well. Hell, Schama is certainly not the first person to compare Lehman Brothers to that old ocean liner. But you're either talking about metaphors for financial collapse or you're talking about the actual Titanic. Talk about the safety of ocean liners (sadly relevant), talk about regulation of shipping, talk about whatever you want, class warfare included. Use whatever metaphor you want, too, but if you're sailing smoothly on the calm ocean of cool historical essays and then ram headlong into the iceberg of abrupt, unrelated, politicized metaphors, the death toll of your credibility will be high.

Reason on the financial collapse and Lehman Brothers and hey, have you heard about the Reason cruise?

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What's Up With Post-War Iraq?

An interesting analysis of Iraq’s bitter oil politics from Reuters:

[For Royal Dutch Shell, the fields in the autonomous Kurdish region] offered rich potential, an easier working environment, better security and attractive contracts. That seemed a winning combination for smaller oil companies already working there, such as Norway's DNO, even though they struggled to collect profits.
But at the 11th hour, industry sources say, Royal Dutch Shell backed out and decided to focus on a $17 billion gas deal in the south rather than sign exploration contracts with the Kurdish Regional Government, which the central government could dismiss as illegal and could prompt reprisals.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports the Iraqi government has postponed a reconciliation conference scheduled to start today, citing “mounting differences,” which apparently must be resolved before talk of reconciliation can start.

The AP ticks off a list of incidents since the U.S. withdrawal in December: the Sunni Vice President Tariq Al-Hashemi has been hiding in Kurdistan since being charged with running sectarian death squads, the Sunni Deputy Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq was banned from Cabinet meetings after calling the Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a “dictator who is worse than Saddam,” and a car bomb blast just missed the local chief of police in Duluiyah in the second attempt on his life this year.

And then there are the autonomous Kurds, who have always had a tense relationship with Baghdad, and were the regular victims of Saddam Hussein’s ethnic cleansing exercises. Their present issues with Baghdad range from territorial disputes to the hottest topic in any Iraqi government, oil exports. The Kurdish government halted oil exports on Sunday in an escalation of a dispute with Baghdad over non-payment of revenue. 

And what of Exxon, the biggest oil company to make the plunge into the Kurdish oil fields?Reuters continues:

When Kurdistan's government announced last year that Exxon had agreed to exploration deals for six Kurdish fields, Baghdad responded with outrage. Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani - architect of Baghdad's oil program - said the U.S. firm could forfeit the contract on its huge West Qurna-1 oilfield in the south if it did not halt work with the Kurds.
Baghdad has since barred Exxon from bidding in the next round of oil deals, although it says the decision is not final. Exxon was also removed from its lead role in a water injection project in the south, although Iraqi officials denied the move was linked to the Kurdish deal.
The central government now says that Exxon has written to it twice since early March to say that its deals with the Kurds have been suspended. The Kurds say Exxon has not halted work in Kurdistan and have challenged Baghdad to publish Exxon's letters.

Could Joe Biden have been right? In 2006, the then Delaware Senator co-wrote a New York Times op-ed with Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus Leslie Gelb advocating a highly decentralized Iraq, roping in the historical example of federated Yugoslavia, forged from the older Yugoslavia during the Balkan Wars in the early 1990s. Yugoslavia ceased to exist in 2003, when the remaining two members, Serbia and Montenegro, formed the Union of Serbia and Montenegro instead.

When John  McCain referred to Joe Biden’s “cockamamie idea” about splitting up Iraq during the 2008 presidential campaign, CNN fact checked it as false, but you’d be forgiven for assuming Iraq would eventually break up under any plan where Yugoslavia is the model. The Biden plan envisioned a central government that would only be “in charge of common interests," but the escalating acrimony in the central government in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in December could be rapidly winnowing what common interests the various Iraqi factions may think they have left.

Obama Respects the Supreme Court Says Eric Holder, Violence in Syria Continues in Anticipation of April 12 Ceasefire, Rick Santorum Gets Attention for Not Dropping Out: P.M. Links

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George Will: Drug Prohibition Is an Awful Flop. We Like It.

In a new column, George Will concedes that seeking altered states of consciousness is "natural," that the distinctions drawn by our drugs laws are not based on the relative hazards posed by these substances, that efforts to suppress the supply of drugs are futile, and that prohibition causes "rampant criminality," "disrespect for law," and "mayhem in Mexico," among other bad consequences. But he worries that legalization would lead to a big increase in drug addiction and the problems associated with it:

Suppose cocaine or heroin were legalized and marketed as cigarettes and alcohol are. And suppose the level of addiction were to replicate the 7 percent of adults suffering from alcohol abuse or dependency. That would be a public health disaster. As the late James Q. Wilson said, nicotine shortens life, cocaine debases it....

Legalization would mean drugs of reliable quality would be conveniently available from clean stores for customers not risking the stigma of breaking the law in furtive transactions with unsavory people. So there is no reason to think today’s levels of addiction are anywhere near the levels that would be reached under legalization.

Since Will begins the column by implicitly conceding that alcohol is morally indistinguishable from illegal drugs, it is disappointing that he leans on Wilson's comment about nicotine vs. cocaine, which is frequently cited by prohibitionists even though it is essentially meaningless. Sometimes cocaine debases life; more often (judgng from, among other things, the government's own survey data), cocaine enhances life, in the sense that it provides pleasure without causing serious problems. It is telling that Wilson picked nicotine for his comparison, since he never could have gotten away with a similarly glib claim about alcohol. Does alcohol debase life? Again, sometimes yes, but typically no. This observation tells us nothing about the proper legal status of either drug.

Contrary to Will's assertion, there are several reasons to believe that the sum total of drug addiction problems would not be much bigger, and might be smaller, if prohibition were repealed:

1) There is a ceiling to the demand for intoxication, and people may use one drug instead of another, rather than in addition to it. To the extent that newly legal marijuana replaces alcohol, for example, people will be less apt to harm themselves or others. The health risks associated with marijuana are in many ways less serious than the health risks associated with alcohol, and there is evidence that the substitution of marijuana for alcohol reduces traffic fatalities.

2) It seems likely that the people most prone to addiction are the ones who are least deterred by the barriers that prohibition erects. Assuming that's true, the addiction rate for a given drug may well be lower after legalization. There still might be an increase in the total number of addicts, but not as big an increase as you would expect based on current rates.

3) The problems associated with addiction are exacerbated by prohibition, which drives prices up, makes drug quality and purity unpredictable, spreads disease by encouraging needle sharing, impedes information about harm reduction, stigmatizes users, entangles them in the criminal justice system, and exposes them to the risk of black-market violence. For all these reasons, a legal addiction is less of a problem than an illegal one. When Will says "legalization would mean drugs of reliable quality would be conveniently available from clean stores for customers not risking the stigma of breaking the law in furtive transactions with unsavory people," he seems to think that's a bad thing. It's not.

It is important to separate addiction—a hard-to-break attachment—from its consequences. Will and Wilson both assert that nicotine kills smokers, for example, when in fact it is smoke that kills smokers. Nicotine itself is safe enough that the FDA has approved it, in various forms, as a substitute for cigarettes. Nonpharmaceutical alternatives such as snus and electronic cigarettes also are much less hazardous, for the same reason: People can consume them without inhaling combustion products. A pack-a-day cigarette smoker who switches to nicotine gum or e-cigarettes may still be addicted to nicotine, but this addiction is now a much smaller problem. Likewise, people can use pharmaceutical-quality opiates for many years without suffering serious health problems, provided they follow sanitary injection practices and do not mix depressants. In addition to eliminating the drug hazards created by prohibition, legalization would enable manufacturers to compete based on safety, offering products that minimize risk while delivering the effects customers want.

Will's addiction concerns seem to be focused on cocaine and heroin. But marijuana is far and away the most popular illegal drug, and the one that is most likely to win widespread acceptance in a legal market. When he was challenged to demonstrate his limited-government principles by supporting marijuana legalization during a televised debate last December, Will said, "I need to know more about whether it's a gateway to other drugs." (He could start here.) Will clearly has been reading up on the subject since then, and one of the sources he cites is UCLA criminologist Mark Kleiman, who favors legalizing marijuana (albeit under a ration-card system). Does Will agree with Kleiman? He promises that "a subsequent column will suggest a more economic approach to the 'natural' problem of drugs," so maybe we'll find out.

