today's column, Douthat discusses "a truth that everyone who's come up through Ivy League culture knows intuitively—that elite universities are about connecting more than learning, that the social world matters far more than the classroom to undergraduates, and that rather than an escalator elevating the best and brightest from every walk of life, the meritocracy as we know it mostly works to perpetuate the existing upper class." More specifically, Douthat describes some of the ways this is done "in a society that's formally democratic and egalitarian and colorblind" and with "an elite that prides itself on its progressive politics, its social conscience, its enlightened distance from hierarchies of blood and birth and breeding."Heaven knows I have my disagreements with Ross Douthat, but he's the one opinion columnist at The New York Times who is regularly willing to step outside the paper's ideological comfort zone—that tiny distance, if it is a distance at all, that separates the white-man's-burden liberalism of Nicholas Kristof from the big-government conservatism of David Brooks. In
It is possible to imagine another Times writer discussing higher education's role as a class sorting machine. But the liberals would end the op-ed with a call for admitting more people to college, and Brooks would trail off into nostalgia for the alleged era when Ivy graduates had more noblesse oblige and the rest of the country reciprocated by respecting their authority. And maybe someone would try to argue for a "national service" program, the better to get the elite out into the world for a bit before they run it. Douthat, who has a healthy decentralist streak, seems to suggest there's something wrong with the whole setup to begin with. Better still, he's doing it in the paper that serves as the class in question's community bulletin board.
Boston, like many cities, arbitrarily limits the number of taxicabs on the streets via a medallion system. Lest the resulting lack of competition tempt cab companies to overcharge passengers, the city also imposes rigid price controls. This system has its drawbacks.
According to Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, writing in the Boston Globe:
The purpose of taxi regulation is simply to protect passengers against being fleeced by unscrupulous cabbies, and to keep passengers, bystanders, and the environment safe. Yet the system instead has evolved mainly to enrich the holders of government-issued taxi medallions, even as taxi drivers struggle to earn a living and passengers pay some of the highest rates in the country.
The Globe reports after a months-long investigation of the industry that one fleet owner, who controls a fifth of the city’s medallions, routinely cheats cab drivers and skirts accident-insurance requirements. Last week, long-time Boston Mayor Thomas Menino called for a review of the city’s policies and floated the idea of creating a civilian review board to mediate disputes between cabbies and medallion owners.
Glaeser proposes market-based reforms: replacing the medallion system with an annual fee for whoever wants to drive a cab and allowing cabbies to compete on price.
Back to the Globe:
Better regulation would base the fees on a hard estimate of the burden each cab imposes on its surroundings. Just like other cars, cabs create congestion, pollution, and safety risks for pedestrians and other drivers; these and other problems associated with driving amount to a social cost of 10 cents per mile, by one estimate. So if Boston cabs travel an average of 60,000 miles per year, the annual … fee should be about $6,000.
Cab companies should be allowed to post and advertise lower rates—and then use electronic cab services, like Uber, to help customers find cheaper cabs.
Currently, officials have determined that “public convenience and necessity” dictates that there should be only 1,825 cab medallions in Boston, though there are 6,000 licensed cab drivers jostling for the opportunity to rent a car for 12 and 24-hour shifts. According to the Globe, those medallions can fetch $600,000.
"All [economic] recoveries are associated with recoveries in housing...except for the Great Recession, this last one," says behavioral economist and Nobel Prize winner Vernon Smith.
"Vernon Smith and Steve Gjerstad on Housing and the Never-Ending Recession" is the latest offering from Reason TV. Watch above, or click the link below for full text and downloadable versions.
Approximately 35 minutes. Filmed by Alex Manning and Meredith Bragg. Edited by Zach Weissmueller.View this article
On a recent episode of his HBO show, Bill Maher created a "new rule" concerning libertarians:
Libertarians have to stop ruining libertarianism! Or at least do a better job of explaining the difference between today's libertarian and just being a selfish prick. Now, many years ago on a television network far, far away, I expressed support for libertarianism because back then it meant I didn't want big government in my bedroom, in my medicine chest, and especially not in the second drawer of the nightstand on the left side of my bed. And I still believe that. But somewhere along the way, libertarianism morphed into this creepy obsession with free-market capitalism based on an Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged, a book that's never been read all the way through by anybody with a girlfriend....
Libertarians also hate Medicare and Social Security and there are problems with those programs but here's the thing: It beats stepping over lepers and watching human skeletons shit in the river and I also like not seeing those things. I’m selfish that way!
Watch the whole bit before weighing in. Sure, Maher's rant is filled with various cliches (Ayn Rand, nerd jokes, conflation of regulation and safety, etc) and elisions. It's also funny - and a pretty interesting and coherent glimpse into the way that libertarians are viewed by left-leaning liberals. Maher stresses that he didn't "leave libertarianism"; rather the movement went "nuts."
You can dismiss everything he says easily, logically, emotionally and bring up all the myriad ways in which he's just WRONG WRONG WRONG and how he's really a COMMIE DOUCHEBAG who hates womenz and all that (that is what unmoderated comments sections are for, right?).
But for anybody interested in growing the influence and impact of liberatarian ideas, it's worth thinking about the ways in which the libertarian identity fails to move a guy who is anti-prohibition, anti-empire (belatedly!), pro free expression, and pro-much more that falls in line with a libertarian perspective. For better or worse, a Venn diagram of Maher and libertarianism is going to show a huge amount of overlap on things. The same is common among right-wingers too, where many people agree with libertarians on anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent of issues but recoil from any association with the label or the beautiful, clean-smelling, super-smart, and just-swell folks who self-identify as libertarian.
