Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2012 July 22-31

View More
Article Thumbnail

Idaho Libertarian Billboard Comparing Obama to Aurora Shooter Leads to Predictable Outrage

The photo speaks for itself:

The Idaho Statesman has the details:

An electronic board on Franklin Road in Caldwell juxtaposes photos of James Holmes, accused of killing 12 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last week, with President Obama. About Holmes, it says: “Kills 12 in a movie theater with assault rifle, everyone freaks out.” About Obama: “Kills thousands with foreign policy, wins Nobel Peace Prize.”

What’s the point? Obama broke his promise to bring the troops home and many young Americans have died, said Maurice Clements, who is helping keep alive the provocative libertarian tradition of the late Ralph Smeed, whose billboard (now electronic) is a Caldwell landmark. “We’re all outraged over that killing in Aurora, Colo., but we’re not outraged over the boys killed in Afghanistan,” Clements said of public sentiment.

What connects Holmes and Obama? Clements said he’s just comparing the way society reacts. “We’re not saying that Obama is a lunatic,” he said.

A Facebook posting about the billboard on Boise station KBOI-TV’s wall led to several hundred responses, some in the typical tone of indignant offense, but also several comments that supported the observation.

Ralph Smeed, who died in 2010, was heavily involved with libertarian political activism in Idaho. He appeared in a Reason Magazine piece in 2006 by David Weigel about libertarian political efforts in Smeed’s state. You can read Weigel’s piece here.

Article Thumbnail

Paul Krassner on Whether Rape Jokes Are Funny

Comedian Daniel Tosh's recent suggestion that it would be hilarious if the woman who heckled him for telling a rape joke at his stand-up show was gang-raped on the spot has revived the decades-old debate over whether rape jokes are ever funny.

To answer that question, Paul Krassner goes all the way back to 1970. Abortion was still illegal then. At the time, as both an underground abortion referral service and a stand-up satirist, Krassner faced an undefined paradox. Irreverence was his only sacred cow, yet he wouldn’t allow victims to become the target of his humor. There was one particular routine he did that called for a “rape-in” of legislators’ wives in order to impregnate them so that they would then convince their husbands to decriminalize abortion.

But his feminist friends objected. Krassner resisted at first, because it was such a well-intentioned joke. And then he reconsidered. Even in a joke, why should women be assaulted because men made the laws? Legislators' wives were the victims in that joke, but the legislators themselves were the oppressors, and their hypocrisy was really the target. But for Krassner to stop doing that bit of comedy wasn't self-censorship. 

View this article
Article Thumbnail

Here Come the Attack Ads!

As the 2012 election season gets into late-summer swing, over $100 million in attack ads from Team Obama and Team Romney have been aired so far, with many more to come.

Travel back now to 2008, to a simpler America, and this attack ad.

Original release date: October 4, 2008.

Back in 2006, Reason explained why "Attack Ads Are Good For You!"

What Segregationists Really Believed: Read the Racist Rant That Couldn't See Print in 1962

Earlier this week, Reason.com published Bill Steigerwald's explosive "Whitewashing John Steinbeck: Why partisan politics and virulent racism were cut from the celebrated 'non-fiction' road book Travels With Charley," which looked at the ways in which the Nobel laureate soft-peddled various aspects of his trip across the "real America" at the start of the 1960s. Specifically, Steigerwald looked at the way in which Steinbeck's political partisanship was excised from the final published version of the book and the way that Steinbeck and his publisher yanked an explicit account of segregationists attacking parents and schoolkids daring to enter a newly integrated school in New Orleans. (Previous literary detective work by Steigerwald, also published by Reason, explored the fabulism in Travels With Charley and sparked a New York Times editorial decrying academic indifference to its exposure.)

Given ongoing assertions by defenders of Barack Obama that hostility toward the nation's first African-American president is motivated in some way - consciously or unconsciously, partly or wholly, or just necessarily due to the country's tortured history of racism - it's worth remembering how far we have come as a society in terms of race relations. If conservatives sometimes glibly dismiss the ugly reality of a pre-Civil Rights America and lingering racial resentments, liberals sometimes similarly refuse to acknowledge the vast distance that separates the America Obama was born into and the one over which he presides. 

As Steigerwald tells it, John Steinbeck in 1960 visited the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans precisely because of the overt racism on display. A group of mostly women protesters (dubbed "Cheerleaders") ringed the school (made famous in a Norman Rockwell painting) and taunted the black and white kids entering the building.

Steinbeck drove to New Orleans specifically to see the daily circus of hate and what he saw rightly disgusted him. He felt that the “sad sickness” of that racist sideshow could not be conveyed unless the foul things the working-class women screamed were put down on paper for all to see. Writing that he knew there was “not a chance in the world that my readers will see” the women’s “bestial and degenerate” words, he quoted—or, more likely, he wrote down a condensed version of how he remembered them....

This is what Steinbeck said one woman shrieked at a white man who was defying the boycott by bringing his child to the virtually empty school: “You mother fucking, nigger sucking, prick licking piece of shit. Why you’d lick a dog’s ass if he’d let you. Look at the bastard drag his dirty stinking ass along. You think that’s his kid? That’s a piece of shit. That’s shit leading shit. Know what we ought to do? Strip down them fancy pants and cut off his balls and feed them to the pigs—that is if he’s got any balls. How about it friends?”

If you care about literature and history - and the mist-covered border between fiction and non-fiction - read Steigerwald's story and visit his ongoing exploration of those themes at his blog.

In the published version of Travels with Charley, Steinbeck mentions the "bestial and filthy and degenerate" epithets the women screamed without quoting them directly. From today's vantage, arguably the most-striking thing about it is that people felt so comfortable expressing it so openly. Contemporaneous with Obama's birth, large segments of Americans still believed in legally enforced segregation, often claiming that both races preferred such separation (an explanation that, if true, would have made laws dictating it unnecessary).

We live in a better America not simply because virtually no one would voice such vile racist sentiments in public, but because virtually no one even thinks them anymore. And the improvement is not simply in terms of the worst sort of George Wallace-Strom Thurmond-style racism. Across a wide variety of indicators - most notably when it comes to interracial marriages - America has progressed to a much better place than where it was when it was Steinbeck was writing Travels with Charley and Obama's parents were married.

Race still matters in American life, and to the extent that it does, there is still work to be done in terms of improvement. But as Obama's own election and polls show, race clearly is not a deciding factor in presidential politics. Assertions that race is at the heart of - or even a contributing factor to  - Obama's rotten poll numbers is blame-shifting of the worst kind. Yet folks ranging from New York magazine's Jonathan Chait to Salon's Joan Walsh to the New York Times' Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd to many others are ready and willing to do so. 

Using racial animus as the go-to explanation for any real or imagined reversal of fortune for President Obama - remember when Slate's Jacob Weisberg implausibly decreed "Racism is the only reason Obama might lose" in 2008? - may comfort liberals now that the president's stimulus inarguably failed to energize the economy as promised, that his more-Bushian-than-Bush embrace of limitless executive power has alienated left-wing civil libertarians, and his recent statements about government's role in building the Internet and all business successes (but never, it seems, failures) have alienated many voters.

But that comfort is purchased at the expense of being able to grasp an electoral reality that has seen voters evacuate the Republican and Democratic parties - and their cynical manipulation of rhetoric and reality - in record numbers. If conservative Republicans can't understand that fewer people want to associate with them because they lied when they said they favored a government that did less and spent less, nothing can save the party of Lincoln from eventual receivership. And if liberal Democrats can't fully grasp that voters are turned off not the color of Obama's skin but by the failure of his presidency, they too will continue to see fewer and fewer people marching under their banner.

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv and the co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America, now out in paperback with a new foreword.

Article Thumbnail

Ron Paul: Is the GOP Trying to Steal His Louisiana Victory?

The campaign of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) thinks so, as detailed in this account from CNN of the fate of Louisiana's contested delegation to the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August. It gets complicated, hold on tight:

The Ron Paul 2012 campaign is preparing to challenge the entire slate of Louisiana's 46 delegates selected to attend the Republican National Convention next month in Tampa, Florida. 

Paul's campaign asserts the final list of delegates released Friday that were selected during the state party's convention last month were chosen against the rules. At the time, Paul supporters held their own rump convention, or protest vote, in the same room, which composed a majority of those attending.

Paul's political director Jesse Benton gets tough:

"We believe that they grossly and blatantly and repeatedly violated their party rules and elected a delegation that was improper," said Paul's campaign chairman Jesse Benton. "We believe that our rump convention is the legitimate delegation and they have a right to be seated at the Republican National Convention."

The victory Paul's campaign says it won in Louisiana was very much a result of intelligently making use of the caucus's very republican process, not pure democracy:

During the March 24 primary, Paul received only 6% of the state vote, while Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney received 49% and 27%, respectively. While Paul didn't receive a great turnout then, his supporters organized to win delegates during selection votes in each district and the state convention.

Out of the 30 delegate slots selected at the state convention last month, about half were left open to be filled by the state executive committee at a later date, leaving open the possibility of more Paul delegates to be selected.

Under state party rules passed in May of last year, the executive committee can provide supplemental rules to the original ones adopted, as long as they aren't inconsistent with the original ones adopted. The rules leave the State Central Committee to elect many of the delegates, who must also sign an affidavit prepared by the state party. The affidavit essentially binds them to certain candidates, minimizing the opportunity for the campaign to convince other delegates to switch their vote.

The party was prepared to award Paul 17 of the delegates chosen at the state convention, but his supporters refused to participate in the selection process, instead holding their own separate vote. Benton says some of the Texas congressman's supporters were kept from voting during the selection process.

"The Louisiana GOP insiders, realizing they were in the minority, grossly and repeatedly violated their own party rules to try to railroad through their preferred delegation," he said.

Louisiana isn't the only state where Paul's people think they are being screwed:

Paul's campaign is also making challenges to delegates in Massachusetts and Oregon, though not their entire slates. Currently, he holds the majority of delegations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Maine. Under RNC rules, a candidate needs the majority of delegates in five states to enter their name into nomination.

Louisiana GOP director Jason Dore thinks the Paulites should just shut up and take it, because, Obama!

"It seems they are all caught up in these personal motives, and not focusing on the picture. And the big picture is electing Mitt Romney in the fall and defeating President Obama," Doré said.

Simultaneous with this Paul campaign efforts are a non-campaign-approved lawsuit to get all RNC delegates unbound where Paul partisans think they can be talked into actually voting for Paul and not Romney. I reported on that suit last month.

My blogging on the Louisiana brouhaha as it occurred, and the complications of Paul's delegate strategy in general from April and May.

My book, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

Article Thumbnail

New Global Temperature Data Reanalysis Confirms Warming, Blames CO2

Richard Muller, the head of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, will publish an op/ed next week in the New York Times summarizing his group's findings with regard to global temperature trends. From a copy of the op/ed, Converted Skeptic, circulating on the web:

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified scientific issues that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Now, after organizing an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I’ve concluded that global warming is real, that the prior estimates of the rate were correct, and that cause is human.

My turnaround is the result of the careful and objective analysis by the “Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature” team, founded by me and my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, and one and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase is due to the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the IPCC concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the IPCC consensus statement, that the warming before to 1956 could be due to changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural.

Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophistical statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist Robert Rohde, and which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), data selection (prior groups selected less than 20% of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100%), poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones), and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off).  In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions. ...

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect – extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as does carbon dioxide. ...

What about the future?  As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise.  With a simple model (no tipping points, no sudden increase in cloud cover, a response to gases that is “logarithmic”) I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about 1.5 degree F over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included.  But if China continues its rapid growth (it has averaged 10% per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (typically adding one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.

Muller writes that all of their findings and statistical techniques will be available online for everyone to see and critique. More on this next week.

Attn, Detroit-Area Reason Fans: Check Out Home Run Showdown, a Film Written by Tim Cavanaugh


Reason's Tim Cavanaugh has co-written a movie called Home Run Showdown, which is premiering today in Detroit, Michigan.

Watch a trailer above and go here for times.

Here's the flick's official site.

Article Thumbnail

London Olympics and the False Promise of Sports-Led Redevelopment

With the London Olympics now in full swing, all that's left is to count up the number of medals awarded - and the debt accrued by city residents and taxpayers.

The total cost of staging the London games is around $15 billion and more than 100 percent over budget. Mega-activities such as staging the Olympics are often sold as economic development programs for dreary local economies, but they almost never deliver anything other than big bills and useless infrastructure.

Yet politicians love the idea of using big sporting events and stadiums and teams for economic development. As the games continue, take 10 minutes to watch this portion of Reason Saves Cleveland in which we lay out actual ways to help jumpstart local economies.

Here's the original writeup of "Encourage Bottom-Up Development," episode five of Reason Saves Cleveland with Drew Carey. Original release date was March 18, 2010.

Cleveland has spent billions on big-ticket urban redevelopment efforts including heavily subsidized sports stadiums and convention centers that have utterly failed to revitalize the citys economy. Should the city be pouring even more money into and pinning yet higher hopes on long-odds mega-projects? Or should they realize that bottom-up projects driven by the actual residents and private-sector investors are the best was to build a vibrant city for the long haul?

Reason Saves Cleveland with Drew Carey is written and produced by Paul Feine; camera and editing by Roger Richards and Alex Manning; narrated by Nick Gillespie; music by the Cleveland band Cats on Holiday. This is the fifth of six episodes that will air March 15-19, 2010.

Approximately 10 minutes long. 

Go to http://reason.tv for iPod, HD, and audio versions of this video.

Baylen Linnekin on Chicago's Disgusting New Food Truck Regulations

This week Chicago’s city council voted 44-1 in favor of adopting new rules for regulating food trucks in the city. When a terrible and stifling set of outdated regulations like Chicago’s is replaced, one might expect it to be cause for celebration among those who had suffered under the old rules.

And it’s true that supporters of mobile vending in Chicago are pleased the new regulations will allow trucks to extend their operating hours and will finally legalize the preparation of fresh food on trucks—something the previous rules did not. But as Baylen Linnekin explains, the new rules are mostly disgusting. The Windy City's treatment of mobile food vendors is a case study in how to stifle entrepreneurship and innovation in the name of protecting powerful, entrenched interests.

View this article
Article Thumbnail

Obama's Wars: Biting Drone-War Parodies and The Dawood Military Hospital Scandal

For those curious about the other side of the aisle, Charles Davis has an amazing piece that really gets into the mindset of the left as they desperately try to defend their guy against the threat of a Mitt Romney presidency.

