Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2012 September 29-31

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Video: Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore on the 2012 Election

"Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore on the 2012 Election" is the latest offering from Reason TV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more Reason TV clips

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If Romney's Losing, Why Do the Media Act Like He's Already the President?

At Breitbart.com, Joel B. Pollak makes a powerful case that the media have "treated [Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney as the incumbent," in the process overlooking any responsibility President Obama may have for the current state of the country. 

Some of Pollak's claims are pretty dubious. Unless spending more on Medicare somehow saves us money, it's hard to see how Romney "took on the entitlements crisis head-on." Ditto the howler that Romney has a "practical plan for the housing crisis," given that Romney is not proposing that the government stop printing/spending money, leave deadbeats to get out of their borrowed homes and allow real estate values to continue the long-overdue decline that began in 2006 and needs to continue. (The word is practical, not practicable.) And come on: Romney "set aside time to visit victims of Hurricane Isaac"? If anything we need presidents who will do a lot less of that stuff. 

Still, his media critique is on target: 

Romney’s so-called “gaffes” have one thing in common: they are all statements of fact. He is being held to a presidential standard--for presidents should know better than to tell all--while Obama’s outright lies to the nation (on Libya, the debt, etc.) are ignored by the media.

Obama’s failures as the actual incumbent are also passed over--or spun into positives. We reached 2,000 dead in Afghanistan? Hey, Obama “ended the war.” Unemployment still above 8 percent? Oh, that jobs report was “better than expected.” We were attacked by Al Qaeda on 9/11, and Obama lied about it? Don’t worry, “bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” Growth down to 1.3%? Say--“No one could have done it better.” 

That last canard came to us courtesy of former President Bill Clinton, who returned to the political scene to disown his own political legacy after Obama had spent the past four years destroying it, and his entire political career fighting it. The expansion of the welfare state, the proliferation of opaque regulations, and the explosion of debt were all things Clinton resisted. No longer--not when 2016 may be a new opportunity for Hillary.

Romney is also the incumbent in a cultural sense--he is the old, rich, white guy that 45 years of higher education and Hollywood have inveighed against. He has a stake in the system and values that two successive generations of elites have been taught to hate. And so an election that ought to have been a referendum on Obama, and which Obama hoped to turn into a choice between him and Romney, is now a referendum on Romney alone. 

I am unyielding in my belief that this election pits Obama against Obama Jr. Given the chance to run against a president whose most lasting offense against the country was signing a mandatory health insurance law, the Republicans chose to run the inventor of mandatory health insurance. It's like an old Syrian election, where the obvious lack of a choice is the point of the election, where the real goal is to show that power can force the citizens not just to accept preposterousness but to cheer for it. 

"A loss for Romney means Obamacare is forever," Pollak warns, neglecting to say what a win for Romney would mean along that line. His description of what a second Obama term will ratify is mostly depressing: "A Romney loss also means America will have accepted persistent high unemployment and slow growth as the new normal, creating a lost generation and destroying both our entitlement system and our future prosperity." 

That's true, and it sucks. But what really sucks is that the Republican option is Mitt Romney. Certainly the media have been relentless in their anti-Romney carping and their extraordinary deference to Obama's gang that can't shoot (or talk, or send email) straight. That just proves that in addition to being biased, reporters are dumb enough to think there's something at stake in this election. 

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"There's something really wrong with what's happening in Afghanistan now”; How Do You Ask Someone to be the Last Person to Die For a Mistake?

The Tampa Bay Times had an in-depth profile this weekend of a local soldier killed in Afghanistan.  Staff Sergeant Matthew Sitton had actually written a letter to his congressman about the war in which he’d been fighting since 2007, which bookends the profile:

On June 4, Sitton had written a letter to U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. In it, he explained to the Republican legislator that for weeks his platoon had been mandated to patrol empty fields and compounds strewn with explosives. The missions, he wrote, served no purpose. Soldiers were losing arms and legs every day. He had objected, but no one had listened...

Earlier this month in Washington, one of Congressman Young's staffers read aloud Sitton's letter in a congressional hearing where Young announced that after a decade of war, he thought it was time for America to leave Afghanistan.

Since then, Young said, four Republican congressmen also publicly announced they want the United States to pull out. He said more than 25 others have privately told him the same.

The ultimate impact of Sitton's death on the war and this nation's politics is still unknown. Congress is on break until mid November, but Young is convinced that Sitton's story will resonate for months to come.

"There's something really wrong," he said, "with what's happening in Afghanistan now."

Matthew Sitton was the 2,056th American soldier killed there. In the two months since, 50 more have died.

Eleven years into the war in Afghanistan, the issue seems nary a blip on the campaign trail.

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Tim Cavanaugh Reviews David Talbot’s Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch is Salon founder David Talbot’s “bloody valentine” to San Francisco, covering the years from 1967 to 1982. Like many who have fallen for the City by the Bay’s charms, Talbot remembers what a paradise the place seemed at first and wonders where it all went wrong. He argues plausibly that this particular decade-and-a-half was one of the hairiest, scariest, Dirty Harry–est periods in the long and often grim history of American cities.

