All the fuss about Clint Eastwood's performance art piece at the Republican National Convention got me thinking less about empty chairs and invisible adversaries, as intriguing as they are, and more about some of the great anti-authoritarian moments in Eastwood's movies over the years. One of my favorite, perhaps because I love grand and futile gestures, is Lone Watie's monologue right after he meets Clint's Josey Wales in The Outlaw Josey Wales. Played by the always excellent Chief Dan George, Lone Watie packs plenty of punch into a few spare sentences.
I wore this frock coat to Washington before The War. We wore them because we belonged to the five civilized tribes. We dressed ourselves up like Abraham Lincoln.
You know, we got to see the Secretary of the Interior. And he said, "Boy, you boys sure look civilized."
He congratulated us and he gave us medals for looking so civilized.
We told him about how our land had been stolen and how our people were dying. When we finished he shook our hands and said, "endeavor to persevere!"
They stood us in a line: John Jumper, Chili McIntosh, Buffalo Hump, Jim Buckmark, and me — I am Lone Watie. They took our pictures. And the newspapers said, "Indians vow to endeavor to persevere."
We thought about for a long time. "Endeavor to persevere." And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.
Even when your act of resistance is doomed before the fact, sometimes you've just had enough smoke blown up your ass and you need to do something to make your point. Lone Watie's character appeals to me so strongly because his fatalism never stands in the way of his willingness to do what he sees as the right thing.
Unfortunately, history suggests that Americans have a very high tolerance for smoke. So, until enough people get tired of ... well ... looking so civilized, enjoy yourself a little Lone Watie from a movie that's near and dear to me. (Note to the usual suspects: I'm not suggesting that "the right thing" is declaring war on the Union. So there.)
If you have been following Reason.com's coverage of the Republican National Convention this week, you know that Tampa was the scene of a pretty ugly fight over the party's nominating process.
In a departure from a pattern going back to 2008, the struggle this time was not just between Ron Paul supporters and the party establishment. In Tampa, the party manhandled a wide range of grassroots activists, including social conservatives and harder-right members.
For more about the struggle, click here, here, here, here and here. Although television coverage of the convention largely seems to have followed the GOP's preferred narrative, the story of the delegate fight did get picked up in mainstream newspapers.
At FreedomWorks, Michael Duncan gives more detail on how the party leadership kiboshed dissent:
To placate the grassroots, the establishment pushed a "compromise" on Rule 15, which conservative commentator Erick Erickson called a "red herring", and simply shifted even more unsettling changes into Rule 12. The Romney camp then launched a misdirection campaign to placate and confuse grassroots activists.
The Romney camp even went as far as preemptively removing Rules Committee members and replacing them with Romney-appointed delegates, a move one can only imagine was done to secure passage of the rule changes.
A grassroots insurrection against the changes led by Morton Blackwell, FreedomWorks, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Ron Paul supporters and countless others, encouraged full Minority Reports on the Rules when the RNC convened to adopt the rules.
This is where the establishment got even more brazen. When Speaker John Boehner asked for the "ayes" and "noes" on the adoption of the rules, the "noes" were at the very least just as loud as the "ayes", and yet in the opinion of Speaker Boehner the "ayes" had it. Gavel.
Judge for yourself whether the ayes really had it:
Grassroots activists have objected that the rule changes are tyrannical and likely to corrupt the process. (I am agnostic on internal party governance, and I don't know that it's necessarily wrong to require delegates to vote in a way that reflects how voters actually cast their ballots.) But the decision to centralize decision-making in a party establishment headed (for now) by Mitt Romney could have more important consequences in November, by further cooling the already lukewarm popular support Romney has.
For many reasons, Romney is viewed with great suspicion by a broad cross-section of the GOP base, including fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and above all the mass of Americans who have risen up in revulsion at Obamacare's individual mandate (which Romney pioneered as governor of Massachusetts).
Romney's popular vote tallies throughout the primary campaign do not suggest that he has substantially improved on his ability to bring voters out to the polls since 2008 (when he was defeated in the primary by John McCain, who went on to lose to Barack Obama). This is one of the reasons I believe Obama will ultimately win in November, despite a first term that has been stunning in its failures and even more disastrous in its successes.
Romney and the party leadership did not alienate grassroots activists unintentionally. In many cases they appear to have gone out of their way to antagonize dissenters. This may have been an easy decision to make when the grassroots consisted only of Paul supporters (whom many Republicans would like to see leave the party anyway). It's another thing when you piss off the lineup of pundits and conservative stalwarts Duncan names above. It's also unnecessary: Despite the claims of many Paul diehards, there was no scenario under which Romney was not going to get the nomination.
The GOP is fabled for its party discipline, embodied in Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment. But Republicans can still weaken their candidate without speaking ill of him. They can decide not to work for him, not to show any enthusiasm for him among their undecided friends and family members, and not to bother voting at all. Obama, the former community organizer, showed in 2008 that he had the ability to motivate loyalists to get out to the polls, and its unlikely that skill (which is even more important in an election that is expected to get a mediocre turnout) has deserted him completely.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, just doesn't excite people. You can win an election without exciting people, especially against an incumbent whose four-year tenure has been so miserable for so many. But it's hard to see how producing a new cohort of disgruntled Republicans will help Romney get past his natural limitations as a politican.
Richard Flor died in a Las Vegas Bureau of Prisons medical facility on Wednesday.
Flor, 68, was just a few months into a five-year prison sentence for running a Billings, Montana marijuana dispensary with his wife and son. Flor also co-owned Montana Cannabis, one of the largest medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, and which was the subject of a March, 2011 federal raid. Montana legalized medical cannabis in 2004, but that doesn't matter under federal law.
Flor's wife got two years in prison for bookkeeping, and his son got five years for running the Billings dispensary. These were pleas entered and settled before the Department of Justice (DOJ) could make sure that medical marijuana went unmentioned in the court room. (More about the debate over mentioning the state legality of marijuana in court defenses can be found here and here.)
US District Court Judge Charles Lovell sentenced Flor to years in federal prison despite testimony that he was suffering from a variety of illnesses, including dementia, diabetes, hepatitis C, and osteoporosis. Lovell did recommend that Flor "be designated for incarceration at a federal medical center" where his "numerous physical and mental diseases and conditions can be evaluated and treated."
The Great Falls Tribune confirms this list of ailments and notes:
Last month, [Flor's attorney Brad] Arndorfer filed a motion requesting the court release Flor pending an appeal of his sentence due to health concerns. Arndorfer’s brief supporting the motion detailed how Flor suffered from severe osteoporosis and on multiple occasions while in custody, Flor had fallen out of bed breaking his ribs, his clavicle and his cervical bones as well as injuring vertebrae in his spine. Flor also suffered from dementia, diabetes and kidney failure among other ailments, Arndorfer said.
“He is in extreme pain and still is not being given round-the-clock care as is required for someone with his medical and mental conditions,” Arndorfer wrote in his brief to the court. “It is anticipated he will not long survive general population incarceration.”
In his Aug. 7 order denying the motion, Lovell wrote that it was unfortunate the Flor had not yet been transferred to an appropriate medical facility but that the concerns detailed in the motion were “not factually or legally significant.”
Lovell wrote that the federal Bureau of Prisons could provide the necessary medical care and that recent tests found kidney dialysis wasn’t needed, despite the fact that a year earlier a VA health care provider discussed with Flor the possibility that he might need dialysis in the future.
Lovell wrote that “defendant has no such present need.”
In a statement released by his staff, Lovell said he was sorry to learn of Flor’s death but that judicial ethics prevented him from commenting further.
Flor had numerous, serious medical problems, so it's hard to know how much longer he would have lived, but being in prison sure shortened his life and diminished its quality. Thanks to the DOJ, the man got to spend his last months of life in in a cage, with his wife and son suffering the same, so they didn't get a chance to say goodbye to him. His daughter, however, was at his side when he passed and said of her father's months in custody, “they didn’t give him any of the medical attention he needed, and they never took him once to a medical doctor." Arndorfer is considering a lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons, saying that Flor's complains about kidney pain were ignored.
Meanwhile, the other co-owners of Montana Cannabis go to trial in September.
This is Obama and the DOJ's don't call it a war, drug war; just as callous as the real thing.
Previous Reason reports on medical marijuana in Montana.
TAMPA – As soon as House Speaker John Boehner gaveled the 2012 Republican National Convention to a close late last night, delegates started grabbing everything with the convention or party logo in sight. Balloons and confetti from the convention are a cool souvenir but the tri-corner signs are the biggest prize at national party convention.
Reid Wilson of Hotline agreed, tweeting, “Rule no. 1 when a convention gavels to a close: Steal everything that ain't nailed down. Someone grab me a tri-corner sign.”
Many of these items will end up in the collection of some political junkie while others will surely surface on Ebay and Craigslist. Any official sign with the RNC Logo will fetch a decent chunk of change from collectors. Still, pins and buttons are the collectors item of choice. Some more coveted items are protected by state party brass, too. One longtime Massachusetts Republican told me that he has tried at previous conventions to get the Massachusetts state sign but every time it was guarded by party interns on the final day.
While observing this scramble take place on the convention floor I happened to catch the Alabama delegation jumping the gun and, coincidentally, struggling mightily to get their tri-corner sign down.
Here’s the video:
One delegate trotted over to the periodical press gallery to show off his RNC booty haul that included signs like “Restricted Area” and “Restrooms” all emblazoned with the RNC 2012 logo.
"I don't know how I am going to get these home!" he said.
- The Department of Justice will not be filing charges following the probe of CIA treatment of detainees. Two died while in CIA custody.
- Five LAPD officers are being investigated in the suffocation death of a woman whom they stomped in the genitals when she struggled with them. The incident was captured on a patrol car’s video.
- Celebrities respond to Clint Eastwood’s rather unconventional RNC speech Thursday night.
- Japan’s courts are on Samsung’s side vs. Apple. In fact, it appears the U.S. is the only country siding with Apple so far.
- Those awful, terrible, horrible consequences of the Citizens United decision include Super PACs developing to support and publicize third-party candidates like Gary Johnson. But we were told this verdict was bad for democracy!
- More than 100 Harvard undergrads are being investigated for cheating. It’s the largest misconduct scandal in the school’s history.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
Most voters know almost nothing about the federal budget: Few can correctly answer basic questions about how much it spends, how and whom it taxes, and how much is spent on different parts of the budget. On average, for example, surveys shows that on average respondents estimate that anywhere 10 to 25 percent of the federal budget is devoted to foreign aid. In fact, it’s closer to 1 percent. A CNN poll last year found that Americans believe that about 5 percent of the federal budget is devoted to public broadcasting. The reality? It’s about 0.1 percent.
This presents obvious challenges to budget reform: If voters don’t understand the reality of public finances, it’s difficult to make the case for necessary changes. But that can be remedied. Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman writes that anyone who wants to get a sense of how the budget works—and how it doesn’t—would do well to David Wessel’s new book, Red Ink: Inside the High Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget. Wessel, a Pullitzer Prize winning columnist and reporter for The Wall Street Journal, is a clear and knowledgable guide to the way Washington goes about the business of spending, taxing, and borrowing. And while his book doesn’t quite deliver on the drama promised in the subtitle, it does offer a concise and balanced primer on the federal budget’s history, structure, and long-term problems.View this article
While many have jumped on Clint Eastwood’s use of an invisible president in an empty chair as a rhetorical device as being “weird,” Romney and Republicans have focused on Eastwood’s anti-Obama comments while largely ignoring all the comments that could easily apply to both parties, or the fact that he criticized both wars started by the last Republican president. Meanwhile, the Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan took the time out to chastise Eastwood’s comments on Guantanamo Bay, saying that mocking the decision to try the 9/11 masterminds in New York City was representative of what “Republican courage” actually was, fear. Later, in responding to our own Jesse Walker’s breakdown of the meaning of Clint Eastwood’s speech, Sullivan wrote he suspects “the weirdness of that chair eclipsed anything else of any interest.” Though apparently Eastwood’s comments on Guantanamo were of enough interest to note, Eastwood’s opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his articulation of an anti-war sentiment on national television just minutes before the Republicans' warmongering candidate was going to make his first speech as the official nominee was not. Not to mention just how lukewarm Eastwood’s endorsement of that nominee was.
Eastwood is not your typical Republican. In fact he identifies himself as one of the libertarian variety, economically conservative and socially liberal. From a Daily Mail interview last year for those needing a refresher:
Eastwood may be a conservative with a small ‘c’ but his politics are not so easily defined.
‘My dad was fiscally conservative and I was influenced by that. He didn’t believe in spending more than you had because it gets you into trouble. But he was also very understanding of other people’s feelings – religious or whatever – and letting people live the lives they wanted, so he was socially a liberal.
‘And I became more of a libertarian – let’s leave everybody alone, quit screwing with everybody and don’t over-regulate. It’s about giving people a chance to live by their own decisions. And today the liberals aren’t really liberal at all because they won’t leave people alone, and a lot of the conservatives have lost their way fiscally. That’s why the UK, America, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain are all in a mess right now.’
He was opposed to the war in Iraq.
‘I didn’t understand why we invaded, and I still don’t. It’s the same with Afghanistan. I want the troops from Great Britain and the U.S. to be successful, but by the same token Afghanistan has always been a screw-up. The Russians, who live right next door, couldn’t prevail there, so what are we doing?’
TAMPA – In a speech lasting about 40 minutes, presidential candidate Mitt Romney last night closed out the Republican National Convention by highlighting his family and his experience with Bain Capital before launching into attacks on President Obama.
Romney did not offer many specifics on how he would govern differently than Obama, focusing mostly on criticizing the president’s record.
Romney’s speech was heavy on references and lines that were aimed at women, indicating that his campaign is mindful of the gender gap in polls. Women on the convention floor reacted positively to the speech, more so, it seemed to this observer, than did the men on the floor.
“My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, “Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?” Romney asked early in his speech.
Romney continued rattling off the names of high-profile women in the Republican Party as well as women he surrounded himself with when he was governor of Massachusetts.
“I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. As Governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman Lt. Governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies,” he said.
Here’s a video of the entire speech
Full remarks after the jump.
The Republican National Convention packed up its booze tents and elaborate security superstructures in the wee hours this morning, as the nation's bloated political class started checking the weather forecasts for Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democrats will follow suit next week. Before I offer a few closing remarks, here are some highlights you might have missed from our coverage in Tampa and back at the home office in the Cloud. Presented in chronological order:
* "Paul Festival: The Fight for the Ron Paul Grassroots' Soul," by Brian Doherty
* "RNC Shuns Ron Paul, Supporters Root for Romney Defeat," by Zach Weissmueller and Tracy Oppenheimer (Reason.tv)
* "Paul-Fest Crowd Embraces Gary Johnson," by Garrett Quinn
* "The GOP's Disputed Soul," by Matt Welch
* "Ron Paul's Rally: Not the End, Just a Continuation of His Revolution," by Brian DohertyMORE »
The Spanish government has released plans for a bank where toxic property assets can be dumped, the so called "banco malo". Spain’s financial crisis was caused largely by overinvestment in the housing market, and it is hoped that with a shared pit to dump their bad assets in Spanish banks will have a better chance at recovery. It is hoped that this deliberately created “bad bank” will not be a net loss to Spain, and the Spanish government is asking investors to own a majority stake in the planned bank.
It will be months before the actual bank is up and running (Reuters is reporting it could be late November or early December). Well before then Spain will come under increased pressure to accept a sovereign bailout, Greece could see its situation worsen, and the Germans could demand further reforms and austerity conditions from countries in need of assistance.
Representatives of the troika (European Central Bank, European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund) are expected to release their findings on reforms Greek officials were told they would have to implement in order to receive additional bailout funds soon. It is likely that the Greeks have failed to implement the necessary reforms or cut enough spending.
Portugal recently received a visit from troika officials, something that shouldn’t fill anyone with optimism. How the markets react when Portugal and Greece deteriorate further will weigh heavily on Spain.
On September 12 the German Federal Constitutional Court will rule on the constitutionality of the European Stability Mechanism, the main bailout fund for the eurozone. Although most think that the court will rule in favor of the constitutionality of the bailout fund there will almost certainly be austerity conditions attached to any more bailouts that Germany takes part in.
