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: email@example.com or 310-391-2245.
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.)
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?
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
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, 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.
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!
“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
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.
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:
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
- 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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:MORE »
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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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."
- "The country's employers added 120,000 jobs in March as the unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday."
- If you thought E10 was a waste of money (and hell on your car's internals), wait until you try E15.
- Key Democrats aren't donating to Barack Obama's super PAC.
- Who will be the Republican vice presidential nominee?
- Marine who criticized Obama likely to be discharged (not honorably) after nine years of service.
- Author of "Three Cups of Tea" to give $1 million back to the charity he scammed.
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New at Reason.tv: "What We Saw at the San Francisco Marijuana Rally"
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.View this article
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli and Frankenstein star in Henry Payne's latest.View this article
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.
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 back-pedals, except not really, on his Supreme Court-scorning.
- Also, Obama just loves the private sector and signed the JOBS bill to prove it. (JOBS; JumpStart Our Business Startups. Sigh.)
- Everyone in Syria, get your bloodshed on before the April 12 ceasefire!
- Rick Santorum gets media attention by being that guy who won't acquiesce to Romnevitability.(It's a Romnentuality?)
- It's just a fleshwound, so just say no! Fewer Americans going to the doctor, taking prescription drugs in this here economic climate.
- Now, if you can afford to go the doctor, why not also buy a town? Or even the former company town recently used for the dystopian setting of The Hunger Games?
- Headlines: "Humongous fuzzy dinosaur unearthed in China (+video)"
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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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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. [...]
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."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-391-2245.
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.
- Invisible Children has released another video about Joseph Kony.
- Rick Santorum takes break from the campaign trail.
- Mitt Romney opens a lead in Pennsylvania.
- Connecticut Senate votes to abolish the death penalty.
- Retired Greek pharmacist shoots himself in front of the Greek parliament building.
- CIA committed war crimes, says former Bush administration official.
New at Reason.tv: "Peter Schiff - The Fed Unspun: The Other Side of the Story"
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.”
“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.
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:
"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
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.
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:
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.
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."
And check out Reason TV's chat with Vernon Vinge:
- U.S. to finally go ahead and charge Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other accused 9/11 conspirators.
- Romney says Obama's criticism of the Paul Ryan budget is part of his tradition of " set [ting] up straw men."
- Obama signs the STOCK Act to stop Congressional insider trading, notes "the powerful shouldn't get to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for everybody else."
- Five ex-New Orleans cops sentenced to six-65 years in prison for crimes related to the murder of two unarmed citizens after Hurricane Katrina.
- Eastern European Easter egg economics.
- Chairman of the Masters does not want to talk about their (lack of) lady problems.
- Charlie Jane Anders on the history of PTSD.
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.
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
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.
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.
"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.
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
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.]
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
New at Reason.tv: "5 Keys to Restoring America's Prosperity: John B. Taylor"
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reason will take to the high seas in 2012 for our second annual cruise—and this time, we'll explore the magnificent Gulf of Alaska August 11-18 aboard Holland America's luxurious Westerdam!
Spend a week with Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, the founders of evolutionary psychology. Reason.tv sat down with Leda and John to find out more about our "stone age minds"—which are very good at simple tasks like detecting lies, attracting mates and avoiding predators, but are ill-equipped for the complexities of our market-based society.
Other speakers on this year’s Reason cruise include Reason editor in chief Matt Welch, Reason.tv editor in chief Nick Gillespie, alternative American historian Thaddeus Russell, Reason senior editor and Obamacare-debunker Peter Suderman, and Reason economic columnist and Mercatus Center senior research fellow Veronique de Rugy.
Find out more and register at www.reasoncruise.com
If there's any point to the Internet other than the use of "obscene, lewd or profane language," that purpose may have slipped by a few of us, especially if that language is uttered "with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend." But outlawing just that is the aim of HB 2549, a bill that passed both houses of Arizona's often-entertaining and frequently appalling legislature.
The legislation has been sold as an anti-stalking measure, but it would seem to have somewhat wider application. How wide? It's hard to tell, because the bill throws around a lot of loosely defined verbiage. Warns the Media Coalition in a memo (PDF):
H.B. 2549 would make it a crime to use any electronic or digital device to communicate using obscene, lewd or profane language or to suggest a lewd or lascivious act if done with intent to “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” The legislation offers no definitions for “annoy,” “offend,” “harass” or “terrify.” “Electronic or digital device” is defined only as any wired or wireless communication device and multimedia storage device. “Lewd” and “profane” are not defined in the statute or by reference.
The Coalition also points out:
H.B. 2549 is not limited to a one to one conversation between two specific people. It would apply to general communication on web sites, blogs, listserves and other Internet communication. The communication does not need to be repetitive or even unwanted. There is no requirement that the recipient or subject of the speech actually feel offended, annoyed or scared. Nor does the legislation make clear that the communication must be intended to offend or annoy a specific person.
Law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh, who has a little experience with the whole First Amendment thing, illustrates the potential dangers of the bill with a scenario that's not uncommon these days:
[U]nder the statute, posting a comment to a newspaper article — or a blog — saying that the article or post author is “fucking out of line” would be a crime: It’s said with intent to offend, it uses an electronic or digital device, and it uses what likely will be seen as profane language.
Hmmm ... Could that ever be a concern around Hit & Run?
Fortunately, says Volokh, Arizonans may be spared visits from the online good-manners police, because the legislation ventures so far out of constitutional bounds.
[G]iven the First Amendment, the government may not restrict such speech on blogs, e-mail discussion lists, and newspaper Web sites. If the Arizona Legislature wants to apply the ban on telephone harassment to other one-to-one devices, such as text messaging or e-mails sent directly to a recipient, it may well be free to do so.
