Much was made of the 2011 Gallup poll which noted that for the first time a majority — well, 50 percent, so no longer a minority! — of respondents supported marijuana legalization. This contrasted nicely (for fans of less government, that is) with the minuscule 12 percent support for legalization in 1969 when the question was first asked by Gallup and even the relatively restrained 36 percent support for legalization in 2006. Things are moving in the right way!
Much was also made of the frustrating 7-point loss of California's Prop. 19 in 2010, which would have legalized recreational use of marijuana. Medical use has been legal since 1996, in spite of various federal crackdowns (especially lately). 2012 will no doubt bring further pushes for legalization, since marijuana legalization has suddenly become a non-fringe political cause supported by serious people, but those might be more likely to succeed in Colorado or other places less divided than the supposedly hippie-tastic soialist paradise. After all, a new Los Angeles Times poll of 1000 voters showed a-less-than-national-average support for legalization of weed in California—46 percent. Notes The Washington Post:
The USC/LA Times poll found California voters overwhelmingly support doctor-recommended use of marijuana for the severely ill, with about 80 percent in favor of medical marijuana for the terminally ill and severely disabled.
The San Francisco Bay Area was the only region in the state where a majority — 55 percent — favors legalization. That compares with 41 percent in Southern California.
Those against marijuana use were more adamant in their position, with 42 percent feeling “strongly” about it compared with 33 percent for proponents.
Twenty-eight percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats polled liked the idea of marijuana legalization. Sixty-eight percent of Independents favor it.
The poll also noted:
less than 38% said they had indulged in pot for pleasure at least once in their lives — and 9% had in the last year. The questioners did not ask whether those who used the drug recreationally acquired it on the street or with a doctor's recommendation from a dispensary. The poll margin of error is 3.5 percentage points.
The poll results showed that 43% of whites said they had smoked marijuana recreationally, while only 24% of Latinos said they had.
The poll also said that more than 80 percent of responders supported medical marijuana for "severe" medical problems. The really downer takeway is that the pro-legalization camp has lost three percentages of support since 2009.
This fact, as well as the fact that more young people than old support legalization is not at all surprising. Nor is the fact that more Democrats and particularly more Independents support the policy. This is true in other polls, especially in Gallup's national one. But it's still surprising that California cannot either legalize gay marriage or marijuana, two theoretically leftish causes that most libertarians can also get behind. Nevertheless, the marijuana shift is happening, just perhaps no faster in Californian than in most other states.
Reason on marijuana.
I was on the NBC Nightly News tonight to share my view of New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's plan to limit the size of soda and sugary-drink servings in the Big Apple.
Watch the clip above and check out a transcript and more here.
Among the material left on the cutting-room floor: My suggestion that the term-limited martinet think about running for mayor of Pyongyang.
Elsewhere at Reason today, Anthony Fisher talked to New Yorkers about the plan. Watch that vid here.
We unveil our Nanny of the Month tomorrow. Guess what guy entered the race late this time but is really making up for lost time?
Reading Mike Riggs' recent post about the future of marijuana reform in Congress, I was struck by the quote from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), which suggests how dramatically his drug policy views have changed in the last few decades:
Marijuana decriminalization is an issue that will undoubtedly become more prevalent over time. Things are very different from when I chaired the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control back in the 1980s. Polls have shown that since October 2011, at least 50 percent of Americans favor legalization at the federal level—a number that is on the rise.
The U.S. already has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We lock up the majority of inmates for non-violent drug-related crimes. Instead of attacking the consumers, we should give them alternatives to poverty and street life to steer them away from drug abuse in the first place. It simply doesn't make sense to waste billions of dollars putting hundreds of thousands of Americans in prison for non-violent offenses of the law.
Back in the 1980s, by contrast, Rangel was such a hardline drug warrior that he accused Ronald Reagan of being soft on the issue (although, like our current drug czar and the senior senator from California, he had kind words for the first lady's "Just Say No" campaign). In 1989 Ebony profiled Rangel as "The Front-Line General in the War on Drugs." "We need outrage!" he told the magazine. "I don't know what is behind the lackadaisical attitudes towards drugs, but I do know that the American people have made it abundantly clear: They are outraged by the indifference of the U.S. government to this problem." Ebony reported that Rangel also was"outraged that there has even been debate on the possibility of legalizing drugs, which, he says, would be 'moral and political suicide.'" As recently as 1998, Rangel was still saying "the very idea of legalizing drugs in this country is counterproductive," asserting that "legalization of drugs would be a nightmare...in minority communities." Unlike prohibition?
Not surprisingly, Rangel was keen on severe punishments for drug dealers. He backed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which established the mandatory minimum sentences that have helped give us "the highest incarceration rate in the world." In a 1991 Firing Line debate, he told William F. Buckley, "We should not allow people to be able to distribute this poison without the fear that maybe they might be arrested and put in jail." Even while arguing that "the criminal justice system is not working," he recommended a mandatory life sentence for anyone who sells drugs to a minor.
I vividly remember arguing with Rangel at a drug policy seminar in Maryland around this time. Although I certainly did not expect him to agree with the libertarian position on drug prohibition, I was surprised by his refusal to concede that trying to prevent consensual transactions between adults raises Fourth Amendment issues and by the vehemence of his opposition to methadone-based heroin treatment, which put him to the right of Richard Nixon, often identified as the author of the modern-day war on drugs.
For all I know, Rangel still has a bee in his bonnet about methadone treatment (which I also have problems with, for somewhat different reasons). But like other black leaders, he has had second thoughts about mandatory minimums. In a 2007 Huffington Post op-ed piece, he wrote:
The sudden, frightening epidemic of a new street drug—crack cocaine—and the drug induced death of basketball star Len Bias in 1986—impelled besieged lawmakers to enact stiff punishments for crack cocaine offenses, including long mandatory minimum jail sentences. Instead of reducing drug addiction and crime, those laws—however well-intentioned, swelled prison populations, created a sentencing divide that victimized young Black men, left a generation of children fatherless, and drove up the costs of a justice system focused more on harsh punishment than rehabilitation.
Rangel was a little too quick to excuse his own complicity in establishing the draconian sentences he now decries. Crack "impelled" him, a "besieged" and "well-intentioned" legislator, to support those absurdly harsh penalties? But to his credit, Rangel has tried to rectify his error: For the last five years or so, he has sponsored legislation aimed at eliminating the senseless sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and cocaine powder, which was created by the Rangel-supported Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Congress has not gone that far yet, although two years ago it shrank the gap substantially. Rangel touts his sentencing reform bill on his website, where he says "we should focus our law enforcement efforts away from drug addicts and small-time dealers onto the big-time drug kingpins who supply them."
Those are not exactly the words of a legalizer. But last summer Rangel co-sponsored the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, a bill introduced by Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that would eliminate federal criminal penalties for production, distribution, and possession of the drug, leaving the states free to address the issue as they see fit. He explained his "proud" support for the bill as part of his effort to "seriously re-examine our draconian sentencing policies for drug-related crimes."
Are these shifts based on a genuine change of heart or a sense of which direction the political winds are blowing (especially, perhaps, in Rangel's Harlem district, where he faces a tough re-election battle this year)? A little of both, I suspect. Even corrupt old hacks have pangs of conscience from time to time.
More on Rangel here.
Jan Karski, who was instrumental in bringing news of the Nazis murderous and genocidal ways to a skeptical West, may have blown over quickly in the U.S. press, but it continues to be a hot topic in Poland, where journalists in the country have helped lead a decades-long fight to eradicate the wildly offensive misnomer. David Frum does a really fantastic job over at the Daily Beast explaining exactly why the misnomer is so hurtful coming from the American President. Frum offers up as an analogy the use of the term “Hawaiian sneak attacks on Pearl Harbor,” which he calls a “pathetically inadequate approximation.”The controversy over President Obama describing Nazi concentration camps in Poland “Polish death camps” while awarding the Medal of Freedom posthumously to the Pole known as
I don’t have much to add to David Frum’s very insightful comments on the topic, except to offer my own perhaps less inadequate analogy. Imagine in half a century, some country somewhere in gratitude to all the sacrifices the United States had made for it, honors the last surviving first responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and while bestowing honors upon the firefighters, EMS and police officers there, that country’s president refers to bravery of the first responders in the “American attacks on 9/11 that took down the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.” The planes all departed from American airports, were part of American airliners, and executed their attack in America. Yet they were no more American attacks than the Nazi’s death camps were Polish, even though both tragedies left an indelible mark on the countries they befell.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg outlined a plan Wednesday to ban the sale of sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, movie theaters, street carts and other venues.
Reason.tv's Anthony Fisher took to the streets to ask New Yorkers what they thought about Bloomberg and the ban.
Approximately 2 minutes.
Camera by Kaplan Akincilar. Produced by Anthony Fisher
Korean gamer culture is serious business. How serious? Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) raided the Seoul office of Diablo III makers Blizzard Entertainment Monday investigating complaints from players. The players complained that the company refused to provide refunds to those unhappy about poor access to the game since its launch two weeks ago.
Via The Korea Times:
The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said the firm is suspected of having violated the country’s law on electronic commerce and commercial contracts. The FTC said Tuesday that it raided the firm’s Seoul office Monday and secured related documents and other evidence with which it will determine whether Blizzard broke the law.
The investigation comes only two weeks after the release of the game, which has sold more than 6.3 million copies worldwide.
Larger-than-expected traffic to the online game’s severs made it extremely difficult for its users to access the game, particularly on weekday nights and weekends, according to Blizzard Korea.
Some buyers of the game vented frustration over server shutdowns and asked for refunds, but the company refused to do so, citing sales contract terms, which the FTC says is disadvantageous to consumers.
Diablo III is the latest (and the largest) representation of relatively new trend in computer gaming, requiring constant Internet connection and access to a company’s servers in order to play, even if the game does not have multiplayer components. In Diablo III, up to four players can run around slaying demons together and ignoring its tragicomically awful storyline, but it can also be played completely solo. Even alone, though, players must have a working internet connection at all times.
The connection requirement exists for several reasons, most of which are connected to fighting piracy and cheating. If you’re a non-gamer wondering why Blizzard would care if people cheat in the games they bought, the game has an online auction house that will eventually allow people to buy items in the game from each other for real-world money. In Diablo II (which did not have such an auction house and did not require constant Internet connection), the game’s “economy” suffered from hackers figuring out ways to duplicate items in the game and selling them to other players in a virtual black market. In Diablo III, parts of the game are on the players’ computers, but some assets are on Blizzard’s servers to make it much harder for hackers to engage in virtual counterfeiting and manipulating the market. The issue is complicated and controversial and no doubt it will be a focus of discussion with Hit and Run commenters below for anybody who wants to drill down deeper into the subject.
What has happened here is that Blizzard’s servers are currently unable to accommodate the number of people who want to play their game. So even those who have Internet access might not be able to play their copy of the game because of problems on Blizzard’s end. The complainants are demanding refunds because they can’t play their games when they want to, even though the games themselves are not broken, a complicated consumer issue that is bound to get more complex as games and information become less and less tied to personal pieces of equipment (like a PC).
Complicating matters further, Diablo III isn’t a subscription-based game like World of Warcraft, which has a monthly fee. Blizzard has credited World of Warcraft accounts in the past when unexpected server problems rendered the game unplayable for long lengths of time. Consumers pay for Diablo III entirely up front. There’s no mechanism for determining the value of being unable to play for two days in a month, for example. Thus, frustrated players are demanding a full refund:
FTC officials said the probe is aimed at confirming whether the firm has sold the game based on what they describe as an “unfair” contract so that people cannot receive refunds even if they discover problems with the game. They said they are studying whether the company should be held liable for “ill-preparation” for unexpected traffic.
It’s too early to see any results of the probe but some investigators expect the regulator to issue an order mandating Blizzard to provide a full refund to all unhappy customers.
Just as there are very few women in the higher echelons of corporate America, as it turns out, there are also very few women on the op-ed pages of American media. A recent Columbia Journalism Review story by Erika Fry points out that women wrote only 20 percent of the op-eds in the nation’s leading newspapers such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal between September to December last year. What’s more, she notes:
women were practically absent in the debate of many hard news subjects, with their opinions accounting for 11 percent of commentaries on the economy, 13 percent on international politics, 14 percent on social action and 16 percent on security. Perhaps just as striking, women produced just over half—53 percent—of commentaries on “women’s issues”
The standard explanation of course would be that editors are sexist and prefer male over female writers. And if women were being rejected at a higher rate than men, that would make sense. But there is no evidence of that. The truth is that women actually submit far fewer pieces than men. For example, Sue Horton, the op-ed editor of the Los Angeles Times notes that she gets 100 submissions a day, the overwhelming majority of which are men. In 2008, The Washington Post’s op-ed editor, Autumn Brewington, estimated the rate was nine to one.
Women couldn’t be writing less because they can’t write. After all, even Sage Larry Summers questioned only women's math and science ability, not their writing ability. Fry suggests that women write less because they are far more picky than men about when and what they choose to write about. She notes:
anecdotally, submissions from women are more likely to be from writers who are particularly informed, while a much greater share of submissions from men are “dinner party op-eds”—pieces written because the author has an opinion on the subject, not because of any particular standing or expertise. Editors shared similar stories about why solicitation efforts sometimes fail: Brewington and Horton both say women are more likely to turn down requests for a solicited piece, often because they are too busy to do it well. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to accept the invitation without hesitation.
But why do women choose to opine only when they know something about a subject or have something interesting to say? It could be their social conditioning that discourages them from mouthing off just for the heck of it. It causes them to hesitiate to commit words to paper unless they feel that they have something really important to say, unlike men, who suffer from no equivalent qualms because they are raised to be self-confident. I think there is something to that.
But the more plausible explanation in my non-scientific opinion that I will now mouth off is that women choose to write less for the same reason that they choose to pursue CEOship in companies less: They are not interested in worldly success (for many possible reasons), and therefore simply don’t get the same thymotic high that men do when they become CEOs or see their byline in print. Therefore, female writers are perfectly willing to sit back and pursue other goals unless something really, really grabs their interest and attention. They are more interested in quality assignments that bring them inner satisfaction than quick-and-dirty pieces that get their name in circulation.
One could conclude from all this that this is just another way in which women are more sensible than men. But then that would only invite an angry reaction from H&R’s predominantly young, white, male readers eager to be in print.
So go for it.
(For more fodder for attack, check out my recent piece along the above lines, "Jack Welch vs. Feminists: The Dumb Debate Over Female CEOs.")
H/T: Virginia Postrel
After deliberating for nine days, the jurors in John Edwards' campaign finance trial have acquitted him of one charge while deadlocking on five others. The judge declared a mistrial on the latter counts.
The jury found the former North Carolina senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee not guilty of receiving several hundred thousand dollars in illegal campaign contributions from a wealthy donor. Edwards used the money to hide his extramarital affair and the baby that resulted from it. Federal prosecutors argued that the money qualified as campaign contributions because concealing the affair was important to Edwards' campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. He argued that covering his mistress's living expenses was a personal expenditure aimed at deceiving his wife, who was dying from cancer at the time. Evidently the jury favored the latter interpretation; if so, it is hard to see why it deadlocked on the other counts, since the government's whole case hinged on its novel reading of campaign finance law, which made a felony out of Edwards' efforts to impersonate a decent human being. The Justice Department, whose legal theory has been rejected not only by former chairmen of the Federal Election Commission but also (apparently) by the agency's current staff, should give up now, but it probably won't.
Reason.com Editor In Chief Nick Gillespie will appear tonight on NBC's Nightly News.
Topic: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is obsessed with cup size.
The proposal is finding favor only with the soda-is-murder voting bloc.
Even the liberal Daily Beast says the ban is a thirsty-two ouncer too far. Columnist Trevor Butterworth calls the mayor a "walking advertisement for libertarianism."
But even Mrs. Butterworth can't escape the dead hand of trendy, feel-good micromanagement.
And Bloomberg always gets what he wants.
Can a town without a 1.2-liter Super Big Gulp truly be called great?
Speaking in Little Rock, Arkansas, last night, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens predicted that his former colleagues will soon be compelled to reconsider their decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 decision in which they lifted restrictions on political speech by corporations. Stevens' criticism of Citizens United—from which he vociferously dissented, warning that it would "undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation"—is not surprising. But his reasoning is:
[Stevens] pointed to televised debates when moderators try to allow candidates equal time to express their views. He said candidates and viewers wouldn't like it if there were an auction giving the most time to the highest bidder.
"Yet that is essentially what happens during actual campaigns in which rules equalizing campaign expenditures are forbidden," he said.
One problem with this comparison is that debate moderators may (or may not) strive to give candidates equal time, but they are not legally required to do so. Another important difference: A single televised debate is just one part of a broader public discussion about the merits of electing one candidate vs. another; the debate's sponsors do not try to regulate what candidates, their supporters, or their critics say outside this particular forum. In Stevens' analogy, by contrast, the government is the moderator, trying to make sure that every speaker has a fair opportunity to be heard and that no one gets to talk more than anyone else. For reasons that should be obvious, the Supreme Court has long held that the First Amendment does not allow the government to perform this function, which requires subjective judgments that would invite favoritism. As Justice Elena Kagan noted in a 1996 law review article, it is well established that "the government may not restrict the speech of some to enhance the speech of others." She called this "the Buckley principle," after Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 case in which the Court rejected limits aimed at "equalizing campaign expenditures" by putting a ceiling on them. (Last year, in Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett, it overturned a state system that was designed to achieve the same result through taxpayer subsidies.) In her article, Kagan, who joined the Court after unsuccessfully defending the speech restrictions at issue in Citizens United as the Obama administration's solicitor general, explained the rejection of "equalization" this way:
All the laws directed at equalization that the Court has considered, whether classified as facially content based or content neutral, raise questions as to the motives of the enacting legislatures. Campaign finance laws like those in Buckley easily can serve as incumbent-protection devices, insulating current officeholders from challenge and criticism. When such laws apply only to certain speakers or subjects, the danger of illicit motive becomes even greater; for example, the law in First National Bank v Bellotti, which barred corporations from spending money in referendum campaigns, almost surely arose from the historic role of corporate expenditures in defeating referenda on taxation. Similarly, a right-of-reply law like the one in Tornillo—applicable only to political candidates, albeit to all of them—may have stemmed not from the desire of officials to enhance the quality of public debate, but from their wish to get the last word whenever criticized. If this law did not quite prohibit seditious libel, it came close. And the must-carry rules in Turner may have emerged more from the yen of politicians for local publicity than from their wish either to preserve free television or to enhance public discourse. All these examples suggest the same point: there may be good reason to distrust the motives of politicians when they apply themselves to reconstructing the realm of expression.
