The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is publicizing an interesting little story out of Galloway Township in New Jersey:
When a 16-year-old New Jersey boy doodled in his notebook on Tuesday, December 18, he probably didn’t expect to be arrested by the end of the day. However, when school officials saw the sketches, which they state appeared to be of weapons, and the boy “demonstrated behavior that caused them to be concerned,” the police were called.
A subsequent search of the boy’s home led to his arrest because they found several electronic parts and chemicals. He was charged with the possession of an explosive device and put in juvenile detention.
The details on what was precisely in the drawings are sketchy, as are the details on the behavior that caused concern. The school claims the drawings were of weapons, but the boy’s mother told various press outlets that, “He drew a glove with flames coming out of it.” If true, then the drawing wouldn’t be out of place in the notebook of any teenager who loves comic books.
At no point in time did the boy threaten the school, school officials, or his classmates. He cooperated fully with authorities, and a search of the school itself found nothing dangerous....
Lest you think it is inherently suspicious a young man would have chemicals or electronic parts, note that his school is, according to a Press of Atlantic City account, "a magnet school with programs focusing on engineering and environmental sciences and specializing in hands-on learning." And his mom told MyFoxPhilly.com that her son had a "passion for collecting old stuff, taking it apart and rebuilding things."
Also of interest from that story, a school superintendent says he's:
"thankful that we had a staff member that (saw something that) caused her some concern, and that she had the sense to report it to school officials. These are things that teachers receive training on all the time."
Most interesting detail from that Press of Atlantic City story:
Police Chief Pat Moran stressed Tuesday night no threats were made by the student and there was no indication there was any danger posed to anyone or property at the school.
“There was no indication he was making a bomb, or using a bomb or detonating a bomb,” he said.
Sounds like a good collar to me, boys!
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Connecticut, Gallup finds Americans want stricter gun laws but a record number oppose gun bans. Some may have expected increased support for gun bans; however, Americans are not convinced that taking away private ownership of guns is necessarily the solution. They are, however, open to toughening gun laws.
A record high number—74 percent—of Americans oppose banning the possession of handguns, up from 67 percent in 2004. When Gallup first asked this question in 1959, only 36 percent of Americans agreed. Today, a record low number (24 percent) of Americans favor a handgun ban. Even the more relevant question of private ownership of semi-automatic guns shows opinions remain unchanged with a slight majority (51 percent) opposing a ban.
Interestingly, 42% of Americans think banning semi-automatics would be very effective at preventing mass shootings at schools and 21% think it would be somewhat effective. Yet, 51 percent still oppose banning these assault rifles while 44 percent favor. Moreover, Americans rated banning assault rifles fourth out of a list of six reforms Gallup asked about. It’s the middle 21 percent who are still uncertain about the effectiveness of banning assault rifles that hinders support for a ban.
Although the public opposes these gun bans, 58 percent favor stricter gun laws, up from 43 percent in 2011. Americans are evenly divided over whether to pass new gun laws or more strictly enforce existing laws: 46 percent want to enforce existing laws and 47 percent want new laws, up from 35 percent last year. At the same time, a CBS poll found that 50 percent of Americans thought that stricter gun laws would have had “no effect” in preventing the Newtown shooting; 26 percent thought it would have done “a lot” to prevent the tragedy.
Gallup asked about the efficacy of six potential reforms in efforts to prevent mass shootings. Fifty-three percent of Americans believe increasing the police presence at schools would be very effective at preventing mass shootings at schools. Half think increased government spending on mental health screening and treatment, 47 percent think decreasing media depictions of gun violence, and 42 percent think banning semi-automatics would be very effective at preventing mass shootings. The least popular reforms included a third who thought a school official should carry a gun (34 percent) and that the media should refuse to publish the names of the persons responsible for the shooting (27 percent).
- President Obama is reportedly working on a “mini-deal” on the fiscal cliff.
- The Senate approved a reauthorization of FISA, which allows the government to conduct warrantless wiretapping at home.
- The latest White House petition demands the White House respond to petitions. It’s right there in the First Amendment.
- Gun sales in California are up over the last ten years as gun-related injuries and deaths are down.
- The hacker group Anonymous is demanding the Manteca Police Department in California fire an officer who shot a parolee eleven times in his driveway.
- The IRS placed a $4 million lien against comedian Katt Williams, providing more evidence for his government is pimps theory.
- MSNBC’s president says Chris Matthews is a statesman.
- France’s Socialist president has declared 2013 a battle for jobs, though given the policies in 2012, it’ll probably feel like a battle against them.
- George H.W. Bush is still in the intensive care unit, but his family says his condition is improving with the former president singing to his doctors and nurses.
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President Obama has tapped Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for Secretary of State and former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for Secretary of Defense.
"Libertarian Democrat" Terry Michael explains why Chuck Hagel - a principled critic of American interventionism under both Republican and Democratic presidents - should tell Obama to take a hike.View this article
Note: In the original post, I misspelled Jamelle Bouie's name.
Writing at the Washington Post's Plum Line blog, Jamelle Bouie acknowledges that Barack Obama's insistence on hiking taxes on the top 2 percent of income earners (or less) won't do anything to trim deficits or raise revenues.
He's got that right: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) guesstimates that higher taxes would pull in just $81 billion over the next couple of years while the feds will spend over $7.5 trillion.
Bouie even says that raising taxes during a shit economy is a bad idea: "It's probably better to keep the tax cuts and wait for further economic growth before ending them."
But hey, who said that taxes were supposed to fund government operations anyway? They serve a greater purpose:
If upper-income tax hikes serve a purpose, it’s to slow the income gains of the wealthiest Americans, who — for the past decade — have reaped the lion’s share of gains from economic growth.
If the presidential election did anything, it put inequality on the table as a national issue, and the fiscal cliff is one battle — albeit, by proxy — in a larger fight. And, unlike most issues in politics, the lines are clear — Republican disregard for inequality is matched by Democratic attempts to, however gently, apply the breaks [sic].
Exactly how tax hikes that are too small to raise much revenue are going to be large enough to force Rockefellers and Vanderbilts to start shopping at Walmart is beyond me.
And think about this: The income share of the top 1 percent started its upward climb in the late 1970s and rose as much under Bill Clinton's tax rates in the 1990s as it did under George W. Bush's rates in the Aughts.
So if you're looking to eat the rich, you better come up with a new cooking method. Because this one ain't gonna get the job done. But hey, the important thing is that the Dems care about the issue. Not enough to do anything to address it, but at least they care.
If they do choose to replace useless symbolism with effective policy, Blouie and the Dems should ask themselves whether inequality - as opposed to mobility - is really an issue worth caring about.
East Cleveland when a cop said he heard a gunshot ended with cops in East Cleveland firing 137 shots into the car, killing the driver and a female passenger. No gun was found. Protests followed. Now, the city of Cleveland has requested a review of its policies in the wake of the shooting. From WKSU, a Kent State NPR affiliate:Last month, a police chase that started in
Cleveland has asked the U.S. Justice Department to review the police division's policies after a car chase ended with a barrage of police gunfire and two deaths. The city also said Thursday the police chief has a team reviewing recorded communications, vehicle tracking and other information from the November pursuit to determine whether officers followed protocol.
WKSU adds that police claim the shooting was justified because the driver rammed a police car and almost hit an officer. A criminal investigation and administrative review are ongoing anyway.
Reason TV—the online video journalism project of the Reason Foundation—is seeking talented individuals interested in advancing the message of free minds and free markets through video journalism and related multimedia productions. Reason’s top priority is talent: established and aspiring producers, videographers, editors, researchers, and marketing professionals will all be considered.
The Searle Film Fellowship at Reason TV is a year-long, full time position that gives aspiring video journalists the opportunity to create substantive, original content that explores the ideas of free minds and free markets. Initial responsibilities will depend on experience and could range from research assistance to video editing to producing independent pieces to developing marketing and distribution plans. Fellows will also participate in training in production techniques appropriate to their skill level. Fellowships are full-time salaried positions with benefits; salary will depend on experience.
Resourcefulness, a willingness to pick up miscellaneous tasks and reliability are a must. The ideal candidate will also have a strong interest in libertarian ideas, the field of documentary filmmaking or video journalism, familiarity with shooting and editing, and content distribution and marketing.
Applicants at any level of experience will be considered. Individuals who are able to work from one of the Reason offices (in LA or DC) are preferred, but telecommuters will also be considered. To apply, please submit the following materials in a single pdf file via email to email@example.com by January 15, 2013:
• A cover letter with a summary of your experience and an explanation of your interest in Reason TV.
• A resume, including contact information for three references.
• Three one-page segment sketches you would like to produce (or help produce) at Reason TV. The format, style, and level of detail are at your discretion.
• Samples of your work, if applicable to your level of experience. If available online, include links in the email; if you prefer to mail a reel, please send TWO copies to: Reason Foundation, Attn: Amy Pelletier, 5737 Mesmer Ave, Los Angeles CA 90230.
Please direct questions about the fellowship and application process to Amy Pelletier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As noted in Reason 24/7 yesterday, scientists intend to analyze Sandy Hook killer Adam Lanza's DNA.
Local CTV News notes not everyone thinks this is an important thing to do:
Geneticists at the University of Connecticut have been asked to study the DNA of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza....
The study is expected to look at abnormalities in Lanza’s DNA that could increase the risk of aggression. However, some health experts are warning of the ethical repercussions in linking generic mutations to violent behaviour.
University of Connecticut spokesperson Tom Green told ABC News that the state’s medical examiner has asked for help from the school’s genetic department.....
While few details have been released about the study, some mental health experts worry that the findings could lead to an unfair stigmatization against others with similar genetic abnormalities to Lanza’s.
“To date there’s no known gene to going postal,” said Dr. John Vincent, head of molecular neuropsychiatry at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Vincent told CTVNews.ca on Thursday that there have been very few studies on the genetics of aggression in humans.
“If you were trying to find a gene, I’m pretty sure this would not be the way to do it. You would need to study a population in the order of tens of thousands.”
Atlantic Wire at Business Insider sums up some of the concerns, including the best modern source of insight into anything, a string of Tweets:
The New York Times's Gina Kolata reports that this undertaking is thought to be the first time scientists have studied the genome of a mass killer. Baylor College of Medicine's genetics professor Arthur Beaudet endorses the research, saying, "By studying genetic abnormalities we can learn more about conditions better and who is at risk."
But the ethical implications of singling out genetic mutations to explain violent behavior trouble many other scientists, who worry that such research might be held against innocent people who happen to share some of Lanza's genetic features.
Harvard Medical School's Dr. Harold Bursztajn told ABC News that he's not sure what the U. Conn geneticists will "even be looking for at this point," considering how thorny and full of false positives the link between genetic markers and violence is.
My Reason colleague Ronald Bailey has written enthusiastically about the scientific and personal benefits of our increasing ability to map our genome and gain detailed understanding of our genetic makeup, most extensively in this January 2011 feature. A relevant section:
What if future research turns up genes associated with criminal behavior, for instance? I have two copies of the “warrior” version of the catechol-O-methyltransferase gene, which correlates with higher functioning in a crisis, possibly because it confers some protection against anxiety and pain susceptibility. The alternate “worrier” version of the same gene is associated with better memory and more focused attention, but individuals carrying it may crack under pressure. In addition, research published in the April 2010 issue of Neurologysuggests that the warrior gene helps prevent cognitive decline as people age. Then again, some studies associate it with higher levels of aggression and greater risk of schizophrenia.
For the record, I haven’t been in a physical fight since the eighth grade and have not been arrested so far. And late-onset schizophrenia is quite rare. But right now, an employer naively using the results of my, or anyone else’s, genetic tests to make hiring and firing decisions is likely to be misled by the very preliminary information that gene screening currently makes available. It would be like deciding to pass over first baseman Albert Pujols if his gene scan indicated that he might have a slightly higher risk of alcoholism, or turning away physicist Richard Feynman because he had an SNP combination suggesting a tendency toward aggression.
After all, genes are not destiny, especially genes for relatively common complex traits and diseases. Even while having my share of hangovers, I have managed to support myself and more or less satisfy my employers since the age of 18.
Bailey in 2009 saw some early signs of possible promise in aiming counseling at people with certain genetic markets for behavior, and in 2010 gently mocked using genetic predispositions as excuses or explanations for behavior.MORE »
"Craig R. Whitney: Living with Guns" 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.View this article
This morning, Matt Welch took note of the Senate’s bipartisan effort to stop amendments to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 that would make the domestic surveillance program more transparent and require compliance with the Fourth Amendment. (To follow up on Welch’s notes this morning, Sen. Ron Wyden’s amendment was indeed defeated and the act was reauthorized unchanged in a 73-23 vote.)