Without betraying core values, are there ways we can reach these simpatico folks on the right or the left, so as to kickstart (perpetuate!) what Matt Welch and I once bravely called "The Libertarian Moment" and wrote a whole book about?
broke the news that Alabama has rescinded its strong statutory protections against the use of eminent domain for private development. I stand by that claim, but based on subsequent local news reports, SB 96 appears to be an inartfully crafted law rather than a nefarious attempt to bring back Kelo-style land grabs.Last weekend, Reason
According to one legislator, any expansion of eminent domain authority was inadvertent and will be excised. Legal minds in Alabama are split, however, on whether the new law, which offers tax subsidies for manufacturers willing to locate their operations in the state, does indeed expand the state's eminent domain power.
To me, this language is pretty unequivocal (italics denote SB 96’s changes to existing law):
It is further found and declared that the powers conferred by this chapter are for public … and private uses and purposes imbued with a public interest … and the power of eminent domain and police power exercised, is hereby declared as a matter of legislative determination.
Those private uses include:
Automotive, aviation, medical, pharmaceutical, semiconductor, computer, electronics, energy conservation, cyber technology, and biomedical industry manufacturing facilities.
Since there is uncertainty about what this passage means, a quick legislative fix is in order. According to Dana Berliner, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, “If the legislature truly did not intend to authorize eminent domain with this bill, they need to fix it immediately.”
Otherwise, it will be up to judges to determine what the law says, which means forcing property owners to defend their homes and businesses in court when local officials with an expansive view of SB 96 decide to replace a neighborhood with an industrial park.
Disclosure: I am a former employee of the Institute for Justice.
"Can Computers Replace Teachers?: Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward" 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
While the rule under the amended law is temporary, writes Baylen Linnekin, word is its supporters are already moving to make it permanent. And you’re naïve or stupid if you think other federal agencies won’t be seeking the same power to override judges' decisions they don’t like.View this article
It was about the late movie critic's memory of eating, written after he could no longer eat or even talk.
It's filled with elegies for crap food that are by turns haunting and hilarious:
Another surprising area for sharp memory is the taste and texture of cheap candy. Not imported chocolates, but Red Hots, Good and Plenty, Milk Duds, Paydays, Chuckles. I dreamed I got a box of Chuckles with five licorice squares, and in my dream I exalted: "Finally!" With Necco wafers, there again, the licorice were the best. The peculiar off-purple wafers were space-wasters. As a general rule in candy, if anything is black, red or green, in that order, I like it.
This got carried so far one day I found myself googling White Hen-style candy with the mad idea of writing an entire blog entry on the subject. During visits to a Cracker Barrel I would buy paper bags filled with licorice, root beer, horehound and cinnamon drops. Searching for Black Jack gum, I found whole web sites devoted licorice in its many forms. I even discovered and downloaded a photo of a basket that seemed assembled from my memory, and it is below.
And then there's slow-burning, power-chord finish:
I came across this sentence in its web review, and it perfectly describes the kind of place I like: " A Greek-style chow joint replete with '70s wood paneling, periwinkle padded booths, a chatty wait staff and the warble of regulars at the bar. Basically, if you've ever had it at any place that starts with Grandma's, Uncle's or any sort of Greek place name, you can find it here." Yes. If a restaurant doesn't serve tuna melts, right away you have to make allowances.
So that's what's sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for, unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, "Remember that time?" I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it's sad. Maybe that's why I enjoy this blog. You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now.
Ebert also wrote memorably - and movingly - about depression, boozing, and his AA connections.
Peer into the future. Not our future (hopefully), but a future in which Michael Bloomberg's most feverish dreams about saving us from ourselves have come true. That's the premise of Bacon and Egg Man by Ken Wheaton, a novel that should be satirical, but really is just an extrapolation down the path set by smoking bans and soda restrictions. In Wheaton's mid-21st century, the northeastern United States seceded from the union under the leadership of a "King Mike" who was primarily motivated by the desire to be the biggest fish in a small pond. After years of creeping nanny-statism, the rest of the country was only too happy to tell King Mike and his Northeast Federation of States not to let the door hit them in the ass on their way out — and to insist they take California with them. This set King Mike and friends loose to mold a new nation using all of the tools available to elitist control freaks with no checks on their power.
Wheaton's hero, Wes Montgomery, is a journalist with a sideline as the leading black market dealer of banned foods on Long Island. The fun begins when he gets busted and coerced into participating in an undercover operation against his counterpart in Manhattan.
The premise of the book is similar to that of F. Paul Wilson's "Lipidleggin'," which was written when the whole idea of a diet-controlling, therapy-mandating, Big Mother-ish government seemed oh-so far-fetched. I asked Wheaton about that, and he'd never heard of the story. He's a Louisiana native though, and a few years of living under King Mike's smothering hand while working for Ad Age in New York City were likely all it took to have him pining for an America that had quarantined militant aerobicizers and haters of trans-fats.