Allowing the government to serve as the nation's debate moderator would mean rejecting the Buckley principle as well as Citizens United and entrusting Congress with powers the Framers wisely denied it.
Reporting from Madison, Wisconsin, Kirsten Adshead looks at the results from a new Marquette Law School poll and concludes that things are looking pretty bright for Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP, with less than a week to go before Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election.View this article
- The Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, finds the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges say the law interferes with the right of states to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples.
- Private U.S. payrolls picked up less than expected last month as jobless claims rose, and first-quarter economic growth was softer than earlier reported, deflating hopes for economic recovery.
- As evidence of what a huge choice we don't face in the November election, Mitt Romney is having trouble differentiating how his foreign policy would differ from Barack Obama's. This is a nice add-on to the trouble he has separating his health policy from that of the incumbent.
- The euro currency union is "unsustainable," warns Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank. He called on governments to reduce deficits, enact reforms and chart a new vision for the union.
- Because you would never think of buying two, or going back for a refill, New York City's Mayor Bloomberg, the man taking the shine off the apple, wants to ban the sale of sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces at restaurants, movie theaters, street carts and other venues.
- Saying the FBI has never formally served papers on Megaupload accusing it of a crime, Kim Dotcom, head of the file-sharing company, has asked the court to throw out all charges. New Zealand's high court is already angry that FBI officials were allowed to take evidence meant to be kept in the country in "secure custody," and that officials used the wrong law to seize assets.
- The shooting of Patricia A. Cook of Culpeper, Virginia, by a police officer during a confrontation in a church parking lot has, shockingly, resulted in a murder charge against the unnamed cop. The officer's mother faces prosecution for attempting to purge negative information from his personnel file.
- The mainstream media staggers on, as the New York Times struggles with top-heavy management and a valuation that has plummeted from $7 billion to under $1 billion (about half what Pandora is worth). Meanwhile, CNN hits 20-year ratings lows.
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The Republican candidate turned Americans Elect hopeful Buddy Roemer officially suspended his quixotic campaign for President this morning. The former Louisiana governor was one of the first Republicans to launch an exploratory committee in 2011. One of a handful of Republican candidates that staked their hopes on New Hampshire, Roemer got less than 1000 votes there. At the end of the day, Buddy Roemer’s campaign never got off the ground for the same reason it got more traction than, say Fred Karger’s. Buddy Roemer was going to run a campaign without accepting donations over $100, because of campaign finance corruption, a gimmick that got him press, if not cash.
Personal contributions to candidates are limited to $2,500 anyway, so it’s hard to see just how much more influence a $2,500 donation is supposed to have than a $100 one when presidential candidates need to collect millions to win. The infatuation with the “corrupting” influence of money in politics is bizarre anyway, especially coming from a former banker like Roemer.
Politicians don’t need money to corrupt them, they can do that fine all by themselves; members of Congress can spend their entire careers enriching themselves on the taxpayer dime and not run afoul of a single law. No corporation forced former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson to hide cash in a freezer and no corporation held a gun to any member of Congress that used their ever broadening powers to legislate and regulate commercial affairs to personally enrich themselves.
For all the talk of getting money out of politics, corporations often seem to be the diversionary scapegoat while the politicians try to get at the money. The idea that free of the influence of money politicians will suddenly lose their appetite for power, control and self-aggrandizement is delusional. It has no basis in human history, in psychology or, frankly, in common sense. Money in politics, as I noted after President Obama announced his “evolution” on gay marriage, is a good thing. Politicians are interested in self-preservation, not because corporations made it so, but because it’s in the nature of a politician. The influence of money in politics, be it corporate money, small donors, big donors or advocacy groups, serves to diversify the voices that reach government and provides a necessary check and balance to any politician’s tendency to self-enrichment.
Americans Elect raised some $20 million dollars and gained access to dozen states. But their money couldn’t help them generate an interest that likely just wasn’t there, as Brian Doherty notes. For reference, Buddy Roemer, because he was a former governer, needed 10,000 votes to get the nomination from Americans Elect. He had under 7,000. Roemer does, however, have nearly 30,000 Twitter followers, suggesting that at the end though his self-imposed $100 contribution handicapped him, it was an enthusiasm gap that ended his campaign, not a money gap. Money is no resource to shun on the quest for the White House; there’s no reason money can’t lubricate a free market in politics the way it makes the everyday exchange of goods and services so smooth and efficient, when government’s not getting in the way.
I'm not sure that I'd hold my breath for the success of Megaupload's motion to dismiss copyright-infringement charges in the United States. Just because the company has no presence in the U.S. and hasn't been formally served with papers is no reason to think that American judges are likely to concede there are limits to the authority of prosecutors doing the bidding of the music and movie industries. More likely to trip up the case against the file-sharing company are serious legal missteps by police and prosecutors in New Zealand, and the growing popularity there of eccentric company-chief, Kim Dotcom.
The case against Megaupload has been a little strange from the beginning. As the New Zealand Herald points out, "the company had agreements allowing major copyright owners direct access to its system to take down any suspect files. Companies which had free access to remove files included the Recording Industry Association of America, Disney, Warner Brothers and Microsoft." Which is to say, the company wasn't exactly hiding in the shadows. But Megaupload was, in technical terms, humongous, as file-sharing services go. That made it a better choice than Western Union for sending a message. And so police in New Zealand, Holland and Hong Kong staged armed raids on a company that made its money storing information — raids the over-the-topness of which might best be depicted by security footage that New Zealand police have ... err ... misplaced. Says Ars Technica:
Since January, the Dotcom legal team has asked for the footage, but police refused, until finally the agency agreed that an IT expert for DotCom could come and collect a copy of the footage. When the IT expert arrived at the police station, he found the server completely disassembled, and authorities said they could not reassemble it or give him any footage. Now, no one outside the police agency is sure the footage still exists.
That has the local media asking questions, such as a report on 3News that had police ducking, weaving and looking decidedly sleazy.
Journalists aren't the only New Zealanders asking tough questions. The country's high court was curious as to why prosecutors seized Kim Dotcom's assets even though they knew their move was illegal. According to the New Zealand Herald:
Crown lawyers acting for the United States knew before seizing Kim Dotcom's fortune and property that they were using an unlawful court order.
The High Court file has revealed Crown prosecutor Anne Toohey realised there was a paperwork problem on the morning of the January raid.
The Solicitor-General at the time, David Collins, was alerted to the error but told the mistake didn't alter the lawful nature of the order allowing the seizure of Dotcom's wealth.
The advice was wrong - Justice Judith Potter later ruled the restraining order "null and void" and having "no legal effect".
The result left Dotcom without the chance to have his day in court or the money to fund a fight against claims he was behind as international criminal conspiracy in copyright infringement.
The prosecution won more non-fans among the judiciary with revelations that the FBI had been allowed to leave the country with evidence that belonged to local authorities. New Zealand Herald again:
The Government's lawyers have been ordered to explain how the FBI left the country with evidence in the Kim Dotcom case meant to be kept in "secure custody" by New Zealand police.
High Court chief judge Helen Winkelmann has told the Attorney-General's lawyer, Mike Ruffin, he has until Monday to explain why FBI agents were allowed to take 135 cloned computer and data storage devices to the United States.
The government was subsequently ordered to turn over all evidence to Dotcom's defense team.
With Kiwi cops and prosecutors looking and acting like the FBI's bitches, it's little surprise that "man mountain German" Kim Dotcom has become something of a star in his adopted country. Reports Stuff.co.nz:
It seems improbable that there could be so much support for a man who has a list of crimes attached to his name – hacking, computer fraud, handling stolen goods, embezzlement – and now faces copyright infringement charges for which he could face up to 50 years in prison.
Public relations specialist Felicity Anderson said Dotcom has carefully turned the New Zealand public around.
"I think people thought he was just a big rich wanker. Now they are looking at him, and thinking actually 'I quite like him telling the establishment to get stuffed'," Anderson said. She believes Dotcom quickly and shrewdly worked out Kiwis are likely to react to feelings of injustice.
Dotcom has an extradition hearing coming up in August to determine whether he'll be bundled off from New Zealand to the tender mercies of U.S. authorities. Whatever the outcome of the case in American courts, U.S. officials might not want to get too confident that the man-mountain German so closely associated with Megaupload will be dropping by for a visit.
On Tuesday I noted that news outlets were uncritically regurgitating fact-free speculation that some sort of drug—"bath salts," possibly, or imitation LSD, or maybe cocaine—made Rudy Eugene eat Ronald Poppo's face on Miami's MacArthur Causeway last Saturday. Since then, the coverage has become, if anything, more lurid and credulous, in the manner typical of drug panics, with one outlet after another recycling the same rumors, baseless pronouncements, and horror stories (some of which I have noted here before). One commendable exception: Writing in Time, which historically has not been known for calm, well-informed reporting on drugs (or pretty much anything else that scares people), Reason contributor Maia Szalavitz explains "Why Drugs Are Getting a Bum Rap in the Miami Face-Eating Attack." Szalavitz notes that the vast majority of "drug-related" violence is in fact prohibition-related violence, resulting from black-market disputes rather than the malign psychoactive effects of prohibited intoxicants. She adds that, given all the millions of people who have used drugs said to cause murder and mayhem, you would expect to see a lot more violence if the allegations were even close to true. She points out that journalists routinely rely on police, who have a strong incentive to exaggerate the dangers posed by illegal substances and whose views are skewed by the sorts of drug users they tend to encounter, for expert advice about the effects of forbidden chemicals. Both cops and reporters, she observes, tend to focus on extreme examples that by definition tell us little or nothing about the behavior of the typical drug user. Whether or not it turns out that Eugene consumed "bath salts" before attacking Poppo (and it bears emphasizing that there are no toxicological results yet), it should (but sadly does not) go without saying that his behavior was highly unusual, if not unique, among people who consume these quasi-legal speed substitutes:
Stimulants of any type rarely lead to violence in people who don’t have a prior history of violent behavior. Typically, drugs enhance or disinhibit pre-existing tendencies, rather than provoking entirely new behavior. And drugs are far from the only reason that a person might strip naked and become violent, as the Miami man did.
Indeed, the best predictor of violent behavior is a previous history of violent behavior, which we now know that the Miami man had. He was apparently the first person ever to be tasered by North Miami Beach police. Why? He had beaten and was threatening to kill his mother.
Also, while overdoses of stimulants do overheat the body, they certainly don’t, as the Miami police representative suggested, "burn organs alive." Blaming LSD for violent behavior is even further off base. No research has associated LSD or related psychedelic drugs with violence, and higher potency isn’t likely to change that.
Without detracting from the consistently thoughtful and level-headed work produced by Szalavitz, who is almost singlehandedly atoning for Time's historical hysteria about illegal drugs, I would argue that there is less excuse than ever for the anti-drug alarmism that is still routinely peddled by reputable news organizations. Here are some of the more embarrassing headlines generated by the "Causeway Cannibal" story:
U.S. News & World Report: "Miami's 'Naked Zombie' Proves Need to Ban Bath Salts, Experts Say"
Toronto Sun: "Miami cannibal may have been high on 'bath salts'"
The Huffington Post: "Bath Salts: The 'Cannibal' From Miami's Alleged Dangerous Drug Of Choice"
In my book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, I call the persistently popular belief that drugs make people do evil "voodoo pharmacology," a term I use because it calls to mind zombies animated by magic. Here you have a literalized example: a drug that supposedly turned someone (who may or may not have actually used it) into a flesh-eating zombie. And the press, rather than questioning this outlandish claim, amplifies it. Even if it weren't easier than ever before to look up research and seek out alternative perspectives, how much sense does it require to be skeptical upon being told that an alarmingly popular drug commonly causes irrational outbursts of vicious violence? How could such a drug ever gain a wide following? This is not rocket science; it is just journalism.
On Tuesday California primary voters (if they even bother to show up) will get to choose between letting smokers keep some of their nicotine-stained dollars or snatching them away to fund more cancer research.
Proposition 29 would add a tax of $1 per pack of cigarettes in California (current tax: 87 cents per pack). The revenue from the taxes would fund cancer research, smoking reduction programs and tobacco law enforcement. The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office predicted the ballot initiative would bring in $735 million in revenue annually. (Do keep in mind the state’s record of grossly overestimating in its revenue projections. This number has already been reduced once.)
The ballot initiative garnered significant support back in March – 67 percent supported the measure, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California [pdf]. But by May the support had plunged 14 points to 53 percent. Many prominent California newspapers have editorialized against it, including the Los Angeles Times. And when you can’t get a paternalistic do-gooder tax increase past the editorial board of the Times, you’ve definitely done something wrong somewhere.
In this case, a huge television advertising campaign has alerted Californians to the reality of the proposition: It doesn’t “fund cancer research” in some coherent, observable outlay. It creates yet another state bureaucracy to oversee the fund’s expenditures full of appointees with no oversight. Part of the outlays would go to facilities and other capital expenses. And, of course, a significant amount would go to various “tobacco law enforcement” efforts, which is code for government employee salaries (and likely grants for overtime for special “enforcement” projects). It also doesn’t require the money to even be spent for research taking place within California, a detail being hit again and again in ads given the state’s still double-digit unemployment numbers.
After La Donna Porter appeared in the ad above opposing the proposition, Gov. Jerry Brown booted her off a state advisory panel that examines chemicals that cause developmental or reproductive harm.
Tobacco companies have spent millions in opposition to the measure, but the messages are coming from anti-tax groups as well as skeptical media outlets. The message tends to be “the money would be better spent elsewhere” rather than “we need to be spending less money.” If only we were spending it on college students or the poor, the Times laments:
"Proposition 29 is well intentioned, but it just doesn't make sense for the state to get into the medical research business to the tune of half a billion dollars a year when it has so many other important unmet needs. California can't afford to retain its K-12 teachers, keep all its parks open, give public college students the courses they need to earn a degree or provide adequate home health aides for the infirm or medical care for the poor. If the state is going to raise a new $735 million, it should put the money in the general fund rather than dedicating it to an already well-funded research effort."
So if the money were being used to bankroll public employee pensions or to keep parks open (whatever that actually means (bankrolling park employee pensions)) rather than to fund cancer research, it would be okay.
Longtime Hit & Run commenters will be saddened by this news from the Facebook page of Todd Fletcher:
My dear oldest brother Douglas Stephan Fletcher died yesterday at the age of 56. He was surrounded by his loved ones and went peacefully in his sleep.
Doug was many, many things. He was the best big brother anyone ever had. He was an acute observer and showed me a thousand things I never would have noticed. He was a unique wit and a great conversationalist. He was an inspired and incredibly lazy chef. He was inventor of preposterous devices (he once improved his wireless connection with a spaghetti colander). He was a nice guy and a friend. He was never a phoney. He was a novelist, a song writer and a storyteller. He was a fantastic guitarist. He was my best best buddy. And something I never knew about until the end: the bravest of men.
Also worth mentioning: Douglas and Todd Fletcher were among the earliest members of the great Hit & Run commenter community. Here is Douglas practically owning a thread back in 2003, before the invention of the printing press. Here I am trying to figure out the connection between the Fletchers (whom I for some reason envisioned as tall, lanky redheads, and it looks like I got the hair color right), and Douglas explaining, in an esoteric thread of yore.
Douglas Fletcher was always there with a salty word about pompous rock stars and endless, pointless international struggles. He was still gracing us with one-sentence movie reviews as of last month, and was also working on his blog Let's Make Obama Resign!
Condolences to the Fletcher family.
A tribute to another commenter who died.
That didn't take long. Just a few days after the New York Times detailed the White House's drone war kill list operation, to which chief political advisor David Axelrod shows up on "Terror Tuesdays," the White House is being petitioned to create a do not kill list:
Considering that the government already has a “Do Not Call” list and a “No Fly” list, we hereby request that the White House create a “Do Not Kill” list in which American citizens can sign up to avoid being put on the president’s “kill list” and therefore avoid being executed without indictment, judge, jury, trial or due process of law.
The link to the petition, which just passed 2,000 at posting. The White House requires you to sign up for an account (but you can get e-mails from top administration officials as a bonus!), and their "We the People" petition set-up requires a certain threshold be met for a response to be considered. The project's yielded cheeky responses to questions about UFOs and almost surreal ones about the war on drugs, but nothing's that's made "We the People"'s name, yet.
Reason on drones
Via Julie Borowski on Twitter
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is essentially playing one card in his quest for Barack Obama’s job: his business experience taught him how economies work. But as Sheldon Richman observes, Romney’s own pitch raises doubts about this. In fact, Richman writes, Romney’s comments about Bain Capital suggest a shallow understanding of basic economics.View this article
"Liberals are sure they're in the reality-based community and anyone who disagrees with them either has a bad brain, or in some other way rejects empiricism and science, and they are the only ones working with the building blocks of facts and reason," says National Review's Jonah Goldberg, author of the new book, The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas.
"And I call bullshit on that."
Goldberg, who became the editor of National Review Online in 1999, is responsible for creating the tone and format of the highly trafficked website, which built on the magazine's venerable reputation while signaling, as he puts it, "that this is not your father's National Review." Goldberg's new book, which follows his best-selling 2008 Liberal Fascism, argues that liberals should stop claiming their ideas derive solely from science and fact but never ideology--a way of arguing that stifles honest debate. Liberal arguments sometimes take the form of hackneyed cliches meant to sound self-evident but that in reality disguise a political bent, such as "violence never solves anything" or "I may disagree with you but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
Goldberg sat down with ReasonTV's Nick Gillespie for a wide-ranging discussion about liberal and conservative discourse, his early vision for National Review Online, and the firing of long-time National Review contributor John Derbyshire for writing a racist article in Taki's Magazine. Goldberg also explains why he plans to vote for Mitt Romney despite his lack of enthusiasm for the presumptive GOP nominee.
Approximately 30 minutes.
Shot and produced by Jim Epstein; additional camera by Meredith Bragg.
It is not often that the most famous living Keynesian agrees with some of the most committed libertarians. However, the Irish referendum today on the Fiscal Stability Treaty is one such occasion. The Irish are the only Europeans who have been granted a chance by their government to hold a referendum on the treaty. With the exception of the UK and the Czech Republic the treaty has been signed by all EU member states. The treaty introduces measures that would punish governments that did not practice fiscal responsibility and opens access to assistance funds. In Ireland, the ratification of the treaty would also introduce a ban on structural deficits. The treaty has been so poorly thought through, and so poorly motivated, that whether you are against bailouts and for limited government or for increased stimulus, a “Yes” vote would be a disappointing outcome.
Paul Krugman has said an Irish “No” vote would “send a helpful message” because it would be a rejection of the so-called austerity the treaty would impose. Krugman went on to say that the euro was a mistake, as the currency union did not come with a political union, thus dooming it to failure. Milton Friedman made similar predictions, claiming that the single currency would not survive Europe’s next financial crisis.
