Recent polls from USA Today/Gallup and the Washington Post/ABC News and recent coverage of these polls demonstrate tepid support for Republican Vice Presidential nominee and House Rep. Paul Ryan. However, a closer look at these polls suggests the Ryan narrative has not yet solidified.
Among those who have heard of Paul Ryan, slightly more Americans think Ryan is an “only fair” or “poor” Vice Presidential choice, compared to a “pretty good” or “excellent” choice by a margin of 42 to 39 percent. Although this is a slim margin, vice presidential candidates typically enjoy a much wider margin of support. For instance, Sarah Palin enjoyed a +9 point margin, Joe Biden a +14 point margin, and John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, and Dick Cheney enjoyed margins of +36, +25, and +21 respectively.
According to Gallup a clear majority, 58 percent, of Americans has never heard of Paul Ryan. Although John Edwards, Dick Cheney, Jack Kemp, and Al Gore had a great deal more support than Ryan, only about a third of the country had never heard of them. This suggests that both the Romney and Obama campaigns have a clear incentive to take great efforts to shape the initial public perception of Ryan as a means to reposition the presidential debate.
Although Ryan does not carry a spectacular or distinctive amount of support overall compared to other Democratic and Republican Vice Presidential picks, his favorability did increase after the announcement. As the Washington Post/ABC News poll demonstrates, Paul Ryan’s margin of favorable-to-unfavorable leapt from -10 percent to positive 6 percent. For Republicans, this margin jumped from +34 to +49. For Independents, the margin shifted from negative to positive, from -9 to +7. In other words, Ryan favorability among Independents doubled. These shifts do not likely result from changing minds, but rather more Americans who had not previously heard of Ryan, passing a positive judgment of him.
While NBC’s David Gregory, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ President Robert Greenstein , and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow condemn Paul Ryan’s proposals as “draconian,” “radical,” or “extreme,” others such as Reason’s Nick Gillespie and Jesse Walker and the Cato Institute’s, Gene Healy have argued Paul Ryan’s plans are neither radical nor draconian when put into context. Nevertheless others such as RedState’s Erick Erickson and the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board applaud Ryan’s efforts and audacity to propose concrete solutions to real problems. Over the next few months, these arguments will continue, amplify, and evolve and will likely shape the 2012 presidential narrative.
Athletes competing in the United Kingdom have their earnings on endorsement deals taxed by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, the British tax collector. How did the London Games manage to attract some of the world’s best athletes anyway? With an exemption on that tax, of course. Thus Usain Bolt, who hadn’t competed in England for three years, appeared at the Olympics but says he’s not coming back until the tax laws are loosened. And he’s not the only one. Via The Telegraph:
In 2010 Bolt pulled out of the Aviva London Grand Prix because of his stance on UK tax, instead deciding to compete in Paris - for which he was paid $250,000.
His agent, Ricky Simms, said at the time that British tax law "has kept a lot of the big stars in other sports away from Britain".
Tennis star Rafa Nadal pulled out of this year's Aegon Championship at Queen's Club due to the UK's tax demands. He opted to compete in the Gerry Weber Open at Halle in Germany, where he received a reported £750,000.
"The truth is, in the UK you have a big regime for tax, it's not about the money for playing," Nadal said last year. "They [HMRC] take from the sponsors, from Babolat, from Nike and from my watches. This is very difficult. I am playing in the UK and losing money. I did a lot more for the last four years, but it is more and more difficult to play in the UK."
The British tax on non-resident athletes competing there has brought in about $100 million a year, with about $12 million of that coming from the endorsement tax that kept Nadal from preparing for Wimbledon in Britain itself and caused Bolt to re-iterate his boycott of competing in the country.
A corporate-funded anti-science campaign against an overwhelming scientific consensus has managed to get itself as an initiative onto California’s November ballot. The corporate sponsors are working closely with unaccountable special interest groups in a disinformation campaign designed to frighten and confuse voters. Leading politicians have endorsed this scaremongering attack on the scientific consensus. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey reveals the culprits behind California's Proposition 37: The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act ballot initiative.View this article
A Kansas defense attorney reports:
I had a jury trial this morning on level 3 possession with intent MJ, level 4 possession drug paraphernalia and level 10 no drug tax stamp. During voir dire, my almost all white, middle-class, middle-aged jury went into full rebellion against the prosecutor stating that they wouldn't convict even if the client's guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt -- almost all of them! They felt marijuana should be legalized, what he does with it is his own business and that the jails are already full of people for this silly charge. Then, when the potential jurors found out that the State wanted him to pay taxes on illegal drugs, they went nuts. One woman from the back said how stupid this was and why are we even here wasting our time. A "suit" from the front said this was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard. The prosecutor ended up dismissing the case. Judge gave me a dismissal with prejudice. I'm still laughing my ass off over this one. I have NEVER seen a full on mutiny by an entire jury pool before. Easiest win ever!
Not quite jury nullification, but close. Something similar happened in Montana a couple of years ago.
On Monday, Facebook overturned a ban on marijuana policy ads, reports the Electronic Freedom Foundation.
The EFF, along with the ACLU of Northern California, reached out to the social media giant last week, urging executives to reconsider a ban that prohibited marijuana reform advocates from placing ads on the so-called politically neutral site. It turns out that Facebook's ad policy, which forbids promoting "any illegal activity, such as the saie of marijuana," also blocked groups such as Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Just Say Now—groups that used images of pot leaves to promote a political message. Beginning in August 2010, Facebook started yanking ads from the Just Say Now campaign, and later rejected them all together.
Both the EFF and the ACLU caught wind of the story after an online petition calling for an overturn of the ban reached over 15,000 signatures. A couple of discussions with Facebook executives later, and the EFF now reports that pot policy ads will finally run on the website:
EFF and the ACLU of Northern California reached out to Facebook to draw more internal attention to the fact that the company was censoring speech that was clearly political in nature. Facebook confirmed that the ads were erroneously rejected, that they do not violate Facebook’s policies, and that they would be quickly reinstated. EFF is pleased by Facebook’s prompt action to correct this error and we applaud its ongoing commitment to providing a politically neutral platform for political discussion in the approaching election season. However, given this error, and the need for our intervention, we also urge Facebook to carefully audit its ad review program to ensure that similar legitimate speech is not censored from its network.
- Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder and international lightning rod for controversy, has been granted asylum in Ecuador. Travel tip: Try the pisco sours.
- Vice President Joe Biden warned Virginia that Republicans would put Americans "back in chains." It's about time the GOP dropped that indentured servitude plank.
- Over 2,000 millionaires collected federal unemployment benefits in 2009, says the Congressional Research Service. But the budget has been cut to the bone.
- "This guy is amazing," is how Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles once described Paul Ryan. Hmmm ... I wonder if that will come up during the campaign.
- The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs funded a non-existent fish hatchery for 14 years even after visiting the site and not finding it there.
- In what appears to be a delayed bout of finger-pointing, Norwegians are calling on Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to step down over the handling of Anders Behring Breivik's mass murders.
- A dog shot in the head and pepper-sprayed by the NYPD is still alive. You're losing your touch, guys.
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analysis by Kaiser Health News shows hospitals serving the highest proportion of poorer patients facing the largest reductions in Medicare reimbursement payments under a new rule penalizing hospitals that re-admit some patients within 30 days. The penalty maxes out at 1 percent. New Jersey’s hospitals are hardest hit, with all but two in the state facing penalties. The average penalty for New Jersey is .67 percent, the highest in the Kaiser analysis.An
Though the penalty is a low percentage, it will cost more than 2,000 hospitals nationwide a total of $280 million in its first year. That number is small fries compared to another ObamaCare rule that threatens up to $10 billion in funding by 2019 to the same kind of hospitals that service a larger amount of poor patients; that rule cuts in half current reimbursements to hospitals that treat uninsured patients, including illegal immigrants, who are also barred under ObamaCare from purchasing insurance through healthcare exchanges the laws sets up.MORE »
Writing at the Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas journal, New York University law professor Richard Epstein explains why the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “will hurt the very people it’s supposed to help.” He writes:
Now that the Supreme Court has held President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) constitutional, mounting evidence suggests that the statute’s most ardent defenders may well come to rue the day. During the legal struggles over the ACA, its defenders both on and off the Supreme Court took for granted the proposition that the law would deliver on its major promise, which was to extend affordable coverage to the over 47 million people who now lack healthcare insurance, without disrupting the protection that others currently enjoy.
Unfortunately, these bold pronouncements failed to take into account the old and powerful economic law of unintended consequences. Sometimes these are positive, which is why the selfish actions of ordinary individuals in competitive markets prove socially beneficial. Adam Smith said that each individual “is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.” But those unintended consequences often turn bad in connection with the many forms of government regulation that limit the scope of contractual freedom, which the ACA does in a big way.
The result may turn into an Obamacare quagmire. Public officials, at both the federal and the state level, are grappling with the Herculean task of implementing the law. Its internal complexity and flawed design make it a program that was built to fail.
Read the whole thing here.
"Libertarian Party Candidate Gary Johnson on Voting Libertarian For One Election" is the newest offering from ReasonTV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions. and more Reason TV clips.View this article
Both I right here yesterday (I'm a Rand fan and historian, but not a full-fledged Objectivist) and Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic have been counseling the world of pundits and political professionals that it doesn't make a lot of sense to lay the burden (or the benefits) of Ayn Rand on Paul Ryan. But we are just outsiders looking in. Let's let the true believers at the Objectivist Standard lay out for you as well why Ryan does not equal Rand:
Politically, whereas Rand was a proud defender of pure, laissez-faire capitalism, Ryan supports a mixture of freedom and government controls—including a robust welfare state. Here are but a few of the political differences between Ryan and Rand:
- Ryan wants to “save and strengthen Medicare,” protect Social Security, and provide a “minimum standard of living” (i.e., welfare). Rand advocated phasing out all such programs and ultimately abolishing the welfare state.
- Ryan wants to outlaw abortion on religious grounds. Rand recognized a woman’s right to abortion and condemned those who deny this right.
- Ryan supported the bank and auto bailouts. Rand opposed forced redistribution of wealth in all circumstances.
- Ryan wants to slow the growth of government spending. Rand advocatedradical cuts in government spending with the ultimate goal of reducing government to only the courts, the military, and the police.
As a consequence of his basic philosophic beliefs, Ryan’s political views are radically opposed to those of Rand.
Will this pre-empt the SuperPAC ads undoubtedly in development right now trying to scare people off the Republican ticket with quotes from, or gross misrepresentations of, Ayn Rand? Probably not. But now you know better.
When I lived in New York City, it was pretty common to hear somebody say, "I could never date a Republican." The speaker wasn't necessarily political at all, and rarely ideological in any real sense. But, in trendy, educated circles in New York City, Republicans were an alien "other," and you could firm up your tribal bona fides by declaring your unwillingness to engage in romantic relations with a significant percentage of the population for political and ideological reasons. So, I guess a piece in New York magazine comparing freshly minted Republican vice-presidential aspirant Paul Ryan to "your annoying libertarian ex-boyfriend," means those of us described by the other "L" word have transitioned from geeky policy nerds to the new forbidden fruit.
In New York Magazine, Ann Friedman warns against the ideological lurker in the romantic landscape that is Ryan:
In the dating world, an infatuation with Ayn Rand is a red flag. You might not see it right away: Your date is probably conventionally attractive, decidedly wealthy, and doesn’t really talk politics. But then you get back to his apartment, set your bag down on his glass-topped coffee table, give his bookshelf the once-over — and find it lined with Ayn Rand.
You think back to your conversation at the bar: He treated flirtation like a conquest, a rationally self-interested sexual manifest destiny. He had some dumb pickup-artist questions and maybe a questionable accessory (a cravat? a fedora? a weird pinky ring?) but you overlooked these things, because he was quite charming.
But that dog-eared copy of Atlas Shrugged tells you everything you need to know. He sees himself as an objective iconoclast. He's unapologetically selfish, because it's only rational, he says. Sure, he grew up with money but he worked to get where he is today. He’s all about individual responsibility but he just isn’t, metaphorically, into wearing protection.
This is the part where you collect your shoes and bag and GTFO. ...
Like the stealth-libertarian date, Ryan has managed to set himself up as an underdog, a savvy and “courageous” hero railing against the status quo, even though his policy proposals would hasten our trip down the path we’re already on, creating even greater inequality. He might look cute from across the bar, but we already know what’s on his bookshelf at home. And guys like him never get a second date.
Never mind that Paul Ryan makes a lousy stand-in for a libertarian, with an awful record on civil liberties, peace and restraining government spending that puts him, in real terms, well inside the inch-and-a-half of the ideological spectrum considered to represent respectable opinion by the threadbare editorial boards of the East Coast. He's at the smaller-government end of that spectrum, and he occasionally quotes Ayn Rand (when he's not fleeing from her). That makes him a "libertarian" and therefore off-limits to true-blue tribalists.
By the way, among the perfectly acceptable dating options in the social circles in which I moved during my New York days were several obnoxious socialists, a snotty Trotskyite and a self-described nihilist who is now doing time for a high-profile violent crime. Yes, these are stand-out memories from a large group of otherwise perfectly decent human beings with a wide range of viewpoints. But, by contrast, even if it connects me with Paul Ryan, I think I kind of like Friedman's take on libertarians as incarnations of sinister, alternate-universe Bruce Waynes.
Ann ... Ann ... Look into the dollar-sign pupils of my eyes. You know you can't resist ...
Canada's National Post today excerpts chapter one of my recent book Ron Paul's Revolution today.
It's an interesting time to call back to the beginnings of the modern Ron Paul movement in 2007, as this excerpt does, as the hopes of his fans for direct and clear national influence on the Republican Party this go-round are coming a-cropper, even though Paul more than doubled his raw vote totals and percentages from the 2008 run to the 2012 run. Paul's political director Jesse Benton tells the Tampa Tribune that Paul will not seek to be nominated from the floor at the Republican National Convention this month, and Paul's campaign manager John Tate emails a press release (which I could not find online this morning, but which is quoted at length in this blog entry by Paul campaign advisor Doug Wead) in which he laments that:
The Committee on Contests recently issued a ruling on the establishment’s challenge to Ron Paul’s delegates and alternates who were duly elected in Maine, and on our challenges to the outright cheating that occurred in Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Oregon (alternates only).
Despite Ron Paul’s supporters being so clearly in the right in these four states, the establishment is so far refusing to rule fairly and seat our duly elected delegates and/or alternates.
The Party establishment will fight the Paul people, just like it fought the Goldwater kids in 1960. But being young, energetic, and correct about the future of the country can beat being old, sclerotic, and dedicated to a doomed and destructive status quo.
Seven days ago, author David Eggers announced the creation of a website dedicated to reelecting President Obama. The website is called "90 Days, 90 Reasons," and its goal is to provide 90 "daily reasons—concrete, factual, plain—to re-elect Barack Obama...[and] likely outcomes of a Romney presidency." I wanted to wait a while before declaring this project the most pretentious piece of Team Blue propaganda of the campaign season, but after today's entry by Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg, I'm calling the fight.
Eisenberg's entry is titled "PRESIDENT OBAMA UNDERSTANDS THE WORLD WRIT LARGE," and it goes like this:
I'm traveling through Mongolia and currently staying in a yurt. This was not by choice; I'm with persuasive friends. If it were up to me I'd never leave my apartment and, more specifically, the bedroom area. But my comforts have given me a nagging sense of discomfort. I think traveling and seeing how other people live, even if I’m not totally immersing myself, assuages some of my unease because it re-sensitizes me to the difficulties and existential inconveniences that most other people face. In this way, I think Barack Obama is a good leader for our diverse country because he's seen how the world lives. It doesn't take a lot to realize that seeing the world forces you to interact with it in a different way and I know that I feel more comfortable being represented by someone who's seen it.