Check out these first paragraphs from the New Inquiry article:

With all the attacks on his leadership from the professional left, it’s all too easy to forget that Barack Obama is by far the most liberal president in American history. From permitting gays to serve openly in the military to saying they should even be allowed to get married, the president has deftly tied his most progressive policies to America’s most reactionary institutions, upholding the long liberal tradition of making the status quo more sustainable, its excesses more subtle. But to the outraged left, helping Americans isn’t enough. He’s supposed to concern himself with the lives of foreigners, too....

If you can stomach the toxicity, just consider the implicit Birtherism: that President Obama should be more concerned about non-Americans than registered American voters, as if he’s not even American himself. And consider the classism and misogyny. Amid a GOP-led war on women, the privileged far left would have us believe protecting the life of some impoverished stay-at-home Buzkashi mom is as vital as safeguarding a successful, independent American woman’s access to subsidized birth control — that a Madeleine Albright or Hillary Rodham Clinton are no more important than some willfully oppressed third-worlder in a burka.

But I got a bit farther and suddenly remembered (I had a lot of tabs open, alright?) that I had found Davis' essay linked in a Glenn Greenwald tweet. So, this, thank God, was a parody.

Writes Davis:

Don’t let the baby-killing rhetoric from the emo-left fool you, though: drones don’t just protect important people, they protect Pakistanis and Yemenis too. Indeed, we know that because that’s what those who use them say. Repeatedly, the boss of country’s advisors have assured us that civilian deaths in his drone wars are “exceedingly rare” and that, even when they do take life, it’s only to protect it. Not even Glenn  Greenwald — basically just a whiter, more privileged Anwar al-Awlaki — disputes these facts.

Because liberal apologies for war do happen, but they are never stated quite so bluntly as this:

After all, if you don’t like that Barack Obama possesses the unilateral ability to decide who lives or dies, imagine how insufferable that power would be in the hands of the former Massachusetts governor. Instead of laughing with the president as he jokes about drone striking the Jonas Brothers, we would probably be stuck listening to an awkward Romney make dated quips about offing the Allman Brothers.

Out of the full context, the deftness of the parody is not clear, but Davis dances on the line between familiar, partisan waffling and more overt, satirical absurdities (that Greenwald line hasn't been used with any seriousness yet, I hope) and God, just go read it.

Especially read it because of the reports on the Dawood National Military Hospital scandal in Afghanistan (with Buzzfeed supplying the most brutal of the photos, click with caution).

According to Buzzfeed:

There are currently two ongoing investigations looking into the Dawood Military Hospital abuses: one centered around the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, the other concerned with [three-star Lt. General William] Caldwell’s politically-motivated decision to delay investigations into the hospital until after the 2010 elections.

It's not pretty to see the effects of the Afghanistan war that America has fighting for more than a decade. Worse still, accusations that in the hospital:

wounded Afghan soldiers: open vats of blood draining from soldier's wounds, feces on the floor, and Afghan doctors and nurses demanding bribes to provide patients with food and basic care. According to the witnesses, patients routinely starved to death, were operated on without sedatives, and died of simple infections.

Former military analysts testified on Tuesday that there was a determined cover-up about the "Auschwitz-like" conditions in the mostly U.S. tax-payer funded hospital so as not to sully Democrats chances in 2010.

Army Colonel Mark Fassl was NATO's Training Mission Afghanistan Command Inspector General in 2010. He says when he requested the inspector general to investigate the hospital, he was admonished by the three-star general in charge, Lt. General William Caldwell.

"His first response to me was 'how could we make that request with elections coming?'" Fassl told a House oversight subcommittee Tuesday.

Another advisor in Afghanistan, Col. Gerald Carozza, says Caldwell's deputy delivered a similar message: that the general was upset that Fassl had asked for an independent investigation "so close to the (2010 midterm) election."

"We were to consider postponing it until afterwards," Carozza testified. "It was a stunning moment for me."

It's rather optimistic of Caldwell to think that even pictures like this would make people change their minds. Remember, when it's our guys, our country, our party, it's never a crime, it's just the unfortunate cost of war.

Reason on drones, ReasonTV on "What Happened to the Anti-War Movement?"

Article Thumbnail

Liberal Columnist: Obama's "black dialect" Explains Why "You didn't build that" Outrages People

New York magazine political observer Jonathan Chait knows "The Real Reason 'You Didn't Build That' Works." It is this:

Mitt Romney's plan of blatantly lying about President Obama's "you didn't build that" speech is clearly drawing blood. But what makes the attack work so well is not so much the lie itself but the broader subtext of it. Watch Obama's delivery in the snippet put together by this Republican ad:

The key thing is that Obama is angry, and he's talking not in his normal voice but in a "black dialect."

Former Reasoner David Weigel goes to the tapes, and gives a respectful WTF?

In totally unrelated news–except for how it involves a liberal commentator accusing the Romney camp of racism based on evidence that falls apart under scrutiny–Salon's intrepid hunter of political racists, Joan Walsh, sees some white-girl ugliness in Ann Romney's statement to a journalist that "We've given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life." Here's the author of What's the Matter With White People?, doing what she does worst:

Like everyone else, I immediately thought of the trouble Ross Perot caused for himself when he referred to the NAACP audience as "you people" in 1992. It's so disrespectful. [...]

Now, it may be OK, in some circles, to call the media "you people," which is what Romney would probably argue she was doing. But in fact, she's talking to American voters, a majority of whom (including a third of Republicans) want the Romneys share more tax returns, according to a USAToday poll released Thursday. The poll didn't ask whether voters would like more information generally about how the Romneys "live our life," but that seems if anything an even more arrogant and elitist reaction from Romney.

Ann Romney's comment about "you people" is particularly fascinating to me because I can't get over the way the contemporary right has taken insults they once reserved for African-Americans and applied them to a much broader swath of the country, including white folks, who happen to make up 90 percent of their base. [...]

Ann Romney is too well-bred to call African-Americans "you people" in public, of course, especially after what happened to Ross Perot. But she obviously has no problem referring to other folks she holds in contempt that way. Of course Romney has displayed contempt for certain African-Americans – like when she and her husband told the Obamas to "start packing," because in Ann's words, "It's Mitt's time. It's our turn now," to live in the White House. As if the Obamas were troublesome tenants who'd overstayed their welcome in the home that rightly belongs to the Romneys.

The main problem with Walsh's "you people" theory is that Ann Romney didn't say "you people." At least according to those racist Romney apologists at, uh, New York magazine. Judge for yourself:

In totally unrelated news–except for how it involves a liberal commentator accusing the Romney camp of racism based on evidence that falls apart under scrutiny–increasingly spittle-flecked Daily Beast commentator Michael Tomasky the other week called Mitt Romney a "race-baiting pyromaniac" for using the word "Obamacare" at an NAACP convention.

Article Thumbnail

Seattle May Spend Millions Teaching Police Officers How to Not Stomp on People

Today, Seattle city leaders and the Department of Justice came together to announce a plan to try to end a pattern of abusive police behavior that resulted in a federal investigation (pdf). Via the Seattle Times:

Years of friction between police and minority communities — many centered on allegations of officers escalating petty situations into confrontations, and then using force to quell them — came to a head in 2010 and 2011 with a series of highly publicized and controversial incidents, many of which were caught on tape.

The public outrage reached a crescendo Aug. 30, 2010, however, when Officer Ian Birk shot and killed a First Nations totem carver who was walking downtown carrying a piece of wood and a small folding knife. A dashboard camera in Birk's patrol car captured the audio of the encounter and revealed that only about four seconds passed between the time Birk issued commands to put down the knife and when he fired the shots that ended the life of John T. Williams.

The shooting proved a catalyst within the communities that had over the years witnessed attempt after attempt at police reform falter or fail. This time they responded with a single voice and to a higher authority, the Department of Justice.

The Seattle Times has a page hosting several of these videos here.

In response, in order to prevent the DOJ from suing Seattle, the city will start a commission! Yes, a commission is just the thing:

The new commission, which will include community representatives and a member of the police department, will report its findings to a court-appointed monitor who will guide the Police Department as it carries out the reform plan, one source said. The monitor has yet to be selected.

Creation of the commission is spelled out in a memorandum of understanding that will accompany a comprehensive consent decree covering broader aspects of the reforms, the sources said. The consent decree, or settlement agreement, would be in place for five years, possibly longer or shorter depending on the city's compliance.

But training police officers on when and how to not beat people up is apparently not cheap, even if they’ve already been presumably trained on when and how to not beat people up. Reuters explains:

Talks on a settlement had bogged down over the anticipated costs of implementing a Justice Department proposal, which a city memorandum estimated would run roughly $41 million for the first year alone.

The memorandum had described those expenses, including $18 million to develop and implement training programs and $11 million for new city positions, as "prohibitive."

Details of the final settlement, including its costs, were not immediately revealed.

Update: The Seattle Times just posted the text of the settlement (pdf).

Article Thumbnail

U.N. Gun Treaty Not Looking as Restrictive as Anti-Gun Advocates Want, Maybe After the Election?

because only the state can be trusted with force, and no one at the u.n. knows any historyUnited NationsThe United Nations has been working on a new small arms treaty this month and now a draft text is emerging. And though the president shows a misunderstanding of the second amendment and doesn’t appear much of a gun rights defender to anyone, in the negotiations for the treaty, it was the United States throwing blankets on the wet dreams of international gun control advocates.

Anti-gun advocates at the conference, for example, wanted to target bullets. From IPS:

“At the moment, the treaty is covering some weapons but not bullets, which are literally the fuel of conflict,” [Oxfam’s head of global arms control Anna] McDonald said… “It doesn’t make sense,” McDonald told IPS. “The U.S. is the government that’s holding out the strongest against the inclusion of ammunition, but it actually regulates its own ammunition exports.”

U.S. negotiators say such regulations would be too burdensome. So not pro-gun, but anti-regulation is close to a first too.  Anti-gun advocates are hopeful though that things will get better for them if Obama gets re-elected:

“Sadly for the millions of lives at risk elsewhere in the world, U.S. politics in an election year prevents the Obama administration from taking a bold stand to champion its own model laws,” Kathi Austin, executive director of the Conflict Awareness Project and former U.N. arms investigator, told IPS.

“President Obama is a crucial decision maker and the U.S. could stand up firm in terms of ensuring that these loopholes are closed in the final day of negotiations,” Hughes added.


No-Fly List Challenge Proceeds, Bloomberg Balks at Chick-fil-A Ban, California Parks Scandal Grows: P.M. Links

Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.

Article Thumbnail

Scott Shackford on Political Efforts to Ban Chick-fil-A

Supporters of gay marriage have been drawing media attention to the Christian conservative values of Chick-fil-A’s leadership and calling for boycotts. That’s all well and good in our freedom-loving consumer culture. But what happens when politicians say they will use their power to block Chick-fil-A restaurants from attempting to do business with their constituencies because of the religious and political positions of its owners? Then, writes Scott Shackford, we’re going to have some problems.

View this article

Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on Why London is Yawning Over the Olympics

Reason Foundation Shikha Dalmia reports from London on the eve of the 30th summer Olympics that the most striking thing about the games is the complete lack of buzz. There is more excitement in a geriatric bingo parlor than on the streets of London. She notes, in her column at The Daily:

 Commercial establishments are not planting new flowers or scrubbing old buildings to impress foreign guests. There are no giant screens in public squares hyping the extravaganza. Streets aren’t lined with posters of British athletes. Among the few signs that something is afoot — besides roving armed troops — are tacky plastic runners wrapped around park fences depicting stick figures in various sporting poses (a decoration more worthy of a high school prom than an international event). Many Londoners I’ve spoken to — taxi drivers, dry cleaners, residents — consider the whole thing a “bloody nuisance” that they are planning to observe from some other European city far from the traffic snarls and the madding crowds.

No doubt the bad economy and the many snafus in the run-up to the games have dampened public enthusiasm. But the bigger reason Londoners are so unmoved is that the era of nationalistic fervor whipped up through mega-projects is over in the West. The West, quite simply, may have outgrown these games.

 Read the whole thing here.

Article Thumbnail

Two Texas Pre-Teens Create a Fake Facebook Account, Texas Cops Charge Them With Felonies and Lock Them Up

Two Texas girls--ages 12 and 13--were arrested earlier this month and charged with online impersonation, a third-degree felony, for creating a fake Facebook account under the name of another student at their school. 

According to the Student Press Law Center, which investigated the girls' arrest, officials in Hood County, Texas, are refusing to say whether the girls (who were arrested July 16) are still being detained. The center's reporting suggests that the girls have been behind bars for more than a week for the crime of pranking a fellow student on Facebook: 

Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said the victim’s mother alerted authorities June 28 after she discovered the site. The victim, a girl who did not have a real Facebook page, did not know about the site until it had been active for more than a month, he said. The account had 63 friends before it was shut down.

The profile, which was seized by the sheriff’s office, displayed a photo of a celebrity that resembled the 12-year-old girl. Lt. Johnny Rose of the Hood County Sheriff’s Office said the girls made threats to other students while pretending to be the victim and “damaged the victim’s reputation.” Rose did not say what those threats entailed.

After the arrest, the girls were transported to the Granbury Regional Juvenile Justice Center.

On Wednesday, Rose said the girls were still being held at the center and were awaiting a hearing with County Court-at-Law Judge Vincent Messina. On Thursday, 10 days after the arrest, Deeds said he believed the girls had attended a hearing and were released, but he could not confirm that. He said the case is now out of the hands of the sheriff’s office.

But Messina has not held any hearings in the case, a staff member in Messina’s office said Thursday. An official from the district court in Hood County said the case had not been heard in that court.

County Attorney Kelton Conner was out of the office until Monday and could not be reached for comment.

According to the county’s website, “if sufficient evidence exists your child may possibly be placed in detention for a 10-day period, with hearings held every 10 days.”

Texas state law, however, appears to entitle juveniles to a detention hearing no later than the second working day following arrest.

As to the current location of the girls, Deeds said the only person who could confirm whether the girls have been released from the center is Beth Pate, the juvenile probation director. Deeds said Pate was on vacation the week of the arrest, and she remained unavailable for comment Thursday.

An official from the juvenile justice center hung up when asked about the girls on Thursday.

