Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2012 November 1-31

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Guns and the Election: Still Not a Big Deal

In what is really the most glorious possible outcome in this post-Heller and post-McDonald world, guns and the Second Amendment continued to be something of little import in national elections yesterday.

Despite gun-rightsers fears of Obama I expect this will continue to be the case. (No point giving the GOP base a really good reason to get out and vote for them.)

Some in the American gun rights world are very alarmed that the administration today voted for more debate on a proposed United Nations' Arms Control Treaty, a debate that will resume in March. But I don't think they have any reason to believe such a treaty, if ever completed and enacted, will impact domestic gun owner rights.

David Kopel at Volokh.com does sum up his sense of how the cause of gun rights fared during yesterday's vote. He sees a net 1.5 plus with Ted Cruz now in the Senate from Texas (his experience as Texas solicitor general gave him great pro-Second Amendment knowledge and cred) and a net 12.5 loss in the House in terms of strong Second Amendment support.

Still, I don't expect legislating on guns to be a part of Congress's agenda in the near future anyway, despite this year's string of high-profile mass shootings. Gun control is blessedly for now a largely dead issue in American national politics.

At his Arms and the Law blog, gun scholar David Hardy celebrates something that happened in Louisiana this week: 

Louisiana has become the first State with a constitutional provision mandating strict scrutiny in reviewing the constitutionality of gun laws. With "shall-issue" having succeeded everywhere it's likely to, and some places where it wasn't likely, this may be the next wave.

Eugene Volokh wonders what Louisiana laws might fall with this new standard in place:

1. The New Orleans ban on stun guns should, I think, be especially clearly unconstitutional.

2. The denial of concealed gun carry permits to 18-to-20-year-olds ought to be particularly vulnerable as well. The recent NRA v. BATF (2d Cir. Oct. 25, 2012) held that the federal ban on dealer sales of handguns to 18-to-20-year-olds doesn’t violate the Second Amendment, and the Court said in dictum in D.C. v. Heller that concealed carry restrictions generally don’t violate the Second Amendment. But the more specific language of the Louisiana provision, coupled with the deletion of the concealed carry exception, might well make a difference.

From March, earlier blogging from me on the significance of scrutiny standards in evolving Second Amendment jurisprudence.

My book, Gun Control on Trial.

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The World Responds to Obama's Re-election

The world has been reacting to Barack Obama’s re-election. Here is a sampling of how some around the world are feeling:

  • The Australian Sydney Morning Herald told its readers to “Breathe a sigh of relief”, saying that Obama’s interest in the region is in contrast to the interests of Romney, who would have engaged more directly in the Middle East and abandoned many important concerns in the Pacific.
  • Obama’s position on Indonesia was praised by Muslim activists. Many are relieved that Obama sees how important the most populous Muslim country in the world will be when it comes to addressing Islamic extremism. 
  • China welcomed Obama’s re-election. Had Mitt Romney been elected the rival superpower could have been labeled a currency manipulator. Many netizens congratulated the president and compared American democracy to their own government’s ways of transferring power.
  • Officials from other Asian countries offered their congratulations, many will be pushing for Obama to help curb China’s influence in his second term.
  • Indian officials welcomed the result. The emerging economic giant has benefitted from Obama’s presidency, and will seek to keep on good relations. India’s tenuous relationship with Pakistan will continue to be an important part of Indian and America diplomacy during Obama’s second term.
  • In Pakistan politicians and the media were both understandably unenthused. The official statement on behalf of the Pakistani president reads, "President Asif Ali Zardari has warmly felicitated President Barack Obama his re-election as the President of the United States of America." The newspaper Dawn had scathing words, “If there was one thing that emerged clearly from the otherwise inane presidential debate on foreign policy and the vice-presidential debate it was that there is little daylight between the positions of Obama and Mitt Romney on Afghanistan and by extension on Pakistan."

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Vid: 3 Reasons Mitt Romney and Republicans Lost Big in Election 2012

"3 Reasons Mitt Romney and Republicans Lost Big in Election 2012" is the latest 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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Marijuana Initiatives Also Thrive on the Municipal Level

Washington's and Colorado's ballot initiatives are rightfully dominating the drug war news cycle at the moment, but there were some smaller municipal battles, mostly in Michigan, to ease up on enforcement.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) has the basics on six successful marijuana-related initiatives in American cities:

Detroit, MI: Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession - Passed!
Flint, MI: Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession - Passed!
Ypsilanti, MI: Marijuana to be lowest law enforcement priority - Passed!
Grand Rapids, MI: Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession - Passed!
Kalamazoo, MI: Three medical marijuana dispensaries permitted in city - Passed! 
Burlington, VT: Recommendation that marijuana should be legalized - Passed!

You can read their comments on the significant successes at the polls last night here.

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Nate Silver Rides High, GOP Doesn't, Puerto Rico Wants To Get Serious: P.M. Links

Have a news tip for us? Send it to: 24_7@reason.com

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Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.

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Peter Suderman on Challenges to Implementing Obamacare

Since debate about health care reform began, voters have been consistently wary of the law that has become known as Obamacare; as of today, Pollster.com’s aggregate shows that 47.8 percent of the public opposes the law while just 39.2 percent approve. Yet in voting to give President Barack Obama a second term yesterday, America also implicitly voted to keep the health law that bears his name in place. So is Obamacare here to stay?

Yes, at least for now. But big questions still remain. We know we’ll keep Obamacare on the books, at least for the foreseeable future. What we don’t know, writes Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman, is whether it will work.

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Libertarians Not Ready to Make Nice with Romney and the GOP

ALBUQUERQUE – The Mitt Romney bashing started when I caught up with Gary Johnson as he was doing a walkthrough of his Election Night party Tuesday night.

“It’s just remarkable to me that this is who Republicans put up. This was cast ahead of time. All the criticism of Romney which is that he really is not conservative and then on the social side, it’s a little scary,” Johnson said.

Johnson repeated comments he made earlier in the week that he thought the Romney campaign was doomed to failure.

During the election night party, snide comments from Johnson supporters watching Romney’s early poor showing in states like North Carolina and Virginia could be overheard from my perch at the mostly empty press table.

“I can’t believe he’s losing to this guy! What a bum!”

“How do you not beat Obummer?!”

“Man, Romney is a loser!”

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Can the GOP Embrace Hispanics and Small Government at the Same Time?

The Republican coroners dissecting Mitt Romney's campaign will likely submit competing diagnoses for what ultimately did him in, but at this point many of them seem to agree that the GOP's refusal to court Hispanics is a top contender.  

"If we don't do better with Hispanics we're going to be out of the White House forever," said Republican strategist Ana Navarro as the networks were projecting Romney's loss. This morning, the Wall Street Journal chided Romney for "failing to appeal more creatively to minority voters," and concluded that "The GOP needs to leave its anti-immigration absolutists behind.”

Obama would have lost if the Hispanic vote had been split evenly (as opposed to 75-23 in Obama's favor), and that's going to be the case in every election going forward. As John Zogby notes, "the white percentage of the vote will only continue to decline with each new election."

In the wake of last night's loss, Republican Senator, Romney surrogate, and Hispanic person Marco Rubio proposed a vague idea:

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California Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Saner Sentences

Yesterday Proposition 36, which reforms California's draconian "three strikes" law, won by a margin of more than 2 to 1: 69 percent for, 31 percent against. By contrast, a previous attempt at reform, Proposition 66, fell three points short of a majority in 2004. The huge turnaround seems to vindicate the strategy pursued by Proposition 36's backers, who narrowed the measure's focus, added safeguards aimed at reassuring wary voters, emphasized the taxpayer savings resulting from shorter sentences, and lined up endorsements from prominent law enforcement officials such as Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley. But the shift may reflect other factors as well, including California's fiscal crisis, a prison overcrowding problem so severe that the federal courts have deemed it a violation of the Eighth Amendment, and a growing realization, among conservatives as well as progressives and moderates, that the impulse to crack down ever harder on crime consumes scarce resources without improving public safety. That understanding has led to sentencing reform even in states, such as Texas and South Carolina, that are not known for coddling criminals.

About a third of the 9,000 or so prisoners serving life sentences under California's three-strikes statute will be eligible for resentencing thanks to Proposition 36, which requires that all three strikes, not just the first two, be "serious or violent" crimes. Until now the third strike could be any felony, including "wobbler" offenses that are often charged as misdemeanors. The upshot was that someone who had already served time for two different burglaries could go to prison for the rest of his life after being caught with stolen property or even a bag of marijuana. "There's a shocking number of people whose third strike is simple possession," says Stanford law professor Michael Romano, who co-authored the initiative. 

Looking forward, there is a strong case for further reform, including reclassification of burglaries that do not involve a risk of violence, which probably stands a better chance of passing than it did eight years ago. Frugality may accomplish what compassion could not.

Reason TV on Proposition 36:

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Charter Schools, Teachers Unions Both End Up Winners at the Polls

Californians swallowed Gov. Jerry Brown’s extortion scheme tax measure Tuesday, handing him a 54 to 46 percent win on Proposition 30. The proposition increases income tax on earners over $250,000 a year for seven years and sales tax on everybody by a quarter of a cent for four years.

It’s a win for the teachers unions because the revenue will temporarily deflect the state and school districts from having to face the hard task of addressing the growing public employee pension crisis. The money from the measure is earmarked for schools (though this doesn’t stop the state legislature from cutting education money elsewhere, so the earmark doesn’t mean much).

Whether the proposition’s passage is kicking the can down the road or off a fiscal cliff remains to be seen. The ballot measure is projected to bring in $6 billion in revenue. The problem, though, is that the state hasn’t exactly done well with projecting revenue. In May, Bloomberg reported the state’s income tax revenues for the year were $3.1 billion less than projected. And that was right before the state revealed its deficit to be around $16 billion, not $9 billion as had been reported.

(Also, I was wrong, and am very confused about it, predicting Brown would get hammered over high-speed-rail spending in ads leading up to the election. I heard nary a peep about it and have no idea why.)

In Idaho, teachers unions chalked up another victory, using the referendum process to block the implementation of legislation that required teacher evaluations to measure student performance, eliminated tenure, restricted collective bargaining and introduced merit bonuses, among many other changes. One of the bills also gave all students laptops and mandated students take two semester-long online courses to graduate.

It is perhaps possible the Idaho legislature tried to tackle too much in one session. That’s a lot of power-shifting to convince parents to accept. A very similar education reform referendum in South Dakota also failed badly.

But voters also seem inclined to want to give parents alternatives to those pension-hoarding, responsibility-dodging public educators. In Georgia, voters handily approved Measure 1, which gives the state the authority to overrule school districts and allow the creation of charter schools. As charter school lovers (and haters) know, school districts (and unionized educators) have a stake in blocking charter school approval because the money follows the students. So even when the state has a mechanism for creating charter schools, the veto power often given to districts can be used to shut them down. In Georgia, rejected school districts will be able to petition the state for approval.

In Washington State, a proposition to allow the creation of 40 charter schools (they currently have none) is narrowly winning, but there’s still quite a few votes to count according to the Washington Secretary of State’s results site.  This is the fourth time the state has voted on allowing charter schools. They’re one of only eight states that still do not allow them.

Cathy Young on "The End of Men"

Hannah Rosin's The End of Men argues that a "new American matriarchy" is emerging in our homes. Cathy Young reports that the book has many flaws, from factual inaccuracies to missing perspectives. And yet it is worth reading, both for its reportage and for its insights, even if you'll want to take some of the author's statements with a grain of salt.

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Did Libertarians Cost The GOP a Montana Senate Seat?

Even a Ron Paul-endorsed Republican Senate candidate couldn't win the hearts of Libertarian Party voters in Montana. Danny Rehberg lost in a squeaker (not called til this morning) against incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, while Libertarian Dan Cox got 5 percent.

This was after Tester supporters ran ads specifically trying to get Republicans to shave off for the Libertarian by stressing Rehberg's support of a law that would give Department of Homeland Security increased power of federal surveillance of federal land.

Nothing in this is meant to endorse the presumption that the Republicans, even one Ron Paul likes, "deserve" libertarian votes, or even that a libertarian leaner would clearly have gone for that Republican absent a Libertarian choice. But what that result, and Gary Johnson's national record in raw votes for a Libertarian presidential candidate (though less than half the number of Republican primary voters for Ron Paul in 2012), show is that the Republican Party will continue losing the votes of America's growing libertarian contingent unless it begins to live up on both the national and state level consistently to the small-government, fiscal-conservative part of their message.

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Presidents Usually Have Lousy Second Terms, They Also Don’t Win With Unemployment This High

hang on it's gonna be a bumpy rideTimeIt’s bound to come up that while incumbents have an advantage on election day, second terms are awful. George W. Bush’s second term will come up (though his third one was better!), Bill Clinton’s impeachment, Iran-Contra, Nixon's resignation, and Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam collapse. That sums up a half century of second term presidents. Dwight Eisenhower’s second term was okay. It started 56 years ago, and he won re-election with unemployment at 3 percent. In the last hundred years, only Obama and Franklin Roosevelt have won with the unemployment rate above 7.2 percent; FDR had a good enough second term to win two more elections (and isn’t that what matters?) Roosevelt, of course, presided over/aggravated the Great Depression.

Meanwhile, the stock market took a dive today

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Election Night as It Should Have Been: Spanking, Punching, Motown, Dinosaurs

Here's your obligatory take on U.S. Election Night as seen through the eyes of a deranged Taiwanese animator. Featuring special guest avatars of New York Times blogger Nate Silver, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, and armless Uncle Sam.

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Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia in Bloomberg On the Doomed Union Initiaitve in Michigan

Unions went for broke in Michigan and they lost big time.

Michigan voters soundly defeated 58-42% Proposal 2 -- aka Protect Our Jobs -- a measure that would have given public-sector unions a potent tool to challenge any law -- past, present or future -- limiting their benefits and powers. It would also have permanently barred Michigan from becoming a right-to-work state where payment of dues is no longer required as a condition of employment in unionized companies.

Will this defeat now open the right-to-work floodgates?

Go here to find out.

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How Legal Will Pot Be in Colorado and How Soon?

