Weekly Hit & Run Archive 2012 November 8-31

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Would Mitt Romney Have Wanted to Raise Taxes Too?

Here we go again. The Bush era tax cuts (now a decade old and counting) are set to expire again. They were originally set to expire in 2010, but Congress and the president agreed to extend them for two years because a) the economy wasn’t doing so well then (and, as Peter Suderman noted earlier, it’s not doing so well now either) and b) it would be after the election. And now here we are; President Obama began campaigning for tax hikes soon after being re-elected last week.

What would Mitt Romney have done? Unfortunately it may not be just an idle question. The president’s already claimed “the majority of voters agreed” with him on higher taxes, more voters, even, he said, than actually voted for him. On election night, Obama promised to reach out and try to work with Mitt Romney. Romney probably shouldn’t hold his breath waiting for that opportunity to materialize; nevertheless, if the president got Romney’s endorsement on some specific plan, he could claim he’s got the support of all the voters, even as something like 70 percent of eligible voters did something other than vote for Obama on election day.

The dean of Columbia’s Business School, Glenn Hubbard, a former Romney advisor, did his part to help clear the path to higher taxes for the president, arguing in the op-ed pages of the Financial Times that the first step to negotiating the coming fiscal cliff is to, you guessed it, raise taxes on the rich (“to raise average (not marginal) tax rates on upper-income taxpayers,” as Hubbard put it). He did acknowledge “taxing the rich” can’t fund the entitlement state and that a larger government would necessitate across-the-board tax hikes. How… comforting? The federal budget is at about $3.7 trillion a year and growing. It was half that as recently as 2001. And now the economic advisor for the Republican’s 2012 standard bearer has laid out a way to higher taxes (or “revenue raising” in DC newspeak).

Bonus points: Hubbard also suggested a “universal consumption tax”.

Apropos: The 1988 SNL skit “Dukakis After Dark,” where Lloyd Bentsen (played by Matthew Modine) asks Michael Dukakis (played by Jon Lovitz) “now that it's all over, you can tell me, you were going to raise taxes weren't you?” to which Dukakis responds  "Oh you bet I was, through the roof! But now I won't get the chance." George H.W. Bush won the 1988 election, and despite America reading his lips, he raised taxes just like Dukakis would’ve.

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73 Percent of Voters Think Medical Marijuana Should be Legal, Half think Recreational Pot Should Be Too

In October 1969, 84 percent of Americans opposed legalizing the use of marijuana, 12 percent thought it should be legal. Thirty-two years later in October 2011, Gallup found for the first time Americans broke the 50 percent threshold favoring legalizing the drug. Today, the November elections mark the first time voters popularly legalized the drug for recreational use. In Colorado, State Constitutional Amendment 64 passed 55 to 45 percent, and in Washington Initiative 502 also passed 55 to 45 percent, legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

 Source: Gallup 

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted this past September also found the nation ripe for drug policy change. The nation is evenly divided over whether to legalize small amount of marijuana for adults, 48 to 48 percent. However, nearly three-fourths believe medical marijuana should be legal with a doctor’s prescription.

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Obama Speaks on Petraeus Scandal, Israel Bombards Gaza, Social Security Still Untouchable: P.M. Links

  • President Barack Obama held a press conference today, the issues running the gamut from bread to circuses. He said he’s seen no evidence so far that there was any actual national security risk in the David Petraeus sex scandal. He also defended U.N. Ambassador’s Susan Rice’s handling of Benghazi from GOP attacks.
  • Israel launched an air strike on Gaza, killing a Hamas military chief. This was followed by naval bombardment into the area in response to rockets fired from Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces' Twitter feed warned that no Hamas members should show their faces anytime soon.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Social Security is not on the table when it comes to dealing with the fiscal cliff. So I guess we won’t be dealing with the fiscal cliff?
  • The middle class is growing in the Caribbean and Latin American countries, up by 50 percent over the past decade.
  • Thanks to gun-control laws in Mexico, its citizens find it very hard to protect themselves from lawless and heavily armed drug cartels. Many gun owners have to defy the law themselves.
  • Independent Maine Senator Angus King announced he will caucus with the Democrats. But he’ll consider the Republicans if they retake Senate control. That doesn’t sound particularly independent.

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Matthew Feeney on What America Must Learn from the Eurozone Crisis

With the fiscal cliff approaching, American politicians and policy makers are looking to the unfolding European economic catastrophe for answers. Matthew Feeney explains that the American left needs to acknowledge that so-called austerity is not the problem, while the American right must accept that overspending alone did not cause the eurozone’s troubles. If we want to tackle the fiscal crisis at home, Feeney says, it is essential we first understand what is happening abroad.

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Will Denver's D.A. Finally Listen to Voters Who Want Him to Stop Prosecuting Pot Smokers?

Yesterday I noted that some local prosecutors in Washington have stopped pursuing marijuana possession cases covered by that state's legalization initiative, I-502, even though the measure does not officially take effect until December 6. Today Boulder County, Colorado, District Attorney Stan Garnett likewise announced that he will dismiss all pending marijuana cases involving possession of less than an ounce or possession of marijuana paraphernalia by defendants who are 21 or older. Colorado's legalization initiative, Amendment 64, takes effect after the final canvass is complete, which happens within 30 days of the election, and the vote is certified, which can take up to 30 days more, so the process might not be completed until January. Garnett explained his decision this way:

The standard for beginning or continuing criminal prosecution is whether a prosecutor has reasonable belief they can get a unanimous conviction by a jury. Given Amendment 64 passed by a more than 2-to-1 margin [in Boulder County], we concluded that it would be inappropriate for us to continue to prosecute simple possession of marijuana less than an ounce and paraphernalia for those over 21.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said his department has stopped issuing summonses in such cases.

Amendment 64's backers argue that other prosecutors, such as Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, should follow Garnett's example. "The bulk of Colorado marijuana possession arrests occur in Denver," they note in a press release, "and the city's voters have passed multiple initiatives intended to stop the arrest and prosecution of adults 21 and older for private marijuana possession," including a 2005 initiative that eliminated local penalties for possession and a 2007 initiative that said marijuana possession should be the city's lowest law enforcement priority. Morrissey nevertheless continued to prosecute pot smokers under state law. "A strong majority of Coloradans made it clear that they do not believe adults should be made criminals for possessing small amounts of marijuana," says Mason Tvert, co-director of the Yes on 64 campaign. "Colorado prosecutors can follow the will of the voters by dropping these cases today and announcing they are no longer taking on new ones."

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Will Obama Raise Taxes on the Rich Back to Clinton-Era Levels? Don't Bet On It

At a White House press conference today, President Obama reiterated his campaign argument that any deficit reduction plan must include tax hikes on top earners. “We cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy,” he said.

Any lingering debate about the issue was decided by the election. “I argued for a balanced, responsible approach,” the president said. “Part of that included making sure that the wealthiest Americans pay a little bit more. I think every voter out there understood that, that was an important debate, and the majority of voters agreed with me. Not—by the way, more voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me.”

So is it all settled? Should we expect tax rates to return to Clinton-era rates on family income earned over $250,000 at the end of the year, when the cuts originally passed under President George W. Bush are set to expire?

Don’t bet on it.

Last time the Bush tax cuts were up for debate, Obama similarly insisted that rates had to go up for high earners. They didn’t. Which is why it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to Clinton-era rates this time around either, despite Obama’s tough rhetoric.

When this came up at the press conference, President Obama didn’t have much of a response. “Two years ago the economy was in a different situation,” he said, suggesting that the economy was still weak enough then that it couldn’t handle a tax hike at all. But is today’s economy recovering much faster? Not really. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the economy grew at an annual rate of 2 percent in the third quarter of this year, following a 1.3 percent GDP increase in the second quarter of 2012. If anything, that’s slightly worse overall than in 2010, which also saw a 2 percent annual growth rate in the third quarter following second quarter growth of 1.7 percent. If keeping all of the Bush tax cuts in place was a good idea then, why is it a bad idea now? 

The other argument Obama made was that the numbers left him with no other choice. “I’ve been living with this for a couple of years now. I know the math pretty well,” he said. But raising taxes on top earners doesn’t get you very far toward zeroing out the deficit. Raising taxes back to Clinton-era rates on individual income earned over $200,000 a year and couples earning more than $250,000 nets about $1 trillion in total over the next decade. Obama has already run $1 trillion deficits every single year he’s been in office. Following the president’s most recent budget proposal, debt held by the public would increase by about $8.7 trillion over the next decade—on top of the $10.1 trillion public debt the country is already carrying. This is not exactly a "balanced, responible" plan. Nor is it much of an argument for why we'll see Clinton-era income tax rates return for high earners. We didn't in 2010, and there's no reason to think that we will this year either. 

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Do Your Miranda Rights Stop at the Schoolhouse Door?

The Kentucky Supreme Court is deciding a case that tests the limits of self-incrimination in a public school setting.

From the Kentucky Enquirer:

The Kentucky Supreme Court is considering a case from Nelson County that could require school officials to give the Miranda warning – You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you ... – when questioning a student with a school resource officer present.

Principals frequently work with such officers – there are 254 sworn police working in Kentucky schools, according to the Kentucky Center for School Safety, and up to 60 percent of schools nationwide have one on campus....

The case involved a student who copped to giving a fellow student two prescription pain pills after being questioned by his school's principal and assistant principal. Also along for the ride was an armed "school resource officer," who ultimately charged the student, known only as "N.C." with "illegally dispensing a controlled substance." N.C. ended up doing 45 days in jail. His lawyers argue that he was never read his Miranda rights and hence his admission of guilt to the authorities should have been tossed.

Who could be against enforcing the very constitutional rights that schools are supposed to teach kids? Well, school administrators for one. Here's Wayne Young, head of an administrators group:

“If a crime is being committed in school, if somebody is handing out pain medication, I don’t think we should be troubled with constitutional niceties.”

In a similar case from last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a kid's age should be taken into account when determining whether Miranda applies. The idea is that kids are more likely to feel pressured to cooperate than adults, so they should be given more information about their rights and whether they can leave an interrogation or not.

Whole story here.

Headline allusion is to the 1969 decision in Tinker v. Des Moines, a student free speech case in which the Court ruled that students don't shed their rights when they show up for compulsory edumication.

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Israel's Military Takes to Social Media During Attack on Gaza, Sparks Spat on Twitter

Israel has killed the Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jaabari in an airstrike. The strike comes after days of rocket fire coming from Gaza. Since the assassination both sides have escalated their operations, Israeli reservists are reportedly on standby. Although violence is nothing new to the region, today’s events have highlighted the use of social media in modern warfare.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have released a Youtube video of al-Jaabari’s assassination on their channel:  

The IDF has also has also been using its Twitter account to offer updates and advice to their enemy. Earlier today the feed confirmed that the Israeli Navy has been bombarding “terror sites” in Gaza:

The same account was also used to issue warnings to Hamas:

Unsurprisingly, this has promoted some strong responses:

Since the beginning of the day Egypt has recalled its ambassador to Israel. What is developing now in Gaza may well be the the first serious test of Israel's relationship with Morsi's government. The Guardian is running a good feed on the events in Gaza and international responses. 

The President, whose relationship with Israel was criticized by Republicans during the campaign, has been briefed by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres

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Ron Paul's Farewell Speech to Congress: We Must Reject Coercion as a Tool to Mold Social and Economic Behavior

Rep. Ron Paul, who did not seek re-election to the House seat he won in 1996, gave part one of his farewell speech to Congress from the House floor this afternoon, aired live on C-SPAN. (Paul told me last week he was having a hard time getting the Speaker's office to grant him the time he wanted to give this talk and would likely have to split it in two; he seems to have gotten his full hour today.)

He wrote this speech out and read it, not his usual style. For my taste, the extemporizing Ron Paul of the campaign trail is a little more appealing, but this was still a good and important talk.

The talk was certainly not tightly structured; it hopped from idea to idea connected only by the theme, "things government does that are dangerous to liberty" and the vital importance of the people re-embracing the idea of liberty.

Paul used the talk mostly an opportunity to get out as many libertarian ideas and observations as he could squeeze into a half hour to what he hoped would be an attentive audience. What I write here covers at best half of the specifics he managed to rattle out quickly, and will likely not be much better organized than Paul was himself.

Paul says he is encouraged by what he sees as a renaissance of interest in the ideas of liberty among students and the young. He insists that while liberty does tend to make us rich, we need to understand why liberty is good even beyond mere materialist concerns--and that our apparent material prosperity lately is phony and based largely on debt and out-of-control fiat money that he predicts will lead to even greater economic crises ahead.

He laments that America departed from what he saw as a generally proper attitude toward government's role back in the progressive era, particularly with the income tax and Federal Reserve. He wonders why there aren't more politicians who defend both economic and civil liberties. 

Paul attacked a long string of what he sees as government abuses, including the National Defense Authorization Act, sanctions, opposition to true free trade, arresting users of medical pot or raw milk, and wonders why Germany wants its gold. He doesn't like how many federal crimes now exist and how insecure our electronic communications are to government snooping.

He attacks the TSA and mandatory sentences in drug prosecutions and the drug war in general, and wonders why you can't criticize AIPAC without committing political suicide. He's against using government to give away others' resources to special interests, and he's against Keynesian economics, and he's for habeus corpus.

Paul is against violence, even for humanitarian reasons. He says only those with criminal minds would want to walk into someone's house and tell them what they need to do, allegedly for their own good. He calls for "no government monopoly over initiating violence," one of the more anarchistic thoughts one has ever heard from the House floor.

"The fact that violence by government is seen as morally justified," he says, will likely lead to more violence in the case of domestic unrest as the result of further economic troubles where people are fighting to keep what they think is theirs. He wonders why government authorities are able to sleep knowing the damage they are causing to others with their wars--and thinks as long as that philosophy of might makes right rules, it will tend to create a lack of morality in the people as well. He pretty much blames public immorality for the immorality of government later on in the talk, lamenting our general loss of understanding that violence to solve social problems is wrong.

He says the rich tend to benefit more from government's income redistribution schemes than the poor. He hat tips the homeschooling movement and the Internet as the likely sources for the spread of the ideas of liberty that America needs to survive the looming crisis.

Our five biggest crises, he says, are attacks on civil liberties; foreign policy blowback; the ease with which we go to war; a financial crisis from excessive debt; and (I think) giving extranational governing authorities too much say over our national decisions (an old populist Right theme that Paul pretty much dropped in his last campaign). 

In summation, Paul says, people should care for themselves, and give government authority merely to enforce contracts, settle disputes, and protect against foreign aggression. And politicians need to educate people that they need to be prepared to take up the burdens that government should never have taken up to begin with.

It's all about peace and tolerance, Paul says, and a truly moral people must reject the use of violence for social goals. (He calls back to the time he was booed in January at a South Carolina GOP debate for calling on the golden rule in our foreign affairs.) Envy and intolerance must go; love and free market economics have to rule. He calls on all of us to help spread the message of liberty--which usually accompanies wealth and prosperity--throughout the land.

Ron Paul: a true American original. No politician talks like this, and I suspect it will be a long time before another does. Ideas like this will be much harder to find in the House of Representatives with Paul gone, and we will all be the poorer for it.

UPDATE: Transcript of the speech.

My book on Paul's career, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

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At Obama's Press Conference Today, Not a Single Reporter Asked About Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

In case y'all were wondering, the journalists who attended Obama's press conference today found it prudent to ask the president if he wishes he had known sooner that Gen. Petraeus is a slut, whether movie critic/U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice will be nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, if he will bomb Iran, and what he plans to do about the "situation" in Syria. 

The assembled journalists did not, however, ask Obama about the "situation" in Colorado and Washington, because it is more fun to ask the president about time travel and warmongering than reality.