The traditional media response to the reauthorization battle has been remarkably nonexistent. As I was managing my shift updating Reason 24/7 yesterday afternoon I was learning the outcomes of the votes not from the Associated Press or anything that popped up on my Google newsfeed, but from tweets from the likes of Adam Serwer of Mother Jones or Julian Sanchez of Cato.
There’s currently nothing on the New York Times web site about the votes (either yesterday’s or today’s). The Associated Press wrote a story about the House’s vote in September but nothing yet from yesterday or today. The Washington Post did post a story this morning. A Google news search will land hits with mostly tech or web-based media outlets. (Update: Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press e-mailed me to let me know they had indeed published some stories prior to the vote. I was unable to find them yesterday but have no reason to doubt him. Their report on the final vote is here.)
Compare the lack of response to the way people react to privacy breaches connected to Facebook or Twitter. Media outlet after media outlet carried reports about a private picture of Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, accidentally being made public somehow through social media channels. And how many of your Facebook friends posted that silly, pointless “privacy notice” on their walls?
The easy response is to blame the media for not keeping the public informed. And while Congress’ and the Obama Administration’s palpable disdain for both the Fourth and Fifth Amendments should horrify all Americans, it should be fairly clear by now that maybe it doesn’t for large swaths of people. Media outlets are responding to their respective markets. Those who are covering FISA are doing so because their readers have expressed an interest.MORE »
The U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic and his diplomatic team, up to forty people, were reportedly evacuated from the central African country overnight and the U.S. embassy was closed amid concerns of an increasingly deteriorating security situation as rebels approach the capital of Bangui. As I noted last week, the rebels threatening the Central African Republic’s capital are not the only ones running amok in the country. While the U.S. ambassador was pulled out of the country, American troops remain in the southern region, where they are helping to hunt down a Ugandan rebel outfit, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
The French president earlier this week rejected the idea of intervening in its former colony (preoccupied as it is in a higher-profile interventionist project getting under way in Mali). France’s lack of interest in intervention has not stopped the Central African Republic’s president from calling for a foreign intervention yet again today in a rally in the capital city.MORE »
James Pethokoukis at American Enterprise Institute's web site takes us back to yesterdecade to remind us that even the smartest and most expert of estimaters of future government debt can be very, very wrong:
Here’s the Congressional Budget Office’s ten-year budget forecast from 2002 (note that this was after the Bush tax cuts were passed):....Instead of publicly-held debt as a share of GDP being a microscopic 7.4% this year [as they predicted then], it was closer to 74% – or 72.8% to be specific (as of the August update from the CBO.)
Peter Suderman's great January 2010 Reason feature on the problems with CBO predictions, on "the highly speculative nature of its work, which requires an endless succession of unverifiable assumptions."
California’s Democratic leaders are giddy about the future now that they have gained everything they wanted in the last election—voter-approved tax increases and a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, thus rendering Republicans little more than an annoying irrelevancy that can no longer block tax hikes.
Will Democrats just ramp up the taxing and spending spree or will some semblance of a “moderate” Democratic caucus emerge to offer a limited check on those tendencies? Either way, writes Steven Greenhut, it’s hard to find good news for taxpayers or business owners, although the state’s public-sector unions ought to be stocking up on champagne.View this article
The AP reports that a new law in China mandates that middle-aged children must visit their elderly parents "often."
If the kids don't, they are open to being sued by the parents:
The amendment does not specify how frequently such visits should occur.
State media say the new clause will allow elderly parents who feel neglected by their children to take them to court. The move comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children.
As in the U.S., legislation follows media circuses:
Earlier this month, state media reported that a grandmother in her 90s in the prosperous eastern province of Jiangsu had been forced by her son to live in a pig pen for two years. News outlets frequently carry stories about other parents being abused or neglected, or of children seeking control of their elderly parents' assets without their knowledge.
The issues are exacerbated by the fact that China both has a terrible safety net provided by the government (no surprise there, really, as relatively poor countries are known for such things) and its private pension system has barely gotten started (thanks to glorious people's revolution).
But surely forcing kids to visit their parents is a no-win situation for everyone but dads in Harry Chapin songs.
The Ramones connection to all this? While there never needs to be a connection to invoke Johnny, Joey, et al., I refer you to "Commando" and its second rule for better living:
Outraged by a new American law that bars Russians accused of human rights abuses from visiting the United States, the Russian parliament this week overwhelmingly approved a law, signed today by President Vladimir Putin, that bars Americans from adopting Russian children. If you have trouble following the moral logic of this particular tit for tat, you are not alone. The New York Times reports that the new law applies not only to future adoptions but to adoptions in progress:
For parents with their hearts set on adopting Russian children, the political discourse has been little more than background noise to their own personal agony. Senior officials in Moscow have said they expect the ban to have the immediate effect of blocking the departure of 46 children whose adoptions by American parents were nearly completed.
Adoption agency officials in the United States who work regularly with Russian orphanages said there were about 200 to 250 sets of parents who had already identified children they planned to adopt and would be affected.
As the Times explains, this nasty trick, which reneges on a recently completed adoption agreement between the two countries, is not simply a matter of disrupting cherished plans in which American couples have invested much time, effort, money, and emotion (although that would be bad enough). Since these parents already have met and bonded with the children they are adopting, Putin and his allies in the legislature are arbitrarily breaking up newly formed families, randomly hurting innocent orphans in a fit of political pique. The week of Christmas, no less. (Yes, I know: Theirs is the week after next.)
Putin's reply to critics who say it is wrong to prevent Americans from giving Russian orphans a better life in the United States:
There are probably many places in the world where living standards are better than ours. So what? Shall we send all children there, or move there ourselves?
This all-or-nothing logic argues not only against adoption but against any action that helps some while neglecting others. The 1,000 Russian children adopted by Americans last year may amount to less than 1 percent of the children available for adoption in that country, but every one of them now has a family he did not have before. Likewise the 60,000 Russians adopted by Americans during the last two decades. It would be wonderful if all 120,000 children waiting for adoption in Russia could find homes there, but since only 18,000 or so Russians are waiting to adopt (according to UNICEF), why prevent people in other countries from picking up some of that slack?
And yes, it's true: There are more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted right here in the United States. In that context, it may seem puzzling that Americans look for children to adopt in other countries. But as someone who has adopted both domestically and internationally, I can tell you there are sound reasons for preferring the latter process. Sadly, dealing with an authoritarian government, even a corrupt one, can be easier than dealing with our own child welfare system.
Not in this case, of course. The nearly adopted children affected by the new Russian ban are unambiguously worse off as a result, to the benefit of no one. It is hard to fathom how anyone could support such a policy, let alone almost every legislator in Russia's parliament. You say we abuse human rights? We'll show you! It would be comical if it weren't so cruel.
Should a Supreme Court nominee’s views on the Second Amendment play a role in his or her judicial confirmation process? Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times apparently thinks not. In her latest opinion column, Greenhouse scorns the powerful influence she believes the National Rifle Association holds over judicial confirmations and urges voters to punish any politician allied with the organization. She writes:
The N.R.A. has embedded itself so deeply into the culture of Republican politics that it would take a cataclysm to break the bonds of money and fear that keep Republican office holders captive to the gun lobby’s agenda....
My point is this: It is totally unacceptable for the N.R.A., desperate to hang on to its mission and its members after achieving its Second Amendment triumph at the Supreme Court four years ago, to be calling the tune on judicial nominations for an entire political party. Free the Republican caucus.... Voters who think they care about the crisis of gun violence in America are part of the problem, not the solution – they are enablers if they aren’t willing to help their elected representatives cast off the N.R.A.’s chains.
Pretty strong words. But if you strip away Greenhouse’s apocalyptic rhetoric (“cataclysm,” “captive,” “crisis,” “chains”) you’re left with a simplistic and troubling argument: Political groups that favor a particular reading of the Constitution should not try—or not be allowed to try—to influence the future direction of the Supreme Court. Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, George Washington law professor Orin Kerr nicely captures the essence of Greenhouse’s argument by substituting abortion rights for gun rights in the same scenario. Here’s how he puts it:MORE »
From the Mohawk Valley Observer-Dispatch comes this timeless example of big-government dissonance:
ALBANY–New York state has spent nearly $6 million over the past three years on subsidies for Remington Arms Co., the two-century-old factory in Ilion that makes firearms including semiautomatic rifles used by the military and police and like those used in the recent mass killings in Connecticut and Webster, N.Y.
Though several elected leaders in this tough-on-guns state want tighter restrictions on those military-style weapons, none say it's time to stop supporting the local company and risk the nearly 1,000 jobs it provides in the central New York community. [...]
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said he has consistently said that he believes it's appropriate for lawmakers to support production of semiautomatic assault-style weapons for military and law enforcement use, but that the guns don't belong in the hands of civilians. Schumer, who has helped Remington secure Army contracts including an $8.9 million award in 2011 to produce 1,212 M24 sniper rifles, joined the company at last year's event announcing the move of Bushmaster to Ilion.
Here's a fun March 2011 article in which Schumer "encouraged company officials to 'knock on my door' if they ever feel the process for contract bidding has become unfair, or if federal regulations become overburdernsome."
A message for my gun-hating fellow New York taxpayers: This is just another example of how big government will always offend your values. Hate baseball, or the Yankees in particular? Too bad, you're paying for 'em. Can't stand junk food? You're subsidizing the stuff, from producer to consumer. The more government takes, redistributes, regulates, and insures, the more you are footing the bill for behaviors, industries, and practices you abhor. A first step toward protecting your bruised values is to stop supporting the use of tax dollars to "save jobs."
It was recently reported that Japanese fighters were conducting flights over islands claimed by both China and Japan. Japan's Defense Ministry has said that the fighters were scrambled to intercept Chinese planes that approached the disputed islands. The uninhabited islands at the heart of the diplomatic spat have a collective area of a little less than three square miles. However, despite their small size and lack of population, Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, believes that the territorial dispute is the latest sign that China and Japan are heading for war. Perhaps most worrying, White foresees the U.S. getting dragged in.
Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald White says:
THIS is how wars usually start: with a steadily escalating stand-off over something intrinsically worthless. So don't be too surprised if the US and Japan go to war with China next year over the uninhabited rocks that Japan calls the Senkakus and China calls the Diaoyu islands. And don't assume the war would be contained and short.
White also points out that, as with other conflicts, the bickering between China and Japan is really a symptom of other tensions, namely those between American and Chinese interests:
In the past few years China has become both markedly stronger and notably more assertive. America has countered with the strategic pivot to Asia. Now, China is pushing back against President Barack Obama's pivot by targeting Japan in the Senkakus.
The Japanese themselves genuinely fear that China will become even more overbearing as its strength grows, and they depend on America to protect them. But they also worry whether they can rely on Washington as China becomes more formidable. China's ratcheting pressure over the Senkakus strikes at both these anxieties.
The situation puts all of the major players in an awkward situation:
These mutual misconceptions carry the seeds of a terrible miscalculation, as each side underestimates how much is at stake for the other. For Japan, bowing to Chinese pressure would feel like acknowledging China's right to push them around, and accepting that America can't help them. For Washington, not supporting Tokyo would not only fatally damage the alliance with Japan, it would amount to an acknowledgment America is no longer Asia's leading power, and that the ''pivot'' is just posturing. And for Beijing, a backdown would mean that instead of proving its growing power, its foray into the Senkakus would simply have demonstrated America's continued primacy. So for all of them, the largest issues of power and status are at stake. These are exactly the kind of issues that great powers have often gone to war over.
The U.S. has managed to get involved in some truly silly disputes, but this one would be especially notable.
Over the last 30-odd years, Kurt Loder has somehow managed to remain innocent of all things Les Misérables. From its germination in Paris through its conquest of London’s West End, its 16 years on Broadway (plus another two in revival), its profusion of international productions (in some 20 languages), and its various vinyl and CD incarnations, he has until now seen not a moment and heard barely a note of this globe-throttling musical. So he is uniquely positioned to offer a fresh, nonpartisan assessment of Tom Hooper’s new film version. And as Loder reports, he was genuinely surprised by how enjoyable this picture’s earnest stew of musical and emotional overkill turned out to be.View this article
- The White House has not done a good job responding to petitions that receive more than 25,000 signatures on the We the People website. Petitions calling for the nationalization of twinkies and for the Westboro Baptist Church to be labeled a hate group are among the petitions that have gone unanswered.
- Russian orphans cannot be adopted by Americans after New Year’s Day thanks to a bill signed into law by President Putin. Russia has roughly 740,000 children in state care.
- Chinese authorities are tightening rules on using the internet in what is being portrayed as a move to protect personal information.