Amendment 64, the marijuana legalization initiative that Colorado voters approved yesterday, must be signed into law within 30 days by Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has indicated he will do so. At that point people 21 or older will no longer be arrested or prosecuted under state law for possessing up to an ounce, growing up to six plants, or transferring up to an ounce "without remuneration" to other people who are at least 21. But implementation of a state-licensed commercial distribution system will take another year or so. The Colorado Department of Revenue, which currently regulates the state's medical marijuana dispensaries, is tasked with writing regulations for pot stores by next July. The new law requires the department to begin processing license applications by October and to start issuing licenses by January 2014. “We say the licenses can be issued as soon as October 2013," says Brian Vicente, co-director of the Yes on 64 campaign. "Given the way government runs, we say they must be issued by January 2014. Our best guess is that it's 2014 when these stores will be opening up."

As with medical marijuana dispensaries, the new stores will be licensed not only by the state but also by local governments, which will have the authority to ban cannabis businesses within their boundaries—by a city council vote at any point or by ballot initiative in even-numbered years. "Probably the only retail marijuana shops will be pre-existing dispensaries that decide to opt in to this new system," Vicente says. "What we've found is that communities across Colorado, the ones that have not banned dispensaries, have strictly regulated these medical marijuana stores....I don't think they're going to expand the zoning. In fact, I think the pre-existing dispensaries stand to benefit from opting in to this system in 2014."

Amendment 64's rules for marijuana stores are considerably less detailed than the ones laid out in Intiative 502, the legalization measure approved by Washington voters yesterday—which, among other things, forbids consumption on the premises. Colorado's law, like Washington's, prohibits "public" consumption. But might the Department of Revenue decide to approve more-discreet versions of Amsterdam's cannabis cafés? "That is a possibility," Vicente says. "We don’t think the Department of Revenue initially will head down the road of allowing consumption in private clubs. Really this was drafted to allow retail stores and allow individuals to use marijuana privately in their homes."

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John Stossel on Natural Disasters and the Case for Big Government

Federal emergency management fails, writes John Stossel. After Hurricane Hugo, Sen. Ernest Hollins called FEMA "bureaucratic jackasses that should just get the hell out of the way."

So politicians promised they'd improve FEMA. But three years later, after Hurricane Andrew, Sen. Barbara Mikulski said, "Government's response to Andrew was seen by many hurricane victims as a disaster itself."

Again, the bureaucrats said they'd fix it. Then came Katrina. Almost 2,000 people died.

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New Jersey Approves $750 Million in New Borrowing, Pension Reform for Judges

Voting in New Jersey via e-mail apparently runs through Friday, but there aren’t any close races left. The reliably Democratic state sent a delegation back to Congress that looks a lot like the last one. There were two ballot questions up for storm-struck residents; borrowing $750 million to fund construction at public and private colleges in the state (question 1), and changing the Constitution to allow lawmakers to force judges to contribute into their own pensions (question 2). Question 2 was spurred by the state Supreme Court earlier this year ruling lawmakers’ attempt to reform their benefits package unconstitutional.  Judges were barred from campaigning on the issue, and the amendment passed with by a more than four-to-one margin. It was supported by Chris Christie and both Democratic and Republican legislators, so its passage is no surprise. Yet despite the state facing a fiscal emergency, borrowing money to help fuel the rise in tuition costs came as no surprise either. The $750 million in new borrowing, which passed with more than 60 percent of the vote, was backed by Christie and lawmakers from both parties.

Disclosure: I voted no on 1 and yes on 2

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Success, Libertarian Party-Style (Or, the Glory of Low Expectations)

If you scripted Gary Johnson's character in a movie, critics would roll their eyes and advise you to tone it down. A self-made millionaire who serves two terms as a popular state governor and climbs Mount Everest before running for president is a bit much. But he's a real character, and very arguably, was the best qualified candidate in yesterday's presidential election, running, as he was, against a Democratic incumbent who had never held a real job and had all of one unfinished term in the Senate under his belt before putting in four truly unimpressive years in the White House, and a wishy-washy, one-term governor Republican challenger. For his efforts, Johnson pulled in, according to Google's election coverage, 1,139,562 votes and just one percent of the vote. Those are the most total votes every gained by a Libertarian presidential candidate, and a hair under Ed Clark's 1.1 percent in 1980.

Yay, Libertarian Party.

There are all sorts of reasons why an impressive candidate like Johnson wasn't treated as a serious contender by the media and the voting public, and while none of them reflect well on the United States and its denizens, they remain facts of life. Yes, the Democrats and Republicans have gamed the political system to exclude competitors; yes, the main media outlets have drunk the establishment Kool-Aid and largely do their best to marginalize anybody who doesn't have a D or R by their name; and yes, the public has allowed itself to be brow-beaten into treating two private organizations as permanent, institutional representations of legitimate political expression. All true. But that's the way it is. Occasionally, some eccentric Ross Perot-ish candidate can bypass those barriers with sufficiently large checks, and eventually, one or both of the current major parties will implode, but for now we have what we have.

The question, once again, is: Are libertarians best-advised to continue expending time, sweat and tears on a political effort that seems doomed to batter its head against a closed system? I'm not necessarily saying "no." Frankly, I don't see a welcoming home in either the Republican Party of Todd Akin or the Democratic Party of Elizabeth Warren. But if a Gary Johnson can't be taken seriously, it's difficult to imagine the Libertarian Party gaining any traction short of a massive social disruption in this country. And, while both Republican and Democrats seem dead-set on ensuring that an economic catastrophe occcurs sooner rather than later, that's an unpromising hook on which to hang your hopes.

Given the closed, kabuki-theater nature of American politics, in which the state seems to ever-metastasize no matter which party claims momentary favor, I think a strong case can be made that running or supporting candidates for office is entirely a dead end. Ballot initiatives certainly look more promising, as do lawsuits. Much can also be said for working on technologies, like encryption, that help to put areas of life beyond the state's reach. Or supporting organizations, like Wikileaks, that can short-circuit policies and humiliate officials.

This isn't a new discussion, but it's one that we need to keep having.

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Gary Johnson Concedes

ALBUQUERQUE – A tired and defiant Gary Johnson delivered a concession speech to supporters shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday night, whacking the major parties and hinting at a 2016 run in the process.

"A wasted vote is voting for somebody you don’t believe in and there were a lot of wasted votes tonight. There were more wasted votes tonight than I’ve ever seen,” said Johnson.

The Libertarian nominee took pot shots, again, at the idea that he played the role of spoiler in the 2012 election.

“We all should be proud of ourselves because over the next four years none of us are gonna have to say we are responsible for this. I didn’t vote for either one of ‘em, I voted for Gary Johnson,” he said.

All night long, Johnson staffers, including campaign manager Ron Nielson and communications director Joe Hunter, were pestering the press corps about the latest returns. The Johnson campaign did not have a war room for return watching so they set up their own spot at the very sparsely populated press table. Early on when Johnson was hovering around .4-.6 percent of the vote the Johnson campaign kept saying that their numbers would take off in the western portion of the country. They were right.

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Eminent Domain Abuse in Holyoke, Massachusetts

Officials in Holyoke, Massachusetts, a city of 39,880 that is 90 miles west of Boston, are gearing up for eminent domain abuse. At a public hearing Monday, planners told residents about plans to attract private development to four neighborhoods that are “decadent”—a designation that allows the city to seize property from unwilling sellers for private projects “as a last resort.”

Via The Republican:

The full City Council in the next few weeks is scheduled to vote on the plan, which officials said is intended to spur private investment to help in revitalizing the Flats, South Holyoke, Churchill and Prospect Heights-Downtown neighborhoods.

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority and staff of the Office of Planning and Economic Development prepared the plan: “Connect. Construct. Create. – A plan to revitalize Center City Holyoke."

The urban renewal plan calls for the acquisition of 74 properties in the 749-acre project area, which sits next to the Connecticut River. Many of those parcels are vacant lots or vacant buildings, but homes and businesses are included as well. Of course, all 1,664 private properties in the project area will be under the cloud of condemnation for the life span of the plan, which can be decades.

The consultant that prepared the blight study (and the urban renewal plan itself), finds that the area is “decadent” because of substandard public infrastructure, “irregular lot sizes,” the presence of vacant lots that lack “curb appeal,” and old buildings—fully 50 percent of the buildings are over 100 years old. Moreover, there is an appalling “diversity of ownership” among the thousands of private properties, some of which are small and, therefore, a serious “constraint to attracting new private development.”

The Holyoke Redevelopment Authority has released an insipid inspirational video about the plan. A quote from senior planner Karen Mendrala:

The changes that are included in the urban renewal plan and in our blueprint of where we want to go include everything from making sidewalks better, making them safer to walk on for all people with strollers, people with disabilities, and to make bike lanes, to include all sorts of road improvements, addressing vacant buildings and either rehabbing them or getting rid of them if they are beyond repair, a whole bunch of different actions that will make Holyoke a better place…. Holyoke needs to change to a future beyond the dream.

Massachusetts is one of six states that did not pass any eminent domain reform in the wake of Kelo v. New London, where the Supreme Court held that seizing property for private development is a public use.

Check out the archive for more Reason coverage of eminent domain abuse.

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Thinly Disguised Measure to Restrict Political Freedom Fails, Better Disguised Measure to Restrict Sexual Freedom Passes

YOU'RE VOTING FOR JOHN WILKES BOOTH? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER ARE YOU?Amid the other good news on the ballot initiative front -- victories for legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, for nullifying the insurance mandate in Montana and Alabama, for eminent domain reform in Virginia, for gay marriage in Maryland and Maine and Washington again -- I'm happy to report that Proposition 32 went down in California. The measure would have prevented unions and businesses from donating to candidates, a sweeping restriction that raises significant First Amendment questions and was in itself enough to set me against the law. Nor do I share some libertarians' enthusiasm for the "paycheck protection" portion of the proposition, which would have barred unions -- private-sector as well as public-sector -- from spending a member's dues on politics without the worker's explicit permission. It should not be the government's role to manage how an independent organization directs its dues. (Yes, I know: Unions are not always independent of the state in practice. As with those corporations that are not independent of the state in practice, it is better to remove the laws that entangle them with the government than to add a new layer of regulation.)

On the other hand, I wasn't happy to see Proposition 35 pass in the same state. This was pitched as a "protection" too -- specifically, as a way to protect people from coerced prostitution -- but in fact it casts a much wider net. As Melissa Gira Grant writes, the law means that

anyone involved in the sex trade could potentially be viewed as being involved in trafficking, and could face all of the criminal penalties associated with this redefinition of who is involved in "trafficking," which include fines of between $500,000 and $1 million and prison sentences ranging from five years to life. This is in addition to having to register as a sex offender, and surrender to lifelong internet monitoring: that is, turning over all of one's "internet identifiers," which includes "any electronic mail address, user name, screen name, or similar identifier used for the purpose of Internet forum discussions, Internet chat room discussion, instant messaging, social networking, or similar Internet communication."...

If passed, Proposition 35 could also require anyone in California convicted of some prostitution-related offenses as far back as 1944 to also register as a sex offender and submit to lifelong internet monitoring. This is what drove Naomi Akers, the Executive Director of St. James Infirmary, an occupational health and safety clinic run by and for sex workers in San Francisco, to come out hard against the bill.

Next time you want to protect prostitutes, don't forget to protect them from the government.

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A. Barton Hinkle on Opponents of Virginia's Eminent Domain Initiative

The closing days of the election gave Virginia voters a rare treat says: multiple voices warning them not to protect their own constitutional rights too much.

You see attacks on constitutional rights all the time says A. Barton Hinkle. During the Bush years conservatives denounced the Supreme Court for recognizing the habeas corpus rights of alleged enemy combatants. Liberals routinely demand tougher gun control. But in those cases the real argument is that certain people—terrorists, gun owners—are claiming rights they do not actually have.

In Virginia, the argument against ballot Question 1—a measure amending the state constitution to restrict government takings of private property—was considerably different. Those opposing it universally agreed individuals have a right to property. They just didn't like the amendment protecting that right.

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DEA Responds to Legal Weed in Colorado and Washington: "Enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged"

Despite the passage of ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado legalizing recreational marijuana, "the Drug Enforcement Administration’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged," a DEA spokesperson told Reason this morning.

"In enacting  the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. The Department of Justice is reviewing the ballot initiatives and we have no additional comment at this time."

The DOJ released a similarly opaque response to reporter CJ Ciaramella of the Washington Free Beacon. "The Department's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.  In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. We are reviewing the ballot initiatives and have no additional comment at this time."

While there's "no comment at this time," Deputy Attorney General James Cole hinted last month at what the Obama administration's response might be.

"Each case is going to rise and fall on its own unique facts," Cole said in a 60 Minutes interview. "Any of that is still in violation of the Controlled Substances Act of the federal law. We're not interested in bothering people who are sick and are using it in the recommendation of a doctor. We are concerned with people who are using it as a pretext to become large-scale drug dealers."

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, an opponent of Amendment 64, had this to say late last night: “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”

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Global Temperature Trend Update: October 2012

Every month University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer report the latest global temperature trends from satellite data. Below are the newest data updated through October, 2012.

Global climate trend since Nov. 16, 1978: +0.14 C per decade

October temperatures (preliminary)

Global composite temp.: +0.33 C (about 0.59 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for October.

Northern Hemisphere: +0.30 C (about 0.54 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for October.

Southern Hemisphere: +0.36 C (about 0.65 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for October.

Tropics: +0.11 C (about 0.20 degrees Fahrenheit) above 30-year average for October.

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Science Wins in California - Proposition 37 Fails

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting this morning that Proposition 37 that - on specious "right-to-know" grounds - would have required labeling foods containing ingredients from biotech enhanced crops has failed. In a vote for sanity and science, 55 percent of California voters rejected the measure. From the Chronicle:

Supporters of Proposition 37 said consumers have a right to know whether food has been genetically altered, particularly when the long-term health impacts are unclear. Opponents argued that the labels would stigmatize foods that are scientifically proven to be safe.