For more on the practice of locking up children and teens for non-crimes things that are illegal but should not be, see A. Barton Hinkle's recent piece on the primary school police state. 

Article Thumbnail

Bloomberg Says Mayors Are Wrong to Ban Chick-fil-A, Takes a Brief Break from Totally Sucking

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is apparently cool with the idea that Manhattanites should eat mor chikin. He just doesn't want to let them wash it down with a large soda. 

The King of the Nannies went on the radio today to offer his two cents on the new fad that's all the rage among the mayors of major metropolitan areas: Making a lot of threats but then pulling back from actually banning the fast food chain Chick-fil-A from their cities—Boston, San Francisco, and all the cool kids are doing it—after CEO Dan Cathy said he supports "the biblical definition of the family unit."

Quoth Bloomberg:

“I disagree with them really strongly on this one,” Bloomberg said on the John Gambling  radio show. ”You can’t have a test for what the owners’ personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city. You really don’t want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit. That’s just not government’s job.”

“This is just a bad idea and it’s not going to happen in New York City,” Bloomberg added.

Give a guy credit: If the only thing I knew about Bloomberg was what you just read above, I would go drop a campaign donation on him right now. It is hard to think of more horrendously terrible idea than for the mayors of cities to start denying business licenses to companies just because their CEOs totally suck and are very wrong about marriage.

(Bloomberg took a similar stance during the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, arguing that a zoning board was not the place to hash out such issues and causing Bloomberg nemesis and Reason Senior Editor Jacob Sullum to write: "Since I don't think I have ever had occasion to praise New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and may never again, I will seize the opportunity to say that he is taking exactly the right position.")

Personally, I won't be eating at Chick-fil-A anytime soon. But (words I never thought I'd say in a post about restaurant regulation): Bloomberg is right. That's just not the government's job.

Let's not get crazy or anything. Bloomberg can still suck my Gray's Papaya when it comes to limiting personal and economic freedoms. Don't forget that this is the same guy who has banned large sodas, mandated menu labeling, banned trans fats, cracked down on alcohol sales, and even limited school bake sales. He was (quite rightly) Reason TV's Nanny of the Month in May:

 But when a guy is right, he's right. If you see Mike, buy him a large McChicken value meal—on me.

Article Thumbnail

Hot Rumor: BEST Analysis Next Week to Report - Globe's Temperature Up 1.5 Degrees Celsius

Stress - this is a rumor. However, the rumor says that next week Richard Muller will release the latest Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature analysis of surface temperature data going back as far as the 18th century. Muller, once skeptical of the temperature records that showed considerable global warming in recent decades, set up BEST to reanalyze that data. In 2011, BEST's preliminary analysis of land temperature data found:

....a warming trend that is shown in the figure [below]. It is very similar to that reported by the prior groups: a rise of about 0.7 degrees C since 1957. (Please keep in mind that the Berkeley Earth curve, in black, does not include adjustments designed to eliminate systematic bias.)

The Berkeley Earth agreement with the prior analysis surprised us, since our preliminary results don’t yet address many of the known biases. When they do, it is possible that the corrections could bring our current agreement into disagreement.

The rumors say that new BEST reanalysis will show that global average temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times and will suggest that most of the warming since the 1950s is the result of increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

I will report back if and when these rumors are confirmed.

Article Thumbnail

Government Goons Impersonate Journalists to Trick Activists into Downloading Spyware

The folks over at the righteous defenders of journalists everywhere, the Committee to Protect Journalists, report on a case where Bahraini intelligence agents used a commercial surveillance program to spy on anti-government activists. As CPJ reports:

This week, Morgan Marquis-Boire and Bill Marczak of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab provided a disturbing look into the likely use of a commercial surveillance program, FinFisher, to remotely invade and control the computers of Bahraini activists. After the software installs itself onto unsuspecting users' computer, it can record and relay emails, screenshots, and Skype audio conversations. It was deployed against Bahraini users after being concealed in seemingly innocent emails.

In one example decoded by Marquis-Bore's team, the message was crafted to appear to be from Melissa Chan, a journalist working for Al-Jazeera English. The attackers were using Chan's reputation as a journalist to trick their victims into opening the document...

Citizen Lab's analysis demonstrates that spyware supposedly made for law enforcement purposes by the UK company Gamma International is now being used in ways that no democratic society can tolerate. Gamma should immediately reveal whether they have been selling this technology to the Bahraini authorities and what it intends to do to prevent abuses from recurring.

Gamma International denies that it ever sold it to Bahrain. That may be so, but Egyptian activists who ransacked the Egyptian security headquarters claimed to recovered documents showing that the company had sold the spyware to the police in that country before Murbarak was overthrown.

I believe that selling tyrants the rope with which they will hang you (and others) is not a viable strategy for long-term profitability.

Disclosure: I make annual contributions to CPJ in honor of my former Forbes magazine colleague Paul Klebnikov who was gunned down in a Moscow street in 2004. His murderers have never been caught.

Article Thumbnail

Should the U.S. Emulate Germany's Campaign Against Scientology?

In a recent Tablet piece, Jamie Kirchick defends the German government's campaign against Scientology, arguing that the church, founded by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1952, "is not a religion" but is instead "a cult and a threat to democracy." Can't it be all three? The distinction between cults and religions has always struck me as arbitrary and subjective, if not meaningless. In practice, the difference is mostly a matter of time. Weird, disreputable cults become bona fide religions if they stick around long enough. A century from now the Scientologists may be just as respectable as the Mormons, who not so long ago were widely perceived as a barbaric, brainwashing cult bent on overthrowing the government.

No, Kirchick insists, Scientologists are different. He portrays them as loony, avaricious, vindictive, and, most damningly from the German point of view, authoritarian. "Because of its history of Nazism," Kirchick explains, "Germany believes it has an obligation to root out extremists, and not just those of a political flavor. In the eyes of most Germans, Scientology is nothing more than a cult with authoritarian designs on the country’s hard-won pluralistic democracy." Hence the German government not only refuses to recognize Scientology as a religion but even considered banning it altogether—a policy favored by 74 percent of the public, according to a 2007 poll cited by Kirchick (who notes in passing that "a handful of sober German critics allege that their country’s attitude to Scientology resembles a societal panic akin to the McCarthyism of the 1950s"). The major German political parties are closed to Scientologists, "sect filters" exclude Scientologists from government contracts, and leading politicians routinely denounce the church. In 1996, Kitchick notes, "the youth wing of the Christian Democratic Union (then and now Germany’s ruling conservative party) called for a boycott of Mission Impossible," because the movie's star, Tom Cruise, is a Scientologist.

To American eyes, Kirchick concedes, all this looks like religious intolerance:

For obvious reasons—beginning with the Constitution, and the fact the United States was founded by Europeans fleeing religious persecution—most Americans are loath to do anything that would appear to infringe upon someone else’s religious liberty. Though some of us may find each other’s religious convictions, or religion itself, strange, few believe that it should be the government’s role to tell other people how, if at all, to pray. And so while the consensus in the United States may be that Scientology is a bit nutty, the general attitude, owing to Americans’ dedication to individual liberty, seems to be: live and let live. 

Reflecting that attitude, the U.S. State Department regularly criticizes the German government for its hostile treatment of Scientology. But Kirchick believes such criticism is misplaced, since Scientology is not really a religion. Indeed, he concludes, "it's long past time Americans stopped joking about Scientology and started treating it like the Germans do."

Article Thumbnail

Someone Tell the Authors Guild: Google Books Is Good for Authors

Google Books and its goo goo googly eyesGoogle filed a motion for summary judgment today in its battle against the Authors Guild, which wants the court to levy heavy fines on the company for the copyright infringements allegedly committed by the Google Books service. Speaking as an author myself, my sympathy here is entirely with Google.

This isn't just a matter of principle. It's self-interest. As a writer, I gain far more from Google Books than I could conceivably lose from it.

If you write the sort of books that require you to consult other books, then Google Books is a wonderful tool. I use it to search for phrases in books I already own, a task in which it outperforms virtually every volume's index. I use it as a general search engine when exploring a new topic or looking for different perspectives on a contentious issue, and it often points me to useful material that I previously was unaware of. And yes, I use it to read books: Google has posted tons of out-of-print texts that otherwise would be completely inaccessible to me, or would only be accessible if I traveled to a distant research library or paid a lot of money to an antiquarian bookshop. Thanks to the old tomes posted on Google Books and at the Internet Archive, I have shaved a month or more off the time required to complete the book I'm writing now.

Has Google ever allowed me not to pay for a book that's still covered by copyright? Sure, in the same way the ability to flip through a book in a store can convince me not to pay for it: by showing me that it isn't really worth it, or by allowing me to extract one or two bits of information from something I didn't need to read in full. It doesn't seem significant to me that this is accomplished through a relatively new technology, rather than by simply walking to the Barnes & Noble near my home.

At any rate, the book sales lost as a result of Google are surely dwarfed by the book sales lost as a result of libraries. Yet far from crusading against libraries, writers regularly campaign on their behalf. Most authors appreciate the fact that libraries help us far more than they hurt us. I just wish the folks who run the Authors Guild understood that the same is true of Google.

Article Thumbnail

Marijuana on the Ballot in Five States in November

Even though the effort to legalize and regulate marijuana in California in 2010 ended with a massive bummer of a vote, other states aren’t giving up. Marijuana-related initiatives are scheduled for the ballot in Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Julian Brookes over at Rolling Stone focuses on the legalization initiatives in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon (whose initiative was just approved for the ballot last week):

Of the three states where legalization is up for a vote in November – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – Colorado "is definitely the best shot so far," says Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national lobby group that's kicking in about $1 million to support the measure. Under Amendment 64, the state would treat pot like alcohol – licenses for producers and sellers, 21-plus age restriction for buyers, and tax revenue government. Should it pass – and one poll has support up by 61-27 – "We're hoping the federal government will not impose its will," says Fox, "and that there'll be an adult conversation about what Colorado has decided to do."

In Massachusetts, voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use. Voters in the state already decriminalized possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in 2008.

Montana’s medical marijuana referendum is a bit of an odd duck (Montana probably wouldn’t have it any other way). Montana voters already approved medical marijuana use back in 2004. Subsequently, state legislators, showing the kind deference to their citizens’ wishes that would make California politicians jealous, tried to repeal it. Their efforts made it all the way to the governor’s desk, but he vetoed it.

Another bill was introduced in 2011 that would kill the old initiative but this time replace it with new guidelines that would permit medical marijuana use with much stricter regulations. With the Montana Medical Marijuana Veto Referendum, voters will decide whether to keep the new, tougher regulations (by voting yes) or keep the 2004 rules (by voting no). That sounds like a nice, confusing vote.

More from Reason about marijuana, including wondering whether the Department of Justice’s crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in Colorado will cost President Barack Obama votes.  Polls show Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson currently drawing 7 percent of the vote in the Centennial State.

Article Thumbnail

Why Are Keynesians of All People Calling for Tax Increases in a Crap Economy?

If there's one area of human activity that is more fully soaked in politics than politics, it's economics.

Over at National Review, Mercatus Center economist and Reason columnist Veronique de Rugy points to the latest instance of the triumph of ideology over intellectual consistency. President Obama, along with most congressional Democrats and liberal pundits (including Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman) are calling for increasing taxes on Americans making over $200,000 a year. They do this in the name of Baron Keynes.


the standard Keynesian theory recommends against raising taxes during [an] economic downturn since it will hurt economic growth and, as such, makes it even harder to get debt burdens under control....

Given the weak economy, where are the outraged Keynesians complaining about the unsoundness of raising taxes in this situation? I know there are plenty of them asking for more spending. If you remember, I asked that same question during the European austerity debate, when many pundits...were complaining about European governments’ mostly-pretend spending cuts while never mentioning the large increase in taxes that took place in these countries....

Whether one thinks that tax rates should higher or lower in the long run, right now isn’t the time to increase them.

More here.

The short answer to why neo-Keynseians are in favor of tax increases now is because they are first and foremost political creatures.

Back in 2010, everyone agreed that if all the Bush rates expired, the feds would haul in about $3.9 trillion over a 10-year period. If only the rates on the $200,000-plus crowd expired, the extra amount would be around $700 billion over the decade, or around $70 billion a year. That's a lot of money to everyone but the federal government, which spends close to $4 trillion a year. Simply put, the push to change tax rates on the wealthy isn't about revenue, or about getting the government on anything approaching sound fiscal footing.

Rather, it's largely a symbolic gesture that is political in nature and effect. That it goes against basic Keynesian theory yet is espoused by neo-Keynesians tells us more about them than it does about good ol' J.M. Keynes.

That said, it's time for the limited-government crowd to get its act together. The time for simply saying the answer to every problem is to reduce rates is at best half-right. The GOP - and many conservatives and libertarians - for too long refused to focus on the spending part of the equation. More than Democrats, the Republicans sanctified deficit spending, to the point that under Bush spending rose far faster than revenues did. And you just didn't hear enough folks on the right complaining, because it was politically expedient for them not to. Libertarians were the ones playing Cassandra. And while liberals and conservatives like to blame libertarians for all the ills of the planet, they are the ones responsible for a federal government that is not simply an embarrassment of debt but a real impediment to economic growth.

Back in 2011, I interviewed David Stockman, the former congressman who served as Ronald Reagan's first budget director. Stockman made the mistake of taking good old Dutch at his word - that Reagan really wanted to cut the size and scope of government. Stockman helped make the case for certain tax cuts and program snips but then got in trouble when he persisted in pushing to cut what he considered useless spending by what he stills calls the "welfare-warfare state" (hey, he'd been in Michigan State's Students for a Democratic Society).

Stockman told me that he thinks we should have far smaller government than we do. He earned Reagan's ire for pointing out the defense spending was particularly prone to egregious overruns and wastefulness because nobody wants to be seen as weak on military spending. But Stockman says that if we're going to insist on getting more government than we're willing to pay for - if we're going to borrow 40 cents of every dollar the feds spend - than it's the moral thing to do to raise taxes to pay for it. It's just not right to push the tab on our kids and grandkids. And chew on this: If we actually had to pay for the government we are getting, we'd probably start thinking very quickly of ways to cut it. Because we know we're not getting what we pay for, even at a 40 percent discount.

That's a political calculation too, I suppose, but it's not a b.s. symbolic one like the one peddled by today's Keynesians.

Read the Stockman interview here. And watch by clicking below.