The proposed law hasn't just caught the attention of constitutional advocates -- Anonymous has chimed in, urging followers on Twitter to fax "butthurt report forms" to state officials, complaining that they've been offended online.
Faxing "butthurt report forms"? Isn't that an act of harassment?
I'll be on RT's The Alyona Show tonight, talking about all sorts of news. Go here for details and where to watch.
Last week, the scientific journal Nature published a disturbing commentary claiming that in the area of preclinical research—which involves experiments done on rodents or cells in petri dishes with the goal of identifying possible targets for new treatments in people—independent researchers doing the same experiment cannot get the same result as reported in the scientific literature nine out of 10 times. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey wonders how much of the National Institutes of Health's $30 billion annual budget ends up producing the moral equivalent of junk science?View this article
- Mitt "sigh, I guess him" Romney already raising general election money. And he hasn't won today's primaries yet, but nobody seems very interested in remembering that except Rick Santorum.
- Alleged Oakland gunman was teased about his poor English skills, was angry about being expelled from the school that he massacred on Monday.
- President Obama thinks Paul Ryan's budget plan is "thinly veiled social Darwinism." Which would make actual, serious budget-cutting...cannibalism?
- Mexico President and king of the cartel-crackdown Felipe Calderon asks U.S. to re-up ban on assault weapons.
- The end of "free Mumia"? The former death row inmate may have to settle into life in jail after losing his last appeal.
- Romney is like your Grandpa, except not! Because your Grandpa never did the skeleton (which is like scarier luge) this one time! And also made a writer of inane articles do it too. Oh man, so crazy.
- Creepy mystery graphic about terror coming back to NYC creeps out everyone; no evidence of real plot.
YAR, the magazine of Young Americans For Liberty, has put Nick Gillespie and myself in their most recent issue, to talk about The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America. (That's a photograph to your right, in case you were wondering.) Excerpts from Bonnie Kristian's interview:
YAR: A lot of the subjects that you mentioned in the book and even that you're mentioning now are domestic issues and social issues, which of course are things that we're interacting with on a daily basis. Do you see this change happening as much for foreign policy, which is so much more removed and more difficult for us to influence?
WELCH: For the purposes of the book we wanted to use examples of how things that you don't think of in political terms have changed in our lives. So things like beer—we now can drink good beer. When I was your age, this was not a possibility. [...] So we wanted to walk back the processes that allowed for this revolution to happen; and it turns out to be from removing a lot of restrictions and engaging in libertarian or liberatory practices. So most of the examples tended to be domestically oriented. That said, we've always drawn a parallel between the Howard Dean antiwar movement of 2003 and 2004 and the Tea Party movement, which had at least one election where they affected things much more than the antiwar movement did. But what the Howard Dean movement showed was that in times of super stress, both parties will eventually be in favor of war—always. They have different flavors of it: Basically, the Republicans go to war with a "F-ck France" t-shirt on, and the Democrats go to war with a "We prefer the UN most of the time" t-shirt on. But it's really a matter of gradation. But suddenly Howard Dean, who was not particularly a pacifist—he was in favor of several American interventions before Iraq—he shows up at a time when major politicians were not saying "This is wrong," he stood up and said "This is wrong." Suddenly there was a "WHAAH"—I mean, there was this huge untapped feeling out there. [...]
Ron Paul's political obituary was written in May of 2007 at the South Carolina debate when Rudolf Giuliani had an aneurism saying "I can't believe I'm listening to this guy talking about blowback. He must apologize to the American people." And Ron Paul said, "No, you're wrong. I'm right." And everyone who was smart knew that that was the end of Ron Paul—but in fact that was the beginning of Ron Paul in many respects. He's been around for decades, but he was the only one talking antiwar like that. So there's this great untapped antiwar sentiment in this country. It's very difficult to enact because war is about the easiest thing for a President to do, and it's really difficult to roll that back. However, we face right now something that you might describe as imperial decline or a make-or-break moment. When you really, absolutely, positively have to spend a hell of a lot less money tomorrow because there are external factors hunting you down, that ultimately will become the easiest thing to cut. Defense hawks are aware of this and they're freaking out about it. [...]
YAR: [S]omething that I really appreciated looking into your book [was] this mindset that we don't need to fix everything at once. We don't need to make everyone as hardcore libertarian as we are overnight; but that we can engage in politics, and we can make good changes in the short term that will eventually show the larger audience of voters and people who are not already libertarian that you can have more choices and it can be better.
GILLESPIE: We have our fever dreams of the perfect world we would like, but we're not utopians in the typical sense of the word. Part of it is that—and this is always the case, that people who write these kind of books go back to their childhood for a Garden of Eden—what's fascinating for us is that for us that moment is really the 1970s, which in many ways is one of the most reviled decades. People say it was economically disastrous. Conservatives think it was disastrous for the family. Liberals disliked it because government started going broke, and going haywire, and people lost faith in a huge way because of Vietnam and Watergate and all sorts of exposes. But the one thing that the 70s proved was that even if the economy was kind of sh-tty, other things were getting better. And so there's no idea that everything is going to be moving in a perfectly straight line, in a linear way. Economic policy was pretty dodgy for the most part of the 70s, but not completely, because that's when deregulation happened. Lifestyle changes and lifestyle liberation became huge, and that's not a small thing. I think we draw from that partly the idea that you—and this is a Marxist concept—that you can change history, but not under circumstances of your own choosing. We're living in this moment, and how do we make the next moment better?