Even if a Spanish “banco malo” were to work the unfortunate reality for the Spanish is that their economy is not in a bubble. September is going to be a tumultuous month for the eurozone, and Spain will be affected by troika’s findings on Greece and the ruling of the German Federal Constitutional Court. It is not only European policy that will affect Spain and the viability of their new bank. In a speech today Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said, “The Federal Reserve will provide additional policy accommodation as needed.” Whatever Bernanke was hinting at it will almost certainly ripple to Europe. How bad things will be in Europe when Bernanke decides to act will depend largely on how many reforms Greece has managed to implement and the findings of the German Federal Constitutional Court.
With the passage of half a day, initially negative conventional wisdom on Clint Eastwood's appearance at the Republican National Convention is shifting toward agreement with the crowd that saw the address live in Tampa: The Academy Award-winning actor and director killed in Tampa.
Eastwood's empty-chair routine continues a recent trend in sedevacantist comedy. Elizabeth Emken, the Republican Party's challenger to long-sitting Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), is one of many prominent figures in and out of politics who have been using bottomless seats to mock uncooperative interlocutors.
Eastwood's performance, unlike most of those (and all of the Eastwooders who are uploading their own furniture pictures and videos), was a clear crowd pleaser. As can be seen in the video below, Eastwood's off-hand delivery and plentiful grace notes (it's about time somebody reminds America that Jon Voight won an Oscar) went down so well with the crowd that Mitt Romney was left in the Mitzi McCall/Charlie Brill spot during his own convention.
From the president himself to angry Republicans to a hilariously literal-minded response from Andrew Sullivan, here is a very small selection of the bazillion or so responses Eastwood is getting:
Barack Obama, President
of the United States
This seat's taken. http://OFA.BO/c2gbfi , pic.twitter.com/jgGZTb02
Yesterday I noted GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan's decision to criticize President Obama for ignoring recommendations made by his own debt commission's, but without noting that Ryan served on that same commission and voted against it. Since then I've seen a number of folks defend Ryan's attack. The argument is that even there were problems with the Simpson-Bowles plan, Obama used the debt commission process to avoid responsibility for having to take action to reduce federal debt, and that justifies Ryan's criticism.
I don't entirely disagree. Obama has obviously been totally out to lunch on debt reduction. His so-called "plan" is the legislative equivalent of a not very funny joke. His commitment to debt reduction is half hearted at best, and verges on misleading. And he obviously used the debt commission as a ruse to duck the issue for a while. For roughly a year before he decided to pass on the Simpson-Bowles recommendations, he held up the commission process as his primary response to the debt, promising to take it serious. “This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem,” he said in the 2010 State of the Union address. But as it turns out, that's exactly what it was.
By the same token, I think Ryan's reasons for voting against Simpson-Bowles are mostly defensible: There's a lot to like about the shape of the proposal, especially in the way it reforms the tax code. But it didn't substantially tackle health care, which, when it comes to debt, is pretty much the whole ballgame.
So I actually think it's reasonable to both find Simpson-Bowles underwhelming as a debt deal and to criticize President Obama for using the debt commission process to evade responsibility for dealing with the federal debt.
But Paul Ryan is the wrong person to make that argument. Crafting a big, debt-related gotcha line out of the president's refusal to follow a debt panel's recommendations without mentioning his own participation on the panel and vote against its recommendations does not exactly sound like the kind of bold truthtelling and responsibility taking that Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and much of the rest of the GOP have spent the last week promising. There are numerous better ways to go after Obama on the debt than this, which essentially amount to: "My opponent didn't follow the recommendations of a panel I was on and voted against."
Politico took note Thursday that billionaire political bankroller David Koch – a New York delegate at the GOP convention – still believes libertarian things even while steering money toward GOP candidates who might not feel the same:
The 1980 vice presidential nominee for the socially liberal — but fiscally conservative — Libertarian Party, Koch told POLITICO “I believe in gay marriage” when asked about the GOP’s stance on gay rights.
Romney opposes gay marriage, as do most Republicans, and when that was pointed out to Koch, he said “Well, I disagree with that.”
Koch said he thinks the U.S. military should withdraw from the Middle East and said the government should consider defense spending cuts, as well as possible tax increases to get its fiscal house in order — a stance anathema to many in the Republican Party.
I shrugged when I saw the story yesterday, thinking this revelation is certainly not new – his view on gay marriage is in the guy’s Wikipedia entry (though I didn’t know his attitude about tax increases). But today I’ve noticed the story bouncing around the gay blogosphere with typical comments from people who think he's lying or ask why he’s not using his money to support the fight for marriage recognition.
Koch is notably on the board for the Reason Foundation (which publishes this site and Reason magazine) and lately rather infamously on the board for the Cato Institute. Both Reason and Cato have published a significant number of statements and arguments positive of government recognition for gay marriage (while getting government out of marriage entirely is preferable, it’s not likely). Ted Olson, one of the attorneys who represented the American Foundation for Equal Rights’ lawsuit to overturn California’s Proposition 8 gay marriage ban, also happens to be the counsel for Koch Industries (and a board member at Cato).
Clearly – and unfortunately – the anti-gay elements of the GOP won the day when writing the Republican Party’s platform for 2012. But while their talking heads were extremely disciplined at staying on message in front of the cameras, we know just from the way the Ron Paul delegates were treated, that the Grand Old Party is not in the lockstep the left thinks it is.
Here's Paul Ryan talking at the Republican National Convention:
Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.
Over at National Review's The Corner, Mercatus Center economist and Reason columnist Veronique de Rugy writes
My fear is that by making the $700 billion “cuts” from Medicare the centerpiece of their attack on Obama’s health-care law, Republicans are implicitly putting Medicare out of the reach of reformers after the elections. In fact, it is hard to reconcile the words Ryan used during his speech with the Medicare-reform plans he has pushed for in the last three years....
“Protect” and “strengthen” Medicare could easily be interpreted as meaning that Republicans aren’t running on the Ryan plan to reform the program and instead have promised to preserve the program in its current form and even beef it up for all seniors,today and tomorrow. This is reinforced by the fact that the speech made no mention of how Ryan would like to reform the program through premium support.
We know that the GOP will not dismantle Medicare, don't we? For starters, it's far from clear that Ryan's voucher plan would ultimately make Medicare fiscally solvent - and that's leaving aside the fact that if it goes according to his schedule, the vouchers won't kick in for another decade, during which the program will swell with the ranks of baby boomers.
Arguably more important, the Republicans are pushing to be seen as "the party of Medicare," a mantle they laid claim to with the indefensible passage of Medicare Part D, which gave reduced-price prescription drugs to seniors regardless of need (when it passed, seniors paid a whopping 3.2 percent of their annual income on prescription drugs). The days when characters such as Ronald Reagan railed against Medicare as "socialized medicine" (as he did in the early '60s) are long gone.
In his acceptance speech at last night's Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney made it clear that he wanted to increase defense spending, and that he would create a world "where no senior fears for the security of their retirement." Assuming that covers Medicare and Social Security, that's pretty much it when it comes to cutting the budget. Game, set, match. Pre-order Rosetta Stone's Greek program.
The seniors who benefit from Medicare love the program. Why shouldn't they, since they pay for only a portion of essentially unlimited coverage? But the program is a mess - all beneficiaries get far more out of it than they put in. As the single-largest factor in the future bankrupting of the government, Medicare doesn't need to preserved or protected, it needs to be scrapped and replaced with a much-smaller and targeted plan that helps only those who cannot pay for their own health care.
As Reason TV's newest Nanny of the Month demonstates, our nation's nannies have turned up the heat this summer.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions. and more Reason TV clips.View this article
We know how Mitt Romney feels about marijuana. But what about caffeine? A.P. notes that he "joins other observant Mormons in shunning alcohol and coffee," although he does eat coffee ice cream. His wife, Ann, says he drinks "caffeine-free Diet Coke." Is that a Mormon thing too? This week the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints weighed in on that question with a "small correction" to an NBC report that claimed caffeine is forbidden to Mormons:
Despite what was reported, the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and "hot drinks"—taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee.*
That asterisk refers to a footnote that says "this posting has been updated since it was orginally published." Updated how? The Fox station in Salt Lake City reports that the post originally ended with the sentence, "The restriction does not go beyond this." So while the church initially seemed to have settled the caffeine question once and for all, saying the drug is permissible as long as it is not consumed in the form of tea or coffee, it opted instead to leave the dispute unresolved.
Although the caffeine controversy may seem of little interest to non-Mormons, it sheds light on the evolution of drug taboos, which is why I discuss it in my book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use. The textual source for these prohibitions is the Word of Wisdom, as recorded on Section 89 of the Mormons' Doctrine and Covenants:
Inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
And, behold, this should be wine, yea, pure wine of the grape of the vine, of your own make.
And, again, strong drinks are not for the belly, but for the washing of your bodies.
And again, tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and skill.
And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly.
By reading "hot drinks" to include tea and coffee but not, say, hot cider, LDS leaders imply that caffeine is the issue (which makes sense, since the other things forbidden in this passage also contain psychoactive substances). If so, coffee is forbidden even when you put it on ice. But then what about soft drinks that also contain caffeine? Judging from the editing of this week's blog post, church officials themselves disagree about the answer.
It might clarify things to know the moral principle underlying the Word of Wisdom. The church teaches that "the message of the Word of Wisdom is to avoid all substances that are harmful to our bodies," and "drugs are harmful when used outside of specific medicinal purposes." According to a statement issued in 1974, "The Church has consistently opposed the improper and harmful use of drugs or similar substances under circumstances which would result in addiction, physical or mental impairment, or in lowering moral standards."
The "medicinal purposes" exception allows the use of psychoactive substances when they are prescribed by a doctor, and it is perhaps telling that Utah, full of teetotaling Mormons, leads the nation in the use of antidepressants. Leaving that issue aside, we now have a standard by which to judge the propriety of using a drug: Is it "harmful to our bodies"? The permissibility of caffeine becomes an empirical question: Does moderate consumption of this stimulant lead to addiction, physical or mental impairment, or immoral behavior? If so, caffiene should be prohibited in every form. But if not, why are coffee and tea prohibited? You can begin to see why the church is leery of taking a definitive stand on this issue.
The Mormon ban on coffee and tea, of course, is not legally enforceable, but many other, equally arbitrary drug preferences are. So as trivial as it may seem, Romney's reasons for drinking caffeine-free Coke may actually be relevant to his reasons for supporting the ban on marijuana and other politically disfavored intoxicants. Even if caffeine avoidance is not a moral issue for him, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco presumably are. If so, why is he willing to let other people make different choices? Why doesn't the same logic apply to other drugs as well? Romney may have answers to those questions that hinge on the specific hazards posed by the drugs that happen to be illegal. But I doubt it.
California city officials typically spare police officers even modest reductions in the pay and pension packages that are a main source of local budget problems, even when the other alternatives are cuts in public services or even municipal bankruptcy.
The common explanation is politicians are afraid of the cop unions’ political muscle come election time. That is true, writes Steven Greenhut, but disturbing behavior by operatives associated with the Costa Mesa police union paints a much darker picture of the fear such unions instill in local officials. The incident has statewide and even national implications.View this article
made my share of Clint Eastwood jokes last night. But I also watched his performance a second time, which is kind of amazing: How many convention speeches are worth watching twice? And of that tiny number, how many would you watch twice on the same night?I
This is what I saw:
1. A comedy-improv debate with a chair may be the worst idea for a vaudeville act in showbiz history, but the crowd loved it. Or rather, they loved him. He's Clint Eastwood; almost everyone loves him. Even when he seemed like he might wander off into Rick Perry territory and choke completely, the audience in the hall was rooting for him. So, I suspect, was a lot of the audience at home.
2. Eastwood's criticisms of Barack Obama were the average American's criticisms of Barack Obama. If you want to hammer the president in a way that appeals to undecideds, you couldn't do much better than to complain about high unemployment and an endless war. That won't sound authentic coming from Romney, who has been tagged, fairly or not, as the guy who likes to fire people, and whose position on Afghanistan is 180 degrees away from Eastwood's. But coming from Clint Eastwood, that isn't a big problem...
3. ...because Eastwood barely endorsed Mitt Romney last night. He was really endorsing Not Obama. The most substantial compliment he gave to the GOP's nominee was when he pointed out that Romney was a successful businessman -- and that came in the context of slamming the president for being a lawyer, Eastwood apparently forgetting that Mitt too is a graduate of Harvard Law School. "When somebody does not do the job, we've got to let them go," Eastwood said. That isn't an argument for any candidate in particular. It's a pitch for Despair and Change.
4. Eastwood didn't embrace the Republican Party, either. At the beginning of the address he seemed to be identifying himself with the "conservative people" in Hollywood, but then he rushed to expand the group to include "moderate people, Republicans, Democrats" as well. He had a similarly expansive vision of his audience: "Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or whether you're Libertarian or whatever, you are the best around."
5. Above all, those 12 minutes were interesting to watch. They were a great break from the heavily scripted, relentlessly on-message, and utterly boring infomercial that was the bulk of the convention.
In short: A widely beloved figure came onstage, offered a politically popular critique of the other party's candidate, put it in transpartisan terms that are more likely to appeal to undecided voters, and did it in a way that guaranteed we will remember it. He was human, eccentric, funny, weird, relatable. Maybe I would have preferred a performance of Eastwood's anti-government monologue from The Outlaw Josey Wales, but I'm not the target audience. I say the speech helps Romney.
In The New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman dubs the GOP ticket “Medicare Killers” and attacks proposals to integrate private insurance competition into the public health system:
Still, wouldn’t private insurers reduce costs through the magic of the marketplace? No. All, and I mean all, the evidence says that public systems like Medicare and Medicaid, which have less bureaucracy than private insurers (if you can’t believe this, you’ve never had to deal with an insurance company) and greater bargaining power, are better than the private sector at controlling costs.
When he said “all,” I’m sure he meant some, because there are in fact studies showing that private insurers do a better job of keeping both administrative costs and premiums in check. For example, a 2009 metastudy of high-quality research consumer driven health plans (CDHPs) by the American Academy of Actuaries found that private, consumer driven plans pairing high-deductible insurance with health savings accounts found substantial first-year savings and the potential for additional savings in successive years. This is spending that actually dropped, which is a huge departure from most health plans where the only question is how much spending increases. By engaging people as health care consumers, the private, market-driven CDHP plans helped keep costs down.
What about bureaucracy? A study by consultants at Millman for the Council on Affordable Health Insurance, an industry group, looked at all the ways that Medicare hides its administrative costs, for example by shifting many expenses to other parts of the federal budget. The study found that private insurance administrative costs are actually a lot more competitive than is commonly thought. And taken on a strict per-person basis, rather than as a percentage of the total budget, Medicare’s administrative costs are actually higher than private sector counterparts. No matter what, it’s hard to respect the efficiency and effectiveness of a set of programs — Medicare and Medicaid — that the government’s own watchdogs say blow about $65 billion every year on improper payments, everything from mistaken billing to outright fraud. That’s $65 billion in taxpayer money that these programs are paying out that they shouldn’t.
Or just look at Massachusetts, which enacted a state-sized version of ObamaCare in 2006. According to a May report in the New England Journal of Medicine, increased government in the health sector hasn't exactly held costs in check. The state "is now struggling to control increasing health care costs that threaten the continued viability of its reforms," the piece reports, noting that Massachusetts is on track to spend 54 percent of its budget on health care this year, up from 49 percent in 2012. State officials are pushing reforms, but where savings are concerned, "innovations in the private sector have arguably taken the lead."
But don’t tell Paul Krugman. He’s still got more spittle:
I know this flies in the face of free-market dogma, but it’s just a fact. You can see this fact in the history of Medicare Advantage, which is run through private insurers and has consistently had higher costs than traditional Medicare.
Except that just recently a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that private plans operating in Medicare Advantage actually provide equal benefits to the government-run, fee-for-service Medicare alternative — and for about 9 percent less. Yes, the plans cost more overall, but when you compare the cost of equivalent services, they’re cheaper.
But what about Medicaid? It’s pretty cheap, right?
You can see it from comparisons between Medicaid and private insurance: Medicaid costs much less.