While the left might object to the treaty because of the entailed austerity measures, libertarians have their own objections. Sam Bowman, Irishman and Head of Research at the London-based Adam Smith Institute, has nicely summarized the libertarian case for a “No” vote. One of the most important points made by Sam is that bailouts and welfare spending, both of which have already contributed massively to Irelands debt, are excluded from the structural deficit calculations. Perhaps more importantly, Ireland will still be able to access loans without ratifying the treaty at rates that might encourage good behavior.
Polling suggests that the Irish will vote “Yes”, but not by a huge margin. Indeed, the unusual good weather in Ireland today makes predicting the outcome of the vote even more difficult as more people are likely to head out to vote. It is unlikely that we will know the results of the vote until tomorrow. One only hopes that the EU accepts this Irish vote, unlike the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Only the EU could have come up with a piece of diplomacy that would unite Keynesians and Austrians, a testament to its own contradictory nature.
Investor Warren Buffett and actor George Clooney have logged more face time with President Barack Obama than the person tasked with executing the President's war on drugs, White House visitor records show.
Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michelle M Leonhart has met with Obama at the White House only once, back in June 2011. Buffett meanwhile, has met with Obama at the White House four times since 2010, and Clooney has met with the President twice.
This data comes courtesy of a new searchable database built by the Washington Post that pulls information from data.gov.
Leonhart, who served as acting DEA administrator under President George W. Bush, was renominated to that position by Obama on Feb. 2, 2010. Yet according to White House visitor logs, Leonhart did not meet with the president before or after her nomination. Instead, she met with Vice President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Alan Hoffman on April 8, 2010, and again with Sarah Coleman, an Office of National Drug Control Policy staffer, on Feb. 10, 2010.
So it’s fair to ask: Is the White House ignoring the DEA? One former DEA staffer told Reason, "They're not paying much attention."MORE »
Defending his proposal to fight obesity by restricting soft drink sizes, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says, "I think that's what the public wants the mayor to do." If the public wanted it, of course, there would be no need for the government to require it. Bloomberg's plan makes sense only to the extent that it changes consumers' decisions by limiting their options—specifically, by decreeing that restaurants, food carts, movie theaters, and concession stands at sports arenas may not sell more than 16 ounces of most sugar-sweetened beverages in one cup or bottle. Yet The New York Times reports that Bloomberg cast doubt on the rationale for this rule right out of the gate:
The mayor, who said he occasionally drank a diet soda "on a hot day," contested the idea that the plan would limit consumers' choices, saying the option to buy more soda would always be available.
"Your argument, I guess, could be that it's a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce," Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. "I don't think you can make the case that we're taking things away."
If so, what's the point? If the added inconvenience of carrying two containers does not deter people from drinking as much soda as they otherwise would, how can Bloomberg possibly claim his restrictions will make people thinner?
The answer is that Bloomberg and his health commissioner, Thomas Farley, say whatever pops into their heads, without regard to logic or evidence. Consider:
In New York City, where more than half of adults are obese or overweight, Dr. Thomas Farley, the health commissioner, blames sweetened drinks for up to half of the increase in city obesity rates over the last 30 years. About a third of New Yorkers drink one or more sugary drinks a day, according to the city. Dr. Farley said the city had seen higher obesity rates in neighborhoods where soda consumption was more common.
Correlation = causation. QED. If that is the quality of Farley's science, perhaps we should not ask how he came up with the estimate that sweetened drinks account for "up to half" of the increase in obesity rates since the early 1980s. That statement, after all, is consistent with the possibility that sweetened drinks account for none of the increase.
Even if we accept Farley's claims about soda's role in rising obesity rates, it does not follow that Bloomberg's plan will have a measurable impact on New Yorkers' waistlines. There are reasons to doubt that it will, starting with the mayor's observation that extra-thirsty customers can always buy another 16-ounce drink (which might actually result in the consumption of more calories, assuming their usual serving is between 16 and 32 ounces). Nor will undercover health inspectors monitor the city's fast food restaurants to prevent diners from availing themselves of free refills; the regulations graciously let them drink as much soda as they want, as long as they do it 16 ounces at a time. The size rule does not apply at all to convenience stores, supermarkets, or vending machines, so Big Gulps, giant Slurpees, and large bottles of soda will still be readily available. Bloomberg also plans to exempt fruit juices, which typically have more calories per ounce than sugar-sweetened soda, and milk-based drinks. So while New Yorkers won't be allowed to order 20 ounces of Coke (240 calories), they will still be able to get a 20-ounce Starbucks whole-milk latte (290 calories) or even a 24-ounce Double Chocolaty Frappuccino (520 calories), not to mention a 20-ounce milkshake (about 800 calories).
In other words, Bloomberg is right when he says there will still be lots of opportunities for New Yorkers to consume large quantities of high-calorie drinks, which means he does not even have a sound paternalistic justification for his meddling. He is screwing with people not to protect them from their own foolish choices but just to create the appearance of doing so. Or maybe just because he can.
The Times notes that Bloomberg "has made public health one of the top priorities of his lengthy tenure" with "a series of aggressive regulations," including "bans on smoking in restaurants and parks" and "a prohibition against artificial trans fat in restaurant food." It adds that "the measures have led to occasional derision of the mayor as Nanny Bloomberg, by those who view the restrictions as infringements on personal freedom." Is there any other reasonable way to view such restrictions? It is one thing to argue (as Bloomberg presumably would) that the restrictions are justified by the government's supposed duty to minimize morbidity and mortality by preventing people from taking risks (its "highest duty," according to Bloomberg). But it is patently absurd for Bloomberg to claim he is not limiting freedom when he uses force to stop people from doing something that violate no one's rights, whether it's selling donuts fried in trans fat, lighting up in a bar whose owner has chosen to allow smoking on his own property, or ordering a 20-ounce soda in a deli. When, as in this case, his arrogant, healthier-than-thou interference has, by his own admission, zero chance of achieving its stated goal, that fact hardly makes his arbitrary use of government power less objectionable.
More on Bloomberg and "public health" here.
It seems intuitive that a free market would lead to a "race to the bottom." In a global marketplace, profit-chasing employers will cut costs by paying workers less and less, and shipping jobs to China. It's a reason that progressives say government must step in. So America now has thousands of rules that outlaw wages below $7.25 an hour, restrict unpaid internships, and compel people to pay union dues. These rules appear to help workers, writes John Stossel, but they don't.View this article
A unanimous 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled today that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples who have been lawfully married in states that permit gay marriage, violates the U.S. Constitution. Here are some snippets from the majority opinion of Judge Michael Boudin, a judicial conservative appointed to the 1st Circuit by President George H.W. Bush:
This case is difficult because it couples issues of equal protection and federalism with the need to assess the rationale for a congressional statute passed with minimal hearings and lacking in formal findings. In addition, Supreme Court precedent offers some help to each side, but the rationale in several cases is open to interpretation. We have done our best to discern the direction of these precedents, but only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case....
To conclude, many Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today. One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage. Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress' denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest.
Historical document of the day: 20/20's 1985 report "The Devil Worshippers," a coming-out party for the 1980s Satanism scare. It may help, as you watch this, to know that the bodies of the alleged sacrifice victims never materialized, that the statistic of two million missing kids was a wild exaggeration, and that Mike Warnke, presented here as an expert on Satanic rites, was later exposed as a fraud. But really, anyone able to think critically should be able to see through this without the benefit of hindsight. What's interesting is that so many people took it seriously at the time.
At the beginning of the report, Hugh Downs declares that "police have been skeptical when investigating these acts, just as we are in reporting them"; at the end, Barbara Walters pronounces the story "terrifying." And it is rather terrifying that Downs believed his colleagues had "been skeptical." From the looks of it, they didn't even interview any skeptics.
I'm not posting this just for its historic value, nor simply to give you a chance to laugh at the part where Tom Jarriel goes to a shopping mall to prove "how easy it is for children, or adults for that matter, to get their hands on Satanic material." (One of his examples: The Exorcist. No, really.) Even if you ignore the actual misinformation in the program, this is as pure an example as you'll find of how a scattered group of unconnected crimes can be presented as a grand, malevolent movement, particularly when they're combined with anxieties about the influence of popular culture. Watch the show to see how it's done. It'll help you stay skeptical when similar narratives appear today.
The battle over Governor Scott Walker’s recall in Wisconsin has not yet ended, but Big Labor is already picking another – arguably even bigger – fight in Michigan, reports Michigan resident and Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia in her column at The Daily today. Big Labor is gathering signatures for a November ballot initiative that it calls “Protect Our Jobs” (instead of by its true name “Protect Our Jobs and Screw Michigan Taxpayers”) that would not only undo the modest health and pension contributions Michigan Governor Rick Snyder asked public employees to make in order to balance the state’s gaping fiscal hole. It would also amend the constitution to make public sector benefits offlimits to elected officials and permanently bar Michigan from becoming a Right to Work state. Moreover, notes Dalmia, the consequences of this initiative won’t be limited to Michigan:
The Protect Our Jobs initiative is their field test. If successful, it could become their blueprint to pre-emptively ban or scrap Right to Work laws in the 22 other states that allow legislative action through referendums and ballot initiatives. And it will allow them to constitutionally lock in their public-sector bargaining privileges and protect their membership numbers.
In short, Big Labor is upping the ante in Michigan and going for broke.
Read the whole thing here.
Four House Democrats and one House Republican recently published statements saying that the fight for saner marijuana laws will not end with the retirements of Congressmen Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who introduced legislation last year to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana.
Democrats Charlie Rangel, Sam Farr, Steve Cohen, and Barbara Lee, as well as Republican Dana Rohrabacher wrote into Politico's Arena, a forum for policymakers and advocates, to answer the question, "Will the push to legalize pot fade away?" To a one, they answered "no."
Here's Rangel on the question:
Marijuana decriminalization is an issue that will undoubtedly become more prevalent over time. Things are very different from when I chaired the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control back in the 1980s. Polls have shown that since October 2011, at least 50 percent of Americans favor legalization at the federal level - a number that is on the rise.
The U.S. already has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We lock up the majority of inmates for non-violent drug-related crimes. Instead of attacking the consumers, we should give them alternatives to poverty and street life to steer them away from drug abuse in the first place. It simply doesn't make sense to waste billions of dollars putting hundreds of thousands of Americans in prison for non-violent offenses of the law.
I believe that the federal government should stop targeting the legal vendors that are providing safe access to this treatment, and instead focus limited resources on those who sell illicit drugs. On this front, I will continue to work with my colleagues on protecting those who need to access this critical treatment.
On the issue of legalizing marijuana across the board, I believe we at the very least need to open this conversation.
The movement to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana in particular saw growing support just last week when I, along with Congressmen Hinchey, McClintock, and Farr, introduced an amendment that would prevent the Department of Justice from using funds to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws.
This is an important bipartisan issue and the public is beginning to understand and appreciate how medical marijuana can help people with cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other life-threatening illnesses. If regulated and administered properly, medical marijuana can help thousands of Americans across the country. In addition, more and more people view the war on drugs as a great misuse of resources that criminalizes millions of ordinary Americans, with a disproportionate impact on minorities.
While Congress will certainly miss the leadership of Mr. Frank and Mr. Paul, the fact is that the war on drugs has failed. These failed policies will mean that the fight for sane policy will continue.
Ethan Nadelmann and Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance also weighed in. You can read all of the responses here.
Mitt Romney’s kind of weird call for even more defense spending was at the top of the news on RT America yesterday and I joined Abby Martin in the 5pm news hour to talk about it. It was my first cable news television appearance since calling George W. Bush’s foreign policy ripped out of a comic book at a college panel on MSNBC Dayside just before the Iraq War started. As an aside, I always remember the maps I saw at the studio back then, which marked the locations of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological stockpiles in Iraq. Anyway, here I am on RT yesterday, with some supplemental reading below:
Why increased defense spending hasn’t stimulated the economy, and even with a land war wouldn't
Some Tea Party Republicans backing defense spending cuts
Why Mitt Romney would fit well as President Obama’s Secretary of State
Why real cuts would be good for defense
Reason on defense spending
Critics demand that Obama show "leadership" by doing something to help Syria's civilians. The temptation is easy to understand in this case. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has been practically daring the international community to bring it on, most recently by presiding over a slaughter of more than 100 people, including entire families shot to death execution-style. But sometimes, writes Steve Chapman, leadership lies in knowing what not to do—and then not doing it.View this article
Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put the kibosh on a plan to change the name of high fructose corn syrup to corn sugar. While the words corn sugar don't exactly ring in the air like fairy bells, the fine folks at the Corn Refiners Association are understandably eager to get out from under the bad publicity that their signature product has garnered recently.
The Sugar Association has decided to keep the debate about who gets to use the word sugar classy and civil. Just kidding, they're suing the pants off the Corn Refiners Association and saying stuff like this in the press:
Dan Callister, a lawyer for the Sugar Association, said the FDA's decision confirms his group's position that sugar and high fructose corn syrup are two distinct products.
"What's going on here is basically a con game to suggest otherwise," Callister said. "What do con men do? They normally try to change their name. The FDA has thankfully stopped that."
The FDA denied the petition for a name change on technical grounds. Officially, the term sugar means what most people think it means: something dry and crystallized, not liquid.
But why are the anger and namecalling? Maybe it's because the Big Sugar folks know the line that separates them from high fructose corn syrup is very, very thin.
In fact, even the biggest food scolds out there, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Marion Nestle, have gone out of their way to note that—nutritionally speaking—the really isn't much difference between sugar and corn syrup.
The movement to blame high fructose corn syrup for American obesity actually sprung from a misunderstanding. Both table sugar and corn syrup are about half glucose and half fructose. Corn syrup has a little more fructose (55 percent to table sugar's 50 percent), thus the name.
And fructose, by itself, does indeed seem to have negative health consequences. But in a 2009 story in the London Times, someone confused scientific findings about pure fructose with the possible effects of high fructose corn syrup (remember, half glucose). The error was repeated over and over, and the next thing you know high fructose corn syrup is now blamed for every kid's fat butt and every adult's lumpy thighs.
High fructose corn syrup is everywhere because it's cheap. It's cheap because it's protected from competition and subsidized up the wazoo by, well, you. But the sugar people should probably clamber down from their high horses; their product is just as unhealthy (and just as delicious!) and they receive some pretty unsavory supports and subsidies of their own.
Last December the Montana Supreme Court issued a decision upholding the state’s century-old ban on political spending by corporations. As I noted in a column last week, this ruling directly contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. F.E.C., which nullified a nearly identical federal restriction on political spending by corporations and unions. The Montana court didn’t let that pesky First Amendment precedent get in its way, however, and the state justices went ahead and upheld the campaign finance law. The U.S. Supreme Court is now deciding whether to summarily reverse that ruling or hear an appeal in the case.
At first glance, this might all sound like good news to critics of the Citizens United ruling. After all, if the Supreme Court does agree to take up the case, campaign finance advocates would get a shot at convincing the Court to limit or possibly even overturn Citizens United. Shouldn't foes of Citizens United be happy about this turn of events?
At least one prominent supporter of campaign finance legislation thinks not. Writing at his Election Law Blog, UC Irvine law and political science professor Rick Hasen worries that if the Supreme Court does agree to hear an appeal in the Montana case, campaign finance reformers might not be so pleased with the outcome. He writes:
The betting here seems to be that this will allow for a full airing of the claims against how Citizens United has worked out so far, and the outside chance of peeling off Justice Kennedy from the majority.
What this calculation doesn’t include is the possibility that the Court could actually make things worse if this goes to a full hearing and there is a majority opinion. (And believe me, it could get even worse, such as having the Court express doubts about the constitutionality of contribution limits applied to corporations or in other ways).
According to its electronic docket, the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the future of the case at a private conference of the justices on June 14. Montana may soon learn if its attempt to bypass Citizens United is going to blow up in its face.
The Portland Auditor’s Police Review Division released an 82-page report making thirteen recommendations for reforms of Portland Police Bureau practices based on a review of seven closed case police shootings ranging from 2004 to 2010. They were not the only police shootings in that time period, but were selected because of the victims’ emotional or mental distress levels. Though the first “common theme” the report found in the seven incidents was a delay in interviewing the police officer involved (up to seven days in one instance), eliminating that delay was not one of the recommendations. That delay is mandated by the police union contract. From the report:
In addition, the trend in more recent fatal shootings is for officers, upon advice of counsel, to decline to provide voluntary statements to detectives. As a result, any advantage of affording officers a couple days delay so that a voluntary statement can be obtained no longer exists.
And, as noted above, even in the cases in which officers agree to voluntary interviews, those voluntary interviews similarly do not occur on the date of the incident. The “48-hour rule” dictated by the current Bureau labor contracts continues to impede the Bureau from obtaining even a compelled timely version of what occurred from the involved officers.
As for the thirteen actual recommendations, the police chief Michael Reese responded promptly that he agrees with the vast majority of the recommendations and that some are already in place, though sometimes it’s unclear how. From the chief’s response:
6. PPB should consider developing protocols for how Cadets are to be interviewed in future critical incidents.
Agree. This is our current protocol. The Portland Police Bureau Detective Division conducts interviews of all witnesses to a critical incident, such as an officer involved shooting. These interviews are initiated during the early stages of an investigation and oftentimes may continue in the days and weeks following the incident. As cadets are not sworn police officers, they are interviewed in the same manner as any other witness to a critical incident and do not have any special restrictions or limitations because of their status as a cadet.
As reiterated by the police chief, the report commended the Portland Police Bureau for being “superior to most comparable law enforcement agencies in the way in which it reviews critical incidents” and for “the Bureau’s history of opening itself to outside review and acceptance of recommendations from independent sources [which] likewise sets it apart from many agencies.”
This is the sixth such review of officer shootings or deaths in custody since the division was established in 2001. OPB News reports a seventh review of six additional cases from the same time period as these seven is expected in a year and a half.
- The Irish are voting today in a referendum on the ratification of the EU’s Fiscal Stability Treaty that would introduce restrictions on the budget deficits of member states. The treaty has already been rejected by the British and Czech governments.
- Rebels in Syria have threatened to withdraw from a ceasefire agreement unless the government does not begin observing the truce within 48 hours.
- A day after claiming victory in his bid for the GOP nomination Romney is tied with Obama in swing-state polls.
- Security professionals have suggested that the “Flame” virus found in Iranian government computers is the most complex ever discovered.
- The SpaceX Dragon capsule is on course to splashdown in the Pacific today off the coast of California.
- Ron Paul fans are planning a three-day festival just before the Republican National Convention to conclude the Congressman’s White House run.
