Your terrible drug war-friendly editorial of the day can be found over at Texas' Victoria Advocate. Blogger Adriana M. Acosta has written a stirring account of how much fun it is to get dressed in SWAT gear and play drug raid. She is very timid and shy, see, so playing hero-cop is a big deal.
First, some background from the blog where Acosta goes on a ride-along with cops:
As most of you already know, I joined the law enforcement academy a few weeks ago. I mostly joined because I have always been interested in knowing how law enforcement operates. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to explore what they do and write a few stories from those experiences.
But though she gains new respect for cops after this experience, the real moment of self-actualization came when Acosta got to put on SWAT gear.
The night started off with officers describing the gear, the cost, what they carry and how they use it. Then the night got even more exciting when they said they would be simulating a drug bust and house break in. When they first walked in yelling, “Sheriff’s office, get on the ground!” holding guns and then firing - it was thrilling for me. Then they asked for volunteers. Oh surely I can’t do that, I thought.
Two volunteers went before me, I stood in the front of the class observing what they were doing, how they were putting their gear on.
“Adriana, go next,” said Lt. Baker.
“Me, oh no, that’s OK,” I said in a shy voice. Although my inner self was jumping up and down for joy because I really wanted to wear that gear and hold that gun.
“Sheriff’s office, get down!” I said.
I pointed the gun to the targets, shot a few shots and then it was all over.... I am not a real officer and I know I will never be an officer, but that night shed some light on what they do to protect us civilians.
Sound familiar? There are definite rings of Fox reporter Troy Hayden's little boy-glee over Maricopa County's SWAT team. The two of them should report play together!
Acosta is less dangerous to the world even than a local Fox reporter, she's probably not even worth a blog post of critique, but good Lord, instead of creepy enthusiasm, she's also creepily self-deprecating about her inability to do such a noble thing as be a member of a SWAT team. Firing guns is fun, and Acosta, contrary to self-description, is not even a reporter or a professional-quality blogger. Still, one moment of questioning would have been nice, even for such a minor, mediocre reporter; one moment to consider the real-world ramifications of what she was parroting by practicing drug raids.
Acosta is also the editor of the Bay City, Texas weekly Matagorda Advocate, which is pretty much a great reason to cheer for the demise of the press.
What’s the difference between one party rule and a two party system? One party. Cuba apologists insist their political system is very democratic, with “the people” involved every step of the way. No matter that the Castros regularly hit 99 percent in parliamentary elections. They are the 99 percent after all. American candidates aren’t so lucky, even though in the aggregate they might be. 2010’s incumbency rate of 85 percent was the lowest in a decade, and the cause for much pearl-clutching among the political class. You’d think Richard Lugar was driven out of the House of Lords by the hoi polloi given some of the reaction. Why should he have to campaign after all? First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974, Lugar received at least two-thirds of the state vote in every re-election since 1988 before Richard Mourdock defeated him by a nearly two-to-one margin in this year’s primary.
Thanks in part to gerrymandering and in part to the power of pork barrel spending, the House is full of members who regularly hit 70, 80 and even 90 percent of the vote. With Congress’ collective approval rating consistently under 20 percent, it’s hard to buy the argument that somehow the parts are so much greater than the whole.MORE »
Greece is set to deport 1,600 immigrants arrested in Athens. The move comes days after a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigrants that has seen over 6,000 people detained. Speaking to Greek media Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said of immigration:
The immigration problem is perhaps even greater than the financial one.
Dendias has also made clear what institutional value he thinks immigrants contribute, saying that they are a “bomb at the foundations of society and the state”.
The anti-immigrant rhetoric should not be surprising to anyone. In times of economic hardship xenophobic parties tend to enjoy something of a resurgence. With unemployment on the rise and your pension disappearing it is easy to view those pesky Pakistanis and Afghans as something of a hindrance to your own economic wellbeing.
Such attitudes help account for the impressive electoral gains enjoyed by the Greek far-right party Golden Dawn in the most recent election. When not pulling off stunts like Greek only food handouts Golden Dawn spends its time proposing legislation that would see the Turkish border covered in landmines.
While xenophobic rhetoric might be getting more audible its factual foundations remains weak.
One of the few parts of the European Union that I like (in principle) is its open border policy. However, largely in part because of the way many European countries organize their welfare systems the policy has been a social disaster, with what are effectively ghettos springing up all over Europe. This naturally leads to a level of social tension that would not otherwise exist to nearly the same extent without governments subsidizing immigration. Many of the immigrants that are the target of xenophobic scorn would be unable to arrive in Europe without government assistance.
Anger should not be leveled at the immigrants themselves but rather the European governments that distort the labor markets. The obvious irony is that the European Union was founded in part to reduce ethnic and nationalist sentiment on the continent.
The fact is that immigrants are great for economies and it is moronic for a country like Greece that is in serious economic hardship to be expelling a ready and willing labor force.
The economic crisis in Europe has made many Europeans angry at all the wrong people. Bankers, the rich, and immigrants have all been accused, in their own ways, of contributing to European economic collapse. Unelected politicians and bureaucrats seem to have escaped almost any criticism.
In response to my recent list of the “Top 10 Libertarian Supreme Court Decisions,” South Texas College of Law professor Josh Blackman created a handy info-graphic breaking the list down under the overlapping headings of Liberal, Conservative, and Libertarian. “Libertarians find allies where they can,” he writes. Check it out below.
I don’t agree with his placement of every case, but on the whole it’s an interesting way to think about the big picture. And I certainly don't disagree with Blackman on this observation: “Often, libertarians are torn between liberals and conservatives, and sometimes can feel comfortable with neither.”
Today at Slate.com, Managing Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward urges parents to give online education a chance for their elementary school education:
What most people envision when they think of online education—a college or high school student sitting at a computer all day at home, perhaps with minimal parental guidance—isn’t viable for the vast majority of families with young kids. Warehousing is a dirty word in education circles, but the truth is that it must be part of the package. Kids need somewhere to go during the day, preferably to hang out with other kids. They also need a bunch of adults there to keep them from killing one another and help them learn something.
But those requirements leave a lot of room for experimentation. And one of the most fruitful avenues is blended learning, in which kids do some of their schoolwork in a traditional classroom, but then do real educational heavy lifting with the help of online tools.
Marines in Iraq ask for a special super laser weapon that can melt steel at 10,000 meters and burn clothes at 15,000 meters distance, among other supercool things. Wired magazine printed their request on its website in 2007.
Now the Naval Criminal Investigative Service wants Wired to reveal the leaker and take down the document, which apparantly reveals important national security secrets about the nutty non-existent things Marines wanted in a war that's supposedly over.
Details at Wired, which has so far politely declined to reveal a source or take down the document. This request, Wired thinks, is part of a general war on leaks by the so-called "most transparent administration ever":
The NCIS’ continued interest in an unclassified document posted over five years ago comes amid a new push by the Obama administration to crack down on leakers. The effort has been Kafka-esque from the start. It started when a pair of books revealed that the White House is intimately involved in approving drone attacks and cybersabotage operations against its foes. Days after the leaks, President Obama scolded the secret-spillers — even though the books’ authors were granted officially access to the highest levels of the administration. Congress has also stepped in with its own legislation that would punish leakers of classified information. But the bill, recently passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, exempts from reprisal most senior White House and administration officials — and, of course, members of Congress, as well.
Reason's Ed Krayewski roundly exposes and mocks the lie of "most transparent administration".
- An Islamic charity is not entitled to damages and legal fees in illegal surveillance case against the U.S. government because of sovereign immunity, a federal appeals court ruled.
- A caravan representing more than 100 groups will leave San Diego Sunday and travel across the country to draw attention to the failed drug war.
- The ACLU may sue a Louisiana charter school that forces girls to take pregnancy tests. Those who turn up pregnant are expelled from the school.
- Seven Cameroonian athletes have disappeared from the Olympic village. They are believed to have defected and want to stay in Europe.
- E-mails indicate the U.S. Treasury Department led efforts to terminate pensions for Delphi employees who weren’t unionized during the government’s takeover of GM. The same fate did not befall those who were members of United Auto Workers.
- A former yacht-dealer spent $4.8 million buying 650 foreclosed properties in Detroit. That’s about $7,000 per property.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
At the national level, do higher IQs produce wealth, or does wealth produce higher IQs? This is the question that Ron Unz grapples with over at The American Conservative in his fascinating article, "Race, IQ, and Wealth: How Political Bias Distorts the Facts." Unz analyzes the IQ data collected by scholars Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen which purports to show that countries populated with smarter people are the ones that become wealthier. And countries inhabited by stupid people remain mired in poverty. Unz argues that the data show the opposite—wealth precedes and enhances intelligence. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey weighs in on the argument and suggests that a third factor is likely responsible for improvements in both.View this article
When attempting to debunk a common argument, I tend to think it's usually helpful to understand what that argument is. The nameless editorial writers at the Tampa Bay Times, on the other hand, don't seem to think that's necessary.
In an unsigned editorial this weekend, the paper claims to "debunk" arguments about ObamaCare's effect on the deficit. Here's how it starts.
One of the chief Republican objections to health care reform is that it will add too much to the deficit and the nation can't afford it. The problem with this claim is that it's wrong. The Congressional Budget Office has consistently maintained that the Affordable Care Act reduces the deficit by tens of billions of dollars even as it extends health coverage to millions of Americans.
It then goes on to summarize the most recent CBO assessment of the health law's projected coverage and budgetary effects, as if that were all the evidence one needed to declare with absolute confidence that the law will reduce the deficit.
It's a remarkable exercise in missing the point: ObamaCare's critics contend that the CBO's projections are quite likely to be wrong, and have put forth a number of arguments about why. The TBT editorial doesn't mention, much less attempt to respond to, a single one of those arguments. The closest it comes is a brief mention of Rep. Tom Price's (R-Georgia) statement that the law is projected to require $1.7 trillion in spending over the next decade, which is not really an argument about the budget gap at all but a instead statement of the law's total projected spending without regard to its effect on the budget deficit. Otherwise, it reads as if the editorial's author does not even know that those arguments exist.
Happily, that can be remedied. The basic problem with the CBO's method of scoring the health law is that it is required to assume two things: that current law will continue precisely in its current form and that no further changes will be made, and that laws will be implemented exactly as called for by the relevant legislative text. It's a useful budgetary exercise, but it's rarely an accurate representation of how legislation works (or doesn't) over time.
For example, in order for ObamaCare to reduce the deficit, ObamaCare will have to generate substantial savings over the preexisting budget baseline for Medicare. As a matter of convention, CBO scores those Medicare savings as if they will happen exactly as the law's authors envision. But Medicare savings schemes have historically proved difficult to maintain. And ObamaCare's proposed Medicare savings, which hinge in large part on provider productivity improvements, do not seem particularly promising: Medicare's own chief actuary has warned that "there is a strong likelihood" that changes called for by ObamaCare "will not be viable in the long run."
Even the CBO, the source of the TBT editorial's deficit numbers, seems to agree that, at the very least, this is a possibility worth considering. In its alternative budget baseline following the law's passage, the budget office included the assumption that the Medicare savings called for by the law would not be sustainable after the end of this decade, going out of its way to highlight "the important implications of those health care policies for the federal budget." Hint, hint, wink, wink.
What if the law's Medicare savings do pay off? Is the budget in the clear? Sorry, but no. The problem here is that long-held budgetary scoring conventions allow the savings to be "spent twice," once on expanded health coverage, and again on shoring up Medicare. It's all part of the way Medicare's trust fund accounting works: A dollar becomes available and it is marked as being present in the "trust fund." In the meantime, that dollar is spent on something else, but it is still recorded as being in the trust fund, despite having already been spent. Which means that eventually the governemnt will need to raise taxes, borrow, or cut some other spending in order to make up for that dollar that's recorded as being present in the trust fund but isn't.
Again, the CBO agrees with this assessment: In December 2009, director Douglas Elmendorf explained that "to describe the full amount of [Medicare] HI trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government’s fiscal position."
That has serious consequences. When Charles Blahous, one of Medicare's public trustees, ran the numbers earlier this year, he found that in every single scenario, even those in which all of the law's savings come to fruition as hoped for, the law still increases the deficit thanks to this double counting.
You wouldn't know any of this from reading the TBT editorial. Who could possibly believe that there was any remotely plausible alternative to the single, decade-long projection offered by the CBO? I mean, besides the CBO, which warned lawmakers in prepared testimony that although it had put great care into its estimates, "the actual outcomes will surely differ from those estimates" in part because ObamaCare "will put into effect a number of policies that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time."
Over the weekend, my parents were visiting for my son's seventh birthday. As a small group of adults softened the sharp edges of tyke-induced chaos with white wine and take-out falafel, political talk ensued. My father commented out of the blue that he didn't see how Obama could possibly lose the presidential election. The Arizonans in the room glanced at my old man like he'd grown another head. Obama a shoo-in? His reality didn't really jibe with ours.
I've noticed before that the political assumptions my father references, even though we agree on most issues, are at some variance from my own. He lives within easy commuting distance of Washington, D.C. and his buddies are all retired or near-retired government workers or military. Whatever their nominal ideologies, they tend to assume that politicians are rather smarter than my neighbors and I consider them to be, and they assign a higher level of competence to government agencies than is considered credible in my circles. Not long ago, I started a dinner-time argument on the East Coast by suggesting that Joe Biden isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. That's not exactly a controversial point of view in my current stomping grounds.
Which is not to say that the assumptions that Arizonans are soaking in are necessarily correct. I think the folks I meet in town who assume Romney will win in a walk are dreaming too. But they talk with like-minded people and reinforce each other's opinions just like the superannuated bureaucrats in Maryland — it's just a different set of assumptions.
A few years ago, Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing wrote in The Big Sort about how Americans are increasingly moving to areas or just associating with people based on their political and cultural comfort levels, and how their opinions tend to become hardened by subsequent reinforcement. I think even those people who hold on to outlier beliefs still marinate in the local assumptions. That's true of me and my friends as much as for my father and his.
But I still think I'm correct in looking at the presidential race and seeing anything but an easy call. Strictly speaking, I see two midgets locked in a slap fight, and the loser is us as we confront the fact that one of them will be left standing.
Even beyond that prejudicial take, though, the numbers all around are pretty uncertain. The RealClearPolitics average of polls gives the incumbent a 3.5 percent advantage (with both major candidates coming in under 50 percent) and Nate Silver of the New York Times averages the prediction models to, as of today, give Barack Obama about a 60 percent chance of winning reelection.
But this is in an election season where the Democrat is only eight percentage points ahead in Connecticut, a state he won in 2008 by almost 23 points.
I read that as a really soft edge for Barack Obama, in a race that either he or Mitt Romney still has a lot of opportunity to screw up.
But, when our friends start telling us that something is a sure thing, it's hard to not go along with the reality they're creating around us.
A front-page story in today's New York Times highlights the special humiliation inflicted on women who are detained and patted down by police under the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program. Male officers grope them, concentrating on "the waistband, armpit, collar and groin areas," and go through their purses, pulling out personal items such as tampons, birth control pills, and lacy underwear. "Yes, it’s intrusive," Inspector Kim Y. Royster tells the Times, "but wherever a weapon can be concealed is where the officer is going to search." Yet these searches almost never yield weapons.
The stops supposedly are justified by a "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity, and the searches ostensibly are aiimed at protecting officers from hidden weapons they "reasonably" suspect may be present. Yet 46,784 stops of women last year yielded 3,993 arrests, suggesting that officers were wrong in suspecting criminal activity more than nine times out of 10. The hit rate for weapons was a lot worse: The Times reports that guns were found in 59 out of about 16,000 searches, or 0.37 percent of the time. (The numbers for men are similar.) How's that for reasonable?
A 22-year-old woman, Crystal Pope, tells the Times she and two female friends were frisked last year in Harlem Heights by two male officers who said they were on the trail of a rapist:
"They tapped around the waistline of my jeans," Ms. Pope said. "They tapped the back pockets of my jeans, around my buttock. It was kind of disrespectful and degrading. It was uncalled-for. It made no sense. How are you going to stop three females when you are supposedly looking for a male rapist?"