But what’s one of the leading ways that states are trying to restrain the Medicaid spending that’s threatening to chew through their entire budgets? Turning Medicaid case loads over to the private sector. And it seems to be producing savings. As a 2009 Lewin group metastudy for the insurance industry pointed out, nearly all of the 24 studies reviewed showed savings in states that pursued managed care, a system in which states contract with private insurers to run state Medicaid programs. A 2011 article in the health policy journal Health Affairs agreed with the basic premise. Although the Health Affairs piece noted that although managed care’s effect on health outcomes was unknown, it also agreed that “the evidence suggests that states are in fact likely to achieve billions of dollars in savings through these arrangements.” I know this flies in the face of Krugman's dogma. But these are just the facts.
In what Jesse Walker rightly called “the greatest speech in the history of political conventions,” the veteran actor/director and American icon Clint Eastwood talked about the folly of the war in Afghanistan to President Obama, who he imagined sat in a chair next to him during his surprise appearance at the Republican National Convention in Tampa Thursday night, for which Eastwood used no notes and no teleprompter.
A word to those mocking Eastwood speaking to “an empty chair” as a way to belittle his message: some other speakers, unlike Eastwood largely professional politicians, addressed the president directly at some points in their speeches. It’s a matter of debate just how many (or few) of the questions and comments directed at the president in the Republican National Convention Obama heard. But can you honestly deny the president was watching, and listening, as Eastwood was addressing him?
After asking the president about broken promises (mentioning only Guantanamo specifically), Eastwood told him:
“I know you were against the War in Iraq and that's okay. But you thought the war in Afghanistan was, was okay. I mean, you thought that was something that was worth doing. We didn't check with the Russians to see how they did there for the ten years. We did it. It’s something to be thought about.”
It ought to be noted here that the American war in Afghanistan began in the fall of 2001 as a response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and after much of Al-Qaeda’s forces and their allies the Taliban, who ruled the county, were routed, President George W. Bush decided to stay and nation build. The war in Afghanistan is now America’s longest war, with no end in sight.
“You mentioned something about having a target date for bringing everybody home and you give that target date and I think Mr. Romney has the only sensible question, though, why are you giving the date out now? Why don’t you just bring them home tomorrow morning?”
This decidedly anti-war stance actually received a good amount of applause from the delegates who this week nominated the pro-war Mitt Romney over the anti-war Ron Paul (votes for whom at the convention were not counted).
Romney, of course, did ask Obama why he would announce a date for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, but he questioned the decision because he doesn’t support a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Romney’s stance on the war America is embroiled in as he runs for president stands in stark contrast to the one his father, George Romney, took on the war in Vietnam, which dominated the nation’s attention when he was running for president himself in 1967. He actually came out against that folly and pointed out that the military was “brainwashing” politicians into supporting the war in Vietnam. Then considered a gaffe, it was actually an accurate description of the political establishment’s misguided and blind commitment to escalating military involvement in Southeast Asia. It ended, of course, the elder Romney’s chances at winning the nomination.
This year, Ron Paul ran for the Republican nomination for president advocating a decidedly non-interventionist foreign policy. Though mercifully I did not watch every Republican presidential debate this season, Paul could have easily asked the question of the president about bringing the troops home that Eastwood misattributed to a decidedly pro-war Mitt Romney.
While Clint Eastwood advocated a Ron Paul-style approach to Afghanistan, his view on Gitmo was a bit more muddled. While addressing the president about broken promises, he said this of the American detention camp in Cuba:
Even some of the people in your own party were very disappointed when you didn't close Gitmo, and I thought, well, I think closing Gitmo, why close it up? We spent so much money on it… I thought it was just because someone had the stupid idea of trying terrorists in downtown New York City. I've got to hand it to you... you did overrule that, finally. Now we're moving onward.”
Onward Eastwood moved immediately into the riff on Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the end, Eastwood turned his attention from the president to all Americans (“whether you're Democrat, or whether you're a Republican or whether you're libertarian or whatever”), saying that “politicians are employees of ours, so they're just going to come around and beg for votes every few years and it's the same old deal… We don't have to be masochists and vote for somebody we don't really want in office just because they seem to be nice guys, or maybe not so nice guys, if you look at some of the recent ads going out there, I don't know.” Responding to the sporadic chants of “make my day” throughout the speech (at the first outburst he told the crowd to “save some for Mitt”) and a call from the floor that interrupted this final thought of his, he added: “But, okay. You wanna make my day, huh.”
Whether the Republicans will make Clint Eastwood’s day (which appears to include bringing the troops home now), he certainly made the day of anyone disturbed by the lack of attention this election season to the ever-continuing war in Afghanistan, many pundits’ best attempts to talk about anything about Clint Eastwood’s speech other than the monumental diss of the Republican Party and its presidential candidate’s blind embrace of the war in Afghanistan notwithstanding.
- President Obama responds to Clint Eastwood’s RNC speech with a photo of himself sitting in the president's chair.
- The Republican National Convention in Tampa has attracted a lot less protesters than expected; there have been only two arrests and the number of police outstripped the number of protesters all week.
- Global food prices are up ten percent in July according to the World Bank.
- Julian Assange could end up spending up to a year or more in the Ecuadorian embassy as Ecuador and Britain fight over extradition.
- Islamic extremists are responsible for a series of attacks in Thailand over the weekend according to authorities.
- Egyptian authorities believe the body of a decapitated man found in the Sinai was put there of Islamic extremists.
Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan is a digital refusenik. “I am constantly being asked to justify why I shoot film,” he says in the new documentary Side by Side. “But no one is asked to justify shooting digital.” Nolan may be outnumbered, but—for now, anyway—he’s adamant: “I’m not going to trade my oil paints for a set of crayons.”
The digital takeover of contemporary movie-making may not be a hot topic around the American water cooler, writes Kurt Loder, but in Side by Side it is revealed as a large and fascinating subject—the most radical development in the industry since the introduction of sound in the 1920s. The director, Christopher Kenneally, is a busy young post-production supervisor. Two years ago he was working on a Keanu Reeves movie called Henry’s Crime. Reeves was around a lot for the post sessions, and he and Kenneally began talking about the changes being effected in their industry by digital cameras, imagery, and editing, and what they meant for the future of traditional photographic film—if it had one. Reeves decided they should make a movie about this. He would produce and also conduct interviews with top directors, editors, and cinematographers—something at which he turns out to be very adept.View this article
TAMPA – On the final day of the Republican National Convention, Ron Paul supporters vented their anger over the party establishment's suppression of grassroots delegates.
Disgruntled Paul supporters greeted media members on their way through the security check points before the final day of the convention.
Jason Batch, 39, held a sign reading "We the people, hold you, the RNC, in contempt." He was unhappy with changes to delegate and voting by-laws that were approved by the party's Rules Committee.
"This sign is about the agreement of millions of people around the nation and around the world that are just taken aback with the RNC’s behavior, their behavior that was wrong," said Batch, describing his sign.
"I am a little taken back with Speaker Boehner’s teleprompter reading of 'the ayes have it' in the midst of what should have been a roll call at that point being an equal amount of roars from Yeas and Nays," Batch continued.
Wait, House Speaker John Boehner actually read the whole thing from a teleprompter?
Watch the video after the jump.MORE »
The RNC Convention actually had two protest zones, according to Chip Bok. One was for the Occupiers, the other was for dissident GOPers.View this article
Stacy Lynne knew she was being followed. She kept seeing the same people and the same vehicles everywhere she went. Then she found a GPS tracking device had been hidden on her car. The Larimer County, Colorado, sheriff's office said it placed the device on her car, without a warrant, because officers feared she might kidnap her son in a custody dispute. But officials say they never actually turned the device on.
As Peter Suderman just wrote, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney just delivered a hi-howarya speech breathtakingly free of policy substance, after a four-day pre-amble of chanting small businesses and tough choices. Even though, as David Harsanyi pointed out here today, details can equal political death, it is equally true that a lack of detail, accompanied by sloganeering and vague uplift, can foreshadow policy disasters to come.
For evidence of which, see: Obama, Barack. Or more topically, just refer to the only real policy section of any speech during the Republican National Convention. It came tonight, from the top of the ticket, and it ain't pretty:
I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.
Presidents don't create jobs. And that number was pulled from the same source as the "five million green jobs" the Democrats were serially promising in the fall of 2008.
First, by 2020, North America will be energy independent by taking full advantage of our oil and coal and gas and nuclear and renewables.
TAMPA – Even though Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is one of the most controversial Republicans in the country, he was still given a prominent speaking slot at the Republican National Convention Tuesday. Walker's victory in a hotly contested June recall election secured his position as one of the leading governors in the country when it comes to public sector labor reforms. Walker says he sees a growing class of libertarian governors across the country.
"You see several governors out there who not only have a libertarian view but a federalism view of government, the power of the Tenth Amendment," he said. "They have a view that when you invoke the Tenth it's not just about the rights but also of the people, and that's a part that's often left out."
With the convention focusing on young Republican governors, Walker forsees a decentralization from Washington, D.C., to statehouses.
"I think that you're going to see more of an effort to push power away from the federal government not only to the states but more directly to the people," he said.
How should limited-government enthusiasts vote for president in November? Walker discouraged talk of supporting Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, or any other third party candidate.
"If you're someone who cares about ObamaCare, if you think like I think, that it's an abomination, and if we don't fix it now it could be there for the rest of our lives, to me you gotta say, 'if you vote for anybody else on this issue you're essentially castsing a vote for that to continue.' That to me is pretty compelling reason for why people should give second thoughts to voting for anybody else like Gary Johnson, even if it's a principled vote just to send a message. That's how dangerous it is when it comes to Obamacare."
TAMPA – Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) rose to national and regional prominence during the 2010 wave elections when she won a tough primary by less than 2,000 votes. Ayotte defeated a tough field that featured a millionaire businessman and a well known statewide social conservative who had backing from the Tea Party. Ayotte, not exactly a social liberal, does have some libertarian tendencies.
"I really consider myself 'me,' and just evaluate every issue by asking if it is the proper role of government and if it is consistent with the Constitution," she said, when asked if she considers herself a libertarian. "Should this be something that should be handled by the federal government or the states?"
Ayotte entered the United States Senate at the same time as Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and said she enjoys working with him.
"I respect him and I think there are a lot of terrific ideas that he certainly has on the fiscal state of the country and to get our fiscal house in order and with limited and accountable government," she said.
TAMPA – No convention is complete without a balloon drop.
This video is what the balloon drop looked like from my vantage point on the floor near the Washington and Iowa delegations.
Worth noting that the women in both delegations reacted more positively to Mitt Romney's speech than the men.
Just in case you missed it, I give you the greatest speech in the history of political conventions:
I'll admit it: I'm not entirely sure what to say about Mitt Romney's convention-capping speech tonight, in part because Mitt Romney appears not to have been sure what to say either.
It's kind of amazing, actually. Romney managed to say even less about what he would do as president than he usually does. Despite Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan's promise earlier today that Romney would discuss his plans for the country in "granular" detail, Romney offered almost nothing in the way of a governing vision, much less specific legislative goals. Instead, he criticized Obama for running up too much debt, and, in practically the same breath, for cutting spending on Medicare and the defense budget. Vote Republican!
The closest Romney got to a specific policy promise was his declaration that he'd set North America on the course for energy independence by 2020 as part of his jobs plan. Which sounds pretty awesome, I agree. But it would have sounded much more awesome if he had also promised to feature dragons, centaurs, and unicorns at the National Zoo by the same year, and been just as plausible. But it hardly matters, because that's not what the GOP actually stands for in 2012. The party barely stands for anything. And Romney, the man who once declared himself a non-partisan Republican, a moderate whose views were "progressive" is not just visionless but is at this point actively anti-visionary. Republicans are against Obama, and not a whole lot else. That's something. But it's not much.
Yesterday, Reason staffers tweetered up a storm as primetime Republican Convention programming burbled in the background. Click below to enjoy more of the same patented blend of analysis, useful links, snark, and despair.
We promise not to do this again tomorrow night. Honest.
Tampa – America’s most famous sheriff, Joe Arpaio of Arizona, was milling about the Republican National Convention, pausing for photos and signing autographs for fans. As a tough-talking sheriff who loves the spotlight, Arpaio has built a substantial following with his record on immigration as well as his controversial police practices.
Arpaio is notorious for conducting large police sweeps in minority communities that tend to be heavily populated with legal and illegal immigrants. His actions as Maricopa County Sheriff have resulted in a class action civil rights lawsuit as well as federal investigations. He investigated the authenticity of the birth certificate of President Obama while his administration was deporting more immigrants than any president in history. Obama’s record on immigration, though, does not impress "America’s Toughest Sheriff."
"I think I gotta get some credit for that. I locked up 51,000 of 'em," Arpaio said when asked about the million-plus deportations that have taken place during the Obama administration.
Arpaio scoffed at the idea that Obama was tough on immigration scofflaws, suggesting Obama he isn’t deporting enough illegal immigrants.
"[Obama’s record deportations] shows you what a big problem we have. You can’t deport people if they’re not here illegally,” he said.
Even though Mitt Romney’s immigration policy fails to mention deportation, it gets a thumbs up from Arpaio.
"I think it's pretty good. No amnesty, nothing about the Dream Act," Arpaio continued. "I think he mentioned that when he becomes president he’s gonna look at the whole picture but that’s what has to happen."
It’s not just Obama’s handling of immigration issues that disappoint Arpaio, but also the president's handling of the drug war.
"When we talk about the border we shouldn’t just talk about immigration," he said. "In order to win the war on drugs and illegal immigration the president needs to make it a top priority in foreign countries and in the United States."
Arpaio, a veteran of drug enforcement operations in Mexico, said that the federal government needs to step up its aid south of the border, so the legendarily corrupt and ineffective Mexican government can combat the drug war more efficiently.
When asked whether he thought the drug war was winnable he said, "Yeah, it will be tough but we can win it."
Tampa – After easily winning his primary in July, the Ron Paul endorsed Ted Cruz is well on his way to winning a US Senate seat in Texas. Cruz, a darling of the insurgent Tea Party movement, has rocketed to national stardom in conservative and Republican circles. He got a primetime speaking slot at this year’s convention. At a breakfast sponsored by the Iowa Republican Party, Cruz maintained that backers of Congressman Ron Paul need to stay in the Republican Party and not bolt for Libertarian Gary Johnson because “the stakes are too high.”
“I understand the passions, but at the end of the day this is about liberty. Liberty will be profoundly threatened if Obama is elected to a second term. I think if the liberty movement stays active in the Republican Party it will help ensure that the Republican Party stands for liberty. The Senate is the battleground. It is so incredibly important we have small-government, free-market conservatives in the party to help ensure that when we win we will hold the party accountable,” he said.
Cruz sounded a somewhat apocalyptic tone when talking about the prospect of a second term for President Obama.
“Liberty is threatened right now like never before in our country. A second term for Barack Obama would make us look back to these last three years as the end days of the moderate Barack Obama,” Cruz said.
“I think in a second term an Obama administration would have no limits to its attempt to expand government spending, grow our debt, and most importantly expand the control of the federal government over the economy and every aspect of our lives. I feel the damage would be fundamental and profound," Cruz continued. "Any lover of liberty should be horrified at that notion and I believe motivated to do everything within our power to prevent it from happening.”
Cruz is facing a former Democratic state representative and Libertarian business owner in a race for the open US Senate seat in Texas. I interviewed his Libertarian opponent earlier this month.
So tonight is Mitt Romney's big night. He's running even now with President Barack Obama in most polls but all indications suggest this is going to be a tight race. The GOP ticket is going to need every vote it can scrounge up.
Even - and especially - from those of us who are independent, libertarian voters who prize "free minds and free markets." As can be seen from its treatment of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) at this year's Republican National Convention in Tampa, the GOP establishment doesn't care much for small-government types until it absolutely has to. Which it does, at least in this election.
Here are three ways Romney, Ryan, and the rest of their party-mates might win over at least some of the 10 percent to 15 percent of libertarian-minded voters who want exactly the same thing the GOP says it stands for: sharp reductions in the size, scope, and spending of the federal government.MORE »
TAMPA – One hour before the final evening of the Republican National Convention was set to be gaveled in session, a group of roughly 100 angry and passionate grassroots Republican delegates, most (but not all) of them associated with either the Tea Party or Ron Paul campaign, held a rally/press conference on a balcony of the Tampa Bay Times Forum to express their bitter displeasure about being disenfranchised by controversial rules changes and delegate recognition-processes on Tuesday.