While we're on the subject of satirical novels about the nanny-state future, let's not forget Scott Stein's Mean Martin Manning. Consistently funny and, yes, mean, the novel follows misanthropic Martin Manning, who hasn't left his apartment in years simply because he wants to be left alone. He's not neurotic, or phobic, or troubled in any way. But he is ill-tempered — and perhaps just a little more than the aggressively caring minions of the nanny state counted on when they set out to "help" those who neither want nor need anything of the sort. What's that about waking sleeping giants? How about pissing off a pit viper?
Mean Martin Manning was published in 2007 and deserves much more notice than it has received. Like Bacon and Egg Man, it captures all of the awful presumption of the nanny state, and then just sets it down its own logical road, to where the nanny staters are not only likely, but certain, to go if allowed free rein.
I'm a big believer in the value of both culture and fun. I recommend these books not just because they celebrate freedom, but because they're enjoyable to read and work in and of themselves as novels. We have to participate in the culture and contribute of ourselves if we're going to nudge it in a healthy direction, and both Bacon and Egg Man and Mean Martin Manning are worthy contributions in that direction.
So, of course, is High Desert Barbecue, the rollicking, thug-thumping novel of outdoor adventure, penned by yours truly. Thrill as conspiracy, arson and ineptitude threaten the desert West, and only a misanthropic hermit, a subversive schoolteacher and an unemployed business writer stand in the way. I may not address nanny staters to any great extent, but my book deals at great length with tree-huggers and bureaucrats. There are plenty of larfs and violence. I should have added more sex.
High Desert Barbecue was a Freedom Book Club book of the month. Like the other two novels featured here, I like to think that it stands on its own merits.
There are a number of folks out there who feel the team name for the NFL's Washington Redskins is culturally insensitive. Racist, even. Since the team has thus far clung to their controversial mascot, some former FCC leaders are proposing forcing their hands by trying to punish television broadcasters who say or air its name.
In a letter to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, former Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Nicholas Johnson, and others contend that an indecency case could be made against broadcasters who air the offensive name.
“It is impermissible under law that the FCC would condone, or that broadcasters would use, obscene pornographic language on live television,” they write. “This medium uses government owned airwaves in exchange for an understanding that it will promote the public interest. Similarly, it is inappropriate for broadcasters to use racial epithets as part of normal, everyday reporting.”
Never using the team’s name, they chastise broadcasters for using a name that is equivalent to the “n-word.”
But networks can use the “n-word,” too, if they want to. It’s the cultural pressure and consequences that stopped the use of such language, not government demands or fines.
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several misleading comments about gun policies. The mainstream media is increasingly picking up on the fact that sequestration isn’t the calamity his administration promised. Both Republicans and Democrats are upset by the president’s budget proposal, which also came two months late. So what did the president apologize for today? Calling California’s Kamala Harris, “by far the best looking attorney general in the country.” Was Jack Conway upset?On Wednesday in Denver, the president made
In fact, Jay Carney said the president called her to apologize for the distraction the comments caused. Obama’s not a stranger to the wheel of outrage, having apologized in 2008 for calling a Michigan television reporter “sweetie.” At the LA Times, Robin Abcarian offered that the president’s remarks were more “wolfish” than “sexist” but then pointed out the obvious, that looks matter. She concluded by repeating that no one would’ve cared what the “gorgeous” Sarah Palin had to say if she didn’t have good looks, a familiar trope used to diminish Palin’s political positions. Obama, of course, didn’t do that this time. He even prefaced his comments on Harris by calling her “brilliant” and “dedicated.” But he apologized anyway.
And you can say you were there, when the president apologized for innocent drone deaths his foreign policy his economic policies getting some things wrong drawing attention to his opinion on a politician’s good looks.
- lowest labor participation rate in over 30 years. Ouch. Today's slight down-tick in the unemployment rate comes courtesy of the
- President Obama's proposed budget has finally united Republicans and Democrats — in disdain for the horrible thing.
- Help wanted: New FBI director. Must have a sincere interest in other people's conversations, and be able to fit into a sun dress in a man's size 48. Apply in person in Washington, D.C.
- The federal government has agreed to pay $1 million to settle claims arising from the nasty habit immigration agents have of kicking in doors without a warrant.
- Slovenia is widely predicted to be the next Cyprus, which was the last Greece. It seems Slovenia's state-owned banks have been used by politicians to make ill-considered loans to their buddies. Good luck, German taxpayers!
- Britain's Conservative Party is concerned about a flurry of local officeholders defecting to the upstart UKIP, as well as a series of election wins by the party's candidates.
- Not so fast, say Washington officials. Just because marijuana is legal doesn't mean you can get high in bars. Reasoning to come later.
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Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases challenging legal restrictions on same-sex marriage. Proponents and opponents sought to cudgel one another with sociological and psychological studies aiming to prove that science is on their side. In slightly different version of this article that originally appeared the Wall Street Journal's Ideas Market, Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey parses the data on same-sex marriage, divorce, children, and monogamy.View this article
no longer guarantee the safety of diplomats stationed in Pyongyang, part of a battery of war rhetoric coming from the totalitarian country in the last several weeks. Nevertheless, neither Russia nor the UK have any immediate plans to evacuate their embassies, although David Cameron, the British prime minister, said yesterday he was “very concerned” by North Korean missiles, which he suggested could make it to the United States or Europe, based apparently on what the North Korean government says.North Korea has told the foreign ministries of both Russia and the United Kingdom that it can
South Korea says the North is moving medium-range missiles to the Pacific shore of the country, and the United States announced plans to send a missile defense system to Guam. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said today it would not be a surprise if North Korea were to conduct new missile tests. The Obama Administration may even be looking at a strengthening of U.S.-China relations because of the mutual hassle North Korea presents. The BBC, meanwhile, reports that in Seoul, the South Korean capital, residents remain unimpressed by the North Korean threat, citing “security fatigue” and a prevailing opinion that North Korean saber rattling is intended to shore up bargaining chips in future negotiations for food or fuel.
