I'm sure this will be seen as a good news/bad news scenario for more pugnacious Paulites hoping for a rip-roaring floor fight at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week, but the delegate fights I've been blogging about here for a long time, seem to be resolved, gaining Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) more dedicated delegates on the floor in Tampa than seemed likely just yesterday:
CNN from earlier today, via WYFF 4 TV's website:
The deal, which is expected to be announced Tuesday afternoon, will seat more Paul delegates at next week's Republican National Convention, an act that could help prevent an organized effort by Paul supporters to try and bring Monday's opening session to a grinding halt....
"This is a major step towards peace and good will on the convention floor," said a Paul source familiar with the negotiations....
The RNC has agreed to seat 17 Ron Paul delegates from Louisiana, which has been a major point of contention between the Paul campaign and the Romney campaign. In addition, the RNC will also seat additional Paul delegates from Massachusetts, ending the controversy in that state.
Associated Press had more, later, treating the Louisiana deal as done, with Massachusetts close and Maine still in the air:
The Texas congressman will get 17 of the Louisiana's 46 delegates in the compromise, said Charlie Davis, who served as Paul's campaign chairman in Louisiana. The rest of the state's delegates are expected to support Mitt Romney, the party's presumptive nominee.
A Republican National Committee official confirmed the agreement. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to publicly discuss the negotiations.....
"I think it's a huge win for our campaign because it showed what happened in Louisiana was wrong," Davis said by phone from Tampa. "It's been a long uphill battle, but the overwhelming evidence was on our side."
Supporters for Paul and Romney also have disputes over delegates in Massachusetts and Maine. Jesse Benton, Paul's chief campaign strategist, said Paul's supporters were close to reaching an agreement on divvying up the delegates from Massachusetts.
"Maine is still unsettled, but talks are continuing and the conversation remains respectful," Benton said in an email.
For how we got here, see my early August overview on delegate controversies; and last week's account of the further roadblocks on the way to what seems to be today's compromise. And there are plenty of other Ron Paul delegate fight posts to choose from.
Early word from the more hardcore and rootin-tootin Paul forces on the 'Net is that such compromises won't necessarily keep them pacified on the floor, and certainly won't mean they'll become good soldier Romney voters. It is at the very least politically expedient and intelligent of the GOP powers to not continue deliberately poking sticks of disrespect at Paul's forces.
For the story of how the Ron Paul campaign got here, see my new book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.
Today the Republican platform committee overwhelmingly rejected an amendment supporting civil unions for gay couples. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (right) presumably spoke for many when he said:
I oppose this amendment. I think the wording is too broad. Especially the last sentence: "As long as there are no infringements on the rights of others, it is not the role of government to judge." Well, our government routinely judges situations where you might regard people completely affecting themselves like, for example, the use of controlled substances, like, for example, polygamy that is voluntarily entered into. We condemn those activities even though they’re not hurting other people, at least directly.
Mediaite columnist Andrew Kirell comments:
Right there Kobach explained, in a nutshell, the mainstream Republican worldview that has alienated libertarians for many years. It goes something like this: We support “liberty” and “freedom” to do as you please, so long as those activities aren’t things we find to be yucky, abominable, or uncomfortable. In those cases, freedom does not exist.
It may offend many to hear a Republican official compare gay marriage to drugs and polygamy, but those activities all do have several things in common: they are victimless and they are voluntary.
And government has no business outlawing them.
The platform committee rejected a plea from a Nevada delegate who argued that "the freedom to marry is in line with our core belief in limited government and individual freedom" and quoted former Vice President Dick Cheney: "Freedom means freedom for everyone." Nor was it moved by Rhode Island's representative, who identified herself as a Roman Catholic and said: "There’s nobody in this room who believes [more than I do] that the definition of marriage is between one man and one woman. But those are my religious beliefs, and this country was founded on the separation of church and state."
The GOP seems to be producing a platform that is more socially conservative than its presidential nominee. Mitt Romney (whose great-grandfather was a polygamist, though almost certainly not a pot-smoking polygamist) has said he supports "domestic partnerships" that would offer gay couples "the potential for health benefits and rights of survivorship" as well as the ability to jointly adopt children.
While the United States is currently enjoying its own rape controversy in the UK George Galloway MP has got himself into some trouble of his own. Although Todd Akin seems to have slept through almost every biology class, George Galloway seems to have misunderstood exactly what it even means to rape someone.
Galloway, one of the UK’s more memorable professional taxpayer-funded clowns, has claimed that the act that has Assange in such trouble with the Swedish authorities is not rape. Rather, Galloway claims, Assange is only guilty of “bad sexual etiquette”:
It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, 'do you mind if I do it again?' It might be...bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.
One of the women involved in the case claims that she woke with Assange having sex with her. Galloway said of this sort of encounter:
What occurred is not rape as most people understand it.
The BBC reported on what British law would have to say in such a case:
… the law was clear that if the woman was asleep when a sexual encounter began, consent cannot "reasonably" have been given and having had sex before did not give a man the right to have sex again at any time and assume consent.
Quite where Galloway picked up that having sex with someone while they are asleep is not rape is anyone’s guess.
Whatever one might think of Assange’s hacking and the legitimacy of whistleblowing it is important to remember that he is wanted in Sweden on charges of sexual assault, not espionage. Were Assange not involved in wikileaks he would have been on a plane to Sweden months ago, and he would certainly not be holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Galloway is sticking by his remarks, and I suppose we won’t see if a Swedish court is sympathetic to his claims about what counts as rape until Assange is extradited. Given the current diplomatic fiasco, that may take some time.
Forget about the corn; we’ve got a porn drought coming! Via the Los Angeles Times:
Jolted by the possibility of a syphilis outbreak among its ranks, a Los Angeles-based trade group that represents the adult film industry announced a nationwide moratorium on X-rated productions while more than 1,000 porn performers are tested.
The Free Speech Coalition issued the call on its website after reporting that one performer tested positive for syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, and had begun notifying sexual partners of that information.
The Los Angeles County’s Public Health Department reported five cases of syphilis in the porn industry within a week. According to the Free Speech Coalition’s site, porn producers within the industry are covering the costs to tests all the performers through its Adult Production Health and Safety Services Program. (UPDATE: The Associated Press reports four more cases have been identified, bringing the total to nine.)
The timing is notable, as there will be an initiative on the ballot for Los Angeles County residents in November to mandate condoms in porn shoots (and also require permits, inspections and other regulatory fees). So, of course, there’s going to be some politicization of the outbreak:
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said Monday the developments show that adult film companies are incapable of policing themselves. His group said the syphilis incident would be used as part of the campaign for Measure B, a proposal on the Nov. 6 countywide ballot mandating the use condoms during professional X-rated shoots. And it accused adult film productions of being "bad corporate citizens," saying that no other business would tolerate transmission of any diseases, sexual or otherwise.
"We don't settle for that in food preparation. We don't settle for that in factories," said Tom Myers, general counsel for the group. "I can't think of any other [workplace] where there's an acceptable level of transmissible diseases as a normal course of business."
Hrm. Interesting comments. Who called for the moratorium again? And as for the transmission of disease, kindly Google “hepatitis outbreak” and take note of all those restaurants that are still in business. What we “don’t settle for” in the food industry and all those regulations and inspections doesn’t actually stop outbreaks from happening. We clearly do “settle for” a certain amount of risk of food-borne disease.
The Times makes a point of mentioning that syphilis transmission in the state jumped 18 percent from 2010 and 2011, but that jump was to 2,500 cases for the year. California’s population is more than 37 million people.
Does the continued existence and transmission of HIV mean that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation tolerates the transmission of a certain level of the virus? Do they need to be policed? What an absurd argument.
So what’s really going on here? The answer might be found in the Measure B petition itself:
“Each applicant who is also an individual must also provide the department with proof of successful completion of a blood borne pathogen training course that has been approved by the department.”
Rent-seeking: not sexy in a French maid’s uniform or a leather harness and jockstrap or however else you might dress it up. No doubt the AIDS Healthcare Foundation would be perfect providers of such a training course, right?
Earlier in the year, Reason.tv gave Nanny of the Month honors to Los Angles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for signing condom regulations for porn filming within the city. Measure B, if it passes, would stiffen these measures (and not the good kind of stiff):
I wrote a piece for a U.S. News and World Report debate on whether the GOP should give more respect to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) today. Excerpt:
The Republican Party has been, rhetorically, the party of limited, constitutional government that respects its citizens' liberties. Ron Paul has been the candidate who energized hundreds of thousands of active, involved, giving young voters to truly get excited about those ideas.
The best thing the GOP could do to guarantee its future and relevance is give Paul—and more important than Paul, his supporters, who are the necessary future of their party—all the respect and attention they can, from speaking slots to actually adopting Paul's vision of a government that lives within its means, has a foreign policy focused on defense rather than running the world, and believes in the liberating energies of free people in a free market.
Also in the mix on that debate, Jamie Chandler, a poli sci professor at Hunter College, agrees with me, and Republican strategist Ford O'Connell thinks it would be a disunifying mistake to let Ron Paul speak at the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week.
The plane of the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, General Martin Dempsey, was fired at on the grounds of the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, saying they knew exactly where the plane was. U.S. authorities deny the Taliban knew what it was shooting at. Dempsey wasn’t anywhere near the plane. He is in Baghdad now, having left Kabul after talking to Hamid Karzai as part of the outreach effort to get the Afghan president to do something about the increase in attacks on US and NATO forces by Afghan security forces, or those masquerading as such, known as green-on-blue attacks. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta even called Karzai ahead of Dempsey’s trip.
At last week’s Pentagon press briefing, Panetta tried to call attention to the war in Afghanistan, saying “it was important to remind the American people that there is a war going on.” Presumably, as a member of the cabinet Panetta has the president’s ear. Neither Obama nor Romney have made the decade-plus long war in Afghanistan a campaign issue, and for good reasons. The war remains deeply unpopular, hitting an all-time low of 25 percent in a CNN poll earlier this year. Yet the president’s latest Afghanistan timetable (remember those?) has U.S. troops in Afghanistan until at least 2024. (Dempsey, by the way, is in Baghdad talking up the U.S’s continued role in the country it invaded almost a decade ago). Mitt Romney managed to stake a position to the president’s right on the issue. They agree on most of the basics, and yesterday Romney tried to draw a contrast based on the president not having a “mission” in Afghanistan (though Romney hasn’t yet articulated his own) and not keeping the American people informed (a contrast that may not come to pass if Romney actually wins).MORE »
Federal regulators evidently believe that Americans are irrationally choosing to spend hundreds of billions more on energy than they should. Consequently, benevolent bureaucrats have imposed regulations to guide hapless consumers toward making the proper energy saving choices when it comes to purchasing cars, air conditioners, clothes dryers, refrigerators, and light bulbs. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey reports on a new study that argues that the regulators are, in fact, the ones being irrational.View this article
- Rep. Todd Akin will not drop his Senate challenge in Missouri because of his rape pregnancy comments, so it’s time for another politician to say something breathtakingly stupid for the next news cycle.
- Julian Assange’s new BFF President Rafael Correa is no fan of press freedoms in Ecuador. Media outlets critical of the president have been shut down. Wonder what might happen if WikiLeaks digs up something embarrassing to the president? Meanwhile, hackers are attacking UK government websites in support of Assange.
- That absurd Olympic display was apparently an attempt at advertising. The British government is looking to sell the National Health Service “brand” abroad and expand their services.
- A research company estimates that an attack on Iran would cost Israel $41.4 billion.
- Rumors have it Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad might be willing to resign to end the 17-month-long civil war that has killed tens of thousands.
- The World Russian People’s Council says people defending Pussy Riot are the ones who are intolerant. They’ve learned a lot from the West, haven’t they?
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
Almost immediately after the Dems and Reps cut last year's debt-limit budget deal (a.k.a The Budget Control Act of 2011), all the players started carping about the draconian effects of possible cuts on subsidies to sugar and corn producers, cowboy poetry readings, and prescription drug plans for wealthy seniors. But most of the bitching and moaning centered around defense spending, which was going to be cut to the bone, right (never mind that defense spending rose 71 percent in real terms between 2001 and 2010)? If sequestration was allowed to happen, the Department of Defense was going to see about $600 billion cut from its budgets over the next 10 years.
Recall for a second the idiotic deal that was cut last year: For a $2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, legislators agreed to about $900 billion in immediate spending cuts and pledged to cut another $1.2 trillion over the coming decade. Just to be fair, remember that we're talking about $1.2 trillion dollars taken out of a projected $44 trillion or so in spending. What kind of budget discipline is that? You get access to up to $2 trillion in exchange for spreading an equal amount of cuts (read: reductions in expected spending increases) over 10 years! The poison pill was the threat of "sequestration," or automatic cuts that would heavily target defense spending if a budget "super-committee" couldn't come up with the $1.2 trillion in broader-based cuts.
Well, needless to say, the super-commission punted, which is precisely what you should expect from a group comprising the same spendthrifts who needed to goose the debt-ceiling by $2 trillion. Sequestration will kick in come 2013 unless something magical happens. And by magical, I mean a compromise to raise taxes and cut other parts of the budget that haven't suffered through a 71 percent increase over the past decade.
Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Mitt Romney, and everyone else agrees that cutting one thin dime from current military spending would be disastrous, awakening the Kraken and laying us open to all sorts of attacks by real and imaginary foes.
But it just ain't so. Reason columnist and Mercatus Center economist has parsed the budget to chart what would happen to the defense budget under various scenarios. Here's what she found:
Total defense spending, including war funding, crested in 2010, which is what you'd expect from a country winding down a long war in Iraq and futzing around in Afghanistan. What's really in play is that red area above, but even under the worst-case outcome - Budget Control Caps and full sequestration - what you see is minor blip down before the relentless march upwards and onwards toward greater and greater military spending, regardless of need or threat. As de Rugy writes:
One important factor in weighing the effect of sequestration is the preemptive measures that policymakers are taking to limit sequestration’s effect on non-war accounts. While sequestration applies to both the base and OCO [war funding] budgets, policymakers can add funds to OCO to make up for losses affecting the base. This is possible because OCO funding is not restricted by the BCA caps.
As the chart shows, defense spending has almost doubled in the past decade in current dollar terms and will continue to grow in spite of automatic cuts set by the BCA. Clarifying these figures reveals that sequester cuts do not warrant the fears of policymakers who warn about “savage cuts” to the defense budget.
Read the whole piece here. Elsewhere, de Rugy noted that difference between defenese sequestration and no defense sequestration is the difference between a projected 16 percent increase and a 23 percent increase in funds over the next decade.
Put simply, if the U.S. military cannot defend the country for the year or so that sequestration might trim its fat momentarily, we've already lost whatever the hell we're fighting to protect.
Watch "3 Reasons Conservaties [of all people!] Should Cut Defense Spending Now!"
Should an entrepreneur be required to get permission from his competitors before opening up a new business? Yes, you read that sentence correctly, and no, it’s not a trick question. Earlier today, the Pacific Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm based out of Sacramento, California, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky challenging a Kentucky law that effectively grants existing moving companies the power to veto the licensing application of any would-be competitors.
At issue is a Kentucky statute requiring moving companies to obtain a Certificate of Public Conveyance and Necessity, which, under the law, may only be issued if “existing transportation service is inadequate.” How do state officials decide whether the state’s current crop of moving companies are “inadequate” to the task and in need of some fresh competition? By asking them, of course. As the complaint filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation explains,
Section 281.625(1) of the Kentucky Statutes and 601 Ky. Admin. Regs. 1:030, Section 2, provide that whenever a person applies for a Certificate, the Division of Motor Carriers must notify every existing moving company of the application and give them the opportunity to file “protests” against the new
application. Section 281.625(2) provides that if an existing moving company files a “protest” against the applicant, the Division must hold an administrative hearing to determine whether to grant or deny the Certificate to the applicant.
It’s one thing to justify an occupational licensing requirement on the grounds that it will protect the health, welfare, or safety of the citizenry, but this is something else entirely. The Kentucky licensing law isn’t about protecting the public, it’s about restricting competition for the benefit of special interests.
Houston - The Gary Johnson camp has relased a new campaign video featuring one of Johnson's campaign slogans, "Be Libertarian With Me."
Johnson wrapped up his Texas tour yesterday and headed to Salt Lake City to shoot more video for possible ads. He then returned to his home in New Mexico.
What does a net neutrality violation actually look like? When advocates of the policy, which restricts the ways that Internet Service Providers (ISP) can prioritize certain types of data over their networks, made their case, they struggled to come up with plausible real-world examples.