Another woman, 21-year-old Shari Archibald, says she was standing on the stoop of her building in Morris Heights one evening, retrieving her keys from her purse, when two male officers approached her, patted her down, and dug around in her purse:
The encounter was made worse by the number of people out on the street that night. “There were a lot of guys from the neighborhood outside," she said, "and here is this officer squeezing one of my sanitary pads in front of everyone."
One officer, she recalled, lifted up her long tank top and lightly brushed his hand over the elastic waist of her spandex leggings. They instructed her to pinch the shirt fabric between her breasts and yank at her bra.
“They asked me to snap my bra, to pull and shake it a bit, to see if anything fell out,” Ms. Archibald said.
"When officers conduct stops upon shaky or baseless legal foundations," the Times notes, "people of both sexes often say they felt violated." And "if a woman believes there is no legal basis for the frisk, [civil rights lawyer Andrea] Ritchie said, then she may feel that she is being groped simply for the officer’s sexual gratification." So when Inspector Royster insists the stops are not random, she may be telling the truth. Would a careful analysis find that shapely women are especially likely to be stopped and frisked?
More on stop and frisk here.
The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law institute, is behind an important free speech lawsuit filed back in May, Cooksey v. Futrell. The case challenges the North Carolina's Board of Dietetics/Nutrition's attempts to censor Steve Cooksey, a blogger who believes, and writes about how, following the "paleo diet" (roughly, eating like a caveman, including no processed foods or grains) helped him cope with diabetes. Today the New York Times finally takes notice.
a North Carolina law says that “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” without a license is a crime....
In her markup of Mr. Cooksey’s site, Ms. [Charla M.] Burill [executive director of the NC Board of Dietetics/Nutrition] underlined examples of unlawful advice, including this one: “I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can.”
Mr. Cooksey reluctantly made the requested changes. Then he filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Charlotte, N.C., saying his First Amendment rights had been violated.
“Cooksey’s advice,” his lawyers wrote, “ultimately amounts to recommendations about what to buy at the grocery store — more steaks and avocados and less pasta, for example.”
“The First Amendment simply does not allow North Carolina to criminalize something as commonplace as advice about diet,” they added.....
In his lawsuit, Mr. Cooksey, a 51-year-old service manager at a medical equipment company, said that forbidding his “personal, ongoing, uncompensated mentorship of Karen Gale and other friends like her is an unconstitutional prohibition on something that Americans have done since the inception of the United States: share advice among friends, acquaintances, readers or family about what is the healthiest way to eat.”
Cooksey tells the Times he actually hopes for a first-round loss, so he can have an eventual Supreme Court decision friendly to his assertions that occupational licensing doesn't trump free speech.
IJ's Bob Ewing had a great piece in The Freeman explaining the case's genesis and the important liberties at stake. Excerpts:
It all started three years ago when an obese man from North Carolina was rushed to the hospital in a near diabetic coma and almost died. Steve Cooksey had been sick for some time. He slowly gained weight over the years, and by 2008 had developed episodic asthma, a chronic cough, and respiratory infections, and was on multiple medications. In February 2009, after being rushed to the hospital, Steve was diagnosed with Type-II diabetes. His doctors informed him he would need insulin and drugs for the rest of his life...
Steve did research on health and diabetes, much of it online. He learned that diabetes is a condition of elevated blood sugar, so he started eating foods that kept his blood sugar low, and he exercised regularly. Specifically, Steve adopted the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors, eschewing sugars, processed foods, and agricultural starches in favor of fresh veggies, fish, meats, eggs, and nuts. He lost 78 pounds, freed himself of drugs and doctors, and feels healthier than ever. In January 2010 Steve started a blog, Diabetes Warrior, to share his story and insights. He soon developed a large readership.
And why you should care, whether you want to go paleo or not:
Violating licensing law can lead to fines, court gag orders, and even jail. According to the government’s logic, countless websites, Internet forums, Facebook, and so much more where people share information and offer each other advice on topics such as diet, parenting, and pregnancy are illegal.
IJ's dedicated page for the case.
Paleo-libertarian bonus: are grains to blame for the state as well as diabetes?
IJ's video promoting the case:
Yesterday we told you about a Florida stock broker and grad student who practically had his life ruined after being caught with a single Oxycontin pill. The man was forced to report his no contest plea for possession to his employer, who fired him. For the next year, he was forced to attend two Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week and 15 weekend-long state-run drug courses (even though he had never taken Oxycontin), and was given a curfew that made it difficult for him to work decent at hours at his new job (being a short order cook).
That story caught the attention of another Florida man who had his life turned upside down by Florida's insane drug laws. He emailed us the following:
I was pulled over for having a dimly lit tag and asked to consent to a search before the officers even ran my license. When I refused consent, they kept me on the side of the road in the middle of the night and questioned me for over an hour before finally arresting me for a DUI after I refused to consent to a roadside urine test. They then took an "inventory" of my car and found a small quantity of LSD. [roughly 25 doses.]
So now a few months later I am in the thick of state supervision. Faced with an inordinate mandatory minimum my best bet was to agree to any program I could get into.
I immediately lost my job as a substitute school teacher and exhausted the savings I was using to pursue a degree in chemistry. Replacement work has not been easy to find and those third party [background check] groups make sure my mug shot is near the top of any google queries for my name.
LSD use is hardly the epidemic that prescription pills supposedly are, so why was our emailer facing "an inordinate mandatory minimum"? Because of the ridiculous way Florida measures drugs.
One gram of LSD crystal can yield roughly 10,000 doses. Our emailer had 50 tabs of actual LSD crystal, or roughly 4-5 miligrams. But Florida doesn't weight the amount of LSD crystal, or the active ingredient in any illicit drug. Instead, they weigh whatever the drug is on or in:
For the purpose of clarifying legislative intent regarding the weighing of a mixture containing a controlled substance described in this section, the weight of the controlled substance is the total weight of the mixture, including the controlled substance and any other substance in the mixture. If there is more than one mixture containing the same controlled substance, the weight of the controlled substance is calculated by aggregating the total weight of each mixture.
In our emailer's case, police weighed the 50 paper tabs he had, and also the vial in which the tabs were contained. So instead of having 4 miligrams of LSD--which would have been a low-level possession charge--he had 31 grams. The threshold for a mandatory minimum LSD trafficking charge is one gram. Seven grams or more, meanwhile, gets you a minimum of 15 years in prison.
Faced with spending the next decade and a half in jail for possessing a recreational amount of a relatively harmless hallucinogenic drug, our emailer spent most of his savings on an attorney who helped him get into drug treatment, and is now spending what he has left on rehab for a drug that he's not addicted to.
I again reached out to Greg Newburn of the Florida chapter of Families Against Mandatory Minimums for more context on how Florida measures drugs. He gave me an example about cocaine that's pretty shocking.
"Under that language, if you hand me a 12 ounce can of Coke, but just before you hand it to me you mix 1 gram of cocaine into the liquid, then you call the cops and tell them I'm drinking cocaine-laced Coca-Cola, I face a 7-year mandatory minimum for 'trafficking in cocaine' (more than 200 grams but less than 400 grams)," Newburn writes.
"And since Florida removed the mens rea requirement, the state doesn't even need to prove I knew the cocaine was in the can. I can present my lack of knowledge as an affirmative defense, but the jury instructions permit a jury to presume the defendant had knowledge of the illegal substance based solely on the possession."
I can only imagine how many other recreational users in Florida are wasting time and money on rehab, having their career prospects ruined, all because their only other option is a ridiculous mandatory minimum.
Yesterday President Barack Obama signed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. The act restricts protests at military funerals. Protestors may not come within 300 feet of a military funeral for two hours before or after the service (and one presumes, during).
Here’s what Obama said while signing the bill:
“I am very pleased to be signing this bill into law. The graves of our veterans are hallowed ground. And obviously we all defend our Constitution and the First Amendment and free speech, but we also believe that when men and women die in the service of their country and are laid to rest, it should be done with the utmost honor and respect.”
But of course, this law isn’t for the benefit of the dead but for the sensibilities of the living people left behind.
The restrictions are obviously targeting Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps family who constitutes its membership. The church won a Supreme Court decision in 2011 when the father of a dead soldier unsuccessfully sued the Phelps family for emotional distress over their protests. (which, if you are reading this site from your cave, revolve around how God is enjoying seeing everybody die and get sent into a pit of hellflame forever because of the gays. And the Jews. And every other religion. But also for general secularness.)
The Phelpses are not selective with their protests. They’ll protest anything. They protest other churches. They protest plays, concerts and sports events. They protest celebrities. They pinged America’s radar back in the ‘90s for picketing the funerals of gay men who died of AIDS to let everybody know the deceased were burning in hell. And while their protests shocked the sensibilities of many, it clearly didn’t get the angry reactions that the Phelpses family must feed off in order to survive, and so they expanded the protests to include dead soldiers or really anything that might get them media attention.
But the president and Congress’ protection applies only to military funerals. The rest of us will have to manage our own responses, which, evidence shows, we do just fine. The Huffington Post has a slide show of students at Texas A&M creating a human wall to surround the church and conceal the existence of the protestors at a soldier’s funeral. This has become modus operandi in dealing with the nutjob family's appearences.
Westboro is a carny freak sideshow, and you’d think the public would be getting tired of the coverage. The natural inclination is to blame the media for making a big deal out of their protests, but the media wouldn’t do it if the public didn’t get up in arms and yank out the fainting couches every time the Phelps family behaves like the Phelps family. If people ignored the family they would implode into nothingness, like Tinkerbell in reverse. Passing a federal law to manage the family’s protests just elevates their attention.
"Stockton, California Went Bankrupt. Is Your City Next?" is the latest offering from ReasonTV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more ReasonTV clips.View this article
Have you seen the latest jobs report? Major buzzkill: creeping unemployment, anemic growth, and the recovery's totally stalled.
But not in Washington: The District is booming! Construction cranes dominate the downtown skyline, and your average homeless guy can barely grab a stretch of sidewalk before yet another boutique store pops up to bounce his bedroll. If you venture outside the Death Star's orbit to visit the colonies for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you'll see a lot of boarded-up storefronts. You might even feel a twinge of shame when Matt Drudge feeds you headlines like "D.C. Leads List of Most Shopaholic Cities in America."
Whatever: Guilt is for losers! The main lesson the rest of the country should take from the capital's prosperity is, per The New York Times' David Leonhardt, that "education matters."
D.C.'s "high-skill" economy boasts more college degrees than any other major metropolitan area in America. "If you wanted to imagine what the economy might look like if the country were much better educated," Leonhardt writes, "you can look at Washington."
Gene Healy translates that message for people out in flyover country: We're eating your lunch because we're "smarter" than you! Hit the books, rubes: We built this!View this article
Due to the privacy-eroding miracle of social media, various folks on Twitter, the Facebook, and elsewhere not only know today is my 49th birthday but have already wished me a happy happy (note to Wikipedia: you got my b-day wrong).
To the well-wishers, I say: Thanks!
You know what I would really love for a birthday present? A crowd-sourced reverse-engineering of Barack Obama's awful-beyond-words Event Registry, in which the sitting president asks his fans to forego giving gifts to loved ones and instead sending him money. Seriously: "Instead of another gift card you’ll forget to use, ask your friends and family for something that will go a little further: a donation to Obama for America."
What's next - asking folks in hock to loan sharks to send at least the vig on what they owe to the Obama campaign? I'm sure your lenders will recognize a higher purpose when they see one. Didn't even the imprisoned mob capo Lucky Luciano help out the Allies back in World War II?
A few weeks back, I suggested "5 Great Gifts to Send Obama in Lieu of Cash Contributions," all of which I culled from a quick read of the SkyMall catalog. From the SkyTravel inflatable pillow to the Lawn Aerator Sandals, there's a ton of great gift ideas for the commander in chief who has everything, including a personal fundraising operation that has raised $274 million so far for re-election.
Obama's 51st birthday was just a few days back on August 4. I know when his birthday is because Michelle Obama sent me an email asking whether I'd sign Barack's birthday card. That request came just days after she sent me an Oscar Schindleresque email cadging for $3 toward her husband's re-election:
I know I don't want to wake up on November 7th wondering if I could have done more. So I'm doing everything I can between now and Election Day to make sure we can keep moving this country forward for four more years.
We've only got a few more hours before an important fundraising deadline. Please support this campaign by giving $3 or more today.
So it's not too late to send the president a useless gift from SkyMall or elsewhere. For more great gift ideas, go here.
Zach Weiner explains how to write a Malcolm Gladwell book.
Louisiana Police nabbed Alan Gourgue for driving too slowly and having an insufficiently visible license plate and took him to jail. The next morning they told him he had a warrant out for being AWOL from the Marines. Gourgue tried to explain to the cops, the Marines and anyone else who might listen that he’d been honorably discharged five years earlier. But computer records showed he’d deserted in 2008. He was hauled in handcuffs to Camp Pendleton and put on work detail. A month later, the Marines admitted that he had indeed been honorably discharged and released him. In the meantime, he’d lost his job.
Libertarian National Campaign Committee Chair Wayne Allyn Root's attention-grabbing guess that his Columbia University classmate Barack Obama "got a leg up by being admitted to both Occidental and Columbia as a foreign exchange student" who neglected to "ever change his citizenship back," which was flagged here last night by Mike Riggs, is a version of what he told me four years ago at an LP fundraiser during the Democratic National Convention in 2008. From that conversation:
"A vote for Obama is four years of Karl Marx, and no one should be happy about that," he told us and a few genial young libertarian activists over cocktails. "He's a communist! I don't care what anybody says. The guy's a communist.... And his mother was a card-carrying communist, and he says she's the most important person in his entire life; he learned everything from her." [...]
Root: And I'd be willing to bet every dime I have in the world, a million dollars I'll put, I'll put a million dollars cash on the fact—
Welch: This is on the record—
Root: —that my GPA was better than Barack's—
Root: ...and he got in based on the color of his skin.
Does anyone doubt that possibly Barack could have gotten into Harvard with a C average because he's black, where as I, white, couldn't get into the same school with a B-plus, A-minus average? And yet his wife says that America is a terrible nation unfair to minorities! I say, Au contraire!
I say the whole problem with America is we are racist against people because of the color of their skin. We're helping people because they're black. We're helping people because they're minority. We're helping people because they're poor. In reality only those who have the most skill and talent should get into Harvard, not because of the color of their skin.
So now I ask out loud in the press, I challenge my classmate to give his GPA against mine. And let's see if he really is the bright guy they all say he is. What if we discover he got into Harvard with a C average? Is he then the brilliant man America thinks he is? That would be a very good question, don't you think?
I spend a lot of time (and will indeed spend more time today, at noon eastern on Fox Business Network!) talking on television about how this or that micro-media scandal of the day is irrelevant to the urgent problems of both our immediate and long-term fiscal and economic picture. Barack Obama's academic record three decades ago ranks right down there with his dog-eating as reasons why normal humans are dead sick of listening to some Republicans (and some former Republicans) talk about politics.
About which read more at The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Can Fix What's Wrong With America, with a new foreward by meself & Nick Gillespie.
What do you do when you wrote, passed, and defended to the death in a Supreme Court steel-cage match a law that doesn't quite work — and you no longer have the votes to make any new changes? You cross your fingers, let the Internal Revenue Service rewrite it through the rulemaking process, and hope that the words "IRS rulemaking process" cause eyes to glaze over before too many people start to care.
That's what happened with the rule the IRS wrote governing subsidies for federally run exchanges. The plain language of the law states that the subsidies and tax credits for private insurance shall be available only in state run exchanges. In the only discussion of that provision in the Congressional record, Democratic Senator Max Baucus noted clearly that the subsidy conditions were designed to encourage states to set up their own exchanges. But despite the clear language of the law, and despite the only clear indication of the intention behind the provision, the IRS wrote a rule allowing subsidies in federally run exchanges anyway.
Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute and Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University have argued that this makes the IRS rule illegal. I suspect they are right. Cannon and Adler have jointly authored a long and quite convincing rebuttal to defenders of the IRS rule over at the journal Health Affairs. If they are right, it could be a fatal blow to the law. It now looks as if about half of U.S. states will not set up their own exchanges, leaving the federal government to step in. As The New York Times noted over the weekend, those preparations are being undertaken largely in secret, perhaps because of the many administrative hurdles to creating the federal exchanges, including the problem that the law provides no substantial funding to do so. If the IRS rule is judged illegal, that will further complicate the federal exchange implementation process, perhaps to the point of permanent delay. As Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tennessee) noted at a Congressional hearing on the IRS provision last week, the debate over the legality of the rule is "about whether ObamaCare can continue to exist."