- Americans are selling stocks for the fifth year in a row despite measures taken by the Federal Reserve that aimed to encourage stock purchases.
- Astronomers have released a photo of the universe when it was only 375,000 years old.
- California will become the first state to enact a comprehensive social media privacy law on January 1, 2013. The law will forbids universities and employers from demanding passwords to social media accounts.
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Good morning, misgoverned nation! You will be utterly unsurprised to learn that the same United States Senate that hasn't passed a (legally required) budget resolution since 2009, that legislates via perpetual self-made crises and lards nearly all laws with brazenly fictitious sunset provisions and distant spending cuts, has managed to fit into its busy schedule of anti-gun press conferences and drunk-driving arrests an "unusual special session" to reauthorize the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 before the law turns into a pumpkin on Jan. 1.
The Act, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) had attempted to re-authorize without debate, allows for the federal government to spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant, without probable cause, and without even informing the allegedly relevant oversight bodies in Congress as to the number of Americans being spied on.
The Senate re-authorization debate yesterday lasted seven hours, and resulted in the shooting down of three sensible amendments. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) attempted to cut the proposed extension from five years to three; that lost 52-38. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) proposed requiring the attorney general to disclose "significant" FISA court interpretations of surveillance law; that lost 54-37. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) proposed extending Fourth Amendment protections to electronic communications. Paul's amendment was routed:
"Why is a phone call more deserving of privacy protection than an e-mail?" Paul asked on the Senate floor.
Paul's amendment, co-sponsored by Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, was voted down 79 to 12.
Watch Rand Paul's speech about the degraded Fourth Amendment here:
A fourth and final amendment, by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), calling for intelligence-agency estimates for the number of Americans spied on, will likely die on the Senate floor today, clearing the final obstruction to passage. Some nauseating passages from The Hill:
"I think, when you talk about oversight, and you can't even get a rough estimate of how many law-abiding Americans had their communications swept up by this law… the idea of robust oversight, really ought to be called toothless oversight if you don't have that kind of information," Wyden said on the floor Thursday morning.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said those incidences have been "few" and "inadvertent." She urged her colleagues not to support any of the amendments because she said the bill would then have to be reconsidered by the House. She said unless the House version passed, surveillance would halt after Dec. 31, posing a threat to national security.
"Without Senate action these authorities expire in four days and that's the reason the House bill is before us," Feinstein said before the amendment votes Thursday. [...]
"There is a view of some that this country no longer needs to fear attacks — I don't share that view."
The persistence of such low demagoguery a dozen years after Sept. 11 suggests a truism that covers both the National Security State and the Fiscal Cliff: Congress, and the Leviathan it nurtures, requires constant crisis like a whale requires krill. As ever, the Senate needs more Rand Pauls and Ron Wydens, fewer Dianne Feinsteins and other Dick Cheney wannabees.
The University of Kentucky has fired police officer David Thompson for pushing student Graham Gaddis. Gaddis objected when Thompson and another officer tried to enter and search his dorm room for alcohol. Gaddis recorded the confrontation with his webcam.
Via RealClearPolitics comes this Wall Street Journal piece by historian Joyce Lee Malcolm. She notes that both Australia and the United Kingdom have had tight restrictions on legal gun ownership for decades but have still experienced mass shootings. In the wake of a particularly grisly 1996 slaughter in Dunblane, Scotland, British authorities responded in ways now urged by American supporters of gun control.
A media frenzy coupled with an emotional campaign by parents of Dunblane resulted in the Firearms Act of 1998, which instituted a nearly complete ban on handguns. Owners of pistols were required to turn them in. The penalty for illegal possession of a pistol is up to 10 years in prison....
Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time. Moreover, another massacre occurred in June 2010. Derrick Bird, a taxi driver in Cumbria, shot his brother and a colleague then drove off through rural villages killing 12 people and injuring 11 more before killing himself.
In Australia, Malcolm writes, a horrific mass shooting in Tasmania just a few weeks after the Dunblane massacre led to similar legislative results.
Australia passed the National Firearms Agreement, banning all semiautomatic rifles and semiautomatic and pump-action shotguns and imposing a more restrictive licensing system on other firearms.... Between Oct. 1, 1996, and Sept. 30, 1997, the government purchased and destroyed more than 631,000 of the banned guns at a cost of $500 million.
To what end? While there has been much controversy over the result of the law and buyback, Peter Reuter and Jenny Mouzos, in a 2003 study published by the Brookings Institution, found homicides "continued a modest decline" since 1997. They concluded that the impact of the National Firearms Agreement was "relatively small," with the daily rate of firearms homicides declining 3.2%....
In 2008, the Australian Institute of Criminology reported a decrease of 9% in homicides and a one-third decrease in armed robbery since the 1990s, but an increase of over 40% in assaults and 20% in sexual assaults.
Malcolm sums up:
Strict gun laws in Great Britain and Australia haven't made their people noticeably safer, nor have they prevented massacres. The two major countries held up as models for the U.S. don't provide much evidence that strict gun laws will solve our problems.
This is possibly the toughest reality to face, in the wake of a terrifying and senseless event such as the Sandy Hook shooting: That there is ultimately very little that can be done to make sure something like it doesn't happen again. Part of that is because such events are so (thankfully) rare that no system can avoid them completely. Certainly, forcing law-abiding people to give up their rights, or treating schoolkids even more like prisoners, or arming principals or teachers or posting cops outside every locker room or whatever won't do much (if anything) to accomplish the goal of a safer society.
Back in 2002, Malcolm wrote about "Gun Control's Twisted Outcome" for Reason. And in 2003, she explained how and why one of the most widely praised history books about guns in the United States - Arming America, by Michael Bellesiles, was riddled with so many errors and so much fraud that Bellesiles was fired by Emory University. For a bonus, read some of Bellesiles smug, curt dismissal of Reason's coverage of his book.
Reason.com on Sandy Hook shooting.
- Sen. Harry Reid has said that it is up to the Republicans to come up with a fiscal cliff plan that the president can sign.
- Consumer confidence is down, thanks in large part to the fiscal cliff fiasco.
- LA officials have collected 2037 firearms in their post-Christmas gun buyback program. Participants collected gift cards valued between $100 and $200 in exchange for handing in weapons.
- Rebels are on their way to the Central African Republic’s capital.
- Matt Damon is giving up on politics, saying that the whole system is rigged. The system can't be that flawed, Damon admits to voting for Obama.
- Six people have died in Poland after being poisoned by tainted alcohol.
- The French jobless rate is up. Turns out increasing the minimum wage and the income tax rate for the wealthy isn’t that great for job creation. Who knew?!
Have a news tip? Send it to us!
Minnesota Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe has garnered media attention for his support for gay rights, his love of video games, and his outspoken nature. A self-described libertarian, Kluwe chatted with Reason 24/7 Associate Editor Scott Shackford about political labels, Ayn Rand, empathy as a libertarian value, voting for Gary Johnson, and post-scarcity anarchic utopias, among other things.View this article
Foreign Policy presents an “air attack gone wrong”:
Quoting unnamed Yemeni officials, local and international media initially described the victims of the Sept. 2 airstrike in al-Bayda governorate as al Qaeda militants. After relatives of the victims threatened to bring the charred bodies to the president, Yemen's official news agency issued a brief statement admitting the awful truth: The strike was an "accident" that killed 12 civilians. Three were children.
Nearly four months later, that terse admission remains the only official word on the botched attack. A Washington Post article, published on Dec. 24, reports that "U.S. officials in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said it was a Defense Department aircraft, either a drone or a fixed-wing airplane, that fired" on the vehicle. But the people of al-Bayda still have received no official word as to who was responsible for the deaths -- the United States, which in the past year has accelerated its covert targeted-killing program against Yemeni-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; or the Yemeni government, whose new president, Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi, was installed with Washington's help.
There have been more than 116 drone strikes in Yemen since May of last year. The president only acknowledged military operations in Yemen in June. The lack of acknowledgement didn’t stop the CIA from getting expanded authority to kill militants a few months prior.
h/t to Anthony Shaffer for the link, who adds on Facebook: “The kill with no capture [policy] is distracting from going after the re-emerging terrorist networks - this sort of thing actually gives them time and an additional pool of likely targets to recruit from - by killing innocents like this we have potentially made their surviving family into, at minimum, supporters of the terrorists”
Update: Our own Matt Welch highlighted this article earlier today.
Watch the video above or click the link below for the full story and downloadable links.View this article
As the libertarian Republican Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) leaves Congress, his fans and supporters are looking for hope that his spirit will live on in the House. Three incoming freshmen received a rare Ron Paul endorsement. As I learned from interviewing them for a feature that will be appearing in the forthcoming March issue of Reason, they don't particularly want to wear the mantle of perceived "next Ron Paul" either.
Two of them have been profiled this week in other media. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, already in Congress because his predecessor quit early, has his background as judge executive in his home state examined by Roll Call, which framed him as a "Tea Party" guy. They tell a story of him finding a half-price water heater on Ebay with free shipping when the county jail needed a replacement, and leading the installation himself, and his childhood desire to build a robot out of the junk in his room--to help him clean up the junk in his room. He was actually taught econ by Paul Krugman himself at MIT, though he rejects his old professor's conclusions on political economy.
Massie and his wife launched their own company after meeting at MIT:
SensAble Devices, which created products that allowed users — designers, engineers, whoever — to feel digital objects physically. A toy engineer could put his hands in the device and get the tactile sensation of an object that had been created only on the computer.
The very positive profile concludes with:
The red hue of his district means Massie is safe from a Democratic challenger. And given his deep grass-roots support, Massie is likely to have significant leeway on how he votes without risking a primary challenge.
Effectively the first tea party member of the 113th Congress — and the only one with a vote on the fiscal cliff — Massie is uniquely positioned to help write the next chapter of the tea party’s role in Congress.
See Mike Riggs' Reason profile of Massie from back in March.
Kerry Benvolio, incoming to Congress from Michigan's 11th district, slightly more notorious for earning public attacks on his sanity from his own brother, gets National Review attention this Christmas week--appropriate since Bentivolio raises reindeer and plays Santa at times.
The story provides a Bentivolio origin story:
Bentivolio, who served in Vietnam and during Operation Desert Storm, spent a year in Iraq as a platoon sergeant during the current conflict there. He was medivaced out after sustaining a neck injury in 2008 and ended up at the Fort Knox military hospital in Kentucky to recuperate. One weekend, as he drove around in a rented car, he noticed a group of what appeared to be Revolutionary War reenactors. Intrigued, he pulled over.
“People told me they were the Tea Party, and I said, ‘You’re supposed to be in Boston!’” he says with a laugh. “And I said, ‘Well, what do you mean by that?’ ‘It stands for Taxed Enough Already.’ I said, ‘Well that’s a good idea!’” Rand Paul was speaking at the rally.
“They woke me up to what’s happening,” he says. And they inspired him to run for office....
Bentivolio ended up the only Republican on the primary ballot when incumbent, and presidential aspirant, Thaddeus McCotter actually failed to submit enough signatures to get on the ballot:
One early morning a few days after the McCotter debacle really took off, a TV crew showed up on his porch.
“How’s it feel to be the only one on the ballot, Mr. Bentivolio?” asked the reporter.
“You folks need to get off my property!” he retorted, still bathrobe-clad. “I don’t do interviews at 7:30 in the morning!”
The rest of the story has more details on Bentivolio's career as a Santa impersonater and his controversial role in a friend's amateur movie that dabbles in 9/11 conspiracy theories, and drips with ambiguous feelings about whether his small-government beliefs should outweigh his personal eccentricities in judging his value as a congressman. His political instincts, from our conversation that will be appearing in the March Reason, seem worth giving a chance.
Last Saturday a Montreal jury acquitted special-effects artist Rémy Couture of "corrupting morals" by creating gory photographs and short films for his now-defunct website, InnerDepravity.com. Couture was arrested in 2009 based on an Interpol tip from Austrian police, who initially thought his work, featuring the actions of an imaginary serial killer, documented actual crimes. The prosecution argued that the material, though fictional and produced without harming any real human beings, "undermines fundamental values of Canadian society" by illegally mixing sex and violence. Couture, who faced up to two years in prison, testified that the sex was merely an "accessory":
I create horror. I'm not a pornographer. The goal is not to excite; it's to disgust....
The objective of anyone working as a make-up artist is to make people believe their work. My objective was to create horror, plain and simple.