That's it. That's Eisenberg's case that Obama understands foreign policy. He's in a yurt with wifi and Obama has visited a lot of foreign countries.
Dave Eggers, who published this turd of a paragraph, should know better. Apparently, he does not. In his introduction of 90 Days, 90 Reasons at the vaunted web magazine McSweeney's, Eggers wrote:
Republican leadership is not better for the economy than Democratic leadership. Bill Clinton brought the country eight years of peace and eight years of prosperity. George W. Bush brought two wars, crippling recession, and engendered a tangible, unshakeable feeling of national malaise. Two wars and a recession will do it every time.
President Obama inherited all this. And he’s done a very good job of trying to get us out of the hole Republican leadership put us in. The economy is in better shape now than it was in 2008—that is beyond debate. He ended the war in Iraq and he’s nearly finished our role in Afghanistan. And he accomplished what Bush’s two wars were meant to do: he removed the threat of Osama bin Laden.
A few minor corrections: Actually, Clinton did embroil us in international conflict, in a little country called Bosnia. Clinton claimed that if the U.S. did not intervene, the Bosnian War would destabilize all of Europe, which would hurt the U.S. If that argument sounds familiar, it's because Obama used it to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, which--thanks to our help--is now mired in tribal anarchy just elected its first interim president, one week after armed men attacked a Red Cross outpost for the fifth time in three months. Furthermore, Bush did not invade Iraq to kill bin Laden, but rather to find nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. This does not excuse the war, which was a terrible, terrible idea made possible by the Democratic Party and The New York Times, but facts do matter.
As for all that jazz about Obama ending all the warzzzz? Here's FireDogLake on the "end" of the Iraq War in December 2011:
The NYT, which played a key propaganda role in getting us into the Iraq war, has a 1000-word article telling us the Iraq war has officially been declared over.
And while it is true that the Administration had a
campaign eventdog and pony show yesterday declaring the war over, it is not.
After all, Rand Paul tried to formally, legally end the Iraq war last month. And 67 Senators refused to do so.
Credulous journalists may want to accept the Administration’s propaganda about the Iraq war ending. But until we take the expanded powers given to the President pursuant to a vile propaganda campaign away from him, the Iraq war is not over. And Obama should not be able to use it as a campaign line until he actually gives up those powers.
Obama still has troops and U.S. military contractors in Iraq, and plans to have them in Afghanistan--in some form or another--indefinitely. He is flying predator drones over Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and he is using them to kill teenagers with brown skin, under the auspices that any Muslim male old enough to grow pubic hair is old enough to die for the uncommitted future sins of men with similar religious convictions. He has murdered American citizens without giving them the increasingly quaint benefit of due process (negative rights are atavistic, don't you know). He has shipped weapons to the Bahraini government, so that it may murder more of its people. His DEA agents have killed pregnant women in Honduras, and violated the rights of innocent men and women right here at home. Also? Obama is open to the idea of bombing Iran. It hasn't happened yet, but it could.
Eisenberg's foray into this Team Blue circle jerk is excusable; his job, after all, is pretending to be people who know things, not actually knowing the things those people supposedly know. Dave Eggers, on the other hand, is a writer and a public intellectual. Maybe he should know these things, I think?
For more blood-boiling tribalism from 90 Days, 90 Reasons, see "Obama teaches us to believe hope can lead to real change" and "President Obama faced down the GOP and the health industry to finally reform American healthcare." Yes, the "health industry."
The War on Cameras -- an evergreen topic here at Reason -- has attracted the attention of The New York Times. From an interview today with Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association:
Q: What's caused this?
A: It's been a perfect storm. There's 9/11, and now photojournalists who traditionally worked for newspapers are losing their jobs and becoming freelancers who may not have the backing of their news organizations. You have Occupy Wall Street, where police didn't want some of their actions to be photographed. And now everybody with a cellphone is capable of recording very high-quality images. And everyone has the ability to upload and share them almost instantly.
The law is on the photographer's side, Osterreicher stresses, but police often get away with evading the law:
What we're seeing is photographers being charged with disorderly conduct, trespass and obstruction of governmental administration for doing their job. I call it the catch and release program. Almost always the D.A. will drop the charges immediately. But in the meantime, the police have managed to stop the person from photographing.
And then there's this reminder that a right many officials would deny to the public is one that the state has no qualms about claiming for itself:
If you're in public, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. That's the difference between what is public and what is private. It's the reason that all those security cameras that are on every city street are allowed to photograph us, because when we're out in public we have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
The whole conversation is worth reading.
Update: Make that worth reading again. Looks like Lucy Steigerwald already blogged this. Apologetic apologies for the redundant redundancy.
On Monday afternoon, Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio made a campaign appearance at a Miami juice shop, giving brief speeches and filming an ad. Of interest: The shop’s owner was a convicted cocaine smuggler. Francisco Alvarado at the Miami New Times got the scoop Monday morning:
The Republican presidential candidate is holding an afternoon rally at Palacio de los Jugos (7085 Coral Way), which is owned by Reinaldo Bermudez, who served three years in federal prison after pleading guilty in 1999 to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Bermudez, AKA "El Guajiro," was a member of 12-person ring that was busted in 1997 for attempting to smuggle more than a ton of yeyo disguised as fish and soap into three South Florida ports. According to Bermudez's indictment, some of his co-conspirators had nicknames straight out of a Hollywood movie, like "Ali Baba," "Skeletor," "Buckwheat," and "Stump."
The plot twist about this appearance is that this wasn’t an embarrassing vetting mistake. The Romney campaign knew about Bermudez’s background and did it anyway:
Reached by telephone, Bermudez tells Banana Republican that the Secret Service vetted everything about him when the Romney campaign asked to use his fruit and vegetable stand, one of several he owns in Miami-Dade.
"They absolutely knew about my record," Bermudez says. "The Secret Service checked everything. [The conviction] was not a problem. Everybody deserves a second chance."
As a convicted felon, Bermudez will not be able to vote, and that’s not likely to change even if Romney wins:
In January, during a Republican presidential debate, then-candidate Rick Santorum pushed Romney to make the following statement about ex-convicts who have served their time. "I don't think people who have committed violent crimes should be allowed to vote," Romney said.
The Associated Press picked up the story but didn’t really do much with it. The Romney campaign did not respond to calls for comment, a big disappointment. This campaign stop was genuinely interesting. Yeah, there’s absolutely zero chance that Romney would have had anything interesting to say about the drug war (and we’re talking about cocaine, when it’s still a struggle to get politicians who have actually smoked marijuana to stop arresting people for it). Reuters got pictures from the event, but oddly, didn’t report Romney’s comments. Romney’s blog has a video from a speech earlier in the day elsewhere in Florida, but not Miami. It would not surprise me if it were fundamentally the same speech.
For the first time in this campaign, though, I actually wanted to know the thinking behind Romney and his team, and now nobody wants to talk about it. Does personal enterprise trump the eternal evil eye of judgment some conservatives toss at any (non-white-collar) ex-cons they encounter? Does he at least believe in drug sentencing reform? Am I overthinking it, and there was just a communication breakdown? And what does it mean that this incident that might have ended up as a scandal (not that it should have been, mind you) was barely a blip during the media vetting of veepstakes winner Rep. Paul Ryan?
Excited about Rep. Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate? Gene Healy puts the pin to your balloon.
Ryan was a loyal soldier throughout the free-spending George W. Bush years, voting for No Child Left Behind and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, among other debacles. At the dawn of the Tea Party, Ryan lent his support to the auto and bank bailouts. He voted for TARP and gave "one of the most hysterical speeches" demanding others do the same, as Michelle Malkin observed in 2009.
As Newsweek's Eli Lake explains, Ryan "tilts the ticket closer to the neoconservatives" on defense policy. Indeed, Ryan voted for the Iraq War in 2002—and against winding down the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2011.
But that's not all.View this article
It doesn’t look like August 14 is a great news day for Europe. Three news items in particular have been making headlines. As per usual, there is not much good news.
In the second quarter the economy of the Eurozone as a whole shrank 0.2 percent compared to the April to June quarter. Some countries have managed some growth, with Germany reporting GDP growth of 0.3 percent thanks to strong exports. France, typically portrayed as one of the stronger players in the eurozone, reported zero percent growth. Portugal and Italy were among the hardest hit by the eurozone’s struggling economy, reporting growth figures of -1.2 and -0.7 percent respectively.
Spain’s crisis continues to worsen, with borrowing from the European Central Bank reaching a record $463 billion in July, up 11 percent from what was borrowed in June. President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi has said that Spain can apply for bailout assistance from the bailout fund established by eurozone members, however Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said that he will wait for the ECB to outline its conditions before he makes a decision.
In other news from Spain Rajoy confirmed that on August 24 the cabinet would meet in order to extend a welfare policy that allows the unemployed to claim payments of $494 a month.
Inflation in the United Kingdom is up to 2.6 percent. The rise is being blamed on a rise in the cost of airfares and a fall in the number of discount stores. The announcement comes shortly after the Bank of England announced another round of quantitative easing. Inflation could continue to rise if food prices, particularly grain and sugar, continue to increase due to bad harvests. Oil prices could also contribute to a rise in inflation. Although the rise in inflation is worrying some are claiming it is only a “blip”, as the trend in the UK for the last few years has been for inflation to go down. British inflation has not dropped below two percent in years, and the United States is currently enjoying an inflation rate of less than two percent. Given that context maybe British economists should be a little more wary.
Watch in horror as First Lady and Food Cop in Chief Michelle Obama forces Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas—who, by the way, won two gold medals at the Olympics—to apologize for eating an Egg McMuffin after winning two gold medals at the Olympics.
I guess these are the kind of horrors that occur when you don't ban McDonald's from sponsoring the Games.
JAY LENO: You trained your whole life, you win. How did you celebrate? What did you do?
GABBY DOUGLAS: We didn't have time to celebrate. It was team finals and had to turn the page all-around finals and event finals after that. But, after the competition, I splurged on an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s.
LENO: Egg McMuffin.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, Gabby, we don't, don't encourage him. [Laughter] I'm sure it was on…
DOUGLAS: A salad.
OBAMA: ...a whole wheat McMuffin.
LENO: It was on a whole wheat bun.
LENO: So an Egg McMuffin. Very good.
OBAMA: You're setting me back, Gabby.
The conventions are coming, journalists and photographers and people with Smart Phones; so are the free speech zones and nervous riot police. It's a good time to know your rights when it comes to reporting. The New York Times' excellent photo blog has an interview with National Press Photographers Association head of general council Mickey H. Osterreicher. He gives some Reason-y tips for photographers' rights in places and situations where the police either don't know the law, or intend to ignore it in the name of fighting terrorism or easing a hot protest situation.
Q. It seems like photographing in public is becoming a crime.
A. Literally every day, someone is being arrested for doing nothing more than taking a photograph in a public place. It makes no sense to me. Photography is an expression of free speech.
Since 9/11, there’s been an incredible number of incidents where photographers are being interfered with and arrested for doing nothing other than taking pictures or recording video in public places.
It’s not just news photographers who should be concerned with this. I think every citizen should be concerned. Tourists taking pictures are being told by police, security guards and sometimes other citizens, “Sorry, you can’t take a picture here.” When asked why, they say, “Well, don’t you remember 9/11?”
I remember it quite well, but what does that have do to with taking a picture in public? It seems like the war on terrorism has somehow morphed into an assault on photography.
Q. What’s caused this?
A. It’s been a perfect storm. There’s 9/11, and now photojournalists who traditionally worked for newspapers are losing their jobs and becoming freelancers who may not have the backing of their news organizations. You have Occupy Wall Street, where police didn’t want some of their actions to be photographed. And now everybody with a cellphone is capable of recording very high-quality images. And everyone has the ability to upload and share them almost instantly. There is no news cycle — it’s 24/7 with unlimited bandwidth.
I believe that the problem is it’s ingrained in the police culture. The idea of serve and protect has somehow changed, for some officers, to include protecting the public from being photographed.
Many times officers are pushing and shoving, and our photographers are told, “If that was your mother, would you want to see her picture in the paper?”
That’s not the officer’s job. The officer’s job is to protect and serve, to make sure the public is safe, secure the scene, collect evidence. It’s not to decide what pictures should and shouldn’t be taken on the street.
There are officers who think it’s their job to protect other officers from being photographed. They’re absolutely wrong. That not what their function is.
Just as a news photographer’s job isn’t to direct traffic, or collect evidence at a scene, or do any of the things that law enforcement does.
The rest here. ReasonTV: "The Government's War on Cameras!"
- Navy Seals may be sent on a capture or kill mission targeting a Mexican drug cartel leader.
- Mitt Romney mocked China’s planned trip to the moon and talked up the success of the US Olympics team in London. Because apparently he is running for cheerleader?
- On medical leave for the last two months, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s constituents finally know he is being treated for bipolar disorder. No word on whether the Congressman plans on vacating his seat though he’s been at a mental facility for the last two months.
- Surveillance video of an officer in Homestead, Florida, pepper-spraying people and kicking an elderly man unconscious was released. For justice. The state is prosecuting the officer and the video was released by the state attorney’s office.
- Monday saw another attack on a checkpoint along the Egyptian border after a military shake-up this weekend following the last border checkpoint attack.
- Fighters from Libya’s rebellion are joining Syrian rebels.
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The Demise of Guys is based on a talk that Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo gave at the 2011 TED (Technology, Education, Design) conference in Long Beach, California. The talk was tendentious and unpersuasive at four minutes, Jacob Sullum reports, and it only suffers from being expanded into an ebook of 20,000 or so words, because you keep asking: Is this really all there is? A series of sweeping generalizations, backed up by little more than anecdotes and other people’s sweeping generalizations, capped by suggested solutions to an undocumented problem that range from banal to silly? Yes, that is all you will get for your $2.99 (for the Kindle edition), along with a rising sense of irritation that culminates in a resolution never to waste your time on a TED book again.View this article
When Savannah Berry went through Salt Lake City International Airport, she told Transportation Security Administration screeners that she was a Type 1 diabetic and wears an insulin pump. She showed them a doctor's note saying the pump should not go through a body scanner and told them that she is usually patted down by airport security. They sent here through the scanner anyway and the pump broke.
Yes, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, is frequently accused of being an acolyte of the always-dangerous Russian novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, a grand influence on modern libertarianism. Ryan talked to me about Rand for my December 2009 Reason magazine feature on Rand's revival post-economic crisis. Here's the parts about Ryan:
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), who gives out copies of Atlas Shrugged to departing interns, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who says Rand inspired his political career, both have said recently that the age of Barack Obama reminds them of the statist dystopia portrayed in the novel. Ryan—who stresses that, as a Catholic, he is not a full-fledged adherent to Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, which embraces atheism as well as laissez faire—says that as he looks around Washington these days he can’t help but think he’s seeing a lot of Wesley Mouch, the sleazy lobbyist in Atlas Shrugged who rises through his connections to become a de facto economic dictator.
“What’s happening now is Americans are awakening to see [that] this enduring principle of self-government and individualism is being taken away,” Ryan says. “I really believe the entire moral premise of capitalism is being shaken to its core because of the acceleration of government right now, and that’s waking people up.”.....
Rep. Ryan thinks the GOP needs to embrace Rand’s particular approach to politics—not merely stressing the practical benefits of freedom but arguing for its moral necessity. “We have an opportunity,” he says, “to make a choice clearly once and for all in the next two elections, and we owe it to the American people to give them a clear choice: Do you want a collectivist welfare state or do you want to get back to being a free market? We need to make a moral, not just practical or statistical, case.” Ryan admits he’s not sure the Republican Party as a whole is ready to make that argument with Rand’s uncompromising passion.