Article Thumbnail

More Evidence of Human Interspecies Hanky Panky

Researchers led by geneticist Sarah Tishkoff from the University of Pennsylvania have sequenced the genomes from three different African ethnic groups. Among other things, they found that humans apparently acquired some genetic sequences from other ancient cousin branches of the human family. As the Washington Post reported:

“Geneticists like euphemisms, but we’re talking about sex,” said Joshua Akey of the University of Washington in Seattle, whose lab identified the mystery DNA in three groups of modern Africans.

Specifically, novel sequences found in the genomes of modern Africans are apparently DNA from a hominin species that diverged from our species' direct line 1.2 million years ago. However, their paleo-great grandchildren evidently enjoyed each other's company sometime around 50,000 years ago. From the Post:

The find offers more evidence that for thousands of years, modern-looking humans shared the Earth with evolutionary cousins that later died out. And whenever the groups met, whether in Africa or Europe, they did what came naturally — they bred. In fact, hominid hanky-panky seems to have occurred wherever humans met others who looked kind of like them — a controversial idea until recently.

In 2010, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany announced finding Neanderthal DNA in the genomes of modern Europeans.

Barrel-chested people whose thick double brows, broad noses and flat faces set them apart from modern humans, Neanderthals disappeared about 25,000 or 30,000 years ago.

Another mysterious group of extinct people recently identified from a 30,000-year-old finger bone in Siberia — known as the Denisovans — also left some of their DNA in modern-day Pacific Islanders.

And while modern humans and the newly found “archaic” Africans might be classified as distinct species, they produced viable offspring.

A study published in PLoS Genetics on July 19 makes estimates of the admixture of genes derived from interbreeding:

Overall, these genomic analyses of admixture suggest that 1%–3% of the genome of all Eurasians and native Amerindians is of Neanderthal origin, and that Papua New Guineans and Australians have another 3.5% of their genome of Denisovan origin.

The newly identified archaic sequences make up about 2.5 percent of the genomes of modern Africans.

Disclosure: My buddy Princeton University biologist Lee Silver has combed through my genotype screening information and could not find any Neanderthal DNA. However, my critics assure me that it's there.

Greg Lukianoff: How Colleges Fight Free Speech

“You can get in trouble for saying almost anything these days on a college campus,” says Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Lukianoff’s latest book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, discusses 11 years of free speech restrictions and the how college bureaucrats have hampered open debate and encouraged a culture of uncritical thinking. 

Reason correspondent Kennedy sat down with Lukianoff at FreedomFest to discuss the book, his work at FIRE, and what students can do to fight back. 

Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by over 2,000 limited-government enthusiasts and libertarians a year. ReasonTV spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here.

 About 4 minutes.  

Shot by Tracy Oppenhiemer and Alex Manning. Edited by Joshua Swain.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to our YouTube Channel to receive notifications when new material goes live. 

Article Thumbnail

Steven Greenhut on How the Anaheim Riots Spotlight the Need for Broad Police Reform

It’s no secret that Anaheim, California’s police culture echoes the old Los Angeles Police Department culture that values aggressiveness over community policing, and the city administration has shown no willingness to confront it. City police have shot six people so far this year, five of them fatally. Last Saturday’s shooting of an unarmed man named Manuel Diaz ultimately brought people to the streets to protest, resulting in more aggressive behavior by the police. Steven Greenhut explains why broad police reform is long overdue in Anaheim—and throughout the rest of California.

View this article
Article Thumbnail

Cast Your Vote for the Best Cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Friday fun link embedded videos: three covers of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," each famous among fans of viral ephemera. Vote for your favorite in the comments. The winner gets a hit movie, a floppy disc to eat, or a night in jail.

Contestant #1, fortified by alcohol, is defying the state at maximum volume:

Contestant #2, fortified by electricity, is preparing for the Singularity:

Contestant #3, fortified by felt, is magnifying the song's nostalgic '70s appeal:

Feel free to write in additional competitors in the comments. But I'm going to preemptively disqualify the clip that clumsily intercuts scenes from Wayne's World with the original video. We have to establish some standards. 

Article Thumbnail

Anonymous Source Indicates that Spanish Officials Discussed the Possibility of a Bailout

The Spanish Economy Minister, Luis de Guindos, discussed the possibility of an EU/IMF sovereign bailout with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble, according to an unnamed source. After the bailout package for Spanish banks failed to reassure investors the possibility of a bailout similar to the ones given to Portugal, Greece, and Ireland became increasingly likely and more widely discussed. Spanish officials have been denying that such a measure will be needed. Today a spokesman for the Spanish government reiterated that position:

We strongly deny any such plan. This possibility (of a 300-billion-euro rescue for Spain) has not been looked at and has not been discussed.

The amount that was supposedly discussed by de Guindos and Schaeuble, 300 billion euros, is three fifths of the 500 billion euros that will be in the European Stability Mechanism, the constitutionality of which is currently being considered by the German Constitutional Court. 

The news of a possible Spanish bailout comes after Brussels officials acknowledged that Greece has fallen far short of its reform targets, and could not be saved by a second bailout installment.

Seeing the situation in Europe deteriorating President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, stated yesterday that the ECB would do whatever is necessary to save the single currency:

Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.

The statement managed to lower Spanish borrowing costs from the highest they had been since Spain adopted the euro. However, borrowing costs remain worryingly high.

German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande also reaffirmed their commitment to the eurzone in a joint statement today:

Germany and France are deeply committed to the integrity of the euro zone. They are determined to do everything to protect the euro zone.

Regardless of the level of commitment Hollande, Merkel, and Draghi have to the single currency project it is looking increasingly likely that Greece will not be able to stay in the eurozone and that Spain will accept a soveriegn bailout. Greece has failed to keep to the commitments laid out in the bailout agreement, why anyone would think that Spain would be able to behave more responsibly remains unclear.

Article Thumbnail

Chik-Fil-A: Hate the Hater, Love the Chicken, Eat More Beef?

Because this is quite possibly a post-Rapture world of driverless cars and whores of revelation, I was on the teevee last night with failed GOP presidential candidate and sharia-law-alarmist Rick Santorum.

The odd part of it all? We basically agreed on something: That government should not ban businesses based on the religiously informed beliefs of their owners.

On CNBC's Kudlow & Company, Santorum and I were discussing the current flap over Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy's comments about gay marriage. The head of the successful and popular chicken chain says that his Christian beliefs dictate that marriage remain defined as between one man and one woman. A number of gay rights groups and others have called for boycotts of the chain and, as I noted earlier this year, a number of colleges blocked Chik-fil-A from opening up on their campuses. Chik-fil-A's nonprofit arm, the WinShape Foundation, has funded groups that sponsor pray-away-the-gay therapies to "heal" homosexuals.

Local politicians such as Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston have said they will block the chain from opening new stores and work to close the existing ones until the company's CEO changes his tune. That sort of threat of legal sanction is categorically different than any sort of customer-based boycott or peaceful demonstration since it uses the state's monopoly on force to impose its will. Santorum used the occasion to talk about the lack of tolerance for viewpoints that are contrary to liberal orthodoxy and, because this is what he does, ended up riffing on sharia law and boy if you think teh gays have it tough here get a load of Iran where they put 'em to death! Now that's intolerance for you!

As did host Larry Kudlow, I stressed that despite my disagreement with Dan Cathy's point of view, the best way to counter speech and positions you disagree with is through more speech and market actions. "As someone who believes absolutely in marriage equality," I said, "there is something absolutely, fundamentally wrong with politicians saying what businessess can set up shop in their cities and where." It's worth pointing out that Chik-fil-A doesn't refuse to serve gays or people who believe in gay marriage, nor do it refuse to hire them (a Chicago franchisee has held fundraisers for gay groups). Chik-fil-A can't be confused with segregated businesses in the Jim Crow South - many of which were forbidden by law to serve black and white customers on even terms. 

In a very real way, this is almost a purely symbolic debate. I sympathize with gays and lesbians who are systematically discriminated against by the state (well, most states, including the feds), but I'm also troubled by politicizing every aspect of every waking moment. Lord knows that if we had to agree with the cook (however loosely defined) on every issue before we could sit down to eat, there'd never be another family meal in America.

And America, as Rick Santorum can and will tell you, is under attack from enemies within and without.

Watch the clip:

Article Thumbnail

New Mexicans Beating Heroin Addiction With Help of Drug Dealer

Attempting to kick your heroin addiction? Albuquerque’s own "Mystery Man" can help. According to NPR, he's “the drug dealer who helps addicts quit.”

As the state with the highest level of overall drug overdoses, New Mexico has its fair share of substance abuse woes. Yet addicts trying to ditch habits may have a hard time getting medical treatment they need. According to NPR’s Planet Money, drug users are having a hard time getting ahold of Suboxone, a prescription drug that helps heroin and pain pill addicts quit (less than 30 Albuquerque physicians are trained and certified to prescribe the drug, reports the ABQ Journal). So addicts are once again hitting up the black market—only this time, in search for a treatment. And that’s where the so-called Mystery Man comes in. NPR reports:

To get Suboxone, Mystery Man has to find a patient with a Suboxone prescription, and give that person the $50 co-pay to fill it. He gets that money by selling, among other things, crack and guns. He sells each pill for $5.

He says he notices a difference in his customers. "People don't overdose no more. They're just mellow," he says. "If you take it you won't be stealing, you won't be robbing, and you won't be prostituting."

But why do New Mexican addicts have to call on rehabilitation vigilantes rather than docs to get Suboxone? NPR explains:

Some physicians do prescribe Suboxone to treat addicts. But many do not.

"A lot of physicians are very resistant to prescribing Suboxone because they fear it will attract opiate addicts to their practices which brings with it a whole can of worms in terms of managing those clients," says Seth Williams, a nurse practitioner who treats the homeless in Albuquerque.

Scientists have long searched for a prescription to treat addiction. But companies were hesitant to develop one. Charles O'Keeffe is the former president and CEO of Reckitt Benckiser, the company that developed Suboxone. "There's not much money to be made in it," says O'Keeffe. "This is not a disease space that a lot of people want to treat."

Full article here.

Cop Block Founder Modifies Car to Record Cops on the Sly

Are you a little worried about police brutality? Worried that cops will beat the snot out of you and get away with it? It's more than a little understandable, especially if you have ever seen this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or this.

Or even this.

If that's something you're concerned about, check out this guy's car. It's tricked out to record cops no matter what abuses they try to inflict. It's also bulletproof, because every car should be bulletproof. Check out Veterans Against Police Abuse for information on how to record would-be Dirty Harrys in every conceivable manner.

Article Thumbnail

Meet Louisa McQueeney, the Media’s Favorite ObamaCare Beneficiary

The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff tells the story of Louisa McQueeney, a 53 year-woman from South Florida who works for a company that ships gift baskets full of oranges to the continental U.S. and Canada. McQueeney is a sort of poster child for the many benefits of ObamaCare, because at this point she’s apparently used almost all of them: 

Over the past two years, McQueeney has taken advantage of just about every Obamacare benefit she can get her hands on.

Free preventive care? She got that with her annual well-care visit. The extension of family coverage for young adults? Her 22-year-old daughter, a recent college graduate, uses that to stay on her plan.

Then there’s the small-business tax credit that two-thirds of businesses don’t even know about. McQueeney used that to net Palm Beach Groves, the company where she’s the general manager, $7,400 in savings. Another health law rebate, for just over $1,500, has brought her haul to $9,000.

I wondered if there might be more information about how McQueeney might have found out about all these benefits, so I spent a little bit of time Googling her. And although the Post item is titled “Meet the woman who has used (almost) every Obamacare benefit,” it turns out that lots of people already have already had the opportunity to do so: McQueeney has been beating the drum in support of ObamaCare’s benefits for months.  

In June, McQueeney wrote an op-ed in support of ObamaCare in the Miami Herald. She's also been quoted talking up the law’s benefits to multiple media outlets, including NPR, CNBC, and The Palm Beach Post. McQueeney appears to have favored an ObamaCare-style health care overhaul for a while: Three years ago, while the law was still working its way through the legislative process, she signed a Change.org petition encouraging Congress to "keep health reform moving forward."

Kliff describes McQueeney as “a clearly enthusiastic supporter of the Affordable Care Act,” and McQueeney provides plenty of zippy quotes to back up this assessment. She's certainly had enough practice. 

Indeed, McQueeney is such an enthusiastic supporter of the Affordable Care Care that she previously agreed to talk up how ObamaCare has helped her in a video produced by HealthCare.gov, a website run by the Obama administration devoted to explaining how the law works and who it benefits. The White House liked McQueeney’s story so much that last week they shared the HealthCare.gov video on The White House blog.

Article Thumbnail

A.M. Links: London Summer Olympics Start, Justin Bieber Chasing Paparazzo Charged Under New Law, Bo Xilai’s Wife Charged with Murder

  • The Olympics in London began today as Mitt Romney continues to face criticism for observing that hey, maybe London’s not iron-clad ready for the Olympics and the British press decides Britain doesn’t like Romney. The ex-pats at his London fundraiser do though.
  • The Department of Justice and the city of Seattle are expected to announce a settlement containing reforms of the police department that the feds investigated. Some city council members and the members of the community that called for a federal investigation complain they’ve been cut out of the process.
  • A federal judge overruled a decision by immigration authorities to reject Jamal Abusamhadaneh’s application for citizenship. Immigration authorities were worried about the man’s associations with a Virginia mosque where Anwar al-Awlaki once served as imam, but he took the oath of citizenship yesterday.
  • A photographer chasing Justin Bieber in L.A. will be the first prosecuted under the state’s new anti-paparazzi law; the man was charged with “reckless driving with the intent to capture a picture for commercial gain.”
  • The wife of former Chinese Politburo member Bo Xilai was charged with the murder of a British business man and will face trial as early as next month.
  • Facebook stock was down 11 percent in pre-market trading despite a better than expected earnings report, its first as a publicly traded company.

Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.

New at Reason.TV: "Yaron Brook on Ayn Rand vs. Big Government"

Article Thumbnail

Kurt Loder on Ruby Sparks and The Watch

Ruby Sparks is a clever riff on the ancient Pygmalion story. Here, writes Kurt Loder, instead of a sculptor, the protagonist is a blocked writer, whose lonely existence is transformed when the central character in the book he’s working on suddenly comes to life. The movie is a glowing fantasy that approaches perfection in its character detail and its unlabored comic style, and in the way in it subtly develops dark themes of creativity and control as the story evolves.