One thing that frustrates me about Will's argument is that, like most conservatives (including conservative critics of the war on drugs), he takes a purely utilitarian approach, giving no consideration to the fundamental injustice of using violence to stop people from doing things that might harm them. During that December debate, Will said, "When does X trump personal liberty? Almost never....I don't want to make safety parallel with, equal to, let alone trump personal liberty." If so, why does he let safety trump liberty when it comes to drugs?

Wait a Minute...Medicaid Reform Means Spending Less Money on Medicaid?

Whatever you do, don’t call it a campaign speech. On Tuesday, President Obama gave a speech attacking House Republicans and the GOP Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, for doing something that the Senate, under the control of Democrats, haven’t been able to do in more than 1,000 days: pass a budget.

President Obama described Ryan's budget, which according to the Congressional Budget Office wouldn’t balance the federal books until 2039, as a “radical vision” and warned that “one of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped a similar version of this plan from last year would be introduced as a bill on day one of his presidency” and joked about Romney’s use of the word “marvelous” to describe Ryan’s plan.

An election year extended attack on the other party’s budget plan that explicitly ties the all-but-certain opposition nominee to its proposals? Most people would call that a campaign speech. But not the Obama White House—which, according to The Hill, “strongly denied that President Obama’s attack on the GOP budget was a campaign speech.” Instead, according to administration spokesperson Jay Carney, it was “a policy speech” that “had a lot of detail attached to it.”

What he didn’t say was that some of that detail was misleading, or just wrong.

Here, for example, is what the president said about the Ryan budget’s proposed Medicaid overhaul:

The states can experiment.  They'll be able to run the programs a lot better.  But here's the deal the states would be getting.  They would have to be running these programs in the face of the largest cut to Medicaid that has ever been proposed—a cut that, according to one nonpartisan group, would take away health care for about 19 million Americans—19 million.

This makes it sound as if Ryan’s budget would cut off health coverage for 19 million people immediately. But as Rep. Ryan notes on his Facebook page,* 19 million people is the number of people expected to be enrolled in Medicaid under ObamaCare in the years after 2014, when the major coverage expansions kick in.** [See update below.] So all that really means is that the Ryan budget would repeal ObamaCare, which for the last two years has remained more popular than letting the law stand.

And what about those giant cuts the states would face? Again, Obama’s description makes it sound as if the Ryan plan would take a chainsaw to the Medicaid budget starting tomorrow at sunrise. In fact, even under the most pessimistic projections, the changes would take place over 10 years. Spending in 2014 would be held roughly to 2012 levels (about $256 billion)and then allowed to rise from there; the rise, however, would not be as fast as under the current baseline. So sure: It’s true that over the next decade, the federal government would spend less on Medicaid under Ryan’s plan than on its current trajectory. But that’s the whole point.

Getting the federal budget under control means spending less than current projections forecast. In the long term, it mostly means getting federal health spending under control. Ryan's budget, which passed in the House, contains a number of proposals that would help start this process. Senate Democrats haven't shown any interest in passing anything that would even get it started. As for President Obama, well, I'll leave it to Timothy Geithner to explain the administration's position: "We don't have a definitive solution to our long term problem...we just don't like yours." But remember, this is all just policy, not politics. 

*It’s the future, and this is apparently how these things work now.

Update: A emailer notes that Obama may be getting his 19 million figure from this Kaiser Foundation report, which on page five projects that by 2021 the block grant overhaul in the 2011 version of the House budget would result in Medicaid enrollment being reduced by about 19 million people in addition to those people who would no longer get coverage through ObamaCare. (According to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, the new health law is also expected to increase Medicaid coverage by about 19 million individuals.) But even this is not as drastic a change as it sounds: Reducing Medicaid coverage to a little more than 39 million individuals, as Kaiser projects, would still only roll coverage totals back to roughly the levels they were at between 2002 and 2003. Given the massive problems with Medicaid both as a budget item and a medical benefit, it doesn't seem unreasonable to be wary of a program that consistently causes headaches for both taxpayers and patients. 

Startup All-You-Can-Fly Airline Doesn't Want to See Your Underwear

Last summer, I wrote about an all-you-can-fly startup airline that lets you escape the terrors of a traditional Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening. Now the venture, headed by former economist at the Defense Intelligence Agency Wade Eyerly and his brother David, a pilot and airport manager, has a new name—it was called PlaneRed, now it's Surf Air—and seems to be moving closer to reality.

Surf Air will start with flights between Los Angeles and Palo Alto, plus a couple of other stops. The service boasts 30-second booking online or via a smartphone app. And because the planes are eight-seaters flying out of regional airports, passengers will be exempt from the usual TSA process (which means members can leave their 4th amendment protest underwear at home).

The cheapest membership costs $790, which lets you make two reservations at at time (think: Netflix) and you can even bring a friend on a complimentary guest pass.

Last summer I wrote:

Starting an airline is pretty hard. And when the TSA gets wind of the plan, expect the Leviathan to awake and lumber in its general direction. But if Eyerly manages to get PlaneRed up and running, I know quite a few D.C. frequent flyers who would fall gratefully at the man's feet.

Here's what Surf Air is saying about that right now:

But watch that asterisk:

Good luck guys.

Ron Paul at UCLA

As Romney-in-one-nation seems all the more sadly likely, GOP presidential contender Ron Paul continues the current phase of his campaign: the hugely attended speaking tour, extending and encouraging a movement dedicated to ideas that will resonate long past Tampa or November 2012.

After big events lately in Madison, Wisconsin, the University of Maryland, and Chico, California, Paul drew what was likely between six or seven thousand to UCLA's tennis court, fully packing the 5,800-seat venue with well over a thousand huddled outside. I watched from a tiny knoll overlooking it from outside with a couple of hundred packed fans, dozens of whom took to the trees for a better view. The publicity for it was largely internet based, social networking and the like, though tabling on and around UCLA's campus hyping it was also part of the promotional push.  

The line to get in stretched fully around a soccer stadium, and took a good 12 minutes merely to walk quickly around. Dozens of volunteers walked the line registering people Republican so they could vote for Paul in the California primary in June. Robert Vaughn, a state campaign coordinator for the Paul team, says that over 600 people were registered last night, adding that he and his associate Matt Heath are "thankful and amazed by the work that Youth for Paul and the California volunteers do when it come to any task that is asked of them."  

Well-dressed youngsters wearing volunteer badges were everywhere you turned; one student told me he wasn't even able to volunteer, so overpacked with willing volunteers was the event already. The registration efforts Vaughn was involved with wasn't the only one; in the grand decentralized tradition of the Paul movement, independent fans from Antelope Valley had their own uncoordinated registration booth. Almost everyone I talked to after Paul's speech says they try to make themselves walking ads for Paul in their day to day life and work (and many suspect that the apparent disconnect between Paul's visible fans and his vote totals might have to do with deliberate fraud).

The full panoply of the Paul machine, coordinated and uncoordinated, was there: Young Americans for Liberty activists, Youth for Ron Paul volunteers and staffers, activists from Los Angeles's "Liberty Headquarters" and local candidates for office and for GOP party positions, mavericks giving out homemade Paul T-shirts, and Paul enthusiasts from all of Los Angeles's surrounding counties, chanting and chatting.

The assembled throngs heard Paul deliver his usual rambly talk, 52 minutes worth. I've personally witnessed dozens of these now, and while they are never exactly the same they are rarely that different either.

However, there was a fresh strain last night among his usual exhortations about the dangers of our profligate monetary policy and foreign policy, the unified glories of individual liberty, and the criminal idiocy of trying to police people's personal behaviors that don't directly harm others and government invasions of our privacy: he hit some high-toned notes about the larger meaning of liberty as he sees it, fitting in with a larger vision of proper human flourishing.

Paul stressed more than once--he hits a lot of his points more than once in his talks--that liberty gives us the greatest space to become the "creative, productive people we are meant to be." He is getting closer and closer to delivering a full-service libertarian philosophical vision in his speeches, though he leaves the teasing out of the coherent shape of it all mostly as an exercise for the attentive listener. He remains the total libertarian, though, taking the trouble to mention after a couple of those references to the properly creative and productive best-practices of human life that of course if you choose not to be a flourishing creative and productive being, that's cool too as long as you aren't hurting anyone else.