Whole thing here. Some video below:
In 2008, when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party government floated the idea of routinely collecting information about email traffic and website visits in search of suspicious patterns associated with fraud, terrorism, or child pornography, the Tories were outraged. Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, called the plan "a substantial shift in the powers of the state to obtain information on individuals" and warned that "any suggestion of the government using existing powers to intercept communications data without public discussion is going to sound extremely sinister." That was then. Now that the Conservative Party is in charge, The Washington Post reports, it is contemplating a surveillance program that sounds very similar:
The plan may authorize the national surveillance agency—which is known as GCHQ and whose Web site describes its mission as keeping “our society safe and successful in the Internet age”—to order the installation of thousands of devices linked to the networks of Internet service providers, giving agents broader access to everyday communications. The examination of the contents of those exchanges—such as the text or images contained in an e-mail—would still require special warrants.
But for the first time, intelligence agencies might, for instance, access information such as the times, destinations and frequencies of phone calls, texts and e-mails without a warrant. They could also use collected data to track worrisome Internet patterns in a bid to expose terrorist cells, pedophilia rings and other lawbreakers, according to sources briefed on the proposal, which came to light after a report this weekend in London’s Sunday Times.
Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, tells the Post:
I'm afraid that if this program gets introduced, the U.K. will be leapfrogging Iran in the business of surveilling its citizens. This program is so broad that no other country has even yet to try it, and I am dumbfounded they are even considering it here.
At least one Tory, M.P. David Davis, remains troubled:
They are talking about doing this with no real judicial control. If they seek this information after a judge’s warrant, I would be perfectly happy. But this is unfettered access. This kind of data mining can lead to innocent people being pursued.
Davis (as paraphrased b y the Post) speculates that his fellow Conservatives are responding to "pressure from high-ranking members of Britain's intelligence agencies, who see the new powers as pivotal." Who could have predicted that spies would oppose restrictions on spying?
More on British surveillance here.
In his new book, First Principles: Five Keys to Restoring America's Prosperity, Stanford University professor of economics John B. Taylor, details the not-so-secret ingredients to rebuilding American's economic future: predictable policy, rule of law, strong incentives, reliance on markets, and a clearly limited role for government. "America can be great again, economically speaking," Taylor explains, "it's just more recently where we've gone off track."
Taylor sat down with Reason Magazine Managing Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward to discuss his book, the principles that underlie America's economic supremacy and what's gone wrong over the past decade.
Taylor is the Raymond Professor of Economics at Stanford University and the George Shultz Senior Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. He was Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs from 2001 to 2005. His previous books include Getting Off Track: How Government Actions and Interventions Caused, Prolonged, and Worsened the Financial Crisis. You can watch a 2009 Reason.tv interview discussing the book with Taylor here.
Shot by Joshua Swain and Jim Epstein. Edited by Meredith Bragg
Approximately 5:30 minutes long.
Visit Reason.tv for HD, iPod and audio versions of this video and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.
Although it has been widely reported (by me, among others) that George Zimmerman continued to follow Trayvon Martin after a police dispatcher suggested that he stop, the recording of Zimmerman's 911 call leaves that point unclear. Zimmerman gets out of his SUV before the dispatcher asks (probably because the wind is suddenly audible in the background), "Are you following him?" Zimmerman says yes, and the dispatcher replies, "OK, we don't need you to do that." Zimmerman says "OK" and then dithers for a minute or so about where police should meet him, finally saying they should call him when they arrive, "and I'll tell them where I'm at." The dispatcher agrees, and the recording ends at that point. The implication that Zimmerman did not plan to stay put could mean he continued to follow Martin, although he claims (through his father) that he was only looking for an address so he could figure out exactly where he was. In an interview with The Miami Herald, Walt Zalisko, "a former Jersey City police commander who now owns a police management consulting company in Central Florida,...said it’s implausible that Zimmerman would not know where he was in a tiny gated community that he patrolled regularly," declaring, "That's a lie right there." Maybe, but it's consistent with the confusion Zimmerman expresses during the 911 call:
Dispatcher: What address are you parked in front of?
Zimmerman: I don't know. It's a cut through, so I don't know the address.
Another point commonly raised against Zimmerman is that he was carrying a gun, contrary to the guidelines for neighborhood watch volunteers. But according to the Sanford Police Department's Q&A on the case, Zimmerman, who has a carry permit, was heading to Target on an errand when he spotted Martin and decided he looked "real suspicious." It is not clear whether Zimmerman also carried his gun on regular patrols, when volunteers are supposed to serve as the "eyes and ears" of police, rather than pursuing or confronting suspects. Zimmerman admits following Martin, at least up to a point, although he claims Martin approached him and started a fight as he was heading back to his SUV. As I've said before, Zimmerman's actions were at least reckless, since he needlessly created the circumstances that led to Martin's death, but it remains unclear whether they were criminal. It seems increasingly likely that question ultimately will be settled by a jury.
The transcript of Zimmerman's 911 call is here.
Who’s excited about the new Government Accountability Office’s auditor’s report on the federal government’s long-term fiscal outlook? If you just shouted yes, you may be the White House’s “Director of Progressive Media & Online Response (since May 2011),” Jesse Lee, who issued the following Tweet from his official, no-kidding, confirmed White House Twitter account earlier today:
Sorry, White House Social Media Guy, all this tells us is that if the (probably imaginary) savings in the health law don’t pay off, we’re scheduled to rack up a mountain of debt. There’s always been good reason to be skeptical of those savings, however, and the report provides no new reason to think that we’ll actually see any of the law’s alleged savings.
If anything, the GAO report confirms the Congressional Budget Office’s uncertainty—one might even say pessimism—about the likelihood of the law’s savings paying off.