Nor is this the only instance in which it appears that the IRS has stepped in to attempt to rewrite a potentially unworkable part of ObamaCare. As Robert Book of The Heritage Foundation explains at Forbes, the IRS has also attempted to adjust a provision in the law surrounding the employer mandate:
The most well-known part of the employer mandate requires employers to provide “qualified coverage” or pay a penalty of $2,000 per full-time employee (after the first 30, if they have at least 50). Less widely known is a special penalty that applies only to companies that do offer coverage: a $3,000 penalty for each employee who qualifies for, and accepts, a federal premium subsidy for coverage purchased through the state-based exchanges. An employee is eligible for such a subsidy, and can thus trigger the penalty, if the employee’s share of the health insurance premium is “unaffordable” – which is defined as more than 9.5% of the employee’s familyincome, if the employee’s family income is also between 138% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL). The intent appears to be to discourage employers from “dumping” their lower-income employees onto the taxpayers by setting high employee premium share – although it might just as well discourage employers from hiring people from low-income families.
When informed of this provision, employers naturally ask, “How are we supposed to know our employee’s family income?” Employers know what they pay, but they normally don’t know the employee’s income from other sources, or the income of the employee’s other family members. The answer based on the legislative language is basically, “You aren’t supposed to know – the IRS will tell you when they figure out your penalty.” (The law sets up a complex system of reporting and information sharing between employers, insurers, state exchanges, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the IRS, that will allow the IRS to determine which employers owe this penalty for which employees.)
Of course, without that information at the time they set premiums, it is difficult for employers to do what the law apparently wants them to do, which is to set premiums low enough to keep employees ineligible for subsidies.
The IRS responded to this eminently reasonable concern by proposing an “affordability safe harbor” that employers can use to avoid the penalty based on information they actually know. Employers would not be assessed the penalty if they offer coverage to their employers and dependents, and if, in the language of the Federal Register, “the employee portion of the self-only premium … does not exceed 9.5 percent of the employee’s current W–2 wages from the employer,” which the employer knows.
This certainly sounds like a much more practical requirement. Unfortunately, it’s not what the law says, and executive branch agencies like the IRS aren’t supposed to issue regulations that contradict laws passed by Congress.
Democrats passed the bill so that we could all find out what was in it. Now it appears that Democrats don't quite like what was in the bill, and are hoping the IRS can save them from their own unworkable legislation.
In August 2011, Nashville-based Gibson Guitar was raided by federal agents and ultimately charged with violating the Lacey Act, a law that bans importation of rare and endangered plants and wood products. At issue was wood imported from India that would be used for fret boards in the company's world-renowned electric guitars.
As ReasonTV's Anthony Fisher reported at the time:
The feds raided Gibson for using an inappropriate tariff code on wood from India, which is a violation of the anti-trafficking statute known as The Lacey Act. At issue is not whether the wood in question was endangered, but whether the wood was the correct level of thickness and finish before being exported from India. "India is wanting to ensure that raw wood is not exported without some labor content from India," says [Gibson CEO Henry] Juskiewicz.
Andrea Johnson of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) counters that "it's not up to Gibson to decide which laws...they want to respect." She points out that Gibson had previously been raided under The Lacey Act for imports from Madagascar.
Now Gibson has settled with the government. From a Christian Science Monitor account:
Nashville-based Gibson agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty, forfeit claims to about $262,000 worth of wood seized by federal agents and contribute $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to promote the conservation of protected tree species.
"The agreement is fair and just in that it assesses serious penalties for Gibson's behavior while allowing Gibson to continue to focus on the business of making guitars,"U.S. Attorney Jerry Martin said in a statement.
"We felt compelled to settle as the costs of proving our case at trial would have cost millions of dollars and taken a very long time to resolve," CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said in a statement late Monday night.
"This allows us to get back to the business of making guitars," he said, noting that the settlement would allow them to continue sourcing rosewood and ebony from India as it has for decades.
Gibson CEO Henry Juskiewicz became widely known after he reacted to the raid by protesting his company's innocence of running afoul of arcane restrictions (the case here hinged on the degree the wood was finished in India, not whether it was endangered or illegally harvested) in the pages of national newspapers and in Senate hearings held by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Watch ReasonTV's February 2012 video on the story, Anthony Fisher's "The Great Gibson Guitar Raid," by clicking above.
Read Reason's coverage of the case from start to finish.
- Romney’s fundraising successes continue in Illinois. The presumptive GOP nominee has raised millions at recent events, though it is unlikely that these will translate into a Romney win in the Prairie State.
- The Syrian army in the city of Aleppo is closing in on rebels who are running low on ammunition.
- Dick Cheney has defended the choice of Palin as VP in 2008 but has attacked the “process” that McCain during the campaign.
- Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russian tycoon and Russia’s most famous prisoner, has labeled the Pussy Riot trial “medieval”.
- Obama has pledged his support to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy amid the deteriorating economic situation in Europe.
- NASA has released video of Curiosity’s descent to Mars.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
1776 debuted on Broadway in 1969, just as Richard Nixon was taking up residence in the White House. The show won a Tony for Best Musical that year, beating out the naked hippie romp Hair, despite two astonishing facts: 1) there is a 30-minute stretch in the first act where no one sings a note, and 2) it is a musical about the Declaration of Independence.
Now 1776 is back on tour, and as Katherine Mangu-Ward observes, it still remains to be seen if the show’s original success can be duplicated in the post-Watergate era.View this article
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) isn't currently scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention, but according to Reuters*, his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)--the one with the future with the GOP--will be.
This is a sign that Rand Paul's clear attempts to be the libertarian-leaning Republican who actually cares if he's pissing off the rest of his party are working, so far. As I suggested in front of the senator during our joint presentation back in May about my book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired, his future as a potential presidential candidate might be rich whether or not Romney wins this year
The idea was that Romney will likely be so terrible in terms of reining in government to affordable Constitutional limits that a primary challenge from the likes of a Rand Paul from the libertarian wing could help limn the divide in the GOP in a very vivid, and possibly even successful, way. The same logic applies whether Rand Paul in 2016 is running against an incumbent Romney (not that such a move on Paul's part is at all certain) or against whoever else steps up for the GOP crown in 2016.
As much as it annoys many of the Paul hardcore, it will be easier to help define the future of the Republican Party from a believable position of being Loyal Opposition rather than rebel outsider. So don't expect Rand Paul to attack Romney explicitly in Tampa. But I do hold out hope he may speak of serious spending cuts, serious curbing of government's civil liberties violations, and seriously sensible foreign policy in a way that implicitly does so.
My May speaking appearance with Sen. Paul:
*An earlier version of this post credited Politico for the news in both post and headline; Politico was quoting Reuters.
Former Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate and current Libertarian National Campaign Committee Chair Wayne Allyn Root is why libertarians can't have nice things. Case in point: Root's latest column at Glenn Beck's The Blaze.
Let me sum it up for you: Mitt Romney should offer to release more tax returns only if Obama will release his college transcripts. This will take the pressure off Romney, and put the scrutiny back on Obama, except that Obama will never release his transcripts because he pretended to be from another country to get loans and then seldom went to classes at Columbia and got poor grades. Wayne Allyn Root knows all this because he also graduated from Columbia in 1983 and doesn't remember seeing any black people "Barry Soetoro."
This awful, weird, conspiratorial column, just linked by Matt Drudge, will probably be the most widely read thing Root has ever written. Its existence is a tragedy for Libertarians and libertarians.
Root's bio identifies him as "a former Libertarian vice presidential nominee" and "Chairman of the Libertarian National Campaign Committee" and the author of a book titled "The Conscience of a Libertarian." You know what that means? It means Wayne Allyn Root is an ambassador for libertarianism, and that his columns are a direct reflection on the Libertarian Party, which has several times elected him to prominent positions despite the fact that he is a glistening PR disaster.
Then again, nowhere in his piece for The Blaze does Root mention a single Libertarian candidate for office. This is probably a good thing, but also odd, because it's campaign season, and the job of the Libertarian National Campaign Committee is to run Libertarian Party candidates at the local, state, and congressional levels. Mitt Romney is not a candidate for local, state, or congressional office, and he is not a Libertarian (or even a libertarian).
So why is Wayne Allyn Root giving Romney free campaign advice, when he should be talking to, and about, Libertarian Party candidates? Are the heads of Democratic and Republican organizations writing insane memos telling Gary Johnson how to beat Obama, the bad-grade-getter? Are they telling down-ticket Libertarian Party candidates how to deflect questions about their finances?
That Root writes about Romney as if Gary Johnson did not exist is awful. What's worse is that articles like Root's repel the kind of people Johnson needs in November.
As for anyone who's still upset about The Weekly Standard's description of this year's LP convention as a "goat rodeo": Why don't you direct your rage at the clown running the Libertarian National Campaign Committee?
Reason Managing Editor Katherine Mangu-Ward debates Bill Nye "the Science Guy" about public versus private funding for space exploration on CNBC's Street Signs. Air Date: August 6, 2012.
About 5 minutes.
Here's a perfect summary of World War II: even the good guys committed monstrous, criminal acts. That's the good war for ya, no matter how good it was that Hitler lost.
Today, if pausing to think about the first use of an atomic bomb on civilians, first and foremost, go read Anthony Gregory's post at the Independent Institute's Beacon blog. A sampling:
Even after the bombing of Nagasaki and the emperor said he would surrender, the U.S. firebombed Tokyo on August 14 with a thousand-plane bombing mission. Was this last mass killing necessary? We rarely hear about it at all, perhaps because it throws into question the entire morality of U.S. strategic bombing in the Pacific War.
Indeed, World War II featured a mass wallowing in collectivist slaughter on the part of both the Axis and Allied Powers. Japan’s and Germany’s brutalities, some of the most notorious in the history of humanity, are appropriately condemned, yet these evils have somehow come to obscure the evils committed by the United States, Britain, and even Stalin in the course of the war. The other side was guilty of unsurpassed inhumanities, but this should not give a free pass to the Allies for their own acts of barbarism, which by any sensible standard rank among the greatest war crimes of the modern era.
Gregory also questions the certainty of those who breezily claim certainty that the invasion of Japan would have cost 500,000 lives. Even if you disagree, the piece is well worth reading.
Also check out, via Lew Rockwell, the clip below from the 1983 anime Barefoot Gen. It is almost unwatchable in its brutality. (Did you think Grave of the Fireflies was the most soul-crushing anime about World War II? You were mistaken.) Interestingly enough, the most recent news from a search for that title says that a peace group in Hiroshima wants schools to stop using the original manga that the film was based off of... because it is "one-sided."The author, Keiji Nakazawa, was born in Hiroshima in 1939. He lost much of his family in the bombing.
This general peace over being pissed off about the atomic bombings attitude is reflected in the memorializing. Seventy countries were represented this year, in a ceremony that included 50,000 people. Harry Truman's grandson was there. The only hint of controversy seems to have come from anti-nuclear power protesters, what with Fukushima still a concern.
In 2010, Jesse Walker pointed Hit and Run readers to a fascinating artifact from a time when the bombings were the recent past. Walker wrote:
Sixty-five years ago today, the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. About a decade later, NBC marked the occasion by having a survivor of the bombing on This Is Your Life, a program that would surprise its guests by reviewing the events of their lives and reuniting them with important figures from their past. Including, in this case, one of the pilots who dropped the bomb.
A small clip for that episodes is below. The co-pilot, Capt. Robert Lewis, who famously wrote " My God, what have we done?" in the official logbook, after the Enola Gay dropped the bomb, seems emotional (he was supposedly trying not to be drunk, so nervous was he about meeting survivors). All in all, it's a bizarre, hard to watch piece of television. Further background on it can be found here. The bombing survivor on TV, Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, was a minister traveling with the so-called "Hiroshima Maidens," 25 women who were taken to the states to be given free reconstructive surgery. Two of them appear on the show in silhouette.
Previous Reason musings on the bombings, including Catchy Young's argument against moral equivalency in World War II and David Harsanyi on the temptations of being simplistic about history. Just so you don't think I'm the world's biggest peacenik... Which I may be.
And I know things become shorthand, but let's not forget it was the bombing of Hiroshima and, three days later, Nagaski too. The latter being more forgotten and even less defensible than the former.
Addendum: Oh, and there are many fine songs about nuclear issues, but Charlie, Ira, and Jesus are the only ones who can save us from "The Great Atomic Power."
Addendum two: Less creepy-kitchy-country, the exceedingly eerie " Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" by Polish composer Kriztof Penderecki.
The long-awaited end to Mexico’s deadly War on Drugs may be farther off than hoped, reports New America Media. Advisors to President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto have signaled that the rebirth of the PRI party means the $50 billion war is going international. Well, at least more international than it already is:
Far from “re-envisioning” the approach taken by outgoing President Felipe Calderon, credited with having launched the crackdown on the country’s drug cartels in 2006, Peña Nieto is preparing the Mexican people for a major escalation. It is a shift that could draw in military forces from Mexico’s neighbors, including the United States.
“A transnational phenomenon requires a transnational strategy,” Óscar Naranjo, Colombia’s former director of the National Police and current advisor to Peña Nieto, told reporters last week. “No country can succeed in an insular and isolated manner if it is to achieve timely or definitive victories.”
This "internationalization" of the war that's cost Mexico about 50,000 deaths has come just a few weeks after leaked reports revealed increased surveillance of Mexican citizens under the guise of combatting cartels. Between March 2011 and March 2012, the Secretariat of National Defense awarded five secret contracts to surveillance companies—without opening them up to bidders. On Saturday, Slate reported that under these contracts, spyware companies provided the Mexican government with over $350 million USD worth of surveillance technology, from cell phone interception devices to radar scannars that actually allow officals from Mexico's Department of Defense to see through walls:
Aside from purchasing mobile phone surveillance technology, the Mexican Department of Defense also reportedly splashed out on a kind of radar scanner that allows them to see through walls. These devices have been available to law enforcement agencies for several years, but little is known about where or when they are used. Similar technology was designed by a British company in 2006, and last year researchers at MIT announced that they had developed an “urban war fighter” radar to detect movement through walls from up to 60 feet away.
Unfortunately, these futuristic Peeping Tom scanners seem to be the only display of transparency in this multimillion dollar spy deal. According to Slate, Mexican officials have been anything but clear with the details of what could be a very expensive violation of human rights. The contracts were negotiated in secret, and when reporters attempted to find any information about the companies involved, they got nowhere:
Mexican reporters have also been focusing on the shadowy company named in the contracts as the provider of the technology. Security Tracking Devices, which does not appear to have a website, is listed online as being based near Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. But El Universal tracked the address to a run-down residential area, where it reported it found no evidence of the company’s existence.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation last week criticized the purchase of the technology disclosed in the secret contracts, saying it builds upon a trend of Mexico increasing its surveillance capacity. Mexico has had ongoing help from the United States to install up to 107 monitoring stations for intercepting communications nationwide.
The lack of information surrounding these spyware purchases, along with known corruption in Mexico's judicial system could mean a privacy nightmare for Mexicans, from political opponents to journalists investigating the costly-on-so-many-levels war.
So my family and I just came back from a business trip to Brooklyn's Department of Motor Vehicles. Each of the three employees we dealt with were as pleasant and helpful as can be; there were no surprise setbacks along the way, we walked out of there with both of our goals accomplished (converting my D.C. license and registration into legitimate New Yorkese, for the low low price of $265), and the whole process took...five goddamned hours.
This, it turns out, is totally normal, based on the scientific evidence of my two colleagues who have also enjoyed the Brooklyn DMV. "I was there for 5 hours Friday just to change my license from Virginia one to New York," one wrote, prophetically, before I departed. "I once spent 7 hours at that same DMV getting my license switched over," another wrote at the halfway mark of my experience. "Godspeed."