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Clarence Thomas and the Colorblind Constitution

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Shelby County v. Holder. At issue is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a provision requiring certain states and localities to receive approval from either the Justice Department or the federal judiciary before changing their election procedures. Originally intended as a temporary measure to defeat the voting rights abuses prevalent under Jim Crow, Section 5 has been repeatedly extended by Congress, most recently in 2006. The Supreme Court will consider whether this latest extension exceeds congressional authority and violates both the 10th Amendment and Article IV of the Constitution.

Writing at The Washington Examiner, Ohio Northern University law professor Scott Douglas Gerber argues that the outcome in this case, as well as the outcome in the recent affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, is likely to be shaped in large part by the judicial philosophy of Justice Clarence Thomas. As Gerber explains, Thomas has long been critical of race-conscious government policies, including both affirmative action and the modern extensions of the Voting Rights Act, though his views have so far been been expressed primarily in dissenting and concurring opinions. In Gerber’s view, Fisher and Shelby County each offer the real possibility for Thomas to write a landmark majority opinion. “With these two cases,” Gerber argues, “the nation's highest ranking African American jurist has been provided with an unprecedented opportunity to commit the Court to the notion of color-blind constitutionalism for which he has been working for most of his professional life.” Gerber also offers this prediction:

Edgar Fiedler famously warned that "He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass." But it would be naive to ignore that a very conservative Court has agreed to decide both Fisher v. University of Texas and Shelby County v. Holder during the current term. If the justices end racial preferences in admissions and scrap Section 5 (and I expect they will), and if Thomas writes one or both of the majority opinions (and I expect he will), Thomas will have cemented his legacy by ensuring that each American, no matter the color of his skin, is treated as an individual and not as a member of a racial or ethnic group.

I’m less confident we’ll see a Thomas-penned majority in either of these cases, particularly Fisher, where Justice Anthony Kennedy strikes me as the horse to bet on, but Gerber makes a strong case for why we’re at least likely to see Thomas’ approach reflected in the outcomes.

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Obama on Petraeus: "People are innocent until proven guilty"

The first question at President Obama's press conference today was about the investigation of General David Petraeus, who just resigned the directorship of the CIA following allegations that he conducted an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, and that Broadwell possessed classified information about the CIA's work in Libya.

"Should you and the American people have been told that the CIA chief was under investigation before the election?" a reporter asked Obama of the FBI investigation into Petraeus and Broadwell that began months ago.

"I think you're going to have to talk to the FBI about what their protocols are," Obama responded. "One of the challenges here is that we're not supposed to meddle in criminal investigations. That's been our practice. People are innocent until proven guilty. We don't want to prejudge these situations."

Followers of the Wikileaks/Bradley Manning investigation know that hasn't always been the practice. When Obama was asked in 2011 about Manning, who had been arrested, but not tried for violating the Espionage Act, Obama said,

If I was to release stuff, information that I’m not authorized to release, I’m breaking the law…We’re a nation of laws. We don’t individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate…

He broke the law.

Another reporter asked Obama if he's withholding judgement about the investigation, or about the fact that he was not told until about the investigation until after the election.

"I am withholding judgement about the entire process around General Petraeus...I am going to wait and see. It's also possible that had we been told, you'd be sitting here asking why we interfered in a criminal investigation."

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Mike Riggs on Transparency in the Obama Administration

On March 28, 2011, a group of leading transparency advocates presented Barack Obama with an award for his efforts to open up government. The president who took office promising “an unprecedented level of openness in government” was getting his due for introducing sunlight into the murky workings of state. Supposedly. 

The meeting was closed to the media, off limits even to a promised pool photographer and reporter. The ceremony did not appear on Obama’s public schedule, and the White House did not release a transcript of the conversation, writes Mike Riggs. “Shh!” read the headline in Politico. “Obama Gets Anti-Secrecy Award.”

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Rand Paul: Politico Shocked He's Behaving Like a Libertarian

Sure, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has gone out of his way to call himself a constitutionalist conservative rather than a libertarian per se, and many (perhaps most) libertarians object to his objections to abortion (though if you genuinely believe a fetus is a human life, there is nothing inherently unlibertarian about laws to protect them).

Still, Politico is acting way more shocked than they should be that Paul is making many libertarian-leaning proposals such as a call

to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for pot possession. He wants to carve a compromise immigration plan with an “eventual path” to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a proposal he believes could be palatable to conservatives. And he believes his ideas — along with pushing for less U.S. military intervention in conflicts overseas — could help the GOP broaden its tent...

Referring to these stances (especially on drugs and war) as a "Rand Paul evolution" as their headline does is mistaken; nothing they report on there contradicts how Sen. Paul has sold himself so far.

Sure, on immigration he is a guy who as candidate called for an underground electric border fence and as Senator has introduced bills to kill birthright citizenship. These are stances that culturally don't tend to go along with trying to find a sensible path to legality for those already here.

But there is nothing ideologically contradictory about it either. Rand will doubtless not, like his dad Ron Paul did in 1983, enter into the Congressional Record lines (from Austrian economics teacher Hans Sennholz) such as:

 In the cause of individual freedom, we must defend the rights of all people, including illegal aliens. But if the political rights of American citizenship entail the denial of the human right to work diligently for one’s economic existence, and if we are forced to choose between the two, we must opt for the latter. The right to sustain one’s life through personal effort and industry is a basic human right that precedes and exceeds all political rights. 

Still, one can be against letting in more immigrants or letting their kids become citizens without also being an advocate of deportation or even "self-deportation." (Of course, it is disappointing that Rand's libertarian leanings don't allow him to see that even treating immigration as a big issue/problem at all isn't necessary.)

The Politico article goes on to explain that Rand is still being cagey about his 2016 presidential plans (my own read of the Paul world gives a very, very, very strong probability to his running) and that being an ideological outlier in the Senate makes it hard to actually get your agenda through.

It is alas not unusual for non-conservative media to treat "Tea Party" as meaning "everything liberals don't like about the GOP turned up to 11" rather than understand their distinct qualities. My colleague Nick Gillespie points out to me this morning that NPR persists in referring to defeated Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin as a "Tea Party" candidate despite how such Tea-Party identified groups as FreedomWorks fought against him in the primaries for being just one more big-government Republican.

The Tea Party idea at its best is about cutting government spending to manageable levels, which Paul has been great about. Libertarian approaches to drugs, foreign policy, and immigration are necessary parts of that. Other right-wingers have long recognized the sinister libertarian dangers of Tea Party man Rand Paul.

Reason's June 2011 cover story on Rand Paul.

Tonight: Nick Gillespie Debates Former DEA Head Asa Hutchinson on Drug Legalization

I'm taking part in an Intelligence Squared debate in New York City tonight. Here's the proposition:

It was 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared a "war on drugs." $2.5 trillion dollars later, drug use is half of what it was 30 years ago, and thousands of offenders are successfully diverted to treatment instead of jail. And yet, 22 million Americans-9% of the population-still uses illegal drugs, and with the highest incarceration rate in the world, we continue to fill our prisons with drug offenders. Decimated families and communities are left in the wake. Is it time to legalize drugs or is this a war that we're winning?

If you're in New York, come on out and buy a ticket. Or livestream it right here.

I'll be joined on the legalization side by Georgetown Law's Paul Butler and we'll be duking it out with former Drug Enforcement Administration head Asa Hutchinson and the Manhattan Institute's Theodore Dalrymple.

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Philly Plans Eminent Domain To Displace Private Projects With City Ones

It's customary, when discussing eminent domain, to allow that it's a necessary use of state power that enhances the good of the community, before then going on to discuss whatever horrendous abuse is being committed this week through the application of the government's ability to take private property for "public use." I'm not going to do that, because eminent domain is always, at its core, nothing more than government officials forcibly substituting their preferences for those of people who actually own the stuff the officials want to use. That's at best. At worst, it's a means for officials to aggrandize themselves and their friends, and a weapon to use against others. If you want yet another illustration of that fact, take a peek at the forever-entertaining City of Brotherly Love, where the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority plans to grab a couple dozen properties to develop for affordable housing, many of which are already slated for private development.

From the Philadelphia Daily News:

CITY COUNCIL'S Rules Committee moved forward with a controversial plan Tuesday that would allow the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) to take more than two dozen properties through eminent domain to build affordable housing in Point Breeze.

A month ago, that plan, sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson on behalf of the Nutter administration, included 43 properties, some of which private developers owned and planned to develop.

PRA had since reduced the number of properties it will condemn to 28, including 17 privately owned and 11 city-owned properties, after it found that owners have projects under way, applied for permits or are using the lots as side yards to their residences. Council could give the plan final approval in two weeks.

But even with the reduced list, developer Ori Feibush, who made national headlines recently for his fight with the city over a vacant lot, said the city is taking several properties owned by himself or developers he represents.

Ori Feibush, you may remember, recently got in a tussle with the city over his cleanup of a vacant lot adjacent to his cafe that he'd offered to purchase. The city didn't respond, so he carted off a reported 40 tons of trash and prettied it up at his own expense. Philadelphia officials ordered him to restore it to its former glory, and hilarity ensued. Feibush's OCF Realty owns some of the properties targeted by the city for acquisition, even though Philadelphia already owns a whole lot of unused parcels in Point Breeze.

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Supreme Court Declines to Tackle Prosecutorial Misconduct Case

A case that touches on two important criminal justice issues – prosecutorial misconduct and the federal government’s zealous war on pain medication will not be heading to the Supreme Court, even after nearly 70 federal judges and prosecutors threw their support behind it.

Ali Shaygan, a Miami doctor, had been acquitted by a jury of illegally prescribing pain-killers after one of his patients died. He had faced 141 separate charges. Then he fought back. Via Reuters:

A Miami federal judge later awarded the doctor $602,000 under a federal law called the Hyde Amendment, which allows judges to sanction prosecutors for taking positions that are "vexatious, frivolous or in bad faith."

The judge found that prosecutors acted in bad faith by pursuing new charges and secretly recording Shaygan's defense team. The steps were taken in retribution after Shaygan's attorney tried to keep statements the doctor made to investigators out of evidence, the judge found.

The judge called the prosecution's tactics "profoundly disturbing," adding that they raised "troubling issues about the integrity of those who wield enormous power over the people they prosecute."

But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the award, ruling that prosecutors have broad discretion under the doctrines of sovereign immunity and separation of powers.

Regardless of prosecutors' subjective ill will, they had an objectively reasonable basis for their acts, the appeals court found.

Shaygan appealed to the Supreme Court and the aforementioned judges and prosecutors supported him. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case without comment.

Not hearing the case obviously doesn’t affect the ability to invoke the Hyde Amendment in future instances of malicious prosecution. But the appeals court ruling means that no matter how inappropriate the prosecution’s conduct is in the pursuit of a conviction, as long as they can prove they had probable cause to try the case, defendants have no financial recourse, and the prosecution cannot be held accountable under the Hyde Amendment.

You can read more about the details of the case here.

In the meantime, former Reason contributing editor and current Huffington Post writer Radley Balko blogged Tuesday that in the wake of a series on painkillers he wrote in March, he is still getting regular e-mails from patients suffering due to the feds’ scrutiny of prescribing doctors. His latest letter, about a man suffering in agony for the last three months of his life, is a real heart-breaker.

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The Campaign Mitt Romney Could Have Run

The malleability of Mitt Romney’s political persona was widely—and correctly, I think—viewed as a weakness of his campaign. He was too willing to say anything he thought his party wanted to hear, too unwilling to stake out firm and clear positions of his own. He was a follower, not a leader, a reflection of his party’s incoherence rather than a visionary who could unify its disparate parts, and he let a cautious consultant’s mindset—give the client what they want—drive his messaging. In the end, he left his party much the way he found it: leaderless, uncertain, and united mostly by opposition to common political enemies. 

But that very malleability, and Romney’s clear willingness to reshape himself and his campaign into various guises also makes it possible to imagine a very different Romney and a very different GOP presidential run—one that might still have lost, yes, but would have left the party better off in doing so.

Romney, the ideology-averse Massachusetts moderate who helped pass ObamaCare’s state-level predecessor, was always an awkward fit for the Tea Party-infused Republican party of 2012. And yet at the same time he was actually well-positioned to help shape the party’s thinking on any number of crucial issues.

RomneyCare, for example, didn’t have to be the awkward liability that it was. Romney could have used his experience building that program to position himself as the most knowledgeable Republican critic of ObamaCare, someone who has seen that system firsthand and knows now that it does not work as well as promised. He could have argued that RomneyCare was a worthwhile experiment, but not one that should be repeated.

On immigration, Romney ran as a staunch hawk who favored “self-deportation.” But his position wasn’t always so cringe-worthy. Just a few years earlier, Romney’s immigration views were closer to the party’s moderate, business-friendly wing: In 2007, he said on Meet the Press that he favored policies that would make it possible for illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to achieve citizenship or permanent residency. Rather than reverse himself, Romney could have expanded on his openness to immigrants, emphasizing their entrepreneurial drive and willingness to work. Yes, there would have been resistance from parts of the base. But it might have helped the GOP with Latino voters, who voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. An argument for a more immigration-friendly position, meanwhile, would have put him ahead of the curve with his party, which in the days since the election has taken a sharp turn in favor of immigration reform.

On taxes, Romney toed the Republican line by proposing large reductions in income tax rates. To ensure revenue neutrality, he said, he’d cut loopholes from the tax code, but never specified which ones. This was exactly backwards: Romney, a detail oriented technocrat with a deserved reputation as a minutiae-obsessed numbers guy, should have focused on tax simplification—pushing a detailed tax reform plan to the wonks of the world while emphasizing the ease, simplicity, and fairness of an overhauled tax code, perhaps while suggesting the possibility of new tax rate cuts down the road.

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John Stossel Asks: Did Freedom Win?

President Obama's swooning fans don't want to tame politicians. We attended Obama's victory party in Chicago (we go so you don't have to) and asked his supporters what Obama's reelection means for freedom. People reacted as if they didn't understand the question, writes John Stossel.

"Freedom?" one asked. "Um, yes, I have no idea," said another.

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Immigration Reinvigorates the American Dream, Some Republicans Wrongly Focus on Immigration as a Border Issue

The GOP’s colossal November defeat has led many party leaders and conservative pundits including Sean Hannity, John Boehner, Charles Krauthammer to reconsider the GOP’s big government approach to immigration reform. (i.e. e-Verify mandates, fines against employers, and Arizona-style “your papers please.”) Republicans’ preoccupation with the border and rule abiding-ness has distracted them from the real problem: the rigidities of our current immigration laws.

Like capital mobility, labor mobility is critical to economic prosperity. In the case of capital, prohibiting cross-border investing results in missed investment opportunities and hinders startups from accessing much-needed capital that would be readily accessible if not for an arbitrary geopolitical boundary. Similarly, restricting immigration (labor) results in fewer opportunities for workers and inhibits businesses' ability to hire talent and thus compete in an increasingly global marketplace.

Immigration is also, as George Will rightly points out, an entrepreneurial activity that breeds a culture of individualism and personal responsibility; emigrating from ones’ home country requires substantial risk and hard work, leaving behind family and friends for the unknown, in pursuit of greater happiness. This is the soul of American culture. The act of immigrating to the US is remarkably similar to 19th century Americans moving Westward, an economic experience some argue fostered America’s unique culture of rugged individualism and personal responsibility. Immigration today is the essence of the American Dream, proof of the promise that individuals can rise above the circumstances of their birth and leave their children better off.

Contrary to concerns that liberalizing immigration laws would pose a long-term burden to US taxpayers, Dan Griswold points out that “the typical immigrant and his or her descendants pay more in taxes than they consume in government services in terms of net present value.” Moreover, while he also explains that low-skilled immigrants may impose a net cost on state and local governments (for instance public education), these costs are offset by broader benefits to the overall economy.