Although the GAO's report says that “several provisions of PPACA were designed to control the growth of health care costs,” it also notes the existence of “significant uncertainties surrounding the growth of health care costs” and cautions that Medicare’s “Trustees, CBO, and the CMS Actuary have expressed concerns about the sustainability of certain health care cost-control measures over the long term.” There are other concerns as well:
[The Trustees, CBO, and Medicare’s actuary] have also questioned whether a provision in PPACA that would restrain spending growth by reducing the payment rates for certain Medicare services based on productivity gains observed throughout the economy is sustainable over the long term. According to CMS, health care productivity gains have historically been small, and may be difficult to achieve in the future due to several factors, including the labor intensive nature of the industry and the individual customization of treatments in many cases.
As a result of these concerns, the GAO, like CBO before it, drew up an alternative fiscal scenario in which the laws cost controls don’t pay off. The results are not exactly something to tweet about. According to the report, under this second scenario, “spending on health care grows much more rapidly under this more pessimistic set of assumptions.”
Like the CBO, the GAO does not take an official position on whether the pessimistic scenario is more or less likely than the one that assumes the savings will pay off. But the CBO’s alternative scenarios are widely though not universally understood to be more realistic. And the fact that the GAO also felt it necessary to include a separate projection with these warnings and the projections to match suggests that, at minimum, it thinks the savings are far from guaranteed.
As Lee’s the #conspiracyoffacts hashtag in Lee’s Tweet makes clear, the White House likes to portray these potential future savings as facts we can be certain of. They’re not. They’re projections based on a set of assumptions—assumptions that the Obama administration gamed in order to produce more favorable numbers, and that every one of the federal government’s major independent fiscal authorities, along with the analysts at the International Monetary Fund, have either explicitly warned or strongly implied may not be wholly reliable. If there is a conspiracy of facts here, it is in the administration's determination to ignore them.
It's only taken six years to learn, but the lesson may finally be sinking in: Public policy designed to keep bad borrowers in homes they don't want to pay for has been a disaster.
The newest mainstream media support for this heretical idea is Adam Geller's excellent AP article on the shadow inventory. In 3,400 words, the piece contains plenty of the unintentional comedy the great mortgage rescue has generated: a neighborhood full of abandoned homes without a single for-sale sign; a swanky Florida block of new two- and three-bedroom homes for which nobody’s willing to pony up $100,000; a defaulted borrower who turned up his nose at a chance to sell his house for six times what he paid and now wants your sympathy because he hasn't made a mortgage payment in several years.
But Geller admirably cuts through the baloney being put out by the FHA and the National Association of Realtors. That includes the biggest lie of all – that "we" can create an orderly housing recovery by concealing the depth of the problem:
Each month, analysts issue reports detailing the number of homes nationwide in foreclosure or held by banks. The implication is that if we can just find a cure for these loans and homes -- either by matching buyers with houses or helping the borrowers stay put -- the economy will be able to heal at last.
At ground level, though, it's more complicated.
There are many different estimates of the size of the shadow inventory, most of them colored by the desires of the people making the estimates. Geller gets his highest estimate – 8.9 million to 10.4 million homes destined to go back on the market – from Amherst Securities analyst Laurie Goodman, a committed real estate interventionist who advocates trying "one modification plan after another until a plan is successful." (Weirdly, Goodman's own data argue against her modification ideas. She includes "homes with loans that are at least 60 days overdue, have been delinquent in the past and are likely to go into default again." Does she really think, after all those redefaults, there's some point at which loans like that will stop going bad?) At the lower end is CoreLogic, which puts the shadow inventory at 1.6 million homes.
Geller's anecdotes certainly suggest the higher figure is closer to true. He takes readers on a Jim the Realtor-style tour of cruddy properties and comes up with pro-cyclical arguments from some surprising sources – including robo-signing whistleblower (and winner of a large cash settlement) Lynn Szymoniak, who notes that lenders are not putting their REO properties up for sale; and a former real estate agent turned abandoned-building babysitter who tells the reporter, "I go online and see what they're reporting and it's not the same…It's not going to be better for years...and the reason I say that is the truth is not out yet."
The takeaway here is something Reason readers have been aware of for years but that the establishment media have only recently begun to consider: The real scandal is that lenders are too slow to wrap up foreclosures. And by encouraging lenders to drag out the process, the Obama Administration has taken bad borrowers on a long and costly trip in a circle, instead of letting them go back into the rental market and get on with their lives. The bottom line comes from a West Palm Beach real estate agent named Frank Verna:
"The truth of the matter is we would have already gotten over it if they just let the properties get out there and get sold," Verna says. "So what are you doing? You're not stabilizing the market. You're creating more chaos."
Last week, economists David Henderson and Zachary Gouchenour released a study, "War and Presidential Greatness." It's a sober, scholarly paper that comes to an absolutely horrifying conclusion: "military deaths as a percentage of population is a major determinant of greatness in the eyes of historians." While historians may eventually award extra credit for spending American blood and treasure, writes Gene Healy, ordinary Americans generally don't.View this article
Obama’s former Green Jobs czar Van Jones lit into “so-called libertarians” at an Occupy rally in Los Angeles last weekend:
Jones began his speech by citing his six months of work in the White House before launching into a tirade against the “so-called Libertarians.”
In citing the Libertarian principle of economic liberty, Jones stated “They’ve taken their despicable ideology and used it a wrecking ball, that they have painted red, white and blue, to smash down every good thing in America.”
Jones continued, “They say they’re Patriots but they hate everybody in America who looks like us. They say they love America but they hate the people, the brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings, ya know ya’ll.”
”They love going to New York City! [sarcastically] I just had to take my child to see America’s beauty.” Jones then referenced the Statue of Liberty and fumed ”You can’t be an anti-immigrant bigot and a Patriot at the same time.”