“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.
"Real conservatives" have always hated Rand, although many intellectual historians don't understand this, both for her militant atheism and her uncompromising views on proper politics, which, despite her own personal bizarre endorsement of Nixon, leave little room for the typical pusillanimity of nearly all Republican politicians when it comes to keeping government strictly limited to defense of people's life and property. They are, as the subtitle of my 2009 article put it, not radical enough for (true) capitalism.MORE »
The man being pursued by police below was allegedly smoking a marijuana cigarette. He was wielding a knife. Cops said he threatened them with it and that they tried to use pepper spray to disarm him. Failing that, after following him down a few city blocks at the heart of Times Square they shot him at least nine times:
I started working in the Times Square area dressing up as Shrek in 2006, before moving on to NBC and then Fox News, both right around the corner too. I walked across Times Square twice a day for about five years as part of my commute, and can say anecdotally that the smell of marijuana in the area is not all that much less common than the smell of, say, street meat. Sometimes you can smell marijuana and see cops from the same location.
Possession of marijuana (with intent only to use) is, technically, decriminalized in New York, and the mayor and police commissioner both said they supported Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to also decriminalize “open possession” (which would be the crime for which cops approached the man shot in the video). Cops in New York City have previously been known to induce people they’ve stopped to display the marijuana they’re carrying to avoid a search that would lead to prosecution, and then once the marijuana is shown make an arrest for open possession.
One man says his cell phone was confiscated by police after he recorded the incident.
More details, and the NYPD’s defense from The New York Post.
That drug war victory has got to be around the corner now.
The possibility of finally getting a victory in a public vote to recognize same-sex marriage has led to a rather odd outcome in Maryland. Gay activists are encouraging citizens to oppose a legislative vote to expand gambling in the state and keep it off the November ballot, away from the marriage vote.
Maryland will be voting in November whether to repeal same-sex marriage laws passed by the legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year. So far polls show Maryland may be the first state where same-sex marriage recognition survives a public vote.
The governor is also pushing for a sixth casino in the state and to allow existing casinos to add table games along with the slots. The bill made it through the state Senate Friday and is currently being marked up in the state’s House of Delegates. Voters would have to approve the final legislation in November.
Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed took note last week of a mailer the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s PAC sent out to Maryland voters. It asks them to show support for marriage equality by calling their state legislators to oppose placing the casino vote on the ballot:
"If the gaming bill is on the ballot, opponents are likely to spend millions identifying and turning out voters who don't like gambling ... and who also don't like Marriage Equality! So all the 'no' votes on gaming could also be 'no' votes for us," the mailer states. "Numerous polls confirm this, and several bloggers and political pundits in Maryland have said the same thing."
A German politician has said, in no uncertain terms, that Germany will not blindly continue to bailout Greece if they cannot meet austerity requirements.
Michael Fuchs of the Christian Democrats said:
Even if the glass is half full, that won’t be sufficient for a new aid package. Germany cannot and will not agree to that … We long ago reached the point where the Greeks must show they are capable of delivering a shift. A policy of the last, last, last chance will not work anymore and must come to an end.
The comments come a weeks before the “Troika” (European Commission, International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank) are expected to release their findings on the Greek government’s ability to implement the austerity measures required for further assistance.
Without more bailout funds Greece would almost certainly have to leave the euro, something that Angela Merkel has said would carry too many risks for the rest of the eurozone. However, as Fuch’s comments indicate, an increasing number of German politicians are comfortable with the idea of Greece leaving the single currency.
Both of Merkel’s coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Union, have made it clear that a Greek exit would be tolerable.
There has been speculation for some time over the political stability of the bailouts. While governments and alphabet soup organizations have been spending taxpayers’ money to support countries with histories of fiscal irresponsibility some Europeans are beginning to express their dissatisfaction.
There are serious doubts that the Troika will find results that will please Fuchs and his colleagues. Without bailout funds the Greek exit of the eurozone will be accelerated. The effect on domestic politics will be significant. Left wing politicians will intensify their anti-austerity rhetoric and call for more government spending in the face of an exit from the euro.
When Greece leaves the eurozone it will be the right thing to have happened. It is too bad that it looks like the exit will happen years too late under very unfortunate circumstances.
Up on Drudge is a New York Post story that wants to bring you the alarming news that sex offenders, even those convinced of truly heinous acts including raping a 9-year-old and sodomizing an 8-year-old, are allowed into city homeless shelters, even though those shelters also sometimes house families with children.
State sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) made this disturbing report (and in fact initially complained about this problem four years previously) and the story quotes concerned parents who have stayed in these shelters. And the problem, tilts the Post, is that people "refuse to close loopholes" that let these ex-cons stay at the shelters. Also, "privacy laws prohibit shelter officials from alerting their residents to the predators among them." Basically, the law is tilted in an overly Samaritan fashion and that's not good.
But this is a fundamental problem that comes from the U.S.'s "S" for "sex offender" scarlet letter way of sentencing. Perhaps someone who raped a 9-year-old has no business being outside of jail. Or, if they do, after hopefully being actually guilty (nearly always a question) and serving a very long time indeed, that should be it. The notion behind the sex offender registry — first started in New Jersey in 1994 — is that sex criminals have a particularly high rate of recidivism. But that's not hard and fast. Numbers are difficult to pin down, but studies have found 5-24 percent rates (the former from a Department of Justice study over three years, the latter a Public Safety Canada study over 15 years). The high end of those numbers are similar with robbery and less severe crimes.
It's a lot easier to find sympathy for sex offenders who don't deserve punishment, namely not the horror stories of 17-year-olds that had sex with 15-year-olds and were pariahs for life. The people who actually harm children may not deserve any sympathy but the various laws — excellently critiqued by Jacob Sullum — that require them to move house, lose all privacy, or even in one extreme example, congregate in hobo camps under a bridge, since in some locations they are barred from living within 1000-odd feet from places where children reside, are not helpful. They further alienate people who have little to lose from communities. And in the most egregious examples, federal sex offenders can even be indefinitely detained if they are seen to be dangerous enough. That should disturb anyone, regardless of the guilt of these men, knowing that some have been detained for up to four years without a hearing.
Fundamentally, if you have served your time, you have served your time. And where else is someone just out of prison likely to end up but a homeless shelter? Some of these offenders need help, too. There should be a way to do that without endangering children.
Piling on to the story of Fareed Zakaria runs counter to some of Ira Stoll's favorite journalistic rules.
Never make too big a deal of a plagiarism story, for one thing—given the number of words that pass through most journalists’ computers nowadays, and the difficulty sometimes of remembering exactly where you learned that fact or phrase, it’s a wonder there aren’t more cases.
And kick them while they are up, not when they are down, for another thing. "My contrarian instincts," writes Stoll, "are summoning me to defend the now-embattled Mr. Zakaria rather than join in the flurry of attacks."View this article
As all the world knows, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) was tapped by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to run on the ticket as the vice-presidential candidate. Lots of folks are focusing on Rep. Ryan's views with regard to health care, the economy, and the budget deficit. Below is potpourri of his views gleaned from around the web with regard to issues involving science, technology, and energy policy:
Climate Change – Wrote an op/ed back in 2009 decrying Climategate as “perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion.” Voted NO on the Waxman-Markey carbon cap-and-trade scheme back in 2009.
Reproductive Issues – Straight down-the-line pro-life - 100 Percent rating by National Right to Life Committee. A co-sponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act of 2011 that would grant personhood to embryos immediately after “fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent.” Could possibly outlaw in vitro fertilization procedures.
Human Biotech – Voted for the Human Cloning Prohibition Act that aimed to criminalize any attempts at cloning with a fine of $1 million and/or ten years in jail.
General Energy- Says tax reform would end all energy subsidies and tax loopholes. Did vote NO against the Bush Administration’s Comprehensive Energy Plan. Somewhat inconsistently, he did vote in June against an amendment to the National Defense Appropriation Act that would have denied $150 million in subsidies to a failing uranium enrichment plant in Ohio.
Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository – Voted for an amendment in June that would continue funding Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing process for the facility.
Drug Legalization - Voted YES on prohibiting needle exchange & medical marijuana in D.C. in 1999. Research shows that needle exchange programs do save lives by limiting the spread of HIV among injection drug users.
Space Exploration – Voted NO on the last two NASA authorization bills, but did vote YES for the 2004 Commercial Space Launch Act Amendments.
Biological Evolution – No known views with regard to how to "teach the controvery" in public school biology classes, but happy to report that he favors school choice.
For a more general take on Ryan's and other pols' views and votes, visit the On the Issues site.
- House Republicans filed suit Monday against Attorney General Eric Holder to attempt to get access to documents connected to the “Fast and Furious” operation.
- In Egypt, President Mohammed Mursi is being called “revolutionary” for forcing two top generals into retirement and pushing the leadership of the country more into civilian hands. Those civilian hands will also be putting two journalists on trial for “insulting” the president allegedly inciting murder.
- Paypal co-founder Greg Kouri is dead at 51.
- President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP vice president nominee Rep. Paul Ryan are both campaigning in Iowa today, fighting over the farm bill.
- A former FDA reviewer claims the agency leaders sought to suppress opinions about safety problems with devices they evaluated and retaliated against whistleblowers.
- Italy’s public debt has hit a record high of 2 trillion euros. Their central bank blames it on Italy’s share of bailouts of other euro nations.
- Unsurprising news of the day: New threat-detection security system leads to racial profiling.
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Writing at Foreign Policy, Reason Contributing Editor Michael C. Moynihan reveals how popular travel guides like Lonely Planet and Rough Guides whitewash all sorts of uncomfortable facts about undemocratic places like Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria. He writes:
There's a formula to them: a pro forma acknowledgment of a lack of democracy and freedom followed by exercises in moral equivalence, various contorted attempts to contextualize authoritarianism or atrocities, and scorching attacks on the U.S. foreign policy that precipitated these defensive and desperate actions. Throughout, there is the consistent refrain that economic backwardness should be viewed as cultural authenticity, not to mention an admirable rejection of globalization and American hegemony. The hotel recommendations might be useful, but the guidebooks are clotted with historical revisionism, factual errors, and a toxic combination of Orientalism and pathological self-loathing.
Read the whole thing here.
Obama apologists are looking for anything they can to throw at Congressman Paul Ryan, selected by Mitt Romney this weekend to be his running mate, and Steve Benen at Rachel Maddow’s blog has found something new:
The incident has been largely forgotten, but in the spring, Ryan, in his capacity as chairman of the House Budget Committee, insisted that he -- and not America's military leadership -- should be trusted when it comes to defense spending levels that keep Americans safe. Ryan went on to say, without proof, that he suspected Pentagon leaders may have been deliberately misleading Congress.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was not at all pleased with the right-wing congressman. "There's a difference between having someone say they don't believe what you said versus ... calling us, collectively, liars," Dempsey said at the time about Ryan. (The lawmaker later said he "misspoke." A closer inspection shows otherwise.)
Paul Ryan’s famed budget was not serious about cuts to military spending and he questioned the military brass' sincerity as a way to increase military spending by more than the president had requested. As economist Veronique de Rugy noted in a review of Paul Ryan’s budget proposal earlier this year:
It reneges on sequestration-induced reductions in military spending (it finds the “savings” elsewhere). I think a serious plan would put everything on the table. More importantly, this will guaranty that no one in their right mind will ever agree to make a deal with Republicans since they will turn around and try to change the terms of the contract they don’t like. If they didn’t want defense cuts, they shouldn’t have made them part of the debt ceiling deal.MORE »
As you may recall from my blogging recently here and here, the Ron Paul campaign and its delegates are involved in various fights and disputes over whether certain state delegations to the Republican National Convention in Tampa at the end of the month will contain Ron Paul supporters.
The latest news in that fight is bad for the Paulites, as the RNC's Committee on Contests rejects the Paul people's contention that the delegation that the state GOP in Louisiana sent was illegitimate, and that another slate of Paulites should be recognized.
More, as reported in the Times-Picayune yesterday, on counteraccusations between Paul folk at the party establishment:
"The LAGOP executive committee again submitted false information in an attempt to mislead their fellow Republicans," said Charlie Davis, who led the Paul campaign in Louisiana. "I'm not really surprised by the preliminary ruling and I'm looking forward to finally presenting our case in Tampa. The wheels of justice move slow and I remain hopeful that when all the facts are presented the truth will win out."
But, Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere said he thought the issue was pretty much settled. "This was their best shot," he said.
"This decision simply confirms what we've been saying from the beginning - that we followed the rules," stated LAGOP Executive Director Jason Dore.
The Paul people's challenge said that the Party issued an illegitimate "supplemental rule" at the Louisiana state convention that allowed them to send on a non-Paul delegation; the RNC decided that rule change was legit. My blogging on the Louisiana convention chaos as it occurred in early June.
The other big delegate fight ongoing is in Maine, where a Paul-controlled delegation is being challenged by prominent state-level Republicans Janet Staples and Peter Cianchette. A "compromise" was offered last week that would require, as reported in New American:
First, they would have to sign a statement promising to cast their vote for Mitt Romney if Ron Paul’s name was not on the ballot at the convention.
Second, Brent Tweed (a Paul supporter) would have to step aside and Webster or state Governor Paul LePage would act as spokesman for the Maine delegation and announce its vote for president at the convention. Additionally, the newly appointed spokesman would do all the talking for the delegation, especially to the media.
Third, the delegation would be forbidden from saying anything negative about Mitt Romney or positive about Barack Obama.
Fourth, in return for the foregoing commitments, the Maine delegation would be granted full access at the convention, including to all committee assignments.
Fifth, the challenge to the delegates’ election at the state convention would be dropped.
These demands were unacceptable and the entire delegation (including the 20 alternates) refused to accede to the GOP Establishment’s demands.
Thus, the challenge from two state Republican officials against the Paul delegation continues. They are claiming, much as Paul's people claimed in Louisiana, that proper rules and procedures were not followed at the state convention that gave 21 of 24 seats to Paul supporters. The entire Maine delegation risks not being seated if the challenge succeeds.MORE »
Martha Boneta owns a small farm in Fauquier County, Virginia, where she recently hosted a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls. They wore hats, picked veggies, and made goat's milk soap. The county says she should have obtain a license before hosting such an event and hit her with a $5,000 fine.
Boneta also got slammed with two more fines for $5,000 each, one for advertising a pumpkin carving and another for violations in the small shop on her property. Boneta sells produce from her farm, as well as eggs, yarn, birdhouses, and local crafts. She sought and received a license for the shop in 2011, but the county now says she can't sell handiwork or produce from her neighbors under that license.
On August 2, about 100 of those neighbors and other concerned citizens gathered at the Board of Zoning Appeals with the tools of their trade in hand: pitchforks. The zoning board says permits are available for many of the types of events Boneta wants to hold, but in an interview with Reason this afternoon she questions why anyone would need a permit for a small gathering on their own property in the first place.
We’re seasonal producers. We’re only open from June to December. We’re only open 7 hours a week. This is customary for seasonal producers. If somebody wants to carve a pumpkin, why do I need a permit for them to do that?...
I don’t know why this is happening, but I do know that part of being a farmer means selling to the community what you produce on your farm.
Boneta is appealing the decision, but in the meantime she has 2,000 tomato plants, 1,000 eggplants, and crop rows of kale and other vegetables ready to pop, and she's not sure how she's going to sell them.