In the process of signing off on the rules, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was able to name just four potential violations of the policy from the last 10 years, two of which were serious stretches. The agency admitted that the regulations were "prophylactic" — meant to prevent neutrality violations from occuring in the future despite minimal historical evidence that any problem actually existed. This was one of the primary reasons why I was so skeptical of the rules. What sort of practices would it actually prevent? What harm would occur if the rules were not put in place?
Now we have a potential answer: video chatting over mobile networks! The devoted net neutrality backers at Public Knowledge are warning that when AT&T begins to allow iPhone users access to the video-calling application FaceTime, the company will be violating the FCC's net neutrality rules. The New York Times reports:
When Apple releases its next version of its mobile operating system iOS this fall, iPhone customers will have the option to place FaceTime video calls over the cellular network, whereas before they could do so only on Wi-Fi. On the AT&T network, however, that privilege will be available to customers only on a certain type of data plan, which has raised debate on whether or not the carrier is violating government rules.
AT&T said last week that using FaceTime over its network would be a feature for customers of its shared data plans, not customers who have the older unlimited or tiered data plans. Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that focuses on Internet law, says that by prohibiting its other customers from using the video-calling feature on the network, AT&T is violating net-neutrality rules by blocking a service that potentially competes with its own.
...AT&T says it has done nothing wrong, because FaceTime is still available over Wi-Fi.
Public Knowledge lawyer John Bergmayer tells the Times, “There is no technical reason why one data plan should be able to access FaceTime and another not." Even if that is true, there is also no good reason why such a service should not be available only to those who choose to purchase a particular plan that supports the service.
Imagine the horror: Children video chatting with their grandparents, boyfriends and girlfriends staring wistfully into each others eyes, husbands and wives wrenched apart by great canyons of time and distance able to see their spouse's faces as they discuss the mundane details of bills and home repair options — all without the need to be stay in range of wi-fi connection, at least for those who purchase the right mobile data plan. This is the sort of truly ugly practice that net neutrality was intended to prevent. A civilization that allows a mobile ISP to limit use of a high-bandwidth video calling service to individuals who pay for certain data plans surely cannot stand for long.
I chronicled the Obama administration's long and quixotic quest for net neutrality regulations in the March 2011 issue of Reason.
The Simpsons, the longest-running situation comedy in the history of American television and an international marketing colossus that continues to delight millions of fans, has finally found a way to lose money: Get the United States Postal Service involved.
In a move that wasted $1.2 million in printing costs, the service produced 1 billion of “The Simpsons” stamps and sold 318 million.
The Postal Service inspector general in a report singled out the overproduction of stamps marking the 20th anniversary of the cartoon’s run on News Corp. (NWS)’s Fox network as an example of failing to align stamp production with demand.
“If the Postal Service can’t address a simple matter such as determining how many commemorative stamps to produce, it shows they can’t address the larger problems,” Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said. “Unfortunately, even a small item can create larger problems.”
Other stamps that didn't sell out their print runs, Keane reports, featured "the lunar new year, civil rights movement figures, Zion National Park, Supreme Court justices, historic U.S. flags, film director Oscar Micheaux and a Christmas stamp showing an angel with a lute."
The USPS, which posted a $5.2 billion loss for the third quarter, says the poor sales resulted from a decline in demand for fixed-postage stamps due to the popularity of its "forever" stamps. "The inspector general probe," Keane writes, "found no instances during 2009 and 2010 in which there was more demand for commemorative stamps than supply."
The U.S. Constitution's Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 authorizes Congress to "establish Post Offices and post Roads" — a power that has, as Thomas Jefferson feared, grown into an iron government monopoly on letter delivery as well as "a source of boundless patronage to the executive, jobbing to members of Congress & their friends, and a bottomless abyss of public money." The 19th-century libertarian abolitionist Lysander Spooner successfully competed with the federal postal service and forced sharp reductions in postal rates for consumers, but Spooner's American Letter Mail Company was shut down by an 1851 law that empowered the postal service to declare all streets as "post roads" and made private competition effectively impossible.
The decline in demand for most forms of physical mail is revealing the USPS's structural weakness and inefficiency, and postal worker unions have been loudly calling for Congress to deliver billions of taxpayer dollars for continued patronage in the public mail service. That strategy has proved persuasive to vapid, talentless New York Times columnist Gail Collins and to quite a few other media observers, but so far it has not resulted in any real congressional action.
Before I point out that The Atlantic has a good point, let me first say that memory and outrage and whatever the hell catches humans' attention isn't fair; speaking from an American perspective, the Titanic is more famous than the Lusitania, the Holocaust is more famous than the Ukrainian famine or even the Great Leap Forward, and Thomas Kinkade sold a whole lot more paintings than did Vincent Van Gogh. It's frustrating when your cause or atrocity or gift is the one forgotten in favor of another, sexier, more inexplicably interesting one. Basically, mass taste, even in outrages, is mixed at its very best.
In "The Kony-ification of Pussy Riot" Joshua Foust makes some good points. The three members of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot who were sentenced on August 17 to two years in Russian prison for their February 21 "Punk Prayer" protest are victims, though they knew what they were doing and risking. Any time international attention is paid to victims of oppressive governments, it's probably a good thing. Still, Foust is reminded of the much-criticized Invisible Children Kony 2012 campaign from earlier this year, and its awkwardly Western optimism and desire for nosey intervention and world-policing.
Also, notes Foust, the obsession with the artistic and punk side of these women is excessive, to expect that that will change things in Russia. And it ignores other dissidents in Russia who didn't have their names printed on Madonna's back. The women's two year punishment is insane, and it's worse still when they have children at home, but if anything happens to them during that time, the world will definitely notice. Other protesters may not be so lucky.
Another Atlantic writer has previously noticed that the language used in Western media to describe the women has been pretty nauseatingly sexist, which the self-described feminist band may not appreciate. And Gawker today is riffing on some Vice staffers who got the Russian word for "hooligan" tattooed in "solidarity" on their flesh for the women. Writes Hamilton Nolan:
They got some tattoos—Russian tattoos. READ IT AND WEEP, PUTIN.
The tattoos about Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tibet, Western Sahara, Belarus, Burma, Chad, China, Cuba, Laos, Libya, and South Ossetia are going to take up a lot of space, but nobody said freedom fighting would be easy.
Yes, it's a bit trendy, but maybe it's sincere (an emotion I realise is not the forte of either Gawker or Vice) support for women who have an unpleasant two years ahead of them. Writing is perhaps more useful than tattooing, but gestures when a story means something to you are not necessary to mock, even if they are not helping as much as a comando raid to free the women might. The woman from the DC solidarity with Pussy Riot rally said she hoped that the band would see pictures of their supporters in bright colors and know that people were thinking of them. It's a good thought; it may be a little naive, but that's not the worst thing in the world.
Every Christmas Eve I toast the World War I truce, and war hasn't yet stopped. On occasion I wear a shirt that says "Raoul Wallenberg is my favorite superhero" and his true fate in the Soviet gulags has yet to be confirmed. So what? These are the stories that speak to me, though I have no logical reason to care. Maybe people who care about Pussy Riot are projecting, maybe they're being trendy, but maybe not. Why look the gift horse of solidarity and a hope for freedom in the mouth? And yes, Counterpunch, consistency in noticing atrocities is good. I also wish that the U.S. media paid more attention as a whole to some of their government's nastiness. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Putin is awful (he is) and whether or not these women should go free (they should).
At The New York Times, Russian analyst Vadim Nikitin points out that the women of Pussy Riot are not poster children for Western-style democracy, nor were dissidents from the Soviet era necessarily:MORE »
The annual Vendy Awards are mostly a celebration of delicious à la cart(e) fare. But for the second year in a row, the Governors Island ceremony will get a little bit political with the "Most Heroic Vendor" award. This year, it's going to a halal food stand on 86th Street and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn. Its proprietor, Sammy Kassem, has been fighting local restaurants for the right to sell kebabs and falafel. They accuse him of dirtying Bay Ridge streets. He says they don't the competition, or his religion.
The New York Times' City Room blog reports:
The [Save Our Streets Project] turf war between the Bay Ridge restaurant owners and the two street vendors has been nasty at times: the owners have occupied Mr. Kassem’s corner with tables and nailed-down park benches, according to a spokeswoman for the Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center, which sponsors the Vendys, while Mr. Kassem’s lawyer has accused the restaurants of discriminating against the vendors because they are Middle Eastern.
In response to the campaign, Mr. Kassem filed a complaint in May with the police against one of the leaders of the campaign, alleging that he was being harassed.
When the old system of comprehensive health care price controls fails, there can be only one solution: newer, better price controls, which will totally work this time, for sure. But when adjusting the payments, who takes the hit?
That’s the problem facing health policy bureaucrats in Maryland, which has one of the most thorough sets of health care price controls in the nation. The system is known as “all-payer,” in which the state’s Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC) sets payment rates for, you guessed it, all payers that reimburse the state’s non-profit hospital system — including private insurers.
The problem, as Kaiser Health News notes, is that the state is only allowed to operate its rate setting system if it stays within certain spending targets: The average hospital cost-per-admission isn’t allowed to rise more quickly than the average admission cost in the rest of the country. But the admission costs are rising fast enough that they’re nearing the limit.
Conveniently, policy reformers in the state have noticed that although the state’s overall average cost per admission remains lower than the rest of the country, the cost per Medicare admission is much higher. One proposed adjustment, then, would shift costs away from Medicare and onto private payers. KHN reports:
The federal government lets the state control Medicare prices only as long as the program’s cost per admission rises no faster in Maryland than in the rest of the nation.
Now that the limit is close to being reached, Maryland policymakers are talking to the HHS and hospital and insurance industry leaders about sharply cutting rates for Medicare as well as those for Medicaid, which has been straining the state’s budget.
But instead of making hospitals absorb the reductions, those officials are talking about forcing commercial insurers, self-insured businesses and privately insured patients to make up the difference.
Not surprisingly, folks on the losing side of the equation aren’t too happy:
Critics call the proposal a tax on business that could jeopardize access to coverage and let Johns Hopkins Medicine and other hospitals avoid the kind of cost cutting that sector faces in other states.
“It brings Medicare costs down, so it gives something” to federal officials seeking price relief, said Barry Rosen, a Baltimore lawyer who works for insurers. “It sure raises the price of care to people in Maryland.”
Medicare is too expensive! So let’s make the private payers that
don’t cost as much shoulder more of the burden.
In today's Reason 24/7 feed is the story of how the Army finds itself a little overly well-endowed with good little goose-steppers. It seems that Nazis have discovered that they can get paid to learn how to shoot and blow stuff up by joining the military. They get to wear uniforms, too, which must be a big plus.
From Business Insider:
After white supremacist and former Army sergeant Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, the Pentagon began stepping up its efforts to expel neo-Nazis from its ranks.
But so far, it's not working too well.
"White supremacists, neo-Nazis and skinhead groups encourage followers to enlist in the Army and Marine Corps to acquire the skills to overthrow what some call the ZOG - the Zionist Occupation Government," Reuters' Daniel Trotta reported Tuesday. "Get in, get trained and get out to brace for the coming race war."
This strikes me as a perfectly natural thing for deranged, murderous authoritarians to do. Why pay for training, ammunition and equipment to learn how to be a soldier, only to get denounced by politicians and scrutinized by the FBI, when the feds will do it all for you with no hassles?
I should add that the Army may have some competition for recruitment here (even if it doesn't want these recruits). The last real-life neo-Nazi I met was a Border Patrol agent working along the border between Arizona and Mexico, and that also makes a horrible kind of sense.
In fact, government, with its very roots in compulsion, is a natural magnet for those who think their neighbors are best dealt with through force rather than persuasion. I don't mean that all government employees are akin to National Socialists in terms of hatefulness or a taste for violence, but I do mean that a preference for authoritarianism has to make government employment rather more attractive than does a distaste for the same. That's true whether the authoritarians hope to achieve their goals through the government as it's constituted, or whether they hope to elevate some random fat loser in a brown, or black, or green, or red shirt to the position of Fuhrer/Commissar/Lord Protector.
In other words, good luck with that Nazi problem.
I'm about to be on the great KCRW public (boo) radio station based in Santa Monica. Listen along to To The Point, as host Warren Olney digs into the question of generational warfare and old-age entitlements with me and other guests.
On Saturday, Senate hopeful Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) said something idiotic even by idiot politician standards, concocting a notion of “legitimate rape” and biological defenses that prevent pregnancy that is just completely divorced from reality.
And while Republicans from Mitt Romney on down have condemned the statement, with Republicans as far as Scott Brown in Massachusetts calling on him to step aside, Akin says he won’t. Missouri’s deadline for replacing his name appears to be 5pm Central Time today. The seat being contested was once held by John Aschroft, who in 2000 lost to Mel Carnahan. Carnahan, who had been the governor of Missouri, died in a plane crash two weeks before the election. The acting governor indicated he’d appoint the widow Jean Carnahan, who lost the special election to fill the remainder of the term to Republican Jim Talent in 2002, when Republicans took the Senate. In 2006, Talent to lost to Claire McCaskill, the year Democrats took control of the Senate by holding on to all of their contested seats and knocking out six incumbent Republican Senators.
McCaskill actually ran ads against Akin in the GOP primary, meant to shore up his support in the Republican race by painting him as “too conservative.” Akin won with just 36 percent of the vote against two candidates, the state treasurer, backed by Sarah Palin, and a wealthy businessman. Nevertheless, McCaskill and others spent nearly $2 million on Akin ads in the primary, and despite because of his outrageous statement, she wants him to stay in, telling the Huffington Post “for Washington party insiders to come in and try to invalidate the votes of Missourians would be radical.”
A poll taken by PPP (D) yesterday, after the comments were made and began to reverberate, show Akin with a one point advantage over McCaskill.
You can catch the latest on Akin at Reason 24/7. 6pm deadline in the time zone that matters!
"How Cannabis Can Revolutionize Our Economy: Author Doug Fine on Too High To Fail" 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 clipsView this article
From the picante-barbecue-smoked plains of Texas to the buckwheat-pancake-rich hills of West Virginia; from the cornfields of Indiana, where you could swear the scent of corn dogs and marshmallow ambrosia rises straight to heaven, to the bayous of Louisiana, where stiff-necked Cajuns wash down jambalaya with Sazeracs: say hello America's most obese states.
Taking top honors: Mississippi, home of spicy Creole shrimp and mud pies.
247wallst.com's Michael Sauter and Lisa Uible weigh the U.S.A. using self-reported obesity statistics from a CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System report, a Gallup BMI survey, and life expectancy numbers from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s statehealthfacts.org.
The Gallup poll comes with another color-coded map showing thinnest-to-fattest states. The Centennial state weighs in as America's sveltest, and perhaps not coincidentally, the top result in a search for "Colorado cuisine" is this Denver Post article regretfully reporting that pulled pork is the closest approach to a Rocky Mountain culinary tradition.
The Pentagon says fat is a threat to national preparedness.
Gary Taubes says the government is making you fat:
Institute of Medicine blames "obesogenic" environment, advocates mockery of the portly.
President's wife makes Olympic gold medalist apologize for eating an Egg McMuffin.
Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman will appear on HuffPost Live at 12:30 p.m. EST to talk ObamaCare, RyanCare, and the campaign war over Medicare cuts.
Who's cutting what? Is anyone actually cutting anything at all?
Tune in here for the answers.
Former Obama administration budget director Peter Orszag has been a staunch opponent of “overpayments” in the Medicare Advantage program, which allows seniors to select from a menu of private insurance options, for years. In selling ObamaCare, the Obama administration made the case that the program paid too much to private providers and that payments could be reduced without affecting benefits.
Orszag was one of the chief proponents of this argument: In 2009, he told an audience of health industry insiders, "I believe in competition. I don't believe in paying $1.30 to get a dollar.” And he helped translate that belief into a legislative plan: Under Orszag’s watch, the Obama administration signed a health care overhaul that relies quite heavily on savings generated by cuts to allegedly excessive Medicare Advantage (MA). More than 30 percent of the law’s $716 billion in Medicare payment reductions were set to come from the MA program.
In a Bloomberg View op-ed today, Orszag continues to argue in favor of those payment reductions. He might want to have a chat about this with his former employers at the White House. The administration has delayed its plan to reduce overpayments until at least 2014 in order to run a “pilot program." The Department of Health and Human Services says this demonstration project will help test ObamaCare's revised payment scheme, which was supposed to tie payments to quality. The way HHS plans to do that is by continuing with the old, “excessive” payment rates for a large number of providers nationwide that do not meet the law’s quality standards. At a cost of $8 billion, it’s by far the largest pilot program of this type ever conceived — indeed it is larger than all other Medicare demonstration projects since 1995 combine — so one hopes it will provide some useful information.