I’m going to have to mic check you there, Mr. Jones. You’re not talking about so-called libertarians, but your former boss and current president. See, it’s Barack Obama who supports “traditional marriage”; Barack Obama who supports a drug war that sends an alarming number of black men to prison and destroys their employment prospects; Barack Obama who supports a foreign policy that kills children; Barack Obama who supports regulatory barriers that require the poorest of the poor to borrow their way into the workforce; Barack Obama who supports an immigration strategy that rips apart families and sees the children of undocumented workers put up for adoption.
Whether Obama’s support for those policies means he hates gays or brown folk is not for me to say. As the scriptures tell us, "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?"
Libertarians, on the other hand, love brown folk, the gays, the lesbians, the people with piercings, and immigrants. Many of us, after all, fit rather neatly into those categories, and we show our affection for ourselves and our neighbors by supporting the right of all peoples to live free of state-sponsored violence, discrimination, undue imprisonment, and theft; as well as the entirely predictable consequences of both left-wing and right-wing social engineering.
But—and really this should go without saying—libertarians are not the only non-liberals who don’t hate (to cite just one example) immigrants. Last year
[a] coalition of Tea Partiers and conservatives, including Take Back Washington's Kathryn Serkes, Downsize DC's Jim Babka, Tea Party Nation's Judson Phillips, and Washington D.C. Tea Party founder Thomas Whitmore, sent a letter to congressional Republicans warning them not to pass the Legal Workforce Act, which would mandate that all U.S. employers use E-Verify.
I don’t know where Van Jones stands on E-Verify—it would not surprise me if a man who knows next to nothing about a political philosophy that has existed since the creation of the Icelandic Free State in 930 AD does not know that mandatory E-Verify would hurt small businesses and hard-working immigrants alike—but his former boss supports it.
To Jones's credit, he was not the most clueless speaker at “All In for the 99%.” That honor goes to Edward Norton, host of National Geographic's Strange Days on Planet Earth. “When I was on a panel once with [Jones] and the Dali Lama,” Norton said, “it was a toss up as to who was wiser, Van or the Lama.”
Breaking news alert! People who are paid to represent the U.S. defense are not happy about proposed cuts to the U.S. defense budget, according to The Free Beacon:
Congress, in its August debt limit deal, signed off on $487 billion in defense cuts over the next decade. Failure to agree on further cuts by December will lead to another $500 billion reduction in defense spending, otherwise known as “sequestration.”
“We’re looking at it all with a great deal of concern,” said Cord Sterling, a vice president at the Aerospace Industries Association, explaining that quality is ultimately sacrificed as contractors are forced to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
The cuts are expected to cost the industry a third of its active workforce, cause manufacturing plants to be shuttered, and lead to a reduction in the amount of money spent on research and development projects, which are seen as critical to the industry’s ability to innovate.
“There are major shifts that will take place,” Sterling said. “This is significant and long term. You can’t turn it off and on.”
Here’s what turning it off would look like:
So if the sequester goes through, we'd cut defense spending all the way back to the lean and defenseless days of 2007 before letting spending start to rise toward record highs again.
But what about all the high-tech space age weaponry we'd be supposedly be missing out on if the cuts go through? Granted, I like lasers as much as the next kid who grew up watching Star Wars. And guess what? We may be just a few years away from warships with frikin' lasers mounted on their decks, which will definitely come in handy when the Navy has to fight off an alien invasion.
But a lot of the fancy new military tech looks less like something out of sci-fi and more like something that should be headed straight for the junkyard. Take, for instance, the facepalm-worthy debacle of the Navy's next-gen Littoral warship, an oceanic minehunter that's only barely seaworthy and, uh, can't find mines. As Wired's Spencer Ackerman reported in January:
It’s bad enough that the Navy’s newest ship has had wicked problems with corrosion, missed out on thelatest naval wartime missions and is generally something of a Frankenstein’s monster. Now the Pentagon’s top weapons tester has found problems with its abilities to find and withstand mines — which is a big problem for a ship that’s supposed to be the Navy’s minehunter of the future.
That’s the assessment of the director of the Operational Testing and Evaluation office, summing up a year’s worth of trials for the Littoral Combat Ship, the Navy’s cherished — and expensive — next-generation ship for warfare close to a shoreline. Little wonder that defense analysts think the ship is headed for the budgetary chopping block, even though the Navy wants 55 of the things and only has three.
The report finds that the Littoral Combat Ship’s systems for spotting mines, the AN/AQS-20A Sonar Mine Detecting Set and the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System, are “deficient” for their primary task. That deficiency, if uncorrected, will “adversely affect the operational effectiveness” of a ship that’s already “not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment."
You know, the Rebels may have destroyed the Death Star in the end, but at least it worked.
Like a lot of industries that rely heavily on government funds, the defense industry frequently acts as if it has a natural right to a certain amount of taxpayer money, as if previous spending levels set a floor for future spending. This is reinforced by politicians on both sides of the aisle who actually agree with them: Mitt Romney, for example, has proposed spending a minimum of 4 percent of the economy on defense, which would require substantial increases from current dollar totals. But what Uncle Sam giveth he can also taketh away, or at least he ought to be able to.
Indeed, the defense industry's main talking point often seems to be that, well, reduced federal spending on defense would lead to a smaller defense industry. Isn't that the whole point? When it comes to military budget, it sometimes seems like the defense industry is mainly interested in defending itself.
I told you those Navy lasers might come in handy:
Here's Reason contributing editor Veronique de Rugy on the invincibility of the military industrial complex.
The disconnect between reality and belief ceases to be a mystery if you assume that arguments about science are really surrogates for something else. In this light, the GOP’s truculent resistance to warnings about climate change ceases to baffle. Most of those warnings have come from the left, or sources perceived as left-wing. Before liberals start to feel too smug about all of this, writes A. Barton Hinkle, they need to look back at the numerous instances when they, too, have rejected science for the sake of ideology.View this article
The next time Donald Trump says or does something stupid, remember that he also did this solid for transgender rights:
"The Miss Universe Organization will allow Jenna Talackova to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions," the organization said in a brief statement.