Boneta isn't the only victim of Fauquier County's newfound zeal for agricultural regs: The Board of Supervisors recently passed an ordinance dramatically limiting what area wineries can do on their grounds. Events after 6 p.m. are no longer permitted. Sales of food by wineries are prohibited, as are extra attractions such as farmers markets, mini-golf, or whatever else officials deem "to be similar in nature or in impact to" the listed activities.
Perhaps the most offensive provision of the ordinance authorizes "private personal gatherings" at wineries. Someone obviously forgot to tell Fauquier officials that in America, we don't need government permission for private personal gatherings on our own property.
Yet even in their contempt for the freedom of assembly and private property rights, Fauquier officials limited the definition of "private personal gathering" to owners who reside at or adjacent to their wineries, and who do not market their wine at such gatherings. This means no winery signs -- no bottle labels, even, when owners hold private personal gatherings on their property, because that's marketing.
Paging the Institute for Justice!
Also, paging Virginia "Christian-conservative-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic" famer activist Joel Salatin!
UPDATE: See the pitchfork protest here:
For those keeping track (and you should be!), the trial of CopBlock founder Adam "Ademo Freeman" Mueller begins today. Mueller faces a potential 21 years in prison for the high crime of recording phone calls with public officials while seeking comments on a video of police brutality at a New Hampshire high school. You see, Mueller identified himself to the public servants as a CopBlock representative when he reached them at their offices, and explained the reason for his call, but he didn't explicitly say he was recording the conversation. Prosecutors insist that's a felony.
The Union-Leader explains the basis for the charges:
The conversations involved an incident Oct. 3 at West High School in which a school resource officer arrested a student in the cafeteria. The incident was videotaped by another student, who had met Mueller and his CopBlock.org co-founder, Peter Eyre, a few weeks before.
Mueller is accused of recording conversations about the incident Oct. 4 with Police Capt. Jonathan Hopkins, West Principal Mary Ellen McGorry, and West secretary Denise Michael, without their consent.
The student video shows the officer grab a student, push him face down on a cafeteria table and handcuff him. As part of the videotape posted on CopBlock.org, Mueller included portions of recorded phone calls with Hopkins, McGorry and Michael.
Under the state's wiretap law, it is a crime to audio-record someone without his permission if the speaker has a reasonable expectation that what he is saying is not subject to interception.
New Hampshire law says:
570-A:2 Interception and Disclosure of Telecommunication or Oral Communications Prohibited. –
I. A person is guilty of a class B felony if, except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter or without the consent of all parties to the communication, the person:
But the law also states that the person being wiretapped must be "exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation." And, of course, it includes exceptions for law enforcement.
So ... Does a government official, in a taxpayer-supported office, using publicly funded phones to answer questions from an activist, journalist or any other person under the sun about official business really have an expectation of privacy?
Carlos Miller of Photography Is Not a Crime, who has worked with Mueller, has an in-depth post up at which he writes, "It was clear from the conversation that Mueller was seeking on-the-record comments and it was clear from the responses of both police and the school official that they were well aware of that."
New Hampshire prosecutors, however, apparently disagree. More to the point, I should say, they see an opening for going after an individual who has caused them some degree of inconvenience. So it's probably wise that Mueller's supporters are getting a jump on the state's jury nullification law, which, starting next year, requires that jurors be notified of their right to judge laws as well as the facts of cases, and are distributing information of their own.
Update: Mueller was found guilty and "sentenced to just under three months behind bars." And yes, that was pretty damned fast.
"10 Years to Life for Medical Marijuana: The Trial of Aaron Sandusky" 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
Remember that FBI report last year that classified the Juggalos -- fans of those magnetically mystified rappers, Insane Clown Posse -- as a gang? We all got a good laugh out of it, but the cops weren't joking. Camille Dodero of The Village Voice reports that the U.S. Marshals Service recently
issued a press release with this headline: "Gang Member Removed from New Mexico's Most Wanted." The apprehended menace in question was 20-year-old Mark Anthony Carlson, a white 140-pound male wanted on a felony bench warrant for missing probation. His gang affiliation? The "Insane Clown Posse 'Juggalo'" gang....
Whether or not he would've been put on New Mexico's Most Wanted List without the Juggalo association is unclear--we're still waiting to hear back from the U.S. Marshal's Office. But the first press release announcing his highly-sought fugitive status suggests Carlson's dangerous because of his explicit affiliation to two face-painted clown rappers.
Mark Anthony Carslon A.K.A. Mark Carlton is wanted on two felony warrants for failing to comply with the terms of probation both on underlying armed robbery cases. Carlson is a member of the Insane Clown Posse "Juggalo" gang. The "Juggalos" were recently classified as a gang by the Albuquerque Police Department Gang unit and it is believed that Carlson is still actively committing armed robberies in the Albuquerque Metro area.
Insane Clown Posse plans to sue the FBI over the gang classification.
Reason’s entire August/September 2012 issue is now available online. Don’t miss Matt Welch on America’s impending entitlement crisis, Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy on old-age entitlements vs. the safety net, Tim Cavanaugh on how high-speed rail screws the poor, and Jesse Walker on the history of anti-Mormon paranoia, plus our complete Citings and Briefly Noted sections, the Artifact, and much more.
Courtesy of The Northwest Report, here is the video of Mitt Romney's new running mate, McKinley High School Glee Club Director Will Schuester, Congressman Paul Ryan, defending the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (a.k.a. TARP) back in 2008:
Most bizarre line, in my humble opinion: "This bill offends my principles. But I’m going to vote for this bill in order to preserve my principles, in order to preserve this free enterprise system.” I suppose it makes sense if you bought the "Too big to fail" argument.
The Northwest Report also hammers Ryan's record here, pointing out that he couldn't be much more opposite of Ron Paul. And yet many liberals are quick to join conservatives in calling Ron Paul a kook.
- Six U.S. soldiers were killed in two separate attacks by Afghan government employees over the weekend.
- Florida seniors are the latest stars in a new Obama ad aimed at Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, Paul Ryan. Because his budget included reforms of Medicare for people under 55, it will now be used to scare seniors into voting for the president. A group of Irish Democrats, meanwhile, is attacking Ryan for not having Chicago values the values he grew up with, because partisan organizations are the best judges of religious values. Less than three more month of this nonsense!
- Donald Trump confirms that Donald Trump will be playing a “memorable” role at the Republican National Convention in Tampa though Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee says he doesn’t know what role that will be. “But I do know that he’s important to us and that he’s somebody that we appreciate, because he’s telling us the truth as far as where we’re at in this economy,” Preibus said.
- Apparently Arnold Schwarzenegger was approached by the Obama administration about a cabinet position in 2010. Might he be one of the Republicans Politico reports as possibly speaking at the Democratic National Convention?
- It probably won’t be Sarah Palin, who isn’t scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention this year, either.
- The House Oversight Committee will file a civil contempt lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder, though the president’s invocation of executive privilege means there won’t be any prosecution as a result.
- Egypt’s president has sacked his army chief and several other generals as well as revoking a rule limiting his power. The moves come after a militant attack on a border checkpoint that embarrassed the military, which continues to hunt Islamists in the Sinai following the attack.
Back in April, President Obama told an Ohio audience Republicans “don’t seem to remember how America was built.”
But the President sure does! “America,” he says, “was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity.” And “the promise of equality and full participation for all.” Also, “America was built on innovation,” and on “the hard work and ingenuity of our people and our businesses.” Not to mention “a belief that the best progress comes from ordinary citizens.” It’s all right there in the archives, go check it out.
It’s not entirely clear why so many people feel the need to explain what America was built on. It is entirely clear, writes A. Barton Hinkle, that the country always seems to be built on ideas they happen to embrace. You never seem to hear anyone say, “I don’t believe in such-and-such, but hey, that’s what America was built on. Whattaya gonnado?”View this article
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), frequently called "the next Ron Paul" and the only libertarian in Congress, has attacked Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson on his Facebook page for Johnson's support of subsidies for the movie industry. Amash linked to a Politifact story from mid-July on Johnson's support of film credits while governor of New Mexico. Then let loose:
This appears to be the first time Amash has gone after Johnson publicly. Amash told me that although he enorsed Ron Paul in the primary, and will make no other endorsements, he will support the GOP nominee after the RNC convention.
Johnson's campaign said he was unavailable for comment on the Amash Facebook post but noted that Johnson has defended the policy in the past. In the Politifact story he stands up for his signing of the legislation saying that New Mexico has become a "second Hollywood". Politifact rated this as "half-true" saying that New Mexico is probably closer to third or fourth behind New York and Louisiana and that the film credits helped make it "player in the movie industry."
French President Francois Hollande's vow to impose a 75 percent marginal tax rate on those making more than €1 million a year is not sitting well with the moneyed class. Even Will Smith balked at the news. Unfortunately, as our 2011 ReasonTV video can attest, appeals to force the rich to pay their "fair share" are not confined to Europe.
Here is the original text from the April 9, 2011 video:
Tax Day (April 18) is fast approaching, which means anxiety and night sweats for about 99 percent of taxpayers.
And bitching and moaning by those at the top of the income pyramid about how they aren't forced to pay more in taxes. Secretary of State and cattle-futures queen Hillary Clinton, super-investor Warren Buffett, and best-selling author Stephen King have all recently carped about how rich folks like them should be paying more in taxes. King recently told a Florida rally, "As a rich person, I'm paying 28 percent in taxes. What I want to ask you is, Why am I not paying 50?"
Such rhetorical questions miss the point when it comes to the country's balance sheet. The U.S. doesn't have a revenue problem or a tax-rate problem. We've got a spending problem. Since 1950, revenue from all sources has averaged around 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product, despite top tax rates that have fluctuated from over 90 percent to the high 20-percent range. So despite all efforts to jack up revenue (or reduce it), that's what the government can expect to work with. Yet spending has averaged about 20 percent of GDP - and is currently at a whopping 25 percent of GDP, a figure not seen since World War II. President Obama's budget plan forecasts spending at 23 percent of GDP over the next decade while Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP plan calls for 20.5 percent. There's your deficit right there, folks.
But King, Clinton, and Buffett can always pay more in taxes to retire federal debt held by the public. Just go to http://treasurydirect.gov and make a voluntary donation to reduce the national debt held by the public. So far in calender 2011, Treasury has pulled in an $125,000! Which means there's only about $8.99 trillion to go.
Written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie. About 2 minutes
With the summer drought reaching historic proportions, calls to change US ethanol mandates are growing louder. As ReasonTV's Nick Gillespie explained in a 2008 video, the arguments to end ethanol subsidies are numerous.
Here is the orginal text from the August 12, 2008 video:
Ethanol advocates claim that ethanol is a cheap, renewable energy source that reduces pollution and our dependence on foreign oil. It sounds too good to be true--and it is.
In The Future of Liberalism, Alan Wolfe writes that the true heirs to the liberalism of John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson are not today’s classical liberals (libertarians), but rather the other kind of liberals, those who would use government power to assure autonomy and equality for all. Such “modern liberalism,” for Wolfe, is simply an updating of the original: In the eighteenth century, political power crushed autonomy and equality, requiring a free market as the antidote; now private corporate power under capitalism does the same, but this time the remedy is active government. Unfortunately, writes Sheldon Richman, Wolfe has settled on an utterly self-defeating idea of how to secure everyone’s mastery over his or her own one’s destiny: the welfare state. Judging by the history and nature of the state, Richman notes, we must conclude that Wolfe’s program would lead not to liberation but rather to subjugation of the individual.View this article
It behooves Mitt Romney at this point in his campaign to market Paul Ryan as a fiscal hawk and deficit hero, despite some striking evidence to the contrary, like his votes for TARP, Medicare D and even George W. Bush’s wars, each a budget-buster of its own on the road to fiscal calamity. Nevertheless, because the Obama campaign and the Democratic party have decided that the way to win in November is to scare Americans by portraying Mitt Romney as a callous figure who intends on dismantling government, killing your grandmother, and whatever horrible thing it is that they think will scare people into re-electing the president, liberals actually share Mitt Romney’s goal of portraying Paul Ryan as a fiscal hawk, and worse. The New York Times published an op-ed today that tries to do just that:
More than three-fifths of the cuts proposed by Mr. Ryan, and eagerly accepted by the Tea Party-driven House, come from programs for low-income Americans. That means billions of dollars lost for job training for the displaced, Pell grants for students and food stamps for the hungry. These cuts are so severe that the nation’s Catholic bishops raised their voices in protest at the shredding of the nation’s moral obligations.
Mr. Ryan’s budget “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment,” the bishops wrote in an April letter to the House. “These cuts are unjustified and wrong.”
Paul Ryan is so evil, argues the Times, that the Roman Catholic congressman has even drawn the ire of Catholic bishops with his budget proposal. The word of the Catholic bishops, in this case, should be taken at face value. But the Times is no friend of religious institutions or even of those same Catholic bishops. From a Times op-ed on “the politics of religion,” published just a few months ago:
Thirteen Roman Catholic dioceses and some Catholic-related groups scattered lawsuits across a dozen federal courts last week claiming that President Obama was violating their religious freedom by including contraceptives in basic health care coverage for female employees. It was a dramatic stunt, full of indignation but built on air…
This is a clear partisan play. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the effort to impose one church’s doctrine on everyone.
Except, apparently, when that doctrine happens to align with a liberal agenda, then its a moral obligation for our political leaders. Thanks for clearing that up, New York Times!
Stop me if you've heard this one before: A relatively moderate GOP nominee has picked a much younger and more conservative running mate. Anyone surprised at this has forgotten the last quarter-century of political history. Paul Ryan follows in the path of Palin, Kemp, Quayle -- basically every post-Reagan VP candidate except Cheney. All of them but Kemp were relative novices; all of them but Palin lacked executive experience. I should add that all of them after the first Quayle campaign lost, and even then Quayle probably cost Bush more votes than he gained. So this isn't necessarily a strategy that wins elections. But it does keep the base in line.
How should the base feel about that? I can't speak for conservatives, but I'll pass along these thoughts from The Daily Beast's Eli Lake:
The worst that can happen to Paul Ryan is that the ticket wins. Then Ryan -- who has won a loyal following as the principled budget cutter -- will have to line up behind Romney budgets. This is kind of like putting Eddie Van Halen in REO Speedwagon. Yes it makes REO Speedwagon rock a lot harder, but it totally ruins Van Halen.
Libertarians, meanwhile, should find it easy to reject Ryan. He's a hawk with a rotten record on civil liberties: bad on the Patriot Act, bad on indefinite detentions, bad on surveillance, bad on the border fence, bad on the drug war. On the economic front, he has backed the bank and auto bailouts, Medicare Part D, even Davis-Bacon. His reputation as a free-market stalwart rests on his exaggerated reputation as a budget hawk and his habit of praising Ayn Rand. The second of those clearly hasn't meant much when it's time to vote on legislation, and as for the first...well, if the Democrats went nuts and replaced Joe Biden with Barney Frank, I'd have some kind words for his stances on pot and gambling, but I wouldn't feel tempted to vote for him.
If Ryan were going head to head against Obama, you could make a case that the faux Randian is a lesser evil than the faux Alinskyan. In most of the places where Ryan is bad, after all, Obama is pretty lousy too. But for vice president? At least Joe Biden keeps me entertained.
"What We Saw at the Solidarity Concert for Pussy Riot" is the newest offering from ReasonTV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions. and more Reason TV clips.View this article
Ending weeks of speculation, Mitt Romney formally chose Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as his Vice Presidential pick. ReasonTV sat down with Ryan back in 2009 to discuss the country's fiscal issues and why we don't need more public funding for higher education.