It’s difficult, however, to see how the experiment will provide reliable results. And anyone wondering how exactly this will help HHS determine whether or not its MA quality payments work, you’re not alone: The Government Accountability Office recently looked at the HHS plan and concluded that “the design of the demonstration precludes a credible evaluation of its effectiveness in achieving (the administration’s) stated research goal.” The GAO report also issued a strong recommendation that the HHS demonstration program be shut down, and the overpayments be cut as planned.
Orszag also warns that Medicare Advantage relies on a system of payment tweaks known as risk adjustment to counteract overpayments. But, he writes, although risk adjustment mechanisms have improved in recent years, “evidence suggests it still does not work very well.” And he points to 2011 research for the National Bureau of Economic by four economists who look at MA’s risk adjustment program and warn of its limits.
I’m glad to see that Orszag is familiar with this research, because it suggests some potential problems with ObamaCare, which relies on a similar sort of risk adjustment within its health exchanges. A 2010 working paper on risk adjustment by the same authors not only found that risk adjustment did not work particularly well, but warned that ““in light of the results presented here, one question is how well a risk adjustment mechanism will reduce adverse selection in the exchanges” created by President Obama’s health law.
Despite GAO’s recommendation, HHS has yet to cancel the MA bonus payment, which if nothing else provides a solid data point in favor of the argument that political pressure will make it hard to restrain Medicare spending through technocratic payment tweaks to providers. All in all, I think Orszag has (perhaps unintentionally) identified some real flaws in ObamaCare’s design, and a number of potential implementation hazards.
A further wrinkle comes from recent research suggesting that even though MA pays more, the program’s competitive private design may have actually succeeded, at least partially.
A paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by three Harvard economists reports that although MA payments are higher on a dollar for dollar basis, the program is actually cheaper than traditional fee-for-service Medicare when measured on a cost-per-benefit basis, providing the same set of services for about 9 percent less. One potential reason why? Competition amongst private plans. Reihan Salam has a tasty, cheeseburger-based analogy that helps explain how this works:
Imagine that there is a federal program devoted to providing seniors with cheeseburgers. There is a publicly-run cheeseburger assembly plant that needs $15 to produce a quarter-pound burger with a toasted bun, a sliced tomato, and cheddar cheese. Costs have been rising over the years as the price of the discrete components of this standard cheeseburger have been rising, for a variety of complex, interrelated reasons. In recent years, the federal cheeseburger program has allowed cheeseburger beneficiaries to choose private cheeseburgers at public expense. Various private cheeseburger firms bid for the right to take part in this bonanza of subsidies, and on an enrollment-weighted basis they bid $14 — a bid that reflects what they need to produce that same quarter-pound burger with a toasted bun, a sliced tomato, and cheddar cheese plus enough to turn a profit.
But rather than pay these private cheeseburger firms $14, the amount of the bid, the federal cheeseburger program has devised a complicated benchmark based on what it costs the publicly-run cheeseburger assembly plant to produce said cheeseburger. The end result is that private cheeseburger firms are in many cases paid $16 to take part in the program. This doesn’t mean they pocket an extra $2 in profit, however. These private cheeseburger firms could be required to offer more or higher-quality ingredients — grass-feed beef, romaine lettuce, muenster cheese, fried onions, and so forth. So it is true that these private cheeseburgers cost the system more than the public cheeseburgers. But this reflects the benchmark and, in some cases, the fact that we’re not making an apples-to-apples comparison.
As the authors of the JAMA paper note, this has significant implications for premium support Medicare plan proposed by Reps. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden, which relies on a similar form of competition to restrain Medicare spending. And it suggests that in the quest to reform Medicare we ought to be looking for ways to harness private competition to provide benefits more cheaply rather than focus on technocratic adjustments to the payment system, especially in light of the long and deeply mixed record of attempts to control federal health spending through pricing tweaks.
This may be the most important election of our lifetimes, conservative opinion leaders keep insisting. We stand on the precipice of socialism; we can either plunge over or be led gingerly back from the brink by...the governor who pioneered the individual mandate. Oh, and also his running mate, one of "only six Republicans who voted yes on the auto bailout and both bank bailout votes," as Tim Carney reported yesterday.
In fairness, writes Gene Healy, there are some important differences between Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden on economic policy. Romney and Ryan at least see the need to downplay their past sins; for President Obama and Vice President Biden, bailouts and mandates are matters of principle and marks of pride.View this article
Missouri Senate Candidate Todd Akin released a new television ad today begging everybody's forgiveness for his dumbass comments about rape. Politico apparently landed the scoop, but it's all over the Internet now:
Incoherent quote: "The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold."
Politico also points out that the latest polls show Akin is still has a very slight lead over Democrat incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in the polls.
Law profs Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman make the case for copying:
The conventional wisdom today is that copying is bad for creativity. If we allow people to copy new inventions, the thinking goes, no one will create them in the first place. Copycats do none of the work of developing new ideas but capture much of the benefit. That is the reason behind patents and copyrights: Copying destroys the incentive to innovate.
Except when it doesn't. There are many creative industries...that lack protection against copying (or did for a long time). A closer look at these fields shows that plenty of innovation takes place even when others are free to copy. There are many examples of successful industries that survive despite extensive copying. In fact, some even thrive because they are so open to copying.
Their examples include cuisine, finance, fashion, and football. Here's what they have to say about the latter:
With myriad possibilities for formations and plays, football strategy is always changing—but none of it is protected against copycats. This hardly discourages great coaches from innovating. Exhibit No. 1 is the West Coast Offense, which relies on quick, short passes to control the ball and gain incremental yardage. The idea was the brainchild of Bill Walsh, who in the 1960s coached the Cincinnati Bengals [*], then a recently formed and hapless NFL expansion team. Cincinnati, he said, "was probably the worst-stocked franchise in the history of the NFL. So in putting the team together, I personally was trying to find a way we could compete."
His way was to develop a new style of offense. Later, when he was coach of the 49ers, Mr. Walsh's ideas helped to lead the team to three Super Bowl wins. Traditionalists at first dismissed his offense as a gimmick. But no one could dispute its success. Eventually, it was imitated by the Green Bay Packers, the Philadelphia Eagles and many other teams....
[I]n sports there are practical barriers to immediately copying a successful new tactic. The first time a play, formation or strategy is used, it can create a big element of surprise. After that, opponents can reverse engineer the idea relatively quickly. More difficult is the process of rebuilding a team to take full advantage of the innovation. This takes time. Economists refer to this window as the first-mover advantage.
Bonus reading: Douglas Clement on "Creation Myths."
[* Down in the comments, Warty points out that Walsh was the Bengals' offensive coordinator, not the head coach.]
The Daily Caller videoed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asserting that he is "very proud" that his agency created new jobs at cost $738,000 using Obama stimulus funding. From the Daily Caller:
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told The Daily Caller that he is “very proud” of the Economic Recovery Act of 2009 that put 65,000 people to work with $48 billion in federal funds for the Department of Transportation, amounting to $738,461 per job.
The Recovery Act of 2009, which in total cost taxpayers $825 billion, has been criticized because it did not prevent the unemployment rate from rising above 8 percent, contrary to what the Obama administration predicted.
“Yeah, we spent $48 billion and we put 65,000 people to work in 15,000 projects in two years with no problems,” LaHood told The Daily Caller in a video interview in Alexandria, Va., on Friday. “I’m very proud of that. I know that the governors can spend this money because over two years we gave them $48 billion, they created 65,000 jobs in 15,000 projects. This is doable. We’re going to get the money out and get people to work.”
A general benchmark is that investing $1 million in the private sector generates 10 new jobs, which means that the DOT "investments" fell short by more that 400,000 jobs. Paraphrasing the bitter joke about stock brokers: "The Feds are going to keeping investing our money until it's all gone."
A state crime lab report claims Chavis Carter, the man shot to death while handcuffed in the back of a Jonesboro, Arkansas police cruiser, committed suicide.
The left-handed Carter, the report claims, retrieved a 380-caliber Cobra semi-automatic, which he had managed to conceal from officers during two searches, and used his right hand to shoot himself in the head.
As noted earlier in Reason 24/7, the report was signed by three medical examiners. Reason's Lucy Steigerwald reported yesterday that the coroner's office in Craighead County, about 40 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee, had already produced its finding that Carter's death was a suicide.
The state report was provided to Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request. The Jonesboro police have also produced a re-enactment of the tale of Carter's suicide. I can't tell whether the video (0:46–1:00 here) shows an officer pulling a concealed weapon from his own person or fishing a drop gun from the cushions of the car. (YMMV.)
From AP's Jeannie Nuss:
"How (did) he shoot himself in his right temple and he (was) left-handed? In handcuffs?" one of his friends, Bianca Tipton, asked.
The state crime lab report, released to The Associated Press and other news organizations under a public records request, didn't answer that question.
Instead, the report says Carter's death was ruled a suicide based on autopsy findings and investigative conclusions from the Jonesboro Police Department, which has faced questions from Carter's family and community members about the circumstances surrounding the July 28 death.
"He was cuffed and placed into a police car, where apparently he produced a weapon, and despite being handcuffed, shot himself in the head," the report says.
There is no backseat footage of Carter himself.
Local residents called police on Sunday, July 28 to report that Chavis Chacobie Carter and two associates where riding in a Missouri-tagged truck with no headlights at 9:50 p.m. Carter was a passenger in the truck. Jonesboro police responding to a 911 call ran the other two men's licenses. Both were subsequently released.
Carter carried no ID and called himself Larayan Bowman. Cops were unable to verify his identity and found a small amount of pot in his pockets. After officers placed him without restraints in the back seat of a patrol car, Carter admitted his real name. Cops discovered an arrest warrant on a charge of having failed to comply with a DeSoto County, Mississippi drug-diversion plan to which Carter had been sentenced after pleading guilty to a single count of selling pot.
The police story teems with dreamlike detail. Perry County, Arkansas columnist Gene Lyons describes it:
According to their written report, officers took Carter out of the patrol car, placed him under arrest, searched him, handcuffed his hands behind his back, and then locked him inside with the vehicle’s windows tightly closed. Several witnesses observed it all. An aunt of Carter’s arrived at the scene, presumably summoned by cellphone. Informed of the charges, she drove off.
As the officers walked toward the second patrol car to interview the other suspects, the report says, “I saw a vehicle driving north on Haltom and then heard a loud thump with a metallic sound. I thought the vehicle had ran over a piece of metal on the roadway.”
More on drug diversion programs.
- “We Built This” is to be the theme of the RNC convention. If by “This” they mean a vast military, the Department of Homeland Security, an expansion of the welfare state, and Gitmo, what’s not to like?
- Todd Akin is pleading for forgiveness in a new campaign ad after his comments on rape and pregnancy caused outcry. He has until the end of the day to heed the GOP leadership’s recommendations and abort his campaign.
- London Mayor Boris Johnson endorsed gay marriage saying he wants same-sex couples to enjoy the 'happy state' of marriage, something the once divorced adulterer would know a lot about.
- A rocket hit the plane of the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey in Afghanistan. Some minor injuries were reported.
- Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has died in Brussels after weeks of speculation about his health and whereabouts.
- Peter Thiel, the angel investor of Facebook, sold a majority of his stake in the social media giant.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
I was recently interviewed by Chris Yandek and Jay Bildstein for the podcast CY Interview about libertarianism, Election 2012, The Declaration of Independents, and just what those of us who want to actually cut the size, scope, and spending of government need to do when it comes to voting. Here's a snippet:
“Nothing will change among the plurality or majority of Americans who consistently say they want a government that spends less and does less, nothing will make that happen if your vote is constantly being taken for granted by the Republican Party or by conservatives.
Libertarians and actual small government people are constantly told that, 'You know what? Your ideas are great, we agree with them wholeheartedly.
[But] now is not the time to do this for X, Y or Z reason'…I think what small government [champions have] to do is stand up to the parties they believe in, that they belong to and say, ‘You know what? The future starts yesterday and if you do not sign on to a limited government and a limited government spending plan, we’re done. You’re not getting our vote.’ And that’s the first and most important thing we can do.”
I highly recommend the site for long-form, engaging, fun, and smart interviews with its beguiling mix of guests ranging from LP presidential candidate Gary Johnson to Tea Party fave Mia Love (running for Congress in Utah) to MSNBC host and author Chris Hayes to various actors, Olympic fencers, and pinups.
And you should be able to listen right here, right now by clicking below:
The Nation magazine used to think that getting the Augusta National Golf Club (that atavistic private institution in Georgia that hosts the prestigious Masters tournament each year) to open its membership to women was at least a moderately big deal. In 2002, Eric Alterman in those pages ridiculed what he called were the club's "Cro-Magnon men-only admissions policies," the controversies over which were "aptly described by the Toronto Star's Antonia Zerbisias as 'a dust-up over how a rich white man's club won't let rich white women join, and how CBS still plans to showcase the course when it hosts the Masters, a tournament starring Tiger Woods who, as a black man, should know better than to play at a place which discriminates.'"
In 2004 column asking "Where Are the Jocks for Justice?", indefatigable L.A. lefties Peter Dreier and Kelly Candaele bemoaned that Tiger Woods "remained on the sidelines during the 2002 controversy." A 2007 piece by Zach Marks hailed Augusta-petitioner Martha Burk as one of several prominent "Women Leaders."
So how did the progressive mag react to the news that Augusta finally broke open its gender barrier by admitting former secretary of the state Condoleezza Rice, along with 8058-year-old "South Carolina financier and philanthropist" Darla Moore? By having sportswriter Dave Zirin declare that the occasion is "Nothing to Celebrate." Excerpt:
Rice and Moore are not twenty-first-century Jackie Robinsons, and their acceptance into this bastion of exclusion has nothing to do with women's liberation and is utterly disconnected from the reality of daily life for millions of American women.
Condi Rice as a symbol of female power? Only if by power, we mean the power to put thousands of Iraqi women in graves all in the name of a war based on lies that she actively promoted. [...]
In a sane world, Rice would be awaiting trial at the Hague. Instead, she gets to play golf at a club that, incidentally, didn't allow African-Americans until 1990.
As for Darla Moore, she is a banking billionaire who lives on a South Carolina plantation that's been in her family for seven generations. She is a longtime friend of the Bush family as well as of [former Augusta president] Hootie Johnson. [...]
I'm sure it's tempting to look at today as an advance for women in sports. But it's very difficult think that today's national celebration of a multi-billionaire and a war criminal has anything to do with women's liberation.
So glass ceilings only truly get broken by ladies who have the right kind of politics. Duly noted, white man!
In related news, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello last week attempted to revoke the Rage-fandom privilege of Republican vice presidential pick Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) on grounds that Ryan couldn't possibly understand such important lyrical messages as calling on "the people to seize the means of production."
A new book by an environmental journalist offers a wonderful primer on the newest manifestations of an ancient form of plunder: the seizure of other people's resources and destruction of their livelihoods. Today, allegedly "unused" or "underused" land in Africa, Latin America, East Asia, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Australia, and elsewhere is being seized for international corporations, both private and state-owned. As Joseph Stromberg notes in his review, the land grabs aim at enriching privileged companies and their political allies, who see no reason to respect sitting owners and resource users, whatever their rights under customary law or postcolonial statutes.View this article
North Haven, Connecticut, zoning officials sent the Lidsky family a cease-and-desist order because they were keeping “livestock” on a property smaller than two acres. The livestock was the family's pet rabbit. After local and national media picked up the story, however, North Haven officials said they will change the zoning ordinance so the family can keep the bunny.
The Stranger reported last week on an interesting (though I'm guessing ultimately fruitless) attempt on the part of the Libertarian Party to actually hold the Republican Party to annoying rules governing what qualifies one as a "major party" and thus exempt from expensive and onerous ballot-access requirements.
Seems the letter of the law dictates that, because the GOP did not officially nominate a candidate for Senate in Washington in 2010, the Republican Party no longer qualifies as a major party.
The suit claims that Dino Rossi, the guy who got to the final Senate ballot through the state's relatively new "top 2 winner" open primary, though listing Republican as his preference, was not officially nominated as such by the state GOP.
Given that Romney did not follow the ballot access rigmarole and signature collection required of a non-major candidate for president, the LP says his name should be stricken from the state ballot.
I look forward to a tortured court ruling amounting to, well, whatever, LP, of course the Republican Party is a major party. That's just metaphysically true, no matter what our silly laws say.
The LP's court filing.
When Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) told a Missouri TV station that rape can't lead to pregnancy because "if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he wasn't just jeopardizing his chances of beating Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in a race to represent the Show-Me State in the U.S. Senate. He was, notes Nick Gillespie, joining a long and seemingly never-ending procession of idiots who talk about rape in ways that are repulsive. Here are three of the most bone-headed comments about rape in recent memory.View this article
Tampa is apparently a town known for strip joints, like “New York City and the Statue of Liberty,” according to the AP no less, and Joe Redner helped build that reputation, opening three strip clubs (since sold). The sometime local progressive politico tells the AP that the Republican National Convention headed to his town won’t be a boon for the local strip clubs:
"I don't expect the RNC to be as busy as Super Bowl," Redner said, with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I don't think those people are coming to party."MORE »
… Jason Lange, an adult industry promoter, agrees with Redner that Tampa-area clubs probably won't receive a windfall because of the RNC.