The Watch, on the other hand, is a state-of-the-craft Hollywood comedy product, assembled by pros (Seth Rogen is one of its three writers, director Akiva Schaffer is an SNL veteran) and stocked with certified funnymen (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill). The plot is high in concept (aliens invade sleepy Midwestern town) and the gags, largely groin-centric, are sometimes very funny. The movie seems intent on being standard summer box-office bait. We’ll see about that.

View this article
Article Thumbnail

Chip Bok on Joe Paterno's Legacy

In the wake of the Freeh report, former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno is no longer remembered as the winningest saint in college football. Chip Bok imagines how his legacy--once a major draw for prospective students--will change. 

View this article
Article Thumbnail

American Elites' Obsession with Gun Control

Dan Baum on the reaction to the Batman massacre:

Among the many ways America differs from other countries when it comes to guns is that when a mass shooting happens in the United States, it's a gun story. How an obviously sick man could buy a gun; how terrible it is that guns are abundant; how we must ban particular types of guns that are especially dangerous. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence responded to the news with a gun-control petition. Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times has weighed in with an online column saying that "Politicians are far too cowardly to address gun violence...which keeps us from taking practical measures to avoid senseless shootings."

Compare that to the coverage and conversation after Anders Behring Breivik murdered sixty-nine people on the island of Utøya in Norway, a year ago next Sunday. Nobody focused on the gun. I had a hard time learning from the news reports what type of gun he used. Nobody asked, "How did he get a gun?" That seemed strange, because it's much harder to get a gun in Europe than it is here....

Rosenthal is wrong, by the way, that politicians haven't addressed gun violence. They have done so brilliantly, in a million different ways, which helps explain why the rate of violent crime is about half what it was twenty years ago. They simply haven't used gun control to do it. Gun laws are far looser than they were twenty years ago, even while crime is plunging—a galling juxtaposition for those who place their faith in tougher gun laws. The drop in violence is one of our few unalloyed public-policy success stories, though perhaps not for those who bemoan an "epidemic of gun violence" that doesn't exist anymore in order to make a political point.
Article Thumbnail

The Atlantic's Andrew Cohen Wonders Why We Can't Ruin the Second Amendment Like We Ruined The Other Nine

If Andrew Cohen were defending the entire Bill of Rights, his Atlantic article on how that hallowed document has been shredded beyond recognition these past 11 years would be terrific. But sadly, the thesis underlining his no-doubt Aurora, Colorado-shooting inspired piece on how "Some Constitutional Amendments Are More Equal Than Others" seems to be, we've mostly violated amendments First and Third through Eighth, but why are things so good for the Second Amendment these days? And it's no thank goodness for small, libertarian favors, it's more an implicit pleading for at least some equality in rights violating.

A sampling:

From the TSA to drones to warrantless domestic surveillance, from water-boarding to secret prisons to law enforcement officials having access to your online accounts, the Bill of Rights has been winnowed since September 2001 as Americans have consented to re-shift the balance between security and liberty, between safety and privacy. Name a relevant amendment and some expert somewhere will tell you how all three branches of government have sought to expand State power over individual conduct (or even, as we saw in some of the hokier terror conspiracy cases, over individual thought).

Except for the Second Amendment. Bucking the trend, it has been a fabulous decade for the Second Amendment and those who cherish it. Since September 2001, the United States Supreme Court has twice (in Heller in 2008 and in McDonald in 2009) endorsed the concept that the Second Amendment contains an individual right to bear arms. In 2003, Congress attached to funding legislation the Tiahrt Amendment, a rider designed to restrict the use of federal gun-trace information. And  in 2004, the federal ban on assault weapons was allowed to expired.

Cohen makes some excellent points about the war on terror's effects on the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth amendments. He also notes that the Third Amendment (you know, the joke-ish one about soldiers not being quartered in homes in peacetime) was violated during Hurricane Katrina. He thinks the Ninth Amendment has mostly been untouched by the War on Terror, at least in terms of court rulings that directly chip away at it, but you would not be hard pressed to find a violation of the sentiments behind "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Cohen also ignores that the ravishing of the Fourth Amendment really began in earnest with the war on drugs.

Article Thumbnail

Left and Right Agree: Only Crazy People Oppose Reviving the 'Assault Weapon' Ban

What happens when two mushy-minded moderates who qualify as opposite ends of a political spectrum only on the op-ed page of The New York Times get together for a "conversation" (definitely not a debate) about gun control in the wake of a highly publicized mass shooting? Pretty much what you'd expect: They agree that self-righteous extremists are just awful (although Gail Collins mainly has in mind NRA members, while David Brooks focuses on gun control activists), that policy should be driven by evidence rather than emotion, and that it's too bad all those rude shouters are impeding a consensus on the commonsense steps that obviously should be taken to prevent gun violence. Steps like...reinstating the federal "assault weapon" ban that expired in 2004:

Gail Collins: There are some parts of the gun control debate that are definitely open to, um, debate. There are parts that aren’t, like the need to ban assault weapons. The fact that Congress found it impossible to extend the law against guns that allow you to shoot off 100 bullets in a couple of minutes is simply insane.

David Brooks: I agree with you there. The best argument for gun control this week is that even more people would have died if Holmes's gun had been faster or more effective.

Immediately after declaring the debate about "assault weapons" closed, Collins conflates the military-style guns that fall into that arbitrary category with "guns that allow you to shoot off 100 bullets in a couple of minutes," i.e., semiautomatic firearms that accept detachable magazines. Although the same law that banned "assault weapons" also banned magazines holding more than 10 rounds, it left millions of the latter in circulation—plenty to supply the needs of deranged mass murderers. 

But Collins' confusion is crystal clear compared to Brooks'. He says "even more people would have died if Holmes’s gun had been faster or more effective." The whole reason people like Collins and Brooks are talking about reviving the "assault weapon" ban is the assumption that James Holmes' Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle would have been covered by the law (which may indeed be true, depending on its specific features). So what on earth does Brooks mean when he says things would have been even worse if Holmes had been carrying a "faster or more effective" weapon? A machine gun? Those are already tightly restricted. Brooks probably doesn't mean that Holmes could have killed more people if he had not opted for that scary 100-round magazine, which ended up jamming, forcing him to switch guns. An unnamed "law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation" told CNN "these after-market extended magazines have a tendency to jam," a point that undermines the claim that they are especially suited for mass murder. Brooks probably also does not mean that more people might have died if Holmes had relied more on his shotgun, which is deadlier at short range. Acknowledging that point would cast doubt on the notion that "assault weapons" are uniquely dangerous.

Article Thumbnail

Would Total Information Awareness Have Prevented the Aurora Mass Murders?

That's the intriguing question asked in an op/ed by Holman Jenkins over at the Wall Street Journal. Recall that Total Information Awareness was a Pentagon program with the aim of developing a vast surveillance database that would supposedly be mined to identify terrorists before they strike. The idea was scrapped when it turned out that Americans were more worried about pervasive government surveillance than they were of terrorists.

In his column, Jenkins muses that TIA algorithms might have been able to sift through vast quantities of online data to identified the shooter.

The Colorado shooter Mr. Holmes dropped out of school via email. He tried to join a shooting range with phone calls and emails going back and forth. He bought weapons and bomb-making equipment. He placed orders at various websites for a large quantity of ammunition. Aside from privacy considerations, is there anything in principle to stop government computers, assuming they have access to the data, from algorithmically detecting the patterns of a mass shooting in the planning stages?

I am charmed by Jenkins' casual putting aside pesky privacy considerations. He notes that even though the TIA program was not implemented in its entirety, the National Security Agency does engage in a lot of data mining. This prompts him to ask:

After the Aurora theater massacre, it might be fair to ask what kinds of things the NSA has programmed its algorithms to look for. Did it, or could it have, picked up on Mr. Holmes's activities? And if not, what exactly are we getting for the money we spend on data mining?

Actually, I would very much like to know the answer to that question. What indeed?

In any case, over The Washingtonian, Shane Harris, author of the 2010 book The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, argues that TIA would not have stopped the Aurora murders. Why? Because the algorithm for identifying would-be terrorists and mass murderers does not exist. Harris asserts:

Even if the government were crunching away on guns and ammo sales and cross-referencing them to school enrollment reports, such an algorithm would generate hundreds if not thousands of potential “suspects” that investigators wouldn’t have the time or the people to track down...

A computer cannot distinguish between innocuous behavior and sinister plotting just by looking at a list of receipts. And, Jenkins might be surprised to know, that is not what Total Information Awareness proposed to do, either...

As much as we would like to believe “total information awareness” would have led us to Holmes’s doorstep before that awful night, it’s just not so. We look at Holmes now, with that wild orange hair and those bulging eyes, and think: He would have stood out among the crowd. He would have seemed like the kind of person capable of a killing spree. But that’s just our imagination.

I personally hope that Shane is right. As sorry as I feel for those who died or were wounded and for their friends and families, I feel safer in a world where government surveillance is not (yet) all pervasive.

You Can Bet on the Olympics Online in 182 Countries, But Not the Land of the Free

The Associated Press reports on the wide variety of betting options gamblers with their eyes on the Olympics will have. Some of the longer odds:

1,000-to-1 that a flying saucer will appear over Olympic Stadium during Friday's opening ceremony. Tough luck, presumably, if aliens don't make first contact until the next day.

Other longshots get slightly better odds, like 250-to-1 that every team in the 4x400-meter relay final drops the baton, or 33-to-1 that flamboyant London Mayor Boris Johnson accidentally lights his hair on fire with the Olympic torch.

And this being famously soggy London, of course they are taking bets on the weather, paying even-money that rain will mar the opening night. If that's not enough to make an Olympic fan cry, Ladbrokes will pay $50 on a $1 bet that it will rain every day, and 10-to-1 that a strike by transit workers will halt train service on the London Underground.


Mass Murders Disconnected From the Larger World, Senate Plays Chicken on Tax Vote, Teen Thrives With Home-Grown Trachea: P.M. Links

Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.

Article Thumbnail

Peter Suderman on Obamacare's Federalist Opportunity

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling was a loss for opponents of ObamaCare, which remains mostly intact. But the ruling, in combination with another little-noticed provision governing its exchanges, may pave the way for an unexpected partial victory: the opportunity for a federalist implementation of the law, in which some states can essentially opt out of the bulk of the law’s requirements.

Senior Editor Peter Suderman writes that it’s not just an opportunity for states to resist the law’s federally designed strictures. It’s also a rare opportunity to run a nationwide health policy experiment, testing the health and budgetary outcomes in states that choose to implement the law against those that don’t.

View this article
Article Thumbnail

Kid's Hot Dog Stand Shut Down by City Officials Before It Even Opens

This summer, 13-year-old Nathan Duszynski wanted to make some money to help out his disabled parents—his mom has epilepsy and his dad has multiple sclerosis. So he decided to open a hot dog stand. He saved $1,200, mostly money made by mowing lawns and shoveling snow. He checked with the city to make sure he didn't need any licenses or permits, even going to city hall in person with his mom. And then he bought a cart. (Yep, that's hot dogs from Nathan's, for those who are keeping score at home.) 

He arrived to set up shop on his first day and 10 minutes later, a zoning official arrived to shut him down. The problem: The cart, which is in the parking lot of a sporting goods store, is on the edge of official downtown commercial district of Holland, Michigan. The city bans food carts in that area in order to minimize competition for the eight tax-paying restaurants a couple of blocks away.

As it happens, I've been to Holland. It's a lovely town, but not exactly a booming metropolis. And frankly (ha!), after an evening of Blue Motorcycles Butch's Dry Dock, a hot dog would really have hit the spot. The city says it is willing to work with Nathan, but keeping food carts out of the small, walkable downtown area is pretty much the same thing as banning food carts altogether. Nathan and his family obviously know that: The hot dog cart is now for sale.

The Mackinac Center has made a nice little video about the ridiculous story:

More on zoned out lemonade stands. More on food carts and trucks.

UPDATE: You can help Nathan out by going here.

Article Thumbnail

El Monte Wants Citizens’ Sugar Addiction to Pay for Its Spending Addiction

Here’s a neat trick by city leaders: Combine a Nanny State attitude toward your citizens’ life choices with your unwillingness to seriously deal with your city’s expenses and see what happens. In El Monte, Calif., an L.A. County community with a population of 120,000, City Council is proposing a sales tax on sugary drinks. Via the Pasadena Star News:

El Monte could become one of the first cities in the country to tax sugary beverages - a move leaders have proposed to save city coffers more than city waistlines.

Local voters will decide in November if they want the city to levy a tax on businesses selling sodas and other "sugar-sweetened beverages" following a unanimous City Council vote on Tuesday that puts the initiative on the ballot.

The move came packaged with a resolution declaring a fiscal emergency in El Monte - a requirement to justify holding a special election for the general tax measure.

If voters agree to charge businesses one cent for every ounce of sugary drinks they sell, it could translate into up to $7 million a year for the city of 120,000 residents, according to staff estimates.

Yes, that’s a cent for every ounce. That would give a typical 20-ounce bottle of soda a 10 to 15 percent price increase (or higher) depending on the retail charge.

El Monte, like most other cities, is dealing with rising employee costs and dropping tax revenues. Like San Bernardino, it has deferred staff salary increases in bad times rather than killing them and now they’re coming due. A sales tax increase that already puts El Monte at a higher rate than the rest of the county is set to expire in 2014. The city’s finance director, though, said the city isn’t facing bankruptcy.

That the tax increase is an obvious revenue grab doesn’t stop them from also giving Nanny State lectures about those awful, awful sodas:

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, roughly 28 percent of children and adults in El Monte are classified as obese.

Several local residents told personal anecdotes about how diabetes and other health problems related to poor eating habits had affected their lives.

"As public officials, we have a moral imperative to address issues that are hurting and killing our community," said Adam Carranza, a Mountain View School District board member.

Really, guys, do we have to put with both? If you’re going to come begging the community for money to keep lining your public employees’ pockets, can you not lecture them about their drinking habits at the same time? Also, you know, maybe don't make your budget-balancing dependent on consumption you are also trying to reduce?