The DMV-horror story is such a libertarian staple by now that it almost feels unfair. Here, let's take a walk through some past Reason headlines:
And don't forget this Reason.tv classic:
You don't have to be a libertarian to shudder at DMV horror stories, because you have likely experienced them yourself (unless you are one of these apparently lucky people who also happen to like commenting at Bloggingheads.tv). The more salient question is, why do we put up with this? And why do politicians bore us with any of their other crap while a monopoly city service sputters on with all the efficiency (but 200 times the price!) of a Soviet Bloc post office? (A similar argument could be made about the grotesquely inefficient system for allocating jury duty, as Greg Beato wrote for us last year.)
You used to see (or is it that I used to see?) a lot more concern on the liberal side of the aisle for reforming taxpayer-funded institutions that failed to deliver on their basic promises, and even some exploration of options (such as privatization) for getting government out of businesses it always seems to do poorly. I have on my desk the third edition (circa 1976) of Inside the System, a collection of Washington Monthly articles devoted mostly to figuring out why government doesn't work well. As Charles Peters (who founded the mag in 1969) and James Fallows wrote in the introduction,
The government's struggle to reform itself has been the continuing political story of the 1970's, but often the story has a familiar ending. No sooner has an agency been set up to save the environment, deliver the mails, cure the sick, or discover new sources of energy than it begins to behave like the many other government agencies, which were created years ago in similar bursts of enthusiasm but quickly crossed the threshhold into bureaucratic ossification.
Can you imagine sentiments like that emanating from the modern left? Instead, even when celebrated "wonks" like Peter Orszag suggest privatizing the Post Office once they're safely out of power, it comes with such comparative throat-clearing as "Those who believe in the usefulness of government must be vigilant about making sure all its activities are vital ones, since the unnecessary ones undermine public confidence."
Screw public confidence; let's start with not wasting everyone's time and money, just because you can't let go of services that AAA would perform 10 times better.
As was noted on Reason 24/7, David Cameron’s coalition government is facing additional strains after failed House of Lords reform promoted some of the strongest calls for dissolution of the government in months. The defeat is bad news for the Conservative’s partners in coalition, the Liberal Democrats, who included House of Lords reform in their 2010 election manifesto. The Labour opposition has seized on the coalition’s rift, calling it a humiliation.
The Liberal Democrats had been pushing for legislation that would have made 80 percent of Britain’s upper chamber directly elected. However, the bill didn’t make it to a vote as it failed to pass consideration by the House of Commons, where Members vote on whether to debate abill. As it is the House of Lords is made up of a mixture of hereditary peers, Religious officials, and those who impress the right Prime Ministers.
While it might seem obvious to most people that the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds should not by virtue of his profession get to vote on legislation, the issue remains contentious in British politics. Nick Clegg, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister, has called for his party to oppose boundary review legislation in response to Conservatives killing House of Lords reform.
With reform of the House of Lords dead supporters of both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats have expressed their support for calling a general election before 2015.
If one examines the latest polling data it is hard to see why the Tories would support another general election. The coalition government has been controversial. The so-called “austerity” program, the tuition fees fiasco, and the phone hacking scandal have all contributed to a dwindling amount of support for the government. The liberal democrats who are traditionally considered center-left are hemorrhaging support while the Tories are struggling to contain a Labour resurgence. In the unlikely event of another hung parliament the Liberal Democrats would be more easily persuaded to join with Labour than risk another partnership with the Tories.
Were a general election be called there is a very good chance that the next Prime Minister would be Ed Miliband, a man who takes pride in the label "socialist". While the coalition government’s “austerity” program is a bit of a joke it is at least a refreshing exception to the rhetoric heard in mainland Europe where more centralized control and bailouts are being put forward as realistic and serious solutions to the euro-crisis.
Even if implementation of ObamaCare goes more or less as planned and ends up expanding health coverage to about 30 million over the next decade, as the latest Congressional Budget Office report on the law projects, it is still quite likely that significant health access issues will remain.
As The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff reports today, a recent study by a researcher at the Center for Disease Controls recently looked at 2011 survey of doctors and found that nearly a third said they did not accept new Medicaid patients last year:
[The study] used a survey of 4,326 office-based physicians from across the country to find that 69.4 percent said they were accepting new Medicaid patients. That number was significantly lower than those accepting privately-insured subscribers (81 percent) or Medicare patients (83 percent), indicating that this wasn’t just about doctors being overbooked – it was specific to the Medicaid program. The lower acceptance of Medicaid programs also held when Decker broke down doctors by specialists and primary care providers.
Given that much of ObamaCare's coverage expansion relies on Medicaid, this is not an encouraging sign for the millions of individuals who are supposed to be shuffled into the program as a result of the law.
Indeed, as The New York Times reported recently, the law's coverage expansion is likely to exacerbate a growing doctor shortage that was already in the works before the law passed:
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015 the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed. And that number will more than double by 2025, as the expansion of insurance coverage and the aging of baby boomers drive up demand for care. Even without the health care law, the shortfall of doctors in 2025 would still exceed 100,000.
Health experts, including many who support the law, say there is little that the government or the medical profession will be able to do to close the gap by 2014, when the law begins extending coverage to about 30 million Americans. It typically takes a decade to train a doctor.
“We have a shortage of every kind of doctor, except for plastic surgeons and dermatologists,” said Dr. G. Richard Olds, the dean of the new medical school at the University of California, Riverside, founded in part to address the region’s doctor shortage. “We’ll have a 5,000-physician shortage in 10 years, no matter what anybody does.”
Our best real-world test case for the law—RomneyCare, the Massachusetts health care overhaul that served as the model for ObamaCare—makes clear that the problem is real. Despite the highest health coverage levels of any state in the country (somewhere between 94 and 98 percent), some 14 percent of sick adults still reported being unable to access a doctor in the state last year, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health. And the problem seems to be getting worse: 63 percent of participants in the Harvard study said they thought their access troubles had become worse in the five years since RomneyCare became law.
None of these discoveries are recent: We've seen longer lines and hospital wait times in Massachusetts for years, Medicaid (and to a lesser extend Medicare) beneficiaries have had trouble finding willing providers for a long time, and it was clear that a doctor shortage was coming before ObamaCare was passed into law. But ObamaCare's backers in Congress and the White House decided that, despite these problems, it would be a good idea to commit somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 trillion over the next decade to expanding health coverage. So not only did the law fail to solve many of the U.S. health system's existing problems, it also added a fiscal strain that could well make those problems harder to fix.
What happens when you unleash police in quasi-military, no-holds-barred, special-forces style against a perceived social problem? As Minnesotans could tell you, it turns out that you get all of the abuses that you should have anticipated from unleashing armed troops in quasi-military, no-holds-barred, special-forces style against your society. And even after you've sent those out-of-control cops to some equivalent of the back of the woodshed, cleaning up the mess takes years.
The multi-agency (meaning, not clearly under anybody's control) Metro Gang Strike Force was shut down after reports of abuse of power, brutality and outright theft added up. The death knell for the strike force, which itself was acting like gang, came in May 2009, when the Legislative Auditor's Report concluded, "[t]he Metro Gang Strike Force's internal controls were not adequate..." As the follow-up report (PDF) of the Metro Gang Strike Force Review Panel detailed in August 2009:
Following the issuance of the Legislative Auditor's report, on the night of May 20, a number of Strike Force officers were observed shredding documents at the Strike Force offices. At that time, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety shut down the Strike Force pending further investigation by this Panel and the F.B.I.
Shredding documents? Yeah. That's not a good sign. here are some highlights from Review Panel report:
Employees, including sworn officers, repeatedly took property obtained during searches for their own personal use. These items included, among other things, flat screen and large screen televisions, laptops and other computer equipment, electronics, jewelry and recreational items. On a few occasions, officers returned property to the Strike Force offices when others made an issue of their conduct. Some of the items removed by officers for their personal use were items that were stolen by a defendant in a case, and could have been returned to their rightful owner. ...
As the saturation details grew to include stops that were not gang-related, Strike Force officers began to seize funds from those stopped, regardless of any intent to file charges against the people stopped and without regard to whether the funds could reasonably be connected to illegal activity. ...
In late 2008, Strike Force officers were asked to sign blank forms permitting the evidence in their cases to be destroyed. Once these documents were signed, Strike Force personnel placed forms noting that evidence was destroyed into files in which the evidence was not, in fact, destroyed.
"Honor Flight Doc Remembers World War II Heroes" is the latest offering from ReasonTV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more ReasonTV clips.View this article
One of the key arguments that President Obama used to get his health care law though Congress, control of soaring health care costs, turns out to have been bogus.
Here is the way Mr. Obama put the argument in a September 9, 2009, speech about health care to a joint session of Congress:
Then there’s the problem of rising cost....insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages....our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined....
Now, these are the facts. Nobody disputes them.
Mr. Obama’s voice saying “these are the facts. Nobody disputes them,” is almost enough to set off sound effects akin to those that accompany Pinocchio’s growing nose in the Disney movie.
Sure enough, now that the data are in, the emerging consensus is that health care costs, rather than “skyrocketing,” have been moderating, even flat-lining. And as Ira Stoll writes, they were beginning to do so well before Congress passed ObamaCare in March 2010.View this article
- The pissing contest over tax returns between Mitt Romney and Harry Reid has turned ... Shock! Surprise! ... Really partisan.
- While ahead in reliably Team Blue Connecticut, Obama's advantage is in single digits in a state he won by 23 points in 2008.
- Having so successfully managed state-employee pensions into catastrophe, California lawmakers want state-sponsored pensions for private workers — in part, at least, to offset envy of the sweet deals negotiated by public-sector unions.
- Under fire around the world for taxing the winnings of Olympic athletes, the Obama administration says it's open to giving medalists a break.
- The gun Wade Michael Page used in his murderous rampage at a Sikh temple was apparently legally purchased, so get ready for the next round of babbling over gun control. Page has been identified as a white supremacist.
- It seems that the most effective way to dissuade Americans from supporting ever-expanding funding for public education is to tell them how much the government already spends.
- Britain's coalition government uniting the Conservative and Liberal-Democratic parties is on the verge of being not-so-united.
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Writing at National Review, George Mason University law professor Eric R. Claeys takes aim at Chief John Roberts’ majority opinion upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which Roberts ruled to be an exercise of Congress’ tax powers:
To justify the mandate as a tax, Roberts made two major legal errors. First, he misread § 5000A when he classified it as a tax, and not a regulatory “requirement” backed up by a “penalty.” This misinterpretation was deliberate. Roberts expressly refused to say whether the tax reading was the “most natural interpretation” of § 5000A; he only said that the tax reading was “fairly possible.” Roberts applied such a weak interpretation of § 5000A because he wanted to avoid striking down the mandate if he could. Here, however, Roberts did not live up to a promise he had made during his confirmation hearings: to decide cases like an umpire. A good umpire would not apply one strike zone for batters from a small-market team and another for the New York Yankees. By the same token, the constitutional “judicial power” isn’t exercised as it ought to be when a judge departs from ordinary principles of statutory interpretation in order to conserve powers that the U.S. government has claimed for itself.
As for what opponents of the health care law should do next, Claeys has this to say:
Constitutionalists — partisans of limited, constitutional government — now face a critical decision: Should they acquiesce in the Sebelius decision and move on to campaign against Obamacare exclusively on policy grounds? Or should they continue to make constitutional criticisms of Obamacare — and broaden those charges by making the Sebelius decision part of their indictment? Definitely the latter.
Read the whole thing here.
Last week a U.S. Tax Court judge confirmed that federal law bars medical marijuana dispensaries from deducting business expenses on their tax returns. Judge Diane L. Kroupa upheld the Internal Revenue Service's decision to disallow expenses claimed by Martin Olive, owner of San Francisco's Vapor Room Herbal Center. Olive's dispensary closed last week after eight years of operation in response to threats from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, who said it was too close to a playground. The tax case stems from Olive's returns for 2004 and 2005, which included a Schedule C for the Vapor Room indicating expenses totaling $10,783 and $285,349, respectively. Judge Kroupa agreed those expenses, which included items such as wages, advertising, and supplies, were invalid under Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, which says "no deduction or credit shall be allowed for any amount paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business if such trade or business...consists of trafficking in controlled substances...which is prohibited by Federal law." She said California's view of Olive's business is irrelevant:
The dispensing of medical marijuana, while legal in California, among other states, is illegal under federal law. Congress in section 280E has set an illegality under Federal law as one trigger to preclude a taxpayer from deducting expenses incurred in a medical marijuana dispensary business. This is true even if the business is legal under State law.
Citing a 2007 U.S. Tax Court decision that let Californians Helping to Alleviate Medical Problems (CHAMP) deduct expenses related to "counseling and other caregiving services" even though the organization also distributed marijuana, Olive argued that the bulk of his expenses likewise were unrelated to "trafficking in controlled substances." Kroupa rejected that claim, saying Olive essentially was engaged in the business of selling pot, even if those sales were accompanied by "incidental" services such as advice and yoga classes. Counterintuitively, however, Kroupa said Olive should be allowed to subtract his "cost of goods sold" (COGS), which consisted mainly of his marijuana purchases, from his gross revenue, because COGS, which "is subtracted from gross receipts in determining a taxpayer's gross income," does not qualify as a "deduction" under Section 280E. As reported by Olive, his COGS amounted to a little less than $1 million in 2004 and about $2.8 million in 2005, around 90 percent of his gross revenue. Deeming Olive's records unverified and unreliable, Kroupa instead settled on a COGS share of 75 percent for both years, based on an accountant's testimony about the finances of three other dispenaries. The IRS had argued that Olive should not be able to subtract any COGS because his records were so shoddy.
A tax expert told A.P. that Kroupa's decision is "very important" and will have "a major impact" on medical marijuana suppliers. How major? Last year Lynnette Shaw, founder of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, said "every dispensary in the nation, past, present and future, is dead if this [disallowance of business expenses] is upheld." But Kroupa's ruling leaves some wiggle room. COGS, which she says is allowable, apparently accounts for the vast majority of a dispensary's revenues. Business expenses, which are not allowed, probably will consist mainly of wages, which accounted for 62 percent of the expenses claimed by Olive in 2005. Can't a dispensary be organized so that money given to the people who run it is treated as profits shared among partners rather than wages paid to employees? Alternatively, a dispensary where the work is done by unpaid volunteers would avoid most of the problems caused by the inability to deduct business expenses. And there is always the CHAMP approach, where medical marijuana distribution is an ancillary aspect of an operation that mainly offers other services to patients. One message is clear: keep good records and save your receipts.
In case you were wondering: It is well established that people owe federal taxes even on illegally earned income, so dispensaries take a big risk if they decide to avoid all these complications by keeping their businesses a secret from the IRS.
But the Examiner is just riffing off this CNN story about announced speakers at the Republican National Convention--which does not include Ron Paul. But that list isn't necessarily complete, though all signs so far continue to be that a Paul speaking slot is unlikely (the RNC instead is bragging about helping Paul's people out in creating his own pre-RNC event).
Paul certainly doesn't seem to think he'll get one, and he still refuses to endorse his opponent Mitt Romney. But Paul's fate at the RNC isn't a sure thing yet one way or the other, certainly not on the basis of that CNN report. I've gotten no response from the Paul campaign this morning on this matter, but will update if I do.
Meanwhile, the Paul campaign continues to do the sort of thing that probably makes the RNC reluctant to give Paul a berth: fight shenanigans on the state level the campaign believes are denying them rightful delegates.
I reported at length last week at their challenges to the Louisiana delegation, and parts of the Oregon and Massachusetts delegations.
Here are some newer reports on these matters, including the New Orleans Times-Picayune on the Louisiana challenge. Highlights, including language from the complaint:
"This contest challenges the tyranny of one person, Roger Villere, who, on the eve of the Louisiana Republican State Convention attempted to impose anti-democratic Convention rules that were without any authority," reads the 21-page challenge filed last week by Washington attorneys David Warrington and Lee Goodman of LeClairRyan, who have been retained by the national Ron Paul campaign to handle delegates challenges in Louisiana, Massachusetts and Oregon, and to defend Paul delegates from a challenge in Maine. "The rules he attempted to impose were draconian and more characteristic of a North Korean politburo than a democratic American political party that honors procedures and majority votes."....
It was the very different outcomes in the Louisiana primary and caucuses that led to the battle of Shreveport, where the state convention broke down amid shouts and scuffling into two separate conventions, each considering itself official and the other one rump.