With more than 94 percent the precincts reporting, voters rejected the proposed labeling law. California would have been the first state in the nation to pass such an initiative.

"We said from the beginning that the more voters learned about Prop. 37, the less they would like it," said Kathy Fairbanks, a spokeswoman for the opposition. "We didn't think they would like the lawsuits, more bureaucracy, higher costs, loopholes and exemptions. It looks like they don't."

The measure calls for genetically engineered foods to include labels on either the front or back of the product. Whole foods, such as sweet corn and salmon, would have a sign on the shelf. Products such as alcohol, beef, eggs and dairy are exempt.

With regard to the scientific evidence for the safety of biotech crops, in my column,"California Initiative Puts Profit Ahead of Science," I reported:

At its annual meeting in June, the American Medical Association endorsed a report on the labeling of bioengineered foods from its Council on Science and Public Health. The report found that, “Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.” The AMA report further noted, “Despite strong consumer interest in mandatory labeling of bioengineered foods, the FDA’s science-based labeling policies do not support special labeling without evidence of material differences between bioengineered foods and their traditional counterparts. The Council supports this science-based approach….” Every independent scientific body that has ever evaluated the safety of current biotech crop varieties has found them to be as safe or even safer than conventional crop varieties.

Chalk one up for science over superstitition.

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A.M. Links: Obama Reelected, Republicans Keep House, Democrats Hold Senate, LP Has Best Showing Since 1980, WA and CO Legalize Pot, California Keeps Death Penalty.

  • Republicans kept the House and Democrats still hold the Senate, despite many changes. Republicans celebrated the successes of candidates such as Thomas Massie, who won Kentucky’s 4th Congressional seat, and mourned the loss of incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, who lost to Elizabeth Warren
  • The Libertarian Party had its best result since 1980, with Gary Johnson winning one percent of the popular vote. 
  • Voters in Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for adult possession. Now we just have to wait and see what the DEA does. 


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Don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily AM/PM updates for more content.

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Eminent Domain Reform Referendum Wins Big in Virginia

Great election news out of the Old Dominion last night, where Question 1, the eminent domain reform referendum that sought to amend the Virginia state constitution to prevent Kelo-style land seizures where “the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development,” won an overwhelming victory. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Question 1 prevailed with an impressive 74.64 percent of the vote. That’s great news for property owners and a nice rebuke to overreaching state officials and their crony capitalist allies.

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Jacob Sullum on How a Sensitive Dog Is an Evidence-Impaired Cop's Best Friend

When your dog sits, you may have nothing to show for it. But when police dogs sit, they accomplish something important for their handlers, signaling the presence of illegal drugs and justifying searches that would otherwise be prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. Jacob Sullum says two cases the Supreme Court heard last week offer an opportunity to impose long overdue restraints on this amazing ability to transform a cop’s hunch into probable cause.

View this article
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Video: Obama Wins and Nothing Changes; The Wildly Unpopular Status Quo Is Ratified!

"After four years of a crappy economy, bipartisan dissatisfaction with bailout economics, and populous revolts on the right and the left, we are seeing basically the exact same government we had on November 6th," says Reason magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch. "The status quo, which has never been less popular, has just been ratified."

And yet, says Welch, big wins on marijuana legalization and gay marriage give limited government types a lot to be happy about.

Approximately 1.45 minutes.

Shot and edited by Jim Epstein.

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Good and Bad News for Races Where Ron Paul Made Endorsements

Results in some races with candidates endorsed by Ron Paul (all Republicans) show some good news, some bad.

Of the 11 House races where Paul made an endorsement, only three Paulites were defeated, and three freshman House members will be coming into Washington in January with the Paul imprimatur: Ted Yoho of Florida, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan.

And Justin Amash of Michigan, most Paul fans' second favorite congressman, won re-election after redistricting.

On the Senate side, it was far grimmer for Paulism. Of Paul's six endorsements, only Ted Cruz of Texas won, with a second potential new senator, Danny Rehberg of Montana, embroiled in a race still too close to call. Four of Paul's favored lost. There's still Rand Paul.

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Obama's Victory Message: Get On Board

After acknowledging how "messy" and "complicated" democracy can be, the president closed his victory (campaign?) speech tonight striking a rather collectivist tone: 

"I believe we can seize this future together, because we are not as divided as our politics suggest, we're not as cynical as the pundits believe, we are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than just a collection of red states and blue states, we are and forever will be the United States of America and together with your help and God's grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live on the greatest nation on earth. God bless America."

Not as divided as 49.6 percent for Obama, 48.9 percent for Mitt Romney and 1 percent for Gary Johnson (at 2:00am ET) might seem. If there's any lesson in the election, it's to remain cynical: the national debt stands at more than $16 trillion with a fiscal cliff around the corner and a president that just gave a campaign speech on election night.

Transcript of the speech here.

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Three Groundbreaking Victories for Gay Marriage

Tonight was a good night for gay marriage as well as marijuana. Voters approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage in three states by similar margins: 53 to 47 in Maine, 52 to 48 in Maryland and Washington. In Minnesota an initiative that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage is tied right now, with 75 percent of precincts reporting.

This is the first time gay marriage has been legalized by popular vote. In the six other states where it is legal (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont), the policy was enacted by the legislature or compelled by a court decision. By contrast, most of the state laws allowing medical use of marijuana—another one of which passed tonight in Massachusetts—have been enacted by voters. (Colorado and Washington both had such laws before broadening the policy to include recreational use.) But public opinion about gay marriage has followed a trajectory similar to public opinion about marijuana legalization, breaking 50 percent support in national surveys only recently. The same dynamic seems to be at work, in which familiarity breeds tolerance instead of contempt. There is something encouraging to think about if you are depressed by the more-of-the-same national election results.

Update: With 87 percent of precincts reporting, the no votes on Minnesota's Amendment 1 have pulled ahead of the yes votes, 51 percent to 47 percent. Assuming this pattern holds, it will be only the second time a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage has been defeated. The other example is Arizona's Proposition 107 in 2006.

Update II: The Minnesota marriage ban was defeated, 51 percent to 48 percent (1 percent of voters left that part of the ballot blank). Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says, "This landmark victory is yet another example of the national momentum toward treating all families fairly. Congratulations to Minnesota for recognizing and affirming our common humanity by rejecting this unnecessary and unfair amendment."

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Gary Johnson Pulls One Million Votes, One Percent

Sad to say, the best-qualified presidential candidate in the race, this year — Gary Johnson — pulled just a bit more than one million votes and around one percent of the vote. "Best qualified" I say, since a succesful and popular two-term governor strikes me as having a better resumé than a single-term governor or a half-term senator who put in a piss-poor performance in the White House. That said, Gary Johnson has pulled the most votes in raw numbers of any Libertarian presidential candidate and, as I drain a bottle of truly mediocre shiraz, just shy of the high-water 1.1 percentage of the vote won by Ed Clark in 1980.

As I check Google's election results (far more comprehensive than any offered by the traditional media, by the way), Johnson has 1,012,617 votes, and exactly one percent of the vote. That's in contrast to Barack Obama's 52,796,274 and 49.6 percent of the vote, and Mitt Romney's 52,197,635 and 49.0 percent of the vote.

You'll note that the victor, Mr. Obama, has so far won a plurality rather than a majority. If that holds, and we can attribute it even in part to Johnson's vote total, I'd say that's a victory of its own.

Update: Unfortunately, the plurality turned into a very slight majority overnight. Team Blue members rallied sufficient numbers around their chieftain to push him over 50%.

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Barack Obama: We're Going to Finish What We Started

The last(?) e-mail of the campaign:

Edward -- 

I'm about to go speak to the crowd here in Chicago, but I wanted to thank you first.

I want you to know that this wasn't fate, and it wasn't an accident. You made this happen.

You organized yourselves block by block. You took ownership of this campaign five and ten dollars at a time. And when it wasn't easy, you pressed forward.

I will spend the rest of my presidency honoring your support, and doing what I can to finish what we started.

But I want you to take real pride, as I do, in how we got the chance in the first place.

Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.

There's a lot more work to do.

But for right now: Thank you.

Barack
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Colorado and Washington Have Legalized Marijuana. What Now?

As Mike Riggs noted earlier tonight, voters have approved marijuana legalization measures in Colorado and Washington—an unprecedented change that could help lead our country away from the unjust, cruel, and disastrous policy of using force to impose politicians' pharmacological tastes on the populace. The latest numbers show Colorado's Amendment 64 winning 53 percent of the vote, while an even larger majority, 56 percent, favored Washington's Initiative 502. What happens now?

The elimination of penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana (if you are 21 or older) takes effect right away in both states (once the governor proclaims/certifies the results, within 30 days of the election). But the provisions allowing commercial production and sale of cannabis for recreational use require regulations that will be written during the next year. The Washington Liquor Control Board has until December 1, 2013, to adopt regulations for marijuana growers, wholesalers, processors, and retailers. The deadline in Colorado, where cannabis businesses will be overseen by the state Department of Revenue, is July 1, 2013. Colorado's law, unlike Washington's, also allows home cultivation of up to six plants and nonprofit transfers of up to an ounce, so Colorado pot smokers will have an immediate state-legal source of marijuana.

How will the federal government react? Allow me to regurgitate some of what I said last week:

Marijuana will still be prohibited under federal law. But contrary to an argument made by opponents of Proposition 19, the California legalization initiative that lost by five percentage points in 2010, that does not mean the Supremacy Clause makes these measures unconstitutional. As Jonathan Caulkins and three other drug policy scholars note in their new book Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, "The Constitution does not allow the federal government either to order state governments to create any particular criminal law or to require state and local police to enforce federal criminal laws."

Even under national alcohol prohibition, which unlike the federal ban on marijuana was authorized by a constitutional amendment, states were free to go their own way. They could decline to pass their own versions of the Volstead Act (as Maryland did), repeal them (as a dozen states, including Colorado and Washington, did while the 18th Amendment was still in force), or simply refrain from prosecuting people under them (which was common in the wetter districts of the country). "The question is not whether a state could change its own laws," Caulkins et al. write. "Rather, the question is how the conflict with the continued federal prohibition would play out."

While the feds certainly can make trouble for any state that dares to legalize pot, there is a practical limit to what they can accomplish on their own. According to the FBI, there were about 750,000 marijuana arrests nationwide last year, the vast majority for possession. State and local police departments were responsible for something like 99 percent of those arrests. It simply is not feasible for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—which has about 5,500 special agents nationwide, compared to about 765,000 sworn personnel employed by state and local law enforcement agencies—to bust a significant percentage of people who grow pot for themselves and their friends (as Colorado’s initiative allows), let alone people who possess it for recreational use.

The DEA can raid state-legal pot shops, as it has done with medical marijuana dispensaries, but the number of potential targets will be considerably larger once the market officially expands to include recreational users. The Justice Department can use asset forfeiture as an intimidation tactic against landlords and threaten banks that accept deposits from pot businesses with money laundering charges. The Internal Revenue Service can make life difficult for pot sellers by disallowing their business expenses (but not, thanks to a tax law wrinkle, their "cost of goods sold," which includes the cost of buying marijuana). The feds could even threaten state regulators with prosecution for handling marijuana or facilitating the trade, although that seems less likely, since it would provoke a direct confrontation with state officials. (Washington's initiative seeks to minimize this risk by assigning the task of testing marijuana for regulatory purposes to private, state-approved laboratories.) The one thing federal drug warriors cannot do, judging from their track record even when they have the full cooperation of state and local law enforcement agencies, is suppress the business entirely.

During the next few years the feds will confront the practical limits on their powers, even as they continue to defy the constititional limits (with help from the Supreme Court). The experiments on which Colorado and Washington are embarking will be instructive for the entire country, not just in terms of drug policy, where new approaches are sorely needed, but also in terms of defining the boundary between state and federal power. No one would ever mistake Barack Obama, who broke his promise to respect state laws allowing the medical use of marijuana, for a federalist. But during his second term circumstances may compel him to step back and let a few states try a little tolerance for a change.

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Barack Obama Wins a Second Term. Now What?

At the end of election day 2012, here’s the situation in Washington, D.C.: President Barack Obama has won a second term as president. Democrats will remain in control of the Senate. Republicans will stay in control of the House. So where does that leave us? 

The fiscal cliff looms: At the beginning of next year, a slew of temporary tax cuts and spending measures will expire. If we allow this to happen as currently scheduled, the budget deficit will close significantly. But according to the Congressional Budget Office, allowing all the temporary measures to expire at once would also send the country into a second recession. Doing nothing, in other words, isn’t really an option. Yet postponing all the elements of the fiscal cliff risks perpetuating the nation’s unsustainable deficits. So far, however, legislators have deferred most discussion, preferring to wait until after the election to start figuring out what to do. Delay is no longer an option.

Entitlement spending remains unsustainable: In the long term, the biggest driver of  federal debt is the entitlements, with Medicare topping the list. Yet aside from minor payment tweaks, President Obama has proven unwilling to fundamentally rethink or reform the way the program works. Will he cut a deal with Republicans to overhaul Medicare and/or Social Security? He’s said he won’t unless Republicans agree to raise taxes on top earners — something they’ve so far refused to even consider. Which brings us to the next point...

The tax system remains a mess: Politicians in both parties pay lip service to the basic idea of tax reform, which usually involves simplifying the tax code, ditching loopholes, and reducing personal and corporate rates. Yet detailed proposals to reform the tax system are few and far between, and both campaigns have been clearer about the loopholes and deductions they wouldn’t get rid of than the ones they’d nix.

ObamaCare stays the law of the land: Whether Mitt Romney’s commitment to repealing the health care overhaul was real or not is no longer a question. Barack Obama is sure to defend his signature achievement, and so are Democrats in the Senate. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has rules its individual mandate constitutional. So is the law here to stay? Not necessarily. A handful of legal challenges, including at least one that could unravel most of the law, remain. And even if the law survives legal challenge, the practical challenges of implementation, especially in resistant red states, will be a huge challenge.