It is a story of a god that failed, writes Tim Cavanaugh in his review, and the god is progressive utopianism. Talbot is relentlessly progressive, but he embraces the dystopia with gusto, even when that means resorting to right-wing fire and brimstone. As you read, it becomes clear that the witch of the title is not just a throwaway journalistic cliché. Talbot uses demonological terms throughout, referring to the work of “Lucifer” in a chapter title and throughout the text. He calls HIV/AIDS a “demon virus” and joins in the tabloid/populist outrage at the violent crime that engulfed the city in the ’70s. And this being San Francisco, Cavanaugh observes, the outrage in most cases must be directed at career leftists.

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Video: Barron's Gene Epstein on Dodd-Frank

"Too Big To Regulate: Barron's Gene Epstein on Dodd-Frank" is the latest offering from Reason TV.

Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more Reason TV clips.

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Paperwork: Sharif Matar's Excellent Short Film for the Collaboration Challenge

Reason TV's own Sharif Matar took part in the 2012 Collaboration Filmmakers Challenge, which you may recall we were thumping the tub for earlier this year. His movie Paperwork, clocking in at a brisk five and a half minutes, is now playing at a computer, phone or tablet near you. 

The Challenge asked filmmakers to make a short in two weeks based on a quote from P.J. O'Rourke: "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences."

Paperwork features a tight story with a minimum of chatter, inventive visuals and a strong lead performance by Andy Forrest. It got runner-up honors from the judges and honorable mention from the audience. I would argue that, in terms of technique, storytelling and indirectly engaging the theme, it's better and more entertaining than the movie that won the contest. But I will not debate the profound wisdom of a celebrity jury that included Reason.com movie critic Kurt Loder at these proceedings. Also the winning movie had a clown and a gorilla. In any event, Paperwork is pretty great. 

Check it out. Send it to your friends: 


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Sheldon Richman on the Foreign Policy Hubris of Romney and Obama

Mitt Romney, whose bid to unseat Barack Obama looks more desperate every day, senses he’s found a weakness in his rival. In a foreign-policy speech the other day, he blasted Obama over the upheaval in the Arab world, saying, “This is a time for a president who will shape events in the Middle East.” Romney is making two claims: that Obama has failed to shape events in the Middle East and that he, Romney, will succeed. Could the hubris of a man seeking power be plainer? Does anyone with even a minimum ability to think clearly believe that Romney could “shape events” there?

It is no surprise that power attracts the sort of unsavory people who see themselves as qualified to wield it, writes Sheldon Richman. In a different context Adam Smith wrote that power “would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. “

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Ed Krayewski on Obama’s Dismal Record on Foreign Affairs

In 2009, President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As he himself admitted, the honor wasn’t bestowed on him for much he had yet done, but for what he was expected to do. As a candidate Obama got a lot of grief for promising in his nomination acceptance speech that his presidency would be the moment when the rise of the oceans would slow and the Earth would begin to heal, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee didn’t help by pinning an award on him based on expected ”extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Nearly three years later, writes Ed Krayewski, the fruits of any strengthened international diplomacy or cooperation between peoples are bitter, if they exist at all. In accepting his party's presidential nomination this time around, Obama focused on how long and hard the journey would be, not on the healing at the end of that journey, and less than 40 days from the election the world looks like it is crashing down around him.

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Reason Writers at the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews Looper

Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews Rian Johnson's time-travel action thriller, Looper, in The Washington Times:

In an age of one-note — and no-note — action films, “Looper” is a rarity: a slick, neatly conceived high-concept thriller with a few too many interesting ideas.

That’s a pleasure for moviegoers looking for a slightly unusual conceptual mashup. But it also turns out to be a problem when the film doesn’t quite know what to do with all the ideas it has.

“Looper” begins in an economically depressed near-future world in which extreme wealth exists next to serious poverty. Major cities are overrun with vagrancy. Telekinetic mutations have developed in much of the population, but few can manage to do more than levitate a quarter.

Time-travel is on the horizon, but it won’t be invented for another 30 years. The organized criminals of the future, however, have decided that the easiest way to do their dirty work is to send it to the past: Anyone the future mob wants to off is sent back in time to be blasted at close range by a looper, who is paid handsomely to execute and dispose of unwanted future persons.

Sometimes those persons turn out to be former loopers who are sent back to be executed by their younger selves. The “loop is closed,” and the looper gets a big retirement payday — free to do what he wants with his life, at least until the day comes when he’s sent back to be murdered by his younger self.

That’s exactly what happens to Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper who one day finds himself staring down an older version of himself (Bruce Willis) who does not intend to die at the hands of his past.

Read the complete review.

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Baylen Linnekin on the Latest Misguided Attack on Sugary Drinks

There may be no more contested food policy issue today than whether sugar-sweetened drinks like soda have expanded America’s waistlines—and whether government has the authority to limit access to these drinks if they’re found to be a culprit. But as Baylen Linnekin argues, even if sugar-sweetened drinks turn out to be virtually everything their opponents claim, people still have a right to buy and drink these beverages. After all, we don’t have a right to free speech or to travel from one state to another because speech or travel has been proven by the scientific community to promote good health.

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