Republicans would be wise to recognize that immigrants come to America to build a better life through work, not welfare. There is evidence of this through high labor-force participation rates and immigrant labor movement toward states that offer better employment prospects, rather than welfare benefits. For instance, labor participation rates are higher for foreign-born adults than native-born adults, 67.9 versus 64.1 percent. This gap is even higher among men 80.1 to 70.1 percent. Moreover, fully 94 percent of unauthorized immigrant males were in the labor force in the mid-2000s. Immigrants in the 2000s were also far more likely to immigrate to states with low welfare spending per capita. For instance, the 10 lowest welfare-spending states experienced a 35 percent increase in unauthorized immigrant workers, the top ten welfare-spending states only experienced an 11 percent increase. (Data sourced here). These data indicate that immigrants, including low-skilled immigrants, come to America to earn money in the private economy. The failure to recognize that immigrants are here to work for a better life is insulting and does not win their votes or the votes of those who identify with immigrants.

Republicans have every reason to view immigration as an opportunity to bolster the American belief in upward economic mobility and to strengthen America’s culture of individualism, hard work, and personal responsibility. Recognizing this would help the GOP re-focus their attention on liberalizing our current immigration laws making it easier for people to come here and work with government authorization.

Instead many Republicans (take the Republican presidential primary for example) get caught up in the border and enforcing apparently ineffective immigration rules. This devolves into exclusionary speech that ignores the real reason that people come to the United States. The competitive political process coupled with changing demographics have made it in the GOP’s political interest to accept the facts that immigration strengthens our economy, our culture, and a belief in the American Dream.

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Cuba's Looser Travel Requirements Still Very Restrictive

Cuba excited the world and Cubans by announcing last month that government-issued exit visa requirements were going to be dropped.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Cuban Yoani Sanchez says it ain't a golden age for free travel yet. The announced end of the "white card" program by which official permission is required to leave is just being recreated under a new name.


Health care professionals noticed that they were still required to obtain permission to travel. The Cuban government defends travel restrictions for doctors and scientists with the argument that the "brain drain" could take many of them to countries that pay better salaries. Thus, in the newly released law, state control is actually strengthened over the travel of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even laboratory workers.

The fine print of Decree Law 302 doesn't stop there. The restrictions on leaving are even more severe for other professionals such as teachers and professors. Frightened by the growing loss of personnel in the field of education, Cuban leaders are trying to put a brake on escapes from the classroom. And they are doing it in the way it has always been done, not by paying better salaries or improving working conditions, but by force.

One of the perverse incentives unleashed by this strategy is expected to be enrollment declines for professional, legal, and engineering studies. If students know ahead of time that once they graduate in certain specialties it will be very difficult for them to travel, they will avoid getting degrees in them. A measure intended to fight "brain drain" could generate a decrease in the numbers who aspire to higher education....

As for the infamous White Card, it's true that Cubans will no longer need an exit permit to travel, but they will still need permission to possess a passport. So, when citizens apply to get this document, they will find out if they are among those who are allowed to cross the national borders or if, on the contrary, they are among the group condemned not to leave. Where once we had to wait for the White Card, now the little blue 32-page pamphlet will have the final word. The "permission to leave" had changed its color and name, but still stands.

Reason on Cuba. Just as Cuba ought to let its citizens freely leave, America ought to let its citizens, and its citizens money and business, freely go to Cuba. That is, end the embargo now! A free nation lets its citizens go and do business where the citizens want to.

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Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst: Drug Users Never Amount to Anything

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst want to make passing a drug test a condition for receiving welfare or unemployment benefits. "This will prevent tax dollars going into the pockets of drug users and drug dealers," Perry said yesterday. "This isn't all about punishing. This is also an incentive to get people off these drugs." Dewhurst agreed that "extending taxpayer-funded benefits while ignoring a behavior that would make it virtually impossible for someone to enter the work force or finish school sends them down the road to a much bleaker future." In response, ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke complained that Perry and Dewhurst's proposal is "based on stereotypes about our state's neediest Texans."

Not to mention stereotypes about drug users. Apparently they can graduate from Columbia or Yale and get law or business degrees from Harvard, but they can't finish high school. They can ascend to the presidency but are not qualified for any other job. Except maybe governor of Texas. Or U.S. senator. And come to think of it, drug users reportedly have had some success in fields such as acting, singing, comedy, professional sports, writing, law, science, computer software, insurance, and currency trading. But that does not mean they are up to taking your order at Whataburger, selling clothes at the Galleria, or fixing your hail-damaged roof.

Among American adults who are below retirement age, current or past use of illegal drugs (mostly marijuana) is the rule, not the exception. Survey data indicate that nearly 40 million Americans have used illegal drugs in the last year. It is absurd to make generalizations about the educational and employment prospects of these vast, diverse groups of people based on this one characteristic they share, let alone write them all off as losers who will never amount to anything. Any politician who tries to do so should find that whatever he says next is drowned out by laughter. 

More on drug-testing welfare recipients here and here. A similar program in Florida, interrupted last October due to litigation, cost taxpayers more than it saved them.

[Thanks to Ron Steiner for the tip.]

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Former Intelligence Officer Can Sue Pentagon For Censoring Book on 9/11, Afghanistan Failures

As noted on Reason 24/7 yesterday, a federal judge ruled that Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer (ret.), author of Operation Dark Heart, has standing to sue the Pentagon (specifically the Defense Intelligence Agency, for whom Shaffer worked) and the CIA for censoring his book, which detailed his experiences heading a black ops team in Afghanistan and how he saw military brass turn potential success into inevitable failure early on.

In fact, heavy redactions of the book were made after the Pentagon demanded to re-review it. A first, unredacted, edition of 10,000 copies was printed and the Pentagon purchased all the copies and destroyed them. The unredacted version, of course, is available with an online search.

In Shaffer’s judgement, he tells Reason, that second review “was conducted for political, not security, purposes.” Shaffer says the DIA retaliated against him for “being a whistleblower against them in the 2005 protected disclosure to Congress of the ABLE DANGER project, and DIA's specific failures to properly use pre-9/11 intelligence to prevent the 9/11 attacks.”  Shaffer has also been an outspoken critic of the Pentagon’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, which he said “would not work to achieve any permanent stability in Afghanistan,” and said that was a part of the Pentagon's suppression effort as well. The last chapter of Dark Heart lays out Shaffer’s own policy recommendations on the war. 

As for the redactions, they include things like the a in “a-team” and “Ned Beatty,” used to describe how someone looked. Shaffer says such redactions were “for no possible security reason other to try and render the book unreadable.” The Pentagon’s public efforts at suppressing the book, naturally, have helped make it more popular.

Shaffer characterizes the review as “abusive” and the redactions as “excessive,” and is suing for a violation of his First Amendment rights. 

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State Legislators in Rhode Island and Maine Are Announcing Marijuana Legalization Bills Tomorrow

State legislators in Rhode Island and Maine will announce bills tomorrow to legalize recreational marijuana, a spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project announced today.

Rhode Island Rep. Edith Ajello and Maine Rep. Diane Russell will hold a conference call tomorrow with the Marijuana Policy Project to announce the legislation.

MPP says that "similar proposals will be submitted in at least two other states — Vermont and Massachusetts." A ballot iniative legalizing medical marijuana passed in Massachusetts last week with more than 60 percent of the vote. Maine voters voted to expand the state's 1999 medical marijuana law in 2009 to include dispensaries. The Rhode Island legislature decriminalized marijuana earlier this year, and has had medical marijuana since 2006 (a stupid error on my part, since I blogged the Rhode Island legislature's decrim vote).

Correction: This post originally said that the bills would be introduced tomorrow. They will be announced tomorrow, and introduced when legislative sessions begin.

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Hurricane Sandy: A Tale of Two Headlines

As Sandy moved up the Atlantic coast, The New York Times summed up the conventional wisdom about the hurricane and the feds in an editorial headlined "A Big Storm Requires Big Government." It wasn't long before that story started coming apart, and at this point it may be safe to say that the narrative has completely reversed. Here's The Brooklyn Bureau, reporting under the rather different headline "Grassroots Groups Have Taken Over Sandy Relief":

In the days after the deluge, as Gerritsen residents began the process of sifting through their possessions to find what was salvageable, the relief effort got underway. But as has been the case in other stricken communities, the effort was led less by government agencies than by members of the community themselves — in this case, members of "the Vollies," Gerritsen Beach's volunteer fire station, the last volunteer fire department remaining in the borough and a symbol of the proud but increasingly frustrated self-reliance that has come to typify post-Sandy aid efforts.

Twelve days after the storm, the Vollies headquarters in the hard-hit "old section" of Gerritsen nearer the ocean is a hive of donated food and clothes, volunteers from all over, lists of electricians and plumbers hastily scrawled on pages from legal pads and taped to a wall. A food truck, normally resident in Midtown, has been dispatched by the mayor's office to serve free meals. National Guard troops based at nearby Floyd Bennett Field sort through a mountain of clothing. Amid the maelstrom, Assistant Fire Chief Doreen Garson is a nonstop ball of energy, directing volunteers, "Right now," she says, "we're acting as our own little city."...

Better than FEMA.By comparison, there has been less visible support from city and federal agencies. In particular, the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- which has already been lambasted in the media for shutting down many of its aid centers for two days "due to weather" when a nor'easter swept through last week, and for being outperformed by a bunch of ragged veterans of Occupy Wall Street -- gets little praise from the storm survivors thronging the Vollies hall.

The Times piece didn't just praise FEMA; it singled out the agency's "war room," the place "where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped." Turns out that those aren't areas where central planning works well, no matter how much the phrase "war room" excites the editorialists of The New York Times.

Video: Ladies, We're Screwed: Why Obama's Re-election is Bad for Choice

"Ladies, We're Screwed: Why Obama's Re-election is Bad for Choice" is the latest offering from Reason TV.

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

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A. Barton Hinkle on Campaign Finance and the Death of Democracy

Citizens United was a simple First Amendment matter, writes A. Barton Hinkle. Could the government ban the distribution of a movie advocating the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the crucial days leading up to an election, if the movie were paid for by a corporation? Could it, for that matter, ban a similarly funded book that said “Vote for X,” or a sign in Lafayette Park that said the same thing? The government’s lawyer, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart said yes: The government “could prohibit” such a book, movie, or sign. The Supreme Court said: No, it cannot.

Cue the hysterics.

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Free the Schnitzel: Chicago Food Truck Owners Sue

Several Chicago, Illinois food truck owners filed a lawsuit against the city today. The suit seeks to shoot down rules that require constant GPS monitoring of their trucks and force them to stay 200 feet from any business, like a 7-11, that sells food. The rule puts the Loop, Chicago's downtown area, practically off limits.

As Reason's Baylen Linnekin wrote in July, there is precisely no public health and safety justification for the law, which Chicago aldermen passed by a vote of 44-1 last summer at the behest of non-mobile establishments.

The Institute for Justice,* a libertarian public interest law firm, which represents the food truck owners, has produced this whimsical video highlighting their clients:

*Disclosure: I am a former employee of the Institute for Justice.

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A.M. Links: White House to Review Secession Petitions, Fiscal Cliff and Greece Worries Markets, Flight Disruption in Europe, “Chief Firefighter” to Head China’s Fight Against Corruption, Teachers at Failing District “Highly Effective"

  • The White House says it will review the secession petitions submitted to the White House’s website. Petitions from Texas, Louisiana, and Florida have passed the 25,000 signature mark after which a response is required. 
  • The situation in Greece and the upcoming fiscal debate in Congress has the markets worried. The Dow closed down 58.90 points yesterday, though it could have been worse had Home Depot stock not jumped 3.6 percent.  
  • Anti-austerity strikes have caused flight disruptions across Europe, with flights to and from Spain and Greece among the most affected. 
  • Administrators gave every teacher and principal in a Michigan school district a “Highly Effective” rating despite the district receiving a failing grade for student achievement, which makes total sense.  
  • Toyota has issued its second recall in two months after faults in the steering wheel and water system were discovered in nine models. 

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Jacob Sullum on Opting Out of the War on Marijuana

Shortly before the House of Representatives approved a federal ban on marijuana in 1937, the Republican minority leader, Bertrand Snell of New York, confessed, "I do not know anything about the bill." The Democratic majority leader, Sam Rayburn of Texas, educated him. "It has something to do with something that is called marihuana," Rayburn said. "I believe it is a narcotic of some kind."

Seventy-five years later, writes Jacob Sullum, we are still living with the consequences of that ill-considered decision, which nationalized a policy that punishes peaceful people and squanders taxpayer money in a blind vendetta against a plant. Last week, Sullum says, voters in Colorado and Washington showed us the way out of this crazy cannabicidal crusade.

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Hooray! Bankrupt California Is Now a One-Party State!

In the L.A. Times, lefty opiner Harold Meyerson performs a tapdance on the grave of the California Republican Party. Excerpt:

Assuming the leaders in the few remaining close races hold their leads, there will be 38 Democrats and 15 Republicans representing California in Congress come January. Of those 38 Democrats, 18 are women, nine are Latinos, five are Asian Americans, three are African Americans, four are Jews and at least one is gay. Just 12 are white men. Of the 15 Republicans, on the other hand, all are white men — not a woman, let alone a member of a racial minority or a Jew, among them.

The composition of the state's new Democratic congressional delegation merely reflects the state's demographic changes. Latinos (72% of whom backed Obama) were 23% of the California electorate in 2012, up from 18% in 2008. The share of Asian voters (who voted for Obama at a 79% rate) doubled, from 6% to 12%, between those two elections. Voters under 30 increased their share of state ballots cast from 20% in 2008 to 27% in 2012, and backed Obama at a 71% rate. The state's proportion of white voters, meanwhile, fell from 65% in 2004 to 63% in 2008 to just 55% last week.

I might dislike the state GOP even more than Harold Meyerson does, but there are some other numbers that prevent me from celebrating what Meyerson hails as "the political transformation of California." For instance:

* Democrats have controlled all eight statewide executive offices since 2011, for only the second time since the 19th century.

* Democrats have a 28-12 edge in the state Senate, tied for its largest advantage since the 19th century. The party has held a majority there since the late 1950s.

* Democrats have a 54-26 edge in the state Assembly, its largest advantage since 1978. The party has run the Assembly since 1997.

* California has been represented in the U.S. Senate by Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer for two decades.

* That 38-15 congressional delegation advantage, if it indeed holds, will be by far the largest spread in state history, and almost the largest percentage advantage as well (there was that 3-1 moment in the 1870s). Republicans last held more California congressional seats than Democrats in the late 1950s.

So what has all this enlightened Democratic governance produced? Here's one way of looking at it: The last month that California had an unemployment rate of less than 10% was January 2009. The last month its unemployment was lower than the national rate was April 1990. The 2010 Census marked the first time California didn't gain a seat in the House of Representatives since basically ever. For the first time since the Gold Rush, a majority of California residents were born in the state. The ultimate migration-magnet in a nation of immigrants is just no longer so, however strange that may be to accept.

We cannot blame this all on professional Democrats or even their public-sector union overlords, of course; the populace itself deserves more than its fair share of discredit. But it is worth noting that as the ship of Golden State was being driven straight into the ditch, it was precisely the likes of Harold Meyerson who had the temerity to blame what few elected Republicans there were for throwing a few grains of sand into the overwhelmingly Democratic state machinery.

Well, that excuse is gone, as Scott Shackford pointed out after election day. From this month forward, let us gaze upon California for what it is: a living, wheezing example of unfettered Democratic governance. Progressives should be tickled pink about having such a nice, big demonstration project from which to showcase their superior economic philosophy. And the rest of us should grab popcorn.

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St. Paul Police: Winning the War on Drugs One Head Stomp at a Time

St. Paul, Minnesota City Council members settled a police brutality lawsuit for $400,000 last week.

In 2010, Matthew Yunker and two other officers repeatedly kicked a zip-tied Larelle Steward in the head, breaking his nose as he tried to explain that his mother was physically unable to drop to the floor of their apartment with the requisite speed.