The GOP will have an internal battle for direction — and possibly a civil war: Screenplay formula requires that late in every story, protagonists hit their lowest points, and then spend a few minutes in what’s known as a “long dark night of the soul,” where the protagonist ponders what he’s learned and comes to grip with who he really is. After its second successive presidential loss, the Republican party is likely to perform a similar public soul searching, perhaps with a long-simmering public battle.

And then there’s the budget: Senate Democrats haven’t passed a real budget in over three years. They should probably get around to that.

Also on the coming (s)hit list: immigration reform, another debt ceiling fight, death by drones, and the unended wars. Four more beers years! 

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Colorado Has Legalized Recreational Use of Marijuana

President Obama's reelection means he's going to have to find a way to deal with the fact that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and Massachussets just legalized it for medical purposes.

At 11:40 p.m., with 39 percent of precincts reporting, Colorado's Amendment 64 is up 53 pecent to 47 percent; with 49 percent of precincts in, Washington's I-502 is winning at 55-45. Massachusetts has approved medical marijuana 63-37.

Oregon's Measure 80, which would legalize recreationial use, is failing 46-54; and Arkansas's medical marijuana initiative is failing 48-52.

More analysis to come tomorrow, including (hopefully) a response from the Obama administration.

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As Gary Johnson Hovers Below 1 Percent, Talk of 2016

ALBUQUERQUE—As Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson continues to hover just below 1 percent of the popular vote, talk of a possible 2016 run permeates his Election Night party.

At a packed dinner sponsored by Johnson’s 501 (c)(4) OUR American Initiative, his running mate Judge Jim Gray implored Libertarians to do everything in their power to get Johnson to run again in 2016.

“I will continue to ask people here and around the nation to help me do everything we can to convince Governor Gary Johnson to run for president of the United States as a Libertarian in 2016,” he said.

When Johnson took the podium at the dinner he explained that after the election he is going to take to the road under the banner of the OUR American Initiative, touring college campuses and doing media appearance all through 2013. Johnson campaign staffers as well as supporters have mixed things to say about a potential 2016 run but the consensus appears to be it is a course Johnson is seriously considering. Johnson hinted about it during his speech.  

“I feel flattered about doing this again in 2016. I just want you to know that when it comes to that question I think the the last thing anybody wants to hear is you’re going to run again when this election is just upon us. I think everybody is ready to throw up when you talk about politics!” said Johnson.

“We’re going to take to the road with a whole lot of momentum. Where does it end up? Who knows,” Johnson said. 

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Reason Live Tweets 2012 Election Night. Now!

This is it, folks. Election Night. We're getting a new president! (Or four more years of the old one!) And some senators. And some dog catchers! Whoo!

Settle in for snark, news, and analysis from the Reason staff. We'll be tweeting until we can't tweet anymore. 

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Get Your Election Returns Here

As you sink into a heady blend of despair and cheap booze (hint: drain cleaner makes a lousy martini), the bright-eyed and ever-alert team at Reason 24/7 will be gathering election results and posting them here. Marvel at the wondrous results delivered to you by American democracy. Thrill, as the best this country has to offer are chosen to craft the legislation by which we'll live our lives until we shuffle, more eagerly than you can currently imagine, off this mortal coil.

Sit back, and behold ...

So far. It's Indiana and Kentucky for Romney and Vermont for Obama. I know, that's a shocker.

Add West Virginia to Romney's column. That gives Romney 27 electoral votes to 3 for Obama. With a lot more to come.

CNN adds South Carolina to Romney's column, giving him 33 electoral votes to 3 for Obama.

Looks like Joe Manchin (WV) and Bernie Sanders (VT) are going back to the Senate. No surprise, either one.

Early Johnson Vote totals: NC .6% VA .8% GA .8% FL .4% SC .4% KY .9% IN 2.0% NH 2.3%

Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island projected for Obama. Romney takes Oklahoma. That's 64 electoral votes for Obama and 40 for Romney.

Georgia -- not a shocker -- goes for Romney. That 56 electoral votes for Romney to Obama's 64.

Maine's Portland Press Herald calls the Senate race for Independent Angus King.

AP calls Tennessee for Romney, swing states still too close to call. 

With 25 percent of precincts reporting in Florida, No on Question 1, which prohibits state funding for abortion, is leading by 10 percent, while No on Question 6, prohibiting enforcement of the health insurance mandate, is leading by 5 percent. Bill Nelson (D) has been projected to retain his Senate seat against a challenge from Connie Mack (R).

Massachusetts looks to pass Question 2, right to die legislation. 

CNN projects a cluster of midwestern states for Mitt Romney, and usual suspects for Obama. Which puts Mittens at 152 to 123 for Barry.

In projecting the Connecticut Senate race, Politico says, "Chris Murphy tops Linda McMahon," which is a visual image you didn't need. Nevertheless, that seat stays donkey.

CNN projects the House to stay Republican with some possible GOP pickups — and the Senate to stay Democrat, with some possible Democrat pickups.

Gay marriage, early on, looks to be passing in Maryland, but trailing in Maine.

Thomas Massie, a Rand Paul endorsee, pulls it out (projected) in Kentucky.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) has been re-elected Minnesota, seeing off GOP challenger Kurt Bills. 

Penalties on medical marijuana look to be eliminated by ballot initiative in Massachusetts, where the ayes have it by a nearly two-to-one margin with 16 percent in.

Five of Michigan's six proposals have been defeated, as of 9:32pm ET Proposal 1 is too close to call. 

Fox calls Wisconsin for Obama

Obama has won Pennsylvania as midwest continues to deliver for the President. 

CNN calls Pennsylvania for Obama. It's getting tougher for Mittens.

The AP has called the Indiana Senate race for Democrat Joe Donnelly. It was a close race, and libertarian candidate Andrew Horning is getting about 6 percent of the vote, enough to help sink Richard Mourdock's chances.

Elizabeth Warren looks headed for the Senate, which Democrats will likely lock-up tonight.

Utah goes Romney, as if that was ever in doubt.

CNN calls New Hampshire for Obama (that's what happens when the border area turns into a bedroom community for Boston).

Claire McCaskill send Todd Akin back to the fifteenth century in Missouri's Senate race. Fare thee well, Todd.

Popular vote-wise, Mitt Romney currently has 51 percent of the national popular vote to Barack Obama's 48 percent, at 10:30pm ET.

Minnesota goes for Obama, Arizona for Romney. Pick up your jaw. That's 169 for Romney and 157 for Obama.

SHOCKER! California for Obama. Well, not so much a shocker. All states called so far, give Obama 228 to 176 for Romney.

Wisconsin called for Obama, and North Carolina for Romney. That's 238 for Obama and 191 for Romney.

CNN is projecting that the Dems will hold the Senate, and the GOP will hold the House. If Obama keeps the White House, we just spent a large fortune to do ... nothing.

Projections now put Obama at 256 to Romney's 191 electoral votes.

Make that 256 (Obama) to 201 (Romney).

CNN is calling the whole thing for Barry.

Missouri passes a ban on Obamacare Healthcare exchanges (Prop. E).

Washington appears to have signed off on legal pot with Amendment 64!

Virignia passes eminent domain amendment

The sissies in Oregon appear to have thumbs-downed legal grass (Measure 80).

But Washington makes up for its neighbor by legalizing marijuana (Initiative 502).

Alabama passes amendment 6, which means residents cannot be forced into a healthcare plan. 

Georgia passes an amendment establishing a process to set up and approve charter schools in the state.

Justin Amash is leading 57-40 with 41 percent of precincts reporting.

Alabama enshrines the right to a secret ballot with the passage of amendment 7.

Arizona's Prop. 120, asserting state control over federal lands, goes down to crushing defeat -- but so does Prop. 121, seeking to create a top-two primary that would be the death of third parties.

Jeff Flake wins the Senate race in Arizona, defeating the rather odious Richard Carmona.

At 12:24 pm ET, Romney still leads in the popular vote. That's unlikely to continue, but what fun.

By three to one, Louisiana voters approve Constitutional Amendment 2, reaffirming the right to keep and bear arms.

At 1:15am ET, Gary Johnson has one percent of the vote, just shy of one million votes. That's the best Libertarian tota since 1980.

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New Mexico Voters Like Gary Johnson, Vote For Obama Anyway

ALBUQUERQUE—Not far from where Gary Johnson’s Election Night party will take place later tonight New Mexican voters were busy coming and going at the Duranes Elementary School. Nearly all of the voters I talked to had positive things to say about their still-popular former governor but all were nonetheless voting for President Barack Obama.

“Yeah I like him, I like him. I didn’t vote for him though I voted for Obama. I like Gary, I don’t think Gary had a chance. I didn’t want to throw my vote away,” said Roger C Blair, 68, and a stand-up comedian.

Blair said that he thought Johnson was pretty liberal for Republican.

“He wanted to legalize marijuana!” he said.

Juana Madrid, 65, said he voted for Obama because he voted for him last time and he “likes his ways even though he hasn’t had a chance to do many of things he wanted to do for the country.”

“He was OK, I didn’t vote for him, but he was OK,” said Madrid on Johnson’s time as governor.

Madrid’s wife, Connie, said she voted for Obama and didn’t like Johnson because of his position on drug legalization.

“Gary Johnson was OK, I can’t disagree with a lot of things he did but I am not one for legalizing marijuana,” she said.  

“I didn’t want to waste a vote because I felt this was gonna be so close. As much as I like some of what Gary says,” said Steve Friese, 54, a teacher.

Prycosah Lueras, 27, a lifelong resident of New Mexico, said she didn’t even know Johnson was running or that he was governor. 

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Breaking: Barack Obama Wins Reason's Interactive Nanny of the Month!

 

On October 1, 2012, Reason released a special interactive Nanny of the Month, in which viewers could vote on whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would be the bigger buttinsky if elected president. Click above to watch and see the two vote options.

Well, the results are in: Barack Obama gathered 4,447 votes to Mitt Romney's 1,726 votes.

Check out the "You Voted for Obama" vid:

 

And here's the Mitt Romney vid. Attentive viewers will note a certain similarity in the descriptions of the nannyisms of each candidate.

 

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Gary Johnson Clear Winner in Reason's Chia Pet Presidential Predictor!

On October 29, we announced a bold new experiment in political diviniation: Reason's Chia Pet Presidential Predictor.

...we...prepared the heads according to Chia's instructions and placed them in a makeshift greenhouse on a window sill, firmly convinced that the head with the greatest hair growth come November 6 will signal the eventual winner of the 2012 Election. What this method lacks in say, Scott Rasmussen's proven track record or Nate Silver's sabremetrically inspired weighting formulas, it more than makes up for in sheer simplicity.

Here's the final result, circa 5pm ET this evening. It's a clear win for the ersatz Gary Johnson Chia Pet, followed by Barack Obama (right) and Mitt Romney (left). I'm happy to stress that this result was in no way rigged or planned-for.

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The Weirdest Reason Yet to Vote for Obama: In Defense of 'Truth'

There is a powerful meme afoot within some corners of the political press claiming that a vote for the incumbent president of the United States is an important victory against the weasely purveyors of "post-truth." Here are five recent samples from the genre.

David Corn, Mother Jones:

Election Day will say whether Romney has indeed brought about the complete triumph of post-truth politics. In a Seinfeld episode, George Costanza famously observed, "Remember, it's not a lie if you believe it." In Romneyworld, that line might be modified: It's not a lie if it works. As significant as Tuesday's outcome will be for this much-divided nation in determining future policies regarding the economy, present and future wars, abortion rights, climate change, the social safety net, and much more, it will also provide an answer to a critical bottom-line question: In politics, does reality matter?

Greg Sargent, Washington Post:

Within 48 hours, we may find out whether a "post truth" candidate can be elected president.

If there is one constant to this campaign, it's that Romney has startled many observers by operating from the basic premise that there is literally no set of boundaries he needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of his assertions, the transparency he provides about his fundraising and finances, and the specificity of his plans for the country. [...]

But the key to this is how elemental it has long been to his campaign. Romney's entire bid for the presidency rests on a foundation of evasions and lies.

Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times:

An equally significant development has been the strategic decision of the Romney campaign to set new standards in the use of untrue campaign claims.

The ultimate test case of whether it is possible to lie and get away with it will be the outcome in Ohio, where Romney is running ads in open disregard of the truth. [...]

If Romney wins Ohio, every campaign in future elections is going to give much more serious consideration to lying and to open defiance of media rebuttals as a legitimate campaign expedient.

Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic:

Romney's distortions and evasions have been so frequent, and so central to his campaign, that the blogger Steve Benen created a weekly feature on them called "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity." Last week, in its 41st edition, included 33 separate items. And it's not just liberal writers who have noticed. Paul Ryan's infamous convention speech was something of a watershed moment: Confronted with multiple and obvious distortions, the media reacted by reporting that Ryan was not telling the truth. [...]

The message couldn't be clearer. Romney and his advisers don't care about consistency, transparency, or candor. And they think they can get away with it. Are they right? We'll find out on Tuesday night.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Washington Post:

Election 2012...was the year of "post-truth." For the first time, the idea emerged that political lying simply didn't matter. This is a profound theological issue.

One political party, the Republican Party, put out statements and ads that were lies, that is, proven to be factually incorrect, and simply said it didn't matter. And they did it over and over again, while denigrating "fact-checking." The Romney campaign declined, as one surrogate said, to let their campaign "be dictated by fact-checkers."

A false equivalence emerged, where media outlets  often chose not to pursue the policy of repeated, systematic and deliberate lying by the Romney campaign and chose instead to focus on 'they both do it.'

Rev. William E. Alberts, Counterpunch:

This cynical pretense of caring for the hurricane victims is merely a continuation of lies that have paved Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign from the beginning. [...]

The innate, natural, humble, innocent honesty of children prepares them to know whether or not another child, or adult, is telling the truth.  The ones who tell them the truth become good friends.  Those who lie to them are never to be trusted.  The ways of a child are wise indeed, and to be reclaimed and emulated by us adults

Trust is a matter of truth.  American democracy desperately needs a new motto: In Truth We Trust.

There is one main problem with this line of argument, and he lives in the White House. For details on President Barack Obama's lying, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for starters.