A series of speakers, shouting into a scrum of reporters while delegates held homemade signs saying "GRASSROOTS," made repeated accusations that the Mitt Romney-led establishment abused the process to prevent future bottom-up presidential runs a la Ron Paul.
"We were railroaded. This is the shot heard 'round the world," said Mark Anthony Jones, a delegate from Missouri's 5th district. Echoing many other speakers, Anthony said the pissed-off delegations were going to stand and fight, agitating for mediators to restore the previous caucus rules that activists learned and exploited to punch above their weight in the long run-up to the convention. (For a breakdown of the complicated parliamentary tussles, see Brian Doherty's piece from Tuesday, and my interview with FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe.) "We are absolutely not leaving this party," Jones said. "This is my party!"
One delegate from Oklahoma warned, "If these rules changes are the way Mitt Romney will govern as president, then he's unfit for the Republican nomination, he's unfit for the presidency." Another speaker said that activist Republicans "will not vote for Mitt Romney if these rules are in place....This will cause Mitt Romney to lose the election."MORE »
Tampa - In a short interview at the Republican National Convention Mitt Romney’s right-hand man, Eric Fehrnstrom, said that he thinks there is plenty of room for fans of Congressman Ron Paul in the national Republican Party.
"Ron Paul has earned for himself a leadership position in the Republican Party. Mitt Romney respects him as a leader and as a friend. They share in common, I think, a big conern about the fiscal crisis facing this nation, the rapid accumulation of debt over the last four years, and the necessity of putting America back on path towards a balanced budget," he said, leaving the convention floor.
When asked about disgruntled Paul fans who plan on voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson, Fehrnstrom dodged the question.
“Well, look, every convention is marked by discussion and debate over procedure and rules," Fehernstrom said. "This convention is no different. As far as Ron Paul goes, Mitt Romney respects Ron Paul and his followers for the passion they bring to the party, and for their focus and concern with the debt and deficit."
- Not to put you on the spot, Mitt, but tonight's your big make-or-break moment.
- Meanwhile, Microsoft and Google employees are busy sending donations to what's-his-name in the White House.
- Britain and France up the Syria rhetoric, saying that all options are on the table. It might be time to buy some stock in a body-bag manufacturer.
- In February, Bradley Manning will go to trial, facing a potential life sentence for, essentially, embarrassing the U.S. government.
- Don't tell Chuck Schumer, but American firms are reincorporating overseas to escape Uncle Sam's sticky paws.
- California is poised to order police to refuse cooperation to the feds on immigration issues, but Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca says he'ss stick with D.C.
- Break out the extra-dark! Chocolate reduces stroke risk, say researchers.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
TAMPA – The single most shameful thing about major-party political conventions? As Peter Suderman pointed out this morning, it's that the same hard-bitten Americans that are serially invoked from the podium involuntarily pay more than $100 million for this week-long celebration of lawyer-millionaires who have engaged in the ultimate noble sacrifice of raising large sums of money so that they can lie to everybody in order to receive the privilege of forcing still other unwilling taxpayers to part with their own money for things they don't want to pay for.
The second most shameful thing?
This unworthy (but not non-newsworthy) spectacle, this family reunion of the political/journalistic/activist/lobbyist class that makes Washington, D.C. such a fun place to move from, is protected from the rabble by more security checkpoints with more firepower than you'd see 20 years ago crossing Yugoslavia by train. I am pretty sure that Jonah Goldberg and Jon Voight and Sheriff Joe Arpaio and David Brooks and Rick Santorum and Ana Marie Cox and my other dear, dear friends could survive an all-out assault by the entire assembled ranks of the Red Chinese Army on this Tampa bunker without having to so much as forgo a free barcalounger massage in the Google Cafe. I have lost count trying to keep up with the number of state, local, federal, and black-ops law enforcement agencies represented anywhere in downtown Tampa you have the misfortune to walk.
This isn't a complaint about inconvenience (which hasn't been at all bad), but rather a cry of WTF?MORE »
In the above video we posted on Monday, we hypothesized - with absolutely no evidence - that the GOP selected Tampa as the site of its national convention in part because of a strip-club culture so overwrought the male-stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold movie Magic Mike was set there. (Watch vid by clicking above or going here for full text, downloadable files, and more.)
We also suggested the Mitt Romney and his hard-bodied sidekick, the P90X Insanity enthusiast Paul Ryan, talk with the independent contractors and entrepreneurs behind Tampa's best-known business sector.
Romney and Ryan may not have made the trip to Tampa's go-go joints, but other Republicans seem to be. TMZ is reporting that contrary to many pre-RNC press reports, GOP delegates and their families are flooding the red-light district like sailors on shore leave:
The manager at Skin Tampa tells us, the club has been sending its hottest girls to the RNC with cards and flyers -- offering free entry to anyone attending the convention -- and the response has been insane.
The manager says the club's traffic has exploded thanks to the special RNC deal -- and revenue has doubled with it.
But the club isn't stopping there -- according to the manager, it's going the extra mile to welcome everyone at the RNC, decking the place out with Republican-themed decorations.
"Rand Paul's Speech and the Future of the Republican Party" is the latest Reason TV video from the GOP Convention.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions. and more Reason TV clips.View this article
I hear tell of people who are really happy with the public schools to which they send their kids, but I rarely meet them. Even when schools produce high standardized test results or funnel lots of graduates off to competitive colleges, parents often grumble that schools "teach to the test," or they complain about rigid rules, misplaced emphasis on certain subjects, or lousy discipline. These complaints are inevitable when governments deliver like-it-or-lump-it service to people who often can't afford to pay for alternatives on top of taxes, and so are stuck with one-size-fits-all institutions they didn't choose, and which don't suit their tastes. At least, that's been my impression so far, and now Gallup has polling results that say, sure enough, that most people aren't fond of public schools and have higher opinions of all other options.
According to Gallup's write-up of its poll, which was conducted earlier this month:
Public schools get a relatively poor rating, even though the vast majority of American children are educated in public schools. The poll finds 83% of parents with children in grades kindergarten through 12 saying their oldest child attends public school, compared with 9% who say private school, 4% home school, and 2% parochial school. The poll did not assess the percentage of children attending charter schools, a relatively new type of school.
Among all Americans polled, private schools get top ratings, with 78 percent of respondents ranking them Good or Excellent. Public schools come in dead last at 37 percent.
If the poll is narrowed to only parents of school-age children, the results are surprisingly similar, with private schools getting the thumbs-up from 80 percent, and public schools scoring 47 percent approval — just ahead of homeschooling at 46 percent. I can't prove it, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is an artifact of the endless bashing of homeschooling that I've heard from public school teachers and administrators, of which parents are likely to get an earful. Then again, the educrats tend not to like charter schools either, and those still score well.
True, this poll isn't an objective assessment of school results, but instead a measure of how people view the quality of different education choices. But it's clear that, no matter how "professional educators" perceive their own efforts, they're really not winning over their captive audience. In fact, the schools are almost certainly forcing down the public's opinion of their efforts by holding hostage parents and children who would rather be exploring other options.
If public educators want to be held in higher esteem, they need to make it easier for those who don't want their services to seek their lessons elsewhere. When public schools are being used only by the willing, they'll likely rank a little higher in the public's opinion.
If you're as excited as I am to see Obama Senior's speech at the Republican National Convention tonight, here are a few morsels to pick out of your teeth:
Why go pro-Medicare? Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan last night posited that he and Obamacare inventor Mitt Romney will defend Medicare against alleged predations by President Obama. Is this a wise strategic choice for Romney/Ryan? Medicare was born in a period of Democratic ascendance, when the Republican Party was a weak sister being administered a slow drip by Northeast Corridor establishmentarians like Nelson Rockefeller. President George W. Bush's effort to establish Republican parentage via the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit yielded mixed results. Medicare Part D itself proved popular among beneficiaries, but voters still do not view Republicans as their preferred stewards of Medicare. The probability that a substantial percentage will change their views on this matter by Election Day is low. So why make this the challenge, when Obama is so weak in so many other ways?
Was Mitt Romney actually humanized by his wife's speech? One of the pundits whose leavings I examined when making yesterday's roundup of Ann Romney reactions gave his view that history would little note nor long remember Ann Romney's testament for her husband. Sure enough, it's only Thursday and Ann Romney's speech feels like it took place during the War of Jenkins' Ear. It was not a minor task that was given to the former first lady of Massachusetts. Obama leads Romney by eight percentage points among women. Scale it up and that's somewhere around 12 million Americans Romney's got to worry about. I find it hard to imagine Ann Romney's address did much to move that needle. (Is it sexist to refer to working with a needle when talking about a would-be first lady? And why is politics the only line of work where people have to be "humanized"?)
The optics, dammit, what about the optics? The 2008 Republican Convention was heavy with gloom and certain defeat, but it seemed to me it still followed all the patterns of theater. This year's convention (which I am watching only on the computerwebs from far away) seems to have a much flatter arc. What was with Mitt coming out on Tuesday to embrace Ann after her speech? Isn't it better for the candidate to hold himself at a distance until he comes out duce-style for his big speech on the final night? The point is to get people pounding their knives and forks on the table for the first glimpse of him, to inspire breathless speculation about whether he's even in Tampa yet. He's running for president, not cuddly dad.
Today I’ve received some ironic pushback on a column I wrote for RealClearMarkets. The gist of my argument is that the recent rise in housing prices is in part the result of millions of foreclosures have been delayed, and that it is short-sighted thinking to see this as a housing bottom.
The irony is that the pushback has cited the very articles I’m suggesting are shortsighted. The media has a pattern of buying into short-term trends and pushing the idea of recovery when it is really nowhere in sight. And if you doubt that, here is a small sampling of failed optimism from the past few years:
February 2009: Bloomberg News & Moody’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi
“U.S. home prices will reach bottom by the end of the year, concluding a slide that will have cut values 36 percent, Moody’s Economy.com said today. ‘Notwithstanding the intensifying economic gloom, the bottom of the housing downturn is within sight,’ chief economist Mark Zandi said in a statement today."
June 2009: NY Times
“Construction of new homes leapt back in May after dropping sharply a month earlier, the government reported on Tuesday, signaling that the housing and construction markets might be hitting a bottom.”
January 2010: Freddie Mac CEO Charles Haldeman
“The U.S. housing market may at least be nearing a bottom after its worst downturn since the Great Depression, Freddie Mac FRE.N Chief Executive Charles Haldeman said on Tuesday. ‘The numbers will always bounce around some, but from home sales to house prices, it appears that nationally we may at last be approaching a bottom.’”
This was echoed that same month by Denis Lilla, vice president of sales for Jack Conway & Co., a Norwell-based real estate brokerage, "I think the bottom has been reached... I don’t think it’s a flat bottom. It’s a murky bottom: It’s still going to go up and down a little bit, but the trend is generally going to be upward."
June 2010: Standard & Poor’s
“Southern California's housing market appears to be bottoming out after one of the nation's worst drops and its pattern may be repeated across the country, Standard & Poor's Ratings said in a report released on Tuesday.”
Today, seven of the top ten cities facing the foreclosure wave are in California.
November 2010: Fannie Mae
“Total housing sales in 2010 will be down about 8 percent from last year, and will mark the bottom of the downturn, says a monthly report from Fannie Mae economists… Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan said home sales are expected to increase by about 3 percent in 2011, with the pace of recovery determined by labor conditions. Improving financial conditions and recent encouraging signs from the labor market should set the stage for an above-par growth trend by mid 2011, the report says.”
December 2010: Bill McBride, CalculatedRisk
"I think it is likely that nominal house prices will bottom in 2011, but that real house prices (and the price-to-income ratio) will decline for another two to three years.”
September 2011: RealtyTrac
“The U.S. housing market will hit bottom this year and remain flat until 2014, when it will start to slowly recover, said Rick Sharga, an executive vice president with Carrington Mortgage Holdings.”
January 2012: NY Times
“There is growing sentiment among home builders and economists that the bottom has been reached and construction will increase in 2012. Builders are securing more permits, and the pace of housing starts rose in the fourth quarter… there is reason to think the records set last year will endure.”
February 2012: Bill McBride, CalculatedRisk
“For new home sales and housing starts, it appears the bottom is in, and I expect an increase in both starts and sales in 2012… And it now appears we can look for the bottom in prices. My guess is that nominal house prices, using the national repeat sales indexes and not seasonally adjusted, will bottom in March 2012.”
June 2012: David Wessel, Wall Street Journal
“The housing market has turned—at last. The U.S. finally has moved beyond attention-grabbing predictions from housing ‘experts’ that housing is bottoming. The numbers are now convincing.”
All that leads up to the grand finale, a Yahoo finance story from Monday:
“The latest reports on new and existing home sales seem to indicate that the housing market is beginning to find its footing again. While most believe the recovery will be slow, U-shaped, and bumpy, the free fall appears to be over for both sales and prices.”
Then again, it’s not as if Reason got the story right in past either.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP's vice presidential nominee, delivered a forceful keynote speech at the Republican convention last night. Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, is known for his policy chops, and his speech was framed as an attack on the current administration's poor economic policies: He went after President Obama's health care plan, the stimulus bill he signed, and the debt reduction commission whose recommendations he ignored.
But what Ryan didn’t talk about what was he and Mitt Romney, the man at the top of the Republican ticket, would offer instead. Which is problematic — not just because of what was left unspoken, but because of what both men have already said and done. If you dislike Obama’s health care overhaul, his stimulus plan, and his refusal to endorse the recommendations put forth by the debt commission, it’s hard to see how the Romney/Ryan ticket would be much better.
Yes, Romney has promised to repeal ObamaCare. But as governor of Massachusetts, Romney not only passed the state-based model for the president’s health care plan, he repeatedly touted it as a “model for the nation.” Those who know his campaign operation say he remains proud of RomneyCare. And he still touts the Massachusetts plan -- not only as evidence of his legislative leadership but as proof of his ability to provide effective health policy solutions for his constituents. Just last weekend, Romney responded to a question about women’s health by telling Fox News, "Look, I'm the guy that was able to get health care for all of the women and men in my state. They're just talking about it at the federal level. We actually did something, and we did it without cutting Medicare and without raising taxes."
It’s a telling remark. Romney is not just bragging about RomneyCare. He is not just suggesting that despite the many ways in which it is virtually identical to ObamaCare, it is a good policy. He is saying that RomneyCare is better than ObamaCare, and that he is better than Obama, because he put his health policy plan into action. That’s why he believes people should vote for him: because he made his version of Obama’s health reform a success. He doesn’t sound like someone who wants to repeal Obama’s health care law. He sounds like someone who wants to tweak it, streamline it, and try to make it work.
As for stimulus, Romney has made much out of his opposition to the president’s $800 billion economic adrenaline shot. But he’s not exactly opposed to similar stimulus plans. Not only did he praise the $150 billion stimulus passed by President Bush, he also declared shortly after that “a second stimulus was needed.” When that stimulus arrived under President Obama, Romney quibbled with the tax, spending, and implementation details, but agreed that “the stimulus that was passed in early 2009 will accelerate the timing of the start of the recovery,” just not as much as if the plan had been designed differently. When I brought this up with his campaign at the end of last year, a policy staffer confirmed that Romney does support stimulus in certain circumstances.
And what about the president’s record on debt? It would be hard to be worse than Obama, who, despite griping about Bush’s deficits has managed to outdo his predecessor. But Ryan didn’t simply criticize the president’s overall record on debt. He complained that Obama ignored the recommendations of his own bipartisan debt commission. “He created a bipartisan debt commission,” Ryan said. “They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.” But Ryan was a full-fledged member of that commission. And he voted against its recommendations.
Like Chris Christie, Paul Ryan’s speech touched on the need for leaders to communicate difficult truths with the public, to speak fairly and honestly about the problems facing the nation. But it’s not enough to simply to simply identify the problems and criticize the current administration for failing to solve them. Ryan knows this, and has taken considerable advantage of it. He rose to prominence in large part because of his willingness to put forth relatively detailed budget plans and entitlement reform proposals. But the Romney campaign has done no such thing and in fact has gone out of its way to distance itself from Ryan’s signature plans — while playing up opposition to Obama’s.