Officers then fired a flash-bang grenade at Daniela Hobbs, causing third-degree burns and “serious and permanent injuries,” according to a St. Paul City Attorney.

Via the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Officer Matthew Yunker had received information from a confidential informant that another man…was selling crack cocaine from an apartment in the 600 block of North Snelling Avenue, according to his application for a search warrant, which a judge granted.

…Steward and Hobbs lived in the apartment, above a business, and saw police arrive via a security camera the business owner had installed. They were the only ones home. Steward opened the door when they knocked. Police yelled for them to "get on the ground."

…Hobbs is 5 feet 3 inches tall, has diabetes and back problems and, at the time of the police encounter, "was visibly disabled due to a recent neck surgery," the complaint said.

...Police shot a "flash-bang" grenade at Hobbs, who was "prone/face down" at that point, the complaint said. It exploded, setting Hobbs on fire and causing third-degree burns. Hobbs was burned on her right leg from ankle to mid-thigh, her left inner thigh, and the bottoms of her feet.

A paramedic treated Hobbs and inquired about other injured people. Police "falsely informed the medic that no other medical treatment was needed," the complaint said.

Police instructed Steward to clean up his face, dropped him off at Regions Hospital's emergency room and confiscated the pillowcase they'd used to cover his bloodied face.

Officers found no cocaine in their search of the apartment. 

Steward and Hobbs sued the city of St. Paul, Yunker and officers "John Doe," whose names weren't known. Both sides later agreed to dismiss Yunker and name only the city of St. Paul as a defendant.

Yunker, a St. Paul officer since 2000, was assigned to the Western District FORCE unit at the time he obtained the warrant and is now a canine officer.

Police did find a small amount of marijuana and some firearms at the apartment. City officials deny any wrongdoing.

December Reason Preview: Gary Johnson, Benghazi, And Free Speech

Matt Welch and Kennedy discuss what's in the current issue of Reason magazine.

About 3.30 minutes long. Camera by Jim Epstein and Anthony L. Fisher; edited by Meredith Bragg.

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Jihadist Calls for the Destruction of Egypt's Pyramids and the Sphinx

Earlier this summer, reports circulated that radical Islamic clerics had called for the destruction of Egypt's Great Pyramids and the Sphinx as "idols." Bloomsberg News somewhat gleefully declared the whole event a "hoax" and made fun of various pundits for handwringing over it. With that as background, consider that today Al Arabiya News reports:

Egypt is taking a jihadist’s calls to destroy the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx “seriously,” an Egyptian interior ministry source has said, according to reports.

The source, who was not named, spoke to the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper late Monday in response to Sheikh Murgan Salem al-Gohary’s television interview earlier this week.

Gohary, a jihadist with self-professed links to the Taliban, called for the “destruction of the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids in Egypt,” drawing ties between the Egyptian relics and Buddha statues.

The Islamist, previously twice-sentenced under former President Hosni Mubarak for advocating violence, called on Muslims to remove such “idols.”

“All Muslims are charged with applying the teachings of Islam to remove such idols, as we did in Afghanistan when we destroyed the Buddha statues,” he said on Saturday during a television interview on an Egyptian private channel, widely watched by Egyptian and Arab audiences.

“God ordered Prophet Mohammed to destroy idols,” he added. “When I was with the Taliban we destroyed the statue of Buddha, something the government failed to do.”

On the plus side, the news agency further reported:

But in retaliation to Gohary’s remarks, the vice president of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, Sheikh Abdel Fattah Moro, called the live program and told Gohary that famous historic military commander Amr ibn al-Aas did not destroy statues when he conquered Egypt.

“So who are you to do it?” he wondered. “The Prophet destroyed the idols because people worshiped them, but the Sphinx and the Pyramids are not worshiped.”

Let's hope it's another hoax.

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Starbucks, Google, and Amazon Face Investigation For 'Immoral' Tax Evasion in the UK

A public accounts select committee of the UK parliament, made up of a group of senior members of Parliament, is set to vigorously question the tax practices of Google, Amazon, and Starbucks next Monday. 

The companies are in hot water over decisions to base their European businesses outside the UK in order to take advantage of lower tax base rates and avoid paying full UK corporation taxes. They will have to explain and defend their European structures, particularly decisions to register base offices in countries such as Ireland and Luxembourg and their use of "transfer pricing"—where they charge their own subsidiary companies for services.

The corporations have been charged with diverting hundreds of millions of pounds to what The Guardian describes as "secretive tax havens" through manipulative accounting practices. Margaret Hodge, the committee chair, has taken each company to account, calling Google’s operating location choice of Ireland “immoral” and labeling Amazon "deliberately evasive" in displaying "outrageous" ignorance after it failed to say how much of its profit is generated in Britain.

In the past three years Starbucks has paid no corporation tax in the UK. Amazon has paid £1.8m, despite bringing a total revenue of £200m in the UK in 2011. Starbucks global chief financial officer Troy Alstead insists the company remains “an extremely high tax payer globally” but, as UK profits have been far from substantial, claims, “respectfully, I can assure you there is no tax avoidance here.” Similarly, Matt Brittin, the head of Google’s northern European operation, defends the company’s practices. “Like any company you play by the rules [and] manage costs efficiently to offer fair value to share holders.”

Hodge has been unimpressed with the companies’ responses. "Most of these companies proclaim a strong corporate responsibility ethos, yet the most basic responsibility they have is to pay their fair share into the common purse," she argued, according to Raw Story. "The fact that they create jobs is an absurd argument. We have to ensure that where companies are making money in the UK, they pay their fair share, and there is a duty on HMRC to do all it can to ensure those rules are strictly and fairly adhered to."

Google's Brittin told the committee that "we comply with the law in the U.K." and "it would be very hard for us to pay more tax here based on the way we are required to structure by the system." ABC News reports that Hodge responded by saying that the committee was "not accusing you of being illegal, we are accusing you of being immoral."

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Washington Prosecutors Drop Marijuana Cases in Anticipation of Legal Pot

Yesterday I discussed the possibility of a federal lawsuit seeking to block state-licensed pot shops in Colorado and Washington. But even if plans for commercial distribution get hung up in the courts, those states' legalization initiatives will have a positive impact by eliminating arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana. In fact, Washington's Initiative 502, which does not officially take effect until December 6, is already helping pot smokers avoid prosecution. Last week prosecutors in King and Pierce counties (which include Seattle and Tacoma, respectively) dismissed 220 misdemeanor marijuana cases in light of the vote to abolish penalties for adults 21 or older who possess up to an ounce. "There is no point in continuing to seek criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal next month," King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg told The Seattle Times. "The people...spoke loudly and clearly that we should not treat small amounts of marijuana as an offense." (Satterberg's office handles cases that originate in unincorporated parts of the county; the Times notes that Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who supported legalization, "has refused to prosecute misdemeanor possession cases since he took office" in 2010.) Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist agreed with Satterberg, saying, "The people have spoken through this initiative, and as a practical matter, I don’t think you could sell a simple marijuana case to a jury after this initiative passed."

Jack Driscoll, Spokane County's chief criminal deputy prosecutor, seems to take a different view, arguing that I-502 protects pot smokers only if they get their marijuana from state-licensed stores. "You can't under this initiative have an ounce of marijuana that doesn't come from a state-[licensed] provider," he said. "You still can't have black-market marijuana." But the initiative makes no such distinction, saying, "The possession, by a person twenty-one years of age or older, of useable marijuana or marijuana-infused products in amounts that do not exceed those set forth in section 15(3) of this act [i.e., one ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused food, or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquid] is not a violation of this section, this chapter, or any other provision of Washington state law."

The Times notes that Washington prosecutors have brought more than 13,000 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases annually in recent years. Police in Colorado have been charging more than 10,000 pot smokers a year with possessing small amounts of marijuana, a "petty offense" that will soon be no offense at all under state law (within two months of the election, depending on when the final canvass is completed and the vote is certified). Colorado, unlike Washington, will also allow pot smokers to grow their own marijuana (up to six plants) and share it with their friends (up to an ounce, "without remuneration"). And yes, the Drug Enforcement Administration theoretically could step in to bust pot smokers and small-time growers, but it does not have the resources to take on such penny-ante cases, which have always been handled by state and local police, who are responsible for about 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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Is the Left Preparing to Target President Obama? Maybe?

After the election, I wrote a blog post that asked if we could talk about the wars now that the fog of partisan politics is lifting. Whether President Obama will be subjected to more criticism for his policies from the left now that he’s been re-elected remains an open question, but there are a precious few hopeful signs that intellectual honesty might by applied by some on the left to engage at least some of President Obama’s policies.

Last week, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd launched one of the first (limited) broadsides from the left against President Obama, in a column provocatively titled “Mitt Romney is President” (spoiler: of white America). Dowd noted:

If 2008 was about exalting the One, 2012 was about the disenchanted Democratic base deciding: “We are the Ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Last time, Obama lifted up the base with his message of hope and change; this time the base lifted up Obama, with the hope he will change. He has not led the Obama army to leverage power, so now the army is leading Obama.

When the first African-American president was elected, his supporters expected dramatic changes. But Obama feared that he was such a huge change for the country to digest, it was better if other things remained status quo. Michelle played Laura Petrie, and the president was dawdling on promises. Having Joe Biden blurt out his support for gay marriage forced Obama’s hand.

The president’s record-high rate of deporting illegal immigrants infuriated Latinos. Now, on issues from loosening immigration laws to taxing the rich to gay rights to climate change to legalizing pot, the country has leapt ahead, pulling the sometimes listless and ruminating president by the hand, urging him to hurry up…

…Bill O’Reilly said Obama’s voters wanted “stuff.” He was right. They want Barry to stop bogarting the change.

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Immigrants Reject the GOP's Big Government Vision, Not its Limited Government Ideals

For a couple of nano seconds after the Republicans’ historic shellacking last week it seemed that finally wisdom was dawning and they were beginning to realize that immigrant-bashing was not a winning tactic. After Romney lost every Hispanic-rich swing state -- including Florida, the home of the traditionally conservative Cuban Americans -- Sean Hannity, who has been saying “no-way, Jose” to any form of legalization claimed that he had “evolved on immigration” and now favored a pathway to citizenship for illegals. Charles Krauthammer scolded Romney for running to the right of Rick Perry and suggested that the party consider supporting partial amnesty -- and, yes, he used the term, loudly and proudly -- to stop alienating Latinos. Likewise, George Will, who has previously advocated getting rid of birthright citizenship for children of immigrants, expressed surprise that “only 70 percent of Latinos opposed Romney” given his pledge to get Latinos to “self deport” if elected.

But antipathy toward immigration runs deep in the party and for every conservative pundit counseling sanity, there is at least one advocating insanity. Mark Levin went into a rage on TV, repeatedly calling Krauthammer and others “stupid” -- an oddly juvenile epithet from someone of Levin’s richly bilious vocabulary. Rush Limbaugh also counseled against the folly of thinking that the GOP can woo Latinos with amnesty when what attracts them to Democrats is welfare and “free stuff.” “You can’t beat Santa Claus with amnesty.”

But most disappointing of all was the New York Times’ conservative commentator Ross Douthat, usually a rational voice. He acknowledged that the GOP needs to adjust to new demographic realities in which whites will be a plurality by 2050. But he maintained that Latinos are not single-issue voters who would flock to the GOP just because it changed its position on amnesty. So Republicans shouldn’t play identity politics to woo them. What should it do instead? Evidently, play identity politics with white males who the GOP would alienate by moving too “leftward” on immigration.

Douthat -- and others -- happen to be right that Latinos are not single-issue voters. After all, Hispanic families have to eat and live just like everyone else and hence are just as concerned about unemployment, recession, crashing home values and soaring food prices. That said, their ability to keep their families intact and earn a decent livelihood is inextricably tied to the immigration system. In 2009, before President Obama embarked on his deportation binge, about 9 million Latinos lived in mixed-status families in which someone was “out of status” or illegal. Hence, immigration is a first-order concern for many of them. To be sure, offering these folks amnesty and other reforms won’t guarantee GOP support -- especially if Republicans do so grudgingly. But what it will do is not cause the vast majority of them to reject the party -- and its platform -- out of hand in the future. And that might be enough for the GOP to get another 15 percent Latinos to switch and muster the 40 percent it needs to become competitive again about what George Bush got to win re-election.

But Limbaugh claims that Latino support is not worth it because it would come at the price of diluting the GOP’s commitment to limited government ideals. That, however, is profoundly delusional. It is true that immigrants not nurtured in the lap of a limited government philosophy don’t have a pre-programmed hostility to big government. But neither do Americans who (sorta) are -- otherwise a majority wouldn’t want protection from free trade because it allegedly threatens their jobs.

Indeed, what Latinos witness is not a clash between the GOP’s limited government ideology and Democrats’ Big Government ideology. It is between the GOP’s version of Big Government and Democrats’ version of Big Government.

The GOP’s version, from the standpoint of Latinos, involves border guards and fences, Arizona-style “your papers please” laws and E-verify mandates and fines against employers. By contrast, the liberal version involves extending instate college tuition, emergency health care and access to public schools as well as workplace protections. Both Republicans and Democrats depart from limited government, but the GOP in the direction of inhumanity and liberals in the direction of humanity. GOP’s Big Government oppresses them and the liberal Big Government (at least on the surface) is benign if not benificent and helps them. This difference in the two visions of Big Government -- oppressive vs. benevolent -- is why not just Latinos but other more affluent minorities -- including Asian Americans and Jews who no one can accuse of  “mooching” for “free goodies” -- also overwhelmingly vote liberal.

So what should Republicans do?

They should actually reassert their commitment to a genuine limited government agenda and the first step in it would be to pass immigration reform in which the government ceases to be an obstacle to the aspirations of Americans and foreigners regardless of whether they want to do business together or make love and have babies.

Despite the hopeful statements by Krauthammer and Hannity et al, the initial auguries that the GOP will recalibrate its approach don’t look so good. Republicans are fielding as the chair of the House Judiciary Panel Virginia’s Bob Goodlatte, long an implacable foe of the DREAM Act. Even worse, rank-and-file Republicans remain as wedded to a hardline position as ever despite last week’s election losses. As The Daily Beast’s Laura Colarusso notes, for negotiating with Democrats on immigration reform in 2010, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham will likely be rewarded with a Tea Party primary challenge when he’s up for reelection in 2014.

The GOP has just started rethinking its position on immigration after a decade or more of wingnuttery and so likely needs time to hammer out something sensible. For its own sake one hopes that it does so. Or, else, brace itself for more walloping at the polls in the future.

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Supreme Court Pays Closer Attention to Property Rights Cases

At Greenwire, Lawrence Hurley reports on a very interesting development at the U.S. Supreme Court. He writes:

After several years of paying little attention to property rights -- a darling cause of conservative activists -- the Supreme Court has abruptly changed course.

The justices have agreed to hear two cases this term, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States and Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, that concern the "takings" clause of the Fifth Amendment, which requires the government to compensate property owners when it takes property.

Property rights advocates also had some interest in two cases decided last term that, while not raising takings questions, did focus on broader questions of property rights in relation to government interference. In both, Sackett v. EPA and PPL Montana v. Montana, the property owners won.

The flurry of activity is in stark contrast to previous years. The last time the court heard more than one case on property rights was in the 2004-2005 term.

Read the whole story here.

The Supreme Court heard Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. U.S. in early October (Koontz isn’t scheduled until January) and as I reported here at Reason after attending the oral argument, the federal government’s case appeared to be in trouble. The coming months may bring at least one more important Supreme Court victory for property rights.