Article Thumbnail

The Government Carried the Internet, Says Farhad Manjoo

Over the years, I've had more than a few copies of the treacly "Footprints" poem thrown in my direction, in which the almighty is credited for carrying the protagonist through tough times. Others clearly find comfort in the text and the many truly bad songs it has spawned, but I've always thought it stripped people of credit for doing the heavy lifting when it really counted. I have pretty much the same reaction to Farhad Manjoo's near-theological genuflection to government in Slate when discussing the provenance of the Internet. "If you spend time looking at the history of the Internet, you’ll find the government there at every step," says he. That's nice. But while you're lighting a candle to the state, how about we take notice of the people who actually did the work?

Manjoo writes in the context of of the current debate over whether people can claim any credit for ther successes or should instead bow down and bang their foreheads on the ground in the direction of the unpleasant odor wafting from the direction of the Potomac river any time they notice black ink in the ledger or achieve a small victory in life. Manjoo falls in the bow-down category. Specifically, he credits government for all things Internet-related, and cleverly plays off a poorly crafted Wall Street Journal piece that challenges that position. Writes Manjoo:

“The Internet didn’t get invented on its own,” Obama said. “Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

Until recently this wouldn’t have been a controversial statement. Everyone in the tech world knows that the Internet got its start in the 1960s, when a team of computing pioneers at the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency designed and deployed ARPANET, the first computer network that used “packet switching”—a communications system that splits up data and sends it across multiple paths toward its destination, which is the basic design of today’s Internet. According to most accounts, researchers working on ARPANET created many of the Internet’s defining features, including TCP/IP, the protocol on which today’s network operates. In the 1980s, they strung together various government and university networks together using TCP/IP—thus creating a single worldwide network, the Internet.

Suddenly, though, the government’s role in the Internet’s creation is being cast into doubt. “It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet,” Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, argued Monday in a widely linked Journal op-ed. Instead, Crovitz believes that “full credit” for the Internet’s creation ought to go to Xerox, whose Silicon Valley research facility, Xerox PARC, created the Ethernet networking standard as well as the first graphical computer (famously the inspiration for Apple’s Mac). According to Crovitz, not only did the government not create the Internet, it slowed its arrival—that researchers were hassled by “bureaucrats” who stymied the network’s success.

“It's important to understand the history of the Internet because it's too often wrongly cited to justify big government,” Crovitz says. I’ll give him one thing: It is important to understand the history of the Internet. Too bad he doesn’t seem interested in doing so.

Manjoo has two advantages here. The first is that Crovitz really doesn't do a good job. The second is that, fueled by Cold War fears in the second half of the twentieth century, the government sucked much of the oxygen out of the room science-wise and became a primary funder for  all sorts of research that didn't necessarily have to be bankrolled by the state. Think of the "Footprints" protagonist strolling down the beach, then being sudenly waylaid by a burly monk who tossed him over his shoulder for a rough jog over the sand. Well ... Thanks for the ride!


Yaron Brook: Ayn Rand vs. Big Government

"People don't vote their pocketbooks, people vote what they think is right," says Yaron Brook, president of The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights and author of Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand's Ideas Can End Big Government.

"So we need a moral revolution in this country, and that's how we get a free market revolution."

At FreedomFest 2012, Reason's Matt Welch sat down with Brook to discuss what Obama has meant for sales of Atlas Shrugged, why big government hurts the poor, and how Ayn Rand inspired the Tea Party.

Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by around 2,000 limited-government enthusiasts and libertarians a year. ReasonTV spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here now.

About 7 minutes.

Camera by Tracy Oppenheimer and Alex Manning; edited by Jim Epstein.

Visit ReasonTV for downloadable versions and subscribe to our YouTube Channel to receive notifications when new material goes live.

Article Thumbnail

Obama Still Thinks the Second Amendment Is About Hunting

Addressing the National Urban League Convention in New Orleans yesterday, President Obama once again displayed his fundamental misunderstanding of the Second Amendment:

I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation—that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage. 

That is similar to what Obama said as a presidential candidate in 2008, when he promised to "protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns for the purposes of hunting and target shooting." But as Ice-T could have told him, the main purpose of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms is not to facilitate hunting and target shooting; it is to facilitate self-defense, against both official oppression and private aggression. The rapper turned actor put it this way in a BBC interview noted yesterday by Damon Root:

The right to bear arms is because that's the last form of defense against tyranny. Not to hunt. It's to protect yourself from the police.

When a politician suggests the Second Amendment is all about hunting, he trivializes it, just as he would be trivializing the First Amendment by saying it's all about pornography. Here is another clue that voters should not put much faith in Obama's commitment to gun rights:

A lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals—that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. 

An AK-47 is a selective-fire assault rifle, illegal for civilians. Presumably Obama is referring to semiautomatic rifles that resemble the AK-47, many of which were banned under federal law until 2004. Hence he is blurring the distinction between machine guns and semiautomatic "assault weapons" while perpetuating the false idea that such guns are uniquely suited for crime and have no legitimate uses. As Steve Chapman notes in his column today, with reference to the Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle used in last week's Aurora theater shootings, that is plainly not the case, given the size of the market for these guns and the tiny percentage of owners who commit crimes with them. This demonization of military-style rifles, which deliberately plays on "the weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons" (as Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center admitted back in 1988),  is an old trick of the anti-gun movement that the public may finally be seeing through. New York Times columnist Charles Blow notes (with dismay, of course) that a "2011 Gallup poll, in a reversal from previous polls, found that most people are now against an assault weapons ban." The fact that Obama is nevertheless sticking with this tactic, despite the long odds against reinstating the ban, is a gratuituous insult to people who care about gun rights.

So is Obama "the most anti-gun president in history," as the NRA warned he would be four years ago? Objectively, no. Political reality has deterred him from doing much of anything in this area, to the consternation of gun control activists. As Obama's lip service to gun rights and the tepidness of his policy proposals in the wake of the Aurora massacre show, he is keen to avoid anything that might alienate voters by seeming to confirm the NRA's portrayal. Given congressional resistance and the prospect of judicial review now that the Supreme Court has said the Second Amendment imposes limits on legislation, even a safely re-elected Obama is unlikely to take up the cause of gun control. But his current rhetoric and his past support for highly restrictive laws, including the D.C. and Chicago gun bans that were overturned by the Supreme Court, suggest the NRA has a pretty good handle on what Obama would do if Americans were not so adamant about clinging to their guns.  

Article Thumbnail

EuroCrash: A Political Crisis, Not a Currency Crisis

In today's Washington Post, columnist Anne Applebaum has a nicely succinct (and depressing) summary of the ongoing Euro zone crack-up:

Though no one recognized it at the time, joining the euro was like adopting the gold standard: It meant that individual governments couldn’t inflate their way out of trouble anymore nor pass on to the next generation the bill for today’s expenditures — as they still can in the United States and Britain. All along, it has been a mistake to describe the euro zone’s difficulties as a “currency crisis.” In fact, it’s a political crisis, caused by an addiction to debt, and it requires a political solution. Electorates have learned the truth: They are bankrupt. Whatever decisions the European Union now makes, future recovery depends on how much of the plain facts ordinary people can bear to absorb.

And what are the "plain facts" that Europeans must understand:

Europeans are being forced to face up to decades’ worth of fundamentally dishonest politics. Since the 1970s, one government after the next has spent, borrowed and then inflated its way out of the subsequent debt. Then they recovered — only to spend, borrow and inflate once again...

Now they can’t.

Whole op/ed is worth reading here. See Reason's extensive coverage of the Euro crisis here.

Article Thumbnail

Sheldon Richman on Gun Control and the Aurora Shooting

The shooting in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater has incited the usual debate over guns. One side says tighter gun restrictions could have prevented the horrible incident that night. The other responds that more guns in the hands of law-abiding people might have prevented it. However one comes down on this issue, writes Sheldon Richman, we should understand that it is not relevant to the gun-policy question. Even if there was no chance of stopping Holmes, that would not justify restricting law-abiding people from carrying handguns.

View this article
Article Thumbnail

Babyless Recession?

Well, not entirely babyless. After all, several of my esteemed colleagues have spawned recently (hearty congratulations!). But they are going against a lower fertility trend says a new forecast by the business consultancy Demographic Intelligence. As the company's press release explains:

The sluggish economic recovery is continuing to drive down total births in the United States in 2012, according to the July edition of the U.S. Fertility Forecast from Demographic Intelligence. Moreover, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in the U.S. is predicted to fall to a 25-year low this year, 1.87 children per woman, from a recent high of 2.12 per children per woman in 2007.

The ongoing decline in total births is particularly striking because the Echo Boom generation, the children of the Baby Boomers, is moving into childbearing age. This means that the number of women in their prime childbearing age is now surging, which should have led to an increase in the overall number of children born each year. But this baby boomlet has so far failed to materialize because today's young adults are concerned about their current employment status and future economic prospects.

The report notes that American women still intend to bear 2.2 children on average when the economy improves.

The direction of population trends (either up or down) has been a favorite topic of prophets of doom for centuries. For the possible edification of H&R readers, I point to my take-down of the silly doomster novel Ishmael. Bonus: The novel's protagonist is a telepathic gorilla who is channeling the world's most strident and least accurate doomster, Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich is the author of the spectacularly wrong, The Population Bomb. How wrong?

Here's a nice doomsaying prophecy from the 1968 edition*:

"The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines - hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash program embarked upon now."

*Always cite the 1968 edition, because by the 1971 edition Ehrlich had changed his apocalytic prediction without acknowledging it to "In the 1970s and 1980s...." Of course, even that modified prediction was wrong.

ViceTV: Meet the Female Fighters of Kurdistan!

Fascinating stuff from the guys at Vice. Here's their writeup:

Published on Jul 23, 2012 by 

Come with us to Northern Iraq for a springtime frolic with the lovely lady guerillas of the Kurdish Liberation Movement.

Part 1 of 3: http://bit.ly/Female-Fighters-1
Part 2 of 3: http://bit.ly/Female-Fighters-2
Part 3 of 3: http://bit.ly/Female-Fighters-3

From Boudica of the British Celts to Corporal Klinger, few things unsettle the male mind like a lady in arms. The Kurds of Northern Iraq have long recognized this principle and incorporated it into their quest to build a Kurdish homeland in the overlap between Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. Fighting alongside their male comrades in a region not exactly known for its progressive stance on women's rights, the female Peshmerga guerillas of the Kurdish Liberation Movement built a reputation for themselves in the 70s and 80s as demure diaboliques with the deadly poise of Leila Khaled or Tania-era Patty Hearst.

Having secured the northern third of Iraq for themselves in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the Kurds have spent the last two decades divesting themselves of their guerilla jamjams, building up a stable and booming economy in their semi-autonomous little hamlet, and generally enjoying not being in the middle of the current Iraq War. Up in the hills abutting Iran and Turkey, however, the struggle for a Greater Kurdistan continues for boy and girl alike.

Article Thumbnail

Scalia Says Supreme Court Not in Strife Over Obamacare Ruling

NPR’s Nina Totenberg sat down with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who’s out promoting his new book Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, and the discussion inevitably turned to the Court’s controversial ruling upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the recent reports that Chief Justice John Roberts' vote in favor of Obamacare had enraged the Court's other conservatives. As Totenberg writes:

Citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the court's internal deliberations, CBS reported that Chief Justice John Roberts had changed his mind while considering the health care case, and that his reversal infuriated the four other court conservatives, who dissented.

Scalia, however, disputed any notion that the decision sparked anger and acrimony inside the court.

"That's just not the way justices of the Supreme Court behave, going into pouts. I mean that — it's absurd," he said. "If you can't disagree even vehemently on the law without taking it personally and getting angry at the person, you ought to look for another job." As if to prove the point, Scalia added that his "best friend on the court is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and God knows she doesn't vote my way much of the time."

The justice refused to discuss the court's internal deliberations, but added pointedly, "You shouldn't believe this stuff that you read in the press [about internal deliberations]. It's either made up or comes from an unreliable source."

Read the whole thing here. Read Reason’s Obamacare coverage here.

Article Thumbnail

Nick Gillespie on C-SPAN, Talking About Ending Social Security, Medicare; Reveals What Planet He Lives On

Yesterday, I was on C-SPAN's Washington Journal to discuss the August-September Reason cover story I wrote with Veronique de Rugy about ending Social Security and Medicare. And yes, I answer the oft-asked question, "Mr. Gillespie: What planet are you living on?"

In "Generational Warfare: Old-Age Entitlements vs. the Safety Net," we lay out the case not just for why Social Security and Medicare are helping to bankrupt the government but why they are incredibly unfair to relatively younger and relatively poorer Americans.

On C-SPAN, I talked about the story, health-care reform, and other topics with a wide variety of callers. Take a look or listen below:

Many of the points I make are also in the book I co-wrote with Matt Welch, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America. It's out in paperback with a new foreword addressing the Occupy movement and what we found while touring the country last year to support the book.

Article Thumbnail

Pro-Obama Super-PAC Donor Morgan Freeman: Banning Pot "Stupidest Law Possible"!

Actor Morgan Freeman, ClearTest's Pot Smoker of the Month for January 2007, tells nosferatu print mag Newsweek that at least the pot portion of the drug war is idiotic:

Marijuana [prohibition]! Heavens, oh yeah. It’s just the stupidest law possible, given history. You don’t stop people from doing what they want to do, so forget about making it unlawful. You’re just making criminals out of people who aren’t engaged in criminal activity. And we’re spending zillions of dollars trying to fight a war we can’t win! We could make zillions, just legalize it and tax it like we do liquor. It’s stupid.

Read the whole thing.

Freeman has recently given $1 million to a pro-Obama Super PAC, so here's hoping he bends the president's ear on the drug war the next time he sees him. Rather than apologizing to Obama for minimizing Barack's blackness.

Despite all promises to the contrary, Obama's drug war policies are as bad as his predecessors in the White House.

And in case you were wondering, Freeman was never planning to marry his granddaughter and both he and the woman in question say they never had a romantic relationship.

Article Thumbnail

Lefty Political Framer George Lakoff Presaged Obama/Brown "You Didn't Build That" Theme

Over at the Legal Insurrection blog, William A. Jacobson makes a plausible case that the Barack Obama/Elizabeth Warren line of argument valorizing the collective, government-provided goods that individual achievers should be more grateful for, was definitely pre-rehearsed and possibly influenced by that one-man provider of dubious lefty political "framing," George Lakoff. Here's Lakoff in his 2004 book Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives:

Taxation is paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America. If you join a country club or a community center, you pay fees. Why? You did not build the swimming pool. You have to maintain it. You did not build the basketball court. Someone has to clean it. You may not use the squash court, but you still have to pay your dues. Otherwise it won't be maintained and will fall apart. People who avoid taxes, like corporations that move to Bermuda, are not paying their due to their country. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer. It is traitorous to desert our country and not pay your dues.