While the West’s response has so far been cautiously muted, the non-state actor Anonymous says it’s been hacking the North Korean government’s social networks (it has several), and in fact posted the picture to the right to the government’s official flickr account. No response as yet from the regime to those actions.
Complaining that "some wealthy individuals are able to accumulate many millions of dollars in these accounts," the Obama administration announced a plan to cap the total sum of any individual's retirement accounts at $3 million. Stashing cash beyond that point, the administration insists, builds sums "substantially more than is needed to fund reasonable levels of retirement saving." The administration's argument seems to be based on the use of the word "million," implying that only nasty rich people would want to accumulate such a hoard. But is that true? How much is enough for "reasonable levels of retirement saving."
As it turns out, that's one of the toughest questions to answer for retirement planning. Many advisors suggest you base your retirement savings on something like 70 percent of your pre-retirement income, multiplied by how many years you expect to live. So ... Just when do you plan to kick off? As one article on retirement planning puts it, "basing your retirement needs on income is like basing your fuel needs on the size of your car’s gas tank. What really matters is how far you have to go and what kind of gas mileage you get." Part of that "gas mileage" for retirement planning includes inflation. By the time you retire, will $3 million buy luxury? Or a sandwich?
From Bloomberg Businessweek:
President Barack Obama’s budget proposal would cap multimillion-dollar tax-favored retirement accounts like the one held by Mitt Romney, his Republican rival in 2012.
Obama’s budget plan, to be unveiled April 10, would prohibit taxpayers from accumulating more than $3 million in an individual retirement account. That proposal would generate $9 billion in revenue for the Treasury over the next decade, according to a White House statement released today. ...
Brian Graff, executive director and chief executive officer of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries, said his group will “vigorously oppose” the idea.
“It is a ‘plan killer,’” he said in an e-mailed statement. “As business owners reach the cap, they will lose their incentive to maintain a plan, and either shut down the plan or greatly reduce benefits. This would leave workers with a greatly diminished plan or without any plan at all.”
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It's been over a month since the automatic federal spending cuts known as "the sequester" kicked in and Reason TV's Kennedy reports from the suddenly-mean streets of Washington, D.C.
Watch above or click on the link below for video, full text, supporting links, downloadable versions, and more Reason TV clips.View this article
noted that President Obama continues to conflate so-called assault weapons—i.e., semi-automatic guns defined by functionally unimportant, military-style features that offend politicians—with the rifles carried by soldiers, which can fire automatically. In Denver on Wednesday, Obama described the guns he wants to ban as "weapons of war" and inaccurately identified one of the firearms used in last year's massacre at a movie theater in nearby Aurora as an "assault rifle," which is a selective-fire weapon that can fire automatically (continuously) as well as semi-automatically (once per trigger pull). Obama was at it again last night, claiming in a San Francisco speech that the rifle Adam Lanza used to murder 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last December was "a fully automatic weapon." This was no slip of the tongue; Obama initially called the rifle "a semi-automatic weapon," then immediately "corrected" himself:Yesterday I
I just came from Denver, where the issue of gun violence is something that has haunted families for way too long, and it is possible for us to create common-sense gun safety measures that respect the traditions of gun ownership in this country and hunters and sportsmen, but also make sure that we don’t have another 20 children in a classroom gunned down by a semiautomatic weapon—by a fully automatic weapon in that case, sadly.
Fully automatic weapons, a.k.a. machine guns, are strictly regulated under federal law, and it will come as news to anyone following this case that one was used at Sandy Hook. Police have identified Lanza's gun as an M4-style carbine made by Bushmaster, specifically the Bushmaster XM15-E2S. Bushmaster explains that designation this way (emphasis added): "XM for Experimental Model, 15 for semi-automatic and E2S is second generation receivers with added reinforcing." Not only is this gun not "a fully automatic weapon"; it did not even qualify as an "assault weapon" under Connecticut law (or under the federal "assault weapon" ban that expired in 2004, which used similar criteria). We know that because police say Lanza's mother purchased it legally in Connecticut. (Bushmaster has a whole line of "state-compliant" rifles.) When the Connecticut General Assembly expanded the state's "assault weapon" ban this week, it added Bushmaster XM15 rifles to its list of guns that are prohibited by name. The new, broader "assault weapon" ban introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and endorsed by the president likewise specifically prohibits the manufacture or sale of Bushmaster XM15 rifles.
Is it too much to expect the president to know which guns he is trying to ban? Does Obama actually think that machine guns are readily available to civilians, that they are legal in Connecticut, and that Lanza's mother bought one there for her collection? After more than two decades of debate about "assault weapon" bans, does he honestly not understand the difference between those arbitrarily prohibited firearms and machine guns? Or, since the misconception that "assault weapons" fire more rapidly than other semi-automatic firearms seems to be one the main reasons people think it makes sense to ban them, is Obama deliberately misleading the public? Is it appalling ignorance or calculated deception? The clues suggest the former, but I'm not sure which is worse.
[Thanks to Robert Woolley for the tip.]