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Obama Meets With Labor and Progressive Groups, Scandal Puts NATO Nomination On Hold, America May Be Getting More Libertarian: P.M. Links

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Ronald Bailey on Whether Money Can Buy Happiness

In 1974 economist Richard Easterlin observed that while incomes in various countries had increased, reported well-being and life satisfaction on surveys had not. In other words, more money didn’t make people happier. For four decades, the Easterlin Paradox has more or less been the conventional wisdom. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey looks at more recent studies that find that on average more money does in fact produce more happiness.

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White House Petition Process Another Obama Open Government Failure

As J.D. Tuccille noted Monday, dozens of petitions have appeared on the White House website requesting various states be allowed to secede.

The number of secession petitions have grown since Monday and have pretty much overwhelmed the Obama Administration’s “We the People” responsive government experiment (and response petitions have appeared as well). The various calls for secession now dominate the first few pages of the slightly more than 100 open petitions on the site.

But more than the secessionist trolling, which isn’t really going to go anywhere (sorry Texans!), scrolling to the end of the list reveals something more interesting: The White House isn’t even responding to many of them that have met their 25,000 signature threshold.

There are about a dozen petitions toward the end of the list that have been up there for months awaiting responses from the White House. The petitions vary in topic from genetically modified food labeling, to cigar regulations, to foreign policy issues connected to Poland, Vietnam, the Czech Republic, and Japan.

In June, I wrote about a petition to require free access to taxpayer-funded scientific research reports. The petition easily met and exceeded the White House’s threshold to earn a response by the administration. But nothing has come.

In fact, according to the site’s own “most recent responses” tab, there have only been two responses to two petitions posted since March. One of them was on a consumer legal matter, one which the White House explained they would not get involved with. The other was the White House beer recipe. And this posting is notable because the petition didn’t even meet the site’s stated threshold for White House response (the timing of the petition’s appearance is also suspiciously close to President Barack Obama’s Reddit Q&A, where he ignored many substantive questions but not one on the beer recipe).

Not all of these successful petitions are matters in which the Obama Administration can or should get involved. But the complete lack of response to petitions that have been sitting there for months shows the administration’s claims of openness to be a pure mockery, even on the little things. Does anybody expect a single one of these secession petitions to get a response (Texas has already gone way past the success threshold)? It wouldn’t be surprising if they get deleted in the dark of the night.

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Poll: 82 Percent of Americans Think the U.S. Is Losing the War on Drugs

"Only seven percent (7%) of American Adults think the United States is winning the war on drugs," says a new Rasmussen telephone poll conducted Nov. 9-10. Eighty-two percent of respondents say the U.S. is not winning that war, and 12 percent of respondents, according to Rasmussen (though maybe that's 11?) aren't sure. Only 23 percent of respondents, meanwhile, the think the U.S. should be spending more to fight the drug war.

Some other notable toplines from the Rasmussen poll:

  • 51 percent of respondents said alcohol is more dangerous than pot, while 24 percent said pot is more dangerous, and 24 percent aren't sure. 
  • 88 percent of respondents said they had not smoked marijuana in the last year
  • 60 percent said state governments "should decide whether marijuana is legal in a state," while 27 percent said that responsiblity belongs to the federal government.
  • 34 percent said that the U.S. spends too much on the drug war; 23 percent of respondents said we don't spend enough; and 24 percent said drug war spending is "about right."

Rasmussen's poll shows a noticeable decrease in drug war confidence from June, when AngusReid Public Opinion reported that

only 10 per cent of respondents believe that the “War on Drugs”—a term that has been used to describe the efforts of the U.S. government to reduce the illegal drug trade—has been a success, while 66 per cent deem it a failure. Majorities of Democrats (63%), Republicans (63%) and Independents (69%) agree with the notion that the “War on Drugs" has not been fruitful.

Other recent drug-war polls:

Support for Pot Legalization Crosses 50 Percent, With 56 Percent of Americans Now In Favor of Treating it Like Booze 

Poll: 74 Percent of Americans, Including 67 Percent of Republicans, Want Obama to End Medical Marijuana Crackdown

Record-High 50% of Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana Use

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What Writer Turned You on to Freedom Most? Or, What We Heard at the Bastiat Prize Dinner.

The Wall Street Journal's Anne Jolis took home top honors at last week's ceremony for Reason's Bastiat Prize for Journalism.

Before the awards ceremony in New York City, Reason TV asked attendees ranging from Fox Business' John Stossel to Reason's Matt Welch to Newsweek International's Tunku Varajaradan what writers first turned them on to freedom and what hopes they have for the future.

About 2.40 minutes. Click above to watch now or below to go to full story and video.

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Guy With Romney-Ryan Face Tattoo Says He's "Cool With" It

Eric Hartsburg will never forget the 2012 presidential campaign. That's because he got the Romney-Ryan campaign logo tattooed on his face in exchange for an eBay bid of $15,000:

Despite Romney's loss, Hartsburg, a professional wrestler, says he stands by his decision. “I am college educated, and I am not an idiot,” Hartsburg told ABC News. “Getting the tattoo was a decision that I made, and I am cool with.” No regrets, people. That's what living is all about.  

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Scott Shackford on PJTV Talking Ballot Initiatives, Fiscal Cliffs at Home and Abroad

Reason 24/7 Associate Editor Scott Shackford returned to PJTV’s Los Angeles studio to film a couple of post-election discussions on Front Page with Allen Barton and fellow guest Terry Jones of Investor’s Business Daily.

First up: Ballot initiatives. Often confusing, poorly written and potentially disastrous, but also an opportunity for the public to rein in government authority (or at least try to). Gay marriage, marijuana legalization and union power were all up for vote:

Next: Protests and political problems for socialists in Spain and the challenges of fiscal discipline. Will America be facing these same struggles? Note the discussion on separatist movements in Europe. This was filmed Friday before a bunch of secession petitions showed up on the White House’s web site.

Finally, the trio discussed the potential economic outcomes of President Barack Obama’s re-election and what that fiscal cliff up ahead (or perhaps in our rear-view mirror by now) is looking like. The segment hasn’t been posted in an embeddable format yet, but can be watched here at PJTV.

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Glenn Reynolds: Katrina on the Hudson? Parallels Between Two Storms, FEMA Foul-Ups, and More

Glenn Reynolds has a USA Today col about the generally unacknowledged similarities between the response to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. A snippet:

Late warnings, confused and inadequate responses, FEMA foul-ups and suffering refugees. In this regard, Sandy is looking a lot like Katrina on the Hudson. Well, things go wrong in disasters. That's why they're called disasters. But there is one difference.

Under Katrina, the national press credulously reported all sorts of horror stories: rapes, children with slit throats, even cannibalism. These stories were pretty much all false. Worse, as Lou Dolinar cataloged later, the press also ignored many very real stories of heroism and competence. We haven't seen such one-sided coverage of Sandy, where the press coverage of problems, though somewhat muted before the election, hasn't been marked by absurd rumors or ham-handed efforts to push a particular narrative.

That, I suspect, is because Sandy happened in an area that reporters know. Media folks found it easy to believe stories about New Orleans that they wouldn't believe about their own area. New Orleans is full of black people and southerners, two groups underrepresented in the national media. Manhattan, on the other hand, is familiar turf. Count on the press to give its own milieu a fairer shake.

Read the full thing.

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What the Petraeus Investigation Tells Us About Online Surveillance

With regards to the David Petraeus scandal, as you dig through the very human details of a powerful man's dalliance with an attractive woman, an important question should occur to anybody with more than a National Enquirer-level interest in the matter: Wait ... The FBI did all of this digging over some bed-hopping? Yes. Yes, it did. And over at The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald wants to know why more people aren't concerned.

Writes Greenwald:

As is now widely reported, the FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley - a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) - received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer.

That is the first disturbing fact: it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email.

Think about that. If an FBI agent can go digging through private emails over a friend's complaint about nasty-grams, doesn't that suggest that such intrusive snooping is pretty much old hat to the feds?

Greenwald points out that the FBI's digging into Paula Broadwell's nasty-grams not only took them into her email account and revealed her relationship with David Petraeus; it then revealed Jill Kelley's correspondence with General John Allen, including a truly awe-inspiring data-dump of emails between the two. Continues Greenwald:

So not only did the FBI - again, all without any real evidence of a crime - trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell's emails (and possibly Petraeus'), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

Online email services are especially vulnerable, with companies like Google and Yahoo essentially rolling over for the feds. As the Associated Press reported:

The downfall of CIA Director David Petraeus demonstrates how easy it is for federal law enforcement agents to examine emails and computer records if they believe a crime was committed. With subpoenas and warrants, the FBI and other investigating agencies routinely gain access to electronic inboxes and information about email accounts offered by Google, Yahoo and other Internet providers.

In fact, older emails — those six months old or older — don't require a warrant at all. Prosecutors can grab them on their own authority. Many companies will cough up detailed information without a formal warrant, anyway. "Google, which operates the widely used Gmail service, complied with more than 90 percent of the nearly 12,300 requests it received in 2011 from the U.S. government for data about its users, according to figures from the company."

Some email providers have been so eager to comply that they actually surrender more information than the FBI requests — and more than it is legally authorized to seek. One such high-profile incident occurred in 2006.

A technical glitch gave the F.B.I. access to the e-mail messages from an entire computer network — perhaps hundreds of accounts or more — instead of simply the lone e-mail address that was approved by a secret intelligence court as part of a national security investigation, according to an internal report of the 2006 episode.

F.B.I. officials blamed an “apparent miscommunication” with the unnamed Internet provider, which mistakenly turned over all the e-mail from a small e-mail domain for which it served as host. The records were ultimately destroyed, officials said.

So remember ... Your online privacy isn't so private.

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Europeans Kick the Can Down the Road, Give Greece Deficit Target Extension

Eurozone finance ministers are withholding the latest Greek bailout funds but are giving Greece two more years to cut its budget deficit to 2 percent of GDP. On November 20 the ministers will meet again to discuss releasing the bailout funds. Although the Greek government recently passed a controversial budget and austerity measures there are a few reforms that still need to be implemented before bailout funds can be released. 

So far the Greek government has passed unpopular austerity measures that include:

  • Retirement age up from 65 to 67
  • A further round of pension cuts, of 5-15%
  • Salary cuts, notably for police officers, soldiers, firefighters, professors, judges, justice officials; minimum wage also reduced
  • Holiday benefits cut
  • 35% cut to severance pay

Unsurprisingly, these measures have not gone down well. Although some politicians and policy makers have been reassured by the austerity measures and the 2013 budget the opponents of Greek austerity have been enjoying a surge of support. In Greece the anti-bailout advocates are not just those from some left-leaning parties, they also include xenophobes from Golden Dawn. How soon the austerity measures and the new budget will inflict political damage on the incumbent government remains to be seen. Any serious changes in direction now would prompt a drastic change in attitude and policy from international lenders.

The goal had been for Greece to bring down its debt to GDP to 120 percent by 2020, and the International Monetary Fund has been arguing that his goal should remain. However, some eurozone finance ministers have been pushing for the deadline to be extended to 2022. When Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker told journalists that the deadline would be extended to 2022 some reacted with laughter.  Sometimes all you can do is laugh. 

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Gene Healy on the Right and Rethinking Presidential Power

With conservatives still smarting from Mitt Romney's 126-vote drubbing in the Electoral College, now is the hour for "rethinking" on the Right. I'm no Nate Silver, but I'll hazard a prediction on one result of the ongoing ideological introspection: The conservative movement is finally going to rediscover a healthy skepticism toward presidential power.

Such a return would, in a way, be "coming home" for the Right.

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Pot Legalizer Wins $25 Million LOTTO Jackpot

From the Edmonton Journal:

Bob Erb has been buying lottery tickets for 43 years, and his persistence finally paid off.

On November 9th, the Terrace, British Columbia resident discovered that he held a winning ticket that split the $50 million jackpot from the November 2 draw. [...]

Before he was a lottery winner, Erb might have been better-known to the Terrace community for his campaigns to legalize and decriminalize marijuana. He ran for the B.C. Marijuana Party in 2001.

Link via the Twitter feed of Colby Cosh.

On a related note, in a HuffPost Live discussion about SuperPACs this morning, I floated the idea of a SuperPotPAC to topple horrid D.A.s and fund legalization initiatives. Watch below:

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The Hardest Part of Setting Up ObamaCare's Health Exchanges

It's been clear for a while that the most difficult part of building ObamaCare's health exchanges will be setting up the systems to determine benefit eligibility.

As I noted back in Reason's October 2010 issue, the exchanges — whether they are run by the states or the federal government — will have to be able to verify someone's family income as well as a number of other determining factors. And to do that, they'll have to play nice with an array of government I.T. systems. The Washington Post has some additional details on the challenges involved:

After people become aware of benefits, the health exchange faces its biggest challenge: Figuring out who is eligible for what. In many states those who earn less than 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Line are eligible for Medicaid — except if the state has already extended benefits to an even higher level, as 35 states have for children. 

“There may be different family members eligible for different programs,” says Sam Gibbs, vice president of sales at eHealthInsurance. “There needs to be a technology system that can support that activity, and look at multiple programs for multiple people.”

A state can’t figure out how much an individual earns on its own. For that, it needs to ping a federal data hub that does not yet exist.

The federal government recently contracted with the healthcare IT firm QSSI to build that data hub, and they plan to make it available to both the exchanges that states run and those that the federal government sets up. It will determine whether individuals are eligible for Medicaid, subsidies or no benefit at all.

The challenge here is for states, which may have complex Medicaid rules or old computer systems, to actually plug into the federal hub. 

“In many states, the Medicaid system is the best technology that the 1980s could offer,” says Bruce Caswell, who runs the health-services segment of Maximus, a firm that works on large government data systems. “As a consequence, they might have brittle interface capabilities.”

An old Medicaid system, for example, may only have the capacity to send large batches of data each night. That was fine back in the 1980s, when most applications happened by mail. It’s less desirable when you have a law that would like to see real-time application processing. 

These systems are going to have to work with a high degree of accuracy: It's going to be a big problem if the exchanges are routinely assigning people higher or lower subsidies than they qualify for, or doling them out to people who don't qualify for them at all.

Yet that's exactly what researchers worry could happen. A Health Affairs study by a researcher at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine published earlier this year estimated that, due to the complexities of calculating an individual's income for the purposes of subsidy distribution, a non-trivial number of exchange enrollees are likely to get the wrong subsidy. Incomes fluxuate unexpectedly. The time frames used to judge income are too small. The databases used to verify individual income are incomplete. yet the exchanges are going to have be able to make relatively swift judgements about income levels and subsidy qualifications anyway. 

How are the exchange designers going to manage this? The answer is: It's going to be very, very complicated. So complicated, in fact, that they may not get it done on time. States were originally supposed to inform the federal government this week of their decision to either build an exchange or let the federal government try to do it for them. That deadline has been extended. But it may already be too late. “These are systems that typically take two or three years to build,”  Kevin Walsh, who manages insurance exchange services at Xerox, told the Post. “The last time I looked at the calendar, that’s not what we’re working with.”

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Matthew Feeney on How to Create a Mind

High-functioning artificial intelligence is the stuff of science fiction. But the idea won't necessarily be science fiction forever, and we may have to take the concept seriously sooner than many expect.  In his latest book, How to Create a Mind, futurist Ray Kurzweil argues that reverse-engineering a human brain is the best route to creating high functioning AI. Matthew Feeney reviews the results.