"A lot of people are thinking it's going to be a super home run, but it's not," said Lange, who has booked some private parties for RNC-goers and is bringing in porn stars as entertainers at certain clubs during that week. "The Mitt Romneys aren't going to go into adult entertainment clubs."
San Antonio—John Jay Myers, the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, is sitting in the shade of a booth at something called Activist Appreciation Day in downtown San Antonio. Somebody on the stage is complainingly, loudly, about the drug war and Myers is sweating after playing a couple songs on stage with his staff. Of course, everyone is sweating because it’s 101 degrees in the early afternoon.
Before we start the interview Myers motions to one of his five volunteers, all young men in their early 20s.
“You want to do to this in the AC of the RV?” he asks.
With my ice-cold New England blood not agreeing with the extreme dry heat I gladly retreat to the cool comfort of the rented campaign vehicle that Myers has been traveling around the state in. Myers and Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson are on the second to last day of their swing through the largest cities of Texas: Odessa, Dallas, Waco, San Antonio, and Houston. Myers is Johnson’s opening act at every event, warming up the crowd with a stump speech against foreign intervention, social conservatism, the drug war, and corporate welfare.
Johnson passed on the San Antonio event in favor of local media appearances but that did not stop Myers, the owner of a restaurant and a printing business, from going on his own. Myers is convinced that his two opponents in the race, former Republican Solicitor General Ted Cruz and former Democratic State Representative Paul Sadler, are really just big-government conservatives. The most recent poll between Cruz and Sadler had Cruz up by 10 points. Myers won the Libertarian Party nomination for U.S. Senate on the first ballot at the state party convention in June.
He thinks that his libertarianism can attract disaffected Texans from across the political spectrum.
“I sat at the Green Party table and talked about my issues. They were like ‘Those sound like our issues’ and I am like, well they actually are. The only difference between our issues and their issues is I don’t believe you should ever force someone to take someone else’s stuff and give it to them,” he said, as we walked to his RV.
Myers thinks of himself as the opposite of a Wayne Allyn Root libertarian.
“At a time when we should be embracing the Ron Paul ideology and sticking to that, along comes this guy toning down our message,” he said, referencing Root’s 2008 rise in the party.MORE »
This is what government is all about. Forget roads, mass murder through warfare, or locking people up for their consumption choices: it's making sure that no one gives out water without a permit.
This is from last week but I believe un-noted here: ABC-TV 15 from Phoenix reports that local Christian proselytizer Dana Crow-Smith was ordered by a "Neighborhood Preservation Inspector" to stop giving out free bottled water last month because she lacked a vending permit, though she was not vending.
She is threatening to sue the city with help from the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group with a focus on religious liberties, if the city doesn't apologize and swear to train its enforcement officers to not make the same mistake again.
The Institute's letter of complaint to the city.
In a recent interview with Fortune, Mitt Romney named the National Endowment for the Humanities on a list of “programs I would eliminate.” Something about that is dismaying.
For one thing, it shows an instinct for to go for the capillary rather than the jugular. The appropriation for the National Endowment for the Humanities in the 2012 federal budget is $146,000,000. The overall federal budget is about $3,795,500,000,000. The spending on the humanities is not one percent of the federal budget. It’s not a tenth of a percent of the federal budget. It’s not a hundredth of a percent of the federal budget. It’s all of four one-thousandths of a percent of the federal budget. It’s a rounding error. As an NEH fact sheet points out, on a per capita basis, its agency costs “barely more per capita than the cost of a postage stamp.”
Okay, one might say, it’s a symbolic point—you’ve got to start cutting somewhere, so why not start with welfare for historians? The history professors, museum trustees, and historical archivists don’t have as powerful a lobby as the ethanol producers or the senior citizens or the pharmaceutical companies, so in this case there might be some chance for actual success in achieving the budget cuts.
Why not start cutting here? Well, to start with, writes Ira Stoll, at least for those of us on the center-right of the political spectrum, the NEH folks are our guys. The list of NEH Jefferson Lecturers looks like the bylines in Commentary or on the Wall Street Journal editorial page: Leon Kass, Donald Kagan, Bernard Lewis, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Robert Conquest. The winners of the National Humanities Medal, another NEH program, include Richard Brookhiser, Myron Magnet, Victor Davis Hanson, Richard Pipes, Ruth Wisse, James Buchanan, Fouad Ajami, Lewis Lehrman, Alan Kors, Harvey Mansfield, Thomas Sowell, and Midge Decter. These are Romney’s natural allies, not his enemies.View this article
- GOP Senate hopeful Todd Akin is so sorry he suggested that "legitimate" rape rarely makes women pregnant, and he may quit the race. As for reminding us what's so off-putting about the modern Republican Party ... Thanks, Todd.
- "I didn't make that!" Barack Obama wants you to know, when it comes to a political ad suggesting that Mitt Romney feeds on the souls of dead poor people, Or something like that.
- Lance Armstrong's lawsuit against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was tossed by a federal judge. He will, after all, have to face an inquisition into the purity of his precious bodily fluids.
- Gu Kailai, the wife of a disgraced Chinese Communist Party boss, won't get a bullet in the back of the head after all. After being found guilty of murdering a British businessman, she faces life in prison, instead.
- Remember Chavis Carter, who was shot in the head while his hands were handcuffed behind him and he was locked in a patrol car? Suicide, says the state crime lab report. Uh huh.
- Back in the '60s, the Black Panther Party got weapons and training from ... Can you guess? It was the FBI.
- Occupiers aren't commies out to suppress voluntary transactions — except when they're former union bosses now working as organizers for the Occupy movement.
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Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will be meeting with eurozone leaders this week in the hope of convincing them to extend the deadline for austerity measures to be met. The Greek government is hoping that international creditors will hand over $38.8 billion next month. Without the funds Greece will almost certainly have to default on its debt. That Samaras is engaging in these meetings indicates that he is not confident that the troika audit will deliver good news.
If the troika audit does not recommend more Greek bailouts European politicians will rush to make the next move. The problem is that there is no agreed upon strategy for what to do if Greece did not meet the austerity conditions.
One option would be to let Greece continue to receive funds regardless of the Greek government’s inability to get their budget under control. The German government is against this option and understandably wants some semblance of moral responsibility to be present in whatever assistance Greece might receive. While this attitude is prevalent in Merkel’s government, Merkel seems to be warming to the idea of letting the Greeks receive bailout funds without having met the previously agreed upon austerity conditions. This would set a worrying precedent. Italy and Spain are far from stable, and Greece getting bailed out without fiscal reform could send a signal that would only worsen the crisis.
Finnish and German politicians have expressed their dissatisfaction with Greece receiving funds without having met austerity conditions. Both Finland and Germany have veto power over future bailouts, something that those in the Greek government should keep in mind.
The Germans in particular have opposed another plan, a favorite of French President Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Monti, the pooling of euro-zone debt through the issuing of Euro bonds. As some German politicians have pointed out, such a plan absolves responsibility of countries that engaged in feckless fiscal behavior and creates moral hazard.
Another realistic option is for Greece to default on its debt after the troika findings are released. This is hardly ideal, and not something the Greeks would welcome. However, taking the long-term view it is realistically the only way to slow down the fiasco that is the euro-crisis, though it would still leave many serious issues unattended.
Whether it is Germany leaving the euro or the emergence of a different sort of currency, the politically impossible options still remain the most attractive. Unfortunately for the people of Europe the tepid and unimaginative realistic options available offer no cause for optimism or acceptance of culpability on the part of certain European politicians. A real comprehensive and just plan for addressing the euro-crisis requires many European politicans and bureaucrats to voluntarily resign and accept responsibility for the standard of living about to be imparted to hundrdeds of millions of Europeans.
For the past several weeks, the media has been buzzing with the question of whether it's possible (or probable) that 21-year-old Chavis Carter committed suicide while handcuffed in the backseat of a Jonesboro, AR, police cruiser. Now, it seems that the Craighead County Coroner's Office has made its decision — this was suicide. Ballistics tests and and an FBI investigation are forthcoming, and the released dashcam footage is frustratingly inconclusive, though the chief of police Michael Yates says the footage and witness testimonies "tend to support" the police claims that Carter shot himself. One police officer expresses confusion as to where Carter got the gun after he has apparently shot himself, adding credence to the police's story.
The coroner,whose report was released to the press after a Freedom of Information Act request, concluded that Carter's cause of death:
Perforating gunshot wound of head, going through the right temporal scalp and skull, right and left frontal temporal brain, exiting left temporal skull and scalp. Perforating gunshot wound of head, going through the right temporal scalp and skull, right and left frontal temporal brain, exiting left temporal skull and scalp.
Path: Primarily right to left, with small backward and downward deviation.
Since the July 29 incident, Jonesboro police have "reenacted" how Carter, or other people of varying heights and builds, could have shot themselves in the head while cuffed. Still, there's a lingering racial paranoia here, considering that Carter was black and the officers were white, and that just happens when a black male dies in police custody. Carter's mother continues to say that her son was left handed, making his supposed suicide by gunshot to the right temple even more unlikely.
Even if the police story checks out, it's still frustrating that Carter ended up being arrested for "suspicious driving" and then detained for giving police a fake name in order to disguise the notion that he had slipped away from a Mississippi drug deferment program...for one count of selling marijuana. Carter may not have been pure as the driven snow, he may even have stolen the gun that killed him, since it was reported as such a month before, but even so, he didn't need to be in the back of that car at all. It's hard not to wistfully think that with no drug war, the cops would always have bigger criminals to fry.
And, it's hard to ignore a few of the other questions on the coroner's report, namely whether or not Carter had gunshot residue on his hands (still unresolved), and the simple fact that "the manner of death is based on both autopsy findings and the investigative conclusions of the Jonesboro Police Department." It's unsettling when police departments investigate themselves. But even if this is no dramatic cover-up, it's surely some serious negligence. Jonesboro police should seriously reconsider bringing back the officers responsible for searching Carter at least.
Despite the massive coronation for Romney/Ryan being planned for the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week, Ron Paul forces continue to fight for their representation. But they aren't winning many fights.
In Massachusetts, where a bunch of Ron Paul delegates were booted from their seats for (mostly, it's complicated, see my earlier accounts from July and August) refusing to sign affidavits swearing they'd vote for Romney, the Boston Globe is reporting that the Paul delegates bid to be re-seated has failed.
And in Louisiana, where the state party sent a disputed group of non-Paul delegates to Tampa, the Paul campaign is trying a second round of complaints with the RNC to challenge the state's choice after their first try failed. CNN with the nitty-gritty:
In the days leading up to the Republican Party of Louisiana's state convention in June, an affidavit and supplemental rules were distributed to participants. The affidavit required the signature of delegates selected to go to the national convention to vote for the candidate they were bound to by the State Central Committee.
Paul's supporters refused to sign the affidavit because it gave the power to the state executive committee to replace unallocated delegates.
Instead, they had their own vote at the state convention in protest of the party's rules.
"The affidavit and supplemental rules systemically changed the way that Louisiana elected National Delegates," [Charlie] Davis [chair of the Louisiana Ron Paul campaign] wrote in the memo [sent to the RNC]. "Both documents are clear violations of the national requirement that all rules must have been submitted to the RNC last October 1."
Jason Doré, executive director of the state party, said the campaign was aware the affidavit and rules were coming and that draft versions were sent in the days leading up to the state convention.....
The Paul campaign is requesting contestants and respondents be given time to cross-examine those who filed an affidavit. It is also requesting electronic communication between the RNC and Louisiana Republican Party staffs - which it says coordinated the rules - be turned over to the committee.
The Committee on Contests will make a recommendation to the party based on the hearing, scheduled for Tuesday. The credentials committee will then vote to recommend that the entire convention keep or strip the current delegates.
I spent this morning looking for any record of GOP vice presidential candidate and seven-term Congressman Paul Ryan talking about the drug war. I didn't come up with much on that front: Ryan has apparently never spoken publicly about the drug war; the only clear votes he's cast on drug policy are the three he cast against Hinchey-Rohrbacher, the House bill that would have defunded the DOJ's war on medical marijuana, and the one vote he cast shortly after first being elected to block D.C.'s medical marijuana law and federal funding for a clean needle exchange. Those votes are ugly, but considering that Democrats controlled the House in 2007 (the second time Hinchey-Rohrbacher failed), and that Obama is currently president, Ryan can't be held solely responsible for the continued federal crackdown on medical marijuana.
But just because I couldn't find a single record of Ryan talking about the drug war doesn't mean my search was entirely without fruit. In the course of digging, I found an oppo research file on Ryan published by American Bridge, a Democratic PAC started by David Brock. Amazingly, that file criticizes Ryan for not voting in favor of increased drug war funding.
Here are the sections in question:
Ryan Opposed Additional Funding for Anti-Drug Enforcement Efforts. In 2003, Ryan voted against the Consolidated Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2003, which included $525.4 million for the Office of National Drug Control Policy: $226.4 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, $20 million above the President's request; $145 million for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign; $70 million (full funding) for the Drug-Free Communities program.
The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program advanced the National Drug Control Strategy in the most critical drug trafficking areas of the country, including Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Washington/Baltimore, and Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands AND the Southwest Border. The purpose of the program was to empower equal local, State, and Federal partnerships to dismantle the most significant drug trafficking and drug money laundering organizations. The program primarily supported progressive initiatives such as co-located task forces, intelligence sharing and electronic networking of Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, and linkages between the criminal justice system and drug treatment. The bill passed 338-83.
Paul Ryan Opposed Funds for High Intensity Drug Program in 2000. Paul Ryan voted for the $29.1 billion Treasury Appropriations that represented an $824.5 million increase over the previous year’s funding. It funded the US Postal service, the Treasury Department, and Executive Office of the president, as well as $731 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and $8.9 billion for the Internal Revenue Service.
I doubt American Bridge would argue that Ryan voted against the appropriations bills above solely (or even partly) because they increased funding for the drug war; the sections above simply highlight what Ryan's votes against various appropriations bills meant for drug spending.
But I nevertheless find it fascinating that a progressive group is hammering a Republican for voting against giving more drug-war funding. That $145 million for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign? It paid for the Above the Influence ad campaign, which the GAO deemed a failure with unpleasant unintended consequences. Those High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas? They've since been used to crack down on low-level drug offenders and medical marijuana.
As for Ryan's 2000 and 2007 votes against funding the Office of National Drug Control Policy: The head of the ONCDP through 2001 was Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a hardcore drug warrior who was later revealed to be a paid shill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and who recently said that Portugal's decriminalization efforts were "bullshit." The second time Ryan voted against increased funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Czar John P. Walters (2001-2009) was in charge. Not only did Walters advocate for randomly drug-testing high school students, he wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard earlier this year decrying any and all legalization or decriminalization efforts.
So, in addition to wanting to know more about Paul Ryan's stance on the drug war, I'd also like to know why David Brock's super PAC is attacking Ryan for not giving more money to Barry McCaffrey and John P. Walters.
SCOTUSBlog is currently hosting an online symposium devoted to this year’s 50th anniversary of the publication of Yale law professor Alexander Bickel’s influential book The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics. The whole symposium is well worth reading, but I wanted to draw particular attention to the fascinating contribution of Roger Pilon, founder and director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, who explains how the spread of Bickel’s ideas helped to galvanize the founders of today’s libertarian legal movement.
As Pilon notes, Bickel had a very significant influence on the thinking of his one-time Yale colleague Robert Bork, particularly when it came to the issue of judicial restraint. And it was on that very issue that the libertarians started challenging Bork and other legal conservatives. Pilon writes:
Bork, after he left Yale, and whatever his several differences with Bickel, drew nonetheless on Bickel’s two main themes – the “countermajoritarian difficulty” and the “passive virtues” – to become the dominant figure in the rising conservative legal movement, with its call for “judicial restraint” – a direct response to the “judicial activism” and the “rights revolution” conservatives saw coming from the Warren and Burger Courts. Whether in the pages of National Review from the late 1950s, in the aftermath of the Goldwater takeover of the Republican Party in the late ’60s and on through the ’70s, the emergence of the Federalist Society in 1982, or through the Reagan administration’s judicial appointments, Bickel’s influence on the Bork brief for “judicial restraint” was at the center of the increasingly influential conservative political debate concerning the courts.