So how does the Mitt's-lies-must-be-repudiated chorus deal with the man who has actually wielded power these past 46 months? Get ready for some comedy after the jump:

MORE »
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International Observers Astounded By America’s “Trust Based” Voting System, China Prepares for Leadership Transition

A delegation comprised of election officials from nascent democracies, from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, was astounded by how much trust is involved in America’s presidential system, including lax identification procedures (in many Arab countries, thumbs are inked to prevent fraud). "It's very difficult to transfer this system as it is to any other country. This system is built according to trust and this trust needs a lot of procedures and a lot of education for other countries to adopt it," the head of Libya’s national electoral commission told Foreign Policy. Wait till they learn about the electoral college. Hopefully they don’t get any ideas from this.

Meanwhile, China’s leadership transition, an every five years affair, is proceeding on pace amid a media blackout, with Xi Jinping expected to take over the presidency, while the current president, Hu Jintao, will remain in control of the military. Bo Xilai, one of the few alternatives to the establishment (a hard-line alternative at that), was officially expelled from the Communist Party this week. The 18th National Communist Party Congress, where the leadership transition will be made official, begins November 8th and lasts about a week. The United States electoral college, largely selected tonight, officially votes for president and vice president on December 17. Congress counts the votes January 6. 

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How Much Would Legalizing Marijuana in One or More U.S. States Hurt Mexican Gangsters?

If voters approve marijuana legalization in Washington, Colorado, or both states today, what sort of impact might an above-board cannabis market have on Mexico's notoriously violent drug cartels? In a recent Quartz piece, Tim Fernholz reports that a new study from the Mexican Center for Competitiveness (IMCO) estimates legal marijuana in those states plus Oregon (where the reform is also on the ballot but polling poorly) would "cut the cartels' income by $1.37 billion, or about 23% of their revenue." Fernholz says that calculation is based on a 2010 RAND Corporation estimate that legalizing marijuana in California "could cut the income of Mexican drug dealers by 20%." That scemario, in turn, was based on the assumption that legal California pot would be exported to other states, displacing imported Mexican marijuana and "cutting DTOs' [drug trafficking organizations'] marijuana export revenues by more than 65 percent and probably by 85 percent or more." But "if legalization only affects revenues from supplying marijuana to California," RAND said, "DTO drug export revenue losses would be very small, perhaps 2–4 percent."     

Notably, the RAND report rejected a widely cited estimate that 60 percent of the cartels' income comes from marijuana, saying that number "should not be taken seriously." It traced the claim to the federal government's 2006 National Drug Control Strategy but said "there is no empirical justification for this figure that can be verified" and noted that the Office of National Drug Control Policy "publicly distanced itself from this figure" in 2010. RAND concluded that the 60-percent estimate "is truly a mythical number, one that appeared out of nowhere and that has acquired great authority"—especially among marijuana legalizers, who ordinarily are quick to question the government's empirically shaky claims about drugs.

RAND instead settled on a range of 15 percent to 26 percent, so IMCO's report (which is in Spanish) apparently assumes that legalizing marijuana in three states would wipe out almost all of the cartels' marijuana revenue. That's possible, assuming the states that legalize marijuana end up exporting a lot of it. But as Fernholz notes, such exports would make an aggressive federal response more likely. Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, co-authored by two of the researchers who wrote the RAND report (Beau Kilmer and Jonathan Caulkins), concludes that "at least in the long run, marijuana legalization would make a meaningful, but not decisive, contribution to reducing the flow of funds to violent Mexican DTOs."

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Mind Your Tweets: Twitter Compromises On Free Speech

Late last month the Internet was ablaze with stories about Twitter’s decision to block a neo-Nazi account at the request of German authorities. It was the first time the website had actively enforced its January 2012 policy of adhering to censorship on a local basis. The new policy, known as "country-withheld content," blocks an account on the request of a government or blocks the viewing of tweets within a particular country if they are seen to break local laws.

But how well does this new stance fit with Twitter’s self-perpetuated image as a bastion of free speech? At the Web 2.0 conference last year, Twitter Chief Executive Dick Costolo extolled the company's free speech credentials, calling it “the free speech wing of the free speech party.” Yet several times over the course of the year the company has been seen as compromising this platform.

In July the company blocked Financial Times journalist Guy Adams’ account for "violating its privacy rules" for tweeting the private email address of NBC executive Gary Zenkel. Adams argues that the email address was not private but instead a publicly-available corporate address. He wrote the tweet in protest of Twitter’s corporate partner NBC’s (GE) coverage of the summer’s Olympic Games. According to Christopher McCloskey, the vice president of communications for NBC Sports, someone from within Twitter itself alerted NBC to the offending tweet and showed them how to file a complaint to have Adams' account suspended. Later in the year, Twitter temporarily blocked extreme right-wing UK politician Nick Griffin’s account after he tweeted the address of a gay couple denied a single room in a bed and breakfast. Once again, Twitter justified its actions by claiming Griffin had violated its privacy rules. Although Griffin’s account has since been restored his tweet was swiftly removed.

In addition to governmental pressures it was revealed this summer that Twitter received 3,378 copyright take-down notices in the first half of the year, leading to a November 3rd announcement that the company would be altering its copyright policies to withhold tweets that contain copyrighted material.

Twitter’s general counsel Alex Macgillivray argues that the company “never want[s] to withhold content” and thus new guidelines are useful as they act as “tools to do it narrowly and transparently.” Evegeny Morozov, an expert on Internet censorship at the New America Foundation, has commented upon Twitter's increasingly compromising stance, saying “venture capitalists in Silicon Valley were underwriting free speech around the world – it was great, but I don’t think it was sustainable.”

With mounting pressures from all sides it remains to be seen how long the company will be able to maintain its wishes to “let the tweets flow”

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Does Free Speech Cause Meningitis? The New York Times Thinks So

New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse isn’t directly saying that the Supreme Court's 2002 decision in Thompson v. Western States Medical Center upholding the commercial speech rights of compounding pharmacies caused the national meningitis outbreak that has killed 30 people to date. She can’t say for sure whether the ruling played any role. Except that’s pretty clearly what she's implying.

First, some background: Compounding pharmacies traditionally mix drugs in small doses for individual patients who need products that are not available commercially. Because of the small scale, clinical trials would be prohibitively expensive and pharmacists—and patients who depend on compounded drugs—benefit from an exemption to premarket review.

Demand for compounded drugs has grown, however, and pharmacists have responded by ramping up their operations to the point where some are more like manufacturers than corner druggists. This prompted a 1997 federal law prohibiting pharmacists from speaking truthfully to doctors about the services they provide.

Here’s Greenhouse:

The idea, as the government later explained to the Supreme Court, was that compounding pharmacies could continue to serve their traditional role of filling doctors’ prescriptions for individual patients, but would be limited in their ability to solicit business on a big scale or to engage in large-scale drug production—in other words, to conduct the kind of multi-state business in which the New England Compounding Pharmacy (sic) was engaged before it was shut down in the wake of the meningitis cases tied to its tainted product.

In the Supreme Court’s view, the government’s regulatory rationale was not sufficient to justify infringing on the pharmacies’ right to engage in “commercial speech.” The government had failed to explain why “forbidding advertising was a necessary as opposed to merely convenient means of achieving its interests,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote for the majority….”

In other words, the government cannot restrict commercial speech if there are other regulatory alternatives. And the Court identified several, including limits on how much compounders can produce and requiring pharmacists to make drugs in response to prescriptions rather than in advance of them.

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Predictable Election Day Messes, Predictable Russian Corruption, Vote for Master Chief!: P.M. Links

  • Happy Election Day! Everything’s a mess like it always is.
  • How about some election counterprogramming? Go play Halo 4 instead.
  • A judge invalidated the candidacy of a Nevada Assembly candidate just hours before voting started. Surveillance video suggested he didn’t live in the district where he was running.
  • A gunman at a chicken plant in Fresno, Calif., shot four people there before turning the gun on himself. One of the victims died. The rest, including the gunman, are in critical condition.
  • Vladimir Putin has fired Russia’s defense minister. Corruption and accusations of infidelity figure in heavily in a story that reads like a Russian soap opera.
  • European Union auditors have found the member nations are wasting billions of euros in how money is being spent even as spending cuts are a major political issue.
  • Just a reminder: Tonight and tomorrow Reason’s 24/7 feed will be focused in reporting election updates. And we have an RSS feed.

Have a news tip for us? Send it to: 24_7@reason.com.

The updated Reason app for Apple and Android now includes Reason 24/7!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget to sign up for Reason’s daily updates for more content

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Ronald Bailey on Why All Politicians Lie

Whoever gets elected president today is an accomplished liar. Lying, along with a capacity for backbiting, obfuscation, and double-dealing, are, in fact, actual job qualifications for politicians according to some deep political thinkers. If lying with sincerity is a required political skill, both major party candidates for president appear to be fully qualified to occupy the Oval Office. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey explores the dishonest job of politics.

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Wants Obama To Win, But Will Be Happier If He Loses: Anarcho-Libertarian David Friedman on the Dilemmas of Political Group Identification

Anarcho-libertarian law and economics and political philosophy thinker David Friedman (author of anarchist political classic The Machinery of Freedom) delivers a refreshingly honest take on how our emotions and our political logic can clash in a world of recognizable political groupings:

I have little reason to want Romney to win, some reason to want him to lose. I am not confident of that conclusion—one can argue that Romney would be likely to appoint better Supreme Court justices, a point some libertarians have been making in his favor. One can speculate that the influence of the tea party Republicans might push Romney into being a better president than he wants to be. But the spectacle of the Bush administration is a strong argument on the other side.

If I switch the question from what I ought to want to what I do want, from reason to emotion, the result changes. I will be happy if Obama loses, unhappy if he wins.

Human beings have a tendency, perhaps unfortunate, to view the world as us vs them. Obama's supporters are, on the whole, people whose political views are more sharply opposed to mine than those of Romney's supporters. Insofar as my hardwired instincts are trying to sort political struggles into the categories of friend and foe, it is clear which side they put me on. If I think of the election as a football match, I may not be cheering one side, but I am definitely booing the other. Obama's defeat will be a crushing blow for a lot of people who I am inclined to disagree with and disapprove of....

Reminds me a bit of my "argument" for term limits. While I'm not sure they will have the political merits that the policy's libertarian fans promise, I do know they really piss off a class of people I am not fond of, politicians.

Friedman's fellow anarcho-theorist Randy Barnett (forgetting his beloved Lysander Spooner) this week made a hearty call for libertarians to vote Romney rather than Gary Johnson. Nick Gillespie took him to task for it earlier today.

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What Happens If the Electoral College Is Tied 269-269?

not a braves fan eitherNational ArchivesA United States presidential election has never ended in a tie in the electoral college. The last time no candidate secured a majority of electors was in 1824, when Andrew Jackson fell some 32 electoral votes short of an outright majority but atop a field of four candidates. The decision was thrown to a contingent election, per the Constitution, as revised by the Twelfth Amendment. Contingent elections are settled in the Congress, with the House voting for president (one state, one vote) and the Senate for vice president (one senator, one vote). John Quincy Adams, the establishment candidate, won on the first ballot in Congress. He was joined though by Jackson’s running mate as vice president. When John Calhoun was re-elected vice president in 1828 with Jackson taking the presidency, he joined George Clinton as the only vice president to serve under two presidents. The South Carolina politician had a falling out over nullification with Jackson toward the end of the latter’s first term and was dumped from the ’32 ticket. The presidential contest has not been decided by contingent election since.

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Anti-ObamaCare Measures on the Ballot in Florida, Missouri, and Other States

Presidents and pot aren't the only items on ballots today. Florida, Missouri, and a number of other states have ObamaCare-related ballot measures up for vote too. 

In Florida, voters will consider whether to amend the state's constitution to prohibit laws mandating the purchase of health insurance. It's a measure aimed directly at Obamacare's most controversial feature: the indvidual mandate. The only problem is that, realistically, it won't matter much. The amendment would serve as a clear expression of voter discontent with ObamaCare's individual mandate, but wouldn't be able to prevent the mandate from taking effect, because state laws that conflict with federal laws are invalid. Nor is Florida the only state voting on this question. According to The Wall Street Journal, there are similar symbolic measures up for vote in Alabama, Montana, and Wyoming. One possible practical effect, however, is that these measures might help draw anti-ObamaCare voters to the polls. 

Missouri voters, meanwhile, will vote on a measure with a little more kick: Show Me State ballots will feature a potential amendment to the state constitution barring the governor from creating an insurance exchange under ObamaCare. If the amendment passes, the governor will have to get approval from either the state legislature or another ballot measure in order to create an exchange. The measure doesn't prohibit exchange creation completely. But a governor would not be allowed to use an executive order to create an exchange, which would probably leave it to the federal government to try to set one up — a task it may have more than a little trouble accomplishing.

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It's Election Season, and People Want to Know: Who Is Running for President?

There's a presidential election upon us, and people want to know who's on the ballot. Where else to turn but the Googler? 

Via The Atlantic, a graph showing the recent spike in searches for the phrase: "who is running for president."  

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Mitt Romney Continues to Lead Big Among Independent Voters

Polls throughout the presidential campaign have shown Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney leading among Independents. That trend will continue through Election Day. Across a variety of recent national polls, Romney leads Obama among Independents by an average of 10 percentage points. Not all polls release the partisan breakdowns of their likely voters or make it easy to find; however, when they do, they consistently show Romney leading the Independent vote. (Also driven by the libertarian vote.

Even in battleground states, Romney leads Obama among Independent voters. For instance, a CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll of Ohio, Florida and Virginia likely voters found Romney leading Obama 6 points among Independents in Ohio, five points among Florida Independents, and 21 points among Virginia Independents.

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Your Election Picture of the Day From the City of Brotherly Love

At a polling location in Philadelphia, where Republican election officials were reinstated by a judge earlier today, via Fox News:

electioneering at the polling place is frowned down uponFox News

Election coverage from around the country at Reason 24/7

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Tom Clougherty on Why America Is Still Hurtling Towards the Fiscal Cliff

According to a recent survey by Macro Risk Advisors, the biggest threat facing U.S. investors isn’t a meltdown in the eurozone, or a crash in China, or even a misstep by the Federal Reserve. In fact, their biggest fear is the uncertainty engendered by election season, and the “fiscal cliff” over which the United States is set to hurtle come January 2, 2013.