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New at Reason.tv: Zoning vs. Eminent Domain: How Ventura County Shut Down The Pine Mountain Inn
The leader of the government regularly sits down with his senior generals and spies and advisers and reviews a list of the people they want him to authorize their agents to kill. They do this every Tuesday morning when the leader is in town. This is not from a work of fiction, writes Judge Andrew Napolitano, and it is not describing a series of events in the Kremlin or Beijing or Pyongyang. It is a report about President Barack Obama.View this article
A grand jury in West Palm Beach, Florida, says Eric Perez received “fundamentally inadequate” care at the Palm Beach county juvenile detention center. Perez had been arrested for marijuana possession. He was allegedly tossed on his head during “horseplay” with some of the guards. He was taken back to his cell despite being unsteady on his feet. He spent the next several hours, hallucinating, crying in pain, calling for help, vomiting, and soiling himself before dying. Though an officer checked on his cell every 10 minutes, the only effort to get him help were two calls to the head nurse that went unanswered.
The Sunlight Foundation today announces the launch of Politwoops, a silly name for a site that exists solely to repost any tweets any politician has deleted from his or her Twitter feed.
The Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit organization “that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike,” their site states. They’ve helped fund groups like the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation.
While the idea might seem clever, actually visiting the feed shows a collection of seemingly harmless political tweets that have been deleted for unknown reason with no helpful context. Was there a broken link? Was it an accidental double-post? Rep. Justin Amash shows up in the feed for deleting a congratulatory tweet to Texas U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz. No idea why. Minnesota Montana Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg has already cleverly manipulated Politwoops by tweeting “If you think twitter mistakes on #politwhoops are bad, just wait until you see the regulatory mistakes of the Obama Administration!” and then deleting his comment to make it appear on the site.
It’s a useful tool (you can click on any politician and see all his or her deleted tweets on one page), but don’t expect to see any more wieners on it anytime soon. Politicians have turned Twitter into just another PR machine.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), the "next Ron Paul" who rode to Congress in 2010 on the national wave of outrage over Obamacare and government spending, could face a tough challenge to his seat this year, writes Garrett Quinn. The Motor State's third district has been redrawn with more Democrats, and two well funded candidates — former judge Steve Pestka and former TV producer Trevor Thomas — are lining up to run against him in November. And that's not even counting the Republicans who are so incensed by the "libertarian in Republican clothing" that they have lined up with Democrats against Amash.View this article
Last night Beto O'Rourke, a former El Paso city councilman, won the Democratic nomination to represent Texas' 16th Congressional District, knocking off eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes. This is good news for at least two reasons:
1. Reyes, backed by President Obama and former President Bill Clinton, is a hack who was targeted for defeat by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a super PAC funded by wealthy Texans that promotes challenges to complacent, long-serving incumbents of both parties. Mother Jones described the race as "a classic case of an up-and-coming insurgent taking on the machine." Although O'Rourke told Mother Jones that Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that made super PACs possible, was "a terrible decision," his victory is yet another piece of evidence that lifting restraints on "outside groups" has shaken things up and made elections more competitive.
2. O'Rourke is a critic of the war on drugs who co-wrote a book decrying prohibition-related violence and advocating marijuana legalization, while Reyes, who served in the U.S. Border Patrol for 26 years, is an unreconstructed drug warrior. During the campaign O'Rourke called the war on drugs "a failure," while Reyes accused him of encouraging drug use by children. O'Rourke won 50.5 percent of the vote in the five-way race, compared to 44.4 percent for Reyes. "O'Rourke’s victory demonstrates that support for drug policy reform, and even for legalizing marijuana, is no detriment to electoral success—in fact, it was a key asset in his triumph," says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Action. "Reyes' surprising defeat, meanwhile, shows that knee-jerk support for persisting with failed drug war tactics can hurt politicians at the ballot box."
Three years ago, when O'Rourke was serving on the El Paso City Council, it unanimously approved a resolution calling for a debate about alternatives to the war on drugs, which Mayor John Cook vetoed. Reyes lobbied the council members to refrain from overriding Cook's veto, warning that the resolution was making El Paso look bad in Washington, jeopardizing his district's cut of federal stimulus money. Looking back, Cook explains, "I thought that was an extremely dangerous debate for people to have."
Matt Welch noted O'Rourke's challenge to Reyes last week.
Government debt to GDP is above 100 percent. Even the most austere and devastatingly bare-bones budget plan will not eliminate the deficit until First Contact with the Vulcans. Yet federal government debt is selling at what may be the lowest interest rate in American history.
This is good because it infuriates Paul Krugman, but it's a mystery that budget hawks need to think about:
Why is more U.S government debt a bad thing, when people all over the world are willing to buy it for a measly 1.63 percent?
That's today's yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, and it's the lowest it's ever been, breaking a record held since February 1946.
In The Wall Street Journal, Cynthia Lin says fear over the European debt crisis is the camel's nose under the tent that broke the camel's back by stepping on a crack that drew the shortest straw, or words to that effect.
"Concerns earlier this month about Greece’s future in the euro zone spurred a flight into safe-haven Treasurys that got yields near, but never through, record-low levels," Lin writes. "Fears about Spain’s ability to support its banking system seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back."
In the HuffPost, Mark Gongloff says nannynannybooboo to the sputterings of smartyboots deficit hawks:
But but but, some will sputter, America is eyeballs-deep in debt that it can never repay. Shouldn't interest rates be moving in the other direction? You know, higher? After all, people who don't pay their debts see their own interest rates skyrocket.
Here's the thing, though: Just about every other credit in the world is in even worse shape than the credit in the U.S. Among major developed sovereign borrowers, only Germany pays less to borrow than the U.S. -- about 1.27 percent for 10 years, at last check...
In the meantime, the U.S. government will just keep borrowing money hand over fist at super low rates, thanks very much, defying the warnings repeated year after year that inflation and interest rates are going to explode any minute now. In fact, some could even ask why, with rates this low, the government hasn't been borrowing more to help stimulate the economy.
The short answer to that last question is that in the wide world outside the closed system of the Keynesians, government spending does not in fact stimulate the economy. But why isn't it costing more for a hopelessly indebted govenment to borrow money?
The greenback is not gold everywhere. Two economic backwaters called China and Japan have decided to cut the dollar out of their own currency trades. From International Business Times:
The yen-yuan direct trade development is expected to boost commerce and investment between the two economies. It will carry benefits for both.
The move will mark a major step in China's efforts to further internationalize the yuan and gain international recognition for its financial system. In past years, China has carried out numerous currency swaps with other countries, often worth tens of billions of dollars, but those were largely seen as symbolic gestures. Direct yen-yuan trading will mark the first time China has allowed another currency to trade directly with the yuan besides the U.S. dollar.
Back in 2010, while writing about how Bernankeism had become the default economics of every major central bank, I turned the high debt/low interest rate riddle into a zen koan:
If every currency collapsed at the same time, would that be a push?
That was a simpler time, when you could still explain a successful Treasury auction by claiming the Federal Reserve Bank was acting as a "mystery buyer" for Treasury bonds.
But across-the-board currency devaluation still seems to be the answer. Gongloff says as much in his comments about the sorry state of other countries' credits. Seeking Alpha suggests the same thing, speculating that investors are betting the dollar will win the tallest-midget contest by becoming the last currency to fall. When that day comes, you will be told that inflation is under control, and it will be your patriotic duty to believe it.
Apparently Congress would prefer to destroy fisheries instead. Earlier this month, Republicans in House of Representatives (ably assisted by outgoing Democratic crank Barny Frank) passed legislation disallowing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to expand its fisheries catch share programs [PDF]. One of the chief sponsors of the legislation was Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla) who declared:
One of the greatest threats facing Gulf and Atlantic fisheries today is catch shares. By capping the amount of fish to be caught annually and gifting a select few with shares of the annual catch, NOAA is privatizing access to a once open fishery.
Gone are the days when enterprising young people can buy a boat and set out to make a living for their families. Now they must lease access to the fish they want to catch, paying one of the gifted few for the privilege. As catch shares are systematically implemented, in one fishery after another, more fishermen go out of business because they are not gifted enough shares to make a living. This management tool is nothing short of cap-and-trade for our coastal economy.
Say what? There won't be all that many fish left for "enterprising young people" if the tragedy of commons is allowed to play out to its depleted conclusion. Using Southerland's logic, "gone are the days when enterprising young people could just put herds of cows on the prairie and set out to make a living for their families." Damned privatized farms and ranches!
Although far from perfect, catch share programs create a quasi-property right to fish the encourages fishers to stop depleting stocks by overfishing. Disallowing this is just plain stupid public policy.
The Congresscritters need to read a new report by the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute that argues for (1) allocating property rights to fisheries and (2) cutting subsidies as ways to prevent their collapse from overfishing. As the report notes:
The oceans are an important source of food and income for people around the world. In 2007, proteins from fish accounted for 15.7 percent of the total global animal protein supply. In 2008, an estimated 44.9 million people were directly engaged in the fishing industry (both marine capture and aquaculture). However, the world’s fish stocks are not limitless, and are being depleted rapidly.
Two principal factors are at work. First, the billions of dollars in subsidies bestowed on the fishing industry by many governments makes overfishing profitable, even as per capita fishing yields decline. Second, the absence of property rights over fish in most countries means that there is no incentive for any party to husband this resource. In fact, the absence of property rights, combined with subsidies, creates a perverse incentive to deplete this scarce resource.
And there is plenty of evidence that at least one-third of capture fisheries globally are being depleted by overfishing. CEI cites a report that suggests that global fisheries subsidies amount to just under $14 billion annually. Basically fishers are being paid to kill far more fish than is economically justifiable. In addition, research shows that creating property rights in fisheries, most frequently individual tradeable quotas (ITQs) encourages fishers to manage stocks so as to increase their size. The CEI report notes:
In 2008, researchers Christopher Costello, Steven Gaines and John Lynham investigated the effects of all 121 fisheries where IFQs and other catch share schemes exist around the world for a study published in Science magazine, comparing them to the 11,000 fisheries without property rights and controlling for confounding factors such as fish species and ecosystem characteristics. They found that the existence of catch share rights not only precluded fishery collapse but, as in New Zealand, often helped reverse pre-existing collapse.
Moreover, the authors found that if catch shares had been instituted globally from 1970, then the incidence of fishery collapse would have been reduced by two-thirds. Fish stocks, furthermore, would be rising rather than falling. The evidence is clear: ITQs and similar catch-share schemes should be implemented now on a global basis. Failure to do so represents a gross disregard for the future of our oceanic ecology and resources.
Catch shares, imperfect though they may be, are part of the reason that NOAA's Fish Stock Sustainability Index has risen from 375 to 598 since 2000 - 67 percent increase.
If it's not the Democrats screwing up policy, it's the Republicans - that's bipartisanship for you!
- U.S. and European stocks plummeted as American home sales dropped, Greeks seemed poised to elect a radical-socialist party and Spain teetered on the financial brink.
- Independent groups supporting the Republican party plan to spend $1 billion on the 2012 presidential election, raising the likelihood that the incumbent's once seemingly daunting reelection effort will be out-spent.
- Pollsters are including Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in presidential polls — a sign that they anticipate the former New Mexico governor may shake up the race.
- Underground chemists' ability to quickly synthesize new drugs has wildly outstripped the government's capacity for banning stuff. The result is more-potent, and potentially more-toxic, highs.
- Elizabeth Olivas, salutatorian of her Indiana high school, resident of the U.S. since she was four and daughter of a naturalized U.S. citizen, may be stranded in Mexico for three years, because she missed an American visa deadline by one day.
- Chen Xitong, mayor of Beijing mayor during the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, said he was "sorry" and that the deaths could have been avoided, according to a new book.
- A Fort Worth police officer showed up at the wrong address, killed the family border collie, and claimed he'd mistaken it for a pit bull. Because it's ok to go to strangers houses and kill their dogs if they're pit bulls.
- After a dollar he handed to a disabled panhandler touched the ground, John Davis was charged by Cleveland police with littering, and socked with a $344 fine.
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How bad is Medicare’s fiscal picture? So bad that the program’s Trustees are warning that the bad news they issued earlier this year about the program’s finances is actually the upbeat scenario—and have once again created an “alternative” fiscal projection designed to show how dire the stakes actually are.
The federally run seniors’ health insurance program will no doubt loom large in this year’s presidential election: President Obama is already running ads touting his administration’s commitment to preserving and strengthening the program’s finances. But, writes Senior Editor Peter Suderman, what his ads don’t mention is that the program’s Trustees have made it abundantly clear that Obama’s Medicare reforms are likely fantasies—and that the program is headed for fiscal ruin even if those fantasies miraculously come true.View this article
Even as the only other still-running candidate, Ron Paul pulled only 12 percent in his home state of Texas, where he didn't really try to campaign. Even in his home county of Brazoria, he only got 25 percent. (I wasn't surprised. While researching my book Ron Paul's Revolution, I found that while most of his local Republicans clearly loved him as their congressman, they weren't sure they wanted him running the national show.)
Broken down by congressional district, not county, here are Paul's best and worst Texas results. In his own congressional district, the 14th, he got 19 percent.
Paul fans at Ron Paul Forums grouse about the bad results in real time.
Still, over 170,000 people came out to vote for him, and he collected 18 more delegates in a game of perceived pull in which every one counts to show the GOP that Paulites are not an ignorable fringe but a real Other Wing of the Party.
On that tip, Paul-endorsed Senate candidate from Texas Ted Cruz pushed his leading opponent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst into a runoff.
*Meanwhile in Massachusetts Paul people fight against Romney delegates arguing that some Paul supporter delegate victories should be invalidated.
*Paul fans focusing on the ongoing and forthcoming state conventions in Louisiana, Missouri, and Washington state where they hope to continue racking up the delegates.
*For much more on the Ron Paul story, see my new book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.
Cross posted at dedicated blog/site for Ron Paul's Revolution.
Remember the "digital divide"? Back in the 1990s, the problem was that poor people did not have enough access to computers and the Internet. Today the problem is that they have too much access. Evidently the digital divide has given way to the "time-wasting gap." I shit you not. The New York Times reports that bridging the digital divide "created an unintended side effect, one that is surprising and troubling to researchers and policy makers and that the government [naturally] now wants to fix": "As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites." Silly lower classes! Don't they realize this wonderful new technology is for self-improvement, not for pleasure? Something must be done:
The new divide is such a cause of concern for the Federal Communications Commission that it is considering a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.
Separately, the commission will help send digital literacy trainers this fall to organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Some of the financial support for this program, part of a broader initiative called Connect2Compete, comes from private companies like Best Buy and Microsoft.
These efforts complement a handful of private and state projects aimed at paying for digital trainers to teach everything from basic keyboard use and word processing to how to apply for jobs online or use filters to block children from seeing online pornography.
"Digital literacy is so important," said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the commission, adding that bridging the digital divide now also means "giving parents and students the tools and know-how to use technology for education and job-skills training."
In his 2000 State of the Union address, President Bill Clinton announced "a national crusade" to "close the digital divide between those who've got the tools and those who don't." Now the Obama administration is launching a national crusade to close the digital divide between those who know how to use those tools properly—for good, pro-social, educational purposes—and those who erroneously use them for mindless entertainment that boosts neither grades nor productivity.
As occasionally noted by Reason, especially in the kick-ass Reason.tv interview with Cuban dissident-punks Porno Para Ricardo, punk is just punker in other countries. As much as the U.S. has a whole lot to worry about when it comes to government oppression, often during protest situations in particular, well, we don't have a Putin yet.
Putin has, in the words of the Democracy Index, played an integral part of turning Russia from "a hybrid to an authoritarian regime." So, in the middle of massive Russian protests against then-almost-President Putin (after 12 years of being more or less in charge of Russia, why stop now?) in February, two members the feminist-punk band Pussy Riot were arrested after they staged a flash-mob-esque performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Inside the lovely, holy place they sang "Punk Prayer," which included the lyrics (as translated by a youtube person):
St. Maria, Virgin, Drive away Putin
Drive away! Drive away Putin!
Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners are crawling and bowing
The ghost of freedom is in heaven
Gay pride sent to Siberia in chains
The head of the KGB is their chief saint
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend the Holy
Women have to give birth and to love
Holy shit, shit, Lord's shit!
Another member of the masked and brightly-dressed (I covet their tights, not their oppressive home country) band was arrested two weeks later. The ladies, held since March, are now facing up to seven years in prison for "hooliganism." Two of them have kids. Meanwhile Moscow in particular continues to have some serious scuffles and clashes over just why the hell that guy Putin is president again.
Today CNN has an interview with Pyotr Verzilov, the band's manager and the husband of one of the ladies whose arrest has caused some serious ripples across the world, in feminist, leftist, and generally humanitarian circles. Amnesty International dubbed the ladies "prisoners of conscience" and noted that they didn't hurt anyone or damage the church in any way.
And for those not wild about causing such a blasphemous (if the existence of such a thing is your bag) ruckus in church, please note the intention was specifically to protest the close ties of the Russian government and the Orthodox Church. Notes The Nation:
The case has also illuminated and exposed divisions in the Russian Orthodox Church itself—between the hierarchy and many in the rank and file. The church has been at the forefront in calling for all involved in the Pussy Riot performance to be punished for their “blasphemy.” In fact, according to the New York Times, priests said they were “ordered to circulate” a letter calling for the punk rockers “to be punished as severely as possible.” The Moscow patriarch denied it. But a senior Orthodox cleric said the performers “have declared war on Orthodox people, and there will be a war.”
Many in Russia view the actions and hyperbole the church is engaging in as a thinly veiled effort to deflect attention from its own corruption, power and immense wealth.
In March, RT America published a scolding editorial from a Russian priest that didn't outright call for jail time for crazy punk rockers, but certainly didn't bemoan the idea of a prank (blasphemous or not) deserving seven years in prison.
The website freepussyriot.org further describes the point of the protest:
Pussy Riot said their performance was a reaction to the Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirills backing of President-elect Vladimir Putin in the run-up to his landslide March 4 election victory. The patriarch called the 12 years of Putin's rule a "miracle of God" in a televised meeting.
The band also plays in more purely anti-authoritarian locations:
CNN: They were performing in these places that were difficult to get to -- on top of a prison or in Red Square. How did you set that up, logistically?
Verzilov: Logistically it's not really difficult if you want to get on top of a prison. It was a building standing on the corner of the prison territory, so they just got up a big ladder and had people to help them. They climbed up on top of the roof and they performed and then they were done, in five minutes. In Red Square, anyone can do anything on the Red Square. It's that you get arrested afterwards. And they did get arrested. They got a minor charge, a $30 penalty and that's it. A so-called administrative arrest.
Playing screamy, ragey punk on top of a prison is objectively awesome. You cannot deny that. People in America should do that all the time.