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A.M. Links: Petraeus Investigation Claims Top Allied Commander in Afghanistan, Greece Given an Extension, Syria Bombs Town on Turkish Border, Cleric Escapes Deportation, Kerry Being Considered For Secretary of Defense, Congress Back in Session

  • The investigation into the affair between ex-CIA Director David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell has snared Gen. John R. Allen, the top allied commander in Afghanistan. The FBI has at least 20,000 pages of “potentially inappropriate” communication between Allen and Jill Kelley, who first notified the FBI of emails from Paula Broadwell. 
  • The can has been kicked further down the road after eurozone finance ministers gave Greece two more years to cut its deficit to 2 percent of GDP. 
  • Syrian warplanes have been bombing a rebel-held town on the Turkish border for a second day. 
  • A British court has ruled that a radical Muslim cleric cannot be deported to Jordan thanks to human rights concerns. Abu Qatada is now free, but under strict bail conditions. 
  • Sen. John Kerry could be reporting for duty once again. The President is considering asking the Democratic veteran to be his next Secretary of Defense. 
  • Congress is back in session. Presumably we can expect more of the same ahead of the fiscal cliff.
  • A Florida man was tased by police for trying to put out a fire approaching his home.

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Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. Improves Reputation of Congress by Entering Plea Bargain Talks

Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) won re-election to Congress while cooling his jets in rehab. Now that the election is over, he can get back to the people's business, reports CBS News:

Just days after winning a handy reelection to his Chicago-area district, 17-year Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., has entered negotiations for a plea deal that would include his resignation from Congress and likely jail time.

Jackson, Jr., the son of civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., and husband to Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, has not yet pleaded guilty to alleged misuse of campaign funds to decorate his house and purchase a $40,000 Rolex watch for a female friend. But CBS Chicago reports the congressman's lawyer, white-collar criminal defense attorney Dan Webb, is negotiating with the federal government a plea bargain that will likely be reached by year's end. 

Whole thing here.

Such selfless behavior will doubtless help Congress' approval rating soar even higher than the whopping 21 percent it was in October, when it bounced back from a historic low of 10 percent in August. Surely the national legislature - which has failed to produce a budget in years and has refused to insist on its constitutional role in warmaking for decades - is the greatest beneficiary of America's willingness to grade on a curve.

Hat Tip: Real Clear Politics

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Shikha Dalmia on Why Michigan May Become a Right-to-Work State

Unions went for broke in Michigan and they lost big time, writes Shikha Dalmia. But the question now is whether this defeat will open the right-to-work floodgates?

Michigan voters soundly defeated Prop 2—a.k.a. the Protect Our Jobs initiative—a constitutional amendment 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. In the wake of the election, Dalmia reports, conservative lawmakers are interpreting the resounding defeat for the ballot proposition as essentially a mandate for a right-to-work law in the state and are calling for one before the end of the year—not an impossible feat since they managed to hang on to their control of the legislature and the Supreme Court.

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Brickbat: Near Miss

Poll workers in Boca Raton, Florida, tried to bar a woman from voting in the Nov. 6 election because she was wearing a Massachusetts Institute of Technology T-shirt. Officials apparently believed MIT was the Republican presidential candidate. Local media report they eventually figured out what it does stand for. Meanwhile, a poll worker in Denver called a supervisor when she spotted a voter wearing an MIT sweatshirt. The supervisor assured her that voter was not violating a state law against electioneering near a polling place.

Brickbat Archive

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Ham-Burgled: Los Angeles Council Pushes 'Meatless Mondays'

Los Angeles City Council leaders have voted 14-0 in favor of endorsing the internationally led "Meatless Mondays" campaign. Now every Monday will be a so-called Meatless Monday in the city, with the Council urging residents to participate and embrace vegetarianism once a week.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who also supports the banning of new fast food restaurants in South Los Angeles, said the new resolution is just one part of a new "good food" agenda for the city.

"We can reduce saturated fats and reduce the risk of heart disease by 19 percent," Perry reportedly told the Los Angeles Daily News. "While this is a symbolic gesture, it is asking people to think about the food choices they make. Eating less meat can reverse some of our nation’s most common illnesses."

Government official in California have a history of pushing strict food policies in the name of public health. In 2008 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill to remove all trans fats from the state’s restaurants and retail baked goods. In 2010 the state prohibited fast food chains from giving out toys with their children’s meals if they contained over a specified amount of calories. In 2011, many South Los Angeles cities effectively banned the opening of new fast-food outlets by enacting tougher regulations designed to encourage healthier dining options.

Back in July the Department of Agriculture (USDA) came under fire for supporting the Meatless Monday campaign. Farmers and ranchers unions such as the Cattlemen’s Association complained that supportive polices vilified the American meat industry by encouraging the opinion that “animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate changes” and that it also “wastes resources." Following complaint the USDA were forced to remove any endorsements of the Meatless Monday initiative.

The new Los Angeles resolution does not have the force of law behind it,  meaning that "neither city officials nor law enforcement will be allowed to force residents to not eat meat." 

Reason TV on past LA food police offences:

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California Kills Eminent Domain, Somehow Buildings Happen Anyway

Politicians, city planners, and developers have long argued that without the power to seize property from unwilling sellers economic development would grind to a halt. In theory, greedy property owners could hold entire projects hostage by demanding unreasonable prices for pivotal lots.  

California dissolved its redevelopment agencies earlier this year, and the dystopia that is life without eminent domain for private development has come to pass. And so projects requiring land assembly—like the expansion of San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield—have fallen flat.

Except not. The hospital purchased 11 properties and built around those they could not buy. Via The Bakersfield Californian:

"It would've been just nice for the aesthetics of the campus to not have those two buildings on the corners like that," said [Hospital Vice President Jarrod McNaughton], referring to the taco place at the northeast corner of Chester and 26th and the gun shop at the southeast corner of Chester and 28th. "But as you would have it, it is what it is."

…Valley Gun owner Ken Quarnberg said he's willing to sell—but only at the right price. By that he means enough money to compensate for losing a prime location, the risk of relocating and the cost of advertising to let customers know he moved.

"I'm not willing to go broke just to get out of their way," he said, adding that the family-owned, second-generation business has operated at that location since 1971.

…The hospital project is no small affair. Near the south end of the combined property is a four-story, 60,000-square-foot cancer center and outpatient surgery center. Further north a three-story imaging center is planned.

Granted, it’s a hospital, which is closer to a public use than many projects. But the point is developers can and do build around unwilling sellers. And OK, fair enough, it’s just one example. But there is ample empirical evidence that protecting private property from eminent domain abuse is good for economic development.

Click here for Reason’s extensive archive of eminent domain abuse.

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Why Was the FBI Doing the Investigation that Led to the Petraeus Affair Anyway?

The Wall Street Journal notes a possibly inappropriately close relationship between the woman whose complaints of harassing emails began the investigation that led to Petraeus' career-ending affair and the FBI agent doing the investigating:

The FBI agent who started the case was a friend of Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman who received harassing, anonymous emails that led to the probe, according to officials. Ms. Kelley, a volunteer who organizes social events for military personnel in the Tampa area, complained in May about the emails to a friend who is an FBI agent. That agent referred it to a cyber crimes unit, which opened an investigation.

However, supervisors soon became concerned that the initial agent might have grown obsessed with the matter, and prohibited him from any role in the investigation, according to the officials.

The FBI officials found that he had sent shirtles s pictures of himself to Ms. Kelley, according to the people familiar with the probe.

And Wired notes that it seems pretty unusual for the FBI to launch a big investigation into someone sending harassing emails.  Which, if this Daily Beast account is correct and thorough about the actual content of the emails, were pretty mildly harassing anyway. And remember, that the mess turned out to involve the head of the CIA was a later revelation, if the story we are being told is accurate:

The case shows just how easy it is to discover the personal connections that can unmask anonymous parties. But the Petraeus affair is as much an outlier as an exemplar. The FBI rarely, if ever, gets involved when one person is harassing another online.

“I’m not aware of any case when the FBI has gotten involved in a case of online harassment,” Justin Patchin, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, said. ”The FBI definitely wouldn’t get involved in your Joe Schmoe love triangle.”

The affair began to unravel after the Florida woman, Jill Kelley, contacted an FBI friend after receiving threatening and harassing e-mails from an anonymous person who accused her of flirting with a man who was not identified in the e-mails. 

Ah, it's good to have "friends" in the FBI I guess. Too bad Petraeus didn't, it seems.

Associated Press on the FBI's power to read your emails, and Petraeus'.

Below, Ed Krayewski on "wild" theories about what might have been going on with this whole Petraeus thing.

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FBI Investigation Leads to CIA Director’s Resignation; Nothing to See Here!

General David Petraeus resigned as director of the CIA last Friday after an FBI investigation (into cyber-harassment) uncovered an affair he was having with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Both were married, and President Obama accepted Petraeus’ resignation. On Friday Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she wished the president hadn’t accepted it, and this week the committee announced it will actually be investigating the FBI’s investigation into the CIA director. Feinstein also wants Petraeus to testify about the Benghazi attack, which, before resigning, he was expected to do this week. Last week’s presidential election did not abate the need to delegitimize questions about Benghazi, and that delegitimization is now moving forward to extend to questions about the mechanics and motives of power shifts in our government. MSNBC helpfully put together the four “wildest conspiracy theories” about Petraeus’ resignation as the head of an agency for which obfuscation and secrecy is the name of the game. They came with the warning that “many are downright silly.” Is 4 many?

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Libertarian 'Spoiler' Alert! Seven Democratic Victories in Which the LP Candidate Received More Than the Margin of Defeat

On Friday, Garrett Quinn pointed out two congressional races in which a Libertarian Party candidate received considerably more votes than the margin separating a winning Democrat from a losing Republican: Massachusetts' 6th District (48.3%-47.3%-4.5%** for Rep. John Tierney over Richard Tisei and Daniel Fishman), and Utah's 4th District (49.3%-48.1%-2.6%** for Rep. Jim Matheson over Mia Love and Jim Vein).

Last Wednesday, Brian Doherty also flagged Montana's race for U.S. Senate, where incumbent Sen. John Tester defeated the Ron Paul-endorsed Denny Rehberg 48.7% to 44.8%, while LP nominee Dan Cox received 6.5% of the vote. All three losing Republicans had significantly more libertarian credibility than maybe 90% of elected GOPers on the national level.

So are there any other "spoiler" accusations out there? At least four, probably more:

* Arizona's 1st Congressional District, where Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick beat Republican Jonathan Paton 48.4% to 45.7%, with Libertarian Kim Allen receiving 5.9% of the vote.

* Arizona's 9th Congressional District, where Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beat Republican Vernon Parker 48.2% to 45.4%, with Libertarian Powell Gammill garnering 6.4%.

* New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, where Democrat Carol Shea-Porter beat incumbent Rep. Frank Guinta 49.7% to 46.0%, while Libertarian Brendan Kelly netted 4.3%. Editorialized the Andover Eagle-Tribune: "Perhaps Libertarians need to consider if their futile candidacies, which serve only to elect Democrats, are really in their long-term interests."

* Colorado's State Senate District 19, where incumbent Sen. Evie Hudak squeaked past Republican Lang Sias 46.9%-46.4%, while the LP's Lloyd Sweeney pulled down 6.5%. Commented former state GOP chair Dick Wadhams: " I think you have to go on the assumption that the majority of Libertarian votes would go to a Republican candidate if the Libertarian candidate was not on the ballot."

Any other national, state, or local LP "spoiler" accusations out there? List them in the comments, and I'll keep adding to this post.

** Those numbers were reversed for the first 15 hours this post was up. Apologies for the error.

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Senate Mad at Missing Petraeus Gossip, Elmo’s Sex Scandal, Threats Hamper Sandy Hiring: P.M. Links

  • The David Petraeus aftermath continues. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, wants an investigation as to why they were not told about the FBI investigation into the affair. Some members of Congress still want Petraeus to testify about the Benghazi consulate attack.
  • Thanks in part to fracking, the United States could become the world’s largest gas and oil producer within a decade.
  • Petitions have appeared on the White House web site for 20 separate states to be allowed to secede from the union. Those expecting an official response are encouraged not to hold their breath, regardless of the White House's own guidelines.
  • The man who does the voice of Elmo of Sesame Street has stepped down amid allegations of a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old boy. Kevin Clash admitted to the relationship but said the boy was actually a consenting adult.
  • An employment agency hiring for storm relief in New Jersey pulled out, citing unnamed “aggressive” incidents. Nearly 1,000 people showed up looking for work. Sounds like some didn’t want to take “no” for an answer.
  • The ever-useless Los Angeles City Council has voted to make every Monday “Meatless Monday” to encourage less meat consumption. The pizza I will be eating in response today will have both sausage and bacon.

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Ira Stoll Reveals the Boehner Plan to Avoid the Fiscal Cliff

Obama says he won't "ask students or seniors or middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people making over $250,000 aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes.”

Yet people earning over $250,000 are going to be asked to pay more in taxes. Not just “asked,” either, writes Ira Stoll—they are going to owe additional taxes on non-payroll income such as dividends, capital gains, annuities, royalties, and rents that previously had not been subject to the Medicare tax. This is not "a dime," it’s about $30 billion a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

As the fiscal cliff looms, here's how to avoid another fight like last year's dust up over the debt-limit increase.

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George Will Says GOP Should Turn Libertarian While David Frum Bromances Social Cons

Over the weekend at the Wash Post, George Will says that the GOP needs to channel its inner libertarian. The Republicans need to pick a new type of presidential candidate, he says,

...one who tilts toward the libertarian side of the Republican Party’s fusion of social and laissez-faire conservatism. Most voters already favor less punitive immigration policies than the ones angrily advocated by clenched-fist Republicans unwilling to acknowledge that immigrating — risking uncertainty for personal and family betterment — is an entrepreneurial act. The speed with which civil unions and same-sex marriage have become debatable topics and even mainstream policies is astonishing. As is conservatives’ failure to recognize this: They need not endorse such policies, but neither need they despise those, such as young people, who favor them. And it is strange for conservatives to turn a stony face toward any reconsideration of drug policies, particularly concerning marijuana, which confirm conservatism’s warnings about government persistence in the teeth of evidence.

Whole thing here.

Meanwhile, over at The Daily Beast, former Bush speechwriter (best known for the "Axis of Evil" turn of phrase) David Frum writes that while gays "should be able to live unafraid and unashamed" and that "using birth control does not make a woman a slut," it's libertarians who have caused the GOP to stop being the party of the middle class. The "mindset" that led to Mitt Romney's dismissal of 47 percent of Americans as looters and moochers, Frum argues, "originated in the party's libertarian wing." Meanwhile, it's the social cons and economic populists such as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum who are the key to the party's future:

It has been the social conservatives who have been most alert to the economic travails of the middle class. The only 2012 candidate willing to acknowledge the facts about America's poor upward mobility was Rick Santorum. In 2008, it was Mike Huckabee who noted the stagnation of middle-class incomes. And among journalists, people like Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Rod Dreher and Ramesh Ponnuru have been much more accurate in their assessments than, say, Larry Kudlow or the fellows of the American Enterprise Institute.

Whole thing here.

I like David Frum and have learned a lot from his writing over the years, but I don't understand this thinking at all.

For starters, both Rick Santorum and folks at AEI (such as Charles Murray) tend to agree that upward mobility is pretty much over. In this, they are flatly wrong, which is no small sticking point. As Brookings' Scott Winship has documented, economic mobility has not slowed in the past several decades (for more on that, go here).

When it comes to most social issues - from gay marriage to drug legalization to immigration - the Republicans are in fact well out of step with American majorities. And while conservatives may track pretty well with many Americans' attitudes about how they want to live their personal lives, it's clear that Rick Santorum in particular is precisely the sort of guy Americans have in mind when a majority says the government shouldn't promote traditional values.

Frum's hostility to libertarianism is long-lived - he wrote a piece in The Weekly Standard denouncing "the libertarian temptation" back in 1997 - and he plainly prefers a moderate conservatism that blends aspects of national greatness communitarianism with large entitlement programs. Clearly Mitt Romney didn't resonate with "the middle class" but it wasn't because he was too libertarian on either social or economic issues. Romney checked all the social con boxes (anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-drugs, anti-Mexican, etc.) but he didn't warm the hearts of Tea Partyers or night-watchman-state libertarians either.