The Louisiana GOP remains peeved with the Paul people:
Charlie Davis, a former executive director of the party, led the Paul forces.
"Charlie Davis and his followers could have won 17 delegates to Tampa simply by voting at the state convention, but they abstained." said Jason Dore, the party's current executive director and spokesman for Villere. "We left 13 of the seats open and offered to fill the vacancies with Ron Paul supporters, but they demanded 24. Now, they file a challenge." And, said Dore: "The challenge brief itself is full of personal attacks, hyperbole and unfounded assumption. It seems to have been written with the Paul blogosphere in mind, not the RNC Contest Committee. I think they just want to fight. The only fight we're interested in is the fight to remove Barack Obama from the Oval Office.".....
The delegate challenge could go right up to and even into the convention. The Contests Committee reports its findings to the RNC meeting in Tampa in advance of the convention, but any ruling by the RNC can be appealed to the conventions' Credentials Committee, and its decision could be challenged on the floor, though that seems very unlikely.
*The Advocate on the Louisiana challenge.
*U.S. News on the Oregon challenge.
*Meanwhile, Randy Weber, who won the GOP nomination to replace the seat in Texas's 14th congressional district that Paul is leaving in January, got Paul's endorsement but says he, as the Capitol Column reports:
sees himself as a tea party supporter and appreciated Mr. Paul’s endorsement, although he doesn’t consider himself an exact replica.
“I don’t think I’ll be called a carbon copy of Dr. Ron Paul … When you talk about rock solid conservative with a track record, we’re a lot alike in that regard.”
*A couple of recent clips of Ron Paul on the House floor, talking up competing currencies:
*And against Iran sanctions, mocking the "Obsession with Iran Act of 2012" and our saber-rattling over Syria and asks us to defend civil liberties here at home:
Every month University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer report the latest global temperature trends from satellite data. Below are the newest data updated through July, 2012.
Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.14 C per decade
July temperatures (preliminary)
Global composite temp.: +0.28 C (about 0.50 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for July.
Northern Hemisphere: +0.44 C (about 0.79 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for July.
Southern Hemisphere: +0.11 C (about 0.20 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for July.
Tropics: +0.33 C (about 0.59 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for July.
Notes on data released Aug. 6, 2012:
Compared to global seasonal norms, July 2012 was the coolest July since 2008, according to Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Compared to seasonal norms, the coldest spot on the globe in July was the South Pole, where winter temperatures averaged 4.5 C (8.1 degrees F) colder than normal. If it isn’t usually the coldest place on Earth in July, seeing temperatures during the deepest part of the Antarctic winter that much colder than normal might move the South Pole into that spot. By comparison, the “warmest” place on Earth in July was in northeastern Alberta, Canada. Temperatures there averaged 3.43 C (about 6.2 degrees F) warmer than normal for the month.
Go here to see the processed satellite temperatue data.
Last week’s New York Times Magazine had an in depth piece about the evolution and historical context of the Occupy protests in Oakland, the “Capital of Anti-Capitalism.” Jonathan Mahler interviewed a local Occupy Oakland leader, the commercially successful rapper Boots Riley, who gives us this choice quote:
“I’m not afraid to call myself a Communist,” the rapper and activist Boots Riley told me one morning last spring in the kitchen of his weather-beaten yellow Victorian house in Oakland’s Lower Bottoms section. “I think some people call themselves everything but, because they don’t want to associate themselves with the failures and mistakes that other folks who have called themselves Communists have made. But Christians don’t stop calling themselves Christians just because some other Christians made some mistakes.”
Communism, it’s just like Christianity! Except for the part where you transform the State into a dictatorship of the proletariat. Theocrats in this country, of course, are rightly dismissed. The CEO of Chick-Fil-A can’t even give an interview about positions he’s held for decades without mass hysteria and naked attempts at intimidation by local leaders. Perhaps its time to treat Marxists the same way?
In case it wasn’t clear Riley is anti-capitalist, from the article again:
Riley’s politics are extreme. He doesn’t want to see capitalism reformed; he wants to see it toppled. “We need a system that’s not based on profit, but that’s based on helping people, that’s based on some sort of mutual control of resources,” he says.MORE »
Our story thus far: The federal government has failed to even vote on a real budget in over three years, the economy is in the tank, the fall election pits the Wolf Man versus Frankenstein's monster and come January 1, 2013, current tax rates revert back to much-higher (and less progressive!) levels from the Clinton days while automatic spending cuts kick in. This is the "fiscal cliff" that Fed head Ben Bernanke warns about.
Now the NY Times reports on business' reaction:
“It’s totally irresponsible and absolutely insane,” said Evan R. Gaddis, the president of [am] electrical manufacturers’ group. “The two parties are really dug in. Companies see the writing on the wall and business decisions are now being made on this.”
Business leaders say the latest fight feels different. Last summer, during a confrontation over raising the debt limit that risked a government shutdown, Mr. Powers of Hubbell did not alter course at his company, as he is doing now. “We never expected the government to shut down,” he said. “This bluff carries much more weight.”
The main decision business is making, according to the Times? Says a representative business owner:
“Everyone is sitting back and hunkering down."
That's how regime uncertainty freezes an economy. And on top of the current morass you've got to add the lack of clarity about who will win the fall elections, the actual costs of implementing Obamacare, and tons more. Note that this is all stuff that doesn't need to be uncertain. It's within the realm of existing policymakers to provide more stability and predictability over the things the government controls (such as tax rates). Running a business is tough no matter what - markets are volatile and as any number of high-riding operations could tell you, creative destruction is alive and well in the private sector.
And don't mistake the inability of the feds to create policy with gridlock. As Veronique de Rugy and I wrote in The Hill last week, the Dems and the Reps have no trouble putting aside partisan feelings to pass farm bills greasy with pork. And there's this:
In just the past few months, for instance, the ostensibly gridlocked Congress reauthorized the Export-Import Bank program that gives money to foreign companies to buy U.S. goods; extended sharply reduced rates for government-subsidized student loans; re-upped the Essential Air Service program that subsidizes airline service to rural communities; and voted against ending the 1705 loan-guarantee program that gave rise to green-tech boondoggles such as Solyndra and Abound. None of these were party-line votes — all enjoyed hearty support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Simply put, this is no way to run a country. The problem is not gridlock or ideological fervor. The problem is an increasingly irresponsible government that has for far too long been far too easily let off the hook. Whichever party emerges victorious in November, and whatever happens in the lame-duck session, this much is certain: Unless taxpayers begin demanding their president and Congress act responsibly, and do the actual work they were elected to do,“gridlock” will be the least of our problems.
Wade Michael Page, the Army veteran identified as the gunman who killed six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, yesterday, reportedly was armed with a legally purchased 9mm pistol. Not much for gun controllers to work with there: The gun would not qualify as an "assault weapon," and it's not even clear that Page's "multiple ammunition magazines" held more than 10 rounds each. (Even if they did, he apparently had no problem swapping them.) Reuters does the best it can with this material:
Authorities said the gunman had used a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, which was recovered at the scene. They were trying to track the origin of the weapon.
Wisconsin has some of the most permissive gun laws in the country. It passed a law in 2011 allowing citizens to carry a concealed weapon.
Thirty-nine states have nondiscretionary carry permit laws, meaning people can get one if they meet a few objective criteria (generally including a clean record and some sort of training), while in three other states (Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont) people can carry concealed handguns without a permit. So Wisconsin is hardly unusual in this respect and was actually late to the trend. More to the point, a man bent on mass murder is not likely to be deterred by the fact that carrying his gun to the site of the attack is illegal.
In contrast with Reuters, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has been uncharacteristically cautious so far, seizing on the temple massacre as yet another reason to sign a monumentally vague petition asking politicians to "do something about the toll of gun violence on our nation." The petition tries to reassure the wary by saying "it is time we acknowledged" that "the Second Amendment to the constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms." Having done that, we need to "put aside partisan politics and look for solutions that will save lives." See how simple?
Addendum: The Guardian, like Reuters, says Wisconsin "has some of the most permissive gun laws in the country," noting that "last year it passed a law allowing citizens to carry a concealed weapon." CBS, however, reports that "Page did not have the additional permit needed to legally carry a concealed weapon"—which shows he could not possibly have committed this crime.
Or rather, America’s kids are still too fat to get sent off to die. It’s been about two years since Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired military leaders promoting certain Nanny State school reforms, warned that a quarter of 17- to 24-year-olds were too fat to be useful to the military.
Greg Beato wrote about the first study by Mission: Readiness for Reason in December 2010 (pointing out that a third of draftees in the Korean War were rejected for health reasons). They’re back in the news with a new report about to be released that sounds about the same as the last one: American kids are too fat. We must reform school lunches so that kids lose weight. (Their initial report (pdf) also lobbied for stronger pre-kindergarten programs, indicating what this whole little study was really about: More federal education spending.)
CNN’s reporting of the new study focuses on one Mercedes Lipscomb, who was rejected from the National Guard for being 80 pounds overweight. She lost the weight on her own. First of all, good for her. Second of all, way to point out that this problem does not require government intervention.
More to the point, CNN’s reporting goes on about the cost to the military ($60 million) to have to replace overweight recruits that are unable to complete their service, which means the military is apparently letting in some of these 25 percent. Another full 50 percent of young Americans are disqualified due to poor education and criminal records, but you won’t find any suggestions of charter schools or legal reform (the early education programs are supposed to solve these problems).
Of course, nobody suggests the idea that maybe the problem isn’t that Americans are too fat, but rather the military is stretched too thin and trying to do too much. Why is it not enough that 25 percent of the U.S. is capable of military service? That’s 78 million people. In 2010, America had 1.5 million on active duty and 848,000 in reserves. We have more than enough people in America who qualify to serve in the military. Maybe the problem is what America has been doing with its military that is keeping qualified applicants away? Why isn’t that part of the discussion, rather than treating America’s children as though they’re military property that parents aren’t properly maintaining?
In addition to terminating pregnancies, abortion can inflict considerable collateral damage—principally, by puncturing the smug pieties of contemporary liberalism.
Consider, as Exhibit A, Rosemary Codding. According to a sympathetic piece in The Washington Post, Codding has “tried for months” to “scrape together” enough money for a “costly renovation” of her Falls Church abortion clinic—and she is still short by nearly $1 million. Wherever shall the money come from? Gail France is frustrated as well. “I don’t understand or begin to see how this serves any purpose,” gripes the owner of another abortion clinic in Northern Virginia.
Like Codding, Frances resents new regulations the state has imposed on her business that govern everything from hallway widths to parking spaces. So does a coalition of women’s advocates, which blasted Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli—“and their right-wing partners”—all of whom will “stop at nothing in their crusade to take away the rights of Virginia women.”
This is not, writes A. Barton Hinkle, the standard progressive posture regarding the regulation of business. To the contrary: When any other industry is being discussed, most liberals believe the correct level of regulation, always, is: more.View this article
The number of street stops by the NYPD, which has increased every year of the Bloomberg administration but one and hit a record 684,330 last year, fell by 25 percent in the second quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2011. The New York Times suggests the drop is largely the result of uncertainty about political support for the city's stop-and-frisk program, which involves detaining, questioning, and (about half the time) searching supposedly suspicious people, overwhelmingly black or Hispanic men. Citing unnamed police sources, the Times says sergeants conducting roll calls no longer push officers to make such stops, which have been widely criticized and are the target of a recently certified federal class action. The lawsuit argues that the NYPD routinely violates the Fourth Amendment because its stops and searches are not justified by reasonable suspicion and that the program is racially biased, violating the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. "Cops are nervous, and supervisors are nervous," one supervisor told the Times.
Commissioner Ray Kelly "acknowledged that the practice had come under scrutiny but said he did not believe that recent criticism by civil rights leaders played a role in the drop-off." Rather, he attributed the decrease to a redeployment of the rookie officers who historically have been responsible for a substantial share of street stops and to new training practices. But why are fewer officers being assigned to street stops, and why was additional training deemed necessary? The motivation for the redeployment may be debatable, but the reason for the training is clear. "Obviously, there is attention and scrutiny on it," Kelly said. "That's really why we engaged in the new training evolution." In other words, criticism of the stops is one of the reasons for the drop.
This "new training evolution" implicitly acknowledges there is merit to the lawsuit. Why suddenly start training officers how to do stops properly if they have been complying with the Constitution all along? Mayor Michael Bloomberg likewise does not help the city's defense when he cites general deterrence as the main justification for a program that is supposed to be based on individualized suspicion. The constitutional rationale for frisking someone during a stop is protecting officers from hidden weapons they reasonably suspect may be present. But cops almost never find guns during these stops, and Bloomberg says that shows the program is working, since the whole point of the searches is to deter people from carrying them. If so, the program is unconstitutional. Last month Bloomberg dismissed that concern as the quibbling of ivory-tower intellectuals. But he may be starting to recognize the legal implications of his policy argument. On Friday, the Times notes, his spokesman summarized the mayor's view this way: "We needed to mend, not end, the practice, and the reforms Commissioner Kelly has put into place ensure the focus is quality, not quantity." In other words, we have been violating the Fourth Amendment until now, but we will try not to do that in the future.
Kelly had a similar belated response to his officers' habit of flouting state law by charging people with "public display" of marijuana when the weed is brought into view only as a result of their actions—a practice that continued after he said it should stop.
The Secretary of State was forced to run for cover after a swarm of bees descended on her detail at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe.
From The Hill:
According to press reports, Malawi and American officials all scampered for cover while Clinton ran onto the jet for cover.
The incident is oddly reminiscent of an event Clinton made up during the 2008 Democratic Party primary race. Clinton had claimed that she once arrived in Bosnia while under sniper fire. She later claimed to have misspoken after video emerged of her being greeted in Bosnia without incident.
Over the last several years, media outlets have reported hundreds of horror stories about Florida's prescription drug epidemic. News consumers have been treated to stories about crooked doctors, shady pharmacists, and pill-popping addicts with violent tendencies and bad parenting skills. But as is so often the case with drug war coverage, there's a hell of a lot more to the story than that.
Reason recently interviewed someone you aren't likely to hear about in mainstream coverage of the prescription pill epidemic. In 2006, Jason was pulled over for speeding in Indian River County, Florida. His car was searched, and Jason was found to be in possession of a single Oxycontin pill.
Six years later, writes Mike Riggs, Jason has still not recovered—financially or emotionally—from what the state of Florida did to punish him.View this article
Gizmodo describes the state of the flags American astronauts left on the Moon:
While the $5.50 nylon flags are still waving on the windless orb, they are not flags of the United States of America anymore. All Moon and material experts have no doubt about it: the flags are now completely white. If you leave a flag on Earth for 43 years, it would be almost completely faded. On the Moon, with no atmospheric protection whatsoever, that process happens a lot faster. The stars and stripes disappeared from our Moon flags quite some time ago.
Reason has not been the most receptive audience to the dulcet prose stylings of New Republic lifer Leon Wieseltier. (Uncharitable example from Tim Cavanaugh, circa 2004: "[W]ho the hell is Wieseltier, who edits the most boring cultural page outside the old Pravda, who keeps dinosaurs like Jed Perl and Stanley Kaufman on the range, whose magazine is a laughingstock, and whose own essays read like five-page throat clearings (best read aloud, I've always found, in the fake "old man" voice Joseph Cotten uses for his nursing home scene in Citizen Kane), to be calling [William F.] Buckley ridiculous?")
But if you've ever found yourself wishing for an acid-tongued corrective to the never-ending story of boomer liberal journalists swooning over the barky-throated populism of Bruce Springsteen, Wieseltier has written what might be the definitive version. Sample:
"HE IS THE RARE man of sixty-two who is not shy about showing his ass—an ass finely sausaged into a pair of alarmingly tight black jeans—to twenty thousand paying customers." This panting observation about a rock star was committed by the editor of The New Yorker. I miss Eichmann in Jerusalem, almost. David Remnick's 75,000-word profile of Bruce Springsteen is another one of his contributions to the literature of fandom. Once again there is a derecho of detail and the conventional view of his protagonist, the official legend, is left undisturbed. It could have been written by the record company. The interminable thing is an inventory of Springsteen (and rock) platitudes, punctuated by the fleeting acknowledgment of a dissent about the deity, but much more interested in access than in judgment. "Springsteen Survives," the cover of the magazine triumphantly proclaims. Survives what? When Remnick turns from reporting to commentary, the earnestness becomes embarrassing, which is to say, fully the match of the earnestness of his subject [...]