In the pantheon of movie critics, there are few who can claim as much influence as Roger Ebert. You could reasonably argue that Pauline Kael was more important, that her influence on the form was deeper and more lasting, that she, unlike Ebert changed the way that movies were made.
Yet there’s a crucial distinction between the two: Despite Kael's love of glorious trash, she was, at heart, an elite moviegoer writing for other elite moviegoers. Ebert, on the other hand, was far more concerned with mass appeal, and his straightforward prose was accessible and to the point in ways that Kael never really attempted.
That's no small thing for a pop culture critic, whose ultimate job is to educate the wider public about the form. And his insistence on accessibility not only helped Ebert reach a bigger, broader audience than Kael, it made him a more popular cinematic guide for the general public. Kael may have changed movie making, but Ebert changed movie watching.
And a big part of the way he did that was by making debate about film accessible. Siskel & Ebert, the TV show he co-hosted with rival Chicago movie critic Gene Siskel, was billed as a movie review show, and that’s true enough. But as much as it was a show about reviewing films, it was even more a show about arguing about movies.
The cantankerous duo showed viewers what it meant to enjoy movies in the company of another, offering a feisty, competitive model of film-fan friendship. Their unscripted on-screen dialogues, meanwhile, helped a generation of moviegoers understand that it was not enough to merely have an opinion about a film; you also had to defend it. Indeed, a round of opinionated post-film jousting could be an essential part of the moviegoing experience.
That sensibility helped put movie watching in a social context. The show recognized that movie viewing and criticism was not a strictly solitary affair, but a community project; it operated on the assumption that a critic’s views are shaped as much by the people he argues with as the movies he watches. That, in turn, allowed the program to transform the lonely work of critical assessment and argument into a popular and engaging spectator sport, and inspired legions of film nuts and amateur film critics to engage in their own friendly duels with each other.
That probably explains a lot about why Ebert took so well to new media late in life: It wasn’t just that he had always written in the conversational style that became the norm on the web. It was also that he relished the sport of debate, the ruckus of freewheeling conversation about the things he loved and hated in the world, with movies at the top of the list.
At times Ebert was a hater; more often he was prone to celebration (a little too much, in my opinion). But a subtext of virtually all of his life and work was that if you loved movies, you would argue about them — and also for them.
The same, I think, should go for those of us who also love movie criticism. I disagreed with many of Ebert’s critical judgments, and I wasn’t particularly drawn to his plainspoken style of reviewing, which often seemed hasty and, at least when reviewing new releases, could be overly focused on character and story basics at the expense of cinematic craftsmanship.
Yet I’ve always appreciated Ebert for the simple fact that he did more than anyone else to make film criticism—and film arguments—available and accessible to the world at large. In the end, I’m glad he was there to argue with, to offer and defend opinions, and, most of all, to show so many readers and viewers that the arguments were not only worth having; at their best those arguments could be as much or more fun than the movies themselves.
being pressed by James Holmes’ defense attorneys to reveal her source for information about a notebook Holmes sent to his psychiatrist before the Aurora theater shooting. Defense attorneys contend her source must have violated a gag order by the judge. In a hearing in December, 14 law enforcement officials were questioned about the notebook, but none admitted to being the source. The judge wants one more detective questioned before compelling the reporter to take the stand. Winter could face up to six months in jail if she doesn’t identify her source in that case; she’s indicated through her attorney that she doesn’t intend to reveal her source in court.FoxNews.com reporter Jana Winter is
Winter is theoretically protected from being forced to reveal her source by shield laws that exist in both New York and Colorado, as well as a plain reading of the First Amendment, as Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News’ senior judicial analyst and a Reason contributor, noted yesterday:
The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to stimulate and protect open, wide, robust debate about the policies and personnel of the government. Truth is essential to that stimulation. Putting reporters in jail for revealing the truth while protecting their sources is profoundly contrary to that purpose and highly offensive to the values the First Amendment was written to protect and we have all come to enjoy.
A New York judge signed off on the Colorado judge’s subpoena of Winter, who showed up in court Monday but did not yet have to testify. Her attorneys are looking to avoid her returning to Colorado all together, or at least until a court in New York has reviewed their appeal. As I noted about this case last month, New York’s shield law is more robust than Colorado’s, which allows a journalist to be compelled to reveal her sources if all other avenues of uncovering the information have been exhausted. The information sought also has to be substantially relevant to the case, which Winter’s attorneys argue it is not. Journalists, of course, need to be able to protect their sources’ confidentiality across the board in order to be able to secure confidential sources for any stories, it’s a necessary foundation of free press. When the government takes for itself the power to compel a journalist to break the confidentiality of their sources or newsgathering methods, it erodes that foundation.
costs and benefits of de-extinction, i.e., using biotechnology to resurrect species. The article by Stanford University scholars Jacob Sherkow and Henry Greely note that extinct species might be brought back to life by means of back-breeding, cloning, or genetic engineering.The current issue of Science has an article on the
Back-breeding would use selective breeding of species closely related aim at producing the phenotype of the extinct species, e.g., the Tauros Project is working to revive the auroch. Cloning could be used if a sufficiently well-preserved nucleus from the tissue of an extinct species could be tranferred into the enucleated egg of a similar species and then implanted in a surrogate. So far this has only been attempted with the recently extinct Pyrenean ibex. A kid was born but died of lung malformations soon after.