The more taunting, arguably immature aspects of Pussy Riot are a familar part of grand old punk tradition as well. Think of the Sex Pistols getting arrested in 1977 for playing on a boat that rode down the Thames during the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Or even their legendary moment of swearing on The Bill Grundy Show. It's punk at its most basic and youthful and stupid, and it's marvelous. And though it's not quite being in a Burmese punk band, it's not nothing either.
Of course, it's been a while since punk was scary in the U.S....But not as long as you'd think. Just 26-odd years ago Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra had his home raided and was brought up on obscenity charges because of the graphic poster included in copies of the band's Frankenchrist album. And in a country where obscenity — that is to say, a type of speech ruled to not have First Amendment protections — exists a graphic, gross piece of art becomes a whole lot more meaningful. Seemingly juvenile, or even obnoxious stunts can serve a greater purpose and send a message of freedom, be it disturbing a church over there, or selling verboten lemonade or refusing to stop dancing at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial over here. It can backfire and alienate, sure, but it can also bring more attention and notoriety to causes that cry out for attention. Indeed, that is why the ladies of Pussy Riot might get to go home after all. Without the attention their stunt bought, it would have been a hell of a lot easier to just have them disappear for a few years.
One of the under-appreciated challenges of banning stuff is that you have to define with some degree of precision whatever it is you're trying to outlaw. Write a law too broadly and you might render illegal things (and anger constituencies) that were never on your radar. Write too narrowly, and you miss your target entirely. And if you set out to ban chemicals, natural or artificial, that make people feel good, you soon discover that savvy chemists are perfectly capable of making new chemicals that get people just as high.
Writes Brandon Keim at Wired:
The war on drugs has a new front, and so far it appears to be a losing one.
Synthetic mimics of marijuana, dissociative drugs and stimulants — such as the “bath salts” allegedly consumed by Randy Eugene, the Florida man shot after a horrific face-eating assault — are growing in popularity and hard to control. Every time a compound is banned, overseas chemists synthesize a new version tweaked just enough to evade a law’s letter.
It’s a giant game of chemical Whack-a-Mole.
“Manufacturers turn these things around so quickly. One week you’ll have a product with compound X, the next week it’s compound Y,” said forensic toxicologist Kevin Shanks of AIT Laboratories, an Indiana-based chemical testing company.
“It’s fascinating how fast it can occur, and it’s fascinating to see the minute changes in chemical structure they’ll come up with. It’s similar, but it’s different,” Shanks continued.
The trick here is that people aren't interested in specific chemicals — they're interested in what those chemicals can do. And there's more than one way to get a cat really damned buzzed.
Even seemingly straightforward efforts to drive stuff underground run afoul of the writing-laws-is-hard challenge. Efforts to ban nasty, evil "assault weapons" without angering hunters and target shooters famously relied on specific model names and cosmetic details, leaving gun-fanciers to mourn the loss of bayonet lugs and pistol grips on their newly renamed, yet functionally unaltered, firearms.
And that's just engineering. Chemistry adds just a wee bit more complexity.
Wired reports that the underground chemists cooking up new intoxicants often work from above-board research by established scientists working for universities and pharmaceutical companies.
One class of popular cannabinoid mimics, for example, was developed by respected Clemson University organic chemist John Huffman, who sought to isolate marijuana’s chemical properties for use in cancer research. Other “legal high” ingredients have similar pedigrees, with designers including researchers at Israel’s Hebrew University and the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
As the new drugs appear, governments move to extend prohibition to cover them, but "[b]etween 400 and 450 compounds were synthesized by Huffman alone, and those represent just one of four major groups of cannabinoid mimics." The downside is that the new drugs are developed so quickly that nobody really knows what they do beyond getting people high; when compounds are altered week to week by black-market producers, safety testing isn't really on the agenda. So the war on drugs once again makes us all a little bit safer. Not.
It's probably unwise to predict eternal victory for underground chemists — lawmakers will surely come up, at some point, with a sufficiently indiscriminate legislative hammer with which bludgeon this particular "problem" — but it's certainly fun to watch prohibitionists run up against the limits of their power to make off-limits things to which much of the population wants access.
In the northernmost reaches of California's Ventura County, a two-lane rural road called Highway 33 runs into the rugged and mostly undeveloped Transverse Mountain Range. Though it's mostly raw wilderness, a few businesses catering to adventurous explorers have long existed there, some for more than a century.
But now the local government is shutting those businesses down, one by one, using arcane zoning and building-code laws to get the job done.
"If there isn't someone complaining, and there isn't really a serious public health and safety issue, why do they spend so much of their time pursuing these kinds of cases?" asks Lynne Jensen, executive director of the Ventura County Coalition of Labor and Business (COLAB).
Tom Wolf owns the Pine Mountain Inn, a restaurant that's been serving biker groups and local community organizations since the 1930s. Wolf temporarily had to shut the doors when he suffered a heart attack in 2002, and he was never able to reopen when the county informed him that his property had been rezoned as an "Open Space" back in the 1980s without his knowledge.
"[The county] wanted everybody out of here," says Wolf. "And they wanted a complete open space with nothing but deer and frogs... and no people."
No matter how hard Wolf tried to comply with the ever-changing codes, the county just wouldn't relent, at one time even ordering him to remove a chicken coop that had never actually existed on the property.
Wolf isn't alone, says Jensen. Several other small businesses along Highway 33 have been hit by multiple county agencies for no apparent reason.
"They had every department hit us with violations to make sure that they shut us down," says April Hope, who, along with her husband Bob, owns a bed and breakfast called The Wheel, which has existed in the area since the 1890s.
Since the Hopes purchased The Wheel in early 2000, they've never been able to open it to the public. While officials from the county supervisor's office and the planning department refused to speak with ReasonTV for this story, Jensen says that the county is using code enforcement to drive these businesses off the land without compensation.
"This rezoning is really a way to get around eminent domain, because eminent domain means you give up your entire property. And here, you only give up part of your rights," says Jensen.
Invoking eminent domain to seize private property would not only require the county to compensate landowners, but also to demonstrate that the taking served a "public use."
"They have been very successful in taking people's property in a number of different ways without compensation as long as they don't take ownership of it," says Jensen.
Written and Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Alex Manning, Tracy Oppenheimer, and Weissmueller.
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The New York Times identifies Orange County, California, as "the center of a new wave of laws restricting the movement of sex offenders." These laws, which have been adopted by the county and a dozen of its cities (with 10 more considering similar legislation), bar registered sex offenders from locations where children congregate, including not only schools and day care centers but also libraries, parks, beaches, and harbors. (No fishing for them!) Such laws have been enacted in other states as well, including Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and North Carolina. While some focus on offenders convicted of crimes against children, most do not, illogically putting public urinators, streakers, and people who had consensual sex with not-quite-16 girlfriends or boyfriends in the same category as child molesters. Even if the restrictions were more narrowly applied, and even if they were enforceable, these "child safety zones" would not provide much protection, since Justice Department data indicate that more than 90 percent of sexually abused minors are assaulted by relatives or acquaintances, as opposed to strangers in parks, while nearly nine out of 10 people arrested for sex offenses have no prior convictions for this category of crime and therefore do not appear on official lists of sex offenders.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is nevertheless a strong believer in child safety zones. "We need to protect our children," he told the Mission Viejo City Council before it enacted its ordinance, which authorizes a six-month jail sentence for registered sex offenders who stroll through a public park. "The danger is real." And even though only three sex offenders have been convicted of venturing into forbidden territory in Orange County so far, he says, "We're not going to know how many kids were not molested or groomed for later sexual contact as a result of this law." In other words, if the public safety benefits cannot be shown, we can just assume them. Amazingly, Huntington Beach City Councilman Joe Carchio concedes that the laws don't really work and that they senselessly punish people who pose no threat to children, but he likes them anyway:
[Carchio] said he felt bad for lower-level offenders whose convictions many years ago prevent them from taking their children to Little League games. Still, he wishes he could have made the restrictions even broader.
"In a lot of ways, it is a feel-good law; it makes people feel safe," Mr. Carchio said. "You make choices in this world, and I guess the choice that individual made is one that is going to follow him for the rest of his life."
Reason.tv recently noted the pointless punitiveness of these and other restrictions on registered sex offenders:
For more on irrational laws aimed at sex offenders, including residence restrictions that make even less sense than the park bans, see my July 2011 Reason article "Perverted Justice."
This morning I appeared on Fox Business Network's Markets Now program, to discuss Greece- and Spain-led turbulence within the Euro Zone. Agamemnon gets a shout-out. Less than three minutes:
As Brian Doherty mentioned here on Hit & Run yesterday, Mitt Romney and Rand Paul had a half-hour meeting recently, fueling rumors that the GOP frontrunner might pick the Kentucky senator as his vice presidential candidate. Like Brian, I don't think this marriage is likely to happen. But if it is a possibility, why would any libertarian want it to happen?
My problem here isn't with Sen. Paul himself -- I've certainly got my disagreements with the man, but I like him much better than anyone else whose name is being kicked around as a potential Romney running mate. The problem is the idea that it would be good to take the guy out of his Senate seat, where he's well-positioned to battle actual bad legislation, and stick him in a job where he'll be expected to suppress his disagreements with his boss and serve as a public face of the Romney administration.
We're in our fourth year of a president who the left is reluctant to rebel against even when he abuses their alleged principles. Before that we had eight years of a president who the right was reluctant to rebel against even when he abused their alleged principles. With Romney we finally have the possibility of a president both the left and the right can hate: a man who may be inclined to continue the worst Bush/Obama policies, but who at least will be easier to organize against. I'd rather have Rand Paul leading the right flank of the anti-Romney revolt than being used to keep the remnants of the Tea Party movement in line.
So please don't pick Paul, Gov. Romney. Pick a party hack, a Joe Biden of the right: a living reminder to the angry grassroots that they do not and should not trust you.
In the fallout from the complete and utter mess that has become of Rhode Island’s investment of taxpayer money in a new video game studio with no publishing history, company founder Curt Schilling is trying to lay the blame on the state’s governor for the crime of letting everybody know about it.
After defaulting on payments on the $75 million guaranteed loan Rhode Island extended to Schilling’s game company, 38 Studios, and laying off all its staff, Schilling went whining to the Providence Journal that by letting everybody know the company was struggling earlier in the month, Gov. Lincoln Chaffee caused potential private investors to pull out:
Within 72 hours of Chafee's May 14 statement that the state was trying to keep 38 Studios "solvent," Schilling says, a video-game publisher pulled out of a $35-million deal to finance a sequel to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the fantasy game that 38 Studios released in February.
Chafee responded that Schilling’s claim “defies logic.” The Providence Journal’s web polling has more than half its voters laying the blame on Schilling. (The Providence Journal has compiled all its coverage of 38 Studios here.)
It’s difficult to imagine a private company considering investing in 38 Studios knowing it was having problems with its loan payments and making payroll, and given that the single game the company had released had sold less than half the copies needed to break even. There’s always the possibility that this mystery publisher didn’t know, which raises doubt they would have the business savvy to pull 38 Studios out of this tailspin anyway.
Even assuming Schilling isn’t full of shit, the scrap is an example of one of the many hazards of mixing politics with investment. Chafee opposed the loan, which was approved prior to his election into office in 2010. He told the Providence Journal he wants to now try to make the project succeed, but there’s absolutely no chance of him using any sort of political capital or risking electoral backlash as angry Rhode Islanders scream about the deal. Why on earth would he? What’s the political gain here? There isn’t a sock big enough to contain the blood that will come spurting out when Chafee tosses Schilling under the bus as taxpayers cheer him on.
The scandal is also picking up steam. This morning it moved beyond the New England media outlets and gaming blogs into a segment on CNN.
For fun “When I say I’m for smaller government, I mean the other guys” hypocrisy: Brian McGrory of The Boston Globe rakes Schilling over the coals for talking the talk as a fiscal conservative and supporting Republican candidates but not walking the walk for taking the loan.
Maryland accounted for the largest taxpayer exodus of any state in the region between 2007 and 2010, with a net migration resulting in 31,000 residents having left the state. That's the position Maryland finds itself in after six years of damaging tax increases. Since 2007, taxes and fees have been raised 24 times, taking an additional $2.4 billion out of the economy each year. Where are these Marylanders going? To Virginia, writes Larry Hogan, where the taxes are much, much lower.View this article
Four British nationals have been sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking. The four are accused of trying to smuggle 11lb of cocaine from Thailand to Indonesia. These British nationals are far from the only foreigners sentenced to death for drug charges in Indonesia, as of September 2011 foreigners made up four fifths of those sentenced to death for drug offenses. Such draconian punishments were intended to reduce drug use in Indonesia, where use of hard drugs has either increased or remained the same. While in some countries harsh drug laws do reduce drug use, they are hardly societies worthy of admiration.
APAIC reviewed drug use in Indonesia and found the following; between 2006 and 2010 the use of meth, barbiturates, heroin, and cannabis resin increased, while the use of ecstasy and cocaine remained about the same. APAIC also found that domestic production of meth and ecstasy is on the rise. Evidently the death penalty and decades long prison sentences are not deterring drug users or drug dealers.
While Indonesia’s punishments are harsh, they are not the worst. Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act requires that anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin, 30 grams of cocaine, 250 grams of meth, or 500 grams of cannabis receive the death penalty. Singapore has executed hundreds of people under these laws, including many foreign nationals. In contrast to Indonesia, Singapore has actually seen a decrease in drug use. Newt Gingrich is on record saying that he supports a Singapore-style solution to America’s drug problems, a commitment embodied by a bill he introduced in 1996 requiring that drug smugglers received the death penalty. One of Singapore’s former high commissioners to the Court of St. James’s defended his country’s policy in a guest post for The Guardian, arguing that the policy has “saved thousands from addiction”.
Indonesia and Singapore show us that draconian drug laws provide no guarantee that drug use will decrease. While Gingrich might sing the praises of a society where drug offenders receive the death penalty, homosexuals are banned from entry, and chewing gum, oral sex, porn, and bungee jumping are illegal, he is thankfully in a minority. If Gingrich and other prohibitionists would like to see sensible drug policy in practice Portugal might be a better place to look than the Pacific rim. Believe it or not, there are policies that deal with drug users effectively that do not involve killing or imprisoning even more of them.
Reason told you so a while back, i.e., the environmentalist lobby that had once touted natural gas as the "bridge fuel" to renewable power future had turned against it. Why? Because the renewables they favor can't compete with cheap abundant natural gas. My 2011 column, Natural Gas Flip-Flop, reported:
The national green lobbies initially welcomed shale gas. In 2009, for example, Robert Kennedy Jr., head of the Waterkeeper Alliance, called it “an obvious bridge fuel to the ‘new’ energy economy.” Local environmental activists were not as enthusiastic, arguing that fracking contaminates drinking water and causes other forms of pollution. After a while, some of the national lobbies began to come around to the locals’ side. In the words of the journalist Matt Ridley, “it became apparent that shale gas was a competitive threat to renewable energy.” Josh Fox, director of the anti–natural gas documentary Gasland, put it bluntly on Kennedy’s radio show: “What’s really happening here is not a battle between natural gas and coal. What’s happening here is a battle between another dirty fossil fuel and renewable energy.”
Indeed, natural gas is cheaper than renewable sources of energy, even if you include the costs of carbon capture and sequestration. The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2011 calculates the levelized costs of electric power generation for various fuel sources. (Levelized costs include all capital, operating and maintenance, fuel, and transmission costs for building plants now that would switch on by 2016.) Electricity produced using natural gas in a combined cycle generating plant comes in at $66 per megawatt-hour. By contrast, offshore wind clocks in at $243 per megawatt-hour, photovoltaic at $211, solar thermal at $312, geothermal at $102, and biomass at $113. The only renewable sources that are close to competitive with natural gas are onshore wind at $97 per megawatt-hour and hydroelectric at $86.
Now the Journal has noticed the green flip-flop on gas and is reporting:
...one of the most powerful environmental lobbies, the Sierra Club, is mounting a major campaign to kill the industry.
The battle plan is called "Beyond Natural Gas," and Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune announced the goal in an interview with the National Journal this month: "We're going to be preventing new gas plants from being built wherever we can." The big green lobbying machine has rolled out a new website that says "The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous and running amok" and that "The closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears; and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be." So the goal is to shut the industry down, not merely to impose higher safety standards.
This is no idle threat. The Sierra Club has deep pockets funded by liberal foundations and knows how to work the media and politicians. The lobby helped to block new nuclear plants for more than 30 years, it has kept much of the U.S. off-limits to oil drilling, and its "Beyond Coal" campaign has all but shut down new coal plants. One of its priorities now will be to make shale gas drilling anathema within the Democratic Party.
The political irony is that not too long ago the Sierra Club and other greens portrayed natural gas as the good fossil fuel. The Sierra Club liked natural gas so much (and vice versa) that from 2007-2010 the group received $26 million in donations from Chesapeake Energy and others in the gas industry, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Some of that money was for the Beyond Coal campaign.
One reason for this once-mutual affection is that natural gas produces much less carbon emissions than does coal—and the Sierra Club claims to want fewer such emissions...
But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent gas prices down to $2.50, the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production. At that price, the Sierra Club's Valhalla of wind, solar and biofuel power may never be competitive. So the green left has decided it must do everything it can to reduce the supply of gas and keep its price as high as possible.
Go here to read the whole WSJ op/ed.
Dharun Ravi, who plans to start serving his 30-day jail sentence tomorrow, apologized yesterday for using a webcam to spy on his Rutgers University roommate as he kissed another man, gossiping about the incident on Twitter, and daring his followers to watch another encounter between the two men:
Last Monday, I was sentenced to 3 years probation, 300 hours of community service, a fine of more than $10,000.00, and 30 days in jail. Since the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office appealed that sentence, the sentence does not have to start until the appeal is decided. Nevertheless, I decided to accept and hopefully complete the sentence as soon as possible. It’s the only way I can go on with my life.
I accept responsibility for and regret my thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices that I made on September 19, 2010 and September 21, 2010. My behavior and actions, which at no time were motivated by hate, bigotry, prejudice or desire to hurt, humiliate or embarrass anyone, were nonetheless the wrong choices and decisions. I apologize to everyone affected by those choices.
At Ravi's sentencing last week, when he faced a possible prison term of up to 10 years, Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman scolded him for his "unimpressive" expressions of regret. "I heard this jury say 'guilty' 288 times—24 questions, 12 jurors—that's the multiplication," Berman said. "And I haven’t heard you apologize once." Ravi, who chose not to address the court, told the Newark Star-Ledger anything he said prior to sentencing would be dismissed as an insincere bid for leniency. Yesterday's statement may or may not be what Berman was looking for, but those who thought he let Ravi off too lightly are bound to view it as inadequate, especially since Ravi did not mention his roommate, Tyler Clementi, who killed himself a few days after the webcam incident for reasons that remain unclear. Although Ravi was never officially charged with contributing to Clementi's death, the aggressive strategy of his prosecutors, who inflated a minor, nonviolent offense into a felony punishable by a 10-year prison term, suggests they were trying to hold him responsible for his roommate's decision to jump off the George Washington Bridge.