DO THESE MEN HAVE ears? The musical decline of Bruce Springsteen has been obvious for decades. The sanctimony, the grandiosity, the utterly formulaic monumentality; the witlessness; the tiresome recycling of those anthemic figures, each time more preposterously distended; the disappearance of intimacy and the rejection of softness. And the sexlessness: Remnick adores Springsteen for his "flagrant exertion," which he finds deeply sensual, comparing him to James Brown, but Brown's shocking intensity, his gaudy stamina, his sea of sweat, was about, well, fucking, whereas Springsteen "wants his audience to leave the arena, as he commands them, 'with your hands hurting, your feet hurting, your back hurting, your voice sore, and your sexual organs stimulated!'", which is how you talk dirty at Whole Foods.
Hat tip to Michael C. Moynihan. Reason on the Boss here.
- The Syrian Prime Minister, Riad Hijab, has defected to Jordan with his family. Three other ministers are rumored to have also defected.
- Curiosity successfully landed on Mars. The rover is scheduled to carry out a two year search for evidence of life on the Red Planet.
- Mitt Romney’s campaign raised over $100 million in the month of July. Ninety four percent of all donations were for less than $250.
- The gunman responsible for this weekend’s shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin has been identified as ex-soldier Wade Michael Page. The FBI is treating the incident as an act of domestic terrorism.
- Hillary Clinton has met Nelson Mandela on the last leg of her African tour.
- Occupy protesters have vandalized Obama’s campaign headquarters in Oakland, CA.
Bloomberg enthusiastically favors breastfeeding infants. But he is not content to simply express his view for your consideration. He wants to use the power of government to induce conformity to his preference.
The city health department has already mounted a campaign to promote nursing with the slogan, "Breast milk is best for your baby," displayed on posters in subways and hospitals. Gentle persuasion, however, has not gotten the unanimous compliance that Bloomberg desires. So starting next month, all public hospitals in New York City will enforce rules to deter any mother who would think of contaminating her newborn with canned liquids.
This approach brings to mind the old totalitarian rule: Everything not forbidden is compulsory. If breastfeeding is good, why shouldn't everyone do it? And if some choose not to do it, why respect their choices? Bloomberg and the groups endorsing his policy, notes Steve Chapman, are determined to get their way no matter what the desires of those who do the actual childbearing and child feeding.View this article
When former sitcom star Roseanne "Bob" Barr was seeking the Green Party's presidential nomination, she said she would "run until the convention in July in Baltimore - I fully expect Jill Stein 2b the nominee & I will support her, but til then-I'll serve." Stein duly got the Greens' nod, but Barr evidently had some second thoughts: This weekend Roseanne and running mate Cindy Sheehan accepted the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP), a leftist outfit whose past candidates include Eldridge Cleaver and Leonard Peltier.
Historical trivia: For a brief period in the 1970s, libertarians took over the California PFP. And in the New York branch of the party, there was a bizarre libertarian/Maoist alliance-of-convenience, which Murray Rothbard described in his book The Betrayal of the American Right:
The opposition within PFP was indeed being run by the Maoist Progressive Labor Party (PL), who...were using the West Side Club to recruit candidate-members into PL....The alliance between PL and us libertarians was highly useful to both sides....What PL got out of it was a cover for their recruiting, since no one could of course call us vehement antisocialists tools of Progressive Labor. What we got out of it was PL's firm support for an ideological platform -- adopted by our joint caucus -- that was probably the most libertarian of any party since the days of Cleveland Democracy. The PL people were pleasantly "straight" and nondruggie, although quite robotic, resembling left-wing Randians.
The great exception was the delightful Jake Rosen, the absolute head of PL's fraction in the PFP. Rosen -- bright, joyous, witty, and decidedly nonrobotic -- knew the score. One of my fondest memories of life in the PFP was of Jake Rosen trying to justify our laissez-faire platform to his Maoist dunderheads:
"Hey, Jake, what does this mean: absolute freedom of trade and opposition to all government restrictions?"
"Er, that's the 'antimonopoly coalition'."
Jake, with more sincerity, joined us in opposing guaranteed annual income plans; he considered them bourgeois and "reactionary." About the only thing Jake balked at was our proposal that our caucus come out for immediate abolition of rent control.
"Hey, fellas, look, I'd love to do it, but we have commitments to tenant groups."
Graciously, we let him off the hook.
With his personality, I didn't think Jake would last in PL. In addition he had already implicitly rebelled against party discipline. An obviously bright guy, Jake had accepted PL's orders to be "working class" and became a construction worker; but he stubbornly failed to obey orders and move from the hip, cosmopolitan West Side of Manhattan to Queens. ("Jake, no construction worker lives on the West Side.") Indeed, a year or so after the breakup of the [New York] PFP, Jake left or was expelled from PL, and immediately went upwardly mobile, moving to Chicago and becoming a successful commodity broker.
As the sports world says a fond farewell to Michael Phelps, the most bemedaled Olympian that ever was, it's worth remembering the idiotic moral outrage that exploded when this picture of the eventual 18-gold-medal-winning swimmer surfaced in early 2009.
To me, the most appalling aspect was the public apology that Phelps ended up giving, presumably as a way of salvaging endorsement deals and an up-to-then squeaky-clean image. I don't begrudge him doing that, but it's a damn shame that we live in a country and world where even great athletes - not to mention presidents and actors and corporate titans and all sorts of public personalities and private citizens - are coerced one way or another into the sort of self-recriminations that sound like something left over from Mao's Cultural Revolution or the days of the Star Chamber.
From an account of his apology:
"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," Phelps said in a statement released by Octagon, his management firm, and posted on his Facebook site. "I'm 23 years old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public—it will not happen again."
At moments like that, you don't have to be Jeremiah Wright to muse, god bless American? No, god damn America!
To Michael Phelps: Thanks for the incredible memories and spectacles and performances. What can you say about an athlete so phenomenal that he makes Ray Ewry, Paavo Nurmi, Mark Spitz, and Carl Lewis seem like minor champions?
To the millions of Americans arrested for pot offenses since the last Olympics: One day, the leaders of this country will apologize to you and your children and spouses and sisters and brothers and parents. That day, which can't come soon enough, has already taken far too long to get here.
To the politicians and legislators who have smoked pot and even campaigned to end the drug war or have taken credit for ending the drug war: What will it take for you to stop at the very least the war on pot that serves no function but the rank wasting of lives, time, money, and other resources?
Related: Bill Maher reviews Doug Fine's Too High to Fail in the NYT.
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The trial of the Russian feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot does not seem to be going well for the Kremlin. As we learned during an interview with Cuban frontman Gorki Águila, punk musicians don't take well to authoritative regimes.
Here is the original text from the October 13, 2009 video:
Gorki Águila is blunt in his assessment of Fidel Castro's half century of revolution: "Communism is a failure. A total failure. Please, leftists of the world-improve your capitalism! Don't choose communism!" Águila, a Havana resident, wears homemade anti-government t-shirts, frequently denounces the Castro brothers as geriatric tyrants, and heads up perhaps Cuba's only explicitly political punk band, Porno Para Ricardo. And because of his stubborn belief in free speech, he is routinely arrested on charges of "social dangerousness." Tired of his anti-regime music, Cuban authorities made the rare decision to grantt Águila a visa to travel abroad, perhaps hoping that he wouldn't return
In September, Reason.tv's Michael C. Moynihan caught up with Águila on the Washington, D.C. leg of his American promotional tour to talk about his music, the origins of Porno Para Ricardo, and how long it takes to get Led Zeppelin records in a totalitarian society.
For downloadable versions please visit www.reason.tv.
Approximately 7 minutes. Shot by Meredith Bragg. Edited by Dan Hayes.
Last fall, during the Occupy Wall Street movement’s putative heydey, media attention tended to focus on a select few instances of especially gratuitous police violence. NYPD Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona made news when he sucker-punched a guy in the face; Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna was captured on video dousing young women at random with pepper-spray—an act from which he appeared to derive some kind of sadistic enjoyment.
While those incidents garnered most of the attention, writes Michael Tracey, a report filed last week by human rights lawyers affiliated with the NYU School of Law and Fordham Law School says they were just two among many. The attorneys collected testimony about NYPD misconduct from hundreds of eyewitnesses. Their report, filed last week with local New York authorities, the Department of Justice, and the United Nations, asserts that the NYPD committed widespread human rights abuses, and are therefore in violation of international law.View this article
If all goes as planned, NASA's Curiosity rover will touch down on Martian soil late tonight. The mission is being partially billed as a step towards sending astronauts to the red planet. But as Robert Zubrin recently told ReasonTV, if NASA wants to explore other planets, they must first change their risk-adverse culture.
Here is the original text from the May 18, 2012 video:
"You're saying that you're going to give up four billion dollars to avoid a one in seven chance of killing an astronaut, you're basically saying an astronaut's life is worth twenty-eight billion dollars," says astronautical engineer and author Dr. Robert Zubrin.
Zubrin, the author of a popular and controversial article in Reason's space-centric February 2012 Special Issue, argues that the risk of losing one of the seven astronauts who repaired and rescued the Hubble Space Telescope was well worth it. "If you put this extreme value on the life of an astronaut...then you never fly, and you get a space agency which costs seventeen billion dollars a year and accomplishes nothing."
NASA's role, according to Zubrin, should be in the pursuit of ambitious missions such as "opening Mars to humanity," rather than a bloated, safety-obsessed bureaucracy. "The mission has to come first."
Runs about 3.50 minutes.
Produced by Anthony L. Fisher. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Josh Swain.
Most people believe that government must regulate the marketplace. The only alternative to a regulated market, the thinking goes, is an unregulated market. On first glance that makes sense. It’s the law of excluded middle. A market is either regulated or it’s not. But what’s overlooked, writes Sheldon Richman, is the fact that the alternative to a government-regulated economy is not an unregulated one. As a matter of fact, “unregulated economy,” like square circle, is a contradiction in terms. If it’s truly unregulated it’s not an economy, and if it’s an economy, it’s not unregulated. The term “free market” does not mean free of regulation. It means free of government interference, that is, legal plunder and other official aggressive force.View this article
"Celebrating the End of the Fairness Doctrine" is the latest offering from ReasonTV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more ReasonTV clips.View this article
Got raw milk? Increasingly that question appears difficult to answer in the affirmative.
For fans of raw milk and those who fight for food freedom in all its forms, the past year or two have been notable for several setbacks on the unpasteurized dairy front, including S.W.A.T. raids on food coops. But as Keep Food Legal President Baylen Linnekin explains, there’s still plenty of reason for optimism. After all, Linnekin writes, the case for food freedom is deeply grounded in history, liberty, and legal precedent.View this article
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants to warn you about "the biggest new spying program you've probably never heard of" at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).
Some of the grim details:
On March 22, 2012 the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Director of NCTC issued an update to the 2008 rules for handling information on US persons. These were radical changes (to see how different please check out redline comparison we did between the 2008 and 2012 guidelines).
The biggest change regards the NCTC’s handling of “non-terrorism” related information on US persons. Previously, the intelligence community was barred from collecting information about ordinary Americans unless the person was a terror suspect or part of an actual investigation. When the NCTC gobbled up huge data sets it had to search for and identify any innocent US person information inadvertently collected, and discard it within 180 days.....The 2012 guidelines eliminate this check, allowing NCTC to collect and “continually assess” information on innocent Americans for up to five years.
Once information is acquired, the new guidelines authorize broad new search powers. As long NCTC says its search is aimed at identifying terrorism information, it may conduct queries that involve non-terrorism data points and pattern-based searches and analysis (data mining). The breadth and wrongheadedness of these changes are particularly noteworthy. Not only do they mean that anytime you interact with any government agency you essentially enter a lineup as a potential terrorist, they also rely on a technique, datamining, which has been thoroughly discredited as a useful tool for identifying terrorists. As far back as 2008 the National Academy of Sciences found that data mining for terrorism was scientifically “not feasible” as a methodology, and likely to have significant negative impacts on privacy and civil liberties.
The government can also share any of that information with any other entity it wants, public or private. People who lived through the days after 9/11 might find all this familiar, and find the words "Total Information Awareness" echoing through their heads.
My blogging about Total Information Awareness, which we thought had gone away, and how it really hadn't, from back in 2004.
My 2010 American Conservative article about the government's increasing efforts and power in surveilling our electronic communications.
Ron Bailey from last year on the important cost-benefit question at the heart of these supersurveillance programs, one the goverment ignores: how much danger are we in from terrorism, anyway? (Not much.)
The ACLU has filed FOIA requests to learn more about how this info-sweep program is working.
ACLU fact sheet on the NCTC.
According to AP the amount of marijuana seized by government officials in 2011 has declined when it comes to marijuana grow ops, but increased in amount of bulk processed weed seized.
One thing is known: California, which provides the lion’s share of the millions of plants eradicated every year in the United States, saw a 46.5 percent drop in plants eradicated between 2010 and 2011, bringing down the nation’s overall numbers.
“You can’t attribute it to one factor,” said Casey Rettig, spokeswoman for Drug Enforcement Administration in San Francisco.
In 2010, authorities seized 10.32 million marijuana plants from outdoor and indoor growing operations, according to DEA data. By 2011, that number had dropped to 6.7 million plants — a 35 percent decrease.
In that same time span, 37 states saw their eradication results drop. Data for 2012 is not yet available.
One of the most dramatic shifts came from Idaho, which saw its eradication results shrink by more than 98 percent between 2009 and 2011 — from 77,748 plants to just 786. Although, the Caribou County sheriff’s office reported raiding a farm in southeast Idaho with 40,000 plants this week.
But while the number of plants eradicated has dropped, the number of pounds of bulked processed marijuana confiscated has increased from 53,843 pounds in 2009 to 113,167 pounds in 2011, the data collected by the DEA shows.
California killed 7.3 million weed plants in 2010, but 35 percent fewer in 2011. One reason for the drop may be the budget cuts to California's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP), which the state arm of the Department of Justice handles. Good old Governor Jerry Brown decided back in June that CAMP was mostly getting the axe. After 28 years of chopping down plants, including 4.3 million in 2011 alone, the program may be kaput.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has vowed to keep financing its part of the program, but since CAMP is operated by the state, the state’s money appears crucial for it to continue. CAMP’s 2010 operations cost taxpayers more than $3 million. The state contributed $1 million, and the D.E.A. contributed $1.6 million. The state budget for 2012 cuts $71 million from the Division of Law Enforcement, including the narcotics bureau.
The program lately has been serving as a protection of public parkland against large-scale grow ops, but obviously nobody would be growing huge plots in the middle of public parks if they could grow their own fields without fear. Libertarian VP candidate Judge Jim Gray gives a sensible shout-out to this notion:
The state’s advocates for legalizing marijuana say that the problem confronted by CAMP would not exist if marijuana were taxed and regulated like alcohol.
“Today, I assure you that Mexican drug cartels are not planting illegal vineyards in state parks to compete with Robert Mondavi,” said Jim Gray, a retired Orange County Superior Court judge who is supporting the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative that he hopes will be on the 2012 ballot.
There have also been budget cuts for the National Guard Helicopter often used to find marijuana fields. The Obama administration has also made tediously coy allusions to changing their tactics on the don't-call-it-a-drug-war if and when Obama gets a second term, but considering his first term history of drug warrioring, that seems like a tenuous promise indeed. Basically, number don't mean much in the drug war and whichever side you're on, this could either be proof that we're winning (nope) or that the drug wars (yep.)
But some Californians want to keep CAMP, at least a certain type does:
William Ruzzamenti, the director of the Central Valley High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, said growers could return to the parks in full force.
“We’ve really pounded these folks who are growing on public lands, and CAMP has been our chief hammer in doing that,” said Mr. Ruzzamenti, a former D.E.A. agent. “If they do go away, I can see these folks flooding back into the parks.”
The concern is especially acute because the parks are facing the same budget crisis; the state is set to close 70 parks and reduce staffing in many others.
It's not just former DEA agents, though. Once again, California public opinion displays less excitement over the prospect of marijuana legalization than you might expect. In March, only 46 percent of respondents to a Los Angeles Times poll said they were for it, which is four points under the national result that Gallup got in 2011.