Perhaps Bill Gates Sr. said it best. In arguing to keep the inheritance tax, he pointed out that he and Bill Jr. did not invent the Internet. They just used it--to make billions. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Every businessman has used the vast American infrastructure, which the taxpayers paid for, to make his money. He did not make his money alone. He used taxpayer infrastructure. He got rich on what other taxpayers had paid for: the banking system, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and Commerce Departments, and the judicial system, where nine-tenths of cases involve corporate law. These taxpayer investments support companies and wealthy investors. There are no self-made men! They wealthy have gotten rich using what previous taxpayers  have paid for. They owe the taxpayers of this country a great deal and should be paying it back.

Sounds pretty familiar, right? Now consider that that passage was not initially flagged by some lefty-baiting blog, but by the lefty-helping blog, The Daily Kos, where diarist Panacea Paola in March pointed out that "This passage and the argument surrounding it sound extremely similar to something we've been hearing recently and for the first time in a long time." That something? Elizabeth Warren's contention that "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody."

Paola calls this "the winning progressive message," but I suspect that the president's furious backtracking/counterpunching after "You didn't build that" indicates some doubt about that, for one excellent reason: Federal spending has doubled in one decade, and we aren't getting double the quality in services. Spending on that level has ballooned debt service into 6 percent of the federal budget, with trend lines currently predicting that interest payments alone will eclipse the already enormous defense budget before the end of this decade. Meanwhile, all that spending has stubbornly failed to provide the promised-for economic turnaround.

Combining this sorry track record of government spending with an in-your-face accusation of taxpayer ingratitude strikes me as a little less than "winning," but you people go knock yourself out.

Here's Lakoff on video, as flagged by Jacobson:

More Reason on "You didn't build that," from Ira Stoll, J.D. Tuccille, me, Emily Ekins, Tim Cavanaugh, David Harsanyi, me again, Ed Krayewski, Damon W. Root, and Ronald Bailey.

And more Reason on George Lakoff: Jesse Walker (2005), Tim Cavanaugh (2008), and me (2009).

Top link via the Twitter feed of David "Iowahawk" Burge.

Article Thumbnail

A.M. Links: President Speaks on Gun Violence, Mitt Romney Crosses the Pond, Hollywood Director Blames Violence in Movies

  • President Obama addressed the National Urban League yesterday on the topic of gun violence. "Every day and a half the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater," he said. The president wants to “arrive at a consensus around violence reduction.”
  • Mitt Romney begins his international trip with the opening of the London Olympics, and will then go to Poland and Israel. While the candidate vows not to bash President Obama publicly, he’s expected to do so privately with Polish and Israeli officials.
  • Drug money may be involved in vote-buying schemes being prosecuted in eastern Kentucky. “These folks go out and hijack the local elections for their own purposes and then they use those jobs to enrich themselves and their confederates. It really is a terrible problem and it has to be stopped,” said the U.S. attorney Kerry Harvey explained.
  • A United Nations report says there are so many drones over Somalia they’re starting to interfere with air traffic. One even crashed into a refugee camp. The U.N. did not blame the United States, because, secrets!, but it noted the drones were manufactured in the U.S. and President Obama acknowledged military operations in Somalia in a war powers letter to Congress last month.
  • Director Peter Bogdanovich suggests the rise of “pornographic” violent movies may be to blame for violence in society.
  • State Farm and Chubb Insurance are both in court arguing they’re not obligated to pay Jerry Sandusky’s legal bills. State Farm says the convicted child rapist’s insurance plan did not include “bodily injury that is intentionally caused by the policyholder.”
  • Iran says it will comply with an Olympics rule that no country’s representatives may refuse to compete against another country’s representative. The only Iranian athlete that could’ve faced an Israeli competitor withdrew due to medical reasons the day before.

Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.

Reason.TV: "What We Saw at the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum"

Article Thumbnail

Steve Chapman on Futile Remedies for Mass Shootings

When someone is ill or anxious to avoid illness, he may be open to any possible treatments. That's why quack remedies, untested formulas and obvious placebos often find takers. When a mass shooting occurs, the urge to find a cure is powerful. As a rule, though, those that emerge are sugar pills.

A nation with very few guns, exceedingly tight firearms restrictions and little interest in such weaponry would not experience these atrocities as often as ours does. But in a society with hundreds of millions of guns and huge demand for them, as well as high rates of violent crime of all sorts, the challenge borders on the insurmountable.

The tactics of the alleged killer in this case serve gun control supporters as a roadmap to what should be done. He had an AR-15 "assault weapon," proving we should prohibit these guns. He had a magazine that can hold 100 cartridges, dramatizing the need to restrict magazine capacity. He bought some 6,000 rounds over the Internet, suggesting that the government should outlaw large purchases or monitor anyone who makes them.

All these conclusions sound perfectly plausible. None of them, writes Steve Chapman, offers any prospect of averting the next massacre.

View this article
Article Thumbnail

Brickbat: That Will Make You Go Blind

In the United Kingdom, the Royal National Institute of Blind People reports that more than half of the nation's National Health Service trusts are restricting cataract surgery. The institute says the trusts have imposed tougher standards for offering the surgery, standards that could force patients to wait until their vision has seriously deteriorated before getting surgery.

Brickbat Archive

Article Thumbnail

Is the Lesson of the Aurora Shooting That We Need Better (Or More Compulsory) Mental Health Services in the U.S.?

Maybe the problem isn't Hollywood, a lack of Christian ethics, guns, Occupy Wall Street, nerds, or the Tea Party. Maybe the problem is crazy people sometimes shoot other people. And maybe what is most surprising is how little people have been pushing the familiar narrative that a better, perhaps more coercive mental health system could have prevented tragedies like the July 20 shooting that killed 12 people who just wanted to see The Dark Knight Rises. But here comes that narrative, and maybe when the blame the Tea Party! I mean Occupy Wall Street! screams have died down, more people will go back to worrying that the mentally ill are all one moment from massacring us all, especially if they're obsessed with Batman.

Though mental illness is certainly less scientifically solid than some experts would like you to believe (check out Jacob Sullum on some of the problems with the holy psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV) it also exists in some fashion. In spite of the terror over Sarah Palin and angry rhetoric post-Tuscon shooting, it turns out Jared Loughner was just pretty God damn loony. Norway's monstrous Anders Brevik, on the other hand, had a long-winded manifesto detailing why he had to blow up and then shoot 70-odd countrymen. Still, you could argue that he was loony as well. Aren't people who slaughter other people crazy? What else do you call hunting down children in order to keep your country free from immigrants? The debate about James Holmes, the suspect behind the Aurora, Colorado massacre is now beginning; is he crazy or a cold, calculating terrorist? What's the difference? Can he be both, much like Columbine killer Eric Harris turns out to have been a probable psychopath who also had ambitions to change the world with violence?

Over at Pajamas Media, Clayton E. Cramer has posited a variation on this familiar, anti-libertarian theme. Cramer writes that the origins of some America's recent, nastiest shootings stem from that period of deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill that happened in the 1960s-1980s. Back in the day, it seems, you didn't tend to see homeless, mentally ill folks on every other street corner, because they were locked up. Cramer doesn't exactly go out and say that the standards for committing folks should be lowered, but he strongly implies just that. He points to the supposed dangers of Addington vs. Texas (1979) which established that long-term involuntary commitment was kind of a serious thing. So that decision "raised the burden of proof required to commit persons from the usual civil burden of proof of 'preponderance of the evidence' to 'clear and convincing' evidence." However,  "there was no reduction in the rates of commitment as a result of the decision."

Basically, the old standby "beyond a reasonable doubt" was an unfair burden on the state, due to the tricky nature of mental illness. So they decided that the standard for commitment was somewhere in the middle of standards of higher standard of proof for criminal cases versus less for civil ones. 

Cramer is clearly not keen on this, and he points to several studies that point to the high number of prison inmates who seem to be suffering from mental illness. He links to to a 2005 Department of Justice study which reports that 65 percent of local inmates, 56 percent of state inmates, and 45 percent of federal inmates have some kind of mental health issues. But of course, huge percentages of the 2 million people in prison are there for drug-related crimes, not exactly obvious signs that they are would-be Loughners, Mansons, or Dahmers. 

In two pages, Cramer is rather squirrelly as he avoids saying exactly what he wishes the standards of commitment might be, only that they are not what they should be (and that they are not what they once were). He concludes: 

When you watch a relative spiral down into severe mental illness, you know that there is something terribly wrong, but our legal system has made it nearly impossible to provide help to those who are insane. 


The mainstream media, of course, are using this tragedy in Aurora as an argument for restrictive gun control. But the core problem — the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill — is simply being ignored.

Over at Fox News, psychiatrist Keith Ablow is also sure that there is a similar lesson to be gleaned from Aurora:

Because, in the end, it will become clear that more than one person -- and probably several, including family, friends, neighbors, classmates, health care personnel or educators -- knew or should have known that James Holmes was confused, losing sight of reality, experiencing severe mood swings, withdrawing from the world around him, experiencing violent fantasies or all of the above.

He goes on to worry that many people don't know they can get help if a loved one is acting strangely:

They don't know that they can call 911 or that they can call their local police. They don't know that they can petition a district court to commit a loved one to a psychiatric facility. Many have no idea that their communities are covered by mental health centers with crisis teams that are duty bound to respond to such matters by at least considering the possible risks or evaluating the individual in question.

Perhaps so, but Reason readers might recall the dangers of calling police when someone is in emotional distress, chronic or acute. Even in the last two years, Kelly Thomas, Kyle Miller, and Nick Christie — all mentally ill in some fashion — died at the hands of police. Brian Aitken, who nearly went to jail for seven years thanks to New Jersey's convoluted gun laws, found himself in police hands after his mother called them, concerned about her son's mental state.

The state's ease of commitment was also chipped away at in the 1975 case O'Connor vs. Donaldson which held that "A State cannot constitutionally confine a non-dangerous individual who is capable of surviving safely in freedom by themselves or with the help of willing and responsible family members or friends" in response to a man who had been held for 15 years in a mental institution without treatment and without any proof that he was a danger to others, besides a few expressions of paranoia delusions pre-commitment. Fifteen years is a very long time to violate a man's rights just because he displayed some seemingly baseless paranoia.

As Jacob Sullum wrote in April 2011 in Reason's special issue on the Tuscon shooting, when this more commitment idea was being bandied about as a could-have-stopped it thesis:

On The New Republic’s website, University of Maryland political scientist William Galston warned that “the rights-based hyper-individualism of our laws governing mental illness is endangering the security of our community and the functioning of our democracy.”

These and many other critics argue that innocent people could be saved if it were easier to imprison dangerous lunatics like Jared Lee Loughner before they commit crimes. But the champions of involuntary psychiatric treatment rarely consider the innocent people who would be stripped of their freedom and forced to take antipsychotic drugs if the government were allowed to lock up potential Loughners based on little more than their wacky beliefs and off-putting behavior.

Reason contributor and editor in chief of The Freeman Sheldon Richman also wrote in a 2004 essay in Freedom Daily that even libertarians are guilty of forgetting about the inherent civil liberties violations that involuntary commitment entails:

A person diagnosed as mentally ill and judged to be a danger to himself or others has practically none of the rights enjoyed by the rest of us. Notice the failure to distinguish between harm to oneself and to others — a basic distinction in libertarianism. Such a person can be committed to a hospital and forcibly administered drugs and other brutal psychiatric interventions. Or he can be subjected to “outpatient commitment,” according to which he will be compelled to take drugs. If he refuses, he can be hospitalized, that is, locked up. It is estimated that some two million people are committed against their will in the United States each year.

It's true. Even if you are unconvinced of Thomas Szasz's thesis of The Myth of Mental Illness, it is undeniable that to lock someone up for mental illness can be worse than a jail sentence in that it can be done for literally nothing except strange behavior. And it can be indefinite.

It's been a handful of decades since the U.S. forcibly sterilized scores of thousands of the "feeble-minded" and disabled. Around that time they also spent years violating all medical ethics by neglecting to tell 400 black males that their syphilis was not being treated. Doctors, even those of mental health, know a lot, but they don't know everything. Hopefully in a few years people will look at involuntary commitment of individuals with as much shame as we now look at eugenics, the Tuskegee Experiment, or even the Japanese internment.

Meanwhile, shootings will still happen every once in a while, because that's just what happens. As someone who had every right to be irrationally angry, screaming for blood, or laws or anything to fix what happened, once said, "in a free society, we're going to be subject to people like this. I prefer this to the alternative." That was the father of Jared Loughner's youngest victim, nine-year-old Christina Green, just one day after she died.

Reason has reported on mental illness questions in the past, most notably Jacob Sullum's fascinating 2000 interview with Thomas Szasz. Also check out, "Mad Enough to Lead," my May look at two different books exploring the link between mental illness and power. 

Article Thumbnail

Ed Krayewski on Life After the Aurora Shooting

Last Friday, a gunman walked into a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire, killing at least 12 and shooting more than 50. Tragedies like these follow a familiar cycle. Because they are disruptive and out-of-the-ordinary, they receive an abundance of media coverage, which in turn gives life to stalled agendas while birthing new ones. The president addresses the nation, articulating feelings many people share. We mourn the victims, even though they are strangers to us. We ask why it happened, and what can we do to keep it from happening again. And as Ed Krayewski observes, we have been doing all of this for a very long time.

View this article

Reason Writers on Russia Today: Scott Shackford (Again!) on Anaheim Shooting, Protests

Reason.com 24/7 News Associate Editor Scott Shackford returned to Russia Today Wednesday afternoon to follow up on Tuesday night's violent protests in Anaheim. Under discussion: Whether Anaheim will treat community anger seriously, whether the protesters and police were equally to blame for the destruction, whether these shootings are part of an upward trend of police violence or "isolated incidents" and what might bring police abuse down.

Article Thumbnail

The Olympics So Far...

The Olympic games have given us a healthy dose of entertainment two days before the opening ceremony.

Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou has become the first athlete to be kicked off an Olympic squad for something said on social media after tweeting the following:

With so many Africans in Greece … at least the West Nile mosquitos will eat homemade food!!!