But a funny thing happened along the way. During the mid-’70s a tiny band of libertarians, rooted for the most part in that emerging conservative political movement and, in academia, in philosophy and law, began to question the conservative thesis. After all, didn’t the nation spring from the idea of natural rights? And weren’t courts instituted to secure those rights by limiting government power? Indeed, what was it with this judicial “deference” to majoritarian democracy, the very process that had given us the Leviathan against which conservatives (and libertarians) were otherwise railing?
Thus the debate over the conservative movement’s jurisprudential soul began. Long dominated by Borkian conservatives, it has slowly shifted over the years in the libertarian direction – not entirely, to be sure, but significantly.
With the cancellation of Harry’s Law and the subsequent absence of David E. Kelley's forcibly quirky legal shows on the airwaves, there might not be anybody out there to dramatize the awesome stubbornness of Alabaman James Davis in regards to the disposition of his dead wife, Patsy Ruth Davis. Via the Associated Press:
James Davis is fighting to keep the remains of his late wife right where he dug her grave: In the front yard of his home, just a few feet from the porch.
Davis said he was only abiding by Patsy Ruth Davis' wishes when he buried her outside their log home in 2009, yet the city sued to move the body elsewhere. A county judge ordered Davis to disinter his wife, but the ruling is on hold as the Alabama Civil Court of Appeals considers his challenge.
Davis, 73, said he never expected such a fight.
"Good Lord, they've raised pigs in their yard, there's horses out the road here in a corral in the city limits, they've got other gravesites here all over the place," said Davis. "And there shouldn't have been a problem."
Davis lives in the small Alabama town of Stevenson near the northeast border of the state. Here’s the city attorney’s response:
"We're not in the 1800s any longer," said city attorney Parker Edmiston. "We're not talking about a homestead, we're not talking about someone who is out in the country on 40 acres of land. Mr. Davis lives in downtown Stevenson."
Bustling downtown Stevenson! Here’s a picture of downtown Stevenson for you:
The city has a population of 2,000 people. Be honest: When you look at picture of that, you practically expect people to bury their dead in their yards. I am amused that Edmiston thinks they are not “out in the country.” That a community is small enough for people to be buried in their own yards could be a selling point with the right marketing.
Libertarianism is invoked in the defense of Davis’ desire for him and his dead wife to be left the hell alone:
A strong libertarian streak runs through northeast Alabama, which has relatively few zoning laws to govern what people do with their property. Even a neighbor who got into a fight with Davis over the gravesite -- Davis said he punched the man -- isn't comfortable with limiting what a homeowner can do with his property.
"I don't think it's right, but it's not my place to tell him he can't do it," said George W. Westmoreland, 79, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam. "I laid my life on the line so he would have the right to do this. This is what freedom is about."
Davis is protesting the city’s efforts by running for City Council. He also plans to be buried in the yard next to Patsy after he dies.
Last Friday the Patient Care Alliance of Los Angeles (PCA-LA), a local trade association, filed a lawsuit challenging that city's recently approved ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. The group's complaint, which asks the Los Angeles County Superior Court for an injunction preventing the new ordinance from taking effect, argues that the ban conflicts with state laws allowing medical use and cooperative cultivation of marijuana. In 2008, PCA-LA notes, California Attorney General Jerry Brown (now the state's governor) issued guidelines saying that state law allows nonprofit distribution of medical marijuana by "collectives" or "cooperatives" consisting of patients or caregivers. Yet L.A.'s ordinance bars more than three people from growing cannabis together, even in their own homes. PCA-LA says that restriction makes producing medical-quality cannabis impractical, so that the ordinance amounts to "a total ban on all use of medical marijuana." The group also argues that the ban impermissibly impinges on freedom of association and deprives dispensary operators of their property without due process of law.
Last week William W. Carter, L.A.'s chief deputy city attorney, sent letters to hundreds of landlords who rent space to dispensaries, threatening them with $2,500-a-day fines and criminal prosecution that could result in up to six months in jail if the dispensaries do not close by September 6. In response, Joe Elford, chief counsel to the patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, sent Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich a letter saying the city's moves to shut down dispensaries are "premature and may subject you to a legal response." Elford noted that an initiative aimed at overturning L.A.'s ordinance is likely to qualify for the local ballot this fall and that the California Supreme Court will soon take up the legality of local dispensary bans, about which state appeals courts have disagreed.
In Missouri, Republican candidate Todd Akin is offering voters a chance to widen the range of pseudoscience represented in the Senate, opining that it is "really rare" for a rape to lead to pregnancy. In a "legitimate rape," he explained, "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Sadly, the interviewer failed to ask any follow-up questions about what those ways might be. Retractable uterus? Vagina dentata? Just how does Todd Akin think the female body works? I'm not the best interviewer in the world, but I know that when someone says something like that, you work to nail down the crazy right away. Good luck getting him to discuss it now.
There are times when a politician says something jaw-droppingly stupid without unleashing any political consequences. This is not one of those times. The GOP is pretty much required to win this race if wants to retake the Senate this year, and you can safely anticipate that Democrats in other close races will try to tie Akin to their opponents. Mitt Romney condemned the comment this morning, and he isn't the only Republican on the ballot who has jumped to distance himself from the Missourian. Expect more.
Josh Kraushaar has posted an interesting rundown of the political takeaways here. You should read the whole thing, but his main claims are these:
- Believe it or not, Akin could still win.
- The Republicans sure have been nominating a lot of crappy Senate candidates lately.
- The Tea Party movement is not to blame for most of those crappy candidates.
- Akin isn't likely to drop out.
- Obama's going to pounce on this.
Akin, meanwhile, says he "misspoke." Hey, it happens to all of us: You get tongue-tied and invent a new law of biology, insulting millions of women in the process. He probably meant to say "I love puppies" or "Missouri sure is swell." Or possibly "the Sun revolves around the Earth."
The past several weeks have made one thing crystal-clear: Our country faces unmitigated disaster if the Other Side wins.
No reasonably intelligent person can deny this. All you have to do is look at the way the Other Side has been running its campaign. Instead of focusing on the big issues that are important to the American People, it has fired a relentlessly negative barrage of distortions, misrepresentations, and flat-out lies.
Just look at the Other Side’s latest commercial, which take a perfectly reasonable statement by the candidate for Our Side completely out of context to make it seem as if he is saying something nefarious. This just shows you how desperate the Other Side is, writes A. Barton Hinkle, and how willing it is to mislead the American People.View this article
Over at the American Enterprise Institute's blog, economics writer James Pethokoukis re-ups a bigger version of what is quite possibly the only chart that matters for the 2012 election. It shows the unemployment rate with and without Barack Obama's recovery plan, including the bold projections of his economic advisers back before the first "recovery summer" was upon us like a plague of joblessness. Then just to rub it in, Pethokoukis includes the actual unemployment rate. Hat tip: INSTAPUNDIT
Pethokoukis is basically in the tank for Romney-Ryan, but that's neither here nor there. It's pretty clear that Americans aren't warming to Mitt Romney, who is totally meh as a candidate - given his creation of the nation's first healthcare mandate, support for stimuli past, lackluster style, and inability to actually discuss cutting government spending in any real way, that's not surprising. To pretend that Romney and the GOP offer a distinct choice from the policies of the past 12 years (GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan voted for many of the worst of them, including TARP, No Child Left Behind, The Patriot Act, Medicare Part D, and more).
But it may not matter, either, given Obama's demonstrated inability to goose the economy (and that's not even to mention his punts on other issues such as civil liberties and transparency that have disappointed even his ardent supporters).
Over at Wired, Matt Ridley, author most recently of the superb The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, takes look back at 50 years of predictions of imminent doom. For decades credulous news media have been peddling apocalyptic prophecies that humanity would soon be done in by pollution, population, pandemics, and/or depleted petroleum. And yet we are still here.
In his article, "Apocalypse Not: Here's Why You Shouldn't Worry About the End Times," reminds readers of the plethora of failed prophecies including...
...best-selling ecologist Paul Ehrlich in 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s ["and 1980s" was added in a later edition] the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now … nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” Or Jimmy Carter in a televised speech in 1977: “We could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.” ...
Over the five decades since the success of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 and the four decades since the success of the Club of Rome’s The Limits to Growth in 1972, prophecies of doom on a colossal scale have become routine. Indeed, we seem to crave ever-more-frightening predictions—we are now, in writer Gary Alexander’s word, apocaholic. The past half century has brought us warnings of population explosions, global famines, plagues, water wars, oil exhaustion, mineral shortages, falling sperm counts, thinning ozone, acidifying rain, nuclear winters, Y2K bugs, mad cow epidemics, killer bees, sex-change fish, cell-phone-induced brain-cancer epidemics, and climate catastrophes.
So far all of these specters have turned out to be exaggerated. True, we have encountered obstacles, public-health emergencies, and even mass tragedies. But the promised Armageddons—the thresholds that cannot be uncrossed, the tipping points that cannot be untipped, the existential threats to Life as We Know It—have consistently failed to materialize.
Why has the end of the world failed to happen? In a word, innovation. People convert problems into opportunities.
The recent prophets of doom all fail to understand the power of strong property rights and free markets to mitigate looming scarcities and ameliorate environmental harms. As I noted in my recent column, "The Limits to The Limits to Growth:"
One of the odder features of the Limits computer model [and other such apocalyptic narratives] is that it basically ignores one of the most robust feedback mechanisms in the world—markets and price systems. The modelers warn against placing our faith in the technological solutions, pointing to the collapse of the whaling industry as an example. They argue that improvements in whaling technology ended up destroying that industry. They completely overlook the fact that whaling occurred in an open access commons in which everyone has incentive to kill as many whales as possible to make sure that their competitors didn’t benefit from them. Similarly, today wherever one identifies an environmental problem, one can be sure that it is occurring in the moral equivalent of an open access commons. In fact, the depletion of whales and rising price of whale oil encouraged entrepreneurs to seek new form of lighting; in this case, turning gooey crude oil into kerosene.
For example, rising oil and natural gas prices have similarly encouraged the development of new technologies like fracking. Ridley's Wired article is well worth your time.
See my interview reason.tv interview with Ridley about The Rational Optimist below:
San Anrtonio - Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson told attendees at a campaign dinner here that as governor he took the art of vetoing bills to another level.
"I think I may have vetoed more legilslation than the other 49 governors in the country combined. I vetoed 750 bills, I had thousands of line-item vetos," he said.
Johnson noted that his favorite veto was reserved for a bill that would have required pet store owners to exercise dogs and cats.
Watch as the Libertarian Party presidential nominee talks about vetoing the "dog and cat exercise bill" and the joy of the veto.
Speaking of the positive influence of political independents, a Public Policy Polling survey of Coloradans released 10 days ago shows that the pot-legalizing Amendment 64 is (unusually for marijuana initiatives) gaining support there, and that the positive trend line is due "almost entirely" to the politically non-affiliated. Excerpt:
When PPP polled the state in mid-June, support for the so-called Amendment 64 narrowly outpaced opposition, 46-42. In PPP’s first poll of likely voters in this fall’s election, almost two months later, support has grown to 47-38. This movement is entirely because of independents, who were already in favor of the amendment by a 49-40 margin; they now support it by 30 points, 58-28. Democrats are still slightly more in favor (59-22) than Republicans opposed (26-61).
Whole report here. If Colorado (or Washington, or Oregon) votes to legalize marijuana this November, one of our longest national nightmares may finally be seeing the beginning of the end.
- Drug dealers in Brazil’s favelas are eschewing the sale of crack-cocaine in their neighborhoods because its use destabilizes their communities and makes it more difficult to control areas previously abandoned by the government.
- A Christian girl who apparently has Down’s Syndrome is facing the death penalty in Pakistan, accused of burning the Koran, a capital offense in the backward country.
- The FBI investigated a late-night skinny dip at the Sea of Galilee by a freshman GOP Congressman during a privately-funded trip to Israel. The beach party, attended by other Congressmen, their families and staff, drew a rebuke from the House Majority Leader and Whip, both of whom also attended the trip but not the Galilee party.
- Who says bipartisanship is dead? A new law signed by the president and passed with overwhelming support in Congress removes the requirement of Senate confirmation from about 150 executive branch posts.
- An 82-year-old nun and two other protesters waltzed into the government’s uranium storage and processing facility outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, called the Fort Knox of uranium, causing the facility to shut down for eighteen days.
- The Libertarian Party is touting its presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s potential role as a spoiler this November. A recent mailing pointed out he could cost Romney 75 electoral votes in five battleground states.
The Cincinnati Enquirer publishes this recent (June 2012) snapshot of the increasing spread among members of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Pew has tracked attitudes among party members since 1987 and, looking at "48 political values measures" (role of government, social issues, etc.) Pew found that "the average partisan gap has nearly doubled over this 25-year period – from 10 percentage points in 1987 to 18 percentage points in the new study."
Give credit to partisan dead-enders: They realize the organizations they swear fealty to are part of the problem.
Nearly all of the increases have occurred during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. During this period, both parties’ bases have often been critical of their parties for not standing up for their traditional positions. Currently, 71% of Republicans and 58% of Democrats say their parties have not done a good job in this regard.
And here's even better news that got soft-peddled by the Enquirer: It turns out that political partisans are outliers in terms of increasingly polarized attitudes. When you take the pulse of the electorate based on things such as gender, income, edumication, and the like, things have been pretty damn stable at the same time that party members have been going crazy from, well, their own party's suckitude (hey, can 71 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats be wrong?).
Here's the full Pew findings on changes in attitude across various dimensions. It doesn't show a country in full kumbaya mode (thank god), but the findings lend credibility to the important and relatively overlooked findings of Morris P. Fiorina in Culture War?. Fiorina and crew argue that while the political process has gotten progressively more polarized over the years, there's actually a huge amount of consensus and stability when it comes to many supposedly divisive issues (ranging from abortion to government spending). His book is well worth reading and helps explain why large majorities or pluralities of Americans tend to agree on many, if not most, things. And why that consensus is routinely ignored by the press and political operatives, especially during elections.
Political partisans are the nuts, not the lumpen voters, who have been deserting political parties in record numbers for years now. According to Gallup, 40 percent of voters identify as "independent." Indies are now the single-largest voting bloc in the country and who can blame anyone for refusing to belong to the Democratic or Republican parties after the last dozen years of bipartisan jib-jabbery and failed policy after failed policy? Independents will decide this election.
Matt Welch lays out the case for why indies are not only growing, but turning to the sorts of libertarian policies and candidates we laid out in our book, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, just out in paperback with a new introduction.
Sad news for fans of fast, loud movies: Director Tony Scott, the mastermind behind blockbusters Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Enemy of the State, True Romance, and more than a dozen other movies, has died. According to The Wrap, Scott, the brother of director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) committed suicide Sunday by jumping off the Vincent Thomas bridge in Long Beach, California.
I don’t know much about Tony Scott the man, but I loved a lot of his movies, even a few that I also kind of hated. That’s the kind of filmmaker Scott was — an intense and frequently ahead-of-the-curve pop visionary who helped pioneer the aggressive, violent, hyperstylized brand of moviemaking that defines so many blockbusters today. Scott, who began his career as a commercial director, and directed thousands of TV commercials before making his first full length film, crafted super-slick movies that had the 100 percent trailer-friendly look, feel, and pacing of high-end commercials — indeed, they played like advertisements for themselves.
At his best, Scott was a better narrative filmmaker than he often got credit for, especially in the underrated Crimson Tide and Days of Thunder. Enemy of the State, despite its movie-world absurdities, remains the best movie about the modern surveillance society and the terrifying power of secret government power to spy on anyone, anywhere, at any time. Despite the flak it sometimes gets, Top Gun was the cinematic equivalent of a perfect pop song, or perhaps the feature-length music video to go with it. Even Scott’s most mediocre movies — The Last Boy Scout, The Fan, Deja Vu — were still engaging little pulp pleasures.
But ultimately his movies weren’t really about story — they were about sensation. Scott loved sound and spectacle, and tried whenever possible to provide maximum levels of both. He loved over the top violence and action sequences as well as sound design built to split ear drums. Enough was never enough for Scott; excess justified itself.
He was among the first big-budget directors to edit his films with the rapid fire pacing that’s become so common in summer blockbusters, emphasizing speed and sensory overload rather than traditional geography and linearity. He was as awesome as Michael Bay before Michael Bay ever made a movie — and far more twisted.
That’s how we got pictures like Domino, a 2005 romp that starred Keira Knightley in the not-very-true story of a young female bounty hunter. The movie, delivered in blast and bursts that resembled headaches more than scenes, appeared to have been edited with a rototiller. It’s a bizarre and semi-unwatchable take on mass media depictions of violence, the star machine, and reality television, and it features some of the most outlandishly grisly bloodshed of Scott’s oeuvre. It's a punishing experiment that can never quite decide if it wants to be funny or horrifying or stultifying, and mostly it ends up participating in the sordid, sadistic entertainment it half-assedly tries to critique.