“We will not duck the tough issues,” Ryan promised last night, “we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others, we will take responsibility.” Maybe that’s what he and Romney think they will do. But in the campaign so far, that’s not what they are doing.
Few things get politicians into more trouble than offering voters too many details. Yet every election cycle, pundits of all denominations join to lament the fact that candidates (mostly Mitt Romney) aren't putting enough meat on their platitudes. Let's be honest; in politics, details can equal disaster.
Whereas wonks and columnists might eat up charts and white papers, the electorate has better things to do—most notably any activity not entailing looking at a chart or reading a white paper. That is why we function under a representative democracy rather than under a 300 million-person bull session. Voters, busy with real life, operate under the assumption that the people they send to Washington own calculators, watched enough "Schoolhouse Rock" to know how a bill becomes a law and, in some broad sense, share their worldview. Sometimes, writes David Harsanyi, political parties forget that fact.View this article
The Department of Education’s efforts to punish colleges whose students default too much on their federal loans – an action undoubtedly aimed at for-profit colleges – has finally led to some reform in California. At community colleges. Who have decided to stop accepting federal loans. Whoops!
Erica Perez at California Watch offers more:
A small but growing number of California community colleges have stopped participating in the federal loan program, cutting off these borrowing options for students out of fear that rising student loan default rates could lead to sanctions.
Some 16 colleges have stopped disbursing the loans, and at least one more school – Bakersfield College – is considering ending its participation in the program. That makes California home to more students without access to federal loans than any other state, according to data collected by the Institute for College Access and Success, an Oakland-based nonprofit.
College officials say they stopped participating in federal loans because they were worried that an increase in student loan defaults would jeopardize their ability to offer federal grants. Colleges where students default on federal loans at high rates for several years in a row stand to lose eligibility for federal grants under sanctions issued by the U.S. Department of Education.
Access advocates complain in the piece that community colleges are overstating their risks, but Perez notes that students at Bakersfield College, currently considering ending federal loan offerings, have a 28 percent default rate on recent loans. Colleges where only a small percentage of students have federal loans are exempt from sanctions, and the California community college average is only three percent. But the list of colleges opting out included in the story is heavy on those that serve some of the poorer parts of California. Perez doesn’t break down the individual college percentages, but it would not be a surprise if these colleges had a significantly higher percentage of federal loans than average.
Given the horrendous graduation rate at California’s community colleges (25.3 percent), federal loans are probably a bad deal for both the taxpayers and the student. Given the extremely low costs to attend community college in the state and the resources available to cover even that, a need for a federal loan should probably be seen as a warning flag.
The sentiments Rand Paul expressed last night at the 2012 RNC Convention are new and alien to the modern Republican Party, and would have been driven out of the RNC by a pitchfork-wielding mob as recently as 2004. They are shared by a small but growing portion of the GOP caucus on Capitol Hill. Paul, who three days earlier gave a barnburning speech 11 miles away advocating an audit of the Pentagon and praising his father for popularizing the notion of foreign policy blowback, last night earned unabashed praise from quarters that never could stomach his dad.
So is Paul's political balancing act worth it? Do four carefully worded wind-spitting paragraphs indicate that the Republican Party is inching toward a less interventionist and less costly foreign policy? Last night, writes Matt Welch, answered the second of those two questions, anyway: Oh hell no.View this article
Yesterday afternoon, President Barack Obama took to the so-called front page of the Internet, Reddit.com, in order to answer questions from users in an AMA —"Ask Me Anything." Almost four million page views crashed the servers and Obama ended up answering a mere ten questions out of more than 22 thousand.
And, he ignored a lot of big issues, noted Slate:
Popular questions about medical marijuana, soldiers with posttraumatic stress disorder, and the president’s failure to close Guantanamo, meanwhile, went unanswered. “20 bucks says he doesn’t address this,” one Redditor predicted, correctly, about the marijuana question. “Should have been titled, Ask Me Almost Anything,” another grumbled.
To be generous, let's say five were legitimate questions and answers, including one on Internet freedom:
We know how Republicans feel about protecting Internet Freedom. Is Internet Freedom an issue you'd push to add to the Democratic Party's 2012 platform?
Internet freedom is something I know you all care passionately about; I do too. We will fight hard to make sure that the internet remains the open forum for everybody - from those who are expressing an idea to those to want to start a business. And although there will be occasional disagreements on the details of various legislative proposals, I won't stray from that principle - and it will be reflected in the platform.
The sentiments are vague, but positive! That's nice. Questions about what Obama would do to remove the corrupting influence of money in politics (hilariously slanted in its wording, as if Republicans were the only ones cozying up to corporations and raking in their cash) were also answered, and those are real politic issues, so uh, good for the president there. Another query from a broke law student about their job prospects got some yay-ObamaCare in the semi-legitimate response from the president.
Another three or so were the gentlest of softballs, providing, for example, opportunity for the president to wax poetic about how hard it is to send brave American troops to die in Afghanistan.
And four of them were pure marshmellow goo: "How do you balance family life and hobbies with, well, being the POTUS?", "What is the first thing you'll do on November 7th, win or lose?", "who is your favorite basketball player", and most irritating of all "What's the recipe for the White House's beer?"
Already meme worthy, that last one.
Maybe it's not totally Obama's fault —Google/Youtube wussed out back in January by picking people who prefaced economics questions with "thanks for saving the auto industry" and excluding all the questions on marijuana, including the highest voted question by a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Maybe it's absurd to expect anything from the president. Why would he do anything except accept fluffy questions, or slanted ones, ripe for self-aggrandizing answers? But that makes it all the more tiresome when he find another gimmick way to play man of the people for half an hour. Why even bother?
But we already know how Obama responds when faced with a direct question about marijuana legalization: after the 2009 youtube "townhall," Obama joked like a true politician, and then dismissed the question about legalization helping the economy with a breezy no. Ever since then, in spite of continued Internet-driven efforts to get Obama to actually take drug policy seriously, it's mostly been up to Attorney General Eric Holder, or Office of Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske to reassure people that the administration cares about science and health concerns, and that America doesn't have to choose between jailing people for drug crimes or forcing them into treatment.
There are other AMAs to check out, I recommend the kindergartener on her first day of school. Much more informative.
We're at it again, tweeting the primetime 2012 Republican Convention tonight, starting at 7:00 p.m., this time with 100 percent more actual live Mitt Romney! The evening's schedule is here. Join us for a special mystery speaker, plus the man himself in the 10 o' clock hour.
Money has taken center stage in this election cycle. Four years ago Barack Obama went back on his word and declined to take public funding for his general election campaign. This allowed him to exceed the campaign spending limits that come with that funding. In 2007, Obama challenged Republican hopefuls to agree to taking public financing and accepting spending limits. John McCain agreed and when he became the nominee he kept his word. Obama made the challenge even though every major party presidential candidate since 1976, when the current system came in place, accepted public funding and campaign spending limits. In 2008, he became the first candidate to break that tradition, and this year Obama made no initial challenge and neither the president nor Mitt Romney are accepting public financing and spending limits. Because it does not enjoy the cash advantage it did in 2008, the Obama campaign has come to send regular fundraising e-mails decrying that his campaign will be outraised and outspent and has to raise more money in order to remain competitive and, hey, maybe even win.
But as noted on Reason 24/7, POLITICO found that “[i]n six of the most hotly contested GOP primary contests this cycle, the best-funded candidate lost,” with Arizona’s Congressman Jeff Flake being the latest to defeat a better funded opponent. He was outspent two to one by real estate mogul Wil Cardon, and still won with a 48 percent margin, joining Ted Cruz in Texas, Todd Akin in Missouri, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, and Deb Fischer in Nebraska, who raised less than $1 million. POLITICO describes a bevy of factors that helped the underfunded candidates win often decisive victories, providing more evidence that money is not a great indicator for political success and that much of the pearl-clutching over the influence of money in politics might be just that.
Conservatives compare Paul Ryan to a certain Republican president. (Hint: It's not Chet Arthur or Bill Taft). Liberals claim to "check" the GOP vice-presidential candidate's "lies" and "whoppers" (while continuing the recently lamented habit of defining fact-checking down). At least one adult male goes public with his steamy inner vision of Ryan as the kind of virile hombre men want to be and women want to be with. Another slathers Ryan in hard, gemlike prose that will make you say, "What is 'gravitas'? Is it a fancy word for 'gravity' like when they call a fat guy 'Falstaffian'?" And one other fella says he's breaking off his relationship with the candidate.
But (unlike the general election) the pundit action isn't all man-on-man. Here are the cheers, jeers and leers Mitt Romney's running mate has received for his lengthy speech last night at the Tampa Republican National Convention:
CNN Correspondents Praise Ryan’s Speech, Acknowledge ‘Seven or Eight’ Factual Errors (UPDATED: Now With Lies Outlined)
Joel B. Pollak
RYAN'S MASTERFUL SPEECH: A FIRESIDE CHAT WITH A NATION IN CRISIS
Stephen Colbert's perfect description of #PaulRyan budget: "Ayn Rand Fanfiction"
Paul Ryan’s brazen lies: His Republican National Convention speech was stunning for its dishonesty
Here’s a list of some of the whoppers that Paul Ryan served up Wednesday night.
His lies notwithstanding, #PaulRyan is best conservative speaker of his generation - and likely the best right-wing speaker alive today.
FACT CHECK: RYAN TAKES FACTUAL SHORTCUTS IN SPEECH
Ryan and Rice: The Most Reaganesque Addresses in a Long Time?
Reaganesque at the Republican Convention
Ryan’s speech builds trust among grassroots conservatives
Dear Paul: Why I’m breaking up with Paul Ryan.
Liberal Women: Paul Ryan is the man your tofu-eating, can't-protect-you-cuz-he-doesn't-believe-in-guns, sexually inadequate husband isn't.
Initial reaction: A splendidly written speech. Ryan’s delivery was a little leaden at the beginning, but he picked up steam toward the end.
NDAA, Patriot Act, TARP, Stimulus ignore #PaulRyan record on those things. They do not matter #GOP2012
Ryan runs over, but the crowd loves him - if not in the ecstatic way they loved Palin. If you ignore the details, and wipe your memory like an Etch-A-Sketch, it can sound like a wonderful return to fiscal responsibility. But slashing more taxes for the very wealthy, boosting defense spending, keeping Medicare intact for the current elderly, and gutting Obamacare's savings is a return to supply side fantasy, not a serious alternative to getting us back to fiscal sanity. He's not Tom Coburn; he won't compromise; which means he cannot "get it done". That's my issue. The disciple of Ayn Rand publicly says that society should be judged by the way it treats its weakest and neediest. A man without shame or coherence.
It was an uneven night, but it ended on an up note. Paul Ryan demonstrated that he is an appealing, energetic campaigner comfortable with the sort of looseness with facts voters perpetually reward. This somewhat sullies his reputation as a plainspoken, fact-oriented numbers guy, but Mitt Romney hired a running mate, not an actuary, and an able running mate is what Mr Ryan is proving to be. That said, despite his capacity for relatively substantive discourse, Mr Ryan's youthful looks and tenor vocals made him feel slightly light, especially when compared to Condoleezza Rice, who in her speech earlier in the evening had the gravitas of a neutron star.
#PaulRyan Obscures His #Koch-Backed Agenda With a Pack of Lies in Convention Speech bit.ly/SWlCJX #LyinRyan #gopfail #tlot #p2
I will concede that Paul Ryan's performance tonight was very good. But it was a performance, given by a man whose reputation is based on forthrightness. I simply cannot handle the cognitive dissonance that is now welling up in my mind. He was touted by the other speakers as a man who tackles the tough issues. But tonight he demagogued them. Maybe that makes for good politics, but it's disappointing on every other level.
On optics and on motivating the audience, a good speech. The convention was pumped for Ryan considerably more than for Mitt. It was also a speech of astonishing intellectual dishonesty – on small things, like when plants closed; and much larger things like the entire economic trajectory of the last three and a half years.
Chris Christie and Paul Ryan hit the same themes. We have hard choices facing us. We need leaders who won’t be deterred by the polls. Leaders who won’t duck the tough issues. Leaders who won’t hide the hard truths. Do any of these lines really sound like a description of Mitt Romney?
Re: @PaulRyanVP: Ronald Reagan would be proud! #rncconvention #paulryan
Ryan has a reputation as a "wonk" -- a numbers-obsessed policy nerd. He and Romney reportedly "geek out" together when talking about entitlement reform. And Ryan is supposed to be really good at explaining policy to the masses. But he didn't explain much policy tonight.
A disabled woman in Walker County, Alabama is suing the Walker County Sheriff's Office after one of its officers roughed her up for taking pictures at a high school football game. The officer's name is Lowell Adam Hadder, and the court filing indicates this is the fifth time he's been sued for a civil rights violation.
According to the suit, Dudley Benson asked Kathy Sanford to photograph his grandson's last football game at Curry High School on Oct. 28, 2011, "because of Ms. Sanford’s acumen in photography." (Curry is a public high school.) After the two took their seats, Sanford made her way to the sidelines and started snapping photos. That's where she first encountered Hadder:
Defendant Hadder noticed Ms. Sanford’s picture taking and determined that she should be made to return to her seat in the stands.
Defendant Hadder approached and threatened Ms. Sanford that if she did not move off the sidelines, “you are going to jail”.
At that point, Ms. Sanford left the sidelines and returned crying to the stands where Mr. Benson was located.
Benson then confronted Hadder:
Although, Mr. Benson was at the time seventy-five (75) years of age and was recovering from shoulder surgery and broken ribs, he went to Defendant Hadder to determine what the problem was that had lead to Ms. Sanford being upset and asked why she was not allowed to take pictures.
Defendant Hadder became angry that Mr. Benson had questioned him and directed him to leave and then escorted Mr. Benson outside the gate.
Mr. Benson complied and once outside the gate began to explain to Defendant Hadder of Ms. Sanford’s physical and emotional issues as a result of the motor vehicle accident.
At this point, Hadder "calmed down" and returned to the game, where he saw Sanford taking pictures from her seat in the stands, per his instructions. But then Hadder thought that maybe Sanford was taking pictures of him, at which point he "became outraged and determined that she should be made to leave the game."MORE »
No Easy Day, the new book about the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, contradicts the official account of his death in ways that highlight the Obama administration's ambiguous approach to terrorists, who are either criminals, enemies, or both, depending on circumstances and political convenience. The book's pseudonymous author, Mark Owen—a Navy SEAL whom military officials have identified as Matt Bissonnette, 36, of Wrangell, Alaska—reports that Bin Laden was shot in the head as he peeked out of his bedroom doorway at the SEAL team ascending the stairs to the top floor of his house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The New York Times, which obtained a copy of the book yesterday, describes what Bissonnette says happened next:
[Bissonnette] said he was directly behind the "point man," or lead commando, as the SEALs followed Bin Laden into the room, where they found him on the floor at the foot of his bed with "blood and brains spilled out of the side of his skull," and two women wailing over his body, which was "still twitching and convulsing."
The author said he and another member then trained their weapons on Bin Laden’s chest and fired several rounds, until he was motionless. The SEALs later found two unloaded weapons—an AK-47 rifle and a Makarov pistol—near the bedroom door.
In the administration’s version of events, the lead commando’s shot in the stairwell missed, and the SEALs confronted Bin Laden in the bedroom, killing him with one shot to the chest and another above the left eye.
The new book’s account, if true, raises the question of whether Bin Laden posed a clear threat in his death throes.
Military officials have said that the SEALs made split-second decisions, fearing that Bin Laden, though unarmed, could have exploded a suicide vest or other booby trap. Critics, however, say that while the military has described the raid as a "kill or capture" mission, there was virtually no chance the SEALS would bring Bin Laden back alive.
As I pointed out after the raid, these details matter under the laws of war, which the Obama administration says apply to members and supporters of Al Qaeda, because soldiers are not supposed to shoot an enemy combatant who is trying to surrender or kill him after he has been captured (or, per Bissonnette's account, incapacitated). Shooting him is justified only if he poses a threat to his captors. At the same time, since President Obama (like his predecessor) views the whole world as the battlefield in the war on terrorism, he could have avoided such questions (while raising others about collateral damage) simply by dropping a bomb on Bin Laden's house. That is the sort of solution Obama has favored for other people identified as terrorists (including U.S. citizens), on the theory that they represent an imminent threat to American lives and that capturing them is impractical.