The New York-based organization did not specify which other competitions' standards Talackova would have to meet, leaving her entry up in the air ahead of next month's beauty pageant.
Talackova, 23, was born as a male, but has identified as a female since the age of four. She began hormone therapy at 14 and underwent gender reassignment surgery at 19, according to a 2010 interview posted on YouTube.
Trump runs the crew behind Miss Universe. Without being a cardboard libertarian on the issue, let me say that as a private organization, it should be allowed to set its own rules for its competition. And given that beauty pageants are less and less interesting to a world in which gender equality is much farther along than it used to be, it's even a good business decision not to discriminate (that's often, if not always, the case). If anything, I think Miss Universe should be more forthright in accepting whatever ladies want to compete.
The Miss Canada competition will take place in May.
Essential reading on this topic, Reason's 1999 story, "From Donald to Deirdre: How a man became a woman - and what it says about identity." Written by Reason Contributing Editor Deirdre McCloskey, it's excerpted from her brilliant memoir Crossing. A snippet:
On a trip to New York to see a friend after my own crossing I stood in the hall of photographs at Ellis Island and wept at the courage. Crossing cultures from male to female is big; it highlights some of the differences between men and women and some of the similarities too. That's interesting. My crossing was costly and opposed, which is too bad. But my crossing has been dull, easy, and comfortable compared with Suyuan's or Giuseppi's outer migrations.
It's strange to have been a man and now to be a woman. But it's no stranger perhaps than having been a West African and now being an American, or once a priest and now a businessman. Free people keep deciding to make strange crossings, from storekeeper to monk or from civilian to soldier or from man to woman. Crossing boundaries is a minority interest, but human.
On March 29, New York Times columnist David Brooks lamented that a telegenic young veteran and would-be rising Republican star Nathan Fletcher felt compelled to quit the California GOP and run as an independent moderate after failing to gain support from the party in his run for San Diego mayor:
[A]s Scott Lewis of voiceofsandiego.org has detailed, the San Diego Republican Party has moved sharply right recently. A group of insurgents have toppled the old city establishment. As Lewis wrote, "The Republican Party has gone through a fantastically effective effort to enforce conformity around its principles."
The G.O.P. central committee and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, an activist group, spurned Fletcher in the mayor's race, endorsing the more orthodox conservative, Councilman Carl DeMaio.
That same day, Huffington Post California-politics columnist William Bradley wrote essentially the same column about poor Nathan Fletcher:
He hasn't moved to the left. His party has moved further to the right, with its endorsed candidate, San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, helping lead the way. [...]
Fletcher has also backed gay rights, giving an emotional speech in the Capitol as a decorated Marine veteran opposing the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy and voting for legislation requiring curriculum materials to reflect the role of gays and lesbians in history. And he's an advocate of renewable energy, voting for [Gov. Jerry] Brown's legislation to require that 33% of all electric power in California come from renewable sources by the end of 2020. [...]
Fletcher's move sets up a very intriguing test case for Republicans who haven't turned their backs on modernity and governance.
Chimed in John Wildermuth at Fox & Hounds Daily:
Fletcher ran into some uniquely Republican problems during his time in Sacramento. He supported gay rights measures, like Democratic state Sen. Mark Leno's effort to require state textbooks to recognize the accomplishments of gays and lesbians. Fletcher voted for environmental legislation. He backed Gov. Jerry Brown's jobs program and, horror of horrors, had the reputation of being willing to work with the Democratic leadership in the Assembly.
The party's conservative base was quick to suggest that Fletcher was a RINO, or Republican in name only. Or even, they said with gasp, a moderate.
Over at Rachel Maddow's blog that same day, Kent Jones said this:
Come on out, moderate, goal-oriented Republicans. We know you're out there.
And four days later, proving once again that the L.A. Times will make sure to get it wrong and get it last, Sacramento columnist George Skelton wrote more in that vein, in a column I cannot read because of the newspaper's new reader-hating firewall, but which I am told also describes Carl DeMaio as an "orthodox conservative." Which, it turns out, is grossly inaccurate. Here's Scott Lewis at voiceofsandiego.com (where I harvested some of these links):
One important note about both Brooks' and Skelton's columns. They label DeMaio an "orthodox conservative," but that's hardly the case.
Weird, right? He seems like such a knuckle-dragger compared to the enlightened, gay-friendly Fletcher, even if–remarkably–none of the Fletcher-laments linked above ever talk about what makes Carl DeMaio so conservative.
Former Reason editor Virginia Postrel, from whom I harvested most of these links, has much more:
I knew Carl DeMaio slightly when he was barely out of college and working for the Reason Public Policy Institute. RPPI was a very wonky place and he didn't seem like a scary guy, but maybe he's taken on some unsavory positions. I don't know, and you won't know either if you rely on Brooks or Bradley to tell you. They aren't interested in the actual candidate's policies, only in using DeMaio as a symbol of evil right-wing crazies. [...]
My friend Cosmo Wenman, who lives in the San Diego metro area [...] points out that Carl DeMaio is San Diego's first openly gay city councilman, a fact that probably didn't turn up in the 10 minutes David Brooks spent researching his column but that Bill Bradley, a veteran California political writer, surely knows. So why does he mislead readers by emphasizing Fletcher's pro-gay credentials, leaving us to infer that DeMaio is a social con?