Paul continues to deliver his libertarian vision in language and with examples that seems 90 percent designed and ready to appeal to a progressive leftist as well, condemning crony capitalism and wealth disparities that arise from special connections and favors and stressing the wealth-creating possibilities for the masses of a truly freed market, along with his usual condemnations of war and government management of personal choices.

Things that get a panoply of booing at a Paul rally: Ben Bernanke, the 16th Amendment, UN and NATO, nuclear-powered drones, the Patriot Act, the NDAA, emergency powers for the president, government attempts to manage our food intake, and the idea that "we are all Keynesians now."

Paul mocked a Fox News story from the other day that asked "Where's Ron Paul?" and suggested the media deliberately downplays the size and enthusiasm of his audience: "We are here, and they will hear from us!"

Some video from the UCLA event. My forthcoming book, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

U.S. Court Gives Thumbs-Up to Snoopy Checkpoints Near-ish the Border

A recent federal ruling in Arizona reinforces the growing use of border stops conducted far from the border, and intended for border security purposes in general, and immigration control in particular, to enforce pretty much any law of interest to the federal government. This, points out theNewspaper.com, despite a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such roadblocks aren't supposed to turn into criminal fishing expeditions.

Experienced travelers know that one of the peculiar attractions of motoring through the desert Southwest is the time spent in contemplative meditation under the warm sun, along a stretch of dusty, beer-bottle-festooned Interstate, waiting to be briefly questioned and then (hopefully) waved through a roadblock by sweaty Border Patrol agents tens of miles from anyplace that might reasonably be represented on a map by a thick, dotted line.

Such restful interludes come courtesy of the "border search exception," which holds that there's an escape clause from the Fourth Amendment, maybe written in invisible ink on the back of the Constitution, allowing for warrantless searches of travelers within 100 miles of the border. Why 100 miles? That appears to be an executive-branch riff on Supreme Court decisions, such as United States v. Montoya de Hernandez, holding that "[a]utomotive travelers may be stopped at fixed checkpoints near the border without individualized suspicion, even if the stop is based largely on ethnicity." The exception holds, writes the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, in the recent case of US v. Ruiz-Perez (PDF), because "Immigration checkpoints such as the one at issue in this case serve a public interest in securing the border."

Public interest? Oh. Well, of course.

Summarizing the case, theNewspaper.com writes:

On January 19, 2011, Omar Ruiz-Perez, a commercial truck driver, was hauling produce from a warehouse in Rio Rico, Arizona to Los Angeles, California for the MRM Xpress trucking company. At around 8:30pm, he hit the roadblock on Interstate 19 located twenty-five miles from the actual border with Mexico.

Border Patrol Agent Christopher Thornton stopped him, and Ruiz-Perez explained that he was a US citizen and provided copies of his bill of lading, as requested. Thornton claimed the truck's US DOT number was "suspiciously high" and the truck's paint was not pristine. He asked if he could look in the back of the truck, and Ruiz-Perez said he did not care. Agents x-rayed the truck and found a hidden compartment containing drugs.


In upholding the stop and subsequent search and arrest over the defendant's objections, Judge Jennifer G. Zipps insists, "the gravity of the public concerns served by the I-19 Checkpoint are high, the checkpoint was reasonably related to these concerns, and the severity of the interference with individual liberty was minimal."

In 2000, in the case of City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, the Supreme Court had ruled against all-purpose vehicle checkpoints, saying, "[w]e cannot sanction stops justified only by the generalized and ever-present possibility that interrogation and inspection may reveal that any given motorist has committed some crime."

But Judge Zipps gives the roadblock in this case a pass because it was billed as a border checkpoint within that magic 100-mile zone around the perimeter of the country -- a "Constitution-free zone," warns the ACLU, that includes nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population.

See theNewspaper.com's full story here.

Polar Bear Decline Somewhat Exaggerated

Good news about polar bears - there are more than many enviromental lobbyist thought. Back in 2008, the Department of Interior listed polar bears as a "threatened" species. The best available science suggested that global warming is causing a loss of sea ice which according to ScienceDaily ...

....threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat.  This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species. 

News stories report now that in a new survey of polar bears around Hudson Bay, a population which is thought to be especially threatened by higher temperatures because they are at the southern end of the species' range, researchers have found more bears than their models predicted: 

An aerial survey done in August by the Nunavut government, in response to pressure from Inuit, estimated the western Hudson Bay bear population at around 1,000.

That's about the same number of bears found in a more detailed study done in 2004. That study, which physically tagged the bears, predicted the number would decline to about 650 by 2011.

Last year's survey found fewer cubs — about 50 — than in previous years, but officials say the new figures show the "doom-and-gloom" predictions of environmentalists about the demise of the polar bear have failed to come true.

"People have tried to use the polar bear as a bit of a poster child — it's a beautiful animal and it grabs the attention of the public — to make people aware of the impact of climate change," said Drikus Gissing, Nunavut's director of wildlife management.

"We are not observing these impacts right at this moment in time. And it is not a crisis situation as a lot of people would like the world to believe it is."  ...

"The population was continually harvested since 2004," he said. "A lot of animals have been removed from that population ... so that should have resulted in a much steeper decline than the one that was predicted in 2004."

In order to "balance out" the good news with gloom, an enterprising reporter need only turn to an environmental lobbyist: 

Peter Ewins, director of species conservation at World Wildlife Fund Canada, said there are other signs the polar bear population is suffering due to climate change.

Hudson Bay polar bears have lost about six weeks of hunting time on the winter ice due to climate change because the freeze often doesn't come until late November and the ice thaws earlier in the spring. With less time to hunt seals, Ewins said he has seen the deteriorating condition of the bears first-hand on many research trips to the North.

When the survival rate of polar bears, the health and number of cubs and their fat score are considered, Ewins said, everything points to a population in trouble.

It turns out that polar bears do not stand on the shore starving as they forlornly look at retreating sea ice, they adapt. Instead of hunting seals, they hunt goose eggs.

But remember folks, environmentalists are never wrong; doomsday always has merely been postponed. 

Reason Rupe: While 51 Percent Oppose Individual Mandate, 56 Favor Employer Mandate

 A recent Reason-Rupe poll finds that half of Americans think it is proper for the federal government to require employers to provide health insurance and 56 percent favor such a regulation, yet 51 percentoppose mandating individuals to obtain health insurance, and 62 percent believe the individual mandate is unconstitutional. It remains unclear how Americans reconcile support for the employer mandate but opposition to the individual mandate.

The following chart demonstrates that 33 percent of Americans favor both an individual and employer health insurance mandate and 28 percent oppose both mandates. However, 20 percent oppose the individual mandate but favor the employer mandate. A small percentage (9 percent) said they favor the individual mandate and also oppose the employer mandate.


Full poll results found here.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted March 10th-20th of both mobile and landline phones, 1200 adults, margin of error +/- 3 percent. Columns may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding. Full methodology can be found here

Emily Ekins is the director of polling for Reason Foundation where she leads the Reason-Rupe public opinion research project, launched in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @emilyekins.

Steve Silverman on 7 Rules for Recording Police

Slowly but surely the courts are recognizing that recording on-duty police is a protected First Amendment activity. But in the meantime, observes Steve Silverman, police around the country continue to intimidate and arrest citizens for doing just that. So if you’re an aspiring cop watcher you must be uniquely prepared to deal with hostile cops. Here are 7 rules for keeping your footage, and yourself, out of trouble.

View this article

Reason-Rupe: 58 Percent of Americans Expect Employer Mandate Will Lower Pay

A new Reason-Rupe poll finds a majority of Americans (56 percent) favor a provision in the new health care law that requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance or else pay a fine.

At the same time, 58 percent of Americans expect the employer mandate to drive employers to pay their workers less, 29 percent expect no significant impact on pay. Even among those who support the provision, 50 percent expect employers to reduce pay.

Moreover, nearly half of Americans (47 percent) expect the employer mandate will lead employers to lay off workers. 39 percent think it will not significantly impact employers’ hiring decisions.

In the midst of a weak economic recovery, it could be problematic that the public expects this provision to potentially lead to lower incomes and layoffs.

Among those who favor the employer mandate provision, over half (53 percent) do not believe it will lead to layoffs. This suggests more people would oppose the provision if more thought it would result in layoffs. 