Yet the administration's rhetoric suggests Bin Laden was killed not because it was the only way to eliminate the threat he posed (whether to the SEALs or to Americans generally) but because he had it coming. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor refers to the raid as "the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden," which suggests a summary execution rather than an act of self-defense. When it comes to suspected terrorists who are blown up by missiles fired from unmanned aircraft, the administration argues that it is not depriving them of life without due process because it follows certain procedures, confined to the executive branch, before approving these extrajudicial killings. The Bin Laden raid, because it was more up close and personal, clarified what that means in practice: I got yer due process right here. BLAM BLAM.
Indeed, O'Donnell's explication of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's speech at the Republican National Convention should be indicted for torture.
As might be expected from a career politician with next-to-zero personality and principles, the Kentucky Republican's talk is a standard-issue attack on President Obama's ineffectiveness. Among the few attempts at liveliness was this jibe at Obama's well-documented penchant for golfing:
For four years, Barack Obama has been running from the nation's problems.
He hasn't been working to earn reelection. He's been working to earn a spot on the PGA tour.
Mitt Romney has spent his entire life finding ways to solve problems.
Here's O'Donnell talking with Martin Bashir on MSNBC:
O'DONNELL: Well, we know exactly what he’s trying to do there. He is trying to align to Tiger Woods and surely, the — lifestyle of Tiger Woods with Barack Obama. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. They find every way they possibly can to –
BASHIR: Lawrence — don’t you think — don’t you think that what he’s really trying to do is to suggest that the president is not paying attention to the central issues that come with the responsibility he has? Is he really – Mitch McConnell really making a connection with Tiger Woods who, of course, has become infamous for chasing various cocktail waitresses around Las Vegas and so on?
O’DONNELL: Martin, there are many, many, many rhetorical choices you can make at any point in any speech to make whatever point up want to make. If he wanted to make the point that you just suggested and I think he does want to make that point, they had a menu of a minimum of ten different kinds of images that they could have raised. And I promise you, the speech writers went through, rejecting three or four before they land order that one. That’s the one they want for a very deliberate reason. That — there’s – these people reach for every single possible racial double entendre they can find in every one of these speeches.
You got that linkage? Golf signals not indifference to work but racial solidarity between the first black president and the first great black golfer, who is also a well-known skirt chaser, which means, what, that McConnell and his speechwriters are trying to turn family man Obama - who has never had even the whiff of a sex scandal - into the familiar stereotype of an oversexed black man.
Such linkage, however clever, reveals exactly nothing about Mitch McConnell, his speechwriters, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, or anybody else. It does, however, reveal something extremely screwed-up about Lawrence O'Donnell. And helps explain why MSNBC is hitting the skids.
When Obama first entered office, I was not optimistic about any of his policy proposals but I did think his election would help put racial divisions behind us as a country. That clearly hasn't happened, not because of anything Obama has said or done but because of nutjobs like O'Donnell saying what they're saying.
O'Donnell has a knack for being wrong. Here he is, showing he's got no idea what he's talking about when it comes to Reason.
Marcus Baram reports:
Late science-fiction legend Ray Bradbury was actively investigated by the FBI during the 1960s for suspected Communist leanings, according to FBI files released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Huffington Post.
Bradbury aroused the suspicion of the FBI due to his outspoken criticism of the U.S. government and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which was investigating real and suspected communists in America. In a full-page ad in Variety, Bradbury had denounced the committee's probes as "claptrap and nonsense" and several informants in Hollywood also voiced their suspicions about the acclaimed writer to the bureau.
Bradbury's suspected activity was reported to the bureau by screenwriter Martin Berkeley, who claimed that science fiction writers were prone to being Communists and that the genre was uniquely capable of indoctrinating readers in Communist ideologies. "He noted that some of Bradbury's stories have been definitely slanted against the United States and its capitalistic form of government," according to the file.
A popular writer like Bradbury was positioned to "spread poison" about U.S. political institutions, Berkeley told the FBI. "Informant stated that the general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War in which the American people would seriously believe [sic] could not be won since their morale had been seriously destroyed."
After conducting some more interviews, the bureau decided it had no evidence that Bradbury had ever been a member of the Communist Party. And that's how America avoided World War III.
Elsewhere not in Reason: Junior G-man Martin Berkeley's IMDb page.
I'll be on John Stossel's special coverage of the Republican National Convention tonight.
The show airs on Fox Business. Go here for details.
Reason staff live-tweeted the RNC last night. Go here for our minute-by-minute coverage.
Stossel's latest book is No They Can't: Why Government Fails But Individuals Succeed. Check it out, why dontcha?
They party. You pay. Federal taxpayers help finance the major party conventions, and in 2012, the tab could exceed $100 million. Via The Maryland Reporter:
Federal taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $136 million to cover the cost of the major political parties’ presidential nominating conventions.
That’s the estimated total taxpayer tab of this week’s Republican Party National Convention in Florida, and next week’s Democratic Party National Convention in North Carolina.
And campaign finance trackers say the millions more flowing into cocktail soirees, celebrity mixers and cigar tent sideshows paid for by unions, corporations and other special interests could eventually come with a higher price tag for taxpayers.
...“The general public does not know that taxpayer dollars are used to underwrite these conventions. I think it’s wrong,” said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin, part of the national nonpartisan public-interest organization. The group traditionally supports left-leaning issues.
Congress appropriated $100 million — $50 million for each convention — to cover the cost of security, which, so far in Tampa, appears to be much tighter than the 2008 GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The two major parties will each receive public grants of $18,248,300 for their conventions, funded through the Presidential Election Campaign Checkoff.
Check out all of Reason's RNC 2012 convention coverage here.
Paul Ryan must have hit a home run last night – otherwise liberals wouldn’t be going bonkers right now. No sooner did he move his tingle-inducing chassis off the stage than the liberal blogosphere erupted in outrage, accusing him of being a maligner and a liar.
But what did Ryan say that was so bad? He falsely accused President Obama of promising during a campaign stop to keep a Government Motor plant in Janesville, Wisconsin -- Ryan’s district – open, but then letting it close once he got elected. Liberals, however, claim that the plant was already closed when President Obama delivered his remarks.
This prompted the Puffington Post to huff: “Paul Ryan Misleads With His Plant Closure Tale.” Commenters on Daily Kos’s open thread titled “Paul Ryan Blames Obama for a GM Plant Closed Under Bush” went all snarky. “If they just completely ignore Bush altogether they can make all the right wingers believe that before Obama took office everything was fantastic,” scoffed one.
Now, I actually think that the plant story was the silliest part of Ryan’s otherwise stellar speech. Holding presidents responsible for the fate of individual auto plants is idiotic in and of itself – but especially so if in your very next breath you are going to say that you’d “take freedom…any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.”
But, then again, Obama did kinda ask for it. This is what he said in the speech that Ryan alluded to:
And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years. The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive. I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your President.
In saying that “this plant will be here for another hundred years” when he is our president, he was suggesting that under him the plant would have some kind of a future. Ryan’s Big Lie then is that instead of saying the president “suggested” he said the president “promised” he’d keep the plant open? So sue him!
But, as it turns out, the plant wasn’t closed when Obama gave his speech on Feb 13, 2008. It was open. The liberals are challenging Ryan based on an Aug 16 story by David Shepardson, The Detroit News’ auto reporter that said “the plant halted production in December 2008, when President George W. Bush was in office.” But, as best as I can tell, Shepardson got it wrong. The decision to close the plant was made under Bush. However, the plant was not slated to close till the summer of 2009 – nearly a year and a half after Obama spoke and six months after he assumed office.
Here’s what GazetteXtra.com, a Janesville paper, reported on Feb 2, 2009:
Full-size sport utility vehicle production has ended at the local General Motors plant, but medium-duty truck production is continuing—not starting—in Janesville.
And it likely will continue into May, when the lights finally go off in the facility that has been producing vehicles since 1923.
When GM officials announced last June that SUV production would cease in Janesville, they also said that medium-duty truck production would conclude by the end of 2009, or sooner if market conditions dictate.
What’s more, the administration actually did consider keeping the Janesville plant alive after it nationalized GM by commandeering the bankruptcy process. According to Shepardson’s story:
In June 2009, GM considered three sites to locate a small car: its Orion plant in Michigan; Janesville, Wis.; and a Spring Hill, Tenn., plant slated to close in November. GM picked Orion and later reopened Spring Hill.
Now why would Obama choose to close the only plant he had actively “suggested” he’d keep open? Could it possibly have something to do with the fact that it was in Ryan's (Republican) hometown? Just askin…
As David Kirby and I have argued here and here, the tea party has shifted the GOP’s focus from social to fiscal. This strategy has proved successful as libertarians and fiscal conservatives steer the political narrative toward reevaluating the proper role of government in society. Despite the Akin debacle, some still wonder if the GOP should begin emphasizing social issues again to mobilize social conservatives. However, polling data suggests why the GOP has no reason to do this.
Barna Group surveyed 1005 likely voters and found a surprising finding. Seventy-nine percent of women who attend religious services frequently say they “definitely plan to vote” in the 2012 presidential election compared to 52 percent among women who do not attend religious services frequently. So being a woman who frequently attends religious services increases the likelihood of voting by 27 points—a striking result if accurate. In contrast, men who often attend religious services are only 16 points more likely to vote than men who rarely attend religious services.
Consequently, there is less reason for Romney to emphasize social issues to mobilize social conservatives, because most of these voters are planning on voting in the election anyway. However, the Obama campaign should be concerned because especially among female social moderates and liberals, about half plan to stay home on election day. For this reason Obama's campaign has taken clear efforts emphaize the social issues they believe will mobilize female Obama voters.
Source: Barna Group
Moreover, high religiosity woman are not currently prioritizing divisive social issues like gay marriage or abortion. Instead, they are most concerned with fiscal issues including taxes, employment policies, and health care. Concern over gay marriage and abortion were second and third to last respectively; only concern over environmental policy was lower.
Source: Barna Group
if the GOP goes social, or tries to place too much emphasis on divisive social issues they risk alienating socially moderate fiscal conservatives and libertarians who are necessary for Romney to win. Moreover, they would do this for the sake of winning over social conservatives already planning on voting for Romney in November.
Lower voting propensity among liberal and moderate women in this election also explains the Democrat’s strategic focus on the women’s issues. The Democratic National Convention includes Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke made famous by Rush Limbaugh’s “slut” comment. Nancy Keenan, head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Lilly Ledbetter, named in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act making it easier to sue employers over pay discrimination by extending the statue of limitations.
In sum, the Obama campaign’s focus on women’s issues is intended to mobilize those who probably would only vote for Obama anyway, but need motivation to get out and vote. If Romney’s campaign shifts it’s strategy and begins emphasizing social issues, he risks losing the fiscal conservatives and libertarians who are the critical voting block for his campaign. The GOP’s focusing on social issues would not likely gain more voters than it would lose this November.
Tampa – Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan's rousing, anecdote-filled speech at the Republican National Convention called the policies of President Obama a threat to American freedom. Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, challenged Obama on the failed Solyndra loan guarantee as well as the president's inability to keep a Wisconsin factory open, then pivoted to the 2009 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare).
“Obamacare comes to more than two thousand pages of rules, mandates, taxes, fees, and fines that have no place in a free country,” Ryan said. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pioneered Obamacare when he was governor of Massachusetts, instituting a statewide health care program that forces every resident to buy health insurance.
In addition to Obamacare, Ryan, the author of a massive plan that claims to balance the federal budget in about 30 years, tied America’s crushing debt into his theme of threats to freedom.
“So here we are, $16 trillion in debt and still he does nothing. In Europe, massive debts have put entire governments at risk of collapse, and still he does nothing. And all we have heard from this president and his team are attacks on anyone who dares to point out the obvious,” Ryan said.
“They have no answer to this simple reality: We need to stop spending money we don’t have,” he said.
Ryan briefly grazed foreign policy while touching on social issues in a vague manner.
“Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life,” he said.
Ryan’s speech was interrupted near the beginning by an abortion rights activist, leading to a brief commotion in the convention hall.
Read Ryan’s entire speech after the jump.
- Rumor has it that tonight's mystery Republican speaker is: Clint Eastwood.
- A member of Mitt Romney's U.S. Secret Service detail left his gun unattended in the can on the candidate's charter plane. It was discovered by a CBS News/National Journal reporter who promptly described it as an "automatic assault weapon thingy." Well .. Not that last part.
- Next week's Democratic convention will "highlight the significant role President Obama’s strong record on national security and veterans issues," says a spokesperson. Hint: This means wall-to-wall Osama bin Laden references.
- Astronomers discovered a simple sugar molecules floating in the gas around a star some 400 light-years away. As further evidence of life, it's accompanied by non-dairy creamer.
- In the 34th such incident this year, the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan says three of its troops were killed by a man in an Afghan army uniform.
- Activists appear poised to force a public vote on Los Angeles's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.
- The storm formerly known as Hurricane Isaac heads north to tour the heartland after pounding the Gulf Coast.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
The Republican National Convention's big foreign policy night was kicked off with a tribute video to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Hmmm...something's missing here, no?
Tampa - A lone abortion rights protester interrupted Congressman Paul Ryan during his vice-presidential nomination speech at the Republican National Convention last night.
"My body, my choice! My body, my choice!" shouted Laura Mills, a Code Pink activist.
Dressed in a purple tank top and black skirt, Mills unfurled a homemade pink banner with the words "Vagina: Can't Say It? Don't Legislate It!" printed in large front.
In an interview on the way out Mills, 21, said the reason for her protest was Ryan's opposition to abortion in the cases of rape and incest. Ryan has sponsored a variety of anti-abortion bills during his time as a member of Congress, earning a 100% rating from the National Right-To-Life Committee. Controversial comments by Missouri Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin have increased the spotlight on Republican positions on abortion rights.
"I do not stand for that," she said.
Mills said she obtained her convention credential from "an angry Ron Paul supporter."
"There are a lot of those," she noted.
One of the admirable things about the speech that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave at the Republican convention last night was his insistence that, contrary to the standard GOP line, cuts in military spending must be part of the effort to address an "explosion of debt" that is "unconscionable and unsustainable":
Republicans and Democrats alike must slay their sacred cows. Republicans must acknowledge that not every dollar spent on the military is necessary or well-spent, and Democrats must admit that domestic welfare and entitlements must be reformed.
By contrast, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the party's 2008 presidential nominee, gave a speech exemplifying mindless, money-is-no-object militarism, arguing that cutting the Pentagon's budget would be reckless because it would sacrifice America's ability to "shape world events" with guns and bombs:
Success at home also depends on our leadership in the world. It is our willingness to shape world events for the better that has kept us safe, increased our prosperity, preserved our liberty and transformed human history.
At our best, America has led....
We have led when necessary with the armed might of freedom's defenders, and always we have led from the front, never from behind.
This is what makes America an exceptional nation....
We are now being tested by an array of threats that are more complex, more numerous, and just as deeply and deadly as I can recall in my lifetime. We face a consequential choice, and make no mistake, it is a choice. We can choose to follow a declining path toward a future that is dimmer and more dangerous than our past. Or we can choose to reform our failing government, revitalize our ailing economy, and renew the foundations of our power and leadership in the world....
We can't afford another $500 billion in cuts in our defense budget on top of the nearly $500 billion in cuts that the president is already making.
[President Obama's] own secretary of defense has said that cutting our military by nearly $1 trillion would be devastating. And yet, the president is playing no leadership role in preventing this crippling blow to our military.
The "cuts that the president is already making" let the Defense Department's budget, which has almost doubled in the last decade, continue to rise, albeit at a slower pace. "Another $500 billion in cuts" would bring the Pentagon's base budget all the way down to a level last seen in 2007, when the country was not exactly helpless against its adversaries. The fact that the defense secretary objects to cuts in his own budget (what bureaucrat doesn't?) hardly proves they would be "devastating" or "crippling," especially given the fact that the U.S. currently accounts for more than two-fifths of the world's military spending, about 10 times its share of the world's population.