But my goodness, what a picture. It’s outrageously outrageous, less a movie than an all out sensory assault, like some delirious, insane, nightmare vision of an action blockbuster. I couldn’t stand it, or forget it, and that’s why — despite the fact that it’s basically a failure — I still kind of love it.
And, ultimately, it’s why I love Scott's films. He understood the power of pop — to entertain, to amuse, to subvert, to offend, to irritate, to pound an audience's mind into a pleasantly addled puddle of mush for a couple of hours. At his best, he made movies that you might love, you might hate, but you couldn’t possibly wipe from your memory. I hope his sounds and images stay lodged, however uncomfortably, in our collective consciousness for a long time to come. Rest in peace.
When you hear of people in Chicago sleeping on the sidewalk to be first in line in the morning, you may figure they are hoping to snag tickets for Lady Gaga or a Cubs World Series. But those were not the explanation Wednesday when thousands lined up at Navy Pier. They didn't want to get something. They wanted to avoid getting something: a deportation order.
It was a scene that immediately put every American into one of two groups: those heartened by the throngs of illegal immigrants thirsting to stay in this country, and those appalled. It also framed a choice for voters, because the crowd was responding to a decision by President Barack Obama to stop deporting some foreigners who arrived without benefit of the law.
It's not really accurate to call them foreigners, though. These are young people who were brought here when they were still children. Many arrived as infants or toddlers; many speak English like natives; and many have no memory of their birth country. Everything about them says "American," writes Steve Chapman--except their birth certificates.View this article
Former Wilcox County, Georgia, jailer Casey Owens has pleaded guilty to failing to report witnessing then-Sheriff Stacy Bloodsworth, his son, and others assault three inmates. In his plea, Owens also admitted he was present when the Bloodsworths and others made up a cover story for the beatings. He is the third person to plead guilty in the case. Charges are still pending against the former sheriff and his son.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow's book Drift has some sound recommendations about American foreign policy, reports Justin Logan. But achieving those goals requires us to identify the pressures and political phenomena that created our pathologies, then using that understanding to determine just how to undo them. You won't find the necessary guidance in Drift, which ignores far too much of America's foreign-policy history, while dwelling excessively on such minor byways as the invasion of Grenada.View this article
Subsidies, stimulus, regulations, protectionism, trade restrictions, government-bank collusion, zoning, bailouts and more do not equal a "free" market, Sheldon Richman writes. What we have—and have had for a long time—is corporatism, an interventionist system shot through with government-granted privileges mostly for the well-connected–who tend to be rich businesspeople. Even some who have prospered apparently by market means have actually done so through government intervention, such as transportation subsidies and eminent domain. Wealth can be transferred in many ways besides welfare and Medicaid, some of them quite subtle. Most transfers are upward.
Free-market economists know this, but they often seem to forget it, such as when they indiscriminately defend firms (such as oil and pharmaceutical companies) in today’s corporatist economy. These economists convey the message that since in a free market people get rich and companies get big only by serving consumers, anyone who is rich today and any company that is big today must have gotten that way by serving consumers. By claiming the contemporary market is free, we alienate potential allies who are concerned about those who are having a tough time of things.View this article
Austin – The loudest cheers at Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Earl Johnson’s packed Austin dinner, the largest event so far during his swing through Texas, came when Johnson talked about a recurring problem his campaign has faced: ballot access problems.
The state of Michigan has something called a “sore loser law” that prevents candidates who lose a party primary from changing parties to run in the general election. The law rarely applies to presidential elections but Michigan is an exception.
“It’s a railroad job,” former New Mexico governor Johnson said offstage at Hill’s Café, taking a break from posing for photos and shaking hands.
Johnson campaigned for president on the Republican ticket through 2011, but he never participated in any primaries. He withdrew from the race on December 28, five days prior to the Iowa Caucus and two weeks before polls opened in New Hampshire. Michigan didn't even hold it's primary until a full two months after Johnson decided not to run in any Republican race.
“Look, I didn’t want on the ballot in Michigan in the first place. I never asked to be on the ballot. They put me on the ballot and then they said, ‘For you to get off the ballot that we’ve put you on, unbeknownst to you, you have to fill out a document saying you don’t want on the ballot,’” said former Governor Johnson.
Johnson’s team found out about this shortly before the deadline and had to scramble to clear all the logistical hurdles the Wolverine State throws up to maintain party control of the primary ballot. But they fell short by three minutes. According to Johnson, Michigan declined the campaign's request to remove Johnson from the ballot because his paperwork was stamped at 4:03pm instead of 4:00pm.
Johnson was furious. He and the Michigan Libertarian Party filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan. Johnson noted that John Anderson ran in Michigan’s Republican primary before he jumped ship and ran as an independent in the state without a problem in 1980.
“Why did we have to do this in the first place? To get off the ballot that we never asked to be on?”
Enter Johnson’s knight in shining armor: Gary Edward Johnson, an investor and longtime Libertarian Party activist in Texas who has run for everything from community college board to U.S. Senate but never for president. That might change if the Michigan LP’s court battle fails.
For now Texas Johnson is what’s known as a placeholder, somebody who holds a spot on a ballot for a third party candidate until he or she actually qualifies. Texas Johnson's place on the ballot now guarantees that a a Gary E. Johnson/Jim Gray ticket on the Libertarian line will still appear on the ballot if the lawsuit fails.
When Taos, New Mexico-based Johnson went to pick up his credentials in Las Vegas at the start of the Libertarian National Convention, he was given a name tag for a Gary Johnson. It turns out that Texas Johnson was standing behind him in line at the credentials booth. The two struck up a friendly conversation that led New Mexico Johnson and his campaign to start submitting his name to state election commissions as “Gary Johnson,” so if a problem came up local state parties could put “Gary E. Johnson” on the ballot instead.
Texas Johnson, a former secretary of the LNC, was more than happy to accommodate this plan.
Two ballot access experts, Bill Hall and Richard Winger, spoke with Texas Johnson before approaching the Johnson campaign about doing something like this. The trio researched Michigan laws and determined that what they wanted to do was completely legal. Gary Sinawski, the legal counsel for the Libertarian National Committee, is involved in the Michigan fight, too.
The offices for the Michigan Libertarian Party and the Michigan Secretary of State were both closed over the weekend. In 2008 Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root received 23, 716 votes, or 0.47% of the vote, in Michigan.
Born in the same year as the former governor, Texas Johnson laughs about the situation he is.
If the suit fails and New Mexico Johnson is kept off the ballot he said, “I’ll probably go up there.”
He then rattled off arcane FEC reporting rules while recounting old campaign stories, sounding eager to get out on the trail.
While Texas Johnson was sitting far away from the stage Steve Haskett, a Libertarian with a ZZ Top beard, came over and patted him on the back.
“I hope you win the hell out of Michigan!” Haskett said.
“Why thank you very much,” Texas Johnson replied.
“Now I’ve met two presidential candidates!”
As government crackdowns on raw milk-selling co-ops and children’s lemonade stands keep making headlines, political and health food activists are raising awareness through Lemonade Freedom Day.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more ReasonTV clips.View this article
In an interview with FOX, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan defended his lack of foreign policy experience by reminding us all that he voted to invade Iraq:
Speaking to Fox News’ Carl Cameron Saturday morning, Republican VP nomineePaul Ryan made the case for why he believes his foreign policy credentials are stronger than President Obama’s, emphasizing that he has been a voting member of Congress longer than the president. Ryan cited his votes in favor of the Iraq War as evidence that he has had more foreign policy experience than Obama.
“I’ve been in Congress for a number of years,” he told Cameron. “That’s more experience thanBarack Obama had when he came into office.”
“I voted to send people to war,” he added.
As a congressman, Ryan voted for the 2002 Iraq Resolution which authorized President George W. Bush to use military force in Iraq. He also voted in favor of the Iraq War troop “surge” in 2007.
Appendices courtesy of Michael Brendan Doherty and Jim Antle: "So did our Secretary of State." "So did our vice president."
Austin – Gary Johnson is not happy that some in the media call Republican vice presidential candidate and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan a libertarian.
“He voted for the Patriot Act, he voted for the National Defense Appropriation Act, he voted to ban online poker, he’s proposing a budget that gets balanced in thirty years. He is anything but a libertarian, anything but,” said Johnson after a packed campaign dinner at Hill’s Café.
Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee for president, noted that Ryan was a strict social conservative who voted to restrict abortion rights and against marriage equality.
“Paul Ryan submitted personhood legislation that is anything but libertarian,” he said. Johnson's eyes widened and his volume increased as he went into detail about Ryan’s support for a national version of Virginia’s controversial transvaginal ultrasound law.
Johnson suggested that all the talk of Ryan as a libertarian and follower of Ayn Rand may help him because people will see pretty quickly that former New Mexico governor is the only real libertarian running.
Many libertarians credit Rand’s novels with changing their worldview but Johnson said he did not read her novels until the mid-1990s when he was governor of New Mexico.
“I came away from Atlas Shrugged and able to verbalize that the best thing I can do is be the best that I can be, something that I held to before I ever read it,” he said.
“Atlas Shrugged for me was a validation of my own thoughts. There was no conversion,” he said.
Johnson suggested that his wife read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead so she could get a better understanding of his worldview.
Waco – Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson spoke to a crowd of about 40 people in a hot parking lot near the beginning of the Heritage Square section of this midsized Texas city.
Johnson, along with the LP candidate for US Senate in Texas John Jay Myers, spoke without the aid of a stage or PA system, for about 15 minutes each as the sun beat down. The only reporter (other than me) in attendance was a writer for the pay-per-click site Examiner.com. Young people, many clad in Ron Paul shirts, made up the bulk of the crowd.
In his stump speech Johnson, dressed in black slacks and an un-tucked olive green shirt, emphasized how he is different from President Obama and Mitt Romney while mentioning that he would work to audit and, eventually, eliminate the Federal Reserve.
Myers spent little time talking about his two opponents, Tea Party-favored Republican Ted Cruz and former Democratic state representative Paul Sadler. He did, though, go after Cruz’s social conservatism.
“I am not a social conservative. I am a conservative when it comes to spending but I am not a conservative when it comes to what you should be able to do with your life,” he said.
Myers, taking note of the sizable Paul presence in the crowd, said that Paul’s confrontation in with former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani during a 2007 Republican presidential debate encouraged him to get involved in politics.
Johnson and Myers hung around for about a half-hour after the event ended before departing for Austin. At one point a local college student asked Johnson to sign her copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. After that the former New Mexico governor eventually found himself in a familiar place: defending and explaining his position on the Fair Tax to a handful of college students.
Before Johnson left another student asked what he would do if he lost. Without missing a beat Johnson said that he would run again in 2016.
While Romney and Obama trade punches over who can best save Medicare and Medicaid, perhaps it's time to reaquaint ourselves with just how insane these programs are.
Here is the original text from the Jan. 30, 2012 video:
"When you look at government policies, there's a massive transfer of wealth from the young and relatively poor members of society toward the old and relatively rich members of society," says Veronique de Rugy, a Reason magazine columnist and economist at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
In 1970, de Rugy notes, transfers from the young to the old took up about 20 percent of the federal budget. In a few years, that figure will break the 50 percent barrier as the population ages and Social Security and Medicare ramp up. Those programs are paid for by payroll taxes that suck up around 15 percent of every dollar most workers will ever make.
Yet the #Occupy movement spends most of its energy railing against "the 1 Percent" richest Americans, whose wealth is not gained at the expense of the "99 Percent." Rather, it comes from providing goods and services that people want to consume.
As transfer payments to elderly Americans - irrespective of wealth or need - increase in absolute and relative terms, de Rugy argues that we should scrap entitlements and replace them instead with a "social safety net" that helps poor Americans of whatever age. "There's absolutely no reason to continue paying for lots of people who have accumulated wealth their entire lives," de Rugy tells Reason's Nick Gillespie.
About 3.40 minutes. Shot by Meredith Bragg and Joshua Swain and edited by Swain.
Is it true that, as Jayson Lusk claims in a fascinating new article, 95 percent of Americans, including libertarians, want more regulations on food?
Baylen Linnekin interviews Lusk, author of the new book The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate, about popular views on food regulation.View this article
Judith Thurman has a weird piece in The New Yorker that with the most tenuous of connection continues the game of (unfairly, to the libertarians....) linking Paul Ryan with them. She talks about him and Ayn Rand, then mentions Rose Wilder Lane, who helped ghostwrite her mother Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series, and then she's off to the races on one of her hobbyhorses, Miss Lane, a Founding Mother of modern American libertarianism with her 1943 classic The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority.
Thurman manages to make Lane's political ideas all just seem weird and peculiar, connecting through her limited choice of details Lane's belief in individual rights, limited government, and the fecund powers of liberated human energy as arising from her "tragic" life, with "suicidal depressions" and a baby dead in infancy, her "left wing idealism" eventually dying, inclined to want to murder presidents. And:
Old friends were dismayed by her increasingly erratic militance. One of them described her as “floating between sanity and a bedlam of hates.”
Thurman's just reporting the facts, man. (Sort of; see a big fact error, even beyond these tasteless character assassinations, below.) For a truer sense of the thinking and mentality and character and often very bright and cheerful personality of this woman who Thurman paints as merely depressed and hateful (why else be a libertarian?), I suggest reading her collection of letters exchanged with industrialist Jasper Crane, The Lady and the Tycoon.
Thurman engages in typical misrepresentation of Rand, I have to assume deliberately, with this nasty aside:
Lane and Rand exchanged collegial letters for a while in the late nineteen-forties and early nineteen-fifties. But when Lane invoked the Biblical imperative to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” and protested that “without some form of mutual coöperation, it is literally impossible for one person on this planet to survive,” Rand “tore apart [her] logic” and denounced it as collectivist heresy. That sort of impulse, she concluded (to help your neighbor save his burning house, for example) led inexorably “to the New Deal.”
That sounded insane to me, the "to help your neighbor save his burning house" part, so I checked the letter Thurman must have been referring to, reprinted on page 345 of The Letters of Ayn Rand, in which Rand says to Lane: "Take your own example--about rushing to put out the fire in a neighbor's house. You may (and would) certainly do that--if your own house is not on fire at the same time."
Reads a little differently than the implication of Thurman's parenthetical, doesn't it?
As Thurman ends:
as Lane suggested rather plaintively in her argument with Rand, the pioneers would have perished (in greater numbers than they did) had they embraced the philosophy of every man for himself.
Of course, Lane and Rand's philosophy was not at all of "every man for himself" but of every man in social cooperation that does not depend on one man using violence and force to get what he wants from the other.
But that doesn't sound bad enough to make the reader walk away thinking he hates Paul Ryan (and libertarians) just a little bit more than when he started, so it wouldn't be appropriate for Thurman's purposes.
Judith Thurman in the current New Yorker, in an article largely (and curiously) hooked off a now-16-year-old book, The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane, by William Holtz, uncovers what seemed (to anyone unfamiliar with modern libertarianism's history) like a fascinating and somewhat dark secret: that the hugely popular and influential Little House books were highly influenced, edited, maybe even "ghostwritten" to a significant extent, by Laura Ingalls Wilder's radical libertarian daughter and fellow novelist, Rose Wilder Lane....Rose Wilder Lane could certainly have set Ms. Thurman straight on her absurd assertion that the current crisis is one of laissez-faire capitalism.
The famously fact-checked magazine also mistakenly claims that Roger MacBride, Lane's heir (though no blood relation), was the Libertarian Party's first presidential candidate in 1976; not so, he was their second. The first one was John Hospers, in 1972.
What MacBride did do in 1972 for the LP, which would have been an interesting story for the New Yorker reader, was cast in his role as Virginia elector the first electoral vote in American history for a woman, the LP's female VP pick Theodora (Tonie) Nathan.MORE »
Best Buy, The New York Times, and Chinese elevator-television maker Focus Media are all reported to be considering or in the process of going private – selling their shares to private investors who will then manage the companies without the trouble and scrutiny of the stock exchange.
All three companies have been brought to the brink of privatization by the healthful shift toward value that is occurring in the American economy despite the best efforts of the Washington/Wall Street axis.
Schulze is offering $24 to $26 a share for the company, which before the bid, was trading for $17.64 a share. The deal is far from done, as the company must not only approve the offer, but Schulze must line up all the financing to pay for it.
The move is [an] effort to save what was once a powerful force in consumer electronics, but has lost ground amid competition from Internet-based rivals, such as Amazon.com (AMZN). The company reported a net loss of $1.2 billion in the 12 months ended March, the latest data available from S&P Capital IQ.