Can a man's freedom really hinge on this distinction? Under Canadian law, yes. The Canadian definition of obscenity includes "any publication a dominant characteristic of which is the undue exploitation of sex, or of sex and any one or more of the following subjects, namely crime, horror, cruelty and violence." In addition to arguing that the sexual content of his work was secondary, Couture maintained that its artistic value should shield him from criminal liability. Evidently the jury accepted one or both of those arguments. "It's the end of a nightmare that lasted three years," Couture said. "I want to thank the jury and all those who supported me."
I am glad Couture was acquitted of something that should not be treated as a crime, but the process by which that happened hardly epitomizes the rule of law. The government said his images were obscene, and he said they weren't. Until the jury voted on Saturday—based on imponderables such as the nature of art and how much exploitation of sex is "undue," which in turn depends on how much a community is prepared to tolerate, itself an utterly subjective and self-verifying judgment—there was no way to say who was right. How can people reasonably be expected to conform their behavior to the law when it is impossible for them to figure out what actions it proscribes until after they've been arrested and prosecuted?
The same problem, of course, afflicts obscenity prosecutions in the United States, even without Canada's special sex-plus-horror provision. Ira Isaacs, a self-described "shock artist," presented a defense similar to Couture's, saying he was deliberately trying to "challenge the viewer" with his films, which featured scatology and bestiality. Isaacs said he was an artist, but a federal jury said he wasn't, and now he faces up to 25 years in prison. Why? Because his movies were, like, totally gross. This is no way to run a criminal justice system.
The brutality of Syria’s civil war and Iran's influence in the region have motivated calls for foreign intervention since the conflict’s beginning. Reports of massacres, torture, and the use of illegal weapons has prompted some to call for the U.S to intervene in Syria and stop the bloodshed. To date at least 40,000 Syrians have died and hundreds of thousands more are refugees in bordering countries such as Jordan and Turkey.
Despite fierce international condemnation Assad’s regime shows few signs of peacefully surrendering or working towards some sort of political transition. In light of the military and diplomatic deadlock some are arguing for Western military intervention. Citing geopolitical and humanitarian concerns some say that the time has come for American troops to engage in Syria on behalf of the rebels. However, this is something that U.S. officials should avoid.MORE »
Here's one. The folks over at the Renewable Fuels Association are praising Administrator Jackson for all the good work she did for their industry:
Statement by Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), on the announced resignation of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson:
"Administrator Jackson put into action the Obama Administration's commitment to ethanol and other biofuels. During her tenure, she cleared the way for E15 giving consumers more choice and savings at the gas pump and she protected the progress that has been made in reducing our dependence of foreign oil by recognizing the importance and inherent flexibility of the RFS. The ethanol industry thanks her for her service and looks forward to working with her successor to continue the growth of America's domestic renewable fuels industry."
See Reason's extensive archive on the economic and ecological stupidity of ethanol subsidies and mandates.
First, a disclosure: When my father died back in 1998, I took Prozac. At the time, I was finishing up a PBS television documentary and could not focus on the task. My physician suggested that I might try taking Prozac to see if it would help. I don't know if it helped or not, but I did finish up the program in the month after I began taking the pills. Perhaps my grief was running its natural course and would have abated on its own, or perhaps the anti-depressants were effective, or both. Four months later, I took a look at the bottle and put in back in the medicine cabinet, never taking another pill. I have not used any anti-depressant medication since then.
So why the disclosure? A front page article, "Pills for grief, and a boon for drug firms," in today's Washington Post is going on another conflict of interest witch hunt in which pharmaceutical companies are once again the bad guys. In this case, a committee of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has decided to change its guidelines and suggest that people experiencing deep grief over the death of a loved one might benefit from using anti-depressants. As it happens several of the experts on the committee have had financial relationships with various drugmakers, e.g., consulting fees and/or research grants. From the Post:
While no evidence has come to light showing that committee members broadened the diagnosis to aid the drug companies, the process of developing the handbook was fraught with financial links to the industry:
What follows are the details of some of the relationships that the committee members had with pharmaceutical companies. Simplistic QED: The decision must have been corrupt.
I note that the Post article does not in fact say that the industry-funded studies that suggest that anti-depressants might help people cope with grief are wrong.
Look, pharmaceutical companies are not to be confused with angels. They do have financial interests at stake and sometimes do unethical things. When they do they must be held liable. I did a long analysis, Scrutinizing Industry-Funded Science, [PDF] for the American Council on Science and Health back in 2007 in which I reviewed pretty much the entire peer-reviewed literature on scientific conflicts of interest. I turned that research into a Reason article, "Is Industry-Funded Science Killing You?" Basic conclusion: No.
Nearly all medical journals now require declarations of potential conflicts of interest (mostly financial) when publishing a research article. In addition, most are now requiring that all clinical trials be registered. I further recommended continuous open peer-review modeled on the Public Library of Science journals.
Considering that very few new drugs are in fact removed from the market and that newer drugs tend to work better than older ones, the sort of conflicts of interest identified by the Post do not appear to have caused significant harm to research subjects or patients.
Back in 1998, there were no guidelines with regard to using Prozac to cope to with grief. Perhaps Eli Lilly made a few bucks off of me and perhaps I succumbed to the placebo effect; nevertheless, I am glad that my physician gave me the option to try that medication. Until other researchers can show that the results of the scientific studies cited by the APA committee are flawed, mere reportorial innuendo of possible corruption is not useful for physicians or patients.
Another disclosure: I own shares in various biotech and pharmaceutical companies (no more than 1,000 in any one company, alas). I purchased all of the shares with my own money and all are held in my retirement accounts. May your deity of choice have mercy on you if you even think about cribbing any investment advice from me.
The Washington Times takes us back to the glorious mercantilist days of yestercentury in its piece the other day crowing about shrinking "trade deficit" numbers (which they credit to weakening dollar, increased domestic energy production):
Trade deficits act like a dead weight on the economy by draining the wealth of the country and bleeding domestic industries.
As Milton Friedman told me in 1995, and we weren't even talking about Adam Smith, Bastiat, and the basic notion that more trade, at least if it represents the sought-out free choices of individuals trying to better their perceived cirumstances, the same fallacies about economics recur eternally and will never be defeated.
Or to put it more baldly, I don't feel "drained" by my grotesque trade deficit with the Von's supermarket on the corner. I'm pretty sure they haven't bought a single book or article from me.
Murray Rothbard with the Austrian/free-market perspective on the non-issue of "trade deficits" writ large (which is not the same as saying that the specific numbers associated with "trade deficits" at any given time might or might not be caused by some government policy that is ill-advised for some other reason):
One of the ironies of American politics at the moment is that it may be three old white men who never were elected president—Governors Wilson, Weld, and Pataki—who can tell the Republicans how to broaden their appeal enough to retake the White House, writes Ira Stoll.View this article
If your post-holiday boredom has left you without a reason to get riled up (or perhaps the Fiscal Cliff "negotiations" just aren't enough), I invite you to watch the Senate debate on C-Span about renewing the FISA Amendments Act today. The FISA Act allows the government to get secret permission to spy on communications to and from Americans without having to prove probable cause in defiance of the Fourth Amendment.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has been on top of the political machinations behind the renewal of the bill, such as the senators – among them Ron Wyden (who is currently speaking as I write this) and Rand Paul – working to change the laws to require warrants to collect private communications from Americans.
Here’s what EFF has to say about Wyden’s actions:
Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the most ardent defenders of civil liberties in the Senate, has been asking the NSA for months for information on how the FISA Amendments Act has impacted Americans.
The NSA has so far refused, yet, as the New York Times reported in 2009, we know the NSA was still intercepting domestic communications in a “significant and systematic” way. We also know the secret FISA court ruled, on at least one occasion, that the government had violated the Fourth Amendment when conducting surveillance under the FAA. Yet the NSA has rather unbelievably claimed releasing the number of Americans whose privacy has been violated would violate those same Americans’ privacy.
Ron Wyden’s amendment would force the NSA to come clean and give a general estimate of how many Americans have been affected by this unconstitutional bill, and finally give us information Americans deserve.
In addition, another Wyden amendment would clarify that the acquisition of American communications is prohibited without a warrant. Sen. Wyden has accused the government of conducting “backdoor searches,” whereby the government collects communications of foreign individuals talking to Americans, but later goes back into the government’s database of intercepted communications and reviews the Americans' comunications. Sen. Wyden hopes this clarification to the law will help guard against further intrusive spying on American communications.
And here is what Paul is up to:
Republican Senator Rand Paul has commendably been one of the few voices unequivocally denouncing the FISA Amendments Act as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. To that end, Sen. Paul will be introducing “the Fourth Amendment Protection Act” which will re-iterate that all US communications, whether sought by US intelligence agencies like the NSA or any government agency, are protected against unwarranted searches and seizures—even if they are held by third party email providers like Google.
A vote is expected today. The EFF reported earlier in the month that many senators were trying to get the amendments renewed without any debate at all.
During a set of interviews I conducted in mid-December for a forthcoming feature in the March issue of Reason magazine, four Republican congressmen who had been endorsed by outgoing Texas Rep. Ron Paul spoke about the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations: Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.), Rep. Ted Yoho (Fla.), and Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (Mich.)
Here are edited excerpts of their comments on that topic. The full interview transcripts are forthcoming in Reason’s March print issue.
Rep. Justin Amash, 32, will be beginning his second term in Congress next month and is riding a wave of notoriety for being booted from his seat on the House Budget Committee, apparently for not being a good GOP team player when it came to voting for spending bills that didn't cut enough, in his view. His was one of the votes that helped kill House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” last week (though this interview was conducted before that vote):
Reason: Do you see anything good coming out of the fiscal cliff negotiations?
Amash: I think we are headed toward a situation where taxes are likely to go up and spending is not likely to go down and borrowing is likely to go up, which is what we’ve been doing for decades.
Reason: No signs of hope, then?
Amash: Things can change very quickly. You can have new leadership in our Party, have new leadership on the other side that would actually work together toward dealing with our debt. There is hope there is a new group of representatives coming in who view this problem very differently. Our constituents are putting pressure on us in new ways that is very different from, say, 10 years ago. When I go to Town Halls people understand the debt problem in ways I think they didn’t several years ago.
Reason: Can you imagine approving tax hikes to solve the debt problem?
Amash: The number one problem is debt. If someone brought a proposal that dealt substantially with entitlements, reforming them to ensure our government remains solvent in the long run, then we have to put everything on the table including taxes. I know some libertarians say it’s wrong to put taxes on the table under any circumstances. I disagree. The number one problem is debt. I don’t want to raise taxes; I don’t believe we need any more revenue for the federal government, but I cannot rule out discussion on taxes if someone else is willing to put on the table major reforms for entitlements.
Rep. Thomas Massie, 42, a new congressman from Kentucky’s 4th district, had retreated to a life of cattle and timber ranching after a successful career as a tech entrepreneur. Inspired by Ron and Rand Paul, he’s now an incoming freshman already seated in Congress due to winning a special election to replace his predecessor. He too was one of the votes against Boehner’s “Plan B” (and again, this interview occurred before that vote). He also told me he thinks the cuts embedded in the “fiscal cliff” need to happen, and in that sense it’s more a “fiscal remedy” than a horrific “fiscal cliff”:
Reason: The “fiscal cliff” negotiations are the first big drama you’re facing. Hopeful for a positive outcome?
Massie: I wouldn’t say “hope” is one of the things I’m full of after three weeks here. But when deciding which is worse, spending or taxes, without a doubt spending is worse than taxes, since taxes are an inevitable byproduct of spending. Once you’ve decided to spend, the only tax question is, are you going to pay or are your children going to? As far as tax rates going up, I’m afraid that’s going to happen as a consequence of the re-election of Obama. He has leverage right now. But I would rather see us in Congress vote on all these elements individually then make a giant hairball and try to pass it all once. I would not increase the debt ceiling before January 3. The current discussion about the so-called fiscal cliff should not include it.
Rep. Ted Yoho, 57, a career veterinarian, is an incoming freshman from Florida’s 3rd district.
Reason: Have you been watching your soon-to-be colleagues deal with the fiscal cliff negotiations? Hopeful that anything good might come of them?
Yoho: The fiscal cliff is not something that just came up at the end of the year right after the election. The fiscal cliff was put off two years ago, and put off two years before that. Our debt in ‘89 was $2.9 trillion and it’s now $16.2 trillion and in 10 years will be $23-25 trillion if it doesn’t go beyond that. When would we have liked to have dealt with that? It’s not a matter of whether we have to deal with it, the question is when, and it sure would have been a heck of a lot nicer to deal with it at $2.9 trillion. We don’t have an income problem, we have a spending problem.