However, among those who favor the employer mandate, half expect lower worker pay. One might infer that because of the difficulty and disincentives for accessing portable health insurance, independent of employers, individuals are willing to take a pay cut in order to gain access to the health care market. However, if this regulation were to cause people to lose their jobs they could also lose their access to the health care market.

Full poll results found here.

Nationwide telephone poll conducted March 10th-20th of both mobile and landline phones, 1200 adults, margin of error +/- 3 percent. Columns may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding. Full methodology can be found here

Emily Ekins is the director of polling for Reason Foundation where she leads the Reason-Rupe public opinion research project, launched in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @emilyekins.

What We Saw at the San Francisco Marijuana Rally

On April 2, federal agents raided Oaksterdam University as well as the home of Richard Lee, Oaksterdam founder and the main supporter of Prop 19, California's 2010 initiative to legalize marijuana that received 46% of the vote.

On April 3, several hundred people gathered at a rally at the San Francisco City Hall to protest the federal government's crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.

On the City Hall steps, six of the eleven San Francisco Supervisors spoke out against the federal crackdown, as did representatives of the city council, the city attorney's office and the California State Legislature.

Later in the day, protestors marched to the Federal Building a few blocks away and chanted "DEA go away" to a line of federal officers guarding the entrance.

Approximately 2 minutes.

Produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning.

Go to reason.tv for downloadable versions of this video and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live. 

John Stossel on Competing With the Federal Reserve

Americans get jailed for offering alternative currencies to the U.S. dollar. Why must our government make currency competition illegal? According to Hayek, "This monopoly of government, like the postal monopoly, has its origin not in any benefit it secures for the people but solely in the desire to enhance the coercive powers of government." People generally assume that government is careful about preserving the value of the dollar, writes John Stossel. But as we’ve seen, that is far from the case.

View this article

Mitt Romney & Chris Christie: Pro-Business, Yes, But Pro-Market?

Over at the Washington Examiner, Timothy P. Carney makes a crucial distinction that remains lost to too many Republicans (and their critics):

President Obama has thrown taxpayer money at General Motors and Chrysler, touted the bailout of Wall Street, extended $25 billion in export loan guarantees to Boeing, handed out billions in stimulus money to solar and wind companies, given $3 billion to car dealers and automakers through "cash for clunkers," and pushed through a health care law backed by the drug industry that forces Americans to buy private insurance.

But on Tuesday night Mitt Romney attacked Obama as anti-business. [...]

"President Obama has been attacking successful businesses of every kind imaginable," was the heart of Romney's charge. Yes, Obama rants against "fat cats," and targets specific businesses and industries. But more often, the president has propped up businesses and subsidized industries. Romney has heard the tone of Obama's occasional populist rhetoric, but he has apparently missed the substance of Obama's embrace of corporate welfare. [...]

A Republican who believes in free enterprise has a great opportunity, thanks to Obama's corporatism. Indeed, Romney could claim a populist mantel this election. But first Romney has to show that he understands the difference between being pro-free market and being pro-business.

One politician who clearly does not see the difference between pro-free market and pro-business is New Jersey Gov. and occasional vice presidential trial balloon Chris Christie. Here's today's New York Times:

Panasonic received $102.4 million in tax credits to move its headquarters nine miles within New Jersey. Goya Foods picked up $81.9 million in credits to build offices and a warehouse in Jersey City, two miles from its current complex. Prudential Insurance obtained $250.8 million to move a few blocks to a new tower in Newark.

Since taking office in 2010, Gov. Chris Christie has approved a record $1.57 billion in state tax breaks for dozens of New Jersey’s largest companies after they pledged to add jobs. Mr. Christie has emphasized that these are prudent measures intended to help heal the state’s economy, which lost more than 260,000 jobs in the recession. The companies often received the tax breaks after they threatened to move to New York or elsewhere. [...]

Mr. Christie, who has portrayed himself as a fiscal conservative, has in particular used a new program, the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit Program, for the subsidies. The program, which is intended to encourage development around nine cities, offers tax credits equal to 100 percent of some capital investments. [...]

Under the program, the Christie administration has granted more than $900 million in state tax credits over 10 years to 15 companies, including Panasonic, Goya, Prudential and Campbell’s Soup. The companies have promised to add 2,364 jobs, or $387,537 in tax credits per job, over the next decade.

Whole thing here.

Classic Reason piece on the issue: Daniel McGraw, in January 2006: "Giving Away the Store to Get a Store."

Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on Why Bankruptcy is the Only Way to Overcome Motown's Toxic Racial Politics

The Detroit City Council late last evening approved 5-4 a consent agreement with Governor Snyder to clean up the city’s books and rein in the unions whose lavish benefits and pension costs have put the city 45 days from bankruptcy. But Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia writes in her column in The Daily today that the hostility to even a watered-down version of the original agreement -- complete with accusations that it was just a ploy by a racist, white establishment to send Detroiters “back to plantation” -- shows that nothing short of bankruptcy will restore fiscal sanity in this sad town. She notes:

The government is the biggest employer in Detroit, and the sense of entitlement here reaches heights found only in Greece.

And Greece, which has been rocked by riots as the European Union demands austerity measures in exchange for a bailout, is exactly how things might go down in Motown — especially with national black leaders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson ever ready to stoke the racial flames.

Jackson over the weekend declared Detroit “ground zero” in the nation’s urban crisis, joining a coalition of pastors, civil rights leaders and local officials to condemn the alleged assault on the city’s democratic rights. “We are prepared to go from education, mobilization, litigation, legislation, demonstration and civil disobedience,” Jackson thundered…

But by Detroit standards, Jackson is a model of restraint. Rep. John Conyers, whose wife is doing time for accepting bribes when she was on the city council, has flat-out declared that there is a “racial component” to how Snyder is exercising his emergency powers. The Rev. Wendell Anthony, another local firebrand, has commented that he won’t stand by and let Snyder put Detroiters “back in the plantation.” But the prize for incendiary comments goes to Minister Malik Shabazz, who declared: “Before you can take over our city, we will burn it down first.”

Read the whole thing here.

Sheldon Richman on Hillary Clinton’s Loose Talk of War with Iran

When President Barack Obama spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee some weeks ago, he admonished those who engaged in “loose talk of war” about Iran. But apparently, writes Sheldon Richman, Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, didn’t get the memo. She recently told Iran its “window of opportunity” for avoiding a military confrontation was closing rapidly. The Obama administration keeps saying it wants peace in the Middle East. When is it going to start acting like it?

View this article

Obama's "social Darwinism" Nonsense

The president of the United States this week gave a remarkable speech, in which he said, among other silly things, this:

This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether.  It is a Trojan Horse.  Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country.  It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.  It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who's willing to work for it; a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class.  And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last  -- education and training, research and development, our infrastructure -- it is a prescription for decline.

Yes, he is talking about a budget that increases spending by $1.4 trillion over the next decade, and doesn't come anywhere near balancing the budget for as far as the eye can see.

Anyway, about that "social Darwinism" crack, Cato's David Boaz has more:

The arbiters of appropriate expression in America get very exercised when conservatives call Barack Obama a "socialist." They treat the claim in the same way as calling Obama a Muslim, Kenyan, or "the anti-Christ."

But headlines this week report that President Obama accused the Republicans of "social Darwinism," and I don't see anyone exercised about that. A New York Times editorial endorses the attack.

Is "social Darwinist" within some bound of propriety that "socialist" violates? I don’t think so. [...]

[N]o one calls himself a social Darwinist. Not now, not ever. Not Herbert Spencer. The term is always used to label one's opponents. In that sense it's clearly a more abusive term than "socialist," a term that millions of people have proudly claimed. [...]

It's always used as a smear of conservatives and libertarians — by the historian Richard Hofstadter, by the fabulist Robert Reich, and now even by the president of the United States.

Read Reason Senior Editor Damon Root's classic text on the old smear: "The Unfortunate Case of Herbert Spencer: How a libertarian individualist was recast as a social Darwinist."

ATTN, DC Reasonoids! Join John Stossel at Reason's DC HQ on Wednesday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m.!

In his new book, No, They Can't: Why Government Fails But Individuals Succeed, Fox Business Channel's John Stossel dissects the myth of government infallibility and the failure of the nanny state—and he offers a hopeful vision of the ways in which freedom empowers individuals to create a better world.