Here is the orginal text from the July 14, 2009 video:
President Barack Obama has declared that his administration aims to make college affordable to everyone by greatly expanding government aid to middle class families. The Washington Post says that Obama's higher education proposals, which include creating a brand new Pell Grant entitlement, "could transform the financial aid landscape for millions of students while expanding federal authority to a degree that even Democrats concede is controversial."
But what if President Obama has it backwards? What if America is sending too many people to college?
A recent study found that "Nationally, four-year colleges graduated an average of just 53% of entering students within six years." If 40 percent of students who enter college drop out before graduation and over 50 percent of students take six years to graduate, perhaps Obama is focusing on the wrong issue.
Reason.tv's Michael C. Moynihan sat down with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the American Enterprise Institute's Charles Murray, author of the recent book Real Education, to analyze how Obama's higher-education plans will impact the economic and cultural future of the United States.
So it's a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket.
Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.) has distinguished himself as a serious politician who was ready and willing to talk substantive budget issues years before even his own party's leadership wanted to have that conversation. He's been characterized by Democrats and other opponents as a radical budget-cutter who wants to toss granny out of her wheelchair and down a flight of stairs, like Richard Widmark did in Kiss of Death.
The first thing I think worth saying about the Ryan pick is that it shows Romney has not given up. While the vice-presidential candidate in the end doesn't make a lot of difference, it shows that Romney isn't afraid to pick someone who is young and vital. Imagine if Romney had gone with a color-of-water pick such as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.) whose impressive record in office was undercut by his Minnesota Nice exterior.
Commentators will line up quickly to praise or damn the Ryan selection, but it strikes me operationally as a smart choice, especially if Ryan plays the traditional attack-dog role that vice-presidential candidates are supposed to. He is in a good, knowledgeable position to rebut claims that capitalism is always at fault. Then again, from a small-government libertarian perspective, he voted for Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, TARP, auto bailouts, and all the wars waged by George W. Bush. So even as he makes the 2012 election race more interesting and hotly contested, he underscores the fact that today's GOP is offering an echo of the Democratic Party, not a real alternative.
To the immediate issue: Is Paul Ryan the budget-slashing psycho that his detractors will immediately start saying he is? Not hardly. Here's some info about the budget plan he released earlier this year - a plan the GOP House embraced and passed:
The Ryan/congressional GOP budget has been released. As a starting point, consider this: The Ryan plan says that we will spend $3.6 trillion this year while bringing in $2.4 trillion in FY2012. In contrast, President Obama's budget says that we will shell out $3.8 trillion in FY2012 and bring in $2.5 trillion.
In brief, the Ryan plan is not as bad as President's Obama budget, which wants to spend $3.8 trillion in FY2013 and envisions spending $5.8 trillion in FY2022. Over the next 10 years, Obama assumes that federal spending would amount to 22.5 percent of GDP while revenues would average just 19.2 percent of GDP. That ain't no way to run a country.
In this sense, Ryan's plan is slightly better but still doesn't pass the laugh test. He would spend $3.5 trillion in 2013 and $4.9 trillion in 2022 (all figures in the post are in current dollars unless otherwise noted). Spending as an average of GDP would average 20 percent of GDP and revenue would amount to just 18.3 percent. Go here to read the whole plan; figures on outlays and revenue are in Table S-1.
As I noted in my headline for that March 21 blog post, Ryan's plan is better than Obama's plan and it might even be good enough for government work. But it ain't good.
Yet Ryan's plan is weak tea. Here we are, years into a governmental deficit situation that shows no sign of ending. How is it that Ryan and the Republican leadership cannot even dream of balancing a budget over 10 years' time? All of the discussion of reforming entitlements and the tax code and everything else is really great and necessary - I mean that sincerely - but when you cannot envision a way of reducing government spending after a decade-plus of an unrestrained spending binge, then you are not serious about cutting government. If Milton Friedman was right that spending is the proper measure of the government's size and scope in everybody's life, then the establishment GOP is signaling what we knew all along: They are simply an echo of the Democratic Party.
And keep in mind that reducing government spending isn't simply an ideological point of pride. Government spending crowds out private spending, which tends to be more efficient and effective. Raising taxes to pay for government spending (or even to reduce deficits) is a tough slog. Former Obama chief economist Christina Romer's reputation-making works shows that raising taxes 1 percent of GDP to cut deficits leads to a 3 percent reduction in GDP. And as Veronique de Rugy has written, the most-proven way countries with advanced economies have reduced debt-to-GDP ratios is by cutting spending. It's not by raising spending and raising taxes.
And make no mistake: Unabated deficit spending does lead to increased taxes sooner or later.
In 2011, de Rugy and I detailed "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" in Paul Ryan's earlier version of the plan. We hoped that Ryan's basic premise of increasing annual federal spending by a trillion dollars would become the ceiling of acceptable discourse. After all, the 21st century has been nothing but a massive expansion of government spending (60 percent in real terms under Bush alone) and folks such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have put forth thoughtful alternatives to actually cut government spending.
But it nows seems that the 2012 election may come down to a vision of a government that either spends $1 trillion or $2 trillion more annually than we do now. Which is not a welcome development.
Despite looming deadlines related to budget sequestration and decade-old “temporary” tax rates that expire at year’s end, massive entitlement crises, and much more, Congress has effectively stopped work on serious legislation until at least some time after November’s election.
Many observers and participants—including the entire GOP and Democratic leadership—are quick to cry gridlock and to blame inaction on some new awful hyper-partisan or ideological era. But as Nick Gillespie and Veronique de Rugy explain, the problem isn’t gridlock—the problem is the fact that Congress is totally irresponsible.View this article
Multiple news outlets are reporting they have multiple sources confirming presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney will announce his choice of Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as running mate. Ryan was the talk of the town as a potential vice presidential pick this week. Reason's David Harsanyi made the case for Ryan earlier this week:
...no matter whom Republican Mitt Romney finally taps as his vice presidential nominee, Democrats will accuse this person of crimes against common decency and fairness. This person will, you can bet, be indicted as someone hellbent on "dismantling" Social Security, sacrificing Medicare to the gods of social Darwinism and "slashing" the safety net into worthless tatters.
If that's the case, why not pick a politician who actually speaks about reforming entitlement programs in a serious way? Someone who has actually come up with some ideas that reach beyond platitude? Rep. Paul Ryan, who was spotted pushing a frail wheelchair-bound elderly woman off a cliff in a political ad last year, is really the only person on the shortlist we keep hearing about who fits the bill.
Another radical decides to work within the system:
A former militia member who was acquitted of plotting to rebel against the U.S. government hopes to have a new gig: township constable.
Michael Meeks got 120 votes in the Republican primary Tuesday in Washtenaw County's Bridgewater Township. He now advances to the fall election. It's unclear if there will be a Democratic opponent, although there were a few write-in votes.
Meeks says the job of constable is an unpaid position in Bridgewater. He's unsure what his duties will be but says he's eager to serve the community near Manchester.
The 42-year-old is a former Marine. Meeks was among members of the Hutaree (hoo-TAR'-ee) militia charged with conspiring to attack the government. In March, a federal judge acquitted him and others, saying prosecutors failed to prove their case.
Yesterday New Jersey's Department of Health started registering patients who will be allowed to use marijuana as a medicine. As Nick Vadala notes on Philadelphia magazine's website, "Jersey has one of the country’s strictest medical marijuana programs." It is open only to people with specified "debilitating medical conditions," does not permit home cultivation, caps THC levels at 10 percent, and confines distribution to six state-approved dispensaries. Those dispensaries—the first of which, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair, plans to open "shortly after Labor Day"—are subject to numerous regulations:
"This is unlike any other business we’ve been involved with—the oversight and regulations are unbelievable. Guiding through those rules is difficult, but they keep everyone honest,” [CEO Joe Stevens] says. As a former funeral director and X-ray technician, the man knows something about the value of meticulous, heavily enforced medical industry rules....
Legitimate growers and salesmen are hard to come by. Couple that with the required background checks, fingerprinting and drug tests (yes, drug tests) for dispensary employment, and you can see how applications from pie-in-the-sky stoners might muddy the interview pool slightly. Applicants with "black market" experience, says Stevens, are a definite no-no as well....
It’s still somewhat difficult, even with the right staff, to sell a bud named something like Alaskan Thunder Fuck as a remedy to chemo-induced nausea and retain a modicum of medical legitimacy. Going the eponymous route, it would seem, flies a little lower under the countercultural radar.
“We’re trying to stay away from genetic names because of the stigma attached to marijuana. We couldn’t be taken seriously otherwise,” says Stevens. Instead, GCC calls its three authorized cannabis strains "Greenleaf 1" and so on up the line.
Will this buttoned-down, anti-California approach protect New Jersey's dispensaries from federal harassment? Gov. Chris Christie, a former U.S. attorney who delayed implementing New Jersey's 2010 medical marijuana law because of concerns about the conflict with federal law, seems to think so. But state regulation has not stopped Colorado's U.S. attorney from threatening licensed dispensaries, and Vadala notes an aspect of New Jersey's program that could put state employees in legal jeopardy:
Other states test crops through independent commercial labs, thereby allowing for different percentage results based on marketing. Jersey, however, requires that medical cannabis be tested for THC and other cannabinoids by the Department of Health and Senior Services.
In other words, state regulators will not merely certify that suppliers have met the conditions necessary to avoid state prosecution. They will be handling marijuana themselves—not in the course of enforcing the ban on marijuana but in the course of facilitating its distribution. By contrast, the dispensary bill that Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire vetoed last year "was specifically amended...to remove any requirements that [state] employees come in contact with marijuana," according to Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington. "All of the testing and handling and inspection was to be done by independent, private, third parties." That change was aimed at allaying concerns that the feds might prosecute state employees for executing the law. The scenario may seem unlikely, but if the DEA starts busting New Jersey's pot testers, it would set up an interesting confrontation between a conservative Republican who criticizes the war on drugs and a liberal Democrat who promised tolerance but delivered a crackdown.
The lawsuit filed by a Ron Paul grassroots activist lawyer charging the Republican National Committee (RNC) with various shenanigans against Ron Paul delegates and calling for the RNC to admit that no delegate is bound to vote for Romney was dismissed by U.S. District Judge David Carter this week.
Carter's order to dismiss.
Some relevant language from the order explaining why the Judge didn't think the suit worth going forward:
For example, Plaintiffs’ vague reference to “State Bylaws” gives this Court no inkling as to which of the 50 states and which of the millions of pages of bylaws Plaintiffs refer. Similarly, Plaintiffs’ use of the passive voice renders it impossible to discern who broke the bones of whom, who pointed a gun at whom, and whether any of the more than 100 Defendants were even involved. Finally, Plaintiffs’ vague allegations of voting ballot fraud occurring somewhere at sometime and apparently committed simultaneously by all “Defendants” lacks plausibility. While Plaintiffs make an oblique reference to a voting machine somewhere in Arizona, the lack of clarity in this allegation is insufficient to raise it to a level above mere speculation.Thus, this Court does not accept these allegations as true.
The Paul campaign itself never embraced the suit or supported it--though Ron Paul himself didn't choose to condemn it either. Richard Gilbert, the lawyer who filed it, was ferocious in his insistence it was for the good of the delegates, and the honesty of the Republican primary and caucus process.
From my Reason piece in June:
A press release from Gilbert's group “Lawyers for Ron Paul” claims Paul supporters have launched a “takeover of the campaign. Refusing to be sold downstream for political or monetary gain the REAL Ron Paul R3volution without reservation is 'in it to win it!'”.....
“As we watched people being violently beaten at state conventions, voting machines being rigged, ballots being falsely counted from state to state,” Gilbert says, “we observed the Romney machine was nothing more than a crime syndicate committing fraud at every state convention.” While surprised the Paul campaign did not stand up for itself, he says, “I want to say I don’t represent the campaign and I don’t represent Dr. Paul. I represent the delegates.”
Gilbert is not giving up, and has filed another amended version of his suit, which attempts to get the court to decide whether the federal Voting Rights Act applies to voting at the RNC in Tampa, which Gilbert is trying to have defined as a "federal election" under that law.
If that is so, and if the Voting Rights Act applies to it, if I understand the complaint correctly, Gilbert is claiming any attempt to bind delegates to vote for Romney should be illegitimate.
The order to dismiss and amended complaint via "The Unconventional Conservative."
When New York Times columnist Mark Bittman started writing about food policy, I wished he would go back to writing about food. Now that he is writing about gun control, I wish he would go back to writing about food policy. Actually, he mentions food policy in today's column, along with global warming. To Bittman, they all come down to the same issue:
No matter what you look at, the basic problem remains so-called leadership that cannot stand up to big ag, big food, big energy, Wall Street …or the N.R.A....
It's easy to say that without proof of direct causation you can't justify regulation, but how many people died while the tobacco companies lied? Of course cause and effect is complex, but that’s no reason to ignore the smokiest guns.
This is where leadership comes in...
Real leaders lead. Though gun control is said to be too risky an issue for most politicians, didn't we elect them for their judgment and will? Otherwise, why not govern by polls and Twitter?
I especially admire the non sequitur "how many people died while the tobacco companies lied?" because it can be randomly dropped into any empirically shaky plea for government intervention. Relying on real leaders who lead, regardless of the evidence supporting said leadership, absolves Bittman of the responsibility to think, or even to familiarize himself with the most basic facts of the subjects on which he pontificates. "You can buy a semiautomatic weapon online almost as easily as you can a book," he asserts. Yes, because when you buy a book online, you first must find a licensed local bookseller who is willing to act as your intermediary, accept delivery of the book, and run the legally required background check, after which (assuming your record is clean) you can take possession of the book by traveling to the bookseller's location and picking it up.
Bittman also notes/complains that "most weapons used in murders, even semiautomatics, are bought legally." Even semiautomatics? A semiautomatic firearm is any gun that fires once per trigger pull, ejects the spent cartridge, and automatically chambers a new round (assuming there is one in the magazine). Semiautomatics are very common, used for self-defense, hunting, and target shooting a lot more often than they are used to murder people. Does Bittman really mean to draw a distinction between semiautomatic weapons and, say, revolvers, bolt-action rifles, and single-shot pistols, or is he under the mistaken impression that there is something especially sinister about this broad class of guns? You be the judge.
Bittman wants to "make gun purchases more difficult, especially for disturbed people who appear to think they're part of some 'solution' to a series of 'problems' identified by hatemongers." But how do we know which individuals are so "disturbed" that they should be stripped of their Second Amendment rights? Bittman suggests Bill O'Reilly fans as one suspect class. He also mentions that Jared Lee Loughner, the Tucson shooter, had a prescription for antidepressants; that James Holmes, charged with killing 12 people in a Colorado movie theater, "was acting in a weird manner"; and that Dean Page, shot to death during his attack on a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, "was a racist so ignorant he didn't know a Sikh from a Muslim." I surmise that a real leader, in Bittman's view, would push legislation banning gun possession by depressed people, weirdos, stupid racists (what about the smart ones?), and possibly Fox News viewers.
This week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek column proposing "an ideological test for gun ownership" that many readers took seriously. (Fortunately, almost all of them—the ones I heard from, anyway—were horrified by the idea.) I blame knee-jerk, know-nothing, do-something pundits like Bittman, who are working hard to make satire impossible.
What does it take to get someone you can stand elected president? From our August/September issue, cartoonist Peter Bagge offers an illustrated worm’s-eye view of electoral politics in action, from a Republican Party caucus in his home legislative district in North Seattle to a meet 'n' greet with Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson.View this article
- Obama leads Romney by nine percent in the latest Fox News poll. That's well outside the margin of error and a clear sign that Lousy Option A is now preferred over Lousy Option B.
- Hacked emails published by Wikileaks reveal that U.S. intelligence officials have panopticon-style surveillance systems in place all across the country as part of the TrapWire Program. Oddly, Wikileaks has been driven offline for days.