I think the outcome will be a temporary band aid. We need to start dealing with problems with a heavy hand and a kind heart. But when we can no longer afford things in my household and business, we made cuts. We didn’t like them, but for longevity they were the best thing to do. We need to take the message to the American people and be honest with them, say “This where we are at as of this day,” not to fix blame, we are beyond that, but just, “This is the situation today and if we do this in five years this is what we will have,” and say we are all going to have to give a little bit, it’s painful but we know in 5-10 years it will be a lot better.MORE »
Over at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg and Ta-Nehisi Coates have been debating gun ownership by private citizens (Goldberg is generally for it, Coates against it). But like many intense conversations about politics, ideology, rights, and cold, hard steel, this one has given rise to strange and wonderful feelings that can both titillate and terrify. At least on the part of Goldberg, who explains that during his debate, certain long-buried - one might even say repressed - tendencies of his bubbled to the surface:
This is what I wrote to Ta-Nehisi after he said he would rather not own a gun for self-protection: "You don't want a gun to defend yourself, fine. That's your right. But denying someone else that right -- someone who is screened and vetted and trained and feels that he needs a gun to defend himself or his home -- is that right?"
I went on to write that my feeling about gun-ownership tracked with my feelings about pot-smoking (people should do it if they want to do it and not be punished for it); gay marriage (pro); and abortion (I don't like it, but I'm not going to tell a woman what to do with her body). I suppose my loathing for privacy-invading airport security procedures tracks with these beliefs. On guns, I believe that that people who are screened and vetted should be allowed to participate in their own defense. I think people should be treated like adults, and be allowed, within reason, to make their choices about who they want to be with, how they want to organize their lives, what they ingest and how they protect themselves.
After I wrote this, it struck me that I might be a libertarian. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with this feeling. I don't even know anyone at Reason magazine.
My question, dear readers, is this: What then is this strange beast, this libertarian?
How do you define libertarian and what are the hints, if not the tell-tale signs, that a person is indeed one?
Flesh out the comments below but, as always, keep it classy.
Forget about whiskers on kittens, warm woolen mittens, and politics (especially politics). As 2012 draws to a close, Reason staffers pick their favorite and least-favorite things from the past year that have little or nothing to do with politics.
From Kate Middleton's baby bump to Johan Santana's no-hitter, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall FAIL to the Uber app, Gangam style to a 24-mile free fall, and more, here's the best and worst of 2012 (non-politics edition).View this article
As the year comes to a close, those W2s and 1099s are set to start rolling in. But on December 31, new IRS regulations will go into effect that will put mom-and-pop tax preparers out of business. The Institute for Justice has been fighting to delay or stop implementation of the new rules, but it looks like the good guys aren't going to win this one in time for the 2012 tax season:
In a twist that will surprise exactly no one, H&R Block and the other big tax prep firms are on board with the new rules, which throw up additional certification requirements, continuing education mandates, and other expensive barriers to entry for their smaller competitors.
The regs are part of an IRS power grab—there was no congressional authorization for these new regulations.
But hey! Since the budget mess is likely to delay the processing of tax returns this year anyway, you might as well take your time and figure out how to do your returns yourself this cycle, right? You probably won't be seeing that refund check for a while no matter what.
Among the most predictable outcomes of the 2012 election was Republican Mitt Romney's absolutely awful showing among Hispanic voters. The reluctant candidate (according to one of his sons anyway) pulled around 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, less even then John McCain managed in 2008 and much less than George W. Bush (who got around 40 percent to 45 percent in 2004). Given that Romney called for "self-deportation" of mostly Hispanic illegal immigrants and attacked Texas Gov. Rick Perry for giving some illegals in-state tuition at the University of Texas, his lackluster showing was hardly surprising.
But you know what? Compared to President Barack Obama, Romney was practically sweetness and light to the overwhelming number of immigrants (legal and otherwise) coming from Latin America and especially Mexico (a country that has accounted for about 55 percent of immigrants for the past decade or two). Indeed, in his first term, Obama deported immigrants at a higher rate than Bush and made it clear that even his paltry and temporary waiving of deportation for some illegals who had been brought here as children was neither "amnesty," "immunity," nor "a path to citizenship."
People who think Obama is somehow pro-immigrant can suck on this as they savor four more years: Last year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jacked up its efforts to punish companies hiring illegals:
Audits of employer forms increased from 250 in fiscal year 2007 to more than 3,000 in 2012. From fiscal years 2009 to 2012, the total amount of fines grew to nearly $13 million from $1 million.
The number of company managers arrested has increased to 238, according to data provided by ICE.
The investigations of companies have been one of the pillars of President Obama's immigration policy.
When Obama recently spoke about addressing immigration reform in his second term, he said any measure should contain penalties for companies that purposely hire illegal immigrants.
At the same time, it's coming out that Mitt Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has long been a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform that was supported by high-profile Dems and Reps. Ryan has recently met with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has his own issues with President Obama on immigration.
In 2005, Ryan was a co-sponsor of bipartisan and bi-cameral comprehensive immigration reform legislation carried in the House by Gutierrez and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). "It wasn't like it was a long line of Republicans supporting it. He's always supported immigration reform," Gutierrez said.
The measure was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). That was the last time lawmakers crossed the aisle to work meaningfully together on immigration reform -- and that mighty effort failed.
As a matter of fact, there wasn't a lot of Democratic support for immigration reform in the mid-'00s either. That's one of the reasons it went nowhere, despite support from George W. Bush. Iimmigration was about the only thing Dubya was good on, in my opinion. He wanted more of it and defined it thus in 2001: "Immigration is not a problem to be solved, it is a sign of a confident and successful nation. Their arrival should be greeted not with suspicion and resentment, but with openness and courtesy."
Will we ever see a president again who talks that way about immigration? Here's hoping.
Related video: Can an Illegal Immigrant Become a Lawyer in the United States?
- 46 percent of Americans think Obama will perform better in his second term, 22 percent think it’ll be worse.
- The minimum wage in ten states will be increasing in 2013. It will be highest in Washington State, at $9.19 an hour.
- Hawaii’s governor named his lieutenant, Brian Schatz, to replace the late Senator Daniel Inouye. Inouye had indicated a preference for someone else before he died.
- Cop deaths in the line of duty are down 20 percent.
- EA is removing links to gun store websites from the website for their game Medal of Honor.
- Israel’s defense ministry says it will be easing the blockade of Gaza.
- George H.W. Bush remains in hospital.
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The Free State Project, described by Brian Doherty in these pages two years ago as "an interesting experiment to get 20,000 libertarians to all relocate to New Hampshire to reshape local and state politics in a place where those numbers are politically powerful," has been successful enough to make at least some New Hampshire Democrats declare this ragtag group of fill-in-the-blank-archists as Enemy Number One.
At the progressive site Blue Hampshire last week, a diarist named The Money Magician warned that the 20,000 signature moment (at which point, in theory, those who signed up for the pledge to move to the Live Free or Die State would make good on their promise) could come as early as 2015. "I wish there was some way to repel these people," the Magician lamented.
The interesting comments section ("A libertarian is an Anarchist that is too lazy or too scared to move to Somilia," writes tchair) included this bit from cyndychase, later identified by the Free Keene kids as "District 8 State Representative Cynthia Chase of Keene." Excerpt:
In the opinion of this Democrat, Free Staters are the single biggest threat the state is facing today. There is, legally, nothing we can do to prevent them from moving here to take over the state, which is their openly stated goal. In this country you can move anywhere you choose and they have that same right. What we can do is to make the environment here so unwelcoming that some will choose not to come, and some may actually leave. One way is to pass measures that will restrict the "freedoms" that they think they will find here. Another is to shine the bright light of publicity on who they are and why they are coming. [...]
Here in Keene we had a couple show up on Central Square to take part in our weekly Saturday morning peace demonstration. In the course of the conversation they allowed that they were Free Staters considering moving to Keene. The folks on the Square told them in no uncertain terms not to do that because Free Staters are not welcome here. Cheshire County is a welcoming community but not to those whose stated goal is to move in enough ideologues to steal our state, and our way of life.
A friend had a young man from Texas contact her to rent a room she had available. She got in touch with me to ask what to do when he told her he was coming to NH as part of the Free State Project. Here's what she decided to tell him: "I told him that I already rented the room, and that I didn't appreciate him coming here to change our state government, it was an insult to me. That if he wanted to make change to start self examining his own life in a mindful way and stay in Texas to make the changes he wants not come here. And not contact me again."
In what nefarious ways are the Free Staters changing New Hampshire? Getting marijuana growers out of jail by using the rare tactic of jury nullification, among other things.
Link via Instapundit. Reason on the Free State Project here, including Brian Doherty's great December 2004 piece "Revolt of the Porcupines." I interviewed Free State Project President Carla Gericke for Reason.tv in 2011:
The closer you look at American history, Jesse Walker writes, the more it seems that someone somewhere is always in apocalyptic time. Sometimes the whole country seems to plunge in together, as in such convulsive periods as the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the aftermath of 9/11. Other times a distinct subculture detects an eschaton invisible to everyone else.View this article
Foreign Policy has a perfectly awful account of a U.S. drone strike in Yemen this September that killed a dozen civilians. Begins like this:
SANAA, Yemen — The villagers who rushed to the road, cutting through rocky fields in central Yemen, found the dead strewn around a burning sport utility vehicle. The bodies were dusted with white powder -- flour and sugar, the witnesses said -- that the victims were bringing home from market when the aircraft attacked. A torched woman clutched her daughter in a lifeless embrace. Four severed heads littered the pavement.
"The bodies were charred like coal. I could not recognize the faces," said Ahmed al-Sabooli, 22, a farmer whose parents and 10-year-old sister were among the dead. "Then I recognized my mother because she was still holding my sister in her lap. That is when I cried."
What enables such state-sanctioned murder? One crucial ingredient is highlighted in the next paragraph:
Quoting unnamed Yemeni officials, local and international media initially described the victims of the Sept. 2 airstrike in al-Bayda governorate as al Qaeda militants.
Follow that link to the Sept. 2 Reuters article, and you'll see this loaded lead paragraph:
Five suspected militants linked to al Qaeda were killed by a U.S. drone attack on Sunday in central Yemen, in what appears to be stepped up strikes by unmanned aircraft on Islamists.
Note that "suspected" only modifies "militants"; Reuters treated as fact that the charred bodies were "linked to al Qaeda," and part of a broader campaign against "Islamists" who don't qualify as being "suspected."
This isn't just linguistic nitpicking of journalismese; this is how you midwife propaganda–straight from anonymous government sources who have a huge incentive to legitimize targeted death-dealing against undesirables, and unadorned with the kind of protective skepticism that such ultimate power (let alone fog of war) so richly deserves.
Pennsylvania police say they will charge a 13-year-old boy at Tamaqua Middle School with disorderly conduct for pointing his finger like a gun at other students. The boy, who wasn't identified by local media, has been suspended by the school.
Way back in June, Brad Heath of USA Today did some excellent work reporting on dozens of federal prisoners serving sentences for federal gun laws that it turns out they didn’t actually violate. Federal law prohibits convicted felons from owning guns. But North Carolina’s complex sentencing system makes a mess of an attempt at creating federal gun-ownership guidelines. As a result, USA Today determined there were about 60 men in federal prisons for owning guns, even though their previous crimes weren’t serious enough to be considered felonies.
Heath follows up today with a combination of bad news and good news. The bad news is that the number is higher: About 175 federal prisoners may have been improperly imprisoned or sentenced. The good news is the federal government is actually responding to try to fix the situation:
USA TODAY's investigation in June identified 60 people imprisoned even though a U.S. appeals court said what they had done was not a federal crime. Still, Justice Department lawyers did almost nothing to notify prisoners — many unaware they were innocent — and asked federal judges to keep them locked up anyway. The department reversed that position in August.
Since then, federal judges have ordered the government to free at least 32 prisoners, and have taken 12 more off post-prison supervision, court records show. Some had served up to eight years before they were freed.
It’s an important reminder for anybody looking to the federal government to cobble together some sort of “fix” to keep bad people (whoever those might be) from getting guns. Even legislation as seemingly simple as forbidding felons from owning guns has unintended consequences when applied to a host of state and municipal laws.
Mohammed Morsi signed Egypt’s new Sharia-based Constitution into law earlier today after a two round vote where the document passed by 63.8 percent according to the election authority. Protests against the draft constitution began before it was even released, after Morsi seized judicial powers in preparation for a new constitution. Protests started immediately, with the proposal of the new constitution just a week later spurring more protest. The opposition mulled a boycott of the constitutional vote before throwing their weight behind a “no” vote.