Not only that, but super-moderate hero Nathan Fletcher has been accusing DeMaio of semi-secretly pushing a pro-gay agenda when he's talking to certain "communities":
Family values: Family values are very important to me. As a married father of two, I take very seriously my commitment to my wife and children. As a Christian of strong faith, I take seriously my commitment to God. However, I do not believe it is the role of government to legislate religion and impose our moral values. That is the role of the institutions of family and faith. We have looked to government for too much intervention in people's individual freedoms and personal lives. Please know and appreciate that I am consistent in this position—regardless of what community I am speaking to and how it might affect a scorecard. I know from conversations with many of you that Carl Demaio tells you he will never advocate or push social issues related to sexual orientation. However, this doesn't square with the statements and commitments he makes in other communities. Like or dislike my positions, I have always been upfront, honest, and straightforward.
Over at Deseret News, Eric Schulzke adds:
And DeMaio is not an orthodox conservative on fiscal issues either. If anything, he is a libertarian, having worked as a policy analyst for the libertarian Reason Public Policy Institute in the early 2000s. [...]
[H]ow [David Brooks and William Bradley] oversimplified the picture this situation so dramatically is a puzzle. Were they cleverly played by Fletcher allies? Do they actually think that a gay Republican with libertarian leanings represents a lurch to the right, an enforcement of conformity, and a return to orthodoxy?
This is what happens when political narrative overrides journalistic impulse. Imagine how different this story might have been spun if the dominant opinion-journalism narrative going around was about how the Republican Party was at long last ditching gay panic in favor of robust fiscal reform. Brooks and the rest of 'em ought to be ashamed of themselves, but they won't be.
Here Carl DeMaio's author page at Reason.org. A search at Reason.com shows a politician sensibly concerned about the immediate crises (especially in San Diego) of pension reform and public-sector featherbedding, rather than the far-off fever dreams of assigning energy-source percentages in the year 2020. And you can watch Reason.tv interviewing DeMaio two years ago:
Solar Trust of America which aimed to build a solar power plant in the California desert using parabolic mirrors has filed for bankruptcy. Reuters reports:
Solar Trust of America LLC, which holds the development rights for the world's largest solar power project, on Monday filed for bankruptcy protection after its majority owner began insolvency proceedings in Germany.
The Oakland-based company has held rights for the 1,000-megawatt Blythe Solar Power Project in the Southern California desert, which last April won $2.1 billion of conditional loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy. It is unclear how the bankruptcy will affect that project...
Solar Trust of America and several affiliates filed for protection from creditors with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware. It estimated to have as much as $10 million of assets, and between $50 million and $100 million of liabilities.
The U.S. Department of Energy press release last April announcing the loan guarantee stated:
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the offer of a conditional commitment for a $2.1 billion loan guarantee to support Units 1 and 2 of the Blythe Solar Power Project, sponsored by Solar Trust of America, LLC. The concentrating solar thermal power plant includes two units comprising a combined 484 megawatt (MW) generating capacity, an eight-mile transmission line and associated infrastructure. The project will be built adjacent to the City of Blythe in Riverside County, California and is expected to create over 1,000 construction jobs and approximately 80 operations jobs. The plant is estimated to avoid over 710,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from over 123,000 vehicles.
"Loan guarantees play an important role in facilitating the development and deployment of innovative technologies at massive scope and scale," said Secretary Chu. "Continued investments like this project make solar power more efficient and cost competitive while creating thousands of jobs and strengthening the economy."
The invaluable Powerline blog notes that there appears to be good news for taxpayers - the company did not take any of the $2.1 billion in federal loan guarantees offered it by the Obama administration. Apparently Solar Trust executives concluded that cheap Chinese photovoltaic panels made their project even more uneconomic and declined to take the federal money. As Jeff Hinderaker at Powerline wryly observes:
So the Obama administration’s proposed loan guarantee was so dumb that the prospective borrower decided not to take it! That tells you all you need to know about the Obama administration’s ability–actually, the ability of any administration–to execute an industrial policy that doesn’t fleece the taxpayers.
One would have hoped that even the dimmest politicians and policymakers could understand by now just how brilliantly well central planning worked in the old Soviet Union. No such hope and no such change.
KABC Los Angeles host Doug McIntyre yesterday got a chance to ask Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) why she chose the failed mayor of Los Angeles to run the Democrats' upcoming national convention, and the resulting conversation was pretty revealing.
Wasserman Schultz's initial response was a variation on Nancy Pelosi's fabled "are you serious?"
"What are you talking about?" Wasserman Schultz ejaculated, noting that Antonio Villaraigosa is a "national leader" and a "visionary" who is "focused on making sure we have a strong education system, focused on making sure the economy continues to come back in California, and a national Hispanic leader as well."
I have a hunch that last part is the real ding-ding-ding. But the other parts are pretty rich as well.
As I noted the other day, a look at the City of Angels' gross domestic product by metropolitan area indicates local output has fallen by more than 4 percent, and possibly as much as 10 percent, since the former Tony Villar took office. He has been famously branded a failure by local media (which were once extremely supportive) and his few good moves – including bringing in Miguel Santana as chief administrative officer and a very late hit on the local teachers union – have been long-after-the-fact efforts to control damage he caused himself. Villaraigosa barely won an essentially uncontested re-election campaign a few years back; he has stood out as particularly corrupt in a city legendary for its corruption; and at some basic level, America's creative capital has just ceased to matter during his tenure. McIntyre mentioned a few of these points to Wasserman Schultz. Her response:
"I really find your comments disappointing and borderline offensive."
You can read the full exchange here or listen below.