Join Stossel and Reason's DC-area staff on Wednesday, April 11 from 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. for a reception in celebration of this exciting new book about how freedom lets individuals prosper.

  • What: Reception with John Stossel
  • When: Wednesday, April 11, 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Reason's DC HQ, 1747 Connecticut Ave. NW (Metro: Dupont Circle, Q Street exit)

Beer, wine, and light refreshments will be served.

RSVP by April 9 to Mary Toledo: mary.toledo@reason.org or 310-391-2245.

Brickbat: Bad Neighborhoods

French President Nicholas Sarkozy says those who frequent websites that “promote terror or hatred or violence” should be sent to prison. “Don't tell me it's not possible. What is possible for pedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too,” he said at a campaign rally.

Brickbat Archive

A.M. Links: Invisible Children Releases Another Kony 2012 Video, Connecticut Senate Votes to Kill the Death Penalty, Bush Official Says CIA Committed War Crimes

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New at Reason.tv: "Peter Schiff - The Fed Unspun: The Other Side of the Story"

Keith Olbermann: More Like a Chandelier Than Even He Realized

During a recent appearance on David Letterman's show, deposed Current TV host (late of ESPN, Fox, and MSNBC) Keith Olbermann likened himself to a "$10 million chandelier" while complaining that Al Gore's much-ballyhooed cable channel just didn't get its act together.

“It’s my fault that it didn’t succeed in the sense that I didn’t think the whole thing through,” Mr. Olbermann said on CBS‘ “Late Show,” discussing his dismissal from the avowedly liberal cable network less than a year into a five-year, $50 million contract.

“I didn’t say, ‘You know, if you buy a $10 million chandelier, you should have a house to put it in. Just walking around with a $10 million chandelier isn’t going to do anybody a lot of good, and it’s not going to do any good to the chandelier.”

“You’re the chandelier?” Mr. Letterman asked.

Yes, Mr. Olbermann replied.

[Story continues after 12 second video!]


Over at the Washington Times, Patrick Hruby tallies up the ways in which various observers agree that Olbermann is in fact like a chandelier:

The immodest, self-serving comparison prompted a series of snarky Twitterbon mots: “OLBERMANN CHANDELIER now available at Ikea,” wrote television writer and Vanity Fair magazine contributor Nell Scovell. “Combine with POMPÜS DINING TABLE and SMÜGG CHAIRS.”

Keith Olbermann says he’s a 10 million dollar chandelier,” wrote Warren Holstein, a New York City-based standup comedian. “Mitt Romney offers to buy him, hang him and turn him off.”

“Fragile?” wrote conservative commentator S.E. Cupp.

And there's these: chandeliers look down from above, are brittle, a pain to work with, mostly for show, and more.

Read the whole thing here.

Back in November 2010, Reason.tv compiled this minute-long memorial tribute to Olbermann after he was "indefinitely suspended" by MSNBC for running afoul of the network's rules on giving to political campaigns (the suspension didn't last very long). Whether he reappears on the small screen again, we'll always have this triple-distilled medley of his greatest hits:


Steve Chapman on How Religious Republicans Are Alienating an Increasingly Nonreligious Electorate

"Each year, fewer and fewer Americans identify as secular Republicans or religious Democrats," write political scientists David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. "Formerly religious Democrats (except among African Americans) have drifted away from church, and formerly unobservant Republicans have found religion." That may sound like a reasonable trade for conservative Christians, writes Steve Chapman. Who needs skeptics and scoffers anyway? But it has some side effects they may come to regret.

View this article

Reason Writers at CNN.com: Matt Welch on the GSA Scandal and the Real "Sin City"

Writing at CNN Opinion, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch compares two politically controversial Las Vegas trips: That of Wells Fargo executives in 2009, and General Services Administration employees in 2010. Excerpt:

A funny thing about collective shame -- we are happy to administer it on CEOs who get their arms twisted by the feds, yet we shy away from applying it to one of the only truly collective entities we have: taxpayer-funded government. [...]

And let's not forget what the GSA does: As The New York Times puts it, the agency is "essentially the government's personal shopper for big-ticket items, like buying and leasing buildings and cars." These are precisely the people tasked with making sure taxpayer dollars are spent most wisely. [...]

The surprise isn't that a federal agency went wild, or even that it got caught. What remains a genuine stumper is that the rest of the country hasn't quite figured out that the real Sin City has relocated 2,500 miles east.

Read the whole thing here.

Come Back, Technology, All is Forgiven: A Libertarian Repents

Jeff Tucker, formerly of the Mises Institute and now running the venerable Laissez-Faire Books, writes of how he learned to stop worrying and love techno-modernity. Tucker (the man who taught me that shaving cream is a lie--that alone has saved me nearly $15 in Barbasol over the past half-decade) has a stirring take on the benefits of this wired world, and how evading it is often just hurting yourself.

Some highlights, including a mea culpa over a negative review of former Reason editor Virginia Postrel's dynamism-defending The Future and Its Enemies:

those people who bemoan the pace of technological development are not really longing for the state of nature. They are just sick of being hounded, badgered, hectored and pushed — as they see it — constantly to learn new things, acquire new gizmos, keep up-to-date and buy the latest thing....

I get this all the time when I talk to people about new stuff. Their first response is often: “No thanks. I’ve had it with all this techno wizardry and digital age mania. Whatever happened to a world in which people had authentic human contact, admired the beauty of God’s creations and developed genuine relationships, instead of virtual ones?”....  

I talked to a person the other day whose aging sister absolutely refuses to get a computer, an email address or a cellphone. Yes, such people do exist. When siblings want to contact her, they call or write a letter with a stamp. There is no sharing of photos, no video Skype, no keeping up with daily events. Everyone in the family is very close in the way that only digital technology allows, but this one person is the outlier, cut off from what everyone else experiences on a daily basis.  

I asked if she feels cut off. The answer: Yes, and she is very unhappy about it. She complains that people don’t travel long distances to see her enough. They don’t call enough. She is losing track of what is happening with the grandkids. She has a constant sense that she is just out of it, and this depresses her.

Exactly. She is not actually happy with her choice. It’s just that making this choice seems easier than learning new things and buying new stuff. So she rationalizes her decisions as a principled stand against the digitization of the world.

My experience is that these people have no idea the extent to which they inconvenience others. In fact, I would say that it comes close to being rude. It is not immoral, but it sure is annoying. Instead of dropping an email or posting on a Facebook wall or clicking a button on Skype, family members have to write out up their communications and stick them in an envelope and find a stamp and walk to a mailbox and wait a week or two or three to get an answer back.

It’s all kind of crazy. People do it for a while, but then eventually find themselves annoyed and give up. Then the person on the other end gets angry and upset and feels ignored or cut off.....

True confession: I was once among the late adopters. I freely put down the techno enthusiasts. I wrote a highly negative review to Virginia Postrel’s provocative book The Future and Its Enemies, which turns out to have seen what I did not see. After the digital revolution advanced more and more, I began to notice something. By being a late adopter, I gained no advantage whatsoever. All it meant was that I paid a high price in the form of foregone opportunities. If something is highly useful tomorrow, chances are that it is highly useful today, too. It took me a long time to learn this lesson.

Finally, I did, and my fears, excuses, rationalizations and strange anti-tech snobbery melted away.

To really engage life to its fullest today means being willing to embrace the new without fear. It means realizing that we have more mental and emotional resources to take on new challenges. If we can marshal those and face these challenges with courage and conviction, we nearly always find that our lives become more fulfilling and happy.

Reason.tv video on Why the Future is Better Than You Think:

DOMA Still Messing With Gay People's Ability to Sponsor Spouses for Green Cards

On Monday the group Immigration Equality filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of five married couples who have tried in vain to sponsor their foreign spouses for green cards.What's hindering them more than most couples (and that's saying something with the U.S.'s system) is the fact that they are gay couples. They're all legally married couples, mind, but that's under state law. And if the drug war reaffirms anything, it's that feds rule, states drool.

The big, fat Defense of Marriage Act is still preventing these couples from receiving any federal benefits or recognition of their unions, which would includes the fact that their foreign spouses are immediate relatives who should therefore be sponsorable. This nonsense, says the lawsuit, is a violation of their constitutional rights to equal protection.

According to the New York Daily News, the lawsuit was filed against a whole mess of big names:

Attorney General Eric Holder; Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director Alejandro Mayorkas; Robert M. Cowan, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services National Benefits Center; and Daniel Renaud, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Vermont Service Center.