Ravi's apology highlights what seems to be the main reason he rejected a plea deal with terms similar to the punishment he received after his trial (except for the month in jail): He did not see himself as a bigot, and so he did not want to admit that he spied on Clementi with the intent of intimidating him because of his sexual orientation. During his trial, the prosecution presented very little evidence that Ravi—who, judging from his tweets and instant messages, rarely had an unexpressed thought—harbored any particular animus against Clementi or gay people in general. "I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi," Berman said last week. "He had no reason to." Berman emphasized that "Ravi was not convicted of a hate crime; he was convicted of a bias crime." This distinction is pretty hazy, not only because the terms are generally used interchangeably but because Ravi was convicted of deliberately trying to intimidate Clementi through his Twitter comments and of doing so because Clementi was gay. That theory did not make much sense, not only because the prosecution failed to show that Ravi was motivated by anti-gay bias but also because he sought to conceal his spying from Clementi and (foolishly) viewed his tweets as private chatter among friends. As far as Ravi was concerned, he was talking about Clementi behind his back; once he realized that Clementi had seen his tweets, Ravi apologized to him (albeit in a pretty disingenuous, half-assed fashion). The point is not that Ravi's behavior was admirable but that it did not suggest an effort to intimidate Clementi.
In fact, after distinguishing between "hate crime" and "bias crime," Berman suggested that the prosecution had applied New Jersey's law, which heretofore has been used only in cases involving violence or threats of violence, in a manner that was not intended by the legislature. Reinforcing that point, he did not give Ravi any jail time for the bias crime convictions, locking him up instead for his efforts to conceal his actions from police, which included deleting incriminating tweets and trying to influence a witness.
Although Ravi decided to serve his jail sentence rather than wait for the appeals to be resolved, his lawyers plan to challenge his convictions on several grounds. With respect to the initial spying (as opposed to the subsequent tweets), for example, the jurors found Ravi guilty of a bias crime based not on his intent to intimidate but based on their supposition that Clementi felt intimidated. While New Jersey's law allowed them to take that route, this definition of bias intimidation seems vulnerable to a due process challenge, since it means someone can be convicted of a crime he did not know he was committing.
More generally, Ravi argues that a law aimed at violent gay bashers has been misused to punish what Berman described as the "colossal insensitivity" of an immature 18-year-old. I tend to agree. But in making this argument, Ravi implicitly concedes the basic premise of New Jersey's statute: that the criminal law should be used to brand people as bigots and punish them for their benighted beliefs.
Previous coverage of the case here.
Public Access to Court Electronic Records, a.k.a. PACER, is an Internet-based service that allows attorneys, litigants, and other interested parties to access docket sheets, judicial opinions, and other documents related to federal cases. In his column from our June issue, Greg Beato notes that while PACER was a revolutionary step forward upon its release in 1988, today it seems as archaic as a barrister’s wig. Court records are now expensive and inaccessible, Beato writes. It’s time for information liberation.View this article
Fracking has unleashed vast new supplies of natural gas in the United States and looks like it will do so around the world. Cheap natural gas (and admittedly new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon dioxide emissions at power plants) is causing electric generation companies to shift from coal. Coal emits about twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas does. The result is that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been falling. Last week, the Financial Times reported:
The shale gas boom has led to a big drop in US carbon emissions, as generators switch from coal to cheap gas.
According to the International Energy Agency, US energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, have fallen 450m tonnes over the past five years – the largest drop among all countries surveyed...
Gas is fast becoming the new fuel of choice for the US power sector: in the past 12 months, coal generation has slumped by 19 per cent while gas generation has increased by 38 per cent, according to US Department of Energy figures. A gas-fired plant produces half the CO2 emissions of a coal-fired one.
Nature and New Scientist are reporting a series of recent attacks on nuclear and nanotech scientists in Europe by the Olga Cell of the Informal Anarchist Federation International Revolutionary Front. (It's not funny, but I do wonder if "Informal" isn't a bit redundant in this context?) All levity aside, the group has taken credit for shooting a nuclear scientist in Italy and sending bombs to nanotech research centers in Switzerland. Nature reports:
On 11 May, the cell sent a four-page letter to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera claiming responsibility for the shooting of Roberto Adinolfi, the chief executive of Ansaldo Nucleare, the nuclear-engineering subsidiary of aerospace and defence giant Finmeccanica. Believed by authorities to be genuine, the letter is riddled with anti-science rhetoric. The group targeted Adinolfi because he is a “sorcerer of the atom”, it wrote. “Adinolfi knows well that it is only a matter of time before a European Fukushima kills on our continent.”
“Science in centuries past promised us a golden age, but it is pushing us towards self-destruction and total slavery,” the letter continues. “With this action of ours, we return to you a tiny part of the suffering that you, man of science, are pouring into this world.” The group also threatened to carry out further attacks.
Last year, a related pod of anti-technology nuts, Individuals Tending to Savagery, bombed Mexican nanotech scientists, harming two of them.
The good news is that the three anti-science terrorists who sought to bomb the IBM nanotech facility were convicted last year in Switzerland. The Olga Cell is vowing to strike again.
Science causes suffering? Here is a very short list of the "crimes" committed by the purveyors of science: Doubled life expectancies; vaccines; electricity; automobiles; telephones; tripled crop productivity; organ transplants; airplanes; computers; the World Wide Web; and on and on and on.
A Fort Worth police officer shot a family’s Border collie mix over the weekend. The couple, Cindy and Mark Boling, had just returned home from shopping when the officer arrived at their yard, two blocks away from the address of the copper theft for which he was dispatched. The collie, Lillie, and the couple’s other dog, Grace, went to greet the unexpected visitor. Mark Boling says he called out to the police officer to let him know the dogs don’t bite and caught up with Grace before she even got to the officer. Boling says it only took a few seconds for the officer to pull his gun and shoot Lillie, and also says the gun remained pointed at him after the dog had been shot and had run to the backyard to die. Here’s the police’s version of events, via CW33:
"The officer responded as an assist unit in the investigation of a copper theft offense that occurred in the 4900 Block on Norma st. The assist officer started looking for suspects in the surrounded area from the offense location; he stopped at 4717 Norma where he made contact with an adult male, the officer waited by the driveway when suddenly two dogs started barking at the officer and in an aggressive manner charged towards his direction. The officer ran towards a pillar and asked the male repeatedly to call back the dogs. The officer jumped on top of the pillar and continued pleading the male to call the dogs back. As the dogs were getting closer to attack/bite the officer, the officer fired his duty weapon striking the dog closest to him. No arrests were made in reference to the copper theft call."
“How can this person be allowed to carry a gun?” asked Cindy Boling.
Don’t let that cool demeanor fool you. Left-wing Washington Post pundit E.J. Dionne cares deeply about the American right. He has “long admired the conservative tradition,” Dionne says in a recent column, especially “American conservatism’s most attractive features: prudence, caution and a sense that change should be gradual.” That’s why it pains him to see modern conservatism abandon “its communal roots” and instead embrace “untempered individualism, which betrays what conservatism has been and should be.”
Maybe it’s because I’m not a conservative, but “untempered individualism” doesn’t sound like such a bad thing to me. Dionne, however, is no fan of the stuff, and as far as he’s concerned, rampant individualism has made the American right go wrong. And just when did this terrible transformation occur? By a strange coincidence, Dionne started losing his affection for American conservatives almost immediately after Barack Obama became president:
[Obama] pitched communal themes from the moment he took office, declaring in his inaugural address that America is “bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions.” The more he emphasized a better balance between the individual and the community, the less interested conservatives became in anything that smacked of such equilibrium.
That’s why today’s conservatives can’t do business with liberals or even moderates who are still working within the American tradition defined by balance. It’s why they can’t agree even to budget deals that tilt heavily, but not entirely, toward spending cuts; only sharp reductions in taxes and government will do. It’s why they cannot accept (as Romney and the Heritage Foundation once did) energetic efforts by the government to expand access to health insurance. It’s why, even after a catastrophic financial crisis, they continue to resist new rules aimed not at overturning capitalism but at making it more stable.
In other words, E.J. Dionne thinks conservatism is great, so long as conservatives don’t actually get in the way of the progressive political agenda. How convenient.
This is arguably the last story anyone should ever have to read about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA):
The CBS 3 I-Team has learned that a Catholic priest who was removed from the ministry over sex abuse allegations now holds a sensitive security post at Philadelphia International Airport.
The security checkpoint between Terminals D and E is a busy place where thousands of people – including lots of kids – pass through every day. But you might not believe who the I-Team observed working as a TSA supervisor at that checkpoint this week: Thomas Harkins.
Until 2002, Harkins was a Catholic priest working at churches across South Jersey. But the Diocese of Camden removed him from ministry because it found he sexually abused two young girls. Now, in a new lawsuit, a third woman is claiming she also is one of Harkins’ victims.
The I-Team asked Harkins about the suit as he was leaving his shift at the airport.
“I have nothing to say,” was Harkins’ reply.
Whole pathetic tale here. [Link fixed]
Serious question: Exactly what will it take for the feds to admit that the TSA is a giant mistake that needs to be scrapped? This is an agency that was created by a Republican president and subsequently evaluated by Republican congressman as worse than worthless. You'd think that either the GOP or the Dems would pounce on this truly unpopular agency as something to chuck out altogether, if only to make partisan hay and win the hearts and minds of air travelers from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol. But they're idiots, babe, it's a wonder they can even feed themselves. (Gratuitous Dylan reference explained.)
And here's ReasonTV's playlist of TSA vids, including such hits as "44 Ways to Say TSA," "TSA My Ding-a-Ling Sing-Along," and "Remy: Do the TSA Pokey-Pokey."
- Mitt Romney won the Texas primary. Romney’s campaign claims the win secures his nomination despite not clinching the required delegate majority.
- Ex-President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, has been sentenced to 50 years in jail for his role in Sierra Leone’s civil war.
- The UK Supreme Court has dismissed Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden where he is accused of sex offenses.
- The European Commission has called for a banking union and recapitalization of banks within the eurozone.
- Poland’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, said that he expects more than “regret” from the U.S. after President Obama mistakenly referred to a Nazi facility used to process Jews for execution as a “Polish death camp”.
- The Cannibalistic attack in Miami is being blamed on “bath salts”, otherwise known as “the new LSD”.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content!
New at Reason.tv: “Zach Wahls, His Two Moms, & The Future of Same-Sex Marriage”
The indispensable John Merline at Investors Business Daily plots the details of "The Recovery That Wasn't" in the graphic to the right:
Employment: By this point, the average job growth in the past 10 recoveries was 6.9%. Under Obama, jobs have grown by just 1.9%, according to data from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve....
GDP growth: The Obama recovery has also performed far worse than average when it comes to GDP growth. After 11 quarters, the economy is still only 6.8% bigger than it was when the recession ended. In contrast, GDP was 16% bigger, on average, by this point in the previous 10 recoveries, the Minneapolis Fed data show...
Had the Obama recovery tracked the average GDP growth in the 10 previous recoveries, the economy would be almost $1.2 trillion bigger today.
Incomes: By the third year of the past five recoveries, real median household incomes climbed an average 2.8%, according to the Census Bureau, which only has household income data back to 1967.
You know what comes next, right?
Protestations from the Obama side that this is all just proof that recession/depression was so much worse than any of us knew that it's a goddamn great and good thing that Obama is helming the ship of state because if it had been one of those idiot Republicans like George W. Bush we wouldn't have had bailouts and a stimulus that was too small to really effect the economy - even smaller than the $150 billion tax thingamajig that Bush tried in early 2008 that was really pathetic because we now know that even Obama's $800 billion attempt was obviously too small christ it should have been two or three or even four times bigger and for god's sake can't we just prepare for the alien invasion that Paul Krugman - he won a Nobel Prize so just shut up already! - says will create enough of a multiplier effect to finally restart the economy and screw the debt because we'll have thousands of years to pay that down, especially now that thank Zardoz we've got universal health care that will be awesome if the d-bags on the SCOTUS don't FUBAR it and Dodd-Frank means there won't be any fraud or dumb lending!
And of course the Republicans will counter with: See, none of this would have happened if we'd only followed George W. Bush's disastrous big-government spending ways and expansion of major entitlements and a defense buildup because sharia law is taking over whole hamlets in Oklahoma and our plan to increase annual spending over the next decade by just $1 trillion is so much better than the Prez's to spend $2 trillion more, especially after increasing federal outlays by 60 percent or more over the previous decade when we controlled things is exactly the tonic the economy needs right now! But seriously folks, what do you expect when you let gay marriage happen? No economy can recover from that!
Exit questions: Do you think the weak recovery primarily stems from the severity of the recession that ended in 2009 or the government's attempts to ameliorate the recession? Does it worry you more that Obama might be re-elected alongside a GOP Congress (both House and Senate) or that Romney (who supported TARP, auto bailouts, and stimulus) will be elected with a GOP Congress?
President Obama accuses Mitt Romney of putting profits above people by striving to create wealth rather than jobs during his 15 years at Bain Capital. Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says this critique of Romney's work at the private equity firm, which Obama says will be central to his re-election campaign, betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism.View this article
Dozens of students at Michigan's Kenowa Hills High School decided to ride their bicycles to school as a senior prank. They talked to the local police department and managed to get an official escort to the parade, and they even convinced the mayor to ride with them. When they got to school the principal immediately suspended the students, forbid them from taking part in the traditional last walk through the school, and threatened to keep them from taking part in the graduation ceremony. Principal Katie Pennington said the students backed up traffic and put people in danger. But Superintendent Gerard Hopkins said the suspension was as much about showing the students who was in charge as it was about any problems they caused.
The great guitarist Doc Watson, who started his career in a rockabilly band then found an appreciative audience playing at folk festivals, has died at age 89. Listen, relish, mourn:
If you don't have any of his recordings, a good place to start is 1972's Elementary Doctor Watson! Few bluegrass albums are as good as this one, and I'm not sure any are better.
Paul Boyd, a 39-year-old bipolar animator, was shot to death by Vancouver police in 2007 after creating a public disturbance and allegedly wielding a bicycle chain at cops. Two years later the British Columbia Criminal Justice Branch ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove excessive force by the shooting officer, and a final report two months ago from the Police Complaint Commissioner exonerated the officer, Constable Lee Chipperfield. On Monday, according to the Province, the police chief said “there was no misconduct” in the incident, but today the BC Civil Liberty Association released new video it had obtained from a tourist who had recorded Boyd’s final moments and not realized the incident had become a controversial one, which has caused the BC Attorney General to back an external investigation.
According to CBC, the video begins after Boyd had already been shot seven times. In the video, you can see police take Boyd’s bicycle chain away while he is already on all fours on the ground. The moment of the last shot is not caught in frame. CBC offered to show the video to Vancouver police before airing it, but the department declined. The video, below:
Reason on police and cameras.
Courtesy of The Daily Caller, here's White House Spokesman Jay Carney answering a reporter's question about Solyndra's bankruptcy: "How is that different from Romney’s argument on Bain Capital, which is that many succeeded and a few failed?"
Oh, of course.
Gov. Mitt Romney launched an attack ad today against President Barack Obama over the Solyndra scandal, which I critiqued earlier.
Discussing methamphetamine in my book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, I note that in the 1990s "the demon drug proved so irresistible as an explanation for otherwise inexplicable acts that its presence could almost be assumed if a crime was sufficiently heinous." Nowadays the quasi-legal meth substitutes known as "bath salts" serve much the same function, as illustrated by the case of the allegedly drug-crazed "Causeway Cannibal." On Saturday, Miami police say, an officer shot and killed 31-year-old Rudy Eugene on the MacArthur Causeway as he viciously attacked 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, but not before Eugene had chewed off much of Poppo's face, including his eyeballs and nose. (Surveillance cameras captured some of the fight as well as the shooting.) Even if Poppo, who is in "extremely critical" condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital, survives to give his account, we are never going to get a satisfying explanation of Eugene's actions. Yet Armando Aguilar, president of the local police union, tells WFOR, the CBS affiliate in Miami, he is pretty sure that "bath salts," which he confusingly describes as a substitute for LSD rather than meth, made Eugene do it:
"We have seen, already, three or four cases that are exactly like this where some people have admitted taking LSD and it's no different than cocaine psychosis," Aguilar said.
In the cases Aguilar mentioned, he said the people have all taken their clothing off, been extremely violent with what seemed to be super-human strength, even using their jaws as weapons.
"Extremely strong, I took care of a 150 pound individual who you would have thought he was 250 pounds," Aguilar said. "It took six security officers to restrain the individual."
WFOR—which gave the online version of its story the headline "Causeway Cannibal Identified; Fears Grow Over Drug Possibly Involved"—also quotes a local emergency room physician:
Emergency room doctor Paul Adams agreed with Aguilar, saying similar cases have showed up in the ER.
"We noticed an increase, probably after Ultra Fest [an electronic music festival]," Dr. Adams said.
Adams said the new LSD is commonly called "bath salts." The drug, Adams said, can raise a person's body temperature to such a high degree that logic and the ability to feel pain are lost; then delirium sets in and that often leads to disaster.
"We've had several deaths," Dr. Adams said. "Earlier last year, we probably saw our first death from bath salts where people were running on the MacArthur Causeway, under the MacArthur Causeway being chased by the police and then all of the sudden just collapsing."
To my mind, collapsing while being chased by police is not "similar" to stripping naked and gnawing off someone's face, but never mind. Even without the benefit of toxicological tests, Aguilar and Adams conclude that something called "bath salts," supposedly designed to mimic the effects of the psychedelic LSD (which is not usually associated with face gnawing), caused this horrifying outburst of violence by producing a state of mind "no different [from] cocaine psychosis." WFOR adds that "unlike the original LSD," this new one "is a stimulant."
The Miami Herald is more cautious, noting toward the end of its story that "an emergency room doctor at Jackson Memorial Hospital said Eugene’s attack could have been induced by bath salts, a drug nicknamed after the bathroom product it resembles." Exactly what substance this might be is not clear: The Drug Enforcement Administration has banned three stimulants commonly used in these products, while proposed federal legislation names a dozen more, and even that list presumably is not exhaustive. Then again, the Herald says, "Police theorized earlier that it was 'cocaine psychosis,' a drug-induced craze that bakes the body internally and often leads those it affects to strip naked to try to cool off." Imitation speed, ersatz LSD, cocaine, whatever. They're all drugs, right?