With the euro-crisis threatening the economies of Europe, the United States, and Asia, the usual suspects are coming up for blame. Bankers and corrupt regulators face scorn from the left and much of the right. Yet those perhaps most responsible for the world's dismal economic future have names many would not recognize. Indeed, the people who have done the most to screw up Europe would be able to walk down almost any street in the world without being recognised. It's time to meet them!View this article
- Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson thinks marijuana will be legal by 2016 and that pot initiatives on the ballots in Washington State and Colorado are likely to pass in November.
- Maryland House speaker wants Internet gambling on the table for discussion at next week’s special legislative session. The state’s governor also isn’t ruling it out as part of a casino expansion bill.
- Negative rights: How do they work? The Justice Department is arguing that companies refusing to pay for employees’ birth control are somehow forcing their religious beliefs onto their workers.
- Detroit is even more dead than it appears. The city’s abandoned areas are becoming dumping grounds for murder victims.
- Porn star Jenna Jameson endorsed Mitt Romney for president while at a San Francisco strip club. Are there still speaking spots open at the convention?
- News that a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado had warned about James Holmes' behavior a month before the Aurora massacre has inevitably led to families of the victims considering suing the school.
- Ladies protest topless at the Olympics over Islamic nations’ treatment of their female athletes.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
The International Monetary Fund has warned of the need for a drastic "policy game changer" in the eurozone in order to address the spreading crisis. After consultations with numerous countries the IMF predicted that without further action the eurozone could see a five percent drop in output, while the developing world would see an increase worth billions of dollars in the need for future financial assistance. The announcement comes on the same day that the markets fell and then rose again after the European Central Bank’s plans were announced by Mario Draghi in an ambiguous statement. While many of the specifics of Draghi’s plans have yet to be clarified both Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti praised the ECB’s plan to support debt.
Rajoy announced today after a meeting with his cabinet that Spain was open to receiving financial aid, something that the Spanish government had been denying would even be necessary a matter of weeks ago. It is the closest that Rajoy has come to accepting that a bailout might be necessary. This comes months after Rajoy and government ministers have been dismissing the possibility of a bailout.
The Spanish government has submitted budget plans to the European Commission that claims to cut enough to make Spain eligible to assistance outlined in the European Stability Mechanism.
Up until today Rajoy was only continuing the tradition of denying that bailouts might be necessary or sought. Mario Monti denied that his own country might be in need of a bailout yesterday as he continued on his European tour.
Outside of the eurozone the Bank of England looks likely to continue with its program of quantitative easing in November. Pressure is increasing on the Bank of England and Prime Minister David Cameron’s government to look busy given new polling data and the recent growth figures that show that the UK has been in economic contraction for three consecutive quarters.
On our own side of the Atlantic the Fed has not ruled out more fiscal activism. In a press release released Wednesday the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System said:
The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments and will provide additional accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability.
Not quite sure what is being hinted at with “additional accommodation”, but it doesn’t sound at all reassuring.
Yesterday Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would stop the Justice Department from using civil asset forfeiture threats to close down medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating in compliance with state law. "For more than a year," Americans for Safe Access notes, "the DOJ has been engaged in a campaign to undermine the implementation of state law by threatening real property owners with asset forfeiture if they do not promptly evict their state law-compliant medical cannabis businesses." Many dispensaries in states such California, Colorado, and Washington have closed as a result of these threats. Lee's bill, the States' Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act, would add the following language to the Controlled Substances Act:
No real property, including any right, title, and interest in the whole of any lot or tract of land and any appurtenances or improvements, shall be subject to forfeiture under subparagraph (A) due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.
Deciding which conduct is authorized by state law may be trickier in California than in Colorado, but here's a crazy idea that might just work: Why not let state officials make that call? The Obama administration should have no problem supporting this bill, since it has repeatedly said the Justice Department won't be using its scarce resources to target state-authorized medical marijuana suppliers. Except that policy was never really carried out. Quite the opposite, in fact.
You might think legislation aimed at promoting federalism, protecting property rights, and curtailing asset forfeiture abuse would attract Republicans, but so far all the co-sponsors are Democrats. Drug warriors have been warning us for decades that marijuana impairs memory, and the clearest example is the way it makes conservatives forget their principles.
The New York Times followed up its report yesterday on the FBI’s ongoing leak investigation and the new anti-leaks measures that just passed the Senate Intelligence Committee with an editorial today explaining exactly what’s wrong with those proposed measures:
Under the measure, only the director, deputy director and designated public affairs officials of intelligence agencies would be permitted to “provide background or off-the-record information regarding intelligence activities to the media.” Briefings on sensitive topics by lower-level or career officials, who are not quoted by name, would be prohibited, shutting off routine news-gathering and exchanges that provide insight into government policies. None of these traditional press activities compromise the nation’s safety. There is no exception carved out for whistle-blowers or other news media contacts that advance the public’s awareness of government operations, including incidents of waste, fraud and abuse in the intelligence sphere.MORE »
The bill would even curtail the flow of unclassified information. It draws no distinction between information that is properly classified and the vast pile of information that poses no national risk but has been deemed secret thanks only to a dysfunctional system of overclassification of government documents.
It contains a constitutionally questionable provision that would prohibit a wide range of former government employees from providing paid commentary, including opinion articles, on “matters concerning the classified intelligence activities of any element of the intelligence community or intelligence related to national security.” Yet the bill, which would enhance senior officials’ ability to engage in politically motivated leaks, is not tailored to prevent disclosures truly harmful to national security. Those are already illegal under current law.
After more than a year of applying body-scanning technology without government oversight, the TSA may have to establish some formal rules and procedures for using the machines.
The infamous full-body scanners are used at 19 airports across the country. In 2010 the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of body scanners. The Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit ruled the following year that the TSA needed to create some comprehensive rules for body scanner use. And of course the TSA promptly ignored it.
After a year of the TSA doing absolutely nothing, the court has demanded that the TSA create some body-scan regulation.
With all of that in mind, Cato’s Jim Harper has created a “Require the Transportation Security Administration to Follow the Law!” petition on the White House website, which demands the TSA either make some rules about scanning, or cut it the hell out. If the petition has 25,000 signatures by next Thursday, the White House is comitted to respond formally. So sign it.
Here at Reason we highlight a lot of stories about law enforcement agencies that refuse, or are slow, to reprimand officers who abuse their powers. It's tempting, based on the first half of this report from the Tampa Bay Times, to praise the St. Petersburg Police Department for canning three cops who showed disregard for the law and the safety of the people they're tasked with protecting:
The board, chaired by St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon, fired Officer Mehmedin Karic, who struck and killed a man in a wheelchair with his police cruiser, and information technology employee Anthony Neese, who admitted to damaging a department laptop during a fight with his wife.
Another officer, Alex Falcon-Molina, resigned rather than face sanctions after the board found him responsible for a series of violations, including missing court-related matters.
Harmon said there are people in every organization who don't follow the rules.
"That's the reason we have these things," Harmon said. "To hold people accountable."
Neese was also viewing pornography on his computer, and Falcon-Molina falls into the category of cops who witness their colleagues do heinous crap and then provide cover. As for Karic: For killing someone while driving 61 MPH in a 40 mile-an-hour zone, he was fined $1,000, assigned 100 hours of community service, and lost his license for six months. He also lost his job. It's fair to say that if he hadn't been a cop, he probably would have lost his freedom.
So, kudos for losing those three. But the board also cleared two narcotics officers who reportedly kicked the crap out of a drug suspect who died several days later complaining of chest pains:
The detectives, whose names were redacted from a department memo because they work undercover, arrested Anthony "Tony" Welch Sr. while serving a search warrant Jan. 6.
Welch, 42, later complained that the detectives had kicked him during his arrest. On Jan. 10, after Welch's release from jail, he was taken to St. Anthony's Hospital and complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. He phoned the Police Department's internal affairs division from the hospital and reasserted his claims that the officers had kicked him. He died a few hours later.
An autopsy found that Welch died from natural causes resulting from a pre-existing condition, police said.
Writing at City Journal, Nicole Gelinas makes the case against the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the “consumer watchdog” formed in the wake of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. According to Gelinas, the bureau is “useless in some ways and deeply harmful in others.” She writes:
Some abuses that it was designed to curb have already been handled by existing federal agencies, while others are beyond its power to fix. The agency is equally incapable of remedying the worst ailment facing the American financial “consumer”: crushing debt, much of it purveyed by the federal government. Yet at the same time, Congress has given the CFPB the formidable power of banning abusive, unfair, deceptive, or discriminatory financial practices relating to Americans’ everyday financial interactions. Though that may sound appealing, remember how the government, by trying to do essentially the same thing with mortgages, lured poorer people into financial contracts that they couldn’t afford. The CFPB may do for credit cards and other financial products what the government did for mortgages: make the poor think that borrowing lots of money is perfectly reasonable. The CFPB, in sum, is Washington’s new weapon in its war for more debt.
Read the rest here.
I'm a visual learner, myself. I taught myself to lay tile and install a woodstove by reading how-to books and articles. So, break out the cattle prod! You can imagine my delight at coming across a real-live FBI manual to conducting Cross-Cultural, Rapport-Based Interrogation (PDF). Actually, nix the cattle prod. Unsurprisingly for a document marked "unlassified," this primer to interrogations conducted overseas offers no insights into waterboarding, bamboo splinters or other torture tactics. Those documents undoubtedly exist elsewhere, but this publication offers an interesting peek into how FBI agents are, we are told, supposed to arrange interviews, treat prisoners and use psychological methods to get detainees unmoored and induce them to bond with interrogators.
The ACLU is raising a bit of a fuss over the document's instructions for isolating prisoners, but even for somebody as authority-averse as yours truly, that raises a bit of a shrug. Perhaps I'm jaded, but after years of revelations about beatings and simulated drowning, private cells and solitary meals don't come off as especially red-flag-worthy.
Isolation of the detainee not only ensures the safety of other detainees but also prevents the individual detainee from drawing strength from the support and companionship of other detainees. It also prevents collusion on cover stories between detainees. A large part of the Interrogators advantage is the natural fear of the unknown that the detainee will be experiencing. Exposure to other detainees will mitigate that fear You may not be in position to influence how your subject is held but at minimum you should know if he has been held in communal cell prior to interrogation.
In order to create the optimum conditions for productive interview if the policy of the facility permits consider having your detainee placed in an individual cell several days before you begin interrogation ...
And, the document advises interrogators to modulate privileges as rewards for cooperation. That's not nice, but it's been business as usual for incarceration of any sort ever since Sumerian guards got to decide who got the extra juicy maggots in their gruel.
[A]ccess to anything above the baseline level of treatment provided to all detainees should be strictly controlled by the assigned Interrogator Granting this authority and control to the Interrogator places the Interrogator in position of power that can provide an advantage when crafting an approach strategy.
What's perhaps most interesting about the documet is the nuts and bolts banality of it. It includes information on the differences in social space between cultures and how that can influence interrogations. It also advises on the placement of interpreters in the interrogation room and, of course, extensive documentation of the questions to be asked and information to be sought.
There is also a standard "advice of rights," however reassuring that may be in some holding cell in ThirdWorldDumpistan.
I don't take Cross-Cultural, Rapport-Based Interrogation (PDF) as proof that the U.S. government and its allies are playing nice in their murky quests for information far from public view. But the document provides a valuable insight into how the government wants us to believe its interrogators are behaving.
Medical marijuana from Colorado has been confiscated in a few Midwestern states, according to a report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a taskforce composed of state, local, and federal law enforcement groups. The RMHIDTA spent two years (roughly the amount of time that's passed since Colorado's medical marijuana laws went into effect) gathering data and found all of...70 instances of illegal pot sales.
The Denver Post reports:
The review found more than 70 instances of the diversion of medical marijuana to criminal drug operations. In the report, the Drug Enforcement Administration suggested Colorado is on track to become a primary source of supply for high-grade marijuana throughout the country.
Colorado patients, caregivers and dispensaries all have diverted medical marijuana to illegal use in 23 states, according to the review.
"We felt it was probably being diverted, but didn't expect it to be this pronounced, especially with such a small-scale study," said Rocky Mountain HIDTA director Tom Gorman. "This is just the tip of the iceberg."
But Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado, said Colorado has the most complex and strict medical marijuana laws in the country. If medical pot is being sold illegally, he said, officials need to crack down on offenders.
"It's just disingenuous to say that marijuana didn't exist in other states and that all of a sudden it does because of medical marijuana laws in Colorado," Vicente said.
A Kansas cop pulled over a driver bound for Virginia with 10 pounds of medicinal pot he bought in Colorado, and people in Illinois are having the stuff shipped to them. These details are probably shocking if you were raised inside a cardboard box at DEA headquarters, or work for a local media outlet (but then, every detail has to be shocking when Craigslist and Youtube are eating your lunch).
One lawman told the Post that "instead of focusing on complex international drug cartels bringing cocaine into Colorado, the task force is dealing with numerous illegal marijuana cases." Well shit, guys. No one is making you crack down on reefer instead of transnational criminal organizations!
Vincente's point--that you could find pot in every hamlet, parish, subdivision, and commonwealth in America long before Colorado passed its medical marijuana laws--cannot be over-emphasized. Drugs are everywhere! All the time! Always have been! If anything, the DEA's report suggests that East Coast heds can smoke with a clean conscious: Their giggle weed was grown peacefully right here in America, and not by some Sinaloan wretch (though before you mount your high horse, remember that said wretch has a family to feed).
Of course legalizing pot in Colorado is going to lead to trafficking to states where pot is not legal. This happens with prescription pills, and with more politically acceptable substances. People in D.C. buy their cigarettes in Virginia. Manhattanites order their cigarettes from Native Americans. Residents of dry counties drive to wet counties. Where are the scare stories about intra-and inter-state trafficking of Marlboro Light 100s and box wine? (Please, newspaper man, do not write that story.)
"Hangover Heaven: The Vegas Hangover Cure on Wheels" is the latest offering from ReasonTV.
There’s still time to go run out to your local Chick-fil-A and make out with another dude or lady. That’s the response to Wednesday’s groundswell of support for the company, whose president has received criticism (as well as threats from politicians) due to his comments favoring traditional marriage.
There’s even more bad publicity for the gay marriage supporters, as a restaurant in Torrance, Calif., was vandalized, with “Tastes Like Hate” scrawled on the side.
Will this effort have any impact? Hmm. The Facebook page for the event has a grand total of 13,788 people listed as going. Compared to Wednesday’s apparent record-setting sales, this is not much of a response. People are invited to post their pictures on the page, but there’s only a handful so far.
Also, why would it have any impact? We’re talking about a company that deliberately reduces its own profit potential by closing one day a week. I’m not sure how exactly one might get the leaders of Chick-fil-A to completely reverse their positions on gay marriage, or if it’s even possible, but I’m fairly certain that boycotts and kissing aren’t going to do it.
In protest over his recent arrest, a Vermont farmer drove his 15-ton tractor over seven squad cars, the Burlington Free Press reported.
On July 3, Roger Pion was arrested for marijuana possession and resisting arrest. Just days before his arraignment, the 34-year-old drove what one cop described as “pretty much the biggest tractor you can find” over several police vehicles owned by the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department, crushing multiple cruisers.
“It’s more than half our fleet. We have 11 cars,” said Chief Deputy Sheriff Phil Brooks
Brooks said five of the damaged vehicles were marked cruisers, and two were unmarked, including a transport van. He said an eighth car, belonging to the department bookkeeper, was pushed out of the way in an effort to get at the cruisers. It had minor damage.
No word on whether the event has inspired Monster Jam to incorporate more NWA into its playlist.