Meanwhile, as noted earlier at Reason 24/7, Bloomberg's Edmund Lee is speculating that the parent company of The New York Times may retire from the hurly-burly of Wall Street (the company has seen its valuation fall by $7 billion since the beginning of the 21st century) and return to family ownership:
“Now would be a good time for the company to go private,” said Reed Phillips, managing partner and co-founder of DeSilva & Phillips, a New York-based investment bank that focuses on the media industry. “The Times and other print newspapers are at an all-time low in valuations. They have been ‘cleaning up’ the business by selling off orphan assets for some time now.”
And Shanghai-based Focus Media, which markets flat-panel advertising displays in elevators, movie theaters and other locations, is looking to leave NASDAQ with a pan-galactic investor group that includes Carlyle Group, China Everbright and Focus Media CEO Jason Nanchun Jiang. Focus Media has seen investors turn bearish after a negative report on its bookkeeping practices by Muddy Waters LLC.
Focus Media is one of 19 Chinese companies looking to leave the American stock market this year. Thirteen did so last year. T.H. Capital Research analyst Tian Hou tactfully tells The Deal Pipeline's Chris Nolter that U.S. investors need to get with the hyperinflation program: "If the negative sentiment against Chinese stocks in the U.S. markets doesn't change," she says, "we are going to see the trend continue."
I say let it continue – if it actually is a trend. (Krantz notes that the number of privatizations is actually below where it was at the start of the credit unwind, pointing to "the reluctance of lenders to take chances.")MORE »
The Maine Sun Journal reports on the lastest in the brouhaha over seating Maine's Ron Paul-dominated delegation to the Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month has some members of the delegation trying to get the RNC's dithering over the question declared over and the already-selected Paul delegation to just take its rightful place:
Friday delegates Stavros Mendros, Brent Tweed and Matthew Mcdonald filed a request for an injunction with Belfast Superior Court.
It asks that the court rule against the Republican National Committee and stop its process of investigating whether 21 Paul delegates from Maine were elected legally during the party's state convention in Maine.
Mendros said the injunction notes the RNC was suppose to rule on the issue last Friday but instead asked for more evidence against the Paul delegates.
"We filed an injunction that basically states the RNC has no authority at this point," Mendros said. "We were duly elected.".....
"They have to rule based on the evidence given to them in the complaint," Mendros said. "They didn't do that, they asked for more evidence. They can't do that. By asking for more evidence they are admitting they didn't have enough evidence to rule against us which means the contest is over, they don't get a second chance to bring in more evidence."
The story sums up the complaint against the delegation:
In their complaint Jan Staples, the committeewoman and Peter E. Cianchette alleged:
• The failure of the credentialing process at the state convention led to illegal votes being cast and counted.
• There was not a quorum when votes for at-large delegates and alternates were cast.
• Widespread credentialing irregularities and lax floor security led to illegal votes being cast and counted.
• Convention officials repeatedly violated party and parliamentary rules.
But Mendros and other Paul delegates have said the state convention was conducted legally and within the rules. Other prominent Maine Republicans including Gov. Paul LePage have said the Paul delegates deserve to be seated.
Maine's Gov. Paul LePage says he'll boycott the RNC convention if the delegation is not seated.
My blogging from last week on the Maine delegate conflict.
In other Paul delegation news and commentary, The Oklahoman tells Paulites challenging the delegation results of its hotly contested convention to give up. My blogging on the Oklahoma state GOP chaos as it unfolded. My new book, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.
Bonus Ron Paul: U.S. News notes he still hasn't endorsed Romney/Ryan.
- Julian Assange may have real worries after all. Australian diplomatic cables reveal high-level belief that the U.S. is out to get the WikiLeaks founder.
- Consumer confidence is up! But so are inflation fears.
- You may not have known this, but neither Obama nor Romney has a plan for controlling the federal government's out-of-control finances.
- State Rep. Derrick Smith was ejected from the Illinois legislature and will have to face trial for accepting bribes. Wait ... they frown on that in Illinois?
- A man searching for his stolen paintball gear found it on eBay. It was for sale by a cop who patrols his neighborhood.
- Virginia's state government is running a surplus! If you don't count unfunded pensions and other stuff the state can't afford.
- South African police insist they used force only in self-defense, after peaceful means failed — and then they killed 34 people. So peaceful means failed a lot.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
If you were trying to attract the attention of every conspiracy-minded, government-suspecting cyberactivist on the planet, you couldn't have done a better job with sky-writing and billboards. A previously unknown hacker group calling itself Anti-Leaks stages an impressively powerful and extended distributed denial of service attack against WikiLeaks, even while improbably claiming to represent "young adults, citizens of the United States of America," and targeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as "a new breed of terrorist."
And what was WikiLeaks doing during this assault? It was attempting to release documents about a creepy-sounding, high-tech surveillance system called TrapWire. It's all very interesting, says Reason 24/7 Managing Editor, J.D. Tuccille, even if many of the documents had more to do with price tags than paranoia.View this article
Burning Man (see my 2004 book about its history), a festival of art and community held on federal land operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) but physically within Nevada's Pershing County, has filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Nevada against Pershing County. The suit pushes back on some fresh demands for cash payouts from that county.
The root of the complaint, as I read it, is that Burning Man is questioning the county's right to impose certain extra requirements and fees on the event not contained in its agreement with the federal BLM (that agreement already includes paying the county for all its law enforcement costs at the event, which Burning Man does, and which amounted to $175,000 to Pershing last year. Many other Nevada state and local agencies also get payouts).
Burning Man has also made in the past agreements with Pershing, in lieu of the application of its "Festival ordinance" to Burning Man, to pay another $62,000 to the county yearly, $12,000 of which goes to local nonprofits serving county residents. Since 2005, under similar agreements, Burning Man has paid a total of $395,600, $108,600 of that to local nonprofits, according to the suit.
Last November, the suit claims, the county tried to amend its Festival Ordinance to apply to Burning Man in ways the event objected to. From the suit:
The proposed amendment would have made the ordinance applicable to Burning Man and severely restrict the content of the Burning Man Event. Specifically, the proposal would have imposed hundreds of thousands of dollars of new fees on BRC [the LLC that runs Burning Man], subjected Burning Man to local law enforcement inconsistent with the terms of the BLM Permit, and otherwise make the conduct of the Burning Man Event contingent upon and subject to County and State laws and policies that could conflict, and in fact did conflict, with the terms of the 2012 BLM Permit....Notably, the proposed amendment would also have banned minors from the Burning Man Event.
The suit also details an amazing example of local justice, in which a petition was filed against Pershing County earlier this year in Nevada state court trying to force it to apply the damaging festival ordinance rules to Burning Man. Burning Man was not informed of the petition.
The petition was approved--strangely, before it was even formally filed--by a Judge, Richard Wagner, who has earlier spoken out in public about his own desire to squash Burning Man. The county gave in to the petition, and as a result in May demanded Burning Man comply with its festival ordinance in the future. This suit is claiming such application of the county ordinance to Burning Man is illegimate, not only for interfering with its pre-existing agreement with the federal BLM, but also for violating the First Amendment. From the suit:
The Festival Laws are directed towards speech and expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. They lack sufficient standards to guide the exercise of discretion by County licensing officials and therefore are facially void under the First Amendment.....
The imposition of arbitrary and excessive fees and charges on BRC in connection with the Burning Man Event is pretextual, content-based, and impermissibly restricts constitutionally protected speech and conduct. If allowed to continue, these fees and charges would have the effect of substantially reducing the funds available to BRC for the direct funding of artistic and other expressive conduct at subsequent Events and the sponsorship of future events, resulting in the restriction of speech and other conduct protected by the First Amendment.MORE »
Earlier this week, the International Association of Chiefs of Police published a set of guidelines for the use of the unmanned aircraft — drones — that have been proliferating across the United States and the world beyond. The guidelines aren't binding but they do give us an "industry standard" to which we can point if any given police department or law-enforcement agency colors too far outside the lines. And yes, one of the points on which the organization's Aviation Committee members agree is that drones shouldn't be lethal. Well, not deliberately so, anyway.
Among the highlights from the IACP's Recommended Guidelines for the use of Unmanned Aircraft:
- Equipping the aircraft with weapons of any type is strongly discouraged. Given the current state of the technology, the ability to effectively deploy weapons from a small UA is doubtful. Further, public acceptance of airborne use of force is likewise doubtful and could result in unnecessary community resistance to the program.
- Where there are specific and articulable grounds to believe that the UA will collect evidence of criminal wrongdoing and if the UA will intrude upon reasonable expectations of privacy, the agency will secure a search warrant prior to conducting the flight.
- Unless required as evidence of a crime, as part of an on-going investigation, for training, or required by law, images captured by a UA should not be retained by the agency.
- Law enforcement agencies desiring to use UA should first determine how they will use this technology, including the costs and benefits to be gained. The agency should then engage their community early in the planning process, including their governing body and civil liberties advocates.
The guidelines also include recommendations for notifying the public of drone use, painting drones in high-visibility colors (so both their controllers and the public can see them), notifying residents in areas where drones will be used and tracking and recording their use.
As I mentioned, these guidelines are as binding as any given agency wants them to be, but they provide high-profile standards for law-enforcement, against which their real-world conduct can be measured.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been watching the drone issue closely, says "The IACP is to be applauded for addressing this issue, and for issuing recommendations that are quite strong in some areas." The ACLU also suggests some further restrictions on use, including tighter warrant requirements for non-emergency deployments of unmanned vehicles.
No armed drones? Skynet will just have to wait a little longer.
Oxford University bioethicist Julian Savulescu argues that "responsible parenting" means that kids should be bioengineered to behave in "ethical" ways. From the Telegraph:
[Savulescu] said that science is increasingly discovering that genes have a significant influence on personality – with certain genetic markers in embryo suggesting future characteristics.
By screening in and screening out certain genes in the embryos, it should be possible to influence how a child turns out.
In the end, he said that "rational design" would help lead to a better, more intelligent and less violent society in the future.
"Surely trying to ensure that your children have the best, or a good enough, opportunity for a great life is responsible parenting?" wrote Prof Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor in practical ethics.
"So where genetic selection aims to bring out a trait that clearly benefits an individual and society, we should allow parents the choice.
"To do otherwise is to consign those who come after us to the ball and chain of our squeamishness and irrationality.
"Indeed, when it comes to screening out personality flaws, such as potential alcoholism, psychopathy and disposition to violence, you could argue that people have a moral obligation to select ethically better children.
"They are, after all, less likely to harm themselves and others."
"If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery — then we should."
Savulescu's vision strongly depends on the notion that genetic traits come in nice little packages that can be added or excised at will. However, behavioral "traits" are likely to have two (or more) sides to them, e.g., bravery could well be associated with aggressive tendencies, or prudence with selfishness, righteousness with implacability, etc. Can't bioengineer away the bad without also affecting the good. What about eugenics concerns?
[Savulescu] said that unlike the eugenics movements, which fell out of favour when it was adopted by the Nazis, the system would be voluntary and allow parents to choose the characteristics of their children.
Voluntary? The idea that genetically engineering your children to behave more ethically is a "moral obligation" seems to me to imply the possibility of state intervention down the line.
In any case, the future importance of genetic engineering is being way overblown - biopharmaceutical interventions is where the real action will be. As I argued in my column, "Down with Gene Tyranny!":
Underlying all this moral handwringing over genetic engineering is the concern that genes really matter—that one’s life chances are largely determined by the genes one carries. Good genes equal a bright future; bad genes entail a blighted future. Recent genetic research is showing that this view is wrong. How so? By using outside interventions that regulate and enhance the performance of the genes that people already have. Such interventions will include new, precisely targeted pharmaceuticals that will change the activity of various genes and gene combinations in desired ways...
Genetically engineered inequality is a bioethical phantom. The truth is that biotechnological interventions will eventually enable nearly everyone to enhance their bodies and their brains. The good news is that as researchers learn more about the good and bad effects of our genes, the more we will be liberated from whatever tyranny they do exercise.
Basically, parents won't have to genetically engineer their kids because when their kids become adults they will be able to enhance themselves by taking advantage of a wide array of biotechnological interventions to tweak whatever genes their parents' haplessly bequeathed them.
Finland's foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja, has said that European governments must prepare for a eurozone break up, adding that the Finnish government was prepared:
Our officials, like everybody else and like every general staff, have some sort of operational plan for any eventuality.
This is one of the strongest warnings given by an elected European politician, and is particularly noticeable coming from a member of the Social Democratic Party of Finland. With the German Federal Constitutional Court ruling on the constitutionality of the European Stability Mechanism and the release of the troika’s audit only weeks away it is understandable that the government of one of Europe’s more stable countries is making contingency plans.
The troika audit will almost certainly find that the Greek government has not been keeping to the austerity conditions necessary to receive bailout funds. There are reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is perhaps changing her mind about the bailout conditions, and may cave to pressure to give Greece the next bailout installment despite the Greek government’s inability to meet austerity conditions.
Such a move from Merkel would be a reversal in rhetoric and policy. The German government’s line has been to support Greek membership of the euro-zone while arguing strongly for conditional austerity measures on the part of countries that receive bailouts.
Without austerity conditions being attached to the European bailouts then the government of Greece will have no incentive to behave responsibly. A lack of austerity conditions will also set a worrying precedent for potential bailouts of Spain and/or Italy. Such a situation would see the eurozone crisis unravel a lot quicker than many expected.
Of course, there is a huge amount at stake politically for Merkel were she to decide to reverse her position. Some of her colleagues, not to mention a healthy chunk of the German people, would put Merkel under pressure to keep to her original position.
The political positioning in Europe is becoming increasingly awkward and unworkable. Merkel, typically one of the most stringent proponents of austerity conditions is reported to be backing off despite domestic pressure. Meanwhile Finland is preparing for an almost inevitable Greek exit from the eurozone. Finland and Germany were worth keeping an eye on before today’s news because both possess veto power over a future bailout. The recent developments make the situation a little more unpredictable than it already was. Social Democrats are openly talking of a euro breakup, and one of the most prominent propoents of austerity is said to be opening up to bailouts with weak conditions.
"Judge Napolitano on the 2012 Election, Obamacare, and The Future of Liberty" 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
California’s teachers unions want to hoard all of the gold stars for themselves. State legislation to eliminate requirements to use standardized test scores for teacher evaluations and open up the process to collective bargaining made it out of a state Senate committee Thursday. Via the Los Angeles Times:
AB 5, by Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar), would establish a statewide uniform teacher evaluation system that would increase performance reviews, classroom observations, training of evaluators and public input into the review process. The bill was approved, 5-2, by the Senate Appropriations Committee after Fuentes found $89 million to fund it and move it forward.
But the bill would require negotiated agreement with unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles, which opposes the Los Angeles Unified School District's use of student test scores as one measure of teacher effectiveness. LAUSD Supt. John Deasy has said the bill, which the district opposes, would make it more difficult to push forward a new voluntary evaluation program.
"We oppose every piece of this," Deasy said of the bill. "It's very clear that what this bill does is legislate less accountability for teachers and administrators."
Fuentes defended the bill, saying it’s better than the existing system, which is “inconsistent, unclear, and does not help to educate our children or continually allow improvement of our teachers.” Well, let’s see what would be better than using test scores:
Under the bill, districts and unions would negotiate which measures to use to gauge student progress. They could include state standardized test scores as well as class projects, portfolios, grades and presentations.
If “teaching to the test” is considered to be a perverse outcome of using scores to evaluate performance (whether or not it actually is perverse is another question), just imagine the outcomes when teachers are evaluated based on the grades they give out. Actually, we don’t have to imagine that because it’s already happening. This would just be formal recognition of the demand for grade inflation. The rest of that list smells like busywork for the kids and doesn't necessarily even involve much teacher engagement. Will we have diorama quotas in our schools now?MORE »
Fort Worth - Libertarian Party presidential candiate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson addressed supporters last night at a campaign dinner at Joe T. Garcia's Mexican restaurant. Before giving his standard stump speech, Johnson talked about how he started his business and how his intense atheltic training helps him out in his daily life.
Here is Johnson speaking about how he went from working odd jobs as a handyman making $3.50 an hour to the head of a construction business employing over 1,000 people.
I'll be on Larry Mantle's show Air Talk on KPCC very shortly -- 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern -- to talk about the Southern Poverty Law Center, political violence, and related subjects. You can listen live here -- or, if you live in the Los Angeles area, you can tune in at 89.3 FM.
Update: A recording of the program has been posted online.
The cited mantra is a general translation of "Nullius in verba," the motto of the British Royal Society, one of the world's first scientific organizations. Real science does not credit arguments from authority, but accepts the results from experiment and demonstration. The idea is that other researchers would check each others results to see if they could be reproduced. In the modern world, there's a lot less experimental replication and the result is lots of unreproduced experimental results are strewn throughout the scientific literature.