Perhaps the more promising, though more technically difficult route toward de-extinction, would be to isolate DNA from preserved tissue of an extinct species and then sequence it, e.g., a wooly mammoth. Then that information could be used to alter the genetic sequences in a closely related species, e.g., an Indian elephant, resulting in a wooly mammoth.
The authors observe:
De-extinction is a particularly intriguing application of our increasing control over life. We think it will happen. The most interesting and important question is how humanity will deal with it.
They suggest that some might object to de-extinction on the grounds that the resurrected creatures might be exploited, vectors for pathogens, invasive, examples of "playing god," or lessen people's concerns about extinction. On the benefit side, the authors them as ...
... falling into five categories: scientific knowledge, technological advancement, concrete environmental benefits, justice, and “wonder.”
To my mind, those benefits clearly outweigh the rather insubstantial objections cited by the authors, especially the last one. As the authors write:
The last benefit might be called “wonder,” or, more colloquially “coolness.” This may be the biggest attraction, and possibly the biggest benefit, of de-extinction. It would surely be very cool to see a living wooly mammoth. And while this is rarely viewed as a substantial benefit, much of what we do as individuals—even many aspects of science—we do because it’s “cool.”
See below 1933 footage of the last Tasmanian Tiger.
Ever since California’s voters approved the Prop. 30 sales- and income-tax increase on the November ballot, liberal commentators have been gloating about the resurgence of the Golden State after many years of predicted doom and gloom. Their evidence: Higher taxes seem to have cleared up the state’s budget deficits. But as Steven Greenhut notes, all that's really happened is a temporary elimination of the deficit on paper. That can quickly change and the state is still living off of borrowed money.View this article
all but failed in her ill-considered, poorly argued efforts to ban assault weapons (the usual caveat: whatever “assault weapons” are), now California Sen. Dianne Feinstein seems ready to fail and fail harder going after violent video games.Having
At a speech in San Francisco on Wednesday, she took her typical aim against the National Rifle Association. But then she all but joined the NRA in complaining about the glorification of violence in video games. Via the Associated Press:
Feinstein also encouraged the entertainment and video game industries to take voluntary steps to produce products that do not glorify big, powerful guns before Congress feels compelled to step in. She mentioned that Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old man responsible for the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings, practiced shooting both at a range with his mother and on a video screen.
Video games play "a very negative role for young people, and the industry ought to take note of that," she said. "If Sandy Hook doesn't do it, if the knowledge of these video games this young man played doesn't, then maybe we have to proceed, but that is in the future."
Well, we can all look forward to that future failure as well. One: Just as with movies, the video game industry has a voluntary ratings system that thoroughly documents a game’s contents and recommends appropriate ages. Two: The Supreme Court has ruled that the contents of video games are constitutionally protected free speech in a case that originated from Feinstein’s own state.
The idea of video games playing “a very negative role for young people” is just unsupported nonsense without foundation. Yesterday, when I wrote about film critic’s Roger Ebert’s awkward relationship with the creative culture of video games, I noted the gap between Baby Boomers and the younger generations over the role of the medium in their lives. The industry took Ebert’s dismissal of video games as a potential art form as a challenge.
Feinstein’s poorly chosen words and vague threat will likely not inspire much introspection. She doesn’t understand the medium at all and clearly has no interest in understanding the medium. But unlike Ebert, Feinstein has the power to shape government policy, or at least try to, anyway. It would be interesting to see how the heavily California-based video game industry would respond to Feinstein actually trying to go after them.
Below, Reason TV highlights several extremely stupid Congressional hearings where politicians presumed to justify censorship against various forms of media:
Encryption used in Apple's iMessage chat service has stymied attempts by federal drug enforcement agents to eavesdrop on suspects' conversations, an internal government document reveals.
An internal Drug Enforcement Administration document seen by CNET discusses a February 2013 criminal investigation and warns that because of the use of encryption, "it is impossible tointercept iMessages between two Apple devices" even with a court order approved by a federal judge.
The DEA's warning, marked "law enforcement sensitive," is the most detailed example to date of the technological obstacles -- FBI director Robert Mueller has called it the "Going Dark" problem -- that police face when attempting to conduct court-authorized surveillance on non-traditional forms of communication.
Brave new world.
first episode: two writers droning on, not always sure where exactly they should be looking, with no excitement beyond the possibility that Siskel's 'stache will start eating his face. But it wasn't long before they perfected the bickering-brothers dynamic that made their show more entertaining than at least 60% of the movies they reviewed. Instead of suppressing their offscreen rivalry, which is on display in various outtakes floating around the Web, they channeled it into arguments about movies; and they made those arguments meaningful by actually giving a damn about the pictures they were rating. They also had a healthy sense of self-aware humor about their personas, as their inevitably entertaining guest spots on Letterman and other shows proved. The act could be imitated but it could never be equaled, as countless other programs -- including, eventually, Ebert & Roeper -- would learn.The late Roger Ebert's writing would have left a mark if he had never gone on television in his life, but it was his TV show with Gene Siskel that made him a celebrity. You wouldn't have expected that from their
But if the TV show ensured that Roger Ebert was famous while he was alive, it's his writing for newspapers and the Web that should ensure he'll be remembered long after he's dead. For one thing, he was an exceptional stylist. I might disagree strenuously with Ebert's opinion about a movie; I might bristle at a factual flub or two about the plot; but I was almost always awed at his prose, which was thoughtful, graceful, funny, and accessible.