- A lawsuit filed by a male Homeland Security employee alleges sexual harassment and reverse sex discrimination during the tenure of Janet Napolitano.
- Primarily because the economy around the world is so sucky, the International Energy Agency cut its global crude oil demand forecasts for 2012 and 2013. With little money floating around, the IEA sees less call for energy in the months to come.
- A Virginia woman says she was fined $5,000 for, among other things, running "unlicensed events" at her farm, like a birthday party for a friend's child. She and her pitchfork-wielding friends (yes, really) showed up at a zoning board meeting to express their displeasure.
- Anti-gun-rights activists have a new ally. David Berkowitz, the imprisoned serial killer known as "Son of Sam," thinks "society has to take the glory out of guns." Well .. of course he doesn't want the rest of us packing heat.
- Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo who planned a bombing attack against fellow soldiers in support of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, will instead spend life in prison.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
According to the Idaho Spokesman-Review, two members of the so-called "sovereign citizen" movement provoked a little SWAT incident August 8. The cause? Dodgy-looking plates.
So says the Los Angeles Times:
the "sovereign citizen" movement, a group that has attracted little national media attention but which the FBI classifies as an "extremist antigovernment group." So-called sovereign citizens argue that they are not subject to local, state or federal laws, and some refuse to recognize the authority of courts or police.
Since 2000, members of the movement have killed six police officers, and clashes with law enforcement are on the rise, according to the FBI. The deadliest incident came in 2010, when a shootout with a member left four people dead, including two police officers, during what began as a routine traffic stop in West Memphis, Ark.
The two men in Idaho consented to be pulled over for cops who thought that their plates looked invalid. They did not, however, consent to exit their truck even after "surrendering." Considering that truck was also covered in stickers that specified “noncommercial private vehicle” and “no trespassing,” authorities assumed that the men were sovereign citizens and were therefore most likely armed. A two-hour standoff resulted, with the two men eventually being cut out of their seat belts.
Sovereign citizens are, according to the FBI, an extremist group. According to the the Anti-Defamation League they consist of "anti-government ideology, with some white supremacist elements." According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, they do "favor paper over guns" but they are conspiratorial and irrationally anti-government. All of this might very well be true, though all three of the aforementioned organizations are knee-deep in vested interests in portraying all anti-government types as nutty and dangerous.
Certainly they have some nonsensical views on secrets of how the government works, which go frustratingly often with anti-government spirits that a libertarian could dig. And as Brian Doherty described in December, it was a family of so-called sovereigns back in June 2011 who were the recipients of the first use of a drone to capture a suspect done by domestic law enforcement. Doherty also noted the existence of these folk in March 2009 when an accused drunk driver argued in court that he was a sovereign citizen and therefore the law did not apply to him.
Apparently many sovereigns, even if they have a reputation for clashing with cops, do recognize sheriffs as the "highest authority" so the SWAT team sent to deal with the Idaho men included one. He noted, "They were, thank goodness, nonviolent and it ended very well.”
I know nothing about these mens' views, but it seems like they're not the feared picture of sovereigns who use exactly this sort of banal traffic stop to murder cops. So, when they're this non-violent it's awfully hard to disapprove of total non-compliance with police over a charge like wonky license plants. Maybe we could all learn a thing or two, if not go full conspiracy wacko, from these sovereign citizens. And their idea to choke bureaucracy to death on its own paperwork is a compelling one.
The Olympics has put the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, back in the spotlight. The blond bombshell of British politics is renowned across the Atlantic as something of a talented buffoon, who is as well known for his humorous media appearances as he is for his strong conservative convictions. Across the river from City Hall in London Johnson’s fellow Oxford University-based Bullingdon Club member and one time colleague David Cameron now lives in 10 Downing Street.
This is not how it was supposed to be. Boris Johnson showed immense interest and talent in politics at Oxford, while David Cameron did not get involved in student politics at all.
With many conservatives inside and outside Westminster making their dissatisfaction with Cameron’s government clear speculations of a Johnson return to Parliament have become increasingly vocal.
How could anyone elect a prat who gets stuck in a zip wire?
He has also put aside speculations in a typically more poetic way, having said that the chances of him becoming Prime Minister as:
only slightly better than my chances of being decapitated by a Frisbee, blinded by a champagne cork, locked in a disused fridge, or reincarnated as a olive.
Despite Johnson’s apparent reservations he has a lot going for him.
Johnson has years of experience in the Conservative Party, and unlike most Tories he is respected by the Liberals and Labour. As Mayor he has managed crises, like last summer’s riots. He has instant name recognition and would be in many ways be a welcome change to the public face of the Conservative Party.
For those of Reason’s persuasion Johnson would be an interesting Prime Minister, having once described his ideal society as one of “rules-based anarchy”. While the policies he has implemented as Mayor might be disappointing from a libertarian perspective it is of some comfort that Johnson's heart seems to be in the right place.
Johnson put his conservatism in perspective when disucssing the Republican party with Fareed Zakaria on CNN:
Of course Johnson ever being Prime Minister, assuming he wants the position, is a long way off. He would have to reenter Parliament and work his way to being leader of the Conservative Party, and then win a general election.
David Cameron does not seem too worried about the prospect. Speaking recently the Prime Minister encouraged Johnson to be "as ambitious as possible". I am sure Johnson won't disappoint, whatever he decides to pursue.
The blockbuster actor Will Smith was in France a few months ago promoting Men in Black III. Because it was French presidential election season and French cable news isn’t too much different than American cable news, the actor was asked about issues on the campaign trail in France, specifically taxes. Smith told the anchor he’d “pay anything” his country needs to keep going. So he was asked about then-presidential candidate Francois Hollande’s proposal to tax the rich at a level of 75 percent, a promise he is trying to make good on now that he is president. A visibly shocked Smith said “well that’s different” before finally deciding on “God bless America.”
Video below, question starts at about 1:11
A new study just published in the journal PLoS One by University of Oregon psychologist Azim F. Shariff and University of Kansas statistician Mijke Rhemtulla looks at the "Divergent Effects of Beliefs in Heaven and Hell on National Crime Rates." They find that the fear of God works much better at keeping people on the straight-and-narrow than does belief in divine mercy. Laboratory studies had earlier found that having Christian undergraduates spend ten minutes writing either on God's forgiving nature or His retribution for sins primed them for a subsequent task in which they could cheat. The students who wrote about divine retribution cheated considerablly less than those who focused on divine foregiveness. As the researchers explain:
This pattern of results is consistent with theories highlighting the effectiveness of supernatural punishment–specifically–at regulating moral behavior and, as a result, group cooperation. These theories argue that human punishment is a highly effective deterrent to anti-social behavior within groups, but one that faces inevitable limitations of scale. Human monitors cannot see all transgressions, human judgers cannot adjudicate with perfect precision, and human punishers are neither able to apprehend every transgressor, nor escape the potential dangers of retribution. Divine punishment, on the other hand, has emerged as a cultural tool to overcome a number of those limitations. Unlike humans, divine punishers can be omniscient, omnipotent, infallible, and untouchable-and therefore able to effectively deter transgressors who may for whatever reason be undeterred by earthly policing systems.
Supernatural benevolence, however, is not theorized to be similarly effective at stabilizing cooperation within groups. Moreover, the evidence thus far suggests that though the more ‘positive’ religious attributes may provide their own benefits, such as better self-esteem or health coping, their role in encouraging moral behavior may be, at best, minimal and, at worst, negative.
Using these theoretical insights, the two researchers gathered up statistics on national rates of belief in Heaven and Hell and their national crime rates to see how (if) they correlated. They also took into account income inequality, GDP per capita, life expectancy, degree of urbanization, and so forth. Their analysis concludes:
The present analysis has uncovered two strong, unique, and reliable relations between religious belief and national crime rates. The degree to which a country’s rate of belief in heaven outstrips its rate of belief in hell significantly predicts higher national crime rates. Statistically, this finding manifests in two independent effects: the strong negative effect of rates of belief in hell on crime, and the strong positive effect of rates of belief in heaven on crime....
...these findings coalesce with theoretical and empirical work suggesting that beliefs in punishing and omniscient supernatural agents spread across historical societies primarily because of their ability to foster cooperation and suppress anti-social behavior among anonymous strangers.
If believers actually are primarily motivated to moral behavior by fear of damnation, it's no wonder that they don't much like or trust atheists.
America’s failed government-subsidized ventures into solar panel manufacturing have been blamed on that massive Chinese industrial juggernaut, flooding the market with cheaper goods and making it impossible for us to compete. (And not because of poor public investment decisions and lack of accountability due to crony capitalism, no sir!)
So let’s turn to Caijing Magazine, reporting directly from China on all matters business, to tell us how well the nation is curbstomping our struggling green energy capitalists here in the free world:
China’s top ten photovoltaic makers have accumulated a combined debt of 17.5 billion U.S. dollars so far, leading the whole industry to the brink of bankruptcy, data from U.S. investment agency Maxim Group showed.
Goodness. That’s 35 Solyndras!
LDK Solar, the world’s second-largest maker of solar wafers, and Suntech Power, the world’s largest solar panels producer, are the mostly likely to be headed for bankruptcy, Maxim noted.
LDK reported a net profit loss of 1.08 billion yuan in the first half of this year, with a total liability of 26.7 billion yuan, about 88 percent of its total assets. 2.42 billion yuan of debts will come due in 2013, compared with a cash pile of only 830 million yuan.
With its debt-to-equity ratio at 7.4, the Jiangxi-based LDK has already been in insolvency based on corporate accounting standards in the Europe and the United States, according to Maxim. A bankruptcy filing or restructuring could be needed for LDK, it added.
The White House likes to respond to Solyndra’s bankruptcy rather dismissively. It’s one of the risks of venture capitalism investment. Sometimes the risk doesn’t work out. But we must invest! We must not fall behind Europe and China! But if China can’t make it work with its cheap labor, Solyndra is far from an anomaly (as we’re already learning from our parade of misbegotten solar failures).
So is the United States learning its lesson? This week the Department of Defense announced it would open up 13 million acres of public land for renewable energy development. How much of that will require government subsidies of manufacturers to actually happen? Or will the government listen to Americans begging them to stop it? (Ha ha, fat chance)
David Kirby, Vice President at FreedomWorks, and myself have a new op-ed published in Politico today discussing our research of the tea party movement. We argue the tea party has pursued a strategy that is functionally libertarian, by generally avoiding divisive social issues and sticking to economic issues.
Our evidence shows the tea party has thus far remained functionally libertarian because roughly half of its constituents are economically conservative and socially moderate to liberal. The other half of the tea party is made up of both economically and socially conservative voters. Although these two groups don’t agree on social issues, they are both significantly more conservative on economic issues than their non-tea party Republican counterparts.
We also find evidence that tea party libertarians provided early energy for the tea party movement. Using American National Election Studies 2008-2010 panel data we find that:
“Starting in early 2008 through the early tea parties, libertarians were more than twice as 'angry' with the Republican Party as social conservatives; more pessimistic about the economy and deficit during the Bush years, and more frustrated that people like them cannot affect government. Libertarians, including young people who supported Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, provided much of the early energy for the tea party and spread the word through social media.”
The conventional wisdom for at least two decades has held that Republican primaries are won by emphasizing social issues to win over social conservatives. Some point to Rick Santorum’s rise in the presidential polls earlier this year as current evidence. However exit polls reveal that Santorum never won a majority of the tea party vote in any primary with a poll. Moreover, mounting examples in Indiana, Kentucky, Florida, Wisconsin, and Texas suggest that Republican candidates must increasingly reach out to Ron Paul and tea party supporters on economic issues in order to win.
Read more at politico.com
"Whole Foods CEO John Mackey on the Moral Case for Capitalism" is the newest offering from ReasonTV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions. and more Reason TV clips.View this article
National Journal...asked a panel of Congressional and Political Insiders to rank, one-through-five, those columnists, bloggers, and television or radio commentators who most help to shape their own opinion or worldview.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman received more points than anyone else, with support from both Democrats and Republicans.
I should point out that this survey is three years old. That is not a sign that we are not doomed. It is a sign that we've been doomed for a while.
We’ve all become accustomed to the police increasing their ticket-writing to backfill their budgets, writes Steven Greenhut, but civil forfeiture laws have taken the profiteering to a new and disturbing level. If, for instance, your neighbor borrowed your green Buick and sold some marijuana to an undercover agent, the law enforcement agency can seize the car. The owner might not have done anything wrong, but the car was indeed used in the commission of a crime. And law enforcement knows that it’s so costly for people to fight their forfeiture proceedings that many victims simply cede the property without a fight. As Greenhut explains, the time has come to build a wall of separation between government power and the profit motive.View this article
Last year, I was surprised to see Allen Frances, who headed the panel that produced the current edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, tell Gary Greenberg: "There is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define it." This week Frances surprised me again, declaring in his contribution to a Cato Unbound debate about psychiatric coercion that "mental disorders most certainly are not diseases." Rather, he says, they are "constructs" that may justify treating people against their will as "a last resort." Go here for my response. But start with Jeffrey Schaler's opening essay, where he lays out the Szaszian position on mental illness, which Frances, the lead editor of psychiatry's bible, says he basically agrees with, although "Schaler and Szasz go way too far in their total rejection of any need ever for involuntary treatment."
Next week University of Maryland law professor Amanda Pustilnik will contribute an essay, after which there will be a continuing exchange. I am eager to see Schaler respond to Frances and to see Frances elaborate on his position, which contradicts the standard line, promoted by psychiatrists, drug companies, and government officials, that mental illnesses are brain diseases.
More on psychiatry's shaky conceptual and empirical foundation: my 2011 review of three books about psychiatry, including the 50th-anniversary edition of Szasz's classic The Myth of Mental Illness; Brian Doherty's 2007 essay on the insanity defense; my 2005 review of Szasz Under Fire, an essay collection edited by Schaler; and my 2000 Reason interview with Szasz.
What does it mean, when Wikileaks publishes a trove of documents hacked by Anonymous from the strategic intelligence firm Stratfor — a trove that apparently details a massive electronic spying system run by the U.S. government — and is then hit by a massive and sustained distributed denial of service attack that prevents journalists and people at large from examining the documents in question? I can't be the only person that finds that just a tad ... suggestive.
The best round-up of the story so far is at RT:
Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology — and have installed it across the US under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous.
Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence. It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it's the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community. The employee roster at Arbaxas reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities according to their public LinkedIn profiles, and the corporation's ties are assumed to go deeper than even documented.
It's difficult to check on RT's report, though, because, as my old employer ZDNet has it:
WikiLeaks is down. The site has been down for the last five days, during which it has been experiencing a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
This isn't the first time this has happened. Back in May, Wikileaks was also taken down by a DDoS attack. That one lasted four days, however, meaning this one has already gone on for longer, according to the site's Twitter account.
Note that the ZDNet story was published two days ago and the attack still continues. Wikileaks mirrors are also offline. So are newly established mirrors to which documents were posted just hours ago.
You can call me DietPepsi. I am the leader of AntiLeaks. We are not doing this to call attention to ourselves. We are young adults, citizens of the United States of America and are deeply concerned about the recent developments with Julian Assange and his attempt at aslyum in Ecuador.
Assange is the head of a new breed of terrorist. We are doing this as a protest against his attempt to escape justice into Ecuador. This would be a catalyst for many more like him to rise up in his place. We will not stop and they will not stop us.
Yeah. So ... an ad hoc group of young super-patriot anti-terrorism activists has knocked Wikileaks and all of its mirrors offline for a week? Right.