Stories about potions that transform people into irrationally violent monsters with superhuman strength have been associated with various chemical agents over the years, including cocaine, PCP, meth, and even marijuana. As I show in Saying Yes, they say more about the fears underlying prohibition than they do about the psychoactive effects of these substances. Even if traces of one or more officially condemned intoxicants are found in Eugene's blood, his actions were so anomalous that it makes little sense to describe them as a consequence of drug use, let alone an indicator of the hazards facing the typical user.
More on "bath salts" here.
Philosopher Stephen Case's new book, Immortality:The Quest to Live Forever and How it Drives Civilization, argues that our realization that we will inevitably die clashes with our inability to imagine our non-existence. The result of this Mortality Paradox is four different immortality narratives—Staying Alive, Resurrection, Soul, and Legacy—at the base of human civilizations. Case further argues that even if we could become immortal we would regret it. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey concludes he wants to live a very long time so that he can decide if he really might regret choosing immortality.View this article
It's the Texas GOP primary today, with just two candidates, Mitt Romney (who, as NPR explains, will not be cinching his delegate majority today) and native son Ron Paul, still running. Paul, who ceased actively campaigning in primary states like this a while back, not expected to set the world on fire here, but as Politico says in its "6 Things to Watch in Texas" piece:
The Texas congressman isn’t exactly running for the GOP nomination anymore, but at the same time his supporters have been extremely active across the state. He’s almost certain to improve on his performance in 2008 -- when he won just five percent of the vote -- but by how much is impossible to predict.
Recent public polls show Romney, the presumptive nominee, with a big lead and Paul poised to triple his 2008 score.
Also today in that Texas primary, Ron Paul-endorsed GOP Senate candidate Ted Cruz also fighting for his party's nomination today and is likely to end up pushing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst into a runoff. Paul fans wonder if Cruz (who did not return the endorsement to Paul) deserves Paulite bonafides.
W. James Antle on Paul and Cruz at American Spectator.
*Paul fans gather to try to poll watch to prevent what they fear might be election fraud in Texas and California.
In an unrelated story, a Texas poll worker shot today.
*Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard very much wants 10-15 percent of the GOP's voters, and their $36 million plus in giving this election season (almost more than Gingrich and Santorum combined) to leave his party posthaste.
*UPI reports on Paul activists who still believe anything could happen in Tampa.
*Eli Lehrer of the Heartland Institute with those words than which nothing enrages a Paul partisan more: Paul should drop out right now and join hands explicitly with Mitt Romney in order to....what? Make sure Romney beats Obama, of course! Which should be a concern of the powerfully antiwar, anti government growth, anti-government control of medical care, anti-spending, anti-drug war, pro-civil liberties Paul fan, why?
*In suspicions of some deal between Romney and Paul camp news, Sen. Rand Paul and Mitt Romney had a non-public half hour meeting last week. Could there be a Romney-Rand Paul ticket? (I doubt it very much, myself.)
Cross posted at dedicated blog/site for Ron Paul's Revolution.
As President Barack Obama turns his attention toward attacking Bain Capital to indict Gov. Mitt Romney as putting profits above people, Romney is trying to flip the tables by attacking Obama on Solyndra and the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program:
So will it work? Some thoughts:
Step away from the ridiculous filters. What is the deal with the vintage film look? It has absolutely no connection to the content or theme of the commercial. Just because you downloaded the app doesn’t mean you have to use it.
Can Romney attack Obama on the basis of cronyism? As the Los Angeles Times pointed out earlier this year (with the help of Cato Analyst Tad DeHaven), companies in which Bain had heavily invested received millions in various government subsidies and grants. The perception of Romney as a rich, sheltered member of the old-boys network doesn’t exactly give him the credibility to go after the young, rich, sheltered, new-boys network of green energy.
It’s the jobs, stupid. The campaign sort of gets it, but the attacks are not sharp enough. The ads bring up the layoffs that follow these companies' failures, but because these are jobs Obama’s taking credit for creating in the first place, it’s easily spun as “Well, at least we’re trying.” Here’s Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt’s flippant response to the ad to Politico:
"What Mitt Romney has made abundantly clear over the past year is that he'd cede the clean energy market and jobs that come with it to China. He's been campaigning across the country, attacking investments in clean energy, while other countries are racing to capitalize on that market."
The statement isn’t even entirely true: European nations are cutting back on their green energy subsidies (costing even more jobs). LaBolt’s economic illiteracy is irrelevant, though. The Obama message is, “We’re trying to create jobs and save the environment. Romney doesn’t care about either of these things.”
Obama’s been given full rein to act as though these green energy projects are resulting in impoverished folks in nearby communities getting nice, productive jobs. The reality is, thanks to labor agreements these projects often sign with union groups (in order to keep them from miring the projects in lawsuits), the majority of Americans have no chance at all at landing one of these jobs. That’s the scandal the average voter would be more likely to care about.
- Spain needs a bailout from the rest of Europe, or else the euro itself may be finished, pleads Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz. Yields on 10-year government bonds have soared above 6.5 percent, near the danger zone that prompted bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Europeans overall are increasingly unenthused about the EU.
- MSNBC host Chris Hayes is being raked over the coals (and apologizing!) for suggesting that dragging out the "heroes" word every Memorial Day risks glorifying war.
- Anti-virus company Kaspersky Lab discovered an unprecedentedly sophisticated, data-gathering cyberweapon infecting computers in the Middle East. The company believes the program was created by a national government.
- Arizona's welcome mat looks a little frayed, as xenophobic militias step up their efforts after the defeat of a bill to establish a citizens border patrol.
- With businesses and workers fleeing underground to escape burdensome taxes and regulations, California officials have set up a hotline to target this last vestige of economic vitality.
- Springfield, Massachusetts, police face a federal lawsuit charging they pulled down Terrence Thomas's pants and beat him in the middle of the street. Oddly, while no drugs were found on him during an initial search or during a strip search at the station, cocaine and marijuana fell out of his clothes after they'd been in police custody.
- The Harappan civilization — a large, urban civilization that spanned the Indian subcontinent — appears to have been done in 4,000 years ago by naturally occurring climate change.
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There are big differences between doing business with a private vendor and doing business with a public agency. If the private vendor doesn't like the way you use its services, it might ding you on the price or even sever ties and send you elsewhere. If the public agency doesn't care for your interpretation of the arrangement, it has the power to throw your ass in jail. Which is how Diane Tran, a Houston-area high school honor student who takes advanced placement courses, gets straight-As and works full-time to support herself and two siblings, found herself in jail for "truancy."
The Daily Mail has a nice summary of the story here:
An eleventh grader in Texas was thrown in jail - just for missing school.
However, honour student Diane Tran, 17, is no lazy truant. In fact, she's quite the opposite.
Since her parents divorced and left her and her two siblings, she has been the sole breadwinner and works two jobs to keep the family afloat.
Ms Tran said she works a full time job, a part-time job, and takes advancement and dual credit college level courses at Willis High School.
'[I take] dual credit U.S. history, dual credit English literacy, college algebra, Spanish language AP,' she says of her impressive academic workload.
However, the high-achiever cannot devote as much time as she would like to her schooling as she often misses an entire day.
You have to read a few stories to fill in the gaps, but it appears that Tran's mother ditched the family, and that her father, while still involved, doesn't earn enough to pay the bills. So Tran works at a dry cleaner during the week, a wedding planner on the weekend, takes advanced courses and maintains a straight-A average. She actually lives with one of her employers at least part time, while helping pay her older brother's way through college and supporting a baby sister who lives with relatives.
Repeat after me: I will never again complain that I am overworked.
While Tran is pulling better-than-respectable grades, she sometimes misses school — either actual days, or just attendance, which seems to be legally the same thing. Mary Elliot, Tran's employer at the wedding-planning gig, told reporters, "She keeps her grades up, but sometimes she oversleeps, because she's been working."
Under Texas law, any student who "fails to attend school without excuse on 10 or more days or parts of days within a six-month period in the same school year" must be referred to "county, justice, or municipal court" for prosecution. Tran's father may be subject to the tender mercies of the legal system, too (her mother lives safely out-of-state). That's how Tran ended up before Judge Lanny Moriarty, a jackass of truly epic proportions (I feel confident in my read on his character), who sentenced her to 24 hours in jail and a $100 fine for ... successfully multi-tasking?
“If you let one (truant student) run loose, what are you gonna’ do with the rest of ‘em? Let them go too?” Judge Moriarty asked.
Well ... yes, unless you think the main purpose of school is just to get the kids to check in at appointed times so they're properly warehoused.
Oh ... wait.
Admittedly, Diane Tran may have contributed to her own woes. ABC News reported that she refused friends' suggestions that she consider homeschooling "because she wanted to be named among the top-10 students in her class just like her brother." As a homeschooler, she could have completed her education without subjecting herself to the state's draconian penalties for doing things other than exactly by the rule book.
But then, like a lot of people, she may not have fully understood the huge difference between doing business on a voluntary basis with private parties, or under the constant threat of violence that comes from dealing with the state.
The latest Reason-Rupe poll of 708 Wisconsin adults on landline and cell phones found 65 percent of Wisconsin residents believe government workers receive better retirement benefits that those with similar jobs in the private sector. Twenty-two percent think benefits are the same and 7 percent think public sector retirement benefits are worse than in the private sector.
Wisconsin results are substantially higher than findings from a national Reason-Rupe poll conducted inMarch 2011, which found that 50 percent of Americans thought “public sector employees” have “better benefits” than “those with similar jobs in the private sector.”
Despite the widespread perception that public employees receive better retirement benefits, this does not necessarily translate into support for cutting these benefits. Instead, a slight plurality (49 percent) opposes doing so, and 46 percent support reducing public employee benefits. At the same time, the public also supports reforms that would reduce costs of public employee retirement benefits: 74 percent favor increased public employee contributions toward benefits, 69 percent favor transitioning pensions to 401(k)-style accounts, and 79 percent favor increasing the retirement benefit eligibility age to at least 60.
Perception of public employee benefits appears to highly correlate with the issues surrounding the June 5th Wisconsin Governor recall election. Eight-eight percent of those who plan to vote for Governor Scott Walker think public employees receive better benefits, compared to 46 percent among Tom Barrett voters. Likewise, 81 percent among those with unfavorable opinions of public unions think public workers receive better benefits compared to 48 percent among those with favorable opinions of public unions.
However, majorities of both public (59 percent) and private (75 percent) sector workers agree public workers receive better retirement benefits. Similarly majorities across partisan groups also agree, including 82 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Independents, and 51 percent of Democrats.
There is a general consensus in Wisconsin that public sector workers enjoy better retirement benefits that those with similar jobs in the private sector. This does not necessarily mean they favor cutting those benefits (some may think the private sector should improve its retirement benefits). Nevertheless, this perception of compensation inequality between public and private sectors may drive support for reforms that reduce the cost of government workers' retirement benefits.
ORC International conducted fieldwork for the poll, May 14th-18th 2012 of both mobile and landline phones, 708 Wisconsin adults, margin of error +/- 3.7%. Likely Wisconsin voters (609, MOE +/-4%) include registered respondents who said they are absolutely certain to vote or very likely to vote in the June 5th recall election for governor.
Emily Ekins is the director of polling for Reason Foundation where she leads the Reason-Rupe public opinion research project, launched in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @emilyekins.
What's the most persistent myth about being raised by gay parents? "That you are a child abuse victim," says Zach Wahls, author of the new book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family.
Wahls became an internet sensation after a video of him defending his mothers' same-sex marriage was uploaded to YouTube. His 2011 testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee has racked up over 18 million views and led to appearances on The Daily Show, Letterman, Ellen, and many other places.
Now comes My Two Moms, in which the 20-year-old University of Iowa engineering student explains what it's like to grow up as a child as the child of same-sex parents and uses the lessons he learned as an Eagle Scout to talk about why marriage equality should be the law of the land.
About 7 minutes.
Interview by Nick Gillespie. Camera by Jim Epstein and Joshua Swain; edited by Swain.
For more Reason coverage on LBGT issues, click here.
Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel to receive automatic notification when new material goes live.
The New York Times has a pretty lengthy piece on the President’s role in the waging of a drone war over Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, which serves to highlight some of the differences between the way President George W. Bush’s prosecution of the war on terror was perceived and how President Obama’s continuation and expansion of that war on terror is perceived today. George Bush, for example, got a lot of grief for characterizing his job as being that of “the decider.” Here’s the Times explaining how Barack Obama, too, is a decider:
Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.
“He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.”
The Times marvels at the president’s decision-making abilities in the war on terror, drone edition:
When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”
The justification for ordering the assassination of an American citizen is buried towards the end of the article:
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.MORE »
New Jersey legislators look likely to further the Garden State’s withdrawl from the War on Drugs after proposing a law that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. The bill was unanimously passed by committee, and could be voted on in the Assembly as soon as Thursday. The law would closely resemble the Portuguese decriminalization policy, whereby possession is not a criminal offense and punishable by a fine. The bipartisan proposal would be the latest in a series of policy changes that relaxes the fervor of the drug war in New Jersey. New Jersey has already reduced the size of drug-free school zones and legalized medical marijuana. After the successes of the Portuguese model, there is no reason to think that New Jersey will not enjoy similar successes, that is of course unless the administration decides to continue its own trend of overreach.
Like many laws that move towards a more liberal drug policy the New Jersey proposal is motivated in large part by the failures and costs of the war on drugs. Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer made the economic argument saying that, “The real crime is to taxpayers. It’s really costly for taxpayers to prosecute that one joint when limited resources would be better served on bigger and better crimes.” Jack Cole, a retired New Jersey State Police detective lieutenant and chairman of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, noted that the war on drugs has failed to reduce the rate of addiction, “$1.5 trillion has been spent over four decades and 46 million arrests made of nonviolent drug offenders — and that after all that, the same percentage of the population, 1.3 percent, is addicted to drugs as was in 1914 and 1970. Even more concerning is that police solve far fewer major crimes now than ever before,”
While it is encouraging that New Jersey legislators look prepared to let law enforcement professionals tackle serious crimes and reduce the number of prisoners in already overcrowded prisons, federal oversight could prove to be obstructive, especially if California’s experience is anything to go by. If the Obama administration reacted so strongly to legal medical marijuana dispensaries it is safe to assume that New Jersey could see a similar response to the decriminalization of marijuana possession.
Obama, who began as someone who supported state rights with regard to drugs, has become one of the most aggressive perpetrators of the drug war. As the ReasonTV video below shows, such a drastic change in policy will only alienate many of Obama’s usual supporters.
Four-term U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) is seeking re-election this year, and 14 Republicans are lining up to challenge her. The choice of the Golden State’s Republican bigwigs is the nonprofit executive Elizabeth Emken, who is the subject of my print column in the current issue of Reason.
In the FlashReport, Jon Fleischman continues his "ongoing effort to bring original, thoughtful commentary" by publishing Emken’s policy paper on regulation.
I didn’t have too many kind words for Emken, and I’m voting for Rick Williams in next week’s primary. A few Emken supporters have written in to challenge my characterization of the candidate as weak tea. (Andrew Sullivan on the other hand says the piece was insufficiently zealous in its praise of America’s sovereign ruler.) So in the interest of fairness, let me say that while Emken’s policy paper didn’t knock my socks off, it is way better than anything coming out of Feinstein lately. Some samples:
Does it surprise anyone that a recent video revealed an EPA official comparing his agency’s methods of dealing with non-compliance with crucifixion?
This same story is happening every day, all over the country. Thanks to over-taxation, over-regulation and over-litigation, American companies are at a distinct competitive disadvantage. It’s much easier to do business everywhere else but here, so if we’re worried about “saving the environment,” let’s keep America’s business environment in mind when we’re making those decisions.
The simple truth is that our economy will be more productive when our political class removes the barriers to growth.
The annual cost of federal regulations in the United States increased to more than $1.75 trillion, according to a study commissioned by the Small Business Administration. That’s equal to 12% of our entire economy. If every U.S. household had to pay an equal share of the federal regulatory burden, each of us would owe $15,586...
For example, an “economically significant regulation” is one that will cost more than $100 million. From 1998 to 2007, federal agencies announced between 50 and 80 major regulations per year. Today, federal agencies have proposed 219 economically significant regulations. That’s over two and a half times the number of regulations from 5 years ago that will end up costing American taxpayers more than $100 million each.
In terms of total regulations, in each of the last three years more than 3,500 new regulations were adopted. At this very moment, there are 4,257 new regulations in the pipeline. That’s the only pipeline I can think of that absolutely needs to be turned down.
I remain underwhelmed by Emken’s intellectual thrust. Over what period did the annual cost of regulations increase to $1.75 trillion – Feinstein’s time in office, the 21st century so far, the Obama Administration, or some other time frame? And the none-too-witty wordplay gets in the way of making actual points: Instead of the single-and-a-half entendre embedded in that "environment/business environment" line, how about noting that the supposed tension between vigorous capitalism and a sound environment is false, as should be clear to anybody who’s visited a third world cement factory or a dried-up post-Soviet lake?
Still, the alternative to Emken’s is DiFi’s view that we need more regulation, that we need it without delay, and that the only thing holding back America’s hens is the lack of a national laying standard set by Big Egg.
Emken’s policy proposal:
Place a moratorium on new regulations exceeding $100 million except for cases of national security and repeal all recently enacted regulations exceeding $100 million unless they pass rigorous benefit tests.
Emken detractors have lately been playing up her role as a lobbyist in the Obamacare debate. (She wanted to get autism coverage added but says she didn’t support the PPACA itself.) This video skirts the outside border of reality by calling her an "Obamacare lobbyist." A supporter of universal health care with an individual mandate can be the Republican presidential candidate, but apparently there are still some standards in the Senate.
The latest Reason-Rupe poll of 708 Wisconsin adults on landline and cell phones finds support among Wisconsin voters to reform public employee retirement plans. 69 percent support transitioning new government employees who have not been promised pension benefits from a defined-benefit guaranteed pension plan to a 401(k)-style account based on the amount they’ve saved for retirement and investment returns.
In fact, even a majority (53 percent) of current government workers favor such a transition, as well as 79 percent of private sector workers. Nevertheless, since the proposed change would not affect current public workers it’s difficult to say whether they would favor such a change for their own retirement plans. Moreover, support for transitioning to 401(k)-style accounts extends beyond partisanship, education, income, and vote choice.
Currently in Wisconsin, government employees are promised defined-benefit pension plans that promise a guaranteed amount of income in retirement. Although these plans were once fairly popular, the private sector has largely shifted toward 401(k)-style accounts, which offer lower guaranteed benefits but also have the prospect of earning even higher income when the market does well. These accounts tend to cost the government less but also offer a lower guaranteed return for retirees.
Perhaps Wisconsinites are open to reforming government worker retirement plans because 65 percent believe public workers receive better retirement benefits than workers with similar jobs in the private sector.