The cliff in question is a $607 billion combination of tax increases and spending cuts, and is the result of failure by Congress in 2011 to reach agreement on how to reduce the federal deficit. Without political intervention, it will come into force just as our New Year’s Eve hangovers start to wear off. As Reason Foundation Managing Editor Tom Clougherty argues, the time has come to bring meaningful reforms to America’s unaffordable and outdated entitlement programs.

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Floridian Steals Neighbor's Obama Signs, Cites Neighborhood Safety Concerns

A neighborhood-oriented thief in Sarasota has written a postcard to a neighbor to explain exactly why her Obama signs have been repeatedly removed from her lawn. It is not, as might first be expected, vandalism. Rather, the anonymous thief explained, the signs were removed for the sake of public safety. Burglars apparently view residences with signs showing support of left-leaning candidates as easy pickings.

The thief explains:

When thieves drive through Sapphire Shores scoping out possible targets and see pro-Democrat yard signs they automatically assume that the subdivision is filled with retards and half-wits.

The thief goes on to explain that potential intruders view Democratic supporters as not just retards, but unarmed retards:

It is common knowledge amongst burglars that Democrats are anti-gun and anti-second amendment so when they see campaign signs that promote Democrats they know the homeowners are not armed and therefore unable to protect themselves from attack. 

The note was written on a postcard featuring portraits of Obama and Reagan, with the word “Hero” written under the latter, and “Zero” under the former. It is signed “Bat Masterson.” Ms. Green, the owner of the missing Obama signs, was understandably a little creeped out:

It was scary and it was creepy, because the person says they lived around the corner from me.

Reason will be keeping an eye on whether the candidate being supported by “retards and half-wits” or by “Bat Masterson” will prevail in Florida. You can keep track of our live tweeting of tonight's results on our blog from 7:30pm ET. 

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Your Excuse Sucks, and Other Bad Pro-Voting Propaganda

Happy Election Day!

If you're not voting today (and you probably shouldn't) the folks at Cultivated Wit and Fight for the Future would like you to know that your excuse for not voting sucks.

Appropriately enough, they are conveying that message at yourexcusesucks.com. But given that they bothered to buy the URL and throw up this site, you'd think they could have tried a little bit harder to muster some decent arguments.

To voters concerned (probably quite reasonably) that they aren't well informed enough to vote, the site offers this reassurance:

Don't worry silly, you can still vote. We have the electoral college to protect us from dummies like you.

Since when has democracy ever been about knowing what you're doing?

Do you understand how airplanes fly? No, but you don't mind participating in that process, do you?

I can't even...

I'll let you, the readers, fill in your own refutations of that logic. You can do it! Then visit the site for seven more inarticulate, inchoate pro-voting arguments!

Of course, there are far more subtle and intelligent people out there arguing against the legions (well OK, small milling clusters) of non-voters like me. Take tech policy guy Timothy B. Lee. Today at Forbes, he sets out to take a dent out of non-voting. Unfortunately, this smart guy has chosen to take on one of the least compelling slices of an otherwise decent blog post about the ethics of non-voting.

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My Preferences in Presidential Elections: A Brief History

America, you elected the wrong Mondale.1972: I was two. I didn't vote, though I may have crapped my pants.

1976: I was for Carter, because my parents were for Carter. My little brother was for Ford, "because he's president."

1980: John Anderson. I'm not entirely sure why. I mean, I know why I wasn't for the major candidates: I didn't like Carter because the economy was bad, and I didn't like Reagan because people kept saying he was going to start a nuclear war. But I supported Anderson in the primaries, too, for reasons that I'm sure made sense to my nine-year-old self but which I have pretty much completely forgotten. Many years later I saw one of his old speeches on one of those C-Span retrospective shows, and I realized that he was kind of nuts.

1984: In my biology class' mock election -- what, your biology classes didn't have mock elections? -- I cast my ballot for Sonia Johnson of the Citizens Party. I'd like to say that this was my way of endorsing polyamorous feminist mountain communes, but I think it was some sort of pro-peace gesture.

The Dukakis of AOR.1988: My first actual adult ballot. I was already a libertarian at this point, but I wasn't quite ready to abandon the major parties. Bush Sr. ran an appalling ACLU-baiting campaign, so I cast my lesser-evil vote for Dukakis. This is one of the two most embarrassing items in my biography, along with the fact that in the seventh grade my favorite band was Styx. But just as REO Speedwagon would have been worse, I can breathe a sigh of relief that I at least didn't vote for Bush.

1992: Andre Marrou. That's kind of embarrassing too.

1996: Harry Browne. The only presidential candidate I've supported who would have recognized me if we bumped into each other on the street.

2000: Browne again. By this point I was fed up with the Libertarian Party and was planning to write in Yosemite Sam, but the California ballot didn't allow write-ins. This aggravated me enough to write a short piece complaining about it for the L.A. Weekly, making this my only trip to the polls that actually made me some money.

Offer not good in Port-au-Prince.2004: Michael Badnarik. Sigh.

2008: Bob Barr. Double sigh.

2012: Gary Johnson. At this point, as you may have noted, I'm just robotically supporting whoever the Libertarian Party puts up. I'm not even a member of the organization, but as long as I'm in the booth to weigh in on the initiatives I might as well add to their pile of protest votes. If you ask me how I voted this year, I should tell you I cast my ballot for gays and gambling. The presidential race is secondary.

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Gary Johnson's Final Campaign Ad

ALBUQUERQUE—Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson's final campaign ad implores voters to "cast a protest vote that counts." The ad focuses around Johnson's goal of obtaining 5 percent of the popular vote so the Libertarian Party will have federal funds in 2016. The ad is running in New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Montana, Indiana, Idaho, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. Watch it below.

 

More of my coverage on Gary Johnson's 2012 campaign here

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Making a Better Syria, For You and Me: That Trick Never Works

Joshua Landis of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma sees our efforts to Make a Better Syria failing, again:

Hillary Clinton is having a last go a putting together a “secularish,” upper-class leadership for the Syrian rebel effort.....

Washington’s Plan A, which was to create the SNC, went down in dust. By all accounts, Clinton cannot even stand to hear the name, SNC, uttered any longer.

Plan B was to set up the US office in Istanbul to meet and take the measure of Syrian militia leaders and local coordinating committee directors. The militia leaders scared Washington and the CIA. The word got out that they were “penetrated” by al-Qaida and Salafi types.

Plan C is now in the making....Clinton is reconstituting some sort of US-friendly leadership drawn from elements of the old SNC with generous add-mixtures of Coordinating Committee types, some government defectors, and others who will join...

The object of this exercise seems to be to glue some sort of US-friendly educated elite onto the military effort that looks too Islamist for Washington’s taste and not very human-rights observant.

Syria has a past, Landis remembers:

This effort is almost identical to US and British efforts of the 1950s to stop Syria from slipping into the hands of the USSR, Nasser and the leftist Baathists.

Eisenhower and Anthony Eden did everything they could in 1956 to force Syria’s urban elites to cooperate in a pro-Western coup, but to no avail. The two largest parties in parliament – the People’s Party of Aleppo and the National Party of Damascus refused to cooperate among themselves in order to avoid revolution....

When the coup failed, many of Syria’s leading pro-Western notables were accused of treason and fled the country. In 1957, the US sought to carry out another putsch, this time on its own. The “American coup”, as it was named, was no more successful.... Destabilized by Washington’s failed coup making, Syria announced the creation of the United Arab Republic only months later....

Today, Washington is again trying to rally the pro-Western elites of Syria into putting their shoulders to a common wheel with America. In 1957, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iraq cooperated in Washington’s efforts for regime change. Today Qatar replaces Iraq, but the line up of states helping the US in its “struggle for Syria” has hardly changed. Other aspects that have not changed are the infighting among Syria’s elites and the general resentment and distrust that Syrians share toward the US. It is hard to be optimistic.

Hat tip: John Glaser of Antiwar.com.

I discussed the problems with U.S. lack of historical memory, and lack of understanding that today's actions create tomorrow's problems, in the context of the hit film Argo last week.

Obligatory Election Day comment: Both major party presidential candidates are going to continue the mistake of thinking it's the United States' duty to manage the future of Syria.

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Ezra Klein Explains Why You Should Consider Voting For Gary Johnson

The Washington Post's house progressive (OK, OK, he's not exactly alone over there) Ezra Klein explains today with astonishing succinctness why you should consider voting for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Without further ado:

This election isn’t a collision between a candidate who believes in unregulated free markets and a candidate who believes in state control. It’s not a fight between big government and small government (just look at Mitt Romney’s plans to boost defense spending by $2 trillion). It’s not a choice between rugged individualism and compassionate communitarianism, heartland values and coastal elites, or even Keynesian stimulus and austerity economics.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are well within the American consensus. In fact, they’re well within the Acela Quiet Car’s consensus. They’re blue state, Harvard-educated technocrats who like their information in chart form and their advisers sporting PhDs. They both believe in the genius of free markets, the necessity of a federal safety net, and the importance of a strong military. They don’t question the wisdom of the drug war, drone strikes or even most of the Bush tax cuts. Their records show they govern prudently, analytically, and honorably.

Genius of the free market? Obama? Really? Anyway, on the whole Klein's right and that's why I voted Johnson this morning.

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Gene Healy on Election 2012: Let's Hear It for Cynicism

Despite himself, former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich always manages to cheer me up. In a get-out-the-vote column in the Huffington Post last week, he wails: "If you succumb to cynicism, the regressives win it all."

Whatever happens today, writes Gene Healy, the good news is that the Cult of Obama has been badly weakened and with it, perhaps, the Cult of the Presidency. To borrow a famous George W. Bush malapropism, rarely is the question asked, is our electorate learning?

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Obama’s Slim Yet Consistent Lead Will Carry Him to Victory, Unless Battleground State Polls Are Statistically Biased

According to the Real Clear Politics (RCP) Battleground State poll averages, President Obama leads in six of the eight most contested races. This matters, as Nate Silver of the New York Times explains because poll averages tend to accurately predict which candidate wins a battleground state, even if the margins are off slightly.  However, there is a real possibility that the polls have systematically overestimated Democratic turnout in several of these key battleground states. For instance, the CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll found Obama with a five-point lead in Ohio, but their likely voter model assumes a +8 Democratic advantage in 2012, which happens to be exactly what it was in 2008. Although possible, it seems implausible that the Obama campaign could galvanize enthusiastic support in 2012 similar to the unprecedented level of support it had in 2008. In other words, if battleground state likely voter models in polls have systematically overestimated Democratic turnout, this could indicate a Romney win. In fact, as Nate Silver writes, the only way for Romney to win is if state polls are systematically biased.

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Could Bruce Majors Secure Permanent Ballot Access For Libertarians In D.C.?

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Real estate agent (and Reason Foundation donor) Bruce Majors isn’t running to replace Eleanor Holmes Norton as D.C.'s non-voting delegate in congress just to get the Libertarian Party permanent ballot access in the District. The driving force for Major--who was active on the 1980 presidential campaign of Ed Clark--is actual frustration with Norton, a two-decade incumbent.

“She likes to talk about her defense of D.C. gay marriage against the Republican congress, which is nice. It’s also true that the Democrats controlled congress for two years and the presidency and the Senate and didn’t repeal DOMA,” he said.

Majors says he would submit a bill that would give the District the same status as Guam and Puerto Rico, effectively exempting Washington from federal income taxes in exchange for not having the rights of statehood.

Norton, a supporter of D.C. statehood, submitted this kind of legislation earlier in her career but has since stopped in favor of other kinds of statehood legislation. Majors thinks it would be even better to have this kind of legislation put to a district-wide referendum as a way to embarrass Washington’s political class.

“My position is it would be great to have no federal income tax. I think if you put it to the average voter in D.C., that is what they would pick,” he said.

Majors says he is unsure that he'll get enough votes from anti-Norton voters to get permanent ballot access for Libertarians, but is optimistic about the eclectic coalition he's cultivated since declaring his candidacy.

Full disclosure: Majors is a donor to the Reason Foundation. 

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Oregon Reformers Are Trying to Legalize Pot On A Shoestring Budget

PORTLAND, Ore. – Of the three states looking to legalize marijuana today, Oregon is probably the least likely to do so. But that hasn’t dampened the spirits of the people behind Measure 80.

Paul Stanford, 52, runs a medical marijuana business that he says generates over $5 million in annual revenues. The fact that he's using a big chunk of his revenue to fund Measure 80 is what makes Oregon different from Colorado and Washington where out-of-state cash has flowed freely into pro-legalization coffers.

“This initative has been largely funded by patients in Oregon. I’ve just been the steward of those funds and the person that made the decision to spend those funds in this way,” Stanford says during an interview inside the Yes on 80 headquarters.

Stanford has faced criticism for his tax issues and his business. "It’s basically a spin that isn’t fair," he said.

Stanford has a long history in the drug reform movement. He moved to Oregon in 1984 to help with a statewide marijuana legalization effort that failed miserably. Oregonians voted to legalize medical marijuana in 1998, and Stanford got into the business in 2002. But he's not running the Measure 80 campaign by himself. Amanda Rain, 36, has worked in the drug policy reform movement for over ten years, and was a "utility staffer" on the doomed Proposition 19 campaign in California. Rain is part of a growing class of professional drug policy reformers who understand how political campaigns work.

"Prop 19 was amazing in that it brought it to the mainstream, there were criticisms that it was an off-election year and at the same time because it was an off-election year we got more media than anyone expected. That really brought it to a mainstream issue," Rain said.

She admits that the fundraising has been an issue for them, calling it a “huge challenge,” but still they soldier on. Rain is doing field work now. Their game plan sounds reminiscent of a 2006 attempt to legalize marijuana in Colorado: yard signs, standouts on overpasses, some phone-banking (with the help of Firedoglake), rallies, and free media are the core of the Measure 80 campaign.