This says a lot about how the Democratic Party establishment views the individual voting units formerly known as people. L.A.'s full of aging Armenians who will tell you that everything's been going downhill for Armenians since the Soviet Union fell apart. I think that’s crazy talk, but I don't tell them they’re wrong because it is their experience talking, not mine. I'm happy that the national Democrats have yet to get the full measure of Antonio Villaraigosa: Better he do damage in D.C. and Charlotte than here. But it seems not to have occurred to Wasserman Schultz that living under a particular politician might give you a more accurate perspective, even if you're what she would consider a right-wing radio talker. When McIntyre (a self-declared Obama voter, by the way) suggested an Angeleno might have a non-offensive insight on the mayor of Los Angles, Wasserman Schultz ascended to a new flight of inspiring rhetoric:
"I beg to differ. You're entitled to your opinion."
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that even if the health law is struck down by the Supreme Court, several states plan to move forward with implementing significant portions of the law anyway:
Officials in Rhode Island, California and Colorado—states where governors are broadly supportive of the law—say they plan to move ahead with their exchanges even if the entire law gets struck down. They added that they expect the law will remain in place, and are working to meet the 2014 deadline to get exchanges up and running.
"You can crystal-ball yourself to death," said Peter Lee, the executive director for the exchange in California. "If the unthinkable became thinkable, there are members of the state legislature, there's an exchange board, there are constituents across the state who would say, 'OK, now's the time to take the next steps.' "
Lawmakers in California have floated the idea of introducing a statewide requirement for individuals to carry insurance or pay a fee. Massachusetts is currently the only state to have this requirement.
The states wouldn't be able to rely on the federal funds afforded by the health law, but as California's flirtation with a Massachusetts-style state-based mandate suggests, they'd probably be able to replicate other parts of it. Indeed, there are no obvious legal barriers to following the Bay State's example in its entirety and enacting a state-based version of ObamaCare.
Given the experience in Massachusetts, where officials remain deeply concerned about the mounting cost of health care under the law, I'm not sure why any state would choose to pursue that path. The point, however, is that a state that chose to could. This seems to undercut the arguments that the only alternative to ObamaCare is a national single payer system. It also suggests a way to experiment futher with the RomneyCare/ObamaCare approach without forcing on the entire country, which has remained consistently opposed to the law since before its passage.
ObamaCare's advocates have made a big deal about the supposed flexibility the law gives to the states. But if this is correct, it appears that even without the law in place, states already have the flexibility to institute state-based versions of ObamaCare on their own. Granted, ObamaCare's backers were never serious about providing flexibility to the states (inititially many wanted a single federal exchange), and tended to highlight flexibility mostly as a response to resistance from state governments. But if there was ever any interest in providing real state flexibility, getting rid of the law and letting states decide whether or not to pursue similar reforms would be one way to do it.
The Dayton Daily News has a solid investigative piece about how the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is unwilling or unable to police its own preference programs. Read on:
Federal agencies have awarded tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded contracts to businesses operating in Ohio that claimed to be owned and controlled by military veterans with service-related disabilities, only to conclude the companies lied to the government when they said a disabled veteran was in charge, a Dayton Daily News examination has found.
The businesses were part of the federal Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program, which gives small companies owned and operated by America’s wounded warriors special preference in obtaining lucrative government contracts.
Government watchdogs say hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds have gone to ineligible companies under the program, which calls upon all federal agencies to award at least 3 percent of the value of their contracts to disabled-vet businesses.
Sometimes the companies getting special treatment have figurehead vets in place. Other times, reports the DDN, the supposed vets are simply scam artists pretending to be wounded warriors to get a leg up on competition. The results?
“We had a lot of businesses that were stealing the valor from those who were in fact service-disabled veterans,” said Bob Hesser of VET-Force, a veteran entrepreneur task force in the Washington, D.C., area.
Along with SBA, the Veterans Administration comes in for criticism due to its lackluster (read: basically nonexistent) verification of claims made by favored vendors.
Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy has long argued that SBA is an agency in search of a mission. The entrepreneurs it was designed to help are able to get loans via regular credit markets (the ones that can't get loans typically have bad business plans); SBA guarantees put taxpayers on the hook for bad businesses that don't actually generate much in the way of employment to boot.
Most recently, in a Wall Street Journal debate, de Rugy writes:
According to the Government Accountability Office, the SBA flagship loan program accounts for only a little more than 1% of total small-business loans outstanding. So, for the most part, SBA loans help a fraction of small businesses compete with unsubsidized small firms....
The SBA loan program is best understood as a subsidy to banks. Borrowers apply to an SBA-certified bank. The SBA guarantees 75% to 85% of the value of loans made in the flagship program. The banks then boost their earnings by selling the risk-free portion of the loans on a secondary market. Ironically, it's also the biggest banks that do the most business through the SBA.
Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren may find her voice in the Senate should she beat Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown this November. A new poll from the New Hampshire Survey Center says she might.
The poll contacted 544 likely voters in Massachusetts and found that the special advisor to the Dodd-Frank-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is in a statistical tie with the first-term incumbent senator. Brown leads with 37 percent of voters to Warren’s 35 percent, with 26 percent undecided. This is well within the +/- 4.2 percent margin of error for the poll.
Interestingly, Brown leads among independents with 42 percent to Warren’s 14 percent. A plurality, 44 percent said Warren would do more to help “working people”; however, more voters see Brown as a strong leader (43 percent to 31 percent), and nearly half say Brown has the most bipartisan appeal, while 27 percent said the same about Warren. This may be reflected by the Obama administration’s inability to appoint Warren to the CFPB amid strong criticism from financial institutions and Republicans in Congress. 57 percent of likely voters think Brown is most likable, compared to 23 percent who say so of Warren.
In terms of demographics, young people ages 18-34 are more likely to support Warren with 39 percent to Brown’s 26 percent. However, the age cohort right above from 35 to 49 supports Brown 37 percent to War