Moroccan runner Mariem Selsouli has failed a drug test. This is her second time testing positive for a banned substance and she now faces a lifetime ban.

In a “you couldn’t write this” level gaffe the North Korean women’s soccer team temporarily boycotted their game against Colombia after their images were put next to a South Korean flag. The real Korean drama is scheduled for next week when North Korea and South Korea face each other in table tennis.

Off the fields and out of the locker rooms there is more news.

The Washington Post is reporting that bets are being waged on the chance of a UFO appearing at the opening ceremony (1000 to 1) and London Mayor Boris Johnson having his hair set alight by the Olympic torch (33 to 1).

A strike by border staff that had been planned for tomorrow has been cancelled, though what the government offered workers in order to have the busiest airport in the world operating functionally on one of the busiest days in its history is unclear.

The spectators who do arrive without incident to London will be able to enjoy the Olympic Village and its surroundings in East London where bakers have been banned from displaying their certain shaped goods in a certain formation thanks to the Olympic Committee. Choice of where to go for fries is restricted (unless you get some fish), thanks to McDonald's demanding that they be the sole supplier of fries during the Olympics.

I for one plan to enjoy winning a little bit of money watching Bojo’s hair catch fire during the opening ceremony Friday, watching Handball on Saturday and Canoeing on Sunday, all while waiting to see how many more drug dopers and racists we can get kicked out of the games while getting the flags screwed up. 

London's Mayor welcomes you to the games:


Mitt Denies "Anglo-Saxon" Advantage, Gun Sales Surge, Greenland Melt Just the Same-Old: P.M. Links

  • Mitt Romney's campaign denies reports that an aide pointed to the candidate's "Anglo-Saxon heritage" as an advantage in U.S.-British relations. Such an advantage seems unlikely unless Mitt can acquire a taste for gin.
  • Firearms sales surge in the United States as people seek the means to defend themselves -- and to stockpile weapons before control freaks like Michael Bloomberg have a chance to exploit the Aurora shooting to impose draconian laws.
  • While early reports called the current melting of Greenland's ice sheet "unprecedented," the data shows it happens every 150 years. Such bad science reporting is, of course, unprecedented.
  • Welcome to London! Now, spread 'em! Security efforts for the Olympics have militarized British streets with armed troops, missiles, razor wire and electric fences. Sounds like a great time to suppress that craving for fish and chips.
  • A total of $840,000 was awarded to 96 victims of Minnesota's now-disbanded multi-jurisdiction Metro Gang Strike Force, which illegally broke into people's homes, stole property and injured innocent people. No officer has yet been charged with a crime.
  • Up to 900 medical-marijuana dispensaries may be forced to close after the Los Angeles city council banned them pending guidance from California's highest court.
  • The FBI will review police shootings in Anaheim, California, including one of an unarmed man. The incidents sparked violent protests.

Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.

Article Thumbnail

Ronald Bailey on Who Built Your Business

“If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” declared President Barack Obama at a campaign stop last week in Virginia. Apparently, the president believes that economic growth and job creation is largely the result of actions taken by benevolent government agencies guided by selfless and wise federal and state bureaucrats. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey explains that while it is certainly the case that good governance is essential, it is entrepreneurs engaging in voluntary cooperation coordinated through competition in free markets that actually creates wealth and jobs.

View this article
Article Thumbnail

The Times on Guns: Still Tendentious, but Improving

The New York Times reports that James Holmes, the man arrested for killing 12 people and injuring 58 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, last week, "would have faced more obstacles" if he "had tried to carry out his scheme in a different state, or at an earlier time." This is true enough, as far as it goes. If Holmes had tried to kill people in a movie theater prior to the 13th century, for instance, he would have faced two major obstacles: 1) no firearms and 2) no movie theaters. In more recent times the obstacles would have been less serious, even in states with gun laws more restrictive than Colorado's.

One of the guns Holmes used, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle, is modeled after the Colt AR-15, which is a civilian, semiautomatic version of the M-16. Depending on its specific features, Holmes' rifle might have been covered by the federal "assault weapon" ban that expired in 2004 or by state bans. But as the Times concedes toward the end of the article, "Even if Mr. Holmes had been blocked from buying a specific model of assault rifle [sic] in California, Massachusetts or New York State, he would most likely have been able to buy a similar gun not covered by the law." Furthermore, an ordinary shotgun (which Holmes also used) is deadlier at close range than a so-called assault weapon.

The Times notes that a few states ban magazines holding more than 10 rounds, as did federal law until 2004. As I argue in my column today, the relevance of that restriction is questionable: Holmes could have obtained pre-existing large-capacity magazines even if the ban were still in effect, and if he didn't it probably would not have mattered much, given how quickly magazines and weapons can be swapped. Likewise, because Holmes bought ammunition online, the Times notes that Congress legalized interstate mail orders of ammunition in 1986. But is there any reason to think the need to buy ammunition in person would have stymied Holmes? Finally, the Times says New Jersey puts would-be gun buyers through the ringer:

If Mr. Holmes had tried to buy his guns in New Jersey, he would have had to apply to local law enforcement agencies or the state police — not to a gun shop — and answer questions about personal history, including whether he had ever been "observed by a psychiatrist" for "a mental condition," even a temporary one, and to waive all confidentiality. His behavior, which some have described as erratic in recent months, might have raised concern.

It might or it might not, but giving police this sort of veto power, based on the myth that future mass murderers can be identified by tell-tale eccentricities, hardly seems consistent with the Second Amendment. Even weirdos have constitutional rights.

Aside from the dubious implication (highlighted in the headline and the lead) that the "obstacles" erected by gun control laws would have deterred a man bent on mass murder, the Times story is surprisingly even-handed, which reminds me of something I noticed in the paper's earlier coverage of the Aurora massacre: Unlike in the past, the Times seems to be making an effort to get its gun facts right (conveying the distinction between semiautomatic "assault weapons" and machine guns, for example), to include skeptical voices (such as University of Florida criminologist Gary Kleck, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, and David Kopel of the Independence Institute), and to put the gun issue in a broader context rather than focusing exclusively on this one horrible event. The lead to the paper's July 23 story about Holmes' weapons, for instance, says they are "among the most popular guns available in the multibillion-dollar American firearms market," which you could read as an indictment of America's violent culture but also as a refutation of the popular notion that certain firearms are good only for evil purposes and that banning those models will frustrate criminals while leaving responsible, law-abiding folks unscathed. I don't want to exaggerate the change I perceive, since the Times still runs stories with tendentious headlines like "Colorado Gun Laws Remain Lax, Despite Some Changes" and "Other States, and Other Times, Would Have Posed Obstacles for Gunman." But it does seem to me that the coverage is more accurate and fairer than it used to be.

Article Thumbnail

Ron Paul's Latest "Audit the Fed" Bill Passes the House, 327-98

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) wins (again) the most significant victory of his congressional career. He has taken his pet issue since the 1970s--the unwarranted power and secrecy of the Federal Reserve--from something pretty much no one but him cared about six years ago, through a bestselling book and mass movement by 2009, through this afternoon, the second time he's gotten the House of Representatives to vote to widen the government's powers to audit the Fed's activities.

Huffington Post with details about the vote this afternoon, and on Paul's Democratic ally equally upset with the Fed's lack of transparency, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio):

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) to audit the Federal Reserve. 

The bill, which has 270 co-sponsors, passed 327 to 98. All but one Republican voted for it, along with 89 Democrats.....

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke recently told the House Financial Services Committee that he agrees with the "basic premise" that the Fed should be transparent, but raised concerns that Paul's bill doesn't exempt monetary policy and deliberations from its reach....

But Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) pointed out that the House vote on the bill comes on the same day that the Washington Post reported that the New York Fed "did not communicate in key meetings with top regulators that British bank Barclays had admitted to Fed staffers that it was rigging LIBOR,” the index which sets interest rates worldwide.

"The Fed creates trillions of dollars out of nothing and gives it to banks. Congress is in the dark. The Fed sets the stage for the subprime meltdown. Congress is in the dark. The Fed takes a dive on LIBOR. Congress is in the dark. The Fed doesn’t tell regulators what is going on. Congress is in the dark," Kucinich shouted on the House floor, just before the vote...

Paul explains the importance of the bill, and the fate of the last one that passed the House in 2010, in this FAQ. Highlights:

The Fed's financial statements are audited annually, but the Fed's monetary policy operations are exempt from audit. Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), currently is prohibited by law from examining discount window and open market operations; agreements with foreign governments and central banks; and Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) directives. It is precisely this information that should be made public.....H.R. 459 allows GAO to audit the Fed’s monetary policy operations and directs GAO to report the audit results to Congress.

....Didn’t the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010 mandate a Fed audit?

Yes, but not a full or substantive audit. The audit mandated in the Dodd-Frank Act focused solely on emergency credit programs, and only on procedural issues (such as the effectiveness of collateral policies, whether credit programs favored specific participants, or the use of third-party contractors) rather than focusing on the substantive details of the lending transactions. H.R. 459 does not limit the focus of the audit.

....Hasn’t the Fed already published details of its emergency bank lending?

Yes, but only partially. The Fed was required by the Dodd-Frank Act to disclose data from its emergency credit lending programs created during the financial crisis. Most of the data on its other activities, such as open market operations and discount window lending, have only been published as a result of lawsuits—not because of Congressional action. Dodd-Frank requires this information to be disclosed going forward, but with a two year time lag and with GAO restricted to auditing only the procedural components of any programs. H.R. 459 grants GAO and Congress access without special exemptions and ensures that ALL of the Fed’s lending actions will be subject to oversight.

The Paulite grassroots activist organization Campaign for Liberty was sending out emails pushing its people to call their congressman in support of the bill multiple times a day for the past week.

The bill's fate in the Senate is uncertain, but not hopeful. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) issued this press release on passing of the bill in the House. Highlights:

"An audit of the Federal Reserve is more urgent than ever. A GAO report from July 2011 revealed the Fed bailed out banks and corporations to the tune of $16 trillion in taxpayer dollars. A full and thorough audit will finally bring transparency and accountability to the secretive institution that devalues Americans' savings, drives inflation, and enables big government. I applaud its passage in the House today," Sen. Paul said.

"I also congratulate my father, Rep. Ron Paul, who has long fought at the vanguard of this movement when he first introduced Audit the Fed in 1983. Now with 271 co-sponsors and having passed the House, I call upon Democrat leadership to allow a vote in the Senate on this much-needed transparency bill," he continued.

In January 2011, Sen. Rand Paul introduced companion legislation in the Senate, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2011 (S.202), also calling for a full audit of the Federal Reserve. 

The New York Times from 2010 on some of the ways the Federal Reserve uses its money power to help out its friends, in what it prefers to keep secret. Huffington Post on what some interpret as cronyish giveaways of Fed favors to friendly bankers.

Politico, before the vote this afternoon, wrote of this bill as Paul's congressional "swan song." More like "greatest triumph," and the way he's got Mitt Romney on board as being pro-Fed investigation indicates that his influence on this issue will survive him--and not just in his own Party. Paul in the Politico story:

Paul believes the traction on his Audit the Fed bill does validate his grass-roots, populist approach to monetary policy.

“I like to think of it more as verifying that my approach is a little bit different than just becoming a powerful player and having an influence, versus really changing people’s minds,” he said.

In the meantime: The Fed prepares for more stimulus, because that always works.

My 2009 Reason feature on the burgeoning anti-Federal Reserve movement. My new book, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

Kucinich on audit the Fed:

Article Thumbnail

Anaheim Police Deals with Community Upset at Their Propensity for Shooting at Them By Shooting at Them Even More

Last night we linked out to the a live stream by journalist Tim Pool as he followed police through downtown Anaheim dispersing protestors who had gathered outside a City Council meeting to protest two recent fatal police shootings. Just as they had done over the weekend when confronted with angry community crowds, police fired into protesters, seemingly indiscriminately, this time using pepper balls and bean bags. Pool reported being shot at multiple times, even while holding his hands up in submission and trying to show his press pass. (His videos have all been saved and posted on his page)

Now that this protest is over (and I’m going to take a wild guess that it won’t be the last), let’s take a look at the damage. Via the Orange County Register:

More than 20 people were arrested as a crowd of 1,000 protesters clashed with police and damaged businesses in downtown Anaheim during a fourth day of unrest over two fatal officer-involved shootings this weekend.

During a news conference Wednesday morning at police headquarters, Anaheim police Chief John Welter said they will "not allow riotous, dangerous violations of the law by anyone. We will protect innocent people from being injured and property from being damaged."

At least six people were injured during the violent protest, with crowds setting trash fires, smashing windows at about 20 downtown businesses and throwing rocks and other projectiles at officers in riot gear who deployed bean bags and pepper balls at demonstrators refusing to disperse.

The Anaheim Police Department and City Hall were also damaged. A damage estimate was not immediately available.

Two Register reporters were also injured. One was hit by a rock and one in the foot by an unidentified “projectile,” which makes it sound like he was shot by police but they are declining to say as much.

It’s also not clear to me, either from news coverage or Pool’s stream, whether the vandalism or fires started by the protestors began before or after the police started shooting at them. (This video looks like it came after the police started moving in on them, but I can’t be sure)

As for the actual two fatal police shootings that led up to the clash, Anaheim’s City Council voted Tuesday to invite federal investigators to examine both cases. It will be interesting to see, in the wake of the protests and successful recall election in Fullerton following the beating death of Kelly Thomas, how seriously Anaheim’s leadership treats community anger.

The mother of Manuel Angel Diaz, the man shot and killed by police while running away from them, is suing for $50 million. The Anaheim Police Association has done exactly what police unions do:

One of the officers had recognized Diaz as a known gang member and saw him holding a "concealed object" in his waistband with both hands, according to the police association. He ignored their orders to stop running, then pulled the object from his waistband and turned toward the officers, the association said.

"Feeling that Diaz was drawing a weapon, the officer opened fire on Diaz to stop the threat," the association said in its statement. Anaheim police said after the shooting that Diaz was not armed; the association declined to say what the object that the officer reported seeing was.

In the second shooting, the day after Diaz was killed, Joel Matthew Acevedo fled from police following a short chase of a stolen vehicle, according to the police association. Acevedo then allegedly turned and fired on police, who then fired back. A handgun was recovered next to his body.

I’ll be talking again about the case and last night’s protests on Russia Today around 4 p.m. Eastern (1 p.m. Pacific).