Romney didn't just fail to articulate a plausible economic program that would rekindle growth in America; he failed to really hammer home just how bad Obama's handling of the economy has been - and how the president's mindless interventions actually exacerbated the problems they were supposed to address. You can blame Romney's loss on a lot of things, but the least convincing of all is libertarianism.

One Veteran's Story: "You Come Back And You Just Don't Feel The Same."

'One Veteran's Story: "You Come Back And You Just Don't Feel The Same."' 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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ObamaCare's Big Problem: Where's the Buy In?

One sign of a workable, successful program is that it attracts the participation of outside parties and partners. ObamaCare was designed to work with organizations across the health spectrum: Health providers, state governments, individuals. But so far, it’s proven harder than most anyone expected to find willing participants.

Last year we saw the law’s administrators struggle to gain support from crucial providers in ObamaCare’s ACO (Accountable Care Organization) pilot program. The law encouraged the formation and operation of ACOs—large, highly coordinated health provider groups—based in part on the experiences of a number of well-regarded health systems across the country: organizations like the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger Health System, and Intermountain Healthcare. The problem? Those clinics—the models on which ObamaCare’s ACO rules were designed—declined to participate in Obama’s ACO pioneer program. One reason, according to statements from several of the organizations, was that the law’s proposed ACO rules were too restrictive and too prescriptive.

This week we’re seeing that model provider groups may be wary of more than just the law’s ACO program. Utah’s Intermountain Healthcare, a 23-hospital system which President Obama cited in 2009 as a model health organization for its high quality care and below-average costs, has expressed strong reservations about the law’s Medicaid expansion, which is expected to provide as much as half of the law’s coverage expansion.

Kaiser Health News reports that Intermountain participated in a letter by the Utah Hospital Association (UHA) declining to endorse the law’s state-driven Medicaid expansion. There are still too many “practical and political questions around the full expansion that have yet to be answered,” a spokeperson for Intermountain told KHN.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that states could decline to participate in the Medicaid expansion without risking existing Medicaid fund. The letter from the UHA gives Utah’s legislators good reason to be cautious. It notes that if Utah decides to implement ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, the cost over the next decade is projected to come in at $1 billion. UHA president Robert Betit told KHN that the expansion “could be difficult for the State to sustain in the years ahead.”

This is a bad sign for ObamaCare’s stability and workability. Model private providers are opting out of the law’s ambitious delivery system reforms. Other providers are expressing great skepticism about a major part of the law’s coverage expansion. This does not strongly suggest that ObamaCare is shaping up to be a healthy, successful program.

It’s not just private providers either. Like Utah, other states will have to decide whether to participate in the law’s Medicaid expansion. They will also have to decide whether to create insurance exchanges. And the law is running into significant resistance. Cato Institute Health Policy Director Michael Cannon notes that 14 states have made it illegal to operate an insurance exchange.

Even amongst states that have not outlawed exchange creation, there is little strong desire to do so. Originally states were supposed to declare their intention to either set up an exchange or not by November 16, 2012. But states have been so hesitant to do so that the Department of Health and Human Services appears ready to get rid of the original hard deadline and replace it with an extended “rolling deadline.” Which, as Cannon says, is not much of a deadline at all.

Individual participation levels have been similarly low. The law created special health plans for those with preexisting conditions. Enrollment in these plans was expected to reach 375,000 by the end of 2010. Instead, by the end of 2011 there were only about 50,000 people enrolled. At this point, there are only about 77,000.  

This reluctance comes despite a fair amount of administration cajoling. Not only did HHS extend the exchange creation deadline, it also beefed up the marketing budget for the preexisting condition plans in an effort to boost enrollment and redirected some of the program’s funds to making the premiums lower. After an initial draft of the ACO regulations was met with great resistance, HHS published a revised and updated version designed to seem somewhat more friendly to skeptical health systems.

Yet despite the administration’s repeated efforts to make ObamaCare more palatable, it’s still having trouble getting third parties to buy in. Indeed, to some degree the problem extends to the public at large, which has never shown much enthusiasm for the law. ObamaCare's consistently low poll numbers tell us that despite last week's election, the public isn't buying into the president's health care law either. 

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Meet the Members of Congress Who Will Make Marijuana Reform an Issue in 2013

Now that Colorado and Washington state have legalized recreational marijuana, it's time to consider what Washington, D.C. will do about it.

President Obama hasn't stopped the DEA and U.S. Attorneys from cracking down on medical pot, so it's unlikely he'll treat recreational sales of the drug with kid gloves. And while the Food and Drug Administration has the power to move marijuana from Schedule I (highly addictive drugs with no accepted medical value) to Schedule III (mildly addictive drugs with proven medical value), it can't do so without Obama's permission, and it's unlikely he'd approve a side-door change of federal drug laws. That means reform will have to come from Congress--a place where good drug policy ideas go to die.

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Gay Marriage and Marijuana Win Big in the States. Maybe Federalism Isn’t So Bad After All.

In a November 2010 column titled “Stop Smearing Federalism,” I surveyed some of the overheated liberal rhetoric directed at critics of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, for instance, writing in The New Republic, compared opponents of Obamacare to the fire-breathing Confederates who urged disunion in 1861. “Proclaiming themselves heralds of liberty and freedom, the new nullifiers would have us repudiate the sacrifices of American history—and subvert the constitutional pillars of American nationhood,” Wilentz huffed.

It was a delusional statement then and it looks even worse now. Voters last week in Colorado and Maryland, among other states, brought about sweeping federalist victories on behalf of marijuana legalization and gay marriage, respectively, proving yet again that democratic experimentation on the state and local level is not an inherently right-wing or left-wing phenomenon. Federalism is just another tool in America’s constitutional kit.

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Denmark Discovers the Dangers of Nanny State Food Taxes

As America’s dining room Nanny Statists attempt to use the government to force people to eat better, Denmark has discovered there are hefty consequences and are scaling their efforts back. Via the BBC:

The Danish government has said it intends to abolish a tax on foods which are high in saturated fats.

The measure, introduced a little over a year ago, was believed to be the world's first so-called "fat tax." …

Foods containing more than 2.3% saturated fat - including dairy produce, meat and processed foods - were subject to the surcharge.

But authorities said the tax had inflated food prices and put Danish jobs at risk.

It also caused Danes to cross the border and buy their delicious fatty foods in Germany instead.

Because of the bad consequences of the fat tax, Denmark has also decided to cancel a proposed tax on sugar. Somebody let Michael Bloomberg know.

Voters in two cities in California rejected efforts on Election Day to add significant taxes on sodas (Libertarian trigger warning: Huffington Post piece treats voters as slaves to the evil soda lobby and not actual thinking human beings). Voters had good economic reason to reject these bills. American cities are not oases in some vast desert. If soda prices were ridiculous in El Monte, people could just buy their soft drinks (along with the rest of their groceries) in nearby communities. The end result would be that the only people still shopping for food in El Monte would likely be those who couldn’t transport themselves to other communities. In other words: poor people. And if the loss of consumers caused El Monte stores to close down? Again, the major impact would be on the poor. They’ll pay not just from the loss of consumer choice: Grocery store employees are also notably on the low end of the pay scale.

In New York, Bloomberg’s large soda ban has so many exceptions that certain businesses will undoubtedly benefit (convenience stores) while others are harmed (fast food restaurants, movie theaters). What makes Bloomberg’s Nanny Statism frustrating is that the market is providing alternatives already. McDonald’s is seeing its first monthly sales drop in nine years. Yes, the economy (especially in Europe) gets a significant amount of blame. But competition is playing a role as well. Via The Wall Street Journal:

McDonald's is facing stronger competition from resurgent rivals that had languished for years. Burger King Worldwide Inc., for example, has been rolling out new sandwiches and promoting discounts, and Wendy's Co., too, has been offering coupons, upgrading restaurants and adding fresh menu items.

Also notable, many convenience stores have for years pushed themselves into the cheap, hot, fatty food market. There’s no reason to think Bloomberg’s large soda ban will make people healthier. It will likely enrich some exempted businesses that sell unhealthy food as fast food restaurants lose business even after having added more healthy options to their menu.

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Americans Set to Learn Wrong Lessons From the Euro Crisis as Fiscal Cliff Looms

The Greek government has approved its 2013 budget by a vote of 167 to 128. The passing of the budget was required in order for Greece to continue receiving bailouts from international lenders. Thousands protested the budget outside the Greek Parliament in Athens while inside left-leaning politicians argued for the budget to be rejected. 

The budget anticipates a contraction in the economy, a growth in the national debt, and cuts worth 9.4 billion euros. A rather important assumption made in the budget is that Greece will be granted two additional years to meet its deficit reduction goals, something that has yet to be formally approved by international lenders. A report from the International Monetary Fund, European Commission, and the European Central Bank (collectively referred to as the ‘troika’) on Greece’s reforms has not been completed.

The recent budget debates and the protests leading up to the vote have highlighted tensions that have been growing in Greece. Anti-bailout left-leaning parties and the xenophobic nationalists Golden Dawn are enjoying increased popularity. In the case of Golden Dawn some see no reason to think that the surge in popularity will diminish. From Reuters:

Political analysts see no immediate halt to its meteoric ascent. They warn that Golden Dawn, which denies being neo-Nazi despite openly adopting similar ideology and symbols, may lure as many as one in three Greek voters.

"As long as the political system doesn't change and doesn't put an end to corruption, this phenomenon will not be stemmed," said Costas Panagopoulos, chief of ALCO, another independent polling company. "Golden Dawn can potentially tap up to 30 percent of voters."

What is especially worrying about the situation in Greece, and the eurozone more broadly, is that some Americans are claiming to have learned all of the wrong lessons from the fiasco. From Bloomberg

When the housing bubble burst in 2006, U.S. policy makers looked to Japan for clues about what to do -- and not do -- in response. Now their attention is shifting to Europe as America gets set to follow that region with a concerted attack on its budget deficit.

Among the lessons being drawn: Don’t put off budget action until the financial markets demand it. Big, immediate cuts aren’t always the best way to reduce deficits. And central bankers should be ready to try to offset the economic impact of any fiscal contraction.

Elsewhere in Europe The Spanish Banking Association has put a two-year freeze on house evictions after a woman killed herself shortly before she was to be evicted from her home.

Unsurprisingly, it looks like Iceland, which was hit hard by the financial crisis but enjoyed a relatively speedy recovery, is not in a hurry to join the European Union. Unfortunately, it is a little too late for Iceland’s lessons to be learned by American policy makers who seem intent on sending the U.S. on a path more familiar to the Greeks. 

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The Ultimate Loser Winner Last Week Was Leviticus 20:13

Washington, D.C. libertarian activist Bruce Majors notes on Facebook that the Old Testament took it on the chin last week, when several states legalized gay marriage and marijuana use.

"If a man lays with another man he should be stoned," reads Leviticus 20:13 in Bruce's bible (go here for other translations). That's just gotten easier thanks to voters in Washington state (which legalized marriage equality and marijuana).

Washington was joined by Colorado in legalizing pot and by Maryland and Maine in passing marriage equality. Additionally, voters in Minnesota defeated an initiative to change the state's constitution to define marriage in exclusively heterosexual terms.

Majors, incidentally, pulled off a coup by pulling over 13,000 votes against incumbent Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) in a race for Congress, thereby gaining the Libertarian Party guaranteed ballot access in the nation's capital through 2016.

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Matt Welch on Obama’s Free Speech Retreat

On the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, scores of men armed with rocket propellers, hand grenades, and automatic rifles assaulted two separate U.S. diplomatic buildings in Benghazi, Libya, for more than four hours, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Despite clear evidence of planning and the symbolism of September 11, officials in Barack Obama’s White House spent the next week blaming the attacks on a crude, straight-to-YouTube trailer for an anti-Islam movie called Innocence of Muslims, made by an ex-convict living in Cerritos, California.

Even more damaging than the White House’s blame-shifting spin was the notion, reinforced by President Obama, that a single piece of bad art in California could “spark” violence in more than 20 countries. It’s an inapt metaphor, writes Editor in Chief Matt Welch, giving the mistaken impression that the arsonist is not the one lighting the match but rather the one who allegedly makes the pyromaniac angry. Such confusion of responsibility is materially eroding our ability to speak freely, while providing an incentive for those who wish to attack us into silence.

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Thank Goodness the Feds Are Subsidizing the Development That We Need the Feds to Protect Us From

There's an odd moment in Salon's post-Sandy interview with the SUNY historian Jacob Remes, author of the forthcoming book Disaster Citizenship.

The conversation starts off fine. When the interviewer asks whether Hurricane Sandy makes the case for big government or for big business, Remes replies that it's mistake to think those are our alternatives: "The best disaster relief is offered through solidarity, horizontally, through organizations that people are already members of. Sometimes that's government. Often it's not." That's basically true. As examples of these organizations, he mentions unions, fraternal orders, churches ("I might sound like a family-values Republican here"), and Occupy's networks, which have been doing much-needed relief work under the "Occupy Sandy" monicker. Also true. He goes on to claim that such intermediary institutions are in decline and that Americans are "increasingly isolated." I disagree, but at least we're on the same page about what's needed.

But then, asked to reply to Ian Murray's argument that regulation can hamper disaster recovery, Remes says this:

Without government there is no flood insurance. People who live in flood plains get flooded regularly, so you can't have a normal insurance market, because insurance markets depend on people who buy insurance and never use it. You can make an argument that people shouldn't be living in Atlantic City, or New York City, or New Orleans, but then everyone's going to living in Phoenix, which has its own problems.

The thing about these environmental regulations is that, left unchecked, what capitalism is going to do is build in places and ways that make short-term profits. You fill in wetlands. You build private sea walls that redirect surf and make it worse somewhere else. Government regulation puts a brake on that desire for short-term profits.

See if you can find the tension between those two paragraphs. If you're stumped, read this paper [pdf] from the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU, which explains how "the flood insurance program encourages private development at a rate that is inefficient and unsupported from a social perspective that more fully considers the ecological and financial risks." It also makes a good case that the system disproportionately benefits the wealthy. It does not argue that we should all move to Phoenix: Ecologically fraught beachfront development is one thing, but Atlantic City, New York, and New Orleans managed to exist before the National Flood Insurance Program was created in 1968.

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Can the Feds Stop Colorado and Washington From Legalizing Pot?

After voters in Colorado and Washington approved the legalization of marijuana last week, Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre declared that "the Department's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged." If so, the feds will treat state-legal sales of marijuana for recreational use the same way they have treated state-legal sales of marijuana for medical use: with  periodic raids, threats of forfeiture and prosecution, and various other forms of harassment that fall far short of closing down all the cannabis outlets. But the Obama administration also could try to avoid that embarrassing outcome through litigation aimed at preventing Colorado and Washington from implementing their plans to license and regulate the production and sale of marijuana.

In an interview with Politico, former Drug Enforcement Administration head Asa Hutchinson concedes that the federal government cannot force states to ban marijuana but argues that "you can go in and say the state does not have the authority to set up a regulatory environment." Hutchinson, who ran the DEA during George W. Bush's first term, envisions a lawsuit that will "have the courts decide finally that federal law trumps and that the state law violates the federal law." But even if we concede the validity of the Controlled Substances Act (which requires accepting an absurdly broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause), it is not clear how, exactly, the Colorado and Washington initiatives violate it.

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A. Barton Hinkle on Prohibition: The Real Reefer Madness

Seeking to scare the public away from legalizing the stuff, the Obama administration notes that in 2009, marijuana was "involved in" 376,000 emergency-room visits nationwide. Be afraid, be very afraid: This represents less than 0.3 of 1 percent of all ER visits, and 3.3 million fewer visits than are caused annually by recreational sports. Figures such as those, writes A. Barton Hinkle, help explain why voters in Washington and Colorado were not frightened, and passed referenda decriminalizing pot.