Unfortunately, the GOP's current presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, is equally opposed to cuts in military spending, which, like most Republicans, he blithely equates with defense spending. McCain quoted Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, who recently remarked that "our fiscal policy and our foreign policy are on a collision course." Ryan meant that "if we fail to put our budget on a sustainable path, then we are choosing decline as a world power." But with so-called defense spending accounting for one-fifth of the federal budget, it is equally true that a sustainable fiscal policy cannot be reconciled with McCain's unbounded view of the American military's role in the world.
Martial arts expert Tim Larkin trains military and law enforcement officials, including the U.S. Navy SEALs, in self defense. But he won't be passing on his knowledge in the United Kingdom. The Border Agency barred him from entering the U.K. to speak at a martial arts conference, saying “his presence here was not conducive to the public good.” Larkin says he was banned because he has criticized British self defense laws.
An Orlando TV station reports that police recently used one of the city's IRIS surveillance cameras to bust a pot smoker. After a sergeant monitoring South Terry Avenue and West South Street "spotted three men possibly smoking marijuana," officers approached the men, one of whom, 29-year-old Joe E. Haywood, "turned his back and appeared to put a blunt in his mouth." The cops swiftly took action:
Haywood was handcuffed and ordered to open his mouth but refused, so an officer tried for 30 seconds to use pressure points on his jaw to open his mouth, the affidavit said. Officers said Haywood swallowed the joint during the incident and marijuana could be smelled on him....
Officers said they then noticed a green leafy substance, which they described as a unburned cannabis leaf, on Haywood's teeth...
Haywood was arrested and taken to jail.
IRIS, by the way, stands for Innovative Response to Improve Safety. Orlandoans surely feel safer now that a notorious blunt swallower has been taken off the streets.
[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]
The GOP has now made its intentions clear: Defend Medicare at all costs, now and forever. And in doing so, it's weakened one of the party's most promising policy reformers.
Even though the party's latest platform acknowledges that Medicare is the largest single driver of the debt, and even as the party has inched toward making reform of the seniors health program a priority, it has also declared its intention to protect and defend the program at all costs. The GOP would have us believe that Medicare is both the biggest problem and the biggest success in American government, wrecking our public finances but also in need of saving from the current administration's cuts.
On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney has declared that it was wrong for Obama to cut Medicare, and promised never to cut the program himself. Now Rep. Paul Ryan, the chief GOP proponent of Medicare reform in Congress and Romney's running mate, has thoroughly bought into this argument. Ryan's GOP convention speech tonight went all in on the defense of Medicare. "Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it," he said. And the reason to repeal ObamaCare is because of the way it upends the existing entitlement structure. "The greatest threat to Medicare," according to Rep. Ryan," is ObamaCare, and we’re going to stop it."
This was a popular argument amongst a lot of Republicans while ObamaCare was being debated and in the months leading up to the 2010 mid-term election. But Rep. Ryan did not embrace it like some of his colleagues. I'd like to think that's because he saw it as self-defeating: A fiscally burdensome program that needs reform does not also need to be protected from cuts. Indeed, Ryan included essentially the same cuts in his own budget plan.
But now Ryan is leading the attack on those cuts from his perch as the party's VP nominee.
What we're seeing is the war between two Paul Ryans. He has always been a conservative policy reformer as well as a good party soldier. But when the two have come into conflict, the party soldier has almost always won. That's made him an effective politician, and helped him carry his policy case into the spotlight. But ultimately it will probably make him far less successful as a policy entreprenuer.
He made his name as an energetic Medicare reformer, someone who believed the program wasn't working, was too expensive, and needed to be changed. But tonight, in the most prominent speech of his career, he chose to defend the idea that the program was not only worth preserving but worth defending from any and all of the other party's cuts. That may or may not be good for his political career, but it's hard to see how it will be good for his policy reforms. He's helped join his party to the cause of mindlessly protecting the program he says he wants to reform.
Tampa - Over 100 Ron Paul supporters marched around the main concourse of the Tampa Bay Times Forum after the conclusion of Senator Rand Paul's speech. The purpose of the march was to protest the failure of the Republican National Committee to sit the Maine delegation yesterday.
The marchers chanted "So goes Maine, so goes the nation!"
Security did not appear to make an attempt to stop the marchers before they concluded their fast march around the arena.
One Paul delegate that declined to give his name told me, "We just wanted to make a quick point."
Conventiongoers and Romney Mitt Romney delegates looked on with bemusement. Some even asked security why they weren't arresting or removing the marchers.
Video of the march below.
Join the Reason staff right here, right now as we opine, weep, and snark our way though the prime time 2012 Republican National Convention coverage. The evening's schedule is here. Highlights include a Ron Paul video shortly after 7 and vice presidential nominee to be Paul Ryan in the 10 o' clock hour.
Don't forget to check back in tomorrow night for more of the same!
Tampa – Senator Rand Paul delivered a speech to the Republican National Convention peppered with red-meat language tailored for supporters of his father, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and Tea Party activists. Sen. Paul’s lines kept pace with the Republican attacks on President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment, and his remarks on individualism unified the crowd in ovations. He doubled down on his controversial remarks that ObamaCare is still unconstitutional even though the Supreme Court ruled otherwise. Weak chants of "Paul '16! Paul '16!" could be heard at various times during his speech, particularly toward its end.
When he talked about security and defense, though, the crowd split its reactions.
“To thrive we must believe in ourselves again, and we must never -- never -- trade our liberty for any fleeting promise of security,” he said, hinting at the Patriot Act and other security legislation that many Republicans have championed.
His full remarks after the jump.MORE »
On Tuesday, during the normally boring rules-and-roll-call portion of the festivities, the Republican National Convention erupted in some contentious and confusing disputes between the GOP establishment and delegates associated with both Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and the Tea Party. Today I asked Matt Kibbe, president and CEO of the Tea Party-assisting political group FreedomWorks, to explain what it all meant.
"I think the Republican establishment is struggling with how to manage this very decentralized world we live in, and you saw signs of their acknowledgement on the stage like last night," Kibbe said. "It wasn't remotely about Mitt Romney, it was about giving various voices and agendas and constituencies a voice at the convention.
"The opposite of that is coming in late Friday afternoon and dropping a dramatic rules change on the table, and thinking that it won't get Tweeted out immediately and that people wouldn't notice. And I think that's a fascinating clash–they're trying to figure out how to deal with the Ron Paul guys, they're trying to figure out how to deal with the Tea Partiers, all of whom have become part of the process. They're delegates now, they're playing by the rules, and really I think fundamentally transforming the party, and I think the Establishment's freaking out a little about that. [...] Literally in every delegation I've spoken to, formally or informally and just walking around, there are Tea Party delegates all over the place; they've really embedded themselves into the process."
What was the dispute about?MORE »
- In a little effort at counterprogramming, President Obama took to Reddit to reach the youngsters.
- Stay classy, Republicans! Attendees at the RNC were ejected for taunting a black camerawoman.
- Not-so-credit-worthy Illinois took another hit to its rating over the looming pension crisis.
- Venezuela's oil industry took a bit of a hurting when a refinery went BOOM.
- Tropical Storm Isaac is ... well ... once again a tropical storm, after pounding Louisiana.
- After the Empire State Building shooting, questions arise about NYPD gun skills.
- Slowly, but surely, the ranks of homeschoolers grow as people realize that they'd like their kids to maybe learn to read.
Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.
"Are Social Cons Still Relevant in the GOP?" is the latest Reason TV video from the Republican National Convention.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions. and more Reason TV clips.View this article
From the moment seven years ago today that Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi, pundits started using the storm as a metaphor for the citizen's relationship to the state. One of the best things about The Fight for Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back, a compelling new book about the rebuilding effort, is that it sets aside national politics and Red Team/Blue Team narratives, Daniel Rothschild writes in his review. Instead it focuses on a handful of New Orleans–area residents and outside volunteers to tell the story of rebuilding the city one house, block, and neighborhood at a time.View this article
The Transportation Security Administration has repeatedly been dinged by critics, including the Government Accountability Office, for taking a scattershot approach to air travel security. The TSA is notorious for buying equipment and signing on to approaches without ever fully investigating the efficacy of its shiny new toys, and without effectively deploying what it has acquired. Now the RAND Corporation, that grand-daddy of all think tanks, has turned its attention to the issue in an effort to determine not just approaches that improve the safety of air travel, but those that do so cost-effectively. Not surprisingly, its report concludes that much of what the TSA does may well be counterproductive. (Note: the Reason Foundation's own Robert Poole contributed to the study.)
One of the impressive tasks attempted by the authors of Efficient Aviation Security: Strengthening the Analytic Foundation for Making Air Transportation Security Decisions (PDF) is to consider inconvenience costs and annoyances inflicted on passengers above and beyond easily quantified dollar amounts. These are important because:
[V]arious researchers have documented changes in passengers’ preferences and behaviors regarding use of the air transportation system, at least in part due to the increased “hassle factor” associated with new security measures ...
Meaning, there's some evidence that many people are avoiding air travel because they don't enjoy that little taste of East German nostalgia they associate with the process. This sort of analysis necessarily gets a little subjective, but it logically concludes that relatively invisible procedures — like inspecting checked luggage — piss people off less than in-your-face security, and that the total annoyance caused by layers of security is greater than the sum of its parts (but that layers of security are, nevertheless, important).MORE »
Fox News commentator Juan Williams has been taking it on the chin from Republicans and conservatives for criticizing Ann Romney's speech at the RNC. Williams audaciously suggested that Mrs. Romney looked like a "corporate wife" whose story of young struggle wouldn't resonate with those of us not born into money (Ann's father was rich and so was Mitt's).
Ask the folks at Twitchy, a right-wing Twitter aggregator put together by Michelle Malkin, "How did [Williams] use that airtime to display his renowned “real reporter” skills? By engaging in the very misogynist rhetoric that Obama operatives have hurled at Ann Romney." My favorite tweet in the thread they compiled is this one: "Juan Williams.....you and [Five co-host Bob] Beckel will be the reason I cancel FOX....Bastards."
I didn't think that Williams' comment was misogynistic, or inaccurate for that matter. Look, if you're born into wealth and stay wealthy your whole life, the one thing you can't lay claim to is being poor. Even in America, there are some things that money can't buy. And one of them is an impoverished past.
But here's Mrs. Romney's reminiscence:
There were many reasons to delay marriage, and you know? We just didn't care. We got married and moved into a basement apartment. We walked to class together, shared the housekeeping, and ate a lot of pasta and tuna fish. Our desk was a door propped up on sawhorses. Our dining room table was a fold-down ironing board in the kitchen. Those were very special days.
Then our first son came along. All at once I'm 22 years old, with a baby and a husband who's going to business school and law school at the same time, and I can tell you, probably like every other girl who finds herself in a new life far from family and friends, with a new baby and a new husband, that it dawned on me that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.
This would be a banal Love Story sort of memory at best, but the fact that Ann and Mitt were both rich kids and only one of them was going to college at that time even queers that deal. Williams' point was basically that Ann Romney's invocation of struggle really comes across as phoney.
Here's a fuller explanation by him:
The wonderful reality is that both Ann and Mitt are scions of wealthy families. They were born to lives of privilege -- she, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and he, the son of an automobile company CEO and governor of Michigan.
They may have started out in a small apartment but she was married[to] a young man studying for a Harvard business and law degree. Their parents could afford to send them to elite universities like Stanford and Harvard without needing scholarships or financial aid. And then her talented husband had monumental success in the corporate world.
It does not make sense to me to talk about that couple having struggles similar to most Americans. They never had to live with economic fear of being laid off from a job or losing their health insurance.
I'm on record as saying my favorite political spouse is Judith Steinberg Dean, married to former Gov. Howard (D-Vt.). Dr. Dean (she's an M.D. too) refused to play the anointed role of wife or husband who "humanizes" her counterpart and she refused to participate in a gross form of political spectacle with roots in aristocratic court culture.
Would there were more like her. And fewer bits like the old Al-Tipper Gore Kiss (shiver) or the whole spectacle of fake happy Kennedy clan marriages that somehow prove that the land will be fertile and the harvest strong. Look, maybe only 40 percent of Americans believe in evolution, but we're not so primitive or atavistic as to think that the personal life of a political leader (male or female) has any connection to the health of the body politic.
Over at The Economist, I'm involved in a debate about tax-funded art. The conversation is interesting and varied; please go check it out.
Here's a snippet from my contribution:
There's at least a third reason to stop state funding of the arts, and it's the one I take most seriously as a literary scholar and writer. In the 17th century, a great religious dissenter, Roger Williams (educated at Cambridge, exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony), wrote the first case for total separation of church and state in the English language. Forced worship, said Williams, "stinks in God's nostrils" as an affront to individual liberty and autonomy; worse still, it subjugated theology to politics.
Something similar holds true with painting, music, writing, video and all other forms of creative expression. Forced funding of the arts—in whatever trivial amounts and indirect ways—implicates citizens in culture they might openly despise or blissfully ignore. And such mandatory tithing effectively turns creators and institutions lucky enough to win momentary favour from bureaucrats into either well-trained dogs or witting instruments of the powerful and well-connected. Independence works quite well for churches and the press. It works even more wonderfully in the arts.
Related: Reason TV's "3 Reasons Not to Fund the Arts with Taxes"
View this article
While the Republican National Convention has been full of slights against Ron Paul's supporters, the story of the Ron Paul Revolution's long march through the institution of the Republican Party is likely just beginning. Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty looks at the ups and downs of Paul and his forces' relationship with the GOP this year and finds that many of them may be mad at the Party, but still see it as a tool they can use to advance liberty.
Before ObamaCare passed, projections indicated that the United States would be facing a substantial doctor shortage by the end of the decade. Because the new health law expands health coverage, it's also expand to increase demand for health care. But ObamaCare does almost nothing to remedy this.
So is ObamaCare just exacerbating a problem that already existed in the market? Not exactly. As a piece in Bloomberg News explains, Congress placed limits on the number of doctors who can enter the system each year, effectively capping supply and prohibiting it from responding to increasing demand:
With a shortage of doctors in the U.S. already and millions of new patients set to gain coverage under President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, American medical schools are struggling to close the gap.
One major reason: The residency programs to train new doctors are largely paid for by the federal government, and the number of students accepted into such programs has been capped at the same level for 15 years. Medical schools are holding back on further expansion because the number of applicants for residencies already exceeds the available positions, according to the National Resident Matching Program, a 60-year-old Washington-based nonprofit that oversees the program.
...There’s no easy solution. Boosting the number of taxpayer- financed training slots beyond 85,000 would require Congress to allocate money at a time of contentious budget debates. Adding private financing means tapping new sources of cash, such as from health insurers. Importing doctors from overseas is controversial. And training doctors is long-term work, taking as many as 10 years.
Teaching hospitals quadrupled their lobbying budget last year to $2.8 million, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. They support bipartisan legislation introduced this month that would add 3,000 residencies a year through 2017 at a cost to taxpayers of about $9 billion. Deficit-watching Republicans, including Price, say private funding needs to be identified instead.
As my colleague Shikha Dalmia has noted, all this is done in collusion with the American Medical Association, a trade group representing doctors. They're happy to take public funding, and they're also happy to enforce artificial limits on the supply of doctors, which ensures that their fees stay high.
Tonight and tomorrow night, starting at 7 p.m., Reason staffers will be livetweeting all the action from the 2012 Republican Convention. Join us with your partisan cocktail of choice in hand—or just vodka neat. Whatever gets you though the night.
There are two things to note about the health care portion of the Republican party’s 2012 platform. The first is how much it differs from the 2008 platform, which, as The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff has noted, devoted only about 200 words to the subject and proposed no major reforms. The new document is far more expansive, with subsections devoted to Medicare and Medicaid, and an acknowledgment in the budgeting section that Medicare “is the largest driver of future debt.”
Overall, it’s reasonably strong statement from a party that has traditionally been loath to discuss major health entitlement reforms. But it still leaves the party plenty of wiggle room. That brings us to the second point, which is how awkward and opaque the party’s position on health care remains. You can see a clear desire to appease the base by pursuing those reforms, but you can also see a deep-rooted anxiety about how those reforms will actually play with the public, and seniors in particular.