The CDC reports, based on excise tax data, that per capita cigarette consumption in the U.S. fell by more than two-fifths from 2000 to 2011, while per capita consumption of "noncigarette combustible products" doubled. The shift, especially pronounced since Congress raised federal taxes on cigarettes, small cigars, and rolling tobacco in 2009, suggests that some smokers are switching from cigarettes to less expensive alternatives (though per capita consumption of all combustible tobacco products nevertheless dropped by 36 percent during this period). The CDC notes that sales of pipe tobacco rose by 573 percent between 2008 and 2011, while sales of "roll-your-own" tobacco, which is taxed at a higher rate, fell by 76 percent. "Because loose tobacco products are classified based on how they are labeled," the CDC says, "the loose tobacco tax disparity of $21.95 per pound led manufacturers to relabel roll-your-own tobacco as pipe tobacco and then market this relabeled pipe tobacco for roll-your-own use." (Yes, Americans are still permitted to roll their own cigarettes, although they probably won't be doing it in machine-equipped shops dedicated to that purpose anymore, thanks to a provision in the recently enacted highway bill that taxes smokes made in such stores at the same rate as ready-made cigarettes.)
Another way the market adapted to the tax hikes: Makers of "small cigars," subject to a relatively high tax because they are deemed close cigarette substitutes, found they could bulk them up slightly and thereby qualify for the "large cigar" category, which is taxed based on price rather than per unit. The result: "a new 'large cigar' [that] can appear almost identical to a 'small cigar,' which resembles a typical cigarette and can cost as little as 7 cents." From 2008 to 2011, small cigar consumption fell by 86 percent, while large cigar consumption rose by 126 percent.
Another advantage of cigars is that they are not subject to the federal ban on added flavors, which is supposedly aimed at making cigarettes less appealing to teenagers but targets products that have never been popular among teenagers. Prior to the ban on flavored cigarettes, which was part of the 2009 law that gave the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco, they accounted for less than 0.1 percent of the underage market. The one exception was menthol brands such as those sold by Philip Morris, which were exempt from the Philip-Morris-backed flavor ban and remain popular among teenagers. You may have noticed that since this law was enacted, paper-wrapped clove cigarettes have morphed into tobacco-wrapped clove cigars, which serve much the same function.
Cigarette smokers who switch to cigars or pipe tobacco will, as the CDC suggests, face essentially the same health risks if they do not cut back and continue to inhale (disease risks for cigar and pipe smokers are lower mainly because they tend to smoke less frequently and generally do not inhale). But from a consumer's perspective, these money-saving and product-preserving adaptations are a positive development. Which means they can only be viewed with alarm by the government, since they impede its plan to discourage consumption and limit choice (not to mention collect revenue). The CDC complains that "diminishing the public health impact of excise tax increases and regulation can hamper efforts to prevent youth smoking initiation, reduce consumption, and prompt quitting." It notes that the Government Accountability Office "recommends modifying federal tobacco taxes to eliminate large tax differentials between roll-your-own and pipe tobacco and small and large cigars." Repealing the recent tax hikes would do the trick, but that is probably not what the CDC has in mind.MORE »
After Tom Tait was sworn in as the mayor of Anaheim in November 2010, he issued a statement announcing the city’s commitment to “kindness and freedom.” Two years later, as Anaheim makes national news because of riots sparked by police shootings, Tait is in an unexpected situation of having to put his well-intentioned rhetoric into practice. How he and his city resolve the conflict—whether officials can restore civic order and erase images that look like they come from a war-torn nation rather than the home of the “Happiest Place on Earth”—might offer lessons for other cities throughout the country. For starters, writes Steven Greenhut, it’s time to reform the police and cut bureaucratic red tape.View this article
F.X. Feeney has written a remarkable essay on Gore Vidal's writing for film and television. The article is framed around Vidal's famous story of being brought in as a script doctor on Ben-Hur and deciding that what the story needed was a gay subtext; Feeney investigates the tale, which Ben-Hur star Charlton Heston always denied, and he makes a strong case that Vidal was telling the truth. But there's much more here, including the great irony of Vidal's early work: Blackballed for publishing a novel about a gay affair in 1948, back when the literary establishment did not smile on frank writing about same-sex liasons, the novelist saved his career by moving into the more disreputable but also much more influential zones of TV, Hollywood, and Broadway. There he was able to inject his ideas about sexuality into stories where far more people would encounter them, making mass culture rather than high culture the conduit for his dissent.
In Jared Diamond’s New York Times op-ed, he corrects Mitt Romney’s recent mischaracterization of Diamond’s well-known Germs, Guns, and Steel.
It is not true that my book “Guns, Germs and Steel,” as Mr. Romney described it in a speech in Jerusalem, “basically says the physical characteristics of the land account for the differences in the success of the people that live there. There is iron ore on the land and so forth.”
Point well taken; it reasons the author of a book would know best what he meant in his book. Yet, while Diamond criticizes Romney he overlooks an imprecise and debatable assertion in his own op-ed. He goes on to argue that despite some countries’ geographical limitations, they have become richer because “they’ve invested” or “they’ve focused” their economies on more profitable and beneficial sectors:
Some tropical and subtropical countries have become richer despite geographic limitations. They’ve invested in public health to overcome their disease burdens (Botswana and the Philippines). They’ve invested in crops adapted to the tropics (Brazil and Malaysia). They’ve focused their economies on sectors other than agriculture (Singapore and Taiwan).
Diamond suggests that what Botswana, the Philippines, Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan have done right is “they’ve invested” or “they’ve focused” their economy on the right things. This is incredibly imprecise because he fails to explain—who are the “they” and why do “they” get to choose for others what the country will focus on? How does this group know what to focus investments on and be sure they are carried out properly? And if they fail, how are they held accountable? For instance, when economic decision-making is centralized and centered in government, decision makers are less subject to competition.
An important question remains—do the individuals in these societies really need a select group of government bureaucrats deciding how their economies should be focused on their behalf? Should these select few (who are less subject to competition) have such power and control over so many resources to be able to steer an economy? Perhaps, this forced centralization of resources may engender the society’s dependence on government officials who control the resources.
Nevertheless, Diamond overlooks and obfuscates these issues by referring to the ambiguous “they” and assuming the “they” know best.
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- TSA service and attitudes should improve dramatically now that transportation security workers have won the go-ahead to unionize. Oh, wait ...
- Amtrak pissed away $833 million over the last decade on food and beverages, managing to spend $1.70 for every dollar that it took in.
- The United States government says it will resist efforts to give the United Nations control over the Internet.
- Look up! Now look down! That's right, the Brits are developing armed, underwater drones.
- The UN General Assembly is leaning on the UN Security Council to "do something" about Syria.
- Loathe to interrupt their country's long tradition of massive inefficiency, Spain's rail workers went on strike to protest privatization plans.
- After Chick-Fil-A's busiest day in history Wednesday, today gay marriage activists are planning a "kiss in" outside Chick-Fil-A restaurants nationwide.
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Colin Farrell’s new movie Total Recall is a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, which was likewise an inflation of a very short 1966 sci-fi story by Philip K. Dick. Dick’s knotty tale involves a man who longs to go to Mars, and also to be a super-spy. Knowing he’ll never be able to do those things, he decides to allow realer-than-real memories of them to be implanted in his brain. In the process of having this done he discovers that he has already been to Mars, and that he already is a super-spy. Brain-twisting reality complications ensue.
The new movie, writes Kurt Loder, directed by Len Wiseman (founder of the tedious Underworld franchise), tosses out the earlier film’s Mars element and ladles in some brazen cinematic appropriations—the trashed-out urban rainscape of Blade Runner, a herd of hard-shelled Star Wars-style storm troopers. If only Wisemen had borrowed some of those movies’ style and fun, or at least coherence.View this article
Henry Payne perfectly captures the hypocrisy of Vice President Joe Biden's recent trip to the Detroit public school system.View this article
From Carlos Miller's ever-valuable Photography Is Not a Crime comes news of a police officer whose surly personality underwent a This Old House-style renovation once a lens was pointed in his direction. The big surprise, of course, is that more public officials don't undergo such magical transformations when being recorded for posterity, but it's still impressive to see in action.
In a three-minute Youtube video, San Rafael police Sergeant Scott Eberle proves why we should never hesitate to record our interactions with police officers.
It started when a photographer, who asked not to be identified out of fear of police retaliation, stepped out of a restaurant July 24 and spotted an ambulance and some type of emergency situation.
Thinking a car had struck a bicyclist, he walked up and started snapping photos with his cell phone from a respectable distance.
He was immediately accosted by Eberle. ...
That was when the man switched his phone to video mode and lifted it to the cop’s face.
Eberle was suddenly all smiles.
“Are you video-ing or you’re taking a picture?” he asks twice.
To which, I should say, the only appropriate answer is: "Whichever one will bring out the brightest, shiniest smile!"
It seems pretty obvious that official behavior is likely to improve dramatically when it's clearly being monitored (and when the folks being monitored don't believe they can do anything about it). And, also, that it's about time we all got ourselves wired for video and audio for when we interact with the thin, blue line.
In my post today about a drug smuggling case that was dismissed with prejudice because of a federal prosecutor's tricky editing of a hearing transcript, I noted that one of the appeals court judges who heard the case was surprised to learn that the assistant U.S. attorney responsible for this egregious misrepresentation, Jerry Albert, was still employed by the Justice Department. That hearing was last November, so I wondered whether Albert was still prosecuting cases, half a year after the 9th Circuit recommended that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility investigate his misconduct and two months after the trial judge threw out the smuggling charges. That seems like an easy enough question to answer with a phone call, right? Wrong. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona, on whose behalf Albert prosecuted the smuggling case, won't tell me whether he still works there. Here is the response I received from William Solomon, the office's acting public affairs officer:
I cannot provide you personnel information for either current or former employees. If you would like to make a Freedom of Information Act request, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) processes all such requests for information from United States Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country. Specifically, Shirley Botts handles those requests. Her contact information is:
Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Unit
600 “E” Street, NW Room 7300
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
Have a nice afternoon.
Update: T-Bomb reports in the comments that a Pacer search shows "Jerry Albert is currently representing the government in 103 open cases in the District of Arizona." That was definitely faster than filing a FOIA request.
A journey of 800 miles begins with spending millions to relocate a small chunk of highway in the middle of Fresno. Via the Fresno Bee:
It's still not determined when shovels will start digging, but some of the first real construction on California's proposed high-speed train project could be done by the state's highway department.
The California High-Speed Rail Authority [CHSRA] on Thursday authorized its executives to ink an agreement with the California Department of Transportation to handle the design and execution of a 2.5-mile relocation of Highway 99 through central Fresno. The project could be worth up to $226 million. …
The agreement with Caltrans means the highway department will work as a contractor for the rail authority to relocate Highway 99 between Ashlan and Clinton Avenues in central Fresno. That is an area where the highway runs up against a Union Pacific Railroad yard, leaving no room to shoehorn the new high-speed train tracks into their proposed route alongside the freight tracks. Plans call for the highway to be moved west by about 100 feet.
Caltrans will be responsible for designing the project, which will displace a string of businesses that sit along the west side of the highway. A frontage road and three off-ramps also will be affected.
The chief executive officer of CHSRA, Jeff Morales, appointed in May, is a former Caltrans head. That’s not really the fun part, though. Obviously, any construction where roads were going to be shifted was going to have to involve Caltrans.
Here’s the fun part:
The authority's board, however, was shorthanded for the vote following the resignation of board member Russ Burns. Burns, business manager for the Operating Engineers Union Local 3, sent his resignation letter to board chairman Dan Richard on Monday.
Burns, who also is a vice president of the International Union of Operating Engineers, was appointed to the rail authority's board in late 2009 by then-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, for a term that was to run through the end of 2013.
Now that Burns has brought home the bacon for his unions he doesn’t need the board anymore. He actually makes no bones about it at all in his resignation letter (pdf):
I will continue to work tirelessly as an advocate from my position of leadership at Local 3 and within the larger, statewide labor community. I will be working with my partners, many of them contractors who will end up working with the project, to help make sure the high speed rail is built and built right here in California.
And at twice the cost of what a French company proposed in 2010, when they suggested running the rail parallel to Interstate 5 and bypassing Fresno entirely to create a shorter, faster route – a route that probably wouldn’t have created nearly as many union jobs.
Today’s report from the New York Times about the FBI’s ongoing investigation into leaks about America’s cyber attacks on Iranian computer systems, a foiled terror plot in Yemen, as well as the president’s drone war “kill list” describes a chilling effect that’s come as a result. From the Times:
“People are being cautious,” said one intelligence official who, considering the circumstances, spoke on condition of anonymity. “We’re not doing some of the routine things we usually do,” he added, referring to briefings on American security efforts and subjects in the news.
And legislation is working its way through the Senate that would formalize a clampdown:
The legislation approved last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee would reduce to a handful the number of people at each agency permitted to speak to reporters on “background,” or condition of anonymity; require notice to the Senate and House intelligence committees of authorized disclosures of intelligence information; and permit the government to strip the pension of an intelligence officer who illegally discloses classified information.
Stripping pensions is a big deal, given all the circumstances in which disgraced government employees get to keep theirs. Congressmen can do prison time and still collect princely benefits. BUT DON’T TALK TO THE PRESS.MORE »
At the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog, Matt Zwolinksi discusses a wonderful new podcast from historian Steve Davies devoted to “Forgotten Libertarians of American History.” Zwolinksi pays particular attention to Edward Atkinson, a New England textile manufacturer and tireless champion of individualism in the second half of the 19th century:
He was, for starters, the founder of the tremendously important Anti-Imperialist League, an organization founded in 1899 to combat American militarism abroad. The League counted as members such luminaries as Mark Twain and William Graham Sumner....
But Atkinson was far from a single-issue activist. He was, in contrast, a vigorous and fairly consistent supporter of individual liberty across the board, whether it took the form of campaigning for free trade or pushing for the abolition of slavery. On that latter issue, and to give you a sense of the radicalism of which he was capable – Atkinson actually drew on his business experience to finance John Brown’s famous raid on Harper’s Ferry!
Read all about it here.
In Louisiana, there's a new voucher system to help poor kids get out of failing schools. Students who come from households with income below 250 percent of the poverty line who are enrolled in public schools that have been rated C, D, or F by the state accountability system are eligible for a Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence—a voucher they can apply toward tuition at a private school of their choice.
In other words, the state is offering vouchers to kids who have been well and truly screwed by the system.
Needless to say, the teachers unions aren't thrilled about the prospect of kids bailing out of schools under union control and taking their funding with them. The union sued, but on July 10, a Baton Rouge court refused to stop the law from going into effect, so the teachers union launched Plan B: Bully private schools by sending them threatening legal letters, so that they will be afraid to accept students bearing the new vouchers. The union's lawyers, Blackwell & Associates, sent out nastygrams to 95 private schools. Here's some sample text from the letters, which were sent out last week.
The letter referenced in the text above is a notification to the state superintendent of school notifying him that parents trying to enroll their kids in a private school using the voucher will be refused.
School choice champion Clint Bolick, Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute in Arizona sums up the outrageousness of this tactic nicely:
In over two decades of school choice advocacy, I’ve never seen thuggery of this magnitude. What the unions can’t accomplish in the courtroom, they’re trying to achieve through bullying schools whose only offense is offering educational opportunities to children who need them.
- The tyranny of Olympic training in China: The father of Olympic gold medalist Wu Minxia concealed for a year that her grandparents had died more than a year ago so as not to disrupt her training. She also hadn’t been told her mother had been fighting breast cancer for years.
- A GOP filibuster has blocked the Cybersecurity Act. Opponents said the bill gives the government too much authority over business practices.
- Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has given up on Syria, resigning as international peace envoy to the nation as the civil war grows more and more intense.
- The Russian trial of the punk band Pussy Riot for singing an anti-Putin song has the nation fascinated. The all-girl group faces seven years in prison for hooliganism.
- Chick-fil-A claims record-setting sales due to day of support Wednesday for the company leader’s views on “traditional marriage.”
- The latest victim of the nasty, dangerous SWAT-team “prank”: Miley Cyrus. (H/t to Hit & Run commenter and linkmaster SugarFree)
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"Cops with Machine Guns: The Killing of Michael Nida" is the latest offering from ReasonTV.
It’s no secret the U.S. Supreme Court has often been a disappointment to libertarians. Whether the justices are giving the green light to eminent domain abuse, securing absolute immunity for dissolute prosecutors, or rubber-stamping the latest power grab from Washington, the Court routinely fails to live up to James Madison’s famous description of the judicial branch as “an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive.”
But that doesn’t mean the High Court always gets it wrong, writes Senior Editor Damon Root. Here are 10 Supreme Court decisions still standing where the Court put individual liberty and limited government first.View this article