And while the government blamed unrest on a “small but powerful minority” supporters of the opposition saw it the other way around. “70 percent of the Egyptian people are ignorant and illiterate, and the 70 percent now control the 30 percent of the population who are educated,” one female voter told euronews in Egypt. Like others, she accused the government of fraud in the elections. The results represent a third straight electoral win for the Muslim Brotherhood since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood had long been banned in Egypt, helping it become the only real opposition force in Egypt despite losses in elections that came in the twilight of the Mubarak era. Though the Muslim Brotherhood initially stayed away from the protests that would lead to Mubarak’s toppling, when it was clear Mubarak’s days were numbered, it attached itself to the moment, identifying as the major recipient of the Mubarak regime’s brutality. Despite this, wrote Morsi in 2011, the revolution was Egypt’s, not the Muslim Brotherhood’s. “The Muslim Brotherhood are not seeking power,” Morsi clarified just two days later. Less than a year and a half later he had been elected president. It’s been a lot of power-seeking since.
A recent Guardian/ICM poll indicates that 51 percent of respondents favor voting to take the U.K. out of the European Union were an in/out referendum offered, a two percent increase from last year.
The poll suggests not only that the British are becoming increasingly eurosceptic, but that British eurosceptics are more convinced in their beliefs than europhiles. Only 22 percent of respondents would “Definitely vote to stay in,” while 36 percent of respondents would “Definitely vote to leave,” hardly a ringing endorsement of pro-E.U. arguments.
The rise in eurosceptic sentiment is not an indication of Britain becoming more sympathetic to libertarianism. The most prominent eurosceptic party in the U.K., the United Kingdom Independence Party, has policies that are hardly conducive to the principles of limited government. I have written on UKIP’s lack of libertarian credentials here and here.
It is almost a certainty that British Prime Minister David Cameron will appease his party’s euroscepticism in some way before the next general election. Much of the support that the Conservatives have been losing recently is in large part thanks to UKIP, which is ideally placed to pick up Conservative supporters who are uncomfortable with the Conservative Party’s lack of action against the E.U. and the current partnership with the europhilic Liberal Democrats.
Euroscepticism is not jut a right-of-center opinion, despite contemporary rhetoric:
Fifty-seven percent of Tories want to pull Britain out, compared with 44% of Labour supporters and 34% of Lib Dems. But Cameron may be interested to learn than only 41% of his party's supporters are definitely committed to pulling Britain out, leaving a majority of Conservatives who retain a more equivocal or pro-European position.
David Cameron should offer a referendum, and do it quickly. His coalition government has enough to worry about without the European issue being a constant source of irritation. With the socialist Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband enjoying good polling numbers offering a referendum on E.U. membership would be a chance to do something with popular support.
Kent Sepkowitz, an internist and infectious disease specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, thinks people have too readily accepted the idea that MDMA can be useful as a psychotherapeutic catalyst for soldiers and others diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. In particular, he complains in a Daily Beast essay, the press and public should be more skeptical of research sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in which subjects who took MDMA were much more likely to improve (as measured by scores on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale) than subjects who took a placebo. That result, Sepkowitz claims, was "suggestive but not statistically significant," because "the likelihood that the result was due to the drug was 83%," as opposed to 95 percent, the usual standard for statistical significance.
But as MAPS Executive Director Rick Doblin points out in the comments below Sepkowitz's article, the doctor, a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, seems to have made an embarrassing error: Eighty-three percent is the share of subjects in the treatment group who improved, compared to 25 percent in the control group. The difference was indeed statistically significant, with a 1.3 percent probability that it would occur purely by chance, as opposed to the 17 percent that Sepkowitz claims. Doblin comments:
Kent seems to have been so motivated to critique our initial study that he misread our abstract and reported an incorrect claim that our statistical analysis was not significant....If Kent had taken more than a few minutes to read the abstract and thought about what it actually reported, or if he had decided to read the actual paper, or even part of it, he would have learned that we reported that the difference between a response rate of 83% in the MDMA group and 25% in the placebo group (whose subjects received our extensive psychotherapy but with an inactive placebo) was significant ([p =] 0.013).
What about Sepkowitz's more general claim, that people are making too much of a suggestive but small and inconclusive study, partly because they are attracted by "the hipness factor" and a story line in which "Ecstasy leaves the gutter to save the day"? First of all, MDMA was arbitrarily consigned to "the gutter" by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which imposed an "emergency" ban on the substance in 1985 after people began using it for fun (shudder) at clubs and dance parties. But before MDMA emerged in that recreational context, it was a hit among psychotherapists who found that it enhanced empathy and candor (and who opposed its prohibition for that reason). While their testimonials are not the sort of evidence that gets pharmaceuticals approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it's not as if the idea of using MDMA in psychotherapy came out of the blue.MORE »
- A winter storm system ripping through the South has killed six and is now headed for the Northeast.
- A new poll shows 50 percent of Americans still confident Washington will reach a deal on the “fiscal cliff.” Starbucks is pitching in by printing “come together” on their coffee cups in DC while the New York Times reports little urgency in the actual negotiations.
- President Obama’s second inauguration is going to be a lower key affair, with no more than 800,000 people expected to show up.
- A shooting sport group in Utah is offering free concealed carry training to local teachers while college students in Massachusetts are protesting charges of carrying ammo without a license levied against a classmate with a belt made of bullets. NBC News, meanwhile, is reported to have been denied permission to show the magazine clip David Gregory displayed in an interview with the NRA president.
- The Los Angeles Times is releasing 1,200 files kept by the Boy Scouts related to charges of sex abuse.
- Les Miserables topped Django Unchained in their Christmas openings. Spike Lee says he won’t be watching Django because it was disrespectful to his ancestors.
- According to Turkey, Syria’s Bashar Assad sought asylum in Venezuela. The head of the military police in Syria, meanwhile, defected in a statement on Al-Arabiya TV.
- Tanzanian police ban disco for kids.
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From the 1950s though the 1970s, the humanist psychologists brought a new interest in individualism to their field—along with encounter groups, psychedelic drugs, clothing-optional "growth centers," and "client-centered therapy." Jessica Grogan's Encountering America tells their story. The book has its merits, Jeff Riggenbach reports in his review, but the author's anti-individualist inclinations sometimes lead her astray.View this article
Today, the upper house of Russia's parliament voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would ban Americans from adopting Russian children. Russian officials stated that the move is intended to encourage Russian families to adopt Russian children without caregivers. However, it is widely believed that the move is being made in retaliation against a recently passed US law that imposes sanctions on Russian officials responsible for human rights abuses.
In the past 20 years, more than 60,000 Russian children found new homes with American families. If Russian President Vladimir Putin signs the bill, thousands of Russian children will be denied that opportunity each year. Currently, there are more than 700,000 children living in Russian orphanages.
Read the full story here.
Also check out Reason TV's "Abandoned in Guatemala: The Failure of International Adoption Policies," a short film about how and why Guatemala shut down international adoptions several years ago.
Watch it and then call your favorite celebrity and ask them to stand up for something that our government can actually stop right now.
As the charter-school movement matures, another reform is emerging—one Virginia also should take a look at, says A. Barton Hinkle. Known as “parent trigger,” it allows parents unhappy with failing schools to force change upon them. (After Newtown, the idea could use a new nickname.) California was the first state to enact such a law; six others have followed, and another 13 have considered the idea.View this article
As I mentioned last week, The New York Times is using the Sandy Hook massacre as a pretext to flog just about every proposal on the wish list of gun control supporters, even when the ideas plainly have nothing to do with Adam Lanza's crimes. The lead story in today's paper, for instance, implicitly advocates a comprehensive national database showing who owns what guns (or owns them legally, at least). In Adam Lanza's case, such a database would have shown that his mother owned several firearms, a fact that in itself was hardly a red flag indicating that her son would one day murder 27 people (including his mother). And since Lanza, who killed himself after shooting all of those people, was immediately identified as the attacker, a national gun registry clearly was not necessary to solve the case. The Times nevertheless claims that making it easier for federal officials to trace guns "has gained renewed urgency with the school massacre in Newtown, Conn."
Despite all the thinly veiled policy pushing, the Times is making an effort to include the perspective of people who think new gun control measures make no more sense today than they did on December 13. In today's article, Erica Goode and Sheryl Gay Stolberg mention the fear that registration could lead to confiscation (something that actually has happened in various jurisdictions, as J.D. Tuccille noted in his recent piece about defiance of gun regulations), although they end with a quote that dismisses such concerns as a paranoid fantasy. More notable are the pieces that focus on the views of gun owners who do not understand the urge to ban "assault weapons" in response to the mass shooting in Newtown (especially since the rifle Lanza used did not qualify as an "assault weapon" under Connecticut's law, which is similar to the federal ban that expired in 2004). In a December 16 story, Goode put the issue in perspective by describing legitimate uses for such guns and noting how rarely they are used to kill people. A December 19 story by Trip Gabriel began this way: "Anyone seeking to limit the sale of assault weapons must reckon with the fact that millions of Americans own guns that might be classified as one, and for many it is no more exotic than, say, a motorcycle or sports car, from which they derive a similar satisfaction."
But terminology is important, and the casual use of assault weapon puts a thumb on the scale in favor of prohibition by implying that the phrase, which was invented by the anti-gun lobby, describes an objectively defined class of especially dangerous guns, as opposed to an arbitrary category of firearms whose looks offend activists and legislators. Notice how Gabriel implicitly acknowledges the latter reality even while using a term designed to confuse and scare people. The Times, which editorially has always supported bans based on this fraud, also has a history of uncritically referring to "assault weapons" in its news coverage. In a December 21 story about a surge in gun purchases that seems to be driven by fear of new restrictions, Stephanie Clifford highlights this bias by using the phrase "so-called modern sporting rifles" while mistakenly describing semiautomatiuc military-style guns sold to civilians as "assault rifles," which are guns carried by soldiers that can fire automatically. The implication is that the term used by gun manufacturers to describe their own products is suspect, while the term used by people who want to ban those products (or, as in this case, a garbled and plainly inaccurate version of that term) can be treated as a neutral descriptor.
Has the Times ever referred to "so-called assault weapons" in its news stories? The only example I could find appeared in an article by B. Drummond Ayres Jr. that was published in May 1994, during the debate over the federal ban that was enacted that year:
"These are guns that were fashioned for no other purpose than to kill," said Representative Charles E. Schumer, the Brooklyn Democrat who is the chief sponsor of the House bill. "They were designed not for hunting or plinking, but so that the average draftee with no real gun expertise could spray a lot of lead around in combat. The civilian versions are essentially the same as the military versions."
The bill's opponents counter that so-called assault weapons, while they may look more lethal, are in fact no more lethal than guns designed for hunting and target shooting. They contend that many other guns among the 200 million in the nation have the same capacity to kill and that in the end, the only way to stop gun deaths is to control criminals.
All the other mentions of "so-called assault weapons" that I found in a search of the paper's website appeared in quotations or letters to the editor from critics of the ban (including John McCain). The headline on Ayres' article: "In Gun Debate, Gun Definitions Matter." They still do.
Last week, before the National Rifle Association came roaring out of the gates to blame the First Amendment for one young man’s violent rampage in Connecticut, I made note that the attempt to scapegoat video games fell kind of flat this time.
And then NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre tried to put video games back in the crosshairs, naming the usual suspects like Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat as well as some flash game they found online called Kindergarten Killer from the deep bowels of the Internet circa 2002. (For those who are new to the Internet, there is somewhere on the web a flash game that allows you to do any horrible thing you could ever possibly imagine, like killing your boss or herding sheep.)
While the coverage of Adam Lanza’s rampage has led to the typical chin-stroking about our violent culture from those prone to such tiresome fretting on both the left and the right, it’s pretty clear nothing will come of LaPierre’s deflections. Unless the NRA is going to go on the record as opposing warfare (and the military component of their site suggests that’s not going to be happening any time soon), they’re hardly in the position to complain about what our culture values. Notice LaPierre did not name any war games or war movies in his spiel about how our violent culture is turning kids into killers?
In any event, the Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Anton Scalia in 2011, ruled video games are protected by the First Amendment, so any political posturing on the matter isn’t going to amount to anything. Gamers and the video game industry won this war. There is no evidence that violent video games lead to real world violence. Those who use statistical information to defend their pet causes should be aware of the statistical information that defends their potential scapegoats.MORE »
Kick off awards season with the only show that shines the spotlight on those who make it their business to mind your business. Live (to tape) from Hollywood, it's the fourth annual Nanny of the Year Awards!