He didn't just write about movies. He had been a sportswriter early on, and an interview he did for his college paper with the left-libertarian author Paul Goodman was good enough to get reprinted in one of Goodman's books. (He invoked Goodman in at least one of his reviews too -- a thumbs-up take on Paul Schrader's underappreciated Blue Collar -- and there was a time when I had hopes that underneath it all Ebert was some sort of anarchist. Alas, when he unleashed his political-pundit side late in life he turned out to be a standard-issue liberal.) In his last few years he wrote many wonderful memoirs for his website, and then a much-admired autobiography. But of course it was his movie writing that defined him, and it was here that he made his other great contribution to American culture.
Ebert, you see, didn't care about those old highbrow/middlebrow/lowbrow distinctions that occupied so many debates about criticism in the middle of the 20th century. If you were interested in learning about cinema as a high art, he could be your gateway to the greats, writing ably about Bergman and Welles and Kurosawa and other filmmaking giants. (I'm pretty sure I first heard of Fassbinder in a Roger Ebert essay. Or, at least, that essay was the first time I wanted to run out and rent a Fassbinder movie right away.) On the other hand, if you wanted to know if the latest spy flick was exciting or if the new Mel Brooks movie was likely to make you laugh, Ebert was perfectly willing to wax enthusiastic about those kinds of films too. It's not that he liked everything, you understand. (Check out his evisceration of Priest.) It's that he was capable of liking everything, or at least everything that was done well. Even when he joined in the chorus denouncing the slasher genre in the '80s, he had to confess that yes, he was the guy who gave three and a half stars to Last House on the Left.
joyful little essay about the pleasures to be found in even the most indefensibly trashy pictures. The subject is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it release called Rapa Nui. I've never seen it, and I don't think I even would have heard of it if I hadn't read Ebert's review. He gives it just two stars, and much of the piece consists of a litany of everything ridiculous about the picture. But then he says this at the end:And that leads us to what may be my all-time favorite Roger Ebert review: a
Concern for my reputation prevents me from recommending this movie. I wish I had more nerve. I wish I could simply write, "Look, of course it's one of the worst movies ever made. But it has hilarious dialogue, a weirdo action climax, a bizarre explanation for the faces of Easter Island, and dozens if not hundreds of wonderful bare breasts." I am however a responsible film critic and must conclude that "Rapa Nui" is a bad film. If you want to see it anyway, of course, that's strictly your concern. I think I may check it out again myself.
My head can't bring itself to believe in an afterlife. But my heart hopes that Ebert gets another chance to see it.
Danny Boyle’s dreamland psycho-thriller Trance elevates plot-knotting mind games to a delirious new level, writes Kurt Loder. Evil Dead, a remake of the micro-budget 1981 horror movie that launched Sam Raimi as a director and his star, certainly does its grisly job, but little more.View this article
- unveil a budget including tax hikes (surprise!) and cuts to Medicare and Social Security. President Obama, just a few months late, will
- Add Maryland to the list of states taking advantage of public panic over Newtown to restrict self-defense rights. Meanwhile, a Texas non-profit is arming people who live in high-crime neighborhoods but can't afford guns.
- Reforming wildly underfunded public pensions may be beyond the ability or interest of most state lawmakers, but Puerto Rico's legislators voted to do just that. The plan raises the retirement age, increases worker contributions and reduces benefits. It also transitions over from a defined-benefit system.
- Scott Brown may run for office again, but this time from New Hampshire. Well, he wouldn't be the first Bay Stater to head north.
- As France's politicians stake their reputation on taxing the hell out of everything, the revelation that now-former Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac evaded taxes threatens to bring down the Socialist government.
- A little more accustomed to crazy neighbors than most, South Koreans aren't letting the nuclear saber-rattling to the north bring them down.
- Ohio courts still routinely jail people who fail to pay fines and fees, even though that was long ago ruled illegal.
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Steven Spielberg's technophobic creature feature, Jurassic Park, hits theaters again today, this time in 3D. In today's Washington Times, Senior Editor Peter Suderman looks back on how the film changed blockbuster moviemaking—and why it's still a great movie:
When “Jurassic Park” — director Steven Spielberg’s big-budget, special effects-driven feature about a dinosaur-filled theme park gone disastrously awry — first hit theaters in June 1993, the studio advertised it as “an adventure 65 million years in the making.”
Twenty years later, watching it on the big screen still offers a certain historical perspective — not on dinosaurs, but on the evolution of the cinematic creature we know as the summer blockbuster. If you want to know how today’s blockbusters came to be the way they are, few films will give you a better idea than “Jurassic Park.”
The movie was a Tyrannosaurus-sized success when it first came out, earning $357 million at the U.S. box office, instantly making it one of the most commercially successful movies ever. In the two decades since its first release, the movie has become a popular classic — beloved by former kid dinosaur nuts and remembered fondly by a generation awed by its trailblazing use of computer-generated dinosaur effects.
Starting Friday, the movie takes an anniversary tour through theaters, complete with a 3-D upgrade. Sadly, it’s more of a downgrade; the 3-D conversion is unnecessary and distracting, serving mostly to muddy cinematographer Dean Cundey’s crisp photography and darken the visibility of Mr. Spielberg’s carefully crafted frames.