If they fall short, as the polls predict, they’re planning a push in the state legislature. Still, a loss would be disappointing for Stanford, who says he designed his legislation to be able to withstand a legal battle.

“We designed our initiative, and I am pretty sure it is the only one yet devised, to deal with the federal supremacy issue head-on," Stanford said. "We designed it to be upheld in the inevitable legal challenge."

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Not Only Does Politics Make us Stupid, it Poisons Our Children

So there I was in my one-hour voting line (pictured), and a restless six-year-old kid says to his mother, "Somebody said that if Mitt Romney wins, he's gonna make us homeless." (Mom, to her credit, informed the child that this was untrue.) I would have considered this a one-off Brooklyn anecdote, but then I tweeted it and received responses like this, from the baseball writer (and Chicago-dweller) Tim Marchman:

Word on the playground at my kid's school is that Mitt Romney hates firefighters.

And this from a chap called Judah, who may or may not be from San Dimas:

I heard "Romney is Jewish, no wait, he killed someone Jewish" from my 7 year old today.

Rule of Three and all that. Commenters, have you encountered such political horrors among your pre-tweens? Should I be concerned that my four-year-old wants Mitt Romney to win because "she's nice"? Hey! Politics! Leave them kids alone!

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Is D.A.R.E. Really Dropping Marijuana From Its Curriculum?

According to a local news station in Washington state, D.A.R.E. America, the anti-drug group that uses school resource officers to teach elementary and middle school children about the dangers of drugs, is dropping marijuana from its curriculum.

"The new curriculum starts as of December for us here in Kennewick," Officer Mike Meyer told KNDU25 yesterday. "It does not bring up the subject of marijuana at all."

From this statement, and despite the fact that Meyer said he doesn't know why pot is absent from his teaching materials, KNDU25 extrapolated this headline: "DARE curriculum drops pot."

I've requested comment from D.A.R.E. America's headquarters in Inglewood, California, its regional director in Cleveland, and the state director in Washington, because this news--if true--would indeed be huge. 

Here are some reasons why I think it's not: Despite the fact that Washington state is on the verge of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, D.A.R.E. educates against substances illegal and legal, such as alcohol and tobacco. And Washington state isn't legalizing marijuana for kids, after all.

And despite the fact that D.A.R.E. has been waning for a decade due to its curriculum being declared ineffective by independent and government researchers (as well as running million-dollar deficits in 2009 and 2010, according to charitynavigator.org) the organization released an "evidence-based" curriculum in 2011 called "Keeping it Real," which D.A.R.E. claims resulted in a "32-44% reduction in marijuana, tobacco and alcohol use." While those internal numbers could very well be faulty, I find it odd that D.A.R.E. would stop educating kids about the only illicit drug it claims it can keep them from using.

Update: A reader with a friend in elementary education sends along a picture from the new D.A.R.E. workbooks recently distributed to teachers. Marijuana is definitely still in there.

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Gary Johnson Currently Has 4.5 Percent of the Popular Vote

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson is pulling in 4.5 percent of the popular vote right now. That’s real numbers, not polling.

The numbers come from two small New Hampshire villages, Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location, who voted at midnight this morning. According to the Associated Press, President Barack Obama got 28 votes from the two villages, Mitt Romney got 14, and Johnson got two. (The AP reported he only got one last night, but the story has been updated. But then the vote numbers in Hart’s Location are now off by one so there’s still an error somewhere in the story.)

New Hampshire, of course, has a deep connection to libertarianism with the Free State Project. Johnson’s vote totals should not come much as a shock there even given such a small population sample.

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Highbrow Memes, Lowbrow Memes

Credit to The Awl for hosting an election discussion that ignores all the talking points dominating the discourse on cable right now. The panelists are Whitney Phillips, a folklorist who studies trolls, and Kate Miltner, who wrote her thesis on LOLcats. Their topic is political memes, but they branch out into related areas of Internet culture fairly frequently.

Here's Phillips:

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.For some, political memes represent an EPIC WIN for CROWDSOURCED DEMOCRACY. For others, they are a sign of the intellectual apocalypse...There's always been the highbrow/lowbrow divide; people have been weeping over how stupid everyone else is and how much worse everything is getting since humans learned how to whine about the good old days (back in my day being a Neanderthal really meant something; now it's just a pickup line). So those concerns are expected, almost trite. But the political purists, who apparently only ever have Deep Important Thoughts, aren't the only people in the facepalm camp. A large swath of early meme/ROFL/internet culture whatever-adopters (a category that has existed for years, but still doesn't have an agreed-upon name) have long been wary of the mainstreaming of internet culture, and see the onslaught of poppy political memes as further proof that meme/ROFL/internet whatever culture has gone corporate. Think punks walking past a Hot Topic store.

Here's Miltner:

I can't help but feel that this is a little too Frankfurt School for my taste (i.e., the only art is High Art and that pop culture is going to destroy us all because we the General Public are a bunch of brainless zombies who do whatever the puppetmaster advertisers tell us to). The fact that a distinction is developing between high-meme culture/low-meme culture is pretty hilarious, simply because most people consider memes to be the lowest of low culture—and anyone who tries to persuade people otherwise usually gets mocked outside of internetty circles. Or at least, that was my experience with my LOLCats thesis—most of the comments on the mainstream news sites that covered it were hilariously outraged that me and my waste-of-time degree even existed.

Anyway, the whole SOME MEMES ARE GOOD BECAUSE THEY ARE REAL AND SOME ARE JUST COPIES just seems like of the modern-day equivalent of Adorno and Horkheimer being all, "Classical music and Renaissance paintings are TRUE art and jazz and movies are CRAP for MORONS," which, LOL.

And here's the rest.

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Libertarian Legal Theorist Randy Barnett on "The Mistake That is The Libertarian Party"

Libertarian intellectual and Georgetown professor of law Randy Barnett - one of the architects of the legal challenges to Obamacare - writes in today's Wall Street Journal that if you care about liberty, you should vote for the Republicans.

Snippets:

The Libertarian Party's effort will, if effective, attract more libertarian voters away from the candidate who is marginally less hostile to liberty, and help hand the election to the candidate who is more hostile to liberty....

Libertarians need to adjust their tactics to the current context. This year, their highest priority should be saving the country from fiscal ruin, arresting and reversing the enormous growth in federal power—beginning with repealing ObamaCare—and pursuing a judiciary who will actually enforce the Constitution. Which party is most likely to do these things in 2013?

So, argues Barnett, that means voting for Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates this time at least. Elsewhere he suggests that this doesn't mean just joining the Republicans, though it always means killing the LP:

Libertarian activists need to set aside their decades-old knee-jerk reactions to the two major parties, roll up their sleeves, and make the Republican and Democratic parties more libertarian. When it comes to voting, libertarians need to get serious about liberty and give up on the Libertarian Party. Nov. 6 would be a good day to start.

Read the whole thing here. (And read/watch Barnett's recent interview with Reason.)

There's a lot to respond to in this piece, especially for politically unaffiliated libertarians (note the small l) such as myself.

First is that, in siding not just with a major party but with the Republicans, Barnett is following in the footsteps of Milton Friedman, almost certainly the most influential and politically effective libertarian theorist in the post-World War II era. As he told Brian Doherty in a great 1995 interview, "I have a party membership as a Republican, not because they have any principles, but because that's the way I am the most useful and have most influence." And as Barnett himself points out, characters such as Ron Paul have made peace with the GOP in a way that even the hardest-core libertarian should try to understand. Paul pere (et fils) are as important as they are precisely because they represent one of the duopolistic firms managing electoral politics.

At the same time, to be honest, Barnett's case that the Democrats in the current moment (or, as important, over the next four years) are truly worse than the GOP will be on a wide variety of economic and social issues is not particularly strong. There's no question that President Obama has been as big or bigger a disaster than George W. Bush was. Historically, however, there's every reason to fear Republican presidents more than Democratic ones. As the chart (prepared by libertarian economist and Reason columnist Veroniqe de Rugy) above shows, real per capita spending cranks up under Republicans and then gets hardened into reality by Democrats. Regardless of how you vote or identify politically, we all need to face up to the fact that outlays go up under GOP presidents more than under Dems. When it comes to foreign policy and especially military interventionism, I think Barnett, who took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal in 2007 to support the Iraq War, would be hard-pressed to claim that the GOP has any claim to superiority.

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Julian Morris and Katie Furtick on How Future Storms Like Sandy Could Bankrupt States

Superstorm Sandy killed over 70 people in the U.S., knocked out power for millions up and down the East Coast, flooded the New York Subway, and damaged thousands of homes. The final price tag for the storm's damage could exceed $40 billion, which would make it the most expensive storm to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina.

Coming as it did, only a year after Hurricane Irene and eight years after Hurricane Ivan, some are asking whether it is part of a trend towards more damaging storms. The answer is yes—we humans are to blame for more damaging storms, but not for the reasons you might think. As Julian Morris and Katie Furtick of Reason Foundation explain, one of the main culprits is government intervention in insurance markets, which creates perverse incentives to build in danger zones, thereby increasing the threat posed by storms both to property owners and to taxpayers. If Sandy had hit Florida the way it hit New York and New Jersey, it might have bankrupted the state. To reduce the scale of future damage from storms like Sandy, and the threat of fiscal implosion, federal and state governments should get out of the insurance business.

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Crony Capitalist Endorses Barack Obama

As the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney observed yesterday on Twitter, President Barack Obama has secured the endorsement of a well-known crony capitalist: the rap star Jay Z. As a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, Jay Z profited at taxpayer expense when the state of New York abused its eminent domain powers to seize privately-owned homes and business and then handed that land over to fellow Nets owner and real estate tycoon Bruce Ratner, who built a new arena for the Nets to call home in Brooklyn.

A few months before the state-sanctioned bulldozers came through, Reason.tv visited Freddy’s Bar, one of the many local establishments that was demolished for the economic benefit of folks like Jay Z and Ratner. Check that video out below.

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Feds Upset That Telecoms Resist Surveillance Efforts

Two oddly encouraging news items appeared in the last couple of days, both suggesting that telecommunications companies are dragging their feet or otherwise resisting when it comes to law-enforcement requests for assistance with electronic surveillance. In an age when we've become accustomed to big-business collaboration with the dark forces of nosy, presumptuous officialdom, this is nothing less than astonishing. Add to that the fact that telecoms have been immunized from legal liability for helping the government in its eavesdropping efforts, and you have to wonder if John Galt his own self has taken the helm at the Telecommunications Industry Association.

Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation revealed that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is demanding the return of documents released a year ago in compiance with a freedom of information request. Says EFF:

It started a year ago when ICE produced records in response to one of our Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. The records show that companies like Comcast, Cricket Communications, Metro PCS, Southern Linc Wireless, and T-Mobile either pushed back on or failed to comply with specific requests for information on their customers. For example, in response to one of ICE’s pen register/trap and trace orders, Southern Linc said it “did not like the wording of [the] order” and “would not give ‘real time’ ping location for [the] phone, [it] would only give 1 hour old history.” ICE also reported that it experienced “technical issues . . . on almost a daily basis” trying to get data on a suspect from Cricket Communications.” And Comcast gave ICE the runaround for a month before it turned over IP log history.

These records are the first we’ve received in response to our FOIA litigation that actually provide some of the information we asked for—specific examples of problems federal agents have faced getting companies to comply with communications surveillance orders. We filed this request two years ago after the New York Times reported that the FBI and other agencies were pushing Congress to expand the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to require companies like Blackberry, Skype and Google to build back doors into their systems. And ICE should be commended for releasing these records with only minimal redactions.

Intrigued by what it had found, EFF requested more documents.

It took ICE almost a year to get back to us on the narrowed request, and when it did, its response was frustrating. Not only did the agency decide that it would still be too burdensome to conduct any kind of a search for similar records, but ICE also told us it never should have turned over the original records in the first place—and it wanted them back.

ICE demanded the return of records that had been widely published and entered into publicly available court records — something about horses and barn doors comes to mind, but the federal agency wanted it documents back, anyway. Why? EFF speculates that ICE is just screwing with the organization and trying to make life difficult. But it could also be that the feds are a little embarrassed by the degree to which their supposed friends in the telecommunications industry aren't playing nice. One document published by EFF shows ICE officials plaintively complaining that Cricket Communications gave them little help, and lots of technical difficulties over the course of months during a surveillance opertion, and when agents complained, "most emails and phone calls regarding the issue were not returned."

That the issue of noncompliance with surveillance requests hasn't changed much in the last year is strongly suggested by a CNet report written by Declan McCullagh. Writes McCullagh:

The FBI has tried to bolster its case for expanded Internet surveillance powers by gathering finger-pointing examples of how communications companies have stymied government agencies, CNET has learned.

An internal Homeland Security report shows that a working group convened by an FBI office in Chantilly, Va. requested details about "investigations have been negatively impacted" by companies' delays, partial compliance, or inability to comply with police surveillance requests.

The FBI also points to Cricket for not playing nice, by the way, so consider that as you arrange to meet your telecommunications needs. Cricket seems to have a special and underappreciated talent for obstructionism when it comes to working with the feds to spy on customers.

McCullagh continues:

The information collection is part of the FBI's controversial effort, known internally as "Going Dark," aimed in part at convincing Congress to rewrite federal wiretapping law to require Internet companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to build in back doors for government surveillance. CNET reported in May that the FBI has asked tech companies not to oppose the plan.

Basically, the feds aren't happy with the cooperation they're (not) getting, and so want to build technical backdoors into the telecommunications system so they can wiretap directly, without asking for the industry's assistance.

I wrote last week about how a federal judge found the government's "Going Dark" surveillance plans a bit .. mind-boggling.