To see who this year's top Nanny is and why, watch the video above, or click the link below for the full story and downloadable links.View this article
University of Alabama climatologists John Christy and Roy Spencer have released their monthly statistics on global warming trends detected by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency satellites. In the press release accompanying the data, Christy notes that the rise in global average temperatures has been largely stalled since the big El Nino event in 1998:
The lowest level of the global atmosphere has warmed almost one half of a degree Celsius (0.48 C or 0.86 degrees Fahrenheit) during the 34 years since instruments aboard NOAA and NASA satellites started collecting data on global temperatures in late November 1978, according to Dr. John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. While the atmosphere has warmed over the full 34-year time span, it has not warmed noticeably since the major El Niño of 1997-98 — giving us about a decade and a half of generally stable temperatures.
Since 2002, there has been a plateau of relatively warmer temperatures with only 12 months when the global average temperature was cooler than the long-term seasonal norm. In fact, compared to the 30-year temperature baseline, the most recent five years (12/07-11/12) averaged only 0.003 C (0.173 to 0.176 above seasonal norms) warmer than the preceding five years (12/02-11/07). ...
The long term 0.14 C per decade warming trend measured by microwave sounding units on a series of satellites is consistent with the low-end of global climate change predictions made by some climate models; it is also within the potential range of natural climate variability, especially since most of the warming happened over such a short period of time.
Based on the empirical data gathered by the NOAA satellites, Christy remains skeptical of climate models that predict future catastrophic warming:
Proof of the superiority of private over government efforts is everywhere, says John Stossel. Catholic charities do a better job educating children than government—for much less money. New York City’s government left Central Park a dangerous mess. Then a private charity rescued it. But while charity is important, let’s not overlook something more important: Before we can help anyone, we first need something to give. Production precedes donation. Advocates of big government forget this.View this article
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), departing Congress, reminds us of his ineffable Ron Paul-ness with a great statement on his House web site both defending gun rights and attacking the right-wing hysteria response via Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) (taken apart ably by Jacob Sullum here last week) of armed government guards in every school:
The impulse to have government “do something” to protect us in the wake national tragedies is reflexive and often well intentioned. Many Americans believe that if we simply pass the right laws, future horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting can be prevented. But this impulse ignores the self evident truth that criminals don't obey laws.
The political right, unfortunately, has fallen into the same trap in its calls for quick legislative solutions to gun violence. If only we put armed police or armed teachers in schools, we’re told, would-be school shooters will be dissuaded or stopped.
While I certainly agree that more guns equals less crime and that private gun ownership prevents many shootings, I don’t agree that conservatives and libertarians should view government legislation, especially at the federal level, as the solution to violence. '
Paul points out, as he also did in his bravura farewell speech to Congress last month, that:
Real change can happen only when we commit ourselves to rebuilding civil society in America, meaning a society based on family, religion, civic and social institutions, and peaceful cooperation through markets.
Paul goes on to point out, as one of the only men in public life who would, that government itself is a machine of violence, fingering drone strikes, and he alienates both standard left and right in his effortless way by condemning government for both "endless undeclared wars abroad and easy abortion at home."
He then laments the mindset that would turn Sandy Hook into an excuse for further tightening a
world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and warrantless physical searches? We see this culture in our airports: witness the shabby spectacle of once proud, happy Americans shuffling through long lines while uniformed TSA agents bark orders. This is the world of government provided "security," a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse. School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.
Paul winds up with the very important point that seeking the phantasm of total security through government inspection and control is a clear path to a "totalitarian society" that would "claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens lives."
This statement, especially considering that he didn't have to make it and it will surely annoy many in what might be considered his natural audience (Second Amendment absolutists) is a marvelous example of Paul's style as a politician. He was in the political game to root his opposition to government in an opposition to violence and control in all its forms, not just as a culture war game of fighting perceived enemies on the "other side." (i.e., those damn liberals!)
Paul's statement on Sandy Hook also shows the moral coherence of his libertarian politics and his foreign policy stance, a meshing that alas seemed to confuse many GOP voters, and is another reminder of how much his voice in Congress will be missed.
Back in October, as I walked through Logan Airport I was entranced by a Parrot AR Quadrocopter drone hovering in front me in the concourse. It was being guided by a gift shop sales clerk using her iPhone. She showed me how it worked and I was particularly startled by the clarity of the video it was recording. I thought it would be great to use to take aerial video of my house, the woods around my cabin, my neighbors' houses .... whoa, I thought to myself. Video of my neighbors' houses, yards, and their activities? Maybe even peek inside their windows? No thanks.
As creepy as neighors drone spying on one another would be, allowing agents of the government do it is much worse.
In today's New York Times, the paper's editors worry about the misuse of domestic drones by police agencies to spy on the public. The editorial notes:
Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to quickly select six domestic sites to test the safety of drones, which can vary in size from remote-controlled planes as big as jetliners to camera-toting hoverers called Nano Hummingbirds that weigh 19 grams.
The drone go-ahead, signed in February by President Obama in the F.A.A. reauthorization law, envisions a $5 billion-plus industry of camera drones being used for all sorts of purposes from real estate advertising to crop dusting to environmental monitoring and police work.
Responding to growing concern as the public discovers drones are on the horizon, the agency recently and quite sensibly added the issue of citizens’ privacy to its agenda. Setting regulations under the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unlawful search is of the utmost importance...
The idea of watchful drones buzzing overhead like Orwellian gnats may seem far-fetched to some. But Congress, in its enthusiasm for a new industry, should guarantee the strongest protection of privacy under what promises to be a galaxy of new eyes in the sky.
What might "strongest protection of privacy" look like? The American Civil Liberties Union argues that legislation should include:
USAGE LIMITS: Drones should be deployed by law enforcement only with a warrant, in an emergency, or when there are specific and articulable grounds to believe that the drone will collect evidence relating to a specific criminal act.
DATA RETENTION: Images should be retained only when there is reasonable suspicion that they contain evidence of a crime or are relevant to an ongoing investigation or trial.
POLICY: Usage policy on domestic drones should be decided by the public’s representatives, not by police departments, and the policies should be clear, written, and open to the public.
ABUSE PREVENTION & ACCOUNTABILITY: Use of domestic drones should be subject to open audits and proper oversight to prevent misuse.
WEAPONS: Domestic drones should not be equipped with lethal or non-lethal weapons.
Go here to view Reason's extensive coverage of the abuse of drones at home and abroad.
Disclosure: I am still a card-carrying member of the ACLU.
At Ricochet, New York University law professor and pioneering libertarian legal scholar Richard Epstein comments on the passing of conservative legal giant Robert Bork, who died last week at age 85. The whole piece is worth reading, but I wanted to draw particular attention to Epstein’s observations about the central role judicial deference played in Bork’s approach, and how it directly conflicted with Epstein’s own views about the Constitution:
[J]ust as Bork had worked out his antitrust positions, he ventured off into the realm of constitutional law, heavily influenced by yet another one of my [Yale law school] teachers, Alexander M. Bickel, whom in his own way was as much a contrarian as Bork. Bickel’s most famous contribution, The Least Dangerous Branch, stressed the importance of the passive virtues in light of the “countermajoritarian difficulty,” whereby courts kept their distance from the political controversies of the time that were best left to the political process.
In Bork’s confident hands, the aloof intellectualism of Alex Bickel became much more emphatic and strident. Indeed, after Bickel’s all-too-early death in 1974, Bork lashed out at just about everyone on every side who thought that courts had a greater role in dealing with the Constitution than his strongly majoritarian politics allowed.
That position brought us into tension, to say the least, because at the time that Bork was pushing this line, I was working up the arguments for my 1985 Takings book, which somewhere around page 281 simply concluded (correctly, I still believe) that the entire New Deal was not just unwise, but flatly unconstitutional.
If memory serves me correctly, there was, in December of 1983, a conference on the topic of the contracts clause held at the University of San Diego in which Bork took what I thought to be the incredible position that any statute should be regarded as constitutional so long as its defendants can propose any rationale that might make it stand, even if they knew it was wrong, so long as they could say it with a straight face.
Read the whole thing here.
After California voters narrowly approved a hike on their income taxes this November, a species long thought extinct started re-appearing in the national media: the California-is-back story.
"California Finds Economic Gloom Starting to Lift," declared The New York Times, bolstering the case with such beautifully worded info-explainers as "Most Californians are still pessimistic about the direction of their state, but the trend is improving." Politico trumpeted "Jerry Brown's California Revival." The articles were short on economic numbers, long on armchair politics and carnival-barker quotes like disgraced ex-governor Gray Davis telling the Gray Lady that "I can see the sun glistening off the ocean as I look out my office window."
For a reality check against premature it's-back-ulation, I recommend the relentlessly grim website Pension Tsunami, where you can see the daily nitty-gritty of blue-state interest groups (read: governments and public sector unions) fighting like wolverines over the ever-shrinking pie of available government revenue. For instance, here's a recent article from the Riverside Press-Enterprise:
The city of San Bernardino won an important victory in its request for bankruptcy protection Friday, Dec. 21, when a judge denied CalPERS' attempt to force payment of unpaid pension obligations through state court.
CalPERS, the state retirement system, is the city's largest creditor. CalPERS had filed a motion for relief from the automatic protection from creditors under bankruptcy law that came with San Bernardino's Aug. 1 Chapter 9 petition.
In order to make payroll and keep basic operations going, the city has stopped paying many of its debts, including the employer share of biweekly payments to CalPERS.
The city now owes $8.3 million and is accruing a debt of $1.7 million a month even as the agency continues to pay $3.75 million in benefits to city retirees a month, said Michael Gearin, an attorney for CalPERS, during an almost five-hour hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside on Friday.
The agency depends on timely payments from its members, he said.
"Without that, the system falters, and it will ultimately fail if enough employers don't participate," Gearin said.
He said that like it was a bad thing! (I kid.) Comments Chris Reed over at Cal Watchdog:
[This] will be remembered as the first in a very long line of defiant acts from local governments in California as budgets that don't add up force local officials to make tough and often unprecedented decisions. For local officials, telling Sacramento to take a hike is a much easier call than taking on those who benefit from city compensation policies or who benefit from city services. [...]
The decision of a judge to side with the city in its maneuvering will absolutely prompt other cities to copy it.
Other cities such as bankrupt Stockton, where national reporters should be forced to walk after nightfall before hitting "send" on their California-revival stories.
I'll be happier than Huell Howser tripping on acid when the Golden State makes its long-delayed comeback, but the structural problems of converting tax dollars into a guaranteed pension machine are vast and ongoing, and it's going to take more than one month of sub-10% unemployment since January 2009 to get me busting out the Phantom Planet catalogue.
Pussy Riot’s protest song was about not just Putin but also the cozy ties between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church under the leadership of the pro-Putin Patriarch Kirill. The indictment against the punk rockers accused them not only of demeaning the beliefs of Orthodox Christians but of “belittl[ing] the spiritual foundations of the state,” writes Cathy Young.View this article
Writing in USA Today, Glenn Reynolds, the University of Tennessee law professor and proprietor of Instapundit reflects on the Sandy Hook School shooting. Snippets:
If police took twenty minutes to respond at a school, how likely are they to get to your house in time? For those of us without "security teams" [that gun-rights opponents such as Mike Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch have], the answer isn't reassuring....
A 20-year-old lunatic stole some guns and killed people. Who's to blame? According to a lot of our supposedly rational and tolerant opinion leaders, it's . . . the NRA, a civil-rights organization whose only crime was to oppose laws banning guns. (Ironically, it wasn't even successful in Connecticut, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation.)
The hatred was intense. One Rhode Island professor issued a call -- later deleted -- for NRA head Wayne LaPierre's "head on a stick." People like author Joyce Carol Oatesand actress Marg Helgenberger wished for NRA members to be shot. So did Texas Democratic Party official John Cobarruvias, who also called the NRA a "terrorist organization," and Texas Republican congressman Louis Gohmert a "terror baby."...
Calling people murderers and wishing them to be shot sits oddly with claims to be against violence. The NRA -- like the ACLU, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers or Planned Parenthood -- exists to advocate policies its members want. It's free speech. The group-hate directed at the NRA is ugly and says ugly things about those consumed by it.
I'm no fan of the NRA and I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague Jacob Sullum that the organization is fighting anti-gun hysteria with pro-gun hysteria. That's a huge mistake, especially since as a country we need less hysteria in general and especially when it comes to gun control laws (read more about what that might look like here).
- Ben Affleck announed on Facebook that he won’t be running for Senate.
- A leading UFO expert believes we can expect first contact with extraterrestrial life by 2024.
- The gunman who shot four New York firefighters left a note saying that, "I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down, and do what I like doing best -- killing people."
- More FOIA complaints were filed during Obama’s first term than were filed in George W. Bush’s second term.
- Egypt’s controversial draft constitution was passed with 63.8 percent support, according to the supreme election committee.
- A suicide bomber in Afghanistan has killed at least three civilians near a military facility.