Earlier this year, two cancer researchers reported that that nine out of 10 preclinical peer-reviewed cancer research studies cannot be reproduced. As I explained in my column, "Can Most Cancer Research Be Trusted?":
The academic system encourages the publication of a lot of junk research, and former vice president for oncology research at the pharmaceutical company Amgen Glenn Begley and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researcher Lee Ellis agree. “To obtain funding, a job, promotion or tenure, researchers need a strong publication record, often including a first-authored high-impact publication,” they note. And journal editors and grant reviewers make it worse by pushing researchers to produce “a scientific finding that is simple, clear and complete—a ‘perfect’ story.” This pressure induces some researchers massage data to fit an underlying hypothesis or even suppress negative data that contradicts the favored hypothesis. In addition, peer review is broken. If an article is rejected by one journal, very often researchers will ignore the comments of reviewers, slap on another cover letter and submit to another journal. The publication process becomes a lottery; not a way to filter out misinformation.
The company Science Exchange has proposed its "Reproducibility Initiative" as an innovative way to fix this problem at the heart of experimental science. As Science Daily reports:
Scientists who want to validate their findings will be able to apply to the initiative, which will choose a lab to redo the study and determine whether the results match.
The project sprang from the growing realization that the scientific literature - from social psychology to basic cancer biology - is riddled with false findings and erroneous conclusions, raising questions about whether such studies can be trusted. Not only are erroneous studies a waste of money, often taxpayers', but they also can cause companies to misspend time and resources as they try to invent drugs based on false discoveries.
"‘Published' and ‘true' are not synonyms," said Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and a member of the initiative's advisory board....
The initiative's 10-member board of prominent scientists will match investigators with a lab qualified to test their results, said Elizabeth Iorns, Science Exchange's co-founder and chief executive officer. The original lab would pay the second for its work. How much depends on the experiment's complexity and the cost of study materials, but should not exceed 20 percent of the original research study's costs. Iorns hopes government and private funding agencies will eventually fund replication to improve the integrity of scientific literature.
The two labs would jointly write a paper, to be published in the journal PLoS One, describing the outcome. Science Exchange will issue a certificate if the original result is confirmed.
Here's hoping that lots of researchers will take advantage of this new initiative. For more background check out epidemiologist John Ioannides' 2005 classic article, "Why Most Published Research Findings are False" at PLoS Medicine.
The struggling port city of Stockton, California has declared bankruptcy after a spending spree where officials granted workers an absurdly generous lifetime medical care benefit, dramatically increased pensions, and floated debt to finance dubious downtown redevelopment projects. To make matters worse, writes Steven Greenhut, Stockton’s infrastructure is crumbling at the same time that local officials serve mainly as benefit providers to those who work for the city or who are retired from city government. Even in bankruptcy, public-sector unions are getting special treatment.View this article
Earlier this week we told you about a pro-Obama website started by literary luminary Dave Eggers. The site is titled 90 Days, 90 Reasons, its mission is to provide 90 "daily reasons—concrete, factual, plain—to re-elect Barack Obama...[and] likely outcomes of a Romney presidency"; and thus far, the bulk of its commentary has been written by famous people who do not follow the news, like Oscar-nominated poverty tourist Jesse Eisenberg.
Today's entry is even better than its predecessors. It describes the exact moment that Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) realized President Obama is made of flesh and blood and hair, and is not a Connecticut robot in King Arthur's yurt (like our last president).
No, seriously: "Obama is not a robot" is the "concrete, factual, plain" reason Dave Eggers is giving Team Blue players to climb out of the ice tub, lace up their cleats, and do whatever activity this metaphor might use as a substitute for voting "D."
Don't believe me? Here's Jim James performing "REASON 10: BARACK OBAMA IS NOT A ROBOT":
“Ok, who's ready to get their picture taken with the president?" This is what the no-nonsense Secret Service agent asked several of us. We had just walked offstage after performing at the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony, held every year since 1923 in President's Park, just south of the White House. I was honored to have been chosen in 2010 to sing perhaps my favorite Christmas standard, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," accompanied beautifully by the U.S. Coast Guard Band. Talk about surreal — but I had a really nice time and thought the performance went well, considering the level of stress that comes with a high-profile event like that.
The red carpet must have been 1000 miles long -- at least it seemed 1000 miles long to me as I strolled down the path -- but when I reached the end, the pomp and circumstance seemed to fall away, and there were two real people there, real people who reached out, gave me a big hug, and said thanks for coming ... and just like most everything that comes out of their mouths, you could tell they really meant it. They were no longer the President and First Lady there in that tent. They were REAL. Somehow in those three minutes they made me feel at ease and conveyed the truth of the human experience: that no one is any better or worse than anyone else.
Standing there getting our picture taken ... it was SO strange, being this close to a real live president. I thought of all the times I had seen him on TV, especially election night in 2008 -- watching with tears in my eyes as the Obama family took the stage after winning the election, thinking to myself what so many others were thinking: "Finally!!! Sweet justice! A real live person is our president! Who has a real live family and a loving relationship with his wife! A president that does not seem like an evil robot!!!" What a revelation it was. And standing right next to them, that feeling was confirmed to me even deeper -- that these were real people who know what it is like to live real life and deal with real struggles that ordinary Americans face every day. What an incredible thing to see and feel after watching way too many wealthy, out-of-touch presidents and their families take office.. Here was something in politics that finally made sense to me and so many others.
Only 80 more days of weird cult testimonials to go!
Yes, I know: Ryan identified Rand, not Rage, as the reason he got into politics. But if you want to know how a legislator would govern -- or, in the case of a vice president, hang around with the people who govern -- you're better off looking past his words to check his actual voting record. And in that arena, Rand hasn't been much more influential than Rage.
The Associated Press reports that new data from the Energy Information Administration shows that U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide emissions are back down to their 1992 levels:
In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.
Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.
Scientists didn't see it coming? Well, it's not like they understand how markets work; even markets as heavily regulated as energy production is.
The AP further reports:
While conservation efforts, the lagging economy and greater use of renewable energy are factors in the CO2 decline, the drop-off is due mainly to low-priced natural gas, the agency said.
A frenzy of shale gas drilling in the Northeast’s Marcellus Shale and in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has caused the wholesale price of natural gas to plummet from $7 or $8 per unit to about $3 over the past four years, making it cheaper to burn than coal for a given amount of energy produced. As a result, utilities are relying more than ever on gas-fired generating plants.
Both government and industry experts said the biggest surprise is how quickly the electric industry turned away from coal. In 2005, coal was used to produce about half of all the electricity generated in the U.S. The Energy Information Agency said that fell to 34 percent in March, the lowest level since it began keeping records nearly 40 years ago.
Lots of environmental activists dislike cheap natural gas because it outcompetes their first loves, photovoltaic and wind power. It spooks the nuke folks too. I noted a Washington Post headline back in February that actually read: "Cheap Gas Jumbles Energy Markets, Stirs Fears that It Could Inhibit Renewables." As the Post reported then:
Rachel Cleetus, a senior climate economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that “the problem is [natural gas] can take over the entire pie and crowd out renewables. Part of the reason this is happening is there’s a boom and there’s a sense that natural gas resources will be around forever.”
...the economic issue is disruptive, too. The rush to produce shale gas “is forcing all of us to seriously address what it means for us,” said Ralph Izzo, chief executive of Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), a New Jersey-based utility that relies on nuclear energy for half of its power supply. Izzo said it would mean “the delay of the nuclear renaissance for years to come.”
I ask again: Can an energy source be all that bad if it scares the two most heavily subsidized sectors of the electric power generation industry?
Fort Worth – Just a short time after celebrating their placement on the notoriously difficult Oklahoma ballot the Gary Johnson campaign faced another ballot access hurdle: Tennessee.
Tennessee doesn’t have a high threshold or burdensome geographical requirements. Though it does require the candidate to sign and notarize several petition pages, the Volunteer State requires only 275 certified signatures. The state tossed out enough signatures to make Johnson’s campaign 71 signatures short of qualifying for the ballot.
During Tuesday’s campaign events in Odessa the campaign was alerted to the problem. Johnson’s scheduled tour through Texas left yesterday as the only day that they could have resolved their Tennessee dilemma.
All Odessa to Dallas flights, including Johnson’s, were canceled due to weather, leaving the campaign with no choice but to drive the 330 miles to DFW Airport overnight.
“I challenged the speed limit laws but I didn’t break a hundred,” said Johnson’s Southwestern advance, Tom Mahon. They left Odessa around 2:45am, arriving at the airport about an hour before Johnson’s hastily scheduled 8:30am flight.
Johnson landed in Nashville at 10:30 and was greeted by Johnson’s Tennessee campaign director, Jim Tomasik, and then hustled over to the Tennessee Division of Elections office. Johnson was in such a hurry that he didn’t have time to actually go in the building and submit his documents to state officials; he signed all of his papers on the stairs of the building. Johnson thanked his volunteers and rushed back to the airport to catch a 1:00pm flight back to Dallas.
Tomasik said that after Johnson left volunteers gathered 151 additional signatures to qualify him for the ballot, but those signatures still need to pass state scrutiny.
“I am reservedly confident. I think we have a really good shot at it,” said Tomasik.
Back in Texas Johnson had to cancel several media appearances on Wednesday but he returned to the state early in the evening, giving him some time to salvage the remainder of his planned events. It was a whirlwind day for the candidate.
“A couple hours sleep over a 40 hour period, that’s not much,” said Johnson.
Johnson said this wasn’t as crazy as when he had to go to New Hampshire at the last minute and file paperwork to get on the Republican primary ballot. Johnson was infuriated that he was alerted by the press that his campaign had not filed in time, forcing him to cancel several events in Phoenix and fly across the country in order to make sure his name appeared on the ballot in the Granite State.
“What happened in New Hampshire was a serious issue that shouldn’t have happened. Inexcusable. This (Tennessee) is obscure stuff,” he said.
Johnson appeared exhausted answering questions about his support for the Fair Tax at a private luncheon with potential donors in the Stockyard district of Fort Worth. Johnson, a supporter of the proposed national sales tax, told concerned donors that the Fair Tax would only go into effect with the repeal of the 16th Amendment, avoiding the possibility of a national sales and income tax.
At a book signing event in the afternoon at Pop’s Safari cigar bar Johnson appeared energized. The campaign originally reserved the backroom of the bar but the huge turnout caused them to move the whole event outside to their patio. Johnson took questions, on topics ranging from which federal departments he would eliminate (He would cut the federal budget by 43% but would not say what departments, if any, he would eliminate) to what would be a positive result short of winning (qualifying for federal matching funds for a 2016 run on the Libertarian line), under the hot Texas sun for over an hour before going back inside to sign books and pose for photographs.
Johnson has stops in Waco and Austin tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @GarrettQuinn for live tweeting of his campaign swing through the Lone Star State all weekend long.
In spite of the international outcry, three members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were found guilty today for "hooliganism" motivated by "religious hatred." Their punishment is two years in jail, which is less than the previously mentioned feared sentences of three and seven years, but is still disappointing to the women's supporters.
Russian dissident supporters of the women have also been detained when they came to the court room to rally around the band. Hundreds of people chanted outside for the women's freedom as well.
Still, inside of Russia, support for the band is low, no matter if Paul McCartney and Madonna are on their side, and even though the object of their protest, President Putin, even said the women's punishment should not be too harsh. But that it is, of course, up to the court. The court that called the women's protest "blasphemous."
The women's blasphemy was less than a minute of protest inside of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. That church is owned by the Russian government. The women apologized for any religious offense their performance of "Punk Prayer" (including the lines "Mother Mary, drive Putin out!") caused, saying they intended it to be purely political — or at least a critique of the Russian government and the Orthodox church's too-close ties. But that, and their insistence on using the word "feminist" to describe themselves (as well as, ya know, a slang term for female genitals) doesn't endear them to conservative folk in Russia.
Back in February, just days before their arrest, Vice did an interview with the band. A particularly endearingly optimistic passage:
VICE: So what inspired you guys to start Pussy Riot?
Kot: Pussy Riot came to action around the end of September 2011, right after Putin announced that he was planning to return as president and brutally rule Russia for at least 12 more years.
Serafima: Right, and at that point we realised that this country needs a militant, punk-feminist, street band that will rip through Moscow's streets and squares, mobilise public energy against the evil crooks of the Putinist junta and enrich the Russian cultural and political opposition with themes that are important to us; gender and LGBT rights, problems of masculine conformity, absence of a daring political message on the musical and art scenes and the domination of males in all areas of public discourse.
VICE: Why 'Pussy Riot'?
Garadzha: A female sex organ, which is supposed to be receiving and shapeless, suddenly starts a radical rebellion against the cultural order, which tries to constantly define it and show its appropriate place. Sexists have certain ideas on how a woman should behave and Putin, by the way, also's got a couple thoughts on how Russians should live. Fighting against all that - that's Pussy Riot.
The rest here.
In other interesting reactions to the kerfuffle, Counterpunch.org had an argument with its self about whether the international outrage over this band is fake or not. Writer Mike Whitney scorned the U.S. media for ignoring U.S. atrocities, including the prison-industrial complex (fair enough), while focusing on Putin as a boogy-man, yet somehow concluded that Putin is popular inside Russia and therefore the situation the women of Pussy Riot find themselves in is okay. Thankfully, Chris Randolph wrote a scathing rebuttal to the general failure of lefty solidarity that Whitney displayed.
Two years in prison could be worse, but it's still a bleak reminder that states will do what they like with people who make a fuss— even with such a large backing of international support. And in all cases, in all countries where people end up in prison for terrible reasons, these women have families back at home, two of them have young children. Meanwhile, the rest of the band remains free, apparently in hiding, hoping to stay anonymous. Check out the Wall Street Journal's liveblog for updates on the case.
ReasonTV recently visited a solidarity concert for the band outside of the Russian embassy in DC.
When Pennsylvania's Republican Gov. Tom Corbett announced his support earlier this summer for expanding drug court funding, the left-leaning Center for American Progress praised him as "just one of several conservative governors to take steps toward important—and fiscally responsible—prison reforms in their states."
CAP's kinds words are a testament to the big-tent appeal of the drug court model. Two decades after the first drug court sprang up in Miami, bipartisan proponents of the model as an alterrnative to incarceration are plentiful. The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation has advocated for drug courts since 2006, the Obama administration has declared them a "third way" to address America's drug problem, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently announced his support for drug courts by saying, "If you're pro-life, as I am, you can't be pro-life just in the womb."
But as Associate Editor Mike Riggs explains, there are also many flaws with the drug court model, chief of which is that it's really just a cheaper means of enforcing prohibition. The proliferation of drug courts derives not from increased awareness of the harms of the drug war, but from fiscal woes at the state level. This is why drug court proponents haven't suggested changing drug laws, only reducing the cost of enforcing them.View this article
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins on Thursday said the shooting at the conservative Christian organization's Washington, D.C., headquarters was an act of terrorism and he accused the Southern Poverty Law Center of fostering the climate that allowed the crime to occur....
The FRC head noted that while he holds [Floyd] Corkins solely responsible for the shooting, he believes the Southern Poverty Law Center must also be held accountable for its "reckless" labeling of the FRC as a hate group.
"Corkins was responsible for the wounding of one our colleagues and one of my friends yesterday here at the Family Research Council, but I believe he was given a license by a group such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, who, as you pointed out earlier, labeled us a hate group because we defend the family and we stand for traditional, orthodox Christianity," Perkins said.
Two reactions. Number one: No, the SPLC did not give Floyd Corkins "a license" to start shooting at the Family Research Council, just as Glenn Beck did not give Byron Williams a license to plan a massacre at the Tides Foundation and just as the pro-life movement did not give Scott Roeder a license to murder an abortionist. Activists are not accountable for all the ways their words might be received. Corkins is responsible for his crime. Period.
Number two: Where do you think Perkins learned to mouth off like this? The SPLC might not be handing out licenses, but it sure is giving people lessons. When a crime is committed by someone you can plausibly (or even not-so-plausibly) associate with the right, the SPLC has levied these accusations as lustily as anyone. When Williams targeted Tides, the group proclaimed that the "rhetoric that helped inspire Williams to pack his car with guns and ammo and head toward San Francisco finds echo throughout the rightwing media world." After an assassin attempted to kill Rep. Gabrielle Giffords -- and did kill six others -- the SPLC ran an editorial headlined "Expert: Political Rhetoric Likely a Factor in Arizona Shooting," complete with an echo of those inane attempts to link the crime to Sarah Palin's target map. (The perp's politics and Palin's turned out to have pretty much nothing in common. But even if he were a devoted Palinite, she wouldn't have given him a license to shoot.) The folks at the SPLC certainly aren't the only ones who play this game. But they play it often enough that they shouldn't be surprised when they're hoisted with their own petard.