Government employees will typically get guaranteed pension payments during retirement, while private sector workers will typically get payments from 401(k) -style accounts based on the amount they saved for retirement and investment returns. For new government employees who have not been promised pension benefits, would you favor or oppose shifting them from guaranteed pensions to 401(k) -style accounts?
ORC International conducted fieldwork for the poll, May 14th-18th 2012 of both mobile and landline phones, 708 Wisconsin adults, margin of error +/- 3.7%. Likely Wisconsin voters (609, MOE +/-4%) include registered respondents who said they are absolutely certain to vote or very likely to vote in the June 5th recall election for governor.
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.
Free speech is all too often a joke in this land, and one of the more ridiculous attempts to shut people up by law is hooked to "occupational licensing." Sometimes, says the government, you can only say certain things if some state-powered cartel gives you legal permission to do so.
The state of North Carolina's attempts to shut down Steve Cooksey's blog about how he believes the paleo diet helped him deal with diabetes on the grounds that he needs to be licensed by the state's Board of Dietetics/Nutrition is one of the sillier, and yet still grossly offensive, such cases to arise lately.
The Institute for Justice agrees, and has stepped in to file a lawsuit, Cooksey v. Futrell et al., in federal court against the state Board, which will be officially filed tomorrow, to stand up for Cooksey's right to speak what he thinks is true about diet and diabetes.
Summing up the case, from IJ's press release:
In December 2011, Steve Cooksey started a Dear Abby-style advice column on his blog to answer reader questions. In January 2012, the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition informed Steve that he could not give readers personal advice on diet, whether for free or for compensation, because doing so constituted the unlicensed, and thus criminal, practice of dietetics.
The State Board also told Steve that his private emails and telephone calls with friends and readers were illegal. The Board also ordered him to shut down his life-coaching service. Violating the North Carolina licensing law can lead to fines, court orders to be silent and even jail.....
What is at issue goes far beyond diet advice:
This lawsuit seeks to answer one of the most important unresolved questions in First Amendment law: When does the government’s power to license occupations trump free speech?
“Advice is protected speech,” said IJ attorney Paul Sherman. “Just because the government can license certain types of expert professional advice doesn’t mean the government can license every type of advice.”
While whether Cooksey is "right" about the paleo diet and diabetes isn't what's important about this, IJ points out that a lot is at stake beyond the principle of free speech here as well:
Steve Cooksey began offering dietary advice because he is concerned about America’s diabetes epidemic. Over 25 million Americans have diabetes, including approximately 800,000 in North Carolina. The human and financial toll is staggering. Diabetes is now a leading cause of stroke, blindness, kidney failure requiring transplantation, and amputation. Because diabetes is a condition of elevated blood sugar, Steve advocates eating foods that keep blood sugar low.
After being diagnosed with Type II diabetes, Steve did research and learned that the high-carb/low-fat diet his doctors recommended to him may not be best for diabetics because carbohydrates raise blood sugar. He adopted the low-carb “Paleolithic” diet of our Stone Age ancestors: fresh veggies, meats, eggs and fish, but no sugars, processed foods or agricultural starches.
Steve lost 78 pounds, freed himself of drugs and doctors, normalized his blood sugar and feels healthier than ever. He believes a low-carb diet is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to treat diabetes...
I blogged in April about the these absurd attempts on the part of North Carolina to quell Steve's speech.
Dedicated website for what IJ is calling the "paleospeech" case.
Mike Riggs blogged a few weeks back on IJ's great report on the general idiocy and overreach of occupational licensing law in these here United States.
A cartoon promotional video about the case:
On Sunday, liberal MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes did something you're not supposed to do, namely express mixed, conflicted opinions about soldiers.
Being anti-war is (sort of) okay and occasionally respectable as long as you clarify that World War II was fine, but to varying degrees, you simply must support the troops. The old safe anti-war standby is of course that you support the troops so much so that you want them to come home.
Maybe if he had stuck to that standby, he wouldn't have provoked any more outrage than a lefty on MSNBC would usually. But Hayes also said the following:
Why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word 'hero'? I feel uncomfortable about the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.
This is an old story in that Hayes has already apologized. He chose the traditional sorry, "it's easy to criticize because I am not currently fighting in a war" method.
Hayes should have known what might happen, especially when it was near (not actually on) Memorial Day. But he raised an excellent point. Now here is your obligatory clip from the film The Americanization of Emily, where James Garner's character expresses his disapproval of memorializing war.
This is fiction, so it's arguably overly black and white. However, it makes some biting points about war and what it means to act as if to be in the military is the best, most noble thing that a human being can do.
Now, what Hayes expressed was a personal statement of discomfort towards the way that we are all supposed to speak about soldiers, as well as an incredibly important point to raise about what it means to assume that every single person killed while serving in the (only, I assume, U.S.) military was heroic. Even when drafted. Even in wars mostly seen as mistakes, such as World War I or Vietnam.
But, Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic noted that the context of the debate was a panel show in the early morning on MSNBC and that other guests responded to Hayes' questions, but then Hayes himself offered this:
The argument on the other side of that is, we don't have a draft. This is voluntary. This is someone making a decision to take on a certain risk of that. And they're taking it on because they're bound to all of us through this social contract, through this democratic process of self-governance in which we decide collectively that we're going to go to war. And how we're going to go to war, and why we're going to go to war. And they also give up their own agency in a certain way that, for a liberal caricature like myself, seems very difficult to comprehend -- submitting so totally to what the electorate or people in power are going to decide about how to use your body, but they do that all of full volition. And if the word hero is not right, there's something about it that's noble, right?
There's something at least brave about that, sure. But of course the soldiers being memorialized include those who were drafted. The draft is one of the harshest uses of state power. It is a period of life-threatening indentured servitude that may also force you to violate cherished beliefs or morals. We could call it slavery without that being a rhetorical flourish.
So what if any of those soldiers honored had no interest being a solider? And was every single one of the 640,000-odd American soldiers killed in action since the Civil War really a hero? Confederates and Union soldiers, too? Or the ones who died of dysentery and car crashes? What are the rules about who qualifies? What about people who fought in other countries' armed forces? There are a million questions that come along with dubbing an entire kind of person heroic. They were all individuals.
Some critics said this was Memorial Day, and not the time for such things. But the pro-soldier mentality exists every day and this was Sunday before. How many buffer days does Memorial Day need before it's no longer "not the time" for questions?
Why not use the day as an excuse to seriously think about the meaning of war and soldiers and the state and such Big Topics? Or is just a day to barbecue and take the day off after all? Or a day to make oh, so witty remarks about how Hayes is just a big old woman for wanting to question life and death matters in this fashion?
It's not purely anti-war to plea for a little more nuance the way that we talk about soldiers who, by the way, Hayes never once actually insulted or said he "despised." But if a cause is unjust or someone didn't choose to participate in it or countless other qualifiers, is it true to call them all heroic? Or, to start from the other direction, if a soldier is inherently a hero, does that not at least suggest something positive about the cause in which he or she fought?
I have no top-down mandates for who should or should not be honored with holidays or parades. And critics are of course free to respond to Hayes as harshly as they see fit, but it's still disappointing to see people trying to shut down a discussion by using the trump cards that Hayes never served in the military and various tautologies about how heroic are these heroes. If soldiers are as described, they deserve the nuance and the intellectual honesty of an explanation as to why they're heroic. War is a lot bigger than bumper stickers. And soldiers are (mostly likely) tough enough to handle a debate.
Reason on war
Today’s “Are you kidding me, really?” news out of California’s decade-long collapse into insolvency comes from the Associated Press as part of an investigation of a memorial license plate fund for the survivors of the 9/11 attacks.
The AP reports that of the $15 million California collected through the sale of specialty “We Will Not Forget” memorial license plates, a mere $21,381 has actually made it to California children of 9/11 victims as part of a scholarship fund authorized by state legislation.
So where did the rest of the money go to?
The Legislature sent $3.7 million to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, according to the Department of Finance, to establish an online food monitoring database and implement a variety of worker safety programs, including hiring industrial hygienists to tend to worker health. …
The response contained itemized budget reports going back six years and listing payments for all types of government functions, ranging from salaries and benefits, to printing costs and communication equipment. Among the details: $18,163 for furniture in 2006 and $11,492 for auto inspection in 2009.
The response also included a legislative report on the threats the agriculture department is targeting with an online database the license plate program helps fund. A similar report from 2006, when the license plate money was first authorized, lists bioterrorism as a potential danger. But the 2011 report focuses on food safety and livestock concerns, including foot-and-mouth disease and meat and poultry monitoring.
Emphasis added to highlight that California is using a 9/11 memorial fund to pay government employees. Read the description of what an industrial hygienist is here and wonder why the government is paying for them in the first place.
The scholarship program the license plate is supposed to be funding doesn’t even exist anymore. California’s treasurer’s office closed it in 2005. The money not used for the scholarships was supposed to go to law enforcement to be used to buy more toys for local SWAT teams “exclusively for purposes directly related to fighting terrorism.”
Instead, in addition to spending the money elsewhere, both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown have drawn more than $3 million from the fund as loans to help balance the budget, an offense that is almost comically absurd, given the state’s standing budget deficit of $16 billion.
Wallow in the outrage fatigue among Californians (or former Californians, in this case) when it comes to the state’s budget:
Patricia Anderson, who paid $98 for a personalized memorial plate reading "WE R 4US," said she signed up for the program primarily to show respect for victims of the 9/11 attacks. Anderson said she was disheartened but not surprised to learn that much of the money has gone to fill the state deficit or used for general purposes.
"That's California," said Anderson, who now lives near Austin, Texas. "It's kind of a given these days — nothing is spent on what it's supposed to be."
Oh, and up until the Associated Press contacted the Department of Motor Vehicles last week, the agency’s website was still advertising that the money from the memorial plates would go to children of 9/11 victims, seven years after the fund was actually closed.
According to the latest Reason-Rupe poll of 708 Wisconsin adults on landline and cell phones, only 17 percent favor disbursing lifetime retirement benefits to retired government workers before age 60. In fact, 50 percent prefer government workers wait until age 65 before becoming eligible to collect retirement benefits.
In many states, government workers may retire and begin receiving lifetime retirement benefits before age 60. However, in the state of Wisconsin, 79 percent of residents think public employees should wait until at least age 60 before becoming eligible to receive retirement benefits.
Differences across political and demographic subgroups emerge with raising the retirement benefit eligibility age to 65. Whereas 52 percent of private sector workers want to raise the eligibility age to sixty-five, 41 percent of public sector workers agree. Notably, half of retired former public employees think the eligibility age should be raised to at least age 65. Majorities of Republicans and Independents want to increase the eligibility age to 65, compared to 44 percent of Democrats.
These results match up with previous polling done in Wisconsin. For instance, a 2011 Rasmussen poll asked likely Wisconsin voters to consider several hypotheticals. Rasmussen asked:
“Suppose someone becomes a teacher right out of college and stays for 30 years until they retire at age 52. Should that person receive a full pension for life at age 52 or should that person find another job and wait until they retire at around age 65 to receive their full pension?” 60 percent said the teacher should wait until about age 65 to receive their full pension.
“Suppose someone joins the police force at age 20 and stays for 25 years until they retire at age 45. Should that person receive a full pension for life at age 45 or should that person find another job and wait until they retire at around age 65 to receive their full pension?” 65 percent of Wisconsin voters said the police officer should wait until about age 65 to receive retirement benefits.
These Reason-Rupe poll results of Wisconsin residents suggest the public is open to reforming the terms of public sector workers’ contracts and the age at which public employees become eligible to receive lifetime retirement benefits.
ORC International conducted fieldwork for the poll, May 14th-18th 2012 of both mobile and landline phones, 708 Wisconsin adults, margin of error +/- 3.7%. Likely Wisconsin voters (609, MOE +/-4%) include registered respondents who said they are absolutely certain to vote or very likely to vote in the June 5th recall election for governor.
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.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated 17 percent of Wisconsin residents favor disbursing retirement benefits to government workers before age 65, the post should say before age 60.
Like the cavalry riding to the rescue, the Institute of Medicine has just unleashed a report—478 pages, corpulent in its own right—addressing the topic of obesity. Conspicuously absent from the recommendations, writes A. Barton Hinkle, is any significant redress for those government policies that have contributed to the problem in the first place.View this article
USA Today has an article out about attempts nationwide to block the construction of mosques. Excerpt:
In the last five years, there has been "anti-mosque activity" in more than half the states, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Some mosques were vandalized — a $5,000 reward is being offered in a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case — and others were targets of efforts to deny zoning permits .
Mosque opponents often raise concerns about traffic and parking, but Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU's freedom of religion program, says they can be "sham arguments" that mask anti-Muslim sentiment.
Contributing Editor Cathy Young in August 2011 wrote the definitive piece on the constitutional and moral questions about mosque-blocking, "Fear of a Muslim America: In the fight against radical Islam, conservatives are trying to limit the property and speech rights of peaceful American Muslims." But I'd just like to point out how inoffensive to many ACLU fans the above passage would be if you replaced the words "mosque" and "Muslim" with, say, "Wal-Mart." The language and argumentation of many mosque-blockers is indistinguishable from that of many anti-Home Depot activists out there:
Some people who object to mosque projects say religion is not a factor. The DuPage County home where Jacqueline Sitkiewicz has lived since 1978 is adjacent to a house the Islamic Center of Western Suburbs (ICWS) hoped to use as a mosque. The county board voted against the plan this month.
Sitkiewicz says her concerns were traffic, drainage and the effect on property values. "I don't care what their religion is," she says. [...]
Lawyer Marc Grenier represents condo associations that object to plans for a Norwalk, Conn. mosque. The size of the project, parking and the impact on neighboring properties are their chief concerns, he says. "Our opposition ... has nothing to do with anyone's right to worship."
A FOIA request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center yielded a 39-page booklet that details how the Department of Homeland Security collects media reports and social media references as part of its National Operations Center’s “Media Monitoring Capabilities.” Most of it is a pretty bland read: sources like Fox News and CNN are most credible, news that’s made it to air but not yet made it to print is the most urgent, information from blogs (“even if they are of a serious, political nature”), news from partisan outlets (like MoveOn.org) or “agenda driven” organizations (like Amnesty International) has to be verified by a “first tier” source such as Fox News, CNN, USA Today, or the Washington Post.
Maybe the most interesting part of the report is the listing of keywords for social media searching. There are about 378 of them, divided into 9 categories: “DHS & Other Agencies,” with keywords like FEMA, ICE and the CIA, “Domestic Security,” with keywords like assassination, attack, prevention, militia, shots fired, police, and gangs, “HAZMAT & Nuclear,” with keywords like suspicious package, powder (white), spillover, and North Korea, “Health Concern + H1N1,” with keywords like contamination, Ebola, Salmonella, human to animal, and agro terror, “Infrastructure Security,” with keywords like airport, collapse, metro, and body scanner, “Southwest Border Violence,” with keywords like marijuana, heroin, Juarez, Tijuana, decapitated, MS-13 and Calderon, “Terrorism,” with keywords like Al-Qaeda (all spellings), eco terrorism, dirty bomb, enriched, IED, jihad, pirates, and Somalia, “Weather/Disaster/Emergency,” with keywords like emergency, hurricane, ice, stranded, wildfire, and lightening [sic], and “Cybersecurity,” with keywords like botnet, DDOS, cyber command, spammer, Cain and abel, and brute forcing.
Former George W. Bush speechwriter and American Enterprise Institute fellow David Frum delivered a free Twitter lecture this morning on the glories of prohibition. The lecture started with this Tweet: "I hope none of the conservatives mocking Obama’s membership in HS 'choom gang' supported Mitch Daniels for presidency..."
And continued thusly:
- "Not hypocritical to experiment w drugs in early life, recoil, and as a mature adult favor prohibition."
- "The point of drug laws is not to punish ,but to deter. Those w least social resources who benefit most fr being warned away."
- "Agree about harms of mass incarceration - but that's not about drug use, it's about drug traffic, and more serious crime."
The first point, about Mitch Daniels, who once admitted to enjoying pot in college then refused to run for president, has been addressed quite handily by the Washington Free Beacon's Sonny Bunch:
Let’s leave aside the fact that most conservatives and libertarians are not arguing that this disqualifies Obama for the presidency; most are just making fun of the president for being in something as ridiculous as “the Choom Gang.” No president would escape mockery for something like this.
Instead, let’s look at Frum’s argument that this isn’t hypocrisy on Obama’s part because we grow up and mature and change our views. But this kind of misses the point, no? It’s not so much that people think he’s a hypocrite for turning against pot smoking as an adult—it’s that people think he’s a hypocrite because they don’t actually think he thinks smoking pot is a big deal. He’s continuing the crackdown on weed for purely political reasons and ruining people’s lives in the process. He lacks the political courage to change an obviously broken system despite the fact that he has personal experience with the product being debated.
I'll go both pundits one more: Obama did not turn against pot smoking as an adult, he turned against it at the point in his political career when he had the most power to change policy. As a state congressman in Illinois, Obama declared the drug war a failure. He said the same thing as a U.S. Senator. As a candidate for president, he condemened (and promised to stop) medical marijuana raids. Really, Obama did not come to favor prohibition until he became president. If Frum wants to argue that Obama did not reach maturity until that moment, I won't stop him, but I would also like him to explain what hope that leaves everybody else—David Frum included.
The rest of his tweets show a pretty astounding ignorance of how the drug war is conducted and how shadow economies function. My favorite response to Frum's lecture snidely reflects all of the above: "do you ever go outside?"
But let's take Frum point by point, in hopes that the people who believe he is the last sane conservative will somehow see this, Reason's message in a bottle.MORE »
The Cato Institute's Chris Edwards analyzes the way in which Canada shrunk federal spending, opened up its markets, and pursued other reforms in the 1990s.
Canada’s economic reforms since the 1980s...included free trade, privatization, spending cuts, sound money, large corporate tax cuts, personal tax reforms, balanced federal budgets, block grants, and decentralizing power by cutting the central government....
Canadian federal spending was cut from 23.3 percent of GDP in 1993 to 16.5 percent by 2000. Keynesians and their macro models would predict a crushing economic blow from such a spending reduction. They would argue that the “austerity” would slash “aggregate demand” and “take money out of the economy.”
Yet Canada’s spending cuts of the 1990s were coincident with the beginning of a 15-year economic boom that only ended when the United States dragged its neighbor into recession in 2009. As the government shrank in size during the 1990s, the Canadian unemployment rate plunged from more than 11 percent to less than 7 percent....
Edwards notes that things are far from perfect in the Great White North, but I think he's right that the Canadian experience shows ways in which government spending can be cut and, perhaps more important, how power can be decentralized. That's generally a good thing in markets and politics alike.
Reason's November 2010 issue (published in 3D!) covered three examples of significant government spending cuts in developed economies. Read "It Can Happen Here."