The foundations are reasonably strong: The platform notes that both Medicare and Medicaid are fiscally unsustainable and elaborates on the way both have come to dominate the health system and public budgets:
Medicare has grown from more than 20 million enrolled in 1970 to more than 47 million enrolled today, with a projected total of 80 million in 2030. Medicaid counted almost 30 million enrolleesin 1990, has about 54 million now, and under Obamacare would include an additional 11 million. Medicare spent more than $520 billion in 2010 and has close to $37 trillion in unfunded obligations,while total Medicaid spending will more than double by 2019. In many States, Medicaid’s mandates and inflexible bureaucracy have become a budgetary black hole, growing faster than most other budget lines and devouring funding for many other essential governmental functions.
In response, the platform recommends converting Medicare into a premium support system and pursuing state-based block grants for Medicaid. Those aren’t the best solutions, but relative to the current situation, those are both promising reforms — reasonable and plausible ways to start transforming the U.S. health care system. But as Kliff notes, it avoids touching the larger and more difficult issue, which is the way the health system has been distorted by the tax deduction for employer sponsored insurance. That’s not entirely surprising given the slew of political attacks suffered by Sen. John McCain, the last Republican presidential nominee to broach topic. But it still suggests a lingering reticence to even mention one of the biggest flaws in the country’s health policy infrastructure.
There's a similar anxiety at work in the platform's Medicare and Medicaid reforms. The GOP platform seems to see its preferred entitlement changes as an end, not a beginning, framing these reforms as ways to preserve and protect both programs. It’s a limited approach that assumes the centrality of these entitlements rather than questioning them, one that acknowledges that way both Medicare and Medicaid have overtaken so much government spending and activity, but promises to further entrench embed both programs into the firmament of American public policy.
Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support the prohibition of gambling over the Internet and call for reversal of the Justice Department's decision distorting the formerly accepted meaning of the Wire Act that could open the door to Internet betting.
The implicit argument here is what I've called the addict's veto: Because some people may overindulge in activity X, no one should be allowed to do it. Both Republicans and Democrats find that logic attractive with respect to certain sources of pleasure, e.g., junk food (Democrats), pornography (Republicans), alcohol (Democrats), and illegal drugs (both). As far as I can tell, there is no rhyme or reason to the targets favored by each party; it is simply a matter of culturally and historically contingent tastes.
In this case, the desire to ban online gambling not only violates the Republicans' avowed commitment to small, minimally intrusive government (yeah, I know); it leads the party to endorse a strategy that undermines the rule of law and the separation of powers by asking the executive branch to rewrite a statute so it better comports with the GOP's paternalistic agenda. As U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein noted in his recent decision holding that poker is not covered by the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the Wire Act "applies only to wagering on sporting events." The relevant section says (emphasis added):
Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
In 2002 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the highest court that has addressed the issue, held that the Wire Act is limited to sports betting. The appeals court deemed the scope of the law so clear that it did not even bother to discuss the question, simply stating, "We agree with the district court's statutory interpretation, its reading of the relevant case law, its summary of the relevant legislative history, and its conclusion." As the GOP platform says, the Justice Department for years nevertheless insisted that the Wire Act banned all forms of online gambling. But that interpretation was highly implausible, as the department's Office of Legal Counsel explained in a September 2011 memo repudiating it. Although the memo may have been motivated mainly by a desire to clear the way for online, interstate sales of state lottery tickets, it is laughable to suggest that the DOJ is "distorting" the statute by deferring to its plain language.
The GOP's gambling plank, by the way, is part of a section called "Making the Internet Family-Friendly," which includes this sentence: "The Internet must be made safe for children." You might call this the child's veto (or, more accurately, the parent's veto): If something is inappropriate for children, no one should be able to see it. The Supreme Court has decisively rejected that argument, which is also hard to reconcile with the GOP's insistence that "there should be no regulation of political speech on the Internet." What about political speech that is not "family-friendly"? For example: The Republican Party says "the Internet must be made safe for children." Fuck that.MORE »
Tampa - What happens when you fail to process what is happening before your eyes and just run with a lazy interpretation? You get really incendiary stuff like this from Harper’s Jack Hitt:
There were energetic shouts of “Aye!” and “Nay!” as a Puerto Rican party functionary—Zoraida Fonalledas, the chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization—took her turn at the main-stage lectern. As she began speaking in her accented English, some in the crowd started shouting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
The chanting carried on for nearly a minute while most of the other delegates and the media stood by in stunned silence. The Puerto Rican correspondent turned to me and asked, “Is this happening?” I said I honestly didn’t know what was happening—it was astonishing to see all the brittle work of narrative construction that is a modern political convention suddenly crack before our eyes. None of us could quite believe what we were seeing: A sea of twentysomething bowties and cowboy hats morphing into frat bros apparently shrieking over (or at) a Latina. RNC chairman Reince Priebus quickly stepped up and asked for order and respect for the speaker, suggesting that, yeah, what we had just seen might well have been an ugly outburst of nativism.
First some background: Scheduled between the two committees the Ron Paul people were really upset over, Credentials and Rules, was the Committee on Permanent Organization. Nobody gets too upset over (or cares about) Permanent Organization because all they do is select convention officers. Rules and Credentials have the power to seat delegations and dictate how the party is run.
The Credentials Committee that was up before Permanent Organization denied a request from the Paul folks to seat the disputed Maine delegation. They were, understandably, really unhappy about this. Loud chants and cheers and boos broke out in the hall. At one point there were several dueling chants. These chants continued to take off and die out in almost cyclical manner. Paul people were fuming that their Maine friends were shut out of the convention.
The Republican Party is atrocious on immigration but the cacophonous shouting and chanting was not "an ugly outburst of nativism." It was disgruntled Ron Paulers expressing their displeasure with the party establishment they perceive as hostile to them not Puerto Rican National Committeewoman Zori Fonalledas. Of course, if you were paying any attention to what was happening on the floor you already knew this.
St. Petersburg, Fla. - Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is everywhere at this Republican National Convention.
He's roaming the floor of the convention hall, out meeting with Paul delegates, talking to the media, speaking at breakfasts, and, in some cases, telling his father's troops to keep up the fight in the GOP. The majority of Paul delegates are unhappy with the party for a variety of reasons. Some are upset over the rules changes while others are mad about what happened with the Maine delegation. Many just really do not like Mitt Romney in any way. Rand is here trying to downplay most of that.
“I think the Romney campaign has been very good at including, we’ve come to compromises, we split the difference on a lot of things. There’s still some people that are unhappy, obviously, that didn’t get seated but there’s a lot of great success,” he said on the floor of the convention hall.
Rand sees huge inroads being made by libertarians and constitutional conservatives in the world of Republican Party politics.MORE »
Remember when the GOP of 2012 was going to be all about the economy? Because dang it, the voters want it that way? Well, that's mostly, sort of, a little true. The Tampa RNC theme is anti "you didn't build that." It's about small business and bootstraps and all of the things that Barack Obama ostensibly hates. Still, the always dependable social con Rick Santorum used his moment at the podium to to bat for traditional marriage. He noted:
“The fact is that marriage is disappearing in places where government dependency is highest. Most single mothers do heroic work and an amazing job raising their children, but if America is going to succeed, we must stop the assault on marriage and the family.”
The institution of marriage is the foundation of civil society. Its success as an institution will determine our success as a nation. It has been proven by both experience and endless social science studies that traditional marriage is best for children. Children raised in intact married families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in crime, or get pregnant outside of marriage. The success of marriage directly impacts the economic well-being of individuals. Furthermore, the future of marriage affects freedom. The lack of family formation not only leads to more government costs, but also to more government control over the lives of its citizens in all aspects. We recognize and honor the courageous efforts of those who bear the many burdens of parenting alone, even as we believe that marriage, the union of one man and one woman must be upheld as the national standard, a goal to stand for, encourage, and promote through laws governing marriage. We embrace the principle that all Americans should be treated with respect and dignity. [emphasis added]
Great! So two parents are better than one for kids, but the GOP also understands that sometimes things happen and parents parent alone. But, two gay people, one assumes, is the only thing worse than one gay person.
The bolded sentence is a perfect microcosm of Republicanism — it's a call to restrict freedom in order to preserve freedom. And it's particularly insidious to the cause of small government, because the cry to restrict the rights of gay individuals (and potentially, single parents) is wrapped up in anti-dependency, anti-government language.
Santorum even finished his speech with critiques of Obama's penchant for executive strong-arming, which a libertarian might dig if 1) the cited, totalitarian examples weren't Obama's lessening of deportations and his DOJ's refusal to keep defending the Defense of Marriage Act and 2) Santorum's speech wasn't a hysterical self-parody involving a refrain about clasping hands with the American dream. Santorum, see, has "shook the hand of the American dream, and it has a strong grasp."
In different sections of the platform, the GOP actually comes right out and says the dreaded words "same-sex." This is to say, the Obama administration had the audacity to let DOMA go. Mostly. There is also stated support for a constitutional definition of marriage.
Oh hell, if you need proof that the Republicans are no friends of small government, look no further than Jacob Sullum's heroic rant from yesterday.
A few police departments have started training programs to teach officers how to deal with dogs. That’s an encouraging start. But mere mechanics will not suffice. After all, most departments have a mechanical approach in place already: If an officer feels endangered, then lethal force is justified. The trouble with this approach is that—as most people intuitively grasp—lethal force is rarely justified, writes A. Barton Hinkle, especially when it is the first resort rather than the last.View this article
In 2008, the difference between the two major-party conventions was stark. As detailed in this round-up at the time from Tim Cavanaugh, one of the most striking contrasts was in message discipline:
The Democrats stayed remarkably on-message, inside and outside the convention. New Green Jobs, McCain's houses, and the busted budget weren't just the talking points during the speeches. They were repeated by delegates and guests throughout the week. By comparison, the Republicans were all over the place in their rhetoric, with fanciful calls to repopulate the Midwest, mutually exclusive goals like simplifying the tax code while instituting new tax breaks for various environmental and personal behaviors, constant prattle about special needs kids, and so on.
Republicans this time around have learned from the Democrats. Almost every speech last night valorized "small businesses," decried "red tape," talked with pinpoint vagueness about limiting government and cutting taxes, and vowed that America was coming back, baby!
Even more striking was the similarity between the prime-time Day Ones of DNC 2008 and RNC 2012. Both were designed to introduce America to its putative next First Lady, at the end of an evening drowning in identity politics, hardscrabble family migration stories, non-white-males, and remarkably vague nods toward policy. Both of the handsome and smart wives then gave aw-shucks talks about how they couldn't possibly be more American and normal and human as you, no matter how rich, successful, and educated they are.
It's clear that the people who do competitive politics for a living have arrived at some consensus conclusions: Americans reward vague rhetoric, and punish specificity. It's important for us to bond as pals with the spouses of SCOTUS. And the personal narrative -- raising autistic kids, starting a home business, revering an immigrant father who never asked for no handout -- is the single most important thing about this politician you've never heard of.
Though this says something troubling about the people who practice such pap, it says something considerably worse about us. And it underlines something we've long known about the man at the top of the GOP ticket: The last thing Mitt Romney wants to be near is a policy specific, particularly when it comes to cutting government.
The combination of two simple words -- “loan guarantee” – now invokes a Pavlovian reaction, a near Tourette’s-like urge to mention Solyndra. This is probably a good thing: How many Americans knew they existed or how widespread they were before the solar company’s bankruptcy?
But as last night’s convention speeches showed, the Unbama Party is really mostly concerned about bad loan guarantees, as in those that go to constituencies that are not theirs.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley caused an eyebrow or two to shoot up in my household when she invoked Boeing as a job creator that had to fight the twin evils of Barack Obama and the National Labor Relations Board to see its way to the Palmetto State: “Boeing started a new line for their 787 dreamliner, creating a thousand jobs in South Carolina, giving our state a shot in the arm when we truly needed it.” She talked about how South Carolina fought back against the unions, won, and celebrated when the first “mack daddy” planes rolled out on the tarmac.
How nice for them. For the rest of us, well, there’s a problem: Boeing’s airplane sales are propped up by loan guarantees from the Export-Import Bank of the United States. And with the airline industry in a terrible state, taxpayers are on the hook for the costs if those who purchase Boeing’s planes go under.
Timothy Carney at The Examiner explained the details earlier in August:
The popping of the airplane bubble could be the next tremor to hit the U.S. economy, as economically unstable commercial airlines around the world buy up fleets of jets that they cannot afford. But if airlines can't pay their bills to jet-makers, you get the tab, thanks to a U.S. government agency -- the Export-Import Bank of the United States -- that has dedicated three-fourths of its loan-guarantee dollars to backstopping sales for the Boeing Company.
It's yet another pitfall of the Bush-Obama approach to economic policy. Just as President Bush and his predecessors favored housing with subsidies and regulatory tweaks, President Obama has lathered favors on manufacturing, specifically exports. Subsidies naturally flow to the big players, and you don't get much bigger than a jumbo jet-maker like Boeing.
Stop the presses: The tough-on-crime GOP says there are too many laws! But also that there are not enough laws. The plank, titled "Justice for All: Safe Neighborhoods and Prison Reform," is a mixed bag, really.
The standout (as in "good") section comes at the very end, and reads as follows:
The resources of the federal government’s law enforcement and judicial systems have been strained by two unfortunate expansions: the over-criminalization of behavior and the over-federalization of offenses. The number of criminal offenses in the U.S. Code increased from 3,000 in the early 1980s to over 4,450 by 2008. Federal criminal law should focus on acts by federal employees or acts committed on federal property – and leave the rest to the States. Then Congress should withdraw from federal departments and agencies the power to criminalize behavior, a practice which, according to the Congressional Research Service, has created “tens of thousands” of criminal offenses. No one other than an elected representative should have the authority to define a criminal act and set criminal penalties. In the same way, Congress should reconsider the extent to which it has federalized offenses traditionally handled on the State or local level.
An optimist might read that last sentence as applying to the war on drugs or the war on raw milk. A cynic might read it as regarding only crimes rich white people commit. What we know is that Mitt Romney has said he will (continue) cracking down on medical pot, and that Paul Ryan refuses to talk about drugs, only bow hunting and Medicare. So it's tough to say what the GOP means by the above section.
The rest of the plank is the standard mix of tough- and smart-on-crime talking points, with an extra measure of "We're tougher than them dang dirty Democrats," even though the GOP's 2012 criminal justice plank reads quite similar to the Democrats' 2008 plank of the same:
As ABC News reports, 56 percent of registered voters disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy. Since the 2012 presidential election has hinged on the economy, one might think Romney would be the clear front-runner. However Gallup shows Romney with a slim 1 point lead ahead of Obama, Rasmussen finds 53 percent of Americans predict Obama will win, compared to 33 percent for Romney, and Intrade shows Barack Obama has a 56.7% chance of winning compared to Romney’s 43.1%.
This conundrum may be in part explained by the American public's skepticism that Romney would actually improve the economy. While 58 percent say they are not confident the economy would improve under a second Obama term, 52 percent aren’t confident it would improve under Romney either. Consequently pollster Gary Langer suggests: “Romney could benefit by sharpening his argument that he’d do better.”
Ann Romney, in her widely well received GOP convention speech Tuesday evening, made an emotional case that her husband could in fact improve the economy. "No one will work harder. No one will care more. No one will move heaven and earth like Mitt Romney to make this country a better place to live!"
It is clear that Ann Romney’s speech was intended to speak to what this polling data reveals. Although 50 percent of Americans say they trust Romney to handle the economy (7 points higher than Obama) a majority don’t believe the economy would actually improve under Romney. To this point, Ann Romney made several bold assertions:
This is the man who will wake up every day with the determination to solve the problems that others say can't be solved, to fix what others say is beyond repair. This is the man who will work harder than anyone so that we can work a little less hard...
I can't tell you what will happen over the next four years. But I can only stand here tonight, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an American, and make you this solemn commitment:
This man will not fail.
This man will not let us down.
This man will lift up America!
Forty years ago, the United States locked up fewer than 200 of every 100,000 Americans. Then President Nixon declared war on drugs. Now we lock up more of our people than any other country—more even than the authoritarian regimes in Russia and China.
A war on drugs is a war on the American people. And that, writes John Stossel, is unworthy of a country that claims to be free.View this article