This whole federal ripping apart of families thing has been happening for a while, in spite of the Obama administration's 2011 declaration that it will stop defending DOMA. And whether you're on the let's get government out of marriage entirely camp (sweet), the my morals should be law camp (not that), or the say, this whole inconsistently in law thing is kind of indefensible camp (that!), it's hard to find the reason why this lawsuit wouldn't have merit. We're talking not just positive benefits, tax breaks, etc. from the state, but the fundamental right to stick with your partner and (hopefully) true, true love. DOMA's death is long overdue.

Reason on immigration and on gay marriage; And Reason.tv on "Why Marriage is Winning"

The Top 6 Libertarian Science Fiction Novels of the Year

Step right up and get yer dose of new libertarian science fiction right here, folks. The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced this year's Prometheus Award finalists. They include some old standbys—Vernon Vinge, Ken MacLeod, and Terry Pratchett—and some new names publishing in new venues—Thomas L. James and Carl C. Carlsson.

The Children of the Sky (TOR Books) - A sequel to Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and in the same universe as Prometheus-winning A Deepness in the Sky, this novel focuses on advanced humans, stranded and struggling to survive on a low-tech planet populated by Tines, dog-like creatures who are only intelligent when organized in packs. The most libertarian of the three human factions and their local allies must cope with the world's authoritarian factions to advance peaceful trade over war and coercion.

The Freedom Maze (Small Beer Press) - Delia Sherman's young-adult fantasy novel focuses on an adolescent girl of 1960 who is magically sent back in time to 1860 when her family owned slaves on a Louisiana plantation. With her summer tan, she's mistaken for a slave herself, and she learns the hard way what life was like.  In the process, she comes to appreciate the values of honor, respect, courage, and personal responsibility.

In the Shadow of Ares (Amazon Kindle edition)- This young-adult first novel by Thomas L. James and Carl C. Carlsson focuses on a Mars-born female teenager in a near-future, small civilization on Mars, where hardworking citizens are constantly and unjustly constrained by a growing, centralized authority whose excessive power has led to corruption and conflict.

Ready Player One (Random House) - Ernest Cline's genre-busting blend of science fiction, romance, suspense, and adventure describes a virtual world that has managed to evolve an order without a state and where entrepreneurial gamers must solve virtual puzzles and battle real-life enemies to save their virtual world from domination and corruption. The novel also stresses the importance of allowing open access to the Internet for everyone.

The Restoration Game (Pyr Books) - Set in a world whose true nature is a deeper mystery, this philosophical and political thriller by Ken MacLeod (winner of Prometheus awards for Learning the World, The Star Fraction, and The Stone Canal) explores the dark legacy of communism and the primacy of information in shaping what is "reality" amid Eastern European intrigue, online gaming, romance and mystery.

Snuff (Harper Collins) - A Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett (winner of a Prometheus Award for *Night Watch*, also set in Discworld),  *Snuff* blends comedy, drama, satire, suspense and mystery as a police chief investigates the murder of a goblin and finds himself battling discrimination. The mystery broadens into a powerful drama to extend the world's recognition of rights to include these long-oppressed and disdained people with a sophisticated culture of their own.

For more on the wide world of libertarian SF, check out my 2008 story hooked to that year's award, "Tor's Worlds Without Death or Taxes."

Jesse Walker wrote about Ken Macleod in 2000. Peter Suderman briefly reviewed Children of the Sky in the April issue.

And check out Reason TV's chat with Vernon Vinge:

U.S. to Try 9/11 Conspirators, Obama Signs STOCK Act, New Orleans Cops Get Decades for Katrina Murders: P.M. Links

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Nick Gillespie on OutFront with Erin Burnett, Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld Tonight!

I'll be showing up on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront tonight. The show airs from 7pm to 8pm ET and I'll be talking about whether clubs such as Augusta National, which hosts the Master's golf tournament, should be forced to open its membership rolls to women.

And I'll be on Fox News' Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, which airs at 3am to 4am ET. I'll join guests Remi Spencer and Ann Coulter, and we'll all mix things up with the original GG, Bill Schulz, and TV's Andy Levy.

Nick Gillespie on the Panic Over School Bullies

In a widely commented-upon piece that originally ran in The Wall Street Journal, Nick Gillespie argues that the current concern over bullying in schools misses the essential point that schools are actually getting safer for kids.

View this article

Don't Call the Cops No. 359: Police Keep Suspiciously Large Tip

Minnesota area waitress sues to get back money she foolishly tipped off the cops to. Details:

According to the lawsuit filed three weeks ago:

The waitress was working at the Moorhead Fryn’ Pan when she noticed that a woman had left a to-go box from another restaurant on the table.

The waitress picked it up, followed the woman to her car and tried to give her the box, but the woman replied, “No, I am good; you keep it.”

The waitress thought that was strange, but she agreed and went back inside the restaurant, the lawsuit states. The box felt too heavy to contain only leftovers, so she looked inside and found cash rolled up in rubber bands.

“Even though I desperately needed the money as my husband and I have 5 children, I feel I did the right thing by calling Moorhead Police,” she states in the lawsuit.

Police arrived and seized the money, which the woman was told amounted to roughly $12,000. She was first told the money would be hers if it wasn’t claimed within 60 days, the lawsuit states. Then she claims she was told to wait 90 days.

Ninety days passed, and police told her she wouldn’t receive the money because it’s being held as part of a drug investigation. Instead, she got a $1,000 reward.

She has filed suit in Clay County District Court to get the money back. Good luck.

Reason on police asset forfeiture.

Global Temperature Trend Update: March 2012

Every month University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer report the latest global temperature trends from satellite data. Below are the newest data updated through March, 2012. 

U.S. Hits Record Highs in March: Iowa is the "warmest" place on Earth

Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.13 C per decade

March temperatures (preliminary) baseline: 30-year average for the month

Global composite temp.: +0.11 C (about 0.20 degrees Fahrenheit) 

Northern Hemisphere: +0.13 C (about 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit) 

Southern Hemisphere: +0.09 C (about 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit) 

Tropics: -0.11 C (about 0.20 degrees Fahrenheit) 

February temperatures (revised):

Global Composite: -0.11 C below 30-year average

Northern Hemisphere: -0.01 C below 30-year average

Southern Hemisphere: -0.21 C below 30-year average

Tropics: -0.28 C below 30-year average

(All temperature anomalies are based on a 30-year average (1981-2010) for the month reported.)

Did you experience an unusually warm March? The UAH press release explains that you were not alone if you live in the lower 48 states:

Compared to seasonal norms, March 2012 was the warmest month on record in the 48 contiguous U.S. states, according to Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Temperatures over the U.S. averaged 2.82 C (almost 5.1° Fahrenheit) warmer than normal in March.

The previous U.S. record warm anomaly in the 33-year satellite temperature record was in November 1999, when temperatures over the U.S. averaged 2.22 C (about 4° F) warmer than the seasonal norm for November. The next warmest March was in 2007, when temperatures over the U.S. were 2.0 C (about 3.2° F) warmer than normal.

While the long-term climate trend over the U.S. has seen warming at the rate of about 0.21 C (almost 0.38° F) per decade during the past one third of a century, March’s temperature anomaly is just that: an anomaly, Christy said. “We see hot and cold spots over the globe every month, and this was just our turn. A one-time anomaly like this is related to weather rather than climate. Weather systems aligned in March in a way that changed normal circulation patterns and brought more warm air than usual to the continental U.S.”

In fact, the warmest spot on the globe in March (compared to seasonal norms) was northeastern Iowa, where temperatures for the month averaged 6.20 C (about 11.2° F) warmer than normal.

By comparison, the winter (DJF) of 2011-2012 averaged 0.94 C (about 1.7° F) warmer than seasonal norms for the continental U.S.

In recent years March has not typically seen temperature extremes over the U.S. The March 2011 temperature for the “lower 48” was at the seasonal norm.

The coolest spot on Earth in March 2012 was northwestern Alaska, where temperatures averaged 3.89 C (7.0° F) colder than normal.

Go here for the satellite temperature data. 

Peter Schiff - The Fed Unspun: The Other Side of the Story

"Ben Bernake fancies himself as a student of the Great Depression," says renowned investment broker, global strategist, author, and Austrian economist Peter Schiff, "but... if he were my student he would have gotten an F."