Maybe it's all an awesomely effective Wikileaks marketing ploy, because, frankly, I want to know more about TrapWire.
As the 2012 London Summer Games wind down, all that's left are the memories of great performances...and the horrifying aftertaste of yet another epic mascot failure.
The first official Olympic mascot dates back only to 1972, writes Nick Gillespie, but organizers have worked like Dr. Moreau on a methamphetamine bender to create a non-stop procession of freakish experiments gone terribly wrong. Here's the five worst mascots from the Summer Games.View this article
If you can't please the base, you can still scare them. Since Mitt Romney and Barack Obama aren't all that far apart on the most important issues of the day, from America's empire abroad to its corporate state at home, the candidates' boosters are pushing people to the polls by raising the alarm that the other team is in the hands of dangerous extremists. If you had no sources of news but the anxious emails that activists blast into the Net, you'd think Romney reclines at home in a tricorne hat while Obama secretly stalks the White House halls in a keffiyeh.
The messaging is easier when you're talking about the downticket races, where some actual ideologues have won some nominations. But even then you sometimes see weird contortions, as in Sahil Kapur's report for the liberal website Talking Points Memo this morning, headlined "The New Christine O’Donnells? Hard-Right Nominees Endanger GOP Senate Hopes":
The latest is Tuesday’s Missouri primary victor, the six-term conservative Rep. Todd Akin, who defeated two more moderate Republicans better positioned to unseat the highly vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
Akin's past includes praising a militia group linked to anti-abortion extremism in the 1990s and voting against creating a sex-offender registry in 2005. Back in 1991—
WAIT. Stop. Back up. Since when is it "hard-right" to oppose a sex-offender registry?
"We are not auditioning for fearless leader," Grover Norquist told conservatives at the CPAC convention in February. "We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget....We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate."...
By contrast, the Democratic platform in 2008 was not forced on then-candidate Obama by a liberal base. Single payer advocates were forced to settle for a far less radical universal health care plan, and the candidates adopted similar plans in competition with each other.
"The [Democratic] presidential nominee has an enormous amount of sway over the platform," says Howard Dean, who was DNC chairman at the time. "There is some push and pull, but the nominee gets his way most of the time."...
"[I]n some ways we're a more democratic party," he said.
I think it's true that the conservative grassroots, while evidently unable to prevent a guy like Romney from getting the nomination, do have more influence in their party than their counterparts on the left. At the very least they're more vocal. But the doublethink here is astounding. On one hand, we're told that the Democratic rank and file don't have as much sway over their candidate's positions as the Republican rank and file have over theirs. At the same time we're informed that the Democrats are "more democratic."
The sad joke here is that this is coming from Dean, the guy who eight years ago was the frontman of an insurgency on behalf of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic party." Speaking as someone who supports most of that wing's purported positions on war, civil liberties, and corporate welfare, I wish those activists would stop fretting about the power of the GOP's ideologues and start emulating them instead. There was a time when they were willing to try it, but now they've been scared straight.
Remember 13-year-old Nathan Duszynski, the Michigan kid who wanted to make some money to help out his disabled parents by opening a hot dog stand?
The story has taken a turn for the worse: The Mackinac Center, which originally brought the story to light, is now reporting that Nathan and his parents are homeless after the city shut down his business:
The family receives about $1,300 a month in disability payments, Medicaid and food assistance. The three are having a hard time staying together. MLive confirms what the Mackinac Center learned Thursday — Nathan and his mother are staying at the Holland Rescue Mission.
“Nate and I are now in a shelter,” Lynette said. “Doug can’t stay with us because he takes prescription narcotics to deal with his pain and the shelter does not allow him with those kinds of drugs.”
She says the situation has been stressful on the family. Lynette is afraid to be away from her husband in case she has a seizure.
The cart was shut down 10 minutes after Nathan started set up on his first day in the parking lot of a sporting goods store with the owner's permission. The cart violated a rule against food carts in Holland, Michigan's downtown commercial district.
After the story gleaned some media attention, city officials responded to individual inquiries by explaining that there has been some bureaucratic snafus. But they ultimately stuck to their guns, justifying the decision like this:
The downtown business owners annually pay substantial assessments (often reaching into the thousands of dollars) for improvement and maintenance of the free parking lots, amenities and events, and “snowmelt” to keep the downtown alive and well – and these assessments are on top of their regular property taxes.
With that in mind, it is understandable that these businesses, historically at least, have been reluctant to allow mobile vendors into the downtown area to benefit from the environment the brick and mortar businesses have created, compete with them for customers, but not contribute to the substantial capital and operational costs of the downtown.
Got that? The businesses are reluctant to allow competitors. Coincidentally, the city—recipient of those thousands of dollars in fees—is reluctant to allow competitors as well. Handy, no?
Last week, Nathan and his family made an appeal to the Holland City Council. Mayor Kurt Dykstra defended the city’s ordinance, saying it was to protect downtown restaurant owners, who asked that the “success of the downtown district not be infringed upon by those who don’t share in the costs of maintaining the attractiveness of that space.”
Consider this your daily reminder that crony capitalism happens at all levels.
If you want to help Nathan out, you can do so here.
Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews the fourth Bourne film in today' Washington Times:
There’s not much to learn about Aaron Cross, the biologically enhanced special agent at the center of “The Bourne Legacy.” As played byJeremy Renner, he’s alternately driven and distracted, a weapon that looks like a person yet lacks anything resembling a personality.
Like Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne, Cross is essentially a blank, albeit one with very good reflexes. But where his predecessor’s primary goal was to reclaim his own identity, Cross aims only to keep popping the pills that transformed him into a super agent, lest he revert into his old dim self.
It’s a telling difference. Bourne’s blankness represented a loss, and it gave him purpose. Cross, on the other hand, is merely fighting to stay as blank as he was when we met him.
Mr. Renner projects an erratic magnetism that helps hold “Legacy” together, but even so his turn suffers relative to Mr. Damon‘s. But don’t blame Mr. Renner for the unfavorable comparison: He was Bourne this way.
- Obama supporters pitch the president as the most pro-gay ever. However, Mitt Romney articulated opposition to the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays first, and the president says even though he opposes the ban on gay scouts he won’t step down as honorary chair of the organization. Not as brave as the ten year olds who quit in protest I guess?
- The company formerly known as Blackwater admitted to wrongdoing ranging from possessing weapons illegally to doing business with prohibited countries. It will pay a 7.5 million dollar fine and avoid prosecution. No executives had to take any personal responsibility.
- A Florida woman claims in a lawsuit she was pulled over for a rolling stop and had a gun pointed at her by a cop who then removed her tampon.
- The parents of an 11-year-old girl have been arrested; she accused her father of waterboarding her while her mother looked on.
- The metalcore band Hatebreed wants an apology from CNN, who mistakenly included them in a segment about hatecore and the Sikh temple shooting.
- No vibrator for you, says Mayor Bloomberg. The city cancelled a giveaway by the company Trojan yesterday.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
The Bourne Legacy is a predictable letdown, writes Kurt Loder. Paul Greengrass, who directed the last two Bournes (Doug Liman directed the first one), has a gift for exciting, high-style action that defies replication. New director Tony Gilroy—the lead writer on all three previous installments—isn’t noted as an action man (his two other pictures are Michael Clayton and Duplicity), and he may have known going in that there was no way to completely fill the huge boots left empty by Greengrass’ departure. So Gilroy has made his own kind of picture. It’s not a bad movie; it’s just not a great Bourne movie.View this article
A St. Paul, Minnesota family claims in a lawsuit that police officers who conducted a wrong-door raid on their home shot their dog, and then forced their three handcuffed children to sit near the dead pet while officers ransacked the home. The lawsuit, which names Ramsey County, the Dakota County Drug Task Force, and the DEA, and asks for $30 million in civil rights violations and punitive damages after a wrong-door raid, also claims that the officers kicked the children and deprived one of them of her diabetes medication.
The suit also alleges that one of the lead officers with the task force "provided false information" in order to get a warrant to raid the Franco family's home. (That information being the Franco family's address, and not that of their supposedly criminal neighbor Rafael Ybarra.)
And boy, did Ybarra miss out on a horrific raid. Courthouse News reports:
But on the night of July 13, 2010, the task force broke down the Francos' doors, "negligently raided the home of plaintiffs, by raiding the wrong home and physically brutalizing all the above-named occupants of said house," the complaint states.
Even after learning that they were in the wrong house, the complaint states, the drug busters stayed in the Francos' home and kept searching it.
They "handcuffed all of the inhabitants of the plaintiffs' home except plaintiff Analese Franco who was forced, virtually naked, from her bed onto the floor at gunpoint by officers of the St. Paul Police Department SWAT team and officers of the St. Paul Police Department."
The complaint states: "Upon forcibly breaching the plaintiffs' home, defendants terrorized the plaintiffs at gun and rifle point.
"Each plaintiff was forced to the floor at gun and rifle point and handcuffed behind their backs.
"Defendants shot and killed the family dog and forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead pet and bloody pet for more than an hour while defendants continued to search the plaintiffs' home."
One child "was kicked in the side, handcuffed and searched at gunpoint," the family says.
Another child, a girl, "a diabetic, was handcuffed at gunpoint and prevented by officer from obtaining and taking her medication, thus induced a diabetic episode as a result of low-blood sugar levels."
Shawn Scovill of the taskforce may have raided the wrong house, but he didn't want to let the opportunity to rifle through someone's things go to waste. So he and his team ransacked the Franco house for over an hour, and managed to find a .22 caliber pistol in the "basement bedroom of Gilbert Castillo," which the suit says they attributed to the head of the Franco household, Roberto Franco. According to the suit, Franco was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm, and remains behind bars. (If anyone can weigh in on the legal loophole that might allow evidence seized during a wrong-door raid to be used in court, please fill me in. Also, are Minnesota gun laws that strict?)
Since the DEA is named in the suit, the Francos' legal team will likely find itself going head-to-head with Obama administration lawyers, who argued a similar case earlier this year before the Ninth Circuit. Short recap of the proceedings: The DOJ sought a summary dismissal of a lawsuit filed against seven DEA agents for their rough treatment of a family of four--mother, father, two very young daughters--during a wrong-door raid conducted during the Bush administration. The Ninth Circuit, denied the DOJ's request for a summary dismissal, and drew a bright line between how adults are treated during raids, and how children are treated during raids.
So there's reason to hope that any request of a summary dismissal of the Francos' case (by local law or federal attorneys) won't fly based simply on allegations that the children were cuffed, kicked, deprived of medicine, and made to sit near their dead pet for an hour. But I don't think suing over the wrong-door aspect will get the Franco family very far, unless they can prove the mistake on the warrant was intentional and that the officers were aware of the address error before the raid was conducted.
Henry Payne imagines what other companies Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may decide to put out of business for not sharing Chicago's "values."View this article
The Shelby County, Tennessee, county commission has asked a federal court to order the Memphis Commercial Appeal to turn over the IDs of everyone who has commented online about plans to create new school districts in the suburbs. The commission’s attorney has not said why commissioners want the information or what they plan to do with it.
Pro-Obama SuperPac Priorities USA runs an ad more or less accusing Romney of being responsible for a woman's death. You know, Bain Capital restructured a company, man got fired, no insurance, wife delays a doctor's visit, cancer, DEAD! (UPDATE: Peter Suderman had earlier today torn apart the factual basis of this ad.)
Enjoy the ad below. It's very tasteful and restrained, for that sad and untrue story it tells.
At the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf notes that blaming your opponent for people's deaths should be a little awkward for Obama fans, what with the drones and the death rained from the sky on the innocents and all that:
It would be nice if Obama defenders could respond that he's done everything in his power to minimize civilian casualties, but that isn't true. Drones that fire missiles, then sometimes fire again when rescuers rush to the scene, or when funerals are held, does not minimize civilian casualties. When a drone program defines "all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent," the effect is not to minimize civilian casualties, but to maximize the cover the United States has to kill people without raising alarm from outside observers.
Do Obama supporters who cheered this anti-Romney ad understand the sort of commercial that grieving family members of this 16-year-old American boy killed in a CIA drone strike could make?
Lucy Steigerwald blogged in June on half-assed liberal defenses of Obama's killin' ways.
It takes a special talent to take a crowd-pleasing issue like an investigation of high-level financial shenanigans which should be a political sure-fire winner, and promptly turn it into a cause for international friction replete with allegations of cronyism. But that's what bureaucrats in New York and D.C. have done in the wake of the Standard Charter could-be scandal over whether the British bank did deals with Iran in violation of U.S. rules. The Brits accuse American officials of wielding regulations and investigative powers as weapons to damage U.K. financial institutions with an eye to boosting the prospects of U.S.-based competitors. And you have to wonder if, somewhere in there, the Brits are quietly wondering why they should give a shit about D.C.'s neurotic obsession with one lunatic-ruled dump among many in the Middle East.
The mess started when Benjamin Lawsky of New York's newly created home for busybodies, the Department of Financial Services, decided to demonstrate that he could play with the big boys, by going batshit over Standard Charter. Without consulting with anybody else, he raised the Iranian money-laundering allegations and threatened to strip the bank of its license to operate in New York.
The Brits promptly fired back. Reports Bloomberg:
London Mayor Boris Johnson accused U.S. regulators of acting in a “high-handed” way over Standard Chartered Plc (STAN) and said criticism of British banks stems from jealousy of London as a financial center.
The U.S. “is still the land of the free and the home of the brave and, every now and then, just a tiny bit high-handed in her treatment of other nations,” Johnson wrote in a column for the London-based Spectator magazine due to be published tomorrow.
Usually, as you rise up the political food chain, reactions become more muted. When they don't ... Well, as the London Daily Telegraph has it:
George Osborne has intervened in the escalating row over Standard Chartered with three calls to the US Treasury Secretary in which he demanded “fair treatment of British businesses” by US regulators.
The Chancellor told Tim Geitner he would not impede any investigation but that he had been “very concerned about the way” in which New York’s Benjamin Lawsky had sprung his explosive order on Monday.
The staid, old BBC takes a more holistic approach, pondering whether Yanks have any business bossing other folks around:
Does the US have a legitimate right to intervene in the behaviour of companies and individuals, or indeed of countries, operating beyond its own borders?
The question is pertinent and timely, given that Standard Chartered, a UK bank, was accused this week of violating US law.
You get the impression that, if the U.K. could still transport its own troops, they'd be marching into Albany right now. There's a reason why Forbes titles a story about this, "How Not To Go After A Big Bank: The Standard Chartered Debacle."
The Forbes story still ends with the standard disclaimer about how, "Of course, if Standard Chartered engaged in illegal behavior (it denies the extent of the NYDFS’s claims) then none of that should matter ..." But the illegal behavior is doing business with a country that the U.S. government considers very naughty — even naughtier than itself and its friends. Frankly, it's hard to get excited over that. And people outside our borders very much don't care about American officials' obsessions.
It's easy to see why the Brits might consider over-the-top huffing and puffing about an arbitrary rule to be nothing more than political posturing for advantage.
Part 12,394 of an infinite-part series on public employee cost crises across the country, courtesy of the Illinois Policy Institute:
The city’s workforce is getting small but more expensive: dropping from almost 42,400 full-time-equivalent positions in 1993 to fewer than 33,800 FTEs in 2012. But at the same time per-employee costs have skyrocketed from $58,299 in ’03 to $96,082 in ’11. So while the city cut its workforce by about 20 percent, per-employee costs have gone up by better than half. Add it all together and you have labor costs for the city as a whole increasing by 14 percent.
And employee costs really drive the City of Chicago’s budget; by the city’s own calculations 74 percent of expenditures over the last nine years have been personnel related.