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A.M. Links: Election Day in the U.S., Media Blackout for Chinese Leadership Transition, Suicide Bomber Kills 27 in Iraq

  • It’s election day so vote early and often, and if you see something say something. The first votes were cast in two villages in New Hampshire after midnight and polls elsewhere in the U.S. are beginning to open this morning. Lawyers are excited about the role they’ll play. A tracking poll showed Obama and Romney both with 47 percent headed into election day while John Boehner is convinced Republicans can hold their lead and possibly expand it in the House.  The presidential candidates have spent about $22 per vote yielded from online advertising. The next president has a lot to look forward to, new technologies will make it easier for him to kill.
  • The transition of leadership in China, meanwhile, is happening under a total media blackout.
  • A Utah man could face the death penalty for killing one officer and injuring five others in a botched drug raid. The man says police did not identify themselves and he thought his home was being invaded (which it was). Police say they didn’t know anyone would be home and several officers neglected to wear bullet proof vests.
  • A Peter Thiel fellow, along with a dozen others, is trying to build 50 tools needed to start civilization from the ground up.
  • A suicide bomber at an Iraqi military base in Baghdad killed 27.
  • A Pennsylvania man faces 25 years in prison for stealing lobsters.

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Brickbat: Bible Thumpers

Election officials in Williamson County, Texas, forced Kay Hill to cover up her T-shirt before allowing her to vote. The T-shirt read "Vote the Bible." They said the message violated state law banning electioneering inside or within 100 feet of a polling place. "Electioneering would cover wearing a hat, a pen, a T-shirt, or a sign that would indicate a position for a political party, candidate or a proposition," said Williamson County public affiars director Connie Watson.

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Veronique de Rugy on the Natural Gas Industry Cozying Up to Washington

Public outrage at cronyism and corporate welfare is growing—and that’s all to the good. But don’t expect well-connected special interests and politicians to go gentle into that good night. Especially if they think the darkness can be dispelled via energy subsidies that are supposed to lead to green jobs, lower gas prices, and energy independence.

The latest energy boondoggle on the table involves the natural gas industry and is called the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act. As Veronique de Rugy explains, the bill would provide subsidies for the manufacture and purchase of cars that run on natural gas, the conversion of commercial trucks from diesel to natural gas, the creation of natural-gas filling stations, and tax preferences to favor the use of natural gas over other energy sources. And like many bad ideas, it has bipartisan support.

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No, the Presidential Election Probably Won’t be Over Tomorrow

Nick Gillespie warned last week that Ohio’s absentee and provisional ballot system is likely to gum up the election results. In short, Ohio residents who request an absentee ballot, change their mind and decide to vote at the polls the old fashioned way will be required to fill out provisional ballots instead. By state law, provisional ballots can’t be counted until Nov. 17.

Today, The Washington Post reports on the legal mess being caused by the way Ohio is counting the provisional ballots, beyond even the delays:

Voting rights advocates contend that a new directive issued Friday evening by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted improperly places the burden on voters — rather than poll workers — for accurately recording the form of identification on provisional ballots.

Husted ordered the state’s 88 county elections boards to reject provisional ballots when the identification portion is incomplete. This appears to be in conflict with a consent decree reached last month between the state and voting rights groups that said provisional ballots with incomplete identification information should be counted.

A group of unions and voting rights groups went to federal court Thursday asking that the state be made to reaffirm that commitment. A day later, Husted released his directive. The state is expected to respond before the end of Monday, but a decision may not come until after the election. Election boards have 10 days after the election to evaluate the eligibility of provisional ballots and decide whether to count them.

The final tracking poll by the University of Cincinnati has the race too close to call in Ohio with President Barack Obama barely ahead. A different poll, though, by NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist gives Obama a six-point lead in the state.

The Post also goes into detail about early voting squabbles and issues in Florida over the weekend as well. It’s clear that the closer the vote is Tuesday, the further we’ll be from actually knowing the outcome.

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Join Us as Reason Tweets 2012 Election Night!

Tomorrow night, the Reason staff will be live tweeting as results roll in from around the country. Join us at Hit&Run to celebrate the the last gasp of Election 2012. We'll get started here at 7:30 p.m., as voting wraps up on the East Coast. 

No drinking game for this one: Drink in despair if your guy loses, drink in triumph if your guy wins, drink to remember, drink to forget. Do what you gotta do to get through the night.

Watch Matt Welch (and Gary Johnson and Jill Stein) Tonight on RT!

The possibly russologist network RT (not to be confused with "retweet") is tonight broadcasting what will possibly be the last presidential debate of the eternal 2012 campaign, a Free and Equal-hosted affair between Green Party nominee Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party's own Gary Johnson. The debate starts at 9 pm ET, but RT will have a pre-game show beginning at 8 pm starring yours truly and a handful of other commentators.

A fun and non-mainstream time should be had by all, so drop on by, leave comments on this thread, and otherwise misbehave.

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Scott Shackford on Wreck-It Ralph

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph hit the theaters this weekend with an eye toward appealing to generational nostalgia over the days of the arcade. But, as Scott Shackford reviews, this animated feature has more to offer than cutesy ‘80s cameos. Ralph’s story might just resonate well with those former gamer kids who have struggled to cast off the negative labels thrown their way as they navigate the complexities of parenthood.

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The Politics of Price Gouging: It's OK for Unions, Gas Station Owners Not So Much

So it turns out that price gouging is OK in certain circumstances, even when disaster has struck. Here's the Daily Caller reporting on demands from some New York unions that out-of-state electricians who traveled to repair storm damage either join the collective or be told to take a hike:

In New York, no government official has stepped in to ensure that utility crews from other states won’t have to show their union membership cards before going to work — even though their own employers are paying for them to repair power lines in the Empire State.

Eventually, [Barry] Moline [head of the Florida Municipal Energy Association] said, his state’s crews “went everywhere else” affected by Sandy, “but it was only in New York where the union had to give their blessing.”

“It just made me sick that you’ve got people who have no power,” he said, “and you hear about a lot of people dying.”

More here.

Meanwhile, of course, keeping prices low when it comes to gas, bottled water, and the like is the order of the day throughout the metro New York area.

That seems right: Gas station owners can't raise prices, which might actually encourage more gas suppliers to make the extra effort to bring in a bigger supply. Meanwhile, the city does nothing to stop the shaking down of electricians who traveled hundreds of miles to pitch in and help because it might screw with union supremacy in a ravaged city.

Reason TV's Jim Epstein reported on how New York City's anti-gouging law is playing out at Brooklyn gas stations:

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Tomorrow Isn't All About the Presidency, Here Are Some Ballot Initiatives and Measures to Follow

Tomorrow many will be watching the presidential election with a mixture of excitement, dread, and apprehension. If the Reason staff’s voting intentions are anything to go by it looks like for at least some libertarians the race for the White House will offer no cause for celebration, whatever the outcome.

However, despite the lack of enthusiasm that we might have in the top two contenders for the presidency, there are plenty of races we will be keeping a close eye on.

Liberal marijuana measures are on the ballot in Washington, Oregon, Arkansas, Colorado, and Detroit. As Jacob noted, it looks like Washington will vote in favor of legalization, while Colorado’s Amendment 64 has 50 percent support. Victories for the anti-drug war crowd in any of these races would be a welcome step forward. But, considering how the DEA has acted under both Republican and Democratic presidencies there will be reason to worry about how the federal government will react to these measures, whoever is president.

In Massachusetts the right to die is on the ballot. Question 2 would allow the terminally ill to receive a life-ending dose of drugs. Recent polling shows that a little over half support the measure.

Healthcare policy is also on the ballot in a few states. Montana’s LR-122 has been put on the ballot in response to Obama’s eponymous healthcare law, and would allow for Montanans to decide if they would like to go without health insurance. Alabama Amendment 6 would ban mandatory participation in a healthcare system.

Gay marriage is being put to voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington.

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No Freebies for Voters, Bankruptcy May Defuse the Pension Crisis, Greeks Strike Again: P.M. Links

  • Were you planning to vote just so you could get that free cup of coffee that's being handed out to do-ers of civic good deeds? Fugeddaboudit. Giving goodies to voters is illegal. Really.
  • A British poll says Obama will win the popular vote by a margin of two percent and take most of the battleground states. No, I don't know why the limeys are running surveys for an American election, either.  But Europeans do seem a little emotionally invested in the outcome.
  • The last, great hope for reining-in California pension disaster may be urban bankruptcies. That because, in receivership, judges call the shots, and are (comparatively) insulated from political pressures.
  • Confiscating every penny from every millionaire in the United States would keep the federal government going ... for three months.
  • Greek transportation and media workers are striking again. In further news, nobody noticed.
  • A new study finds that teens living at home with lesbian parents do better in school. Huh.
  • Check your PayPal account. Anonymous says they swiped a bunch of passwords.

Have a news tip for us? Send it to: 24_7@reason.com

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Ira Stoll on How Romney Can Win

It turns out, writes Ira Stoll, that a substantial portion of the electorate isn’t interested in demonizing successful American businessmen, as President Obama and his campaign have done. It turns out that a lot of voters admire American business success and wish we had more successful entrepreneurs in America, not fewer of them. So much of this campaign was President Obama and his allies attacking Bain Capital (and Wall Street, and insurance companies, and oil companies), and so much of it was Romney defending his career at Bain Capital.

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Expect Fewer Full-Time Workers Thanks to ObamaCare

The Department of Unintended Consequences has released its latest report on President Obama's health care law. Last month, J.D. Tuccille noted an early report that restaurant group Darden, which operates the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, was looking into ways to cut back the work hours for many employees in order to avoid ObamaCare's employer penalties.

It seems Darden isn't the only big employer thinking this way. The Wall Street Journal reports that a number of large service industry employers — including retail stores, restaurants, and hotel chains — have either begun limiting hourly worker schedules to 30 hours a week or say they are about to do so. That's because starting in 2014, ObamaCare requires employers to either provide health insurance for hourly workers who hit the 30-hour threshold or pay a fine of at least $2,000 per uninsured worker. 

This is likely to affect a lot of workers across the country. The Journal reports: 

Pillar Hotels & Resorts this summer began to focus more on hiring part-time workers among its 5,500 employees, after the Supreme Court upheld the health-care overhaul, said Chief Executive Chris Russell. The company has 210 franchise hotels, under the Sheraton, Fairfield Inns, Hampton Inns and Holiday Inns brands.

"The tendency is to say, 'Let me fill this position with a 40-hour-a-week employee.' "Mr. Russell said. "I think we have to think differently."

...Home retailer Anna's Linens Inc. is considering cutting hours for some full-time employees to avoid the insurance mandate if the health-care law isn't repealed, said CEO Alan Gladstone.

Mr. Gladstone said the costs of providing coverage to all 1,100 sales associates who work at least 30 hours a week would be prohibitive, although he was weighing alternative options, such as raising prices.

So thanks to ObamaCare, these workers will earn less. And they won't get employer-sponsored coverage either. Now, they may have access to subsidized insurance through the law's health exchanges. But if recent projections for premium prices in California's exchange are any indication, individual insurance premiums are going to rise substantially thanks to the law. So they'll be working less and earning less while purchasing mandatory insurance through exchanges that cause the price of insurance to increase. 

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Reason TV's Anthony Fisher Talks Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts on HuffPost Live

Reason TV producer Anthony Fisher appeared on Huffpost Live and gave a first-hand account of how private citizens' relief efforts are outperforming FEMA's in the devastated Rockaways section of New York City.

Here's a link to the segment, where Fisher, Ahmed-Shihab Eldin, and a community panel also discussed poll numbers on the eve of the presidential election, the role of Twitter during Hurricane Sandy, and what can be done for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who became homeless last week.

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Washington Voters Are 'Likely to Legalize Marijuana on Tuesday'

The latest polls indicate that most Washington voters continue to favor marijuana legalization, while Colorado voters are not quite as enthusiastic but still may approve this unprecedented reform. In a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling from Thursday through Saturday, 53 percent of likely voters said they support Washington's Initiative 502, which would legalize possession of up to an ounce by adults 21 or older and authorize state-licensed pot shops. The polling organization says Washington voters are "likely to legalize marijuana on Tuesday."

In Colorado a SurveyUSA poll conducted last week put support for Amendment 64, which would allow home cultivation as well as state-licensed sales, at 50 percent, with 44 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided. The Denver Post reports that the measure is "tied among voters who said they had already cast a ballot," while "its biggest lead was among people who said they would be voting on Election Day." SurveyUSA observes:

Passage would be driven largely by the support of younger voters, who sometimes are less reliable, turnout-wise, than are older voters. Older voters oppose Amendment 64, and if the amendment should go down to defeat, it will be because younger Coloradans talked the talk but did not walk the voting-booth walk.

Garrett Quinn recently talked to the people behind the Amendment 64 and I-502 campaigns. On Friday I outlined what will happen if voters approve one or both initiatives.

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Would More Veterans in Congress Give Us a Smaller Military Budget?

Writing in The New York Times, U.S. Naval Academy historian Aaron B. O’Connell worries that a paucity of veterans in Congress makes lawmakers apt to mindlessly "support the troops" and oppose cuts in military spending:

Of course, veterans should be thanked for serving their country, as should police officers, emergency workers and teachers. But no institution—particularly one financed by the taxpayers —should be immune from thoughtful criticism....

Most of the political discourse on military matters comes from civilians, who are more vocal about “supporting our troops” than the troops themselves. It doesn’t help that there are fewer veterans in Congress today than at any previous point since World War II. Those who have served are less likely to offer unvarnished praise for the military, for it, like all institutions, has its own frustrations and failings. But for non-veterans—including about four-fifths of all members of Congress—there is only unequivocal, unhesitating adulation. The political costs of anything else are just too high.

If Mitt Romney had served in the military, maybe he would be less inclined to portray every so-called cut to the so-called defense budget, even when it amounts to merely a smaller increase, as recklessly endangering the nation's security. 

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Inside the Internecine Battle Over Washington State's Marijuana Ballot Measure

BELLINGHAM , Wash. — The usual opponents to drug policy reform are nowhere to be found in the fight over I-502, Washington's ballot initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Social conservatives are focusing their energies on a gay marriage ballot initiative and law enforcement types are either quietly opposing the initiative or supporting it. To the surprise of many, the loudest opponents of a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana are people who want to...legalize marijuana.

Wearing a “Vote No on I-502” jacket featuring marijuana leaves, Steve Sarich describes his efforts to stop the passage of I-502 as a David vs Goliath battle.