During a lecture entitled "The Fed Unspun: The Other Side of the Story", Schiff responded to Bernake’s recent four-part college lecture series, rebutting many of the Federal Reserve Chairman's claims about the cause of the housing crisis, the role of the Federal Reserve, the value of the gold standard, and more.

Cosponsored by the FreedomWorks Foundation and hosted at Reason Foundation’s DC office on March 29, 2012, the lecture was followed by a lively Q&A with the assembled audience, including students who attended Bernanke’s George Washington University lectures.

Shot by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein. Edited by Swain. Additional help from Anthony Fisher.

Approximately 1 hour and 26 minutes long.

Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of this video and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.

David Harsanyi on the Dangers of Direct Democracy

Democrats have fought hard to undo safeguards against direct democracy, attaching a morality to a process that can do both good and bad. They have created ballot measures to do away with the Electoral College. They'd like Washington, rather than localities, to dictate nearly everything. Why not? Democracy allows rhetoric, false empathy and emotion to pummel rational thinking—so it's no wonder so many politicians thrive in it. The Supreme Court, writes David Harsanyi, should rise above democracy, not give in to it. That's the point.

View this article

We Are the Police, and We Are Here to Help Kill You

Early on the morning of November 19, Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68-year-old former Marine and retired correctional officer with a heart condition, accidentally set off his LifeAid medical alert pendant while sleeping in his White Plains, New York, apartment. Unable to contact Chamberlain via its two-way audio box, LifeAid called the White Plains Department of Public Safety. Police officers arrived to help Chamberlain 17 minutes later. Instead they ended up killing him.

When police knocked on his door, New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez reports, a bleary and annoyed Chamberlain told them he was fine and did not need any help. They insisted on coming in anyway, and "a nearly hour-long standoff ensued." According to the official police report, officers "heard loud noises inside and thought someone else might be in danger." As more officers arrived with their guns drawn, Gonzalez says, Chamberlain "became increasingly agitated." Both Chamberlain's niece, who lived in another apartment upstairs, and the LifeAid dispatcher, who heard the whole confrontation via the audio box, offered to mediate but were rebuffed. Police camera footage, as described to Gonzalez by Chamberlain's son and the family's lawyers, shows that when the cops finally forced their way in, Chamberlain was "standing inside his apartment, wearing only boxer shorts, with his arms at his side and his hands empty." Yet the cops immediately tasered the man with a heart condition they had come to help, and later one officer (who so far has not been publicly identified) shot him twice in the chest—a moment the cameras missed.

Police say Chamberlain came at them with a knife. The family's lawyers say he was unarmed. White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong deemed the shooting a "warranted use of deadly force." But on Friday, Gonzalez notes, "White Plains Mayor Tom Roach issued his first public statement of condolences to the dead man’s family," apparently responding to critics who questioned the official account in light of the details that Chamberlain's family has brought to light. The Daily White Plains reports that "172,134 people have signed a petition urging the district attorney’s office to release audio and video" of the confrontation. On Monday, more than four months after Chamberlain's death, the Westchester County District Attorney's Office confirmed that it will present the case to a grand jury.

Last week I noted another case in which police said they had to kill an "agitated" man who pulled a knife on them when they invaded his apartment.

[Thanks to Mike Miskulin for the tip.]

Is the Obama Administration Giving States Flexibility When It Rejects Proposals to Reduce Medicaid Costs?

The Obama administration frequently refers to the state-level "flexibility" it gives states to manage their own health systems; its proposed rules governing ObamaCare's state based health exchanges employs the word 38 times. But that flexibility is often a mirage, especially when it comes to the single biggest state budget item: Medicaid. 

When states complain about not having flexibility to manage their Medicaid programs as they’d like, this is the sort of thing they’re talking about. Via Kaiser Health News:

The Obama administration has rejected Hawaii’s proposal to limit most adult Medicaid recipients to 10 days of hospital coverage per year, which would have been the strictest in the nation.

Instead, Hawaii has been approved to implement a 30-day hospital coverage limit starting July 1, state and federal health officials say. Exempted from the limit are children, pregnant women, those undergoing cancer treatment, the elderly and the blind and disabled.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is still mulling aproposal from Arizona last September to limit adult Medicaid patients to 25 days of hospital coverage  a year.

It’s also why converting Medicaid’s system of federal matching dollars, which encourages states to ratchet up spending by giving them roughly a dollar of federal money for every home state dollar they put toward the program, to a block grant program paired with increased state-level authority over their own Medicaid programs seems like such a no brainer. Rather than making spending increases easy and reductions painful, as the matching dollars system does, block grants would give states a predetermined amount of federal funding and then encourage them to experiment with the best ways to use that money. Right now, though, even the most basic attempts at experimentation have to wait endlessly for federal approval and many are rejected. 

Here's my 2011 take on block granting and the Medicaid mess in The Wall Street Journal

Esquire's Pay-for-Play Journalism in China

Hey look! Esquire yesterday was nominated for three presitigious National Magazine Awards! Congratulations, Esquire! (Reason, alas, got shut out.)

In other Esquire news, the Chinese edition of the magazine peddles its news pages to the highest bidder without disclosing anything to readers. Here's today's New York Times:

Want a profile of your chief executive to appear in the Chinese version of Esquire? That will be about $20,000 a page, according to the advertising department of the magazine, which has a licensing agreement with the Hearst Corporation in the United States. [...]

Executives at the Chinese language version of Esquire magazine say they regularly publish soft news features that are essentially ads masquerading as news.

One example was a feature about a European audio company, Bang & Olufsen, that supplies equipment to Audi, the automaker. Nothing in the magazine indicated that the Chinese Esquire had been paid to run it.

But the magazine received at least $10,000 a page for the five-page feature, according to the publication's executives, who e-mailed images of it as an example of the paid genre. They, and others who helped produce the article, said Audi was involved in the payment. A spokesman in China for Audi declined to comment. Cheryl Sim, a Bang & Olufsen spokeswoman in the company's Singapore office, said it was not the company's practice to pay for news coverage. "We certainly did not pay in this Esquire case," she said. "But we'll look into the matter." The Hearst Corporation declined to comment.

I wrote and edited (respectively) articles very similar to the New York Times piece in 1992 Czechoslovakia and 1996 Hungary. Journalism outlets there, including respected publications owned by venerable Western media companies, were engaging in undisclosed pay-to-play, often with the participation and even encouragement of notable Western advertising and P.R. firms. As a purely moral and journalistic matter, I hope the people who know better–particularly the Hearst Corporation–catch heat for this. The ultimate competitive advantage in journalism is not pocketing today's bribe money, but spreading and selling tomorrow's culture in which integrity is rewarded and corruption scorned. 

Brickbat: Drooling Idiots

A Houston County, Alabama, teacher and a teacher's aide have been placed on administrative leave after being caught on tape telling a 10-year-old student with cerebral palsy that the drool on his face is gross and disgusting. The boy's mother hid a recorder in his wheelchair after he became unhappy at school. The recorder also indicates that he may have been left alone with no instruction for long periods of time.

Brickbat Archive

A.M. Links: Romney Ready for Obama, NBC Apologizes for Awful Editing of George Zimmerman Phone Call, How Ford Recovered Without a Bailout

  • Mitt Romney didn't even mention Rick Santorum in last night's victory speech, instead walloped on Barack Obama. 
  • Eighteen tornadoes ripped across Texas yesterday, damaging 650 homes
  • NBC apologizes for its awful, awful editing of the George Zimmerman 911 call.  
  • Feds say no more QE, dollar goes up.
  • California students pepper sprayed en masse while shouting "No cuts, no fees, education should be free" and trying to push their way into a board meeting. 
  • How Ford avoided a bailout and bankruptcy.  

Do you want hot links and other Reason goodies delivered to your inbox twice a day? Sign up here for Reason's morning and afternoon news updates. 

New at Reason.tv: "5 Keys to Restoring America's Prosperity: John B. Taylor" 

Earlybirds Arise: Nick Gillespie on Fox & Friends around 8.50 AM

I'll be on Fox & Friends this morning to discuss my piece about school bullying that ran over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal.

For info on Fox & Friends, go here.

To read my WSJ article (no sub required), go here.