Even still, the movie is an absolute blast, a classic big-budget thrill ride that deserves its reputation and more. The movie retains an ecstatic, primal intensity, and the relentlessly eventful final hour remains an almost flawless exercise in cinematic high terror. The big set pieces, especially a midfilm encounter with an angry T. rex, are paced with heart-stopping precision; Mr. Spielberg and screenwriters Michael Crichton (who also wrote the novel on which the film is based) and David Koepp dole out information just fast enough that the audience is always a half step behind — still processing the last scare when the next one hits.
It is also arguably the last film by Mr. Spielberg — the blockbuster auteur behind trendsetters like “Jaws,” “E.T.” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — to provoke genuine awe and wonderment. For that, you can credit his innovative but surprisingly restrained use of computer-generated special effects.
“Jurassic Park” represents a turning point in the history of big-screen effects tech. It was among the first megabudget productions to rely extensively on computer-generated animation, with many of its dinosaurs created by microprocessors and digitally inserted into the shots after the fact.
butter knife. The girl was only using the knife to cut a pear, but officials say the school has a zero tolerance policy on knives.Officials at Wamsutta Middle School in Massachusetts suspended Morgan LaPlaume for one day after they caught her with a
Almost all of the media attention is on states like New York, Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland that have moved to restrict self-defense rights by making it harder to legally own and use firearms. But some scribblers at the West Coast's dear old newspaper of (scratchy) sort-of record peeked up over their cubicle walls and noticed something unexpected: Even more states are moving to protect the right to bear arms, and even to loosen restrictions on guns. Howdatappen? As reporters Mark Z. Barabak and Melanie Mason put it, "[t]he result is a significant disparity between states — some side by side — as President Obama pushes for new federal gun controls." Not just a significant disparity, you should note, but a growing divergence in the legal treatment of self-defense rights at the state level.
From the Los Angeles Times:
The first state to act after December's Sandy Hook shooting was New York, where Republicans control the Senate and Democrats the Assembly. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, worked with lawmakers of both parties to pass a sweeping bill that beefed up the state's ban on assault-style weapons and required universal background checks.
Other states have moved in the opposite direction, loosening restrictions on gun ownership and increasing the number of places where firearms are permitted. Many have Republican governors, a Republican-run statehouse or both.
In Michigan and Ohio, lawmakers have made it easier to obtain a gun. Arkansas, Maine and Mississippi have passed laws to protect the privacy of gun owners. Wyoming enacted legislation allowing judges to carry weapons in the courtroom, and South Dakota passed a law authorizing school employees to carry guns on the job.
More than a dozen other states are considering legislation that would enhance gun rights, including Texas, North Carolina, Missouri and Georgia.
As you might guess, not all state-level control freaks are happy that their counterparts elsewhere are moving law in a less-authoritarian direction. But, you know, tough shit.
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video game press, thanks to some comments by the movie critic that inspired defensiveness among gamers but also introspection within the industry.Acknowledgment of Roger Ebert’s passing today isn’t reserved to film buffs. His death is being noted by the
Ebert famously (among gamers anyway) declared “Video games can never be art,” subsequently explaining and defending his position in a blog post at the Chicago Sun-Times in 2010. He grappled with the always elusive definition of art and what has become these days an elusive definition of what constitutes a “game.” He concluded:
Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care.
Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, "I'm studying a great form of art?" Then let them say it, if it makes them happy.
His attitude didn’t resolve the debate. That one blog post garnered nearly 5,000 comments. A couple months later he addressed the matter again, admitting that it was unfair of him to judge a medium in part because he personally was not interested in engaging in it. He preferred books and movies. He didn’t want to play video games.
And yet, despite his lack of interest in the medium, the medium was still very interested in his thoughts. Ebert’s comments inspired a session at the annual Game Developers Conference in 2011. “Are video games art?” and “Can video games be art?” are topics endlessly debated among gaming enthusiasts and creators.MORE »
You've thrilled to him in Reason TV vids such as the one above (a rebuttal to Jim Carrey's "Cold Dead Hand"), "Imagine (There's No YouTube)," "Raise the Debt Ceiling Rap," "Occupy Wall Street Protest Song," "Why They Fought," "Grandma Got Indefinitely Detained," and many more.
Now watch intergalactic internet sensation Remy Munasifi on Fox News' Red Eye With Greg Gutfeld tonight; airs on Fox News at 3am ET.
The long-running dispute between New York's suburban Westchester County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is once again in the news. Even if you're not a former county resident (as Walter Olson is), it's a dispute worth knowing about, Olson writes, with many implications for property owners in the rest of the country. View this article
A new PPP poll finds Kentucky Senator Rand Paul coming in second among Republican voters’ most favored candidates to run for president in 2016. Just over a month ago, Rand Paul came in at 6th place with just 10 percent among likely Republican voters. Now Paul garners 17 percent of Republican voters, the second most likely candidate to be mentioned.
Among Republican voters, 75 percent have a favorable opinion of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), 62 percent have a favorable view of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and 60 percent are favorable toward Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
Interestingly, Chris Christie was the only Republican asked about who received higher marks from Democrats (42 percent) than Republicans (39 percent). Christie’s favorability among Democrats may be a harbinger of the 2016 race. When asked who Republican voters would like see run for president, 21 percent named Marco Rubio, but in a close second and third 17 percent named Rand Paul, 15 percent named New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Other Republican candidates making the list include Paul Ryan (12 percent), Jeb Bush (12 percent), Rick Santorum (5 percent), Bobby