But that’s just the extant costs. What about those pensions?
The best of the four (which unfortunately happens to be the smallest of the four in terms of payments it is expected to pay out) has only 61 percent of the assets it ought to hold to be able to pay expected benefits – barely out of what is widely considered to be the pension crisis zone. The firefighter and police pensions have only 26% and 33% of the assets they should. The city’s largest pension fund, which covers most city employees (outside off public safety) as well as some non-instructional public school employees, has about 41 percent of the assets it will need to be certain of paying benefits on time.
According to the budget math, the city needs to increase its pension contributions from $476 million this year to $1.2 billion in 2015.
According to the city’s own analysis, the uncontrollable personnel costs are significantly due to forced salary increases “resulting from contractual obligations under collective bargaining agreements with the unions that represent the vast majority of the City employees.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s team couldn’t possibly be considering the idea that collective bargaining by public sector unions are a bad thing, could they? I thought that was something only corporate-owned, Koch-funded, Tea Party plutocrats believed!
But then, Emanuel has shown he is not too fond of a lot of public sector nonsense, standing up to lunatic raise demands by teachers unions and practically campaigning against unions in his run for mayor. It would be interesting to see the messaging if the unions tried to get him recalled.
Great news out of Utah, where the Institute for Justice successfully convinced Judge David Sam of the United States District Court for the District of Utah to strike down that state’s occupational licensing scheme requiring African hair braiders to acquire an expensive and unnecessary government cosmetology license before plying their trade. In addition to the fact that “the legislature never considered African hair braiding when creating its licensing scheme,” Judge Sam declared, “the State has never investigated whether African hair braiding is a threat to public health or safety.” In other words, the government was unable to provide any sort of legitimate justification for requiring African hairbraiders to spend thousands of dollars on a year's worth of useless state-approved cosmetology classes. As the decision put it:
Utah’s cosmetology/barbering licensing scheme is so disconnected from the practice of African hairbraiding, much less from whatever minimal threats to public health and safety are connected to braiding, that to premise [plaintiff Jestina Clayton’s] right to earn a living by braiding hair on that scheme is wholly irrational and a violation of her constitutionally protected rights. “[T]he right to work for a living in the common occupations of the community is of the very essence of the personal freedom and opportunity” that the Constitution was designed to protect.
It's nice to see the federal courts recognizing that the Constitution does indeed protect the right to earn an honest living.
Oh, teens. Teens and their fads, from Satanism to vodka-soaked tampons; there is no doubt that being between 13 and 19 means you're a drunk, sexually active follower of Lucifer on your way to a rainbow party.
However, the Los Angeles Times would prefer we all worry about teens prank-calling 911 and getting authorities to send a SWAT team to an address of their choosing. This, concerned adults, is known as "SWATing." And last week it happened to pre-Justin Bieber tween musical object of worship, now gay-rights-fan and stoner, Miley Cyrus.
That is undoubtedly a gross waste of resources, as the LA Times blog notes. What they forget to note is that it could also kill someone. Reason knows you know many SWAT/militarization of police horror stories, but the LA Times seems not to notice that this is a bigger problem than unruly teens. (Or a bigger problem than conservative bloggers getting SWATed, which is how the term came to many people's attention earlier this summer.)
It quasi-self-aware style, the LA Times writes:
The thing with SWAT-ting, apparently, is that it's too easy, especially for the ... ... overindulged, bratty, unbearable kids of today who have way too much free time.
The folks from the site uKnowKids sent us a handy primer on this devious activity, noting that teens can easily mask their phone numbers via services such as Spoofcard. This and other apps also let them change their voices.
This is, then, way too much technology for the LAPD.
Seriously, though: Calling out rifle-toting officers and a chopper to a celebrity's house costs money and takes resources away from other communities.
They also quote an"internet safety expert" who warns:
"Many teens who engage in online gaming, chat rooms or social media may be at risk. Miley Cyrus and a few politicians have already been victims of this vengeful act."
California, perhaps, is less likely to have a moment where a puzzled, armed homeowner gets taken out by nervous cops. But it has happened during "legitimate" drug raids in Florida, Georgia, and other places. And the teen horrors! element to this, even if really a trend (which seems dubious, because moral panics nearly always are), is not the point. Hopefully parents have taught their 13-plus-year-old that it's seriously not okay to mess with emergency services. If they haven't, that's a problem already (and they're looking at serious punishment if caught), but it's a problem made worse with the ease in which SWAT teams are deployed in the U.S. So why not focus, even a little, on that aspect instead of hand-wringing over teens and tech?
Because worrying about teens is just always going to be more fun than worrying about the police pulling out your tampon during a strip search after you allegedly rolled through a stop light. If that womean had been a teen, perhaps the officers would have just been checking to see if her tampon were vodka-soaked.
As usual, this is not new, it's simply being reported as part of a trend. SWATing has, according to 911dispatch.com, happened about 65 times in the past decade. Regular readers need not be reminded that real, dangerous SWAT raids happen about 150 times a day. Wouldn't it be great if we could start a moral panic about that?
America’s economic pundits are not very creative, observes Anthony Randazzo. For the past several years, their gripes about economic growth have fallen into several staid categories: Monetary policy (“the Fed should do less” vs. “the Fed should do more”); the struggling housing market (“let housing bottom out” vs. “we must save housing”); income inequality (“it doesn’t matter” vs. “it does matter”); and the federal deficit (“lower taxes, pretend to lower spending a lot” vs. “raise taxes, pretend to lower spending a little”).
While most of these are legitimate causes of economic stagnation, Randazzo writes, there is another category that is having an outsized negative impact on growth: privately held debt. Simply put, there won't be a recovery until credit card and household debt levels come down.View this article
- A surveillance partnership between police and Microsoft will allow authorities to track down and smack the Big Gulps right out of New Yorkers’ hands.
- An Oregon man began serving a 30-day jail term for creating reservoirs on his property to collect rain water and snow runoff in violation of a 1925 law.
- Google will pay $22.5 million, the FTC’s biggest fine ever levied, for tracking Safari browser users who had opted out of their cookies.
- Metaphors: How do they work? An Occupy protestor in Pennsylvania stood outside a bank with a sign warning customers they were “being robbed” due to corrupt bank behavior. Police arrested him for attempted bank robbery.
- Immigration checks in Arizona could restart as the impact of the recent Supreme Court decision filters back down into the state.
- It’s all Mesopotamia’s fault! A new study from Washington State University shows that dams may contribute to greenhouse gases.
- You may now braid hair in Utah without a permit. Just wait until somebody puts an eye out and sues and then you’ll all be sorry!
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
If you thought heavy metal/gay icon Rob Halford was going to join the Chik-Fil-A beatdown, you've got another thing comin'. In an interview with AOL's Noisecreep, Halford not only defended CEO Dan Cathy, but also pro-gay protesters of Chik-Fil-A, and conservatives who have packed Chik-Fil-A's in protest of the protesters. Basically, Halford loves free speech almost as much as he loves assless chaps:
"Everybody in this country has the right to say what they think and feel and what best represents them. The people at Chick-fil-A have the absolute right to say and do what they want. It doesn't matter that all of these people disagree with their opinion. The question was how would the people that agree with what that man said do to support the company and how would the ones against his anti-gay remarks protest.
"The supporters have been showing up in droves, to spend money at the restaurants and peacefully assemble. But there has obviously been so many people who have gone out and boycotted the company. I think it's great. That's our right here. What you're seeing here are the elements of the American Constitution in all of their glory. It's a wonderful thing to see happening and talk about and the fact that everyone is discussing the gay rights issue is great."
Before our interview ended, Halford wanted to be clear about his stance on the anti-gay marriage issue: "I don't think that man thought too much about the business consequences of what he said, but I think he was standing for what he believes in. I don't agree with him at all, but God bless the man. It's as simple as that."
And God bless Rob Halford. (Via NRO's Kevin Williamson.)
For the growing number of Mars porn addicts, the quality of the images released by NASA from the newly landed Curiosity rover has been frustratingly low. To paraphrase an old saw: If we can put a rover on Mars, why can't it take pictures that are at least as good as those phone photos we all took of ourselves in the bathroom mirror last week?
Luckily, Mars rover project manager Mike Ravine is here to answer all your questions (well, not here, but at Digital Photography Review):
A number of factors led to the use of 2MP sensors in the main imaging cameras used on NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, says the project manager responsible for their development. The slow data rates available for broadcasting images back to Earth and the team's familiarity with that family of sensors played a part, says Malin Space Science Systems' Mike Ravine, but the biggest factor was the specifications being fixed as far back as 2004.
Got that? The whole thing has to be done according to laboriously approved government specs, and that means what happened in 2004 sticks with the team for the rest of the project, even when technology changes.
'There's a popular belief that projects like this are going to be very advanced but there are things that mitigate against that. These designs were proposed in 2004, and you don't get to propose one specification and then go off and develop something else. 2MP with 8GB of flash [memory] didn't sound too bad in 2004. But it doesn't compare well to what you get in an iPhone today.'
I think I speak for space geeks around the world when I say: Head. Desk.
To be fair, Ravine goes on to explain that there are also good scientific reasons why the payoff from a newer, fancier camera probably wouldn't be as impressive as you might think. Two of the scarcest resources in a project like this are experience and data about how technology will respond to extreme conditions, and bandwidth to transmit information back to Earth. So using old camera tech that the engineers were already familiar with was useful. And with photo transmission capacity of just 250 megabits per day, there's only so much we were going to be able to see anyway.
And the rover does have the capacity to produce the most iPhone-like picture of all. A semi-misleading photo of itself, shot from a flatteringly elevated angle:
Still, James Cameron is pissed.
"Anaheim Residents React to Police Shootings" is the latest offering from Reason TV. Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions. and more Reason TV clips.View this article
Where can the idea of expansive positive rights that require the abrogation of fundamental negative rights end? With absurdity like this, via the Longview News-Journal in Texas:
A Hawkins man is claiming his civil rights and religious freedom were violated earlier this year when a black man sacked his groceries and a Big Sandy grocery store owner banned the customer from the business…MORE »
[Dewitt Thomas] stated in a nine-page, hand-written lawsuit that he told the grocery sacker, a black man, “Wait a minute, don’t touch my groceries. I can’t have someone negroidal touch my food. It’s against my creed.”
Thomas claimed the cashier was “perplexed” by his request and yelled at him to take his items and leave.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Thomas said, “It’s pretty simple. They treated me really bad because I told them it was against my creed.”
…The sacker, Aaron Menefee, said he thought Thomas was just kidding around.
“The first time he said it, I thought he was joking,” Menefee said. “Then he just kept repeating it.”
Menefee said once he realized Thomas was serious, he called for someone else to sack the groceries, at which time Menefee went to another part of the store…
The administration has come to the realization that not only does the federal government impose a hefty paper work burden on the public, it's also not uncommon for individuals and small businesses to find those forms confusing.
And so the executive branch says it will take steps to address the problem — not, sadly, by reducing the number of forms but by testing the forms to see if their intended audience actually understands them. The administration's regulatory chieftain, Cass Sunstein, explains:
From now on, agencies will be asked to test complex or lengthy forms in advance, by seeing if people can actually understand them. Advance testing can take many forms. Agencies might use focus groups. They might use web-based experiments. They might try in-person observations of how users understand the forms. From those tests, agencies will be better able to identify the likely burdens on members of the public and to find ways to increase simplification and ease of comprehension.
All things considered, this is probably a good thing, at least relative to the prior situation. But the long life of that prior situation reveals a lot. As Binyamin Appelbaum of The New York Times notes, it's sort of sad and hilarious that there was no policy to ensure form usability already in effect. It's telling, really, that despite how heavily the federal government relies on forms and paperwork for its operations, and despite practically endless jokes and complaints about the head-scratching complexities of those forms, no one in power ever thought it was necessary to institute a process to ensure that those forms were clear and usable.
Many liberals already believe that Republicans wouldn't mind seeing children (poor, minority and handicapped children, at least) contracting deadly bacterial diseases, even if conservatives won't explicitly say so. Many liberals assume that the wealthy (especially those who have an exotic career, such as "banker") never really pay their share in taxes and probably cheat and devastate the poor to achieve success. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might not have any proof that Romney hasn't paid a penny in taxes in a decade, but it plays to a larger social truth about conservatives; it is a given.
So, no matter whom Republican Mitt Romney finally taps as his vice presidential nominee, Democrats will accuse this person of crimes against common decency and fairness. This person will, you can bet, be indicted as someone hellbent on "dismantling" Social Security, sacrificing Medicare to the gods of social Darwinism and "slashing" the safety net into worthless tatters.
If that's the case, says David Harsanyi, why not pick a politician who actually speaks about reforming entitlement programs in a serious way? Someone who has actually come up with some ideas that reach beyond platitude? Rep. Paul Ryan, who was spotted pushing a frail wheelchair-bound elderly woman off a cliff in a political ad last year, is really the only person on the shortlist we keep hearing about who fits the bill.View this article
For all the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) horror stories that pop up in local papers, then Drudge, then (often) Reason, turns out according to Gallup, that group of much-maligned gropers are doing okay. Or rather, 54 percent of poll respondees say that the TSA is doing a "good or excellent" job. However, a paltry 13 percent (barely more than the 12 percent who said "poor") actually think the TSA is "excellent."
More Gallup results say that a very sad 9 percent of folks think the TSA is "extremely effective." Forty-four percent think the TSA is "somewhat effective."
The official TSA twitters are proudly touting these poll numbers, even including the "surprise" that Forbes incluTded in their headline on the results. The TSA knows they are not well-loved and all, so maybe we should give them this one.
Back in November 2011, Reason-Rupe asked about the TSA. They found that 69 percent of people thought the agency had made air travel safer. Confidence that they would catch a terrorist in an airport was split 49-44 in favor of yes. Check out the rest of that poll over here.
Meanwhile, the worst TSA story of late comes from RT (taken off of a web forum Flyertalk.com) that says a woman who had previously been the victim of a violent sexual assault had to go to the emergency room after getting an extra pat-down from TSA employees. It's hard to read, and it would be nicer to think that it's someone making it up in order to sully the TSA.
Today George Zimmerman's lawyers officially announced that he will exercise his right to a pretrial hearing on his claim that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense:
Now that the State has released the majority of their discovery, the defense asserts that there is clear support for a strong claim of self-defense. Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a "Stand Your Ground" hearing.
In the case against George Zimmerman, a "Stand Your Ground" hearing will essentially be a mini-trial. Most of the arguments, witnesses, experts, and evidence that the defense would muster in a criminal trial will be presented in the "Stand Your Ground" hearing....
Preparing for the "Stand Your Ground" hearing will require the same time and resources that would be necessary to prepare for a trial. It will take time to collect and submit reciprocal discovery, depose witnesses and experts, and identify evidence to be submitted during the hearing. We anticipate this will still take several months.
The Florida Supreme Court has said such hearings are necessary because the state's self-defense law promises "immunity from criminal prosecution" for people who use force appropriately. Zimmerman can avoid a trial if he convinces a judge, "by a preponderance of the evidence," that he reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to prevent Martin from killing or seriously injuring him. In other words, the judge has to conclude that Zimmerman's account—that Martin knocked him down with a punch to the face, repeatedly smacked his head against a concrete sidewalk, and had him pinned to the ground, his hand moving toward Zimmerman’s gun, when Zimmerman fired—is more likely than not to be true. If Zimmerman has that much evidence in his favor (a big if), it follows that prosecutors could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his use of force was not justified—the standard that would apply in a trial. The upshot is that, assuming everyone applies the rules correctly, the self-defense hearing will not change the outcome of this case, although it could spare Zimmerman the burden of a trial.