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The Washington, D.C. nonprofit, limited-government political world is no stranger to testy personal/personnel conflicts, but the fallout at the Tea Party-connected FreedomWorks between co-bigwigs Matt Kibbe and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey has been particularly severe.
First, Mother Jones broke the news at the beginning of the month that Armey was resigning on decidedly non-amicable terms, in part over what he described as "matters of principle." Follow-up reporting by various outlets indicated that the conflict came to a boil in the summer over the handling of Kibbe's book Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America, that Kibbe had been placed on temporary leave for a few days in September, and that Armey had eventually agreed to leave in part due to an $8 million payday.
Now comes a Washington Post article flush with lurid details about the split. It begins like this:
The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.
Richard K. Armey, the group's chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group's Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey's enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks' top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.
The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone — with a promise of $8 million — and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington's most influential conservative grass-roots organizations.
Stephenson, the founder of the for-profit Cancer Treatment Centers of America and a director on the FreedomWorks board, agreed to commit $400,000 per year over 20 years in exchange for Armey's agreement to leave the group.
Who is Richard Stephenson (who, like Kibbe, did not comment for the article)?
Stephenson has a passion for libertarian politics stretching back to the 1960s, when he attended seminars featuring "Atlas Shrugged" author Ayn Rand and economist Murray Rothbard, according to those who know him at FreedomWorks. Like Armey, Stephenson was an early supporter of Citizens for a Sound Economy, the conservative lobbying group founded by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch in 1984 that split into FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity 20 years later. The Kochs, known for bankrolling a variety of conservative causes, kept control of AFP, while Stephenson and Armey stayed with FreedomWorks.
I know Dick Armey, am friends with Matt Kibbe, and have zero insight into the conflict, other than knowing through experience that the way these things look from the outside are often deceiving, particularly when viewed through the lens of a mainstream media instinctively allergic to billionaire non-Democratic political donors. The whole Washington Post story is worth reading for those interested in such things. UPDATE: As is this recent update from Mother Jones, which includes some testy memoage from Kibbe.
Psychiatrically informed policies aimed at controlling people rather than weapons are popular in the wake of mass shootings, notes Jacob Sullum, especially among those who worry that gun restrictions will unfairly burden law-abiding Americans while failing to prevent future attacks. Sullum warns that treating gun violence as a mental health problem presents similar dangers.View this article
Do you own a registered gun? Well, they know where you live. By "they" I mean the government (which you knew), and the Freedom of Information Act-using, technology wielding media, which can with some effort build maps like the one you see on the right, showing the Westchester County addresses of people who have registered their handguns.
Explains The Journal News Record (Gannett-owned) of Lower Hudson County:
In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and amid renewed nationwide calls for stronger gun control, some Lower Hudson Valley residents would like lawmakers to expand the amount of information the public can find out about gun owners. About 44,000 people in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam — one out of every 23 adults — are licensed to own a handgun.
Anyone can find out the names and addresses of handgun owners in any county with a simple Freedom of Information Law request, and the state's top public records expert told The Journal News last week that he thinks the law does not bar the release of other details. But officials in county clerk's offices in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam maintain the public does not have a right to see such things as the specific permits an individual has been issued, the types of handguns a person possesses or the number of guns he or she owns — whether one or a dozen.
The map, which "does not include owners of long guns — rifles or shotguns — which can be purchased without a permit," was brought to my attention by Twitterer "Russ" (@burnt_wick), who comments that this "is why you should acquire all of your firearms illegally."
Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson has banned the use of all lanyards in provincial schools. Most of Alberta's 2,000 schools have long used lanyards for hall and restroom passes. But a Grade 3 student recently almost choked to death on a lanyard, prompting the ban.
When you see a public problem, don’t look to government intervention for a solution, writes Sheldon Richman. Instead, look for the previous intervention that created it—and work to have the offending legislation repealed.View this article
The idea that riots in other countries justify censorship in the U.S. represents a new form of heckler’s veto, making freedom of speech contingent on the predicted responses of the touchiest listeners anywhere in the world. Such a policy, writes Jacob Sullum, is dangerous to freedom of expression, providing a license to suppress speech deemed provocative, and to public safety, encouraging violence aimed at eliminating offensive messages.View this article
Bahraini officials detained New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof at the airport when he tried to enter the country. They later expelled him. Kristof was apparently banned from the country because he wrote about human rights abuses there.
In a well-informed and revealing Playboy article, Frank Owen analyzes "a classic drug panic," explaining how and why Rudy Eugene's grisly assault on Ronald Poppo in Miami last May came to be blamed on "bath salts," a group of quasi-legal stimulants that Eugene, a.k.a. the Causeway Cannibal and the Miami Zombie, had not in fact consumed. Owen fingers some of the same culprits I did in my post-mortem examination of the story—most conspicuously, Armando Aguilar, president of the local police union. Owen says Aguilar, worried that yet another case of a Latino officer (Jose Ramirez) shooting an African American (Eugene) would give critics of the Miami Police Department new ammunition, "decided to bury the racial angle by feeding local reporters an alternative narrative that would prove irresistible: A flesh-eating monster high on a sinister new drug called bath salts devoured a homeless man's face." Those local reporters, who set off a worldwide media frenzy featuring headlines such as "New 'Bath Salts' Zombie-Drug Makes Americans Eat Each Other," swallowed the tall tale eagerly and begged for more:
"The officer believes the man clearly, clearly was on some very, very powerful drugs," said [WFOR] news anchor Cynthia Demos.
"That's right, Cynthia," said reporter Tiffani Helberg. "The Fraternal Order of Police president tells me this crop of LSD"—referring to bath salts—"is a major threat to police officers as well as the rest of us. He says it turns normal people into monsters that possess this superhuman strength and no ability to feel pain."
Reporters didn’t seem to care that Aguilar had no expertise in the pharmacological action of drugs on the human brain or that he didn’t provide a scintilla of credible evidence that bath salts were involved in any of these cases. Horror stories about intoxicants have been a staple of American reporting since the temperance crusades, but this one was the mother of all drug-scare stories. It was too good for journalists to fact-check.
Widely quoted emergency room physician Paul Adams, who gave a scientific veneer to Aguilar's wild speculation, likewise seemed willing to credit whatever cops told him about the latest scary drug on the street:MORE »
With Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino has brought off a perfect marriage of style and history, says Kurt Loder. He has appropriated the universe of another beloved genre, the spaghetti western, and set within it an unsparing tale of American slavery. The movie is outrageously funny, but it’s also unflinchingly committed to a full exploration of the horrors of its subject. Where many movies about black bondage are diluted by liberal hankie-wringing, this one feels fueled by a black rage that still simmers today. It might be the most savage cinematic depiction of slavery ever made.View this article
Meteorologists know seasons are predictable. In the weather world, spring is always followed by summer. But as Steve Chapman observes, the political world is different. Spring can proceed to summer, or it can lead to a sudden onset of winter. That was the case this year in places ranging from Egypt to Syria to Russia, where reactionary forces returned or remained in power and the promise of a democratic spring was thwarted.View this article
Dinosaurs were cold-blooded. Increased K-12 spending and lower pupil/teacher ratios boost public school student outcomes. Most of the DNA in the human genome is junk. Saccharin causes cancer and a high fiber diet prevents it. Stars cannot be bigger than 150 solar masses.
In the past half-century, all of the foregoing facts have turned out to be wrong, writes Ron Bailey. In the modern world facts change all of the time, according to Samuel Arbesman, author of the new book The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date (Current).View this article
Former Atlanta police officer Bernett Collins has pleaded guilty to sexual battery, distributing sexually explicit material to a minor and violating his oath of office. Collins met a 13-year-old girl when answering a call to her house. He then began texting her and eventually sending her explicit photographs of himself and requesting photos of her topless or in her underwear. He also groped her during a visit to her house. A judge sentenced Collins to five years probation.
While the circumstances are as depressingly true today as they were in 2009, the sentiment is as well.
Here is the original text from the Dec. 16, 2009 Reason TV video:
We're going through some tough economic times right now, but this holiday season, take a moment to appreciate how good we really have it.
Need proof? Just think about how much Christmas presents sucked in the 1970s compared to today.
Thanks to our market-based system, we're wealthier, we have more choices, and we enjoy more leisure time than ever before.
From all of us at Reason.tv, happy holidays!
Produced by Paul Feine and Hawk Jensen. Hosted by Nick Gillespie.
Approximately 1.45 minutes.
Atlas II is tonally aimed at a right-wing audience, the sort of people who thought Mitt Romney was right-on when he dismissed nearly half the country—those who are “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.” Romney didn’t use the Randian term “looters and moochers” for that now-famous 47 percent, but he might as well have, writes Brian Doherty.View this article
In the spirit of Christmas re-gifting, here is a vintage holiday treat from Reason TV.
The original text from the Dec. 10, 2010 video is below:
Why does Vice President Joe Biden hate Christmas? And why is he badgering one of the most beloved, kind-hearted cartoon characters in the world?
Has it really come to this?
Make your own Joe Biden holiday mashup. It's easy like Sunday morning talk shows.
1 part beloved animated Christmas special
1 part Joe Biden YouTube clips.
2 parts fever dream.
Mix until completely out of context.
A Joe Biden (War on) Christmas is written by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie. Script consultant: Austin Bragg. Produced by Meredith Bragg.
Approximately 1.30 minutes. Not brought to you by Almost Home Cookies and Peter Paul Cadbury. Go to http://reason.tv for downloadable versions.
Related video: Reason.tv Salutes Joe Biden, Real Man of Genius
Actor Gérard Depardieu's decision to flee France for Belgium to avoid a 75 percent marginal tax rate on incomes above $1.3 million sends a message we here in America should heed: Those who are singled out for tax increases are not stationary targets. The means of avoiding and evading the taxman are legion, writes Sheldon Richman.View this article
As Americans get ready to travel for the holidays, here is a look back at last year's Christmas-themed Remy-ReasonTV collaboration.
Here is the original text from the Dec 19, 2011 video:
In seasons past, Grandma only had to worry about getting run over by a reindeer. With "Grandma Got Run Over by TSA," web sensation Remy gets us in the holiday mood with a song about Christmas, Homeland Security, and the joys of civil rights abuses.
"Grandma Got Run Over by TSA" is one of a series of collaborations between Remy and Reason.tv. To watch Remy's other videos, go to http:youtube.com/goremy
Approximately 2:25 minutes. Music by Remy. Video shot and produced by Meredith Bragg.
Grandma got indefinitely detained now
coming home to visit Christmas Eve
You could say she had a right to counsel
but some folks in the Congress disagree
she was flying home to our house
when she got checked by TSA
thought she might be Abdulmutallab
when they looked at her X-ray
Her hair had recently been colored
she paid cash for her Christmas gifts
two things apparently the Congress
says just might make you a terrorist
Grandma got indefinitely detained now
coming home to visit Christmas Eve
you could claim there's no right to due process
but check the 5th amendment and you'll see
they say they need to have these powers
to help protect this free country
but if it takes these steps to do so
what is it we are protecting?
Now she's an enemy combatant
as if that makes any sense
the only thing that she's combating
is her unpredictable incontinence
Grandma got indefinitely detained now
trying to come visit Christmas Eve
they took her rights in order to...protect rights..
the most genius plan ever in history
Grandma got indefinitely detained now
never made it home on Christmas day
she always wanted to live in Miami
at least now she's 90 miles away
J.D. Tuccille, Managing Editor of 24/7 News, says he doubts he ever would have gone to the black market to purchase an illegal assault weapon if it wasn’t for New York’s annoyingly restrictive gun control laws. Like millions of people around the world, when faced with barriers to the lawful access of a firearm, he acquired one unlawfully rather than acquiesce. Historically, given a choice between complying with restrictions on firearms ownership and defying the law, a clear majority of people in most jurisdictions have chosen rebellion. The tighter the law, the more obvious the rebellion, to the point that the vast majority of firearms in civilian hands in Europe are owned outside the law.View this article
"Check out Reason's New LA Headquarters!" is the latest offering from ReasonTV.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more ReasonTV clips.View this article
Recently a San Francisco neighborhood merchants' group, the Valencia Corridor Merchants Association, announced it would seek a temporary ban on new restaurants in the up-and-coming neighborhood. "As a merchants association, it's our job to protect the restaurants already on the corridor," said Deena Davenport, a neighborhood salon owner who also served as past president of the neighborhood association, in remarks to the San Francisco Examiner. "Our goal has always been to keep the diversity on the street."
There’s a term for the exclusionary goal of protecting existing restaurants against new competitors, writes Baylen Linnekin, and that term is not diversity.View this article