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State Secession Petitions: Ticked-Off Americans Want Out

One of the great joys of the Internet age is the voice it gives to myriad people whose opinions previously remained silent, unknown or at least badly misrepresented by whatever sundry politicians and journalists set themselves up as mouthpieces for what the regular folks really want. Unfiltered by those mouthpieces, and speaking through the medium of the White House's petitioning mechanism, what lots of folks very, very unhappy with the result of the election want is take their states out of the union. That's the sort of sentiment that often raises hackles in the United States, though there's nothing inherently unreasonable about it. It's also a sentiment that's almost certain to remain frustrated, at least in the short term. But with thousands (err ... tens of thousands) of Americans signing petitions to make the union rather less united, it's worth considering the top-down policies and fear of D.C. that have these modern-day secessionists so upset.

There's nothing sacred about national borders, of course. And this isn't the first time in recent memory that people dissatisfied with election results have fantasized about redrawing this country's boundaries. Remember those Jesusland vs. United States of Canada maps of the terrible Bush years (that dark interregnum in this country's history when the federal government engaged in undeclared wars overseas, spied on Americans at home and went on a massive spending spree)?

In 2008, before the last national election, 22 percent of Americans voiced support for the idea that "any state or region has the right to 'peaceably secede from the United States and become an independent republic.'" The results were pretty consistent region to region, too, though more liberals than conservatives favored the idea.

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Britain's Brain Drain: Professionals Flee High Taxes

The number of Brits leaving England for new lives abroad has risen sharply over the past 20 years, according to new research undertaken for the UK Home Office.

New statistics show that around 149,000 Brits emigrated last year, leaving the UK for the United States, Australia, and Canada, among other destinations. Commentators, however, are more alarmed that almost half of Britons emigrating each year are professionals and company managers, “potentially threatening the country’s supply of highly skilled workers,” as one writer put it.

Britain’s high rates of income tax, alongside an increasing cost of living and slow economic recovery, are seen as key factors in the sharp increase in professionals leaving the country. John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, one of the UK’s leading independent employers’ organizations, agrees that taxation is an issue, but believes that a remedy is imminent. “These are disturbing figures, there is no doubt that the spike in recent years was due in part to high personal taxes, which the Chancellor is now tackling.” 

Yet scholars at the free-market Adam Smith Institute are less optimistic. They suggest that as income tax levels have risen above those of their European neighbors, the UK’s competitiveness and economic growth will be stifled over the coming years. In a new report, the Institute's Peter Young and Miles Saltiel highlight the extended consequences of the tax burden, showing how it's leading not only to the emigration of young professionals but also to the flight of entire companies. In the report, Stephen Hedgecock, the managing partner of Altis, a hedge fund that recently moved from the UK to Jersey, an independent island just off the British coast known for its status as a "tax haven," argues:

The UK model is broken. It’s not just the 50% rate- its National Insurance, the treatment of pensions…everything. It’s just a ridiculous amount of taxation.

Speaking on the findings, a Home Office spokesman recognized the necessity of making the UK an attractive place to live and work in order to retain talented British workers. “To continue competing in a global race, businesses must invest in the skills of UK workers and retain our highly skilled workforce.” The harsh reality of the UK tax system has meant that talented workers can find considerably more attractive employment offers elsewhere in the world.

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A.M. Links: Cantor Knew About Petraeus Affair Last Month, Regulations Slowing Storm Recovery, Anti-Gay Bill Set to Pass in Uganda

  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor knew about now former CIA director David Petraeus’ extra-marital affair in October.
  • Arizona Governor Jan Brewer doesn’t think the electoral college system is fair.
  • State and federal regulations on tree pests are slowing down the post-storm clean up in the New York Area.
  • President Obama urged Palestinians not to request recognition from the UN as a state just yet, but the Palestinians still plan on doing so this month.
  • Surprise: Japan may be re-entering a recession.
  • A bill mandating the death penalty for homosexuals is set to pass in Uganda.

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Who's Going to Get Fired Over Petraeus Investigation?

So retired Gen. David Petraeus has resigned as CIA director in the wake of revelations of an affair and crazy email behavior on his part and that of his lover. That Petraeus cashiered himself just as he was about to testify before Congress about the total botch job surrounding the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya is disturbing for about a thousand reasons.

Yesterday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that she and others in the Senate had no idea that the FBI was investigating Petraeus until he resigned. The White House has said they didn't know about the investigation until Election Day. The director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, says the Department of Justice told him about the investigation on 5pm on Election Day.

Which led Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) to say:

"It seems this (the investigation) has been going on for several months and, yet, now it appears that they're saying that the FBI didn't realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved. It just doesn't add up," said King, R-N.Y.

More here.

Is it plausible that FBI Director Robert Mueller didn't tell the president that his team was investigating the head of the CIA, long understood as a rival agency? Or that Mueller himself didn't know? That Obama didn't know until so late in the game? Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has claimed he'd heard rumors about the investigation over the summer. None of the possible explanations are particularly comforting. Either folks were pulling on strings independent of oversight, which is scary but believable. Or they were informing their superiors all along, which means that a bunch of higher-ups in the White House and various security committees in Congress are bullshitting when they claim ignorance. Also scary but believable.

Whatever truth outs - and here's hoping that the press, relieved of its duty of protecting Obama in his bid for re-election, gets cracking on all sorts of investigative stories - there better be some kind of serious repucussions here. The most transparent administration in history is once again revealed to be as clear as a glass of water pulled from the mighty Mississippi.

Steve Chapman on Conservatives Unhinged by Obama

On Wednesday morning, sober conservatives pondered an election defeat, swallowed their disappointment, and turned their attention to things that truly affect their lives, such as work and family. But there are other conservatives, writes Steve Chapman, who were profoundly affected by their collision with reality. Indeed, despite the fact that Obama has turned out to be not so different from George W. Bush, these alarmists believe that a second term for the president will usher us into a totalitarian hell.

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Libertarians vs. Conservatives: "We've seen some real progress"

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, responding to wailing and gnashing of teeth among many conservatives in the wake of last week's election:

See, libertarians are less despondent because (1) conservatives start out gloomier; and (2) we’re much more used to disappointment. Also, we’ve seen real progress in many areas over the last couple of decades.

More here.

Indeed, we saw historic progress (times two) in last week's elections, with the passage of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, and marriage equality in three states.

I would have preferred seeing Barack Obama repudiated at the polls given that his economic, immigration, regulatory, foreign policy, and other policies have been disastrous. And that he couldn't muscle a budget in the past several years (indeed, he couldn't even force the Democratic Senate to produce a budget plan for discussion) is a major failure of leadership. But as Reynolds suggests, real progress happens above and beyond any particular electoral or political results.

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Honor Flight: New Trailer for Ultimate Veterans Day Documentary

Former Reason TV staffer Dan Hayes is one of the creators of Honor Flight, an incredibly powerful documentary about honoring World War II vets that set the world record for the largest live screening this past summer (over 28,000 people watched the film in Milwaukee's Miller Field).

The full-length movie started as 5-minute video for Reason TV released in 2009. Watch "Every Day is a Bonus."

Watch the new trailer above and to the film's website here.

Here's the writeup for the trailer:

Published on Nov 8, 2012 by 


Freethink Media presents "Honor Flight" - a film about four living World War II veterans and a Midwest community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to fly thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, DC to see the memorial constructed for them in 2005, nearly 60 years after the War.

The First Trailer: The film's first trailer got 4.5 million views via Facebook.http://bit.ly/TxML4O

The Premiere: "Honor Flight" set the world record for largest film screening ever with 28,442 people in attendance. http://huff.to/PgEzpT

The Pledge: pledge to see the film at http://www.HonorFlightTheMovie.com

Stars and Stripes Honor Flight (SSHF) is the Honor Flight chapter featured in the film. To donate, volunteer or learn more about SSHF, please visithttp://www.starsandstripeshonorflight.org.

SSHF is one of 117 Honor Flight hubs throughout the country. To find a hub near you, visit http://www.honorflight.org.

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Reason TV Replay: Remy's Why They Fought

This Veterans Day, let's remind ourselves what we are fighting for.

Here is the original text from the March 24, 2011 Reason TV video:

As American warplanes patrol the skies of Libya and American boots continue to keep the peace in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Spain, Cuba, the Netherland Antilles, and more than 140 other countries, the international Interwebs recording sensation Remy unveils this timely song reminding all of us back on the home front about why they fight now. And why they fought then.

"Why They Fought" is the first of a series of collaborations between Remy and Reason.tv. To watch Remy's other videos, go to http:youtube.com/goremy

Download the mp3, get lyrics, and related links at http://reason.tv, the video channel for Reason magazine and http://reason.com

Music written and performed by Remy. Video produced by Austin and Meredith Bragg.

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Watch Matt Welch and Michael C. Moynihan Talk About 'What's wrong with the Republican Party'

On Friday, Nov. 9, I sat down with former Reasoner and current Daily Beaster Michael C. Moynihan to talk about the Republican Party in the wake of last week's election loss. Six and a half minutes of hand gestures, immigration discussion, and more:

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Reason TV Replay: Honor Flight Brings World War II Vets to See Their Memorial

Back in August, a documentary by Reason TV alumn Dan Hayes premiered to 28,442 people at Miller Park, breaking the world record for the largest movie screening. The film, "Honor Flight," was an outgrowth of an earlier Reason TV video Hayes produced for Veterans Day 2009.

Here is the orginal text from the November 11, 2009 video:

On Saturday November 7, 2009 Reason.tv's Dan Hayes caught up with the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight from Wisconsin. Honor Flight is an organization that provides World War II vets and terminally ill patients from other conflicts free travel to Washington, D.C. to tour memorials.

Hayes talks with veterans who recognize that this is not only their first visit to the World War II monument, but may well be their last trip away from home. "Every day is a bonus," is the motto of Honor Flight and it's a sentiment that rings true for the men who fought and those of us who continue to benefit from their service and sacrifice.

For more information about Honor Flight: http://www.starsandstripeshonorflight.org/SSHF/Welcome.html

Thanks to Joe Dean, Jane Dean, Mark Grams, Liane Baranek, The Gebauers, Cindy and Dave Haupt, Nancy and Steve Hayes, and all the guardians and the vets we spoke with Saturday.

Shot and edited by Dan Hayes. www.twitter.com/dan_hayes

Sheldon Richman on the Election's Unanswered Question

Thank goodness the tedious presidential campaign is over. It was enough to put a caffeine freak into a coma. If all you cared about was the horse race, you missed how anemic the past year was. Rhetoric aside, the differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were virtually inconsequential; big government was never in doubt. That being the case, Obama’s four-year record went largely unexamined.

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Reason TV Replay: Sen. Jim DeMint on Why Republicans Must Become More Libertarian

After a solid drubbing on Tuesday, Republicans are looking for answers to their electoral woes. Perhaps it's time for the party to live up to their limited government rhetoric and take a few notes from the libertarian playbook.

Back in February Reason's Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch spoke with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) about why Republican survival is predicated on the GOP becoming more libertarian.

Here is the original text form them the February 7, 2012 video:

"The new debate in the Republican party needs to be between conservatives and libertarians," says Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). "A lot of the libertarian ideas that Ron Paul is talking about...should not be alien to any Republican."

Yet right after the 2010 midterm elections, the influential Tea Party favorite proclaimed that "you can't be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative," a comment that was widely viewed as a slap at libertarians. And South Carolina's junior senator is also a staunch pro-lifer, has favored a constitutional ban on flag burning, and is on the record saying that gays shouldn't be allowed to teach at public schools.

More recently, DeMint has been leaning libertarian. His new book, Now or Never: Saving America from Economic Collapse, is a warning to the nation that we need radical spending cuts (including putting defense spending on the table) or else face economic oblivion. And he was instrumental in getting Tea Party Republicans elected in 2010, including the most libertarian member of the caucus, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who also wrote the foreword to DeMint's book.

Reason's Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch sat down with DeMint for a wide-ranging discussion about fiscal vs. social conservatism, cutting spending, the GOP presidential nomination, whether the Tea Party still matters, and much more.

Approximately 29 minutes.

Shot by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein; edited by Epstein.

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Reason TV Replay: Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on Immigration, Cuba, and the Future of the Republican Party

After twelve years in the House of Representatives, Senator-elect Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) will soon be moving offices to the other side of the Capitol.

Reason TV sat down with Flake in 2011 to discuss his positions on immigration, earmarks, and the U.S.-imposed travel ban to Cuba.

Here is the original text from the July 12, 2011 video:

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) has represented the Diamondback State's sixth congressional district since 2001, cutting a pro-immigration, pro-trade, limited-government, anti-spending path that contrasts sharply with the mainstream of the Republican Party.

Flake's campaign against "earmarking," or larding up bills with giveaways for legislators' home districts, brought national attention to this issue and inspired some important rule changes. He has been a lonely voice in the House calling for an end to the U.S.-imposed travel ban on Cuba. And in a state that has shocked much of the country with its intolerance toward both documented and undocumented immigrants, Flake has consistently argued for reducing obstacles to legal immigration and establishing more effective guest worker programs.

Now Flake has his eye on the Senate seat being vacated next year by the retiring Republican Jon Kyl. While there's plenty of competition for his House job, Flake is so far alone in the race for Arizona's junior Senate seat.

A former head of the Goldwater Institute and practicing Mormon, Flake is a leading voice for freer markets and more personal freedom within the Republican Party.

Late in June, Flake sat down with Reason Senior Editor Tim Cavanaugh to discuss these matters and more.

Approximately 28 minutes

Shot by Zach Weissmueuller, Paul Detrick and Alex Manning. Edited by Meredith Bragg.

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Baylen Linnekin on Misguided USDA Regulations Restricting Food Freedom

Earlier this week the news broke in food circles that Il Mondo Vecchio, an acclaimed Denver, Colorado-area salumeria that since 2009 has been producing a wide variety of artisanal cured meats—including Italian-style dry sausages like culatello, pancetta, and guanciale—will be closing its doors for good. Why? As Baylen Linnekin explains, although it would be hard to find a better example of a traditional, conscientious, sustainable, and local producer than Il Mondo Vecchio, unnecessary USDA regulations have forced the beloved salumeria out of business.

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Environmentalist Money Buys Elections

OK, the headline is a bit snarky. But the Washington Post is reporting that various environmentalist lobbying groups spent tens of millions on campaigns to help elect candidates that they liked and defeat some that they didn't. From the Post:

For years, environmentalists have been seen as marginal players in presidential and congressional elections.

That may have changed this week.

The environmental community scored a string of successes Tuesday in states ranging from New Mexico to Montana to Texas, winning seven out of eight targeted Senate races and at least three, and possibly four, of their targeted House races. Although plenty of outside groups poured money into these contests, even some fossil fuel industry representatives said environmentalists invested their resources wisely in 2012....

The League of Conservation Voters spent more than $14 million this year, more than it had in the past three election cycles combined, and groups including the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation Action Fund, Defenders of Wildlife Action Committee, Environment America and Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund also devoted money and volunteers to key contests.

Among other races, the Post credits millions in campaign funding from environmentalist lobbying groups for helping re-elect Democrat Sen. Jon Tester in Montana, and defeating GOP climate change skeptics Reps. Reps. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Tex.) and Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.).

Earlier this year, the League of Conservation Voters (remember $14 million) ran a campaign to try to get the Citizens United ruling that took off the political restraints against free speech overturned. The LCV asserted:

The Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in the Citizens United case opened the flood gates for corporations to spend vast sums of money in support of candidates who stand with them and against the public interest.

Now some people (unnamed) might think that the Citizens United decision "opened the flood gates for environmentalist lobbyists to spend vast sums," etc. Actually the decision simply opened the flood gates to free speech. Given their successes, perhaps the Green lobby will now stop trying to stifle other people's free speech. OK, OK, I'm a cock-eyed optimist, but one can hope anyway.