Jacob Sullum on Three Things People Don't Know About the Trayvon Martin Case (but Think They Do)

People who are convinced that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin for no good reason frequently say it's absurd to suggest that an unarmed 17-year-old could have posed a deadly threat to a 28-year-old man who outweighed him by 100 pounds. According to a story in Monday’s New York Times, however, Zimmerman is only 20 pounds heavier than Martin, who was four inches taller. Given that such basic facts are still a matter of dispute, says Senior Editor Jacob Sullum, we should be especially cautious about rushing to judgment on the bigger questions.

View this article

Romney Wins Maryland, Wisconsin and Moscow on the Potomac

Mitt Romney won Republican primaries in and out of the Beltway tonight. 

Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia all went for the former Massachusetts governor. 

More delegate math to help you sleep

Former Keystone State Sen. Rick Santorum says the campaign, like Detroit, is only at halftime

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is headed for the Golden State

Last-place candidate Newt Gingrich is pledging to stay in the race

As Romney closes in on the nomination, Republicans can be expected to coalesce around a strategy of depicting President Barack Obama as a far-leftist who insists on blaming the political opposition for his own failures. 

Obama has deftly moved to parry this strategy by denouncing revanchist enemies of the proletariat, calling for a purge of the kulaks upholding the laws of the petty bourgeoisie and pledging to deliver the workers from expropriation of surplus labor value by the plutocrats

Is The Hunger Games Libertarian?

Nestled snugly atop the box office right now rests The Hunger Games. The movie is based on a Young Adult novel by Suzanne Collins and it's the latest in a line of series (See: Twilight and Harry Potter) to make teens and unashamed adults flip out and reach for their wallets. Meanwhile the movie's $150 million-and-counting haul in its first week of release, plus the two more book sequels to turn to profit means more delicious chocolate gold for a lackluster movie bizs is on its way.

For those not in the know, the books are the story of a future North America ruled over by an opulent and oppressive capital city which exploits and oppresses most citizens as they wallow in menial labor and bare-bones survival. Worse still, every year, as punishment for a failed revolution, 24 children from around the country must compete in the eponymous games. The proceedings are portrayed partially as a withering, hyper-critique of reality TV-style disconnect, as rich capital citizens watch the life and death struggles as entertainment. But within the story, the games' true purpose is to keep the government's power over their very lives fresh in the minds of citizens in case anyone else feels like revolting. The books' narrator is a 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen who heroically takes her little sister's place when the youngster is picked most unluckily for the games. Things follow, drama, bloodshed, some romance. 

But, say, is this saga of an oppressive government that hinders freedom of movement, expression, and even trade, while holding the ultimate power of life and death over its citizens remotely libertarian? 

A lot of people seem to think so. Today Dave Grant at The Christian Science-Monitor muses "The Hunger Games: Should Ron Paul be a Hunger Games super fan?"

His answer, in awkward, libertarian-basic-prose, is yes indeed: 

The Hunger Games trilogy has violence as its main consideration. But whether it's on war or myriad other topics, we don't think Great Libertarian Poobah Ron Paul would quibble with many of the sentiments sprinkled in Collins's writing.

Let's run through four of them.

1. "As long as you can find yourself, you'll never starve," Katniss recalls her father telling her. In this case, the play is on her name, a sort of bluish tuber that she claws up from a riverbank. The book begins on this note of ultimate self-reliance, that only the individual can keep life alive.

To avoid starvation with help from the government, one must enter a devil's pact. While all citizens are entered into the Reaping, a lottery to decide which boy and girl will be sent into the hellish Hunger Games, citizens can opt to enter their name more than once for a year's supply of vital – but meager – foodstuffs. And the entries are cumulative each year from age 12 to age 18.

If you can provide for yourself, the Hunger Games tells us, you can make it through. If it's government help you want, the price may be your very life.

2. “District 12: Where you can starve to death in safety,” Katniss laments near the book's outset. It's forbidden for the people of Katniss's district to venture out into the woods to hunt, fish, or gather plants. Here one could hear echoes of the cries of libertarians, crying out against a government that by securing total security has all but destroyed liberty.

In other words, one must rely on themselves to survive, even in the face of a government that restricts almost all avenues to prosperity.

3. Government bureaucrats, a favorite libertarian target, get a very harsh reading. Not only are Panem's paper pushers aesthetically and culturally bankrupt, the book makes clear, they consider themselves far superior to people from the nation's 12 districts.[...] 

4. Lazy, capricious and warmongering. And it's the last third of those that is most accentuated in the Hunger Games. In the modern libertarian movement, the answer to war is to stop "policing the world."

Libertarian's hold that a force capable of defending the United States should be the mission ofAmerican military spending. Simply put, the goal isn't to find ways to insert oneself into conflict but to protect oneself and fight if attacked. Petaa, Katniss's fellow gladiator from District 12, gives a succinct statement that weds a libertarian instinct about violence to his desire to subvert the entire violent system.

"No, when the time comes, I'm sure I'll kill just like everybody else," he says. "I can't go down without a fight. Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to... to show the Capitol they don't own me. That I'm more than just a piece in their Games."

It's not just the CSM. 

Several of Lew Rockwell's writers were all in a tizzy about the meaning behind the movie and books (as well as their appeal to teenagers being nothing but a positive sign; a bookend, if you will, to Ron Paul's success with the kids). Southern Avenger Jack Hunter dubbed it "a libertarian movie." A very alarmed writer for Naturalnews.com is sure the oppressive government portrayed is on its way. Other writers have said it's vaguely survivalist or a " Junior Tea Party training manual." Sam Staley over at the Independent Institute thinks "Katniss Everdeen is is almost Randian in her individualistic quest for liberty."

Intriguing, but let us turn to the excellent law blog Volokh Conspiracy where Ilya Somin gets to the heart of the problem with these hopeful analysis of the books. So many of the critiques of the stories' fictional society are usable for leftists who claim that fuzzy, good government is the answer to such bad government! (And indeed, the author's politics seem pretty unknown):

Collins does indeed convey a very skeptical view of government. Not only the Capitol but even the government promoted by its opponents turns out to be tyrannical, which suggests that the flaws of government are institutional and not merely the result of the wrong leaders being in power.... The “sybarite class” of the Capitol and their oppression of the twelve districts can be seen as a classic leftist parable of the oppression of the poor by the rich. The game show-like nature of the Hunger Games can be interpreted as an indictment of commercialism. And perhaps the true way forward for Panem is a government that cracks down on commercialism, redistributes wealth to the poor, and gives everyone free food and health care.

Quite. And speaking as someone who literally read the first book this last weekend (it went down easy enough in a few hours. It's entertaining, with some satisfyingly disturbing moments, I would have loved it a decade or so ago), I also reveled in its good, old fashioned railing against the state moments. But I also wondered if the books/movie were any more overtly libertarian than any other dystopian tale. Plenty of left and right folks are quite keen on throwing off shackles and putting on different chains in just their size. Critiquing one government is, to most people, probably not critiquing all governments or the nature of government period.

But then we have to ask, so what if it's not libertarian on purpose? I delight in seeing any strongly anti-government characters or acts portrayed in fiction, from Firefly, to Parks and Recreation, to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. But the most famous skewering of oppressive government, the book that gave us "Orwellian," "doublesthink," "Big Brother," and other words now about as overused as Hitler comparisons, was written by old George "democratic socialist" Orwell. Maybe it doesn't matter the creator's intention if disturbing truths about the nature of the state can be sussed out and inferred from the art. And if that art is as popular as The Hunger Games, so much the better. 

Reason's Peter Suderman and Kurt Loder both reviewed The Hunger Games film

Gary Johnson, Likely Libertarian Party Candidate, on Colbert Last Night

Gary Johnson did a good job hyping the non-kookiness of libertarian beliefs on wars in the Middle East, the drug wars, and gay marriage, among others. Colbert asks him why Johnson couldn't do well with the GOP; Johnson managed to answer without sounding whiney, and says his "message is the same as Ron Paul's...what happens to this message when he gets out of the race?," and talks up both fiscal sense and social tolerance.

I look forward to more chances for Johnson to use the bully pulpit of presidential candidacy to get this message out. Colbert is savvy enough about the LP to realize that it isn't a sure thing that Johnson will win the Party's hand, or at least thought it would make a funny set-up. Johnson says he hopes he can hit 15 percent as the LP's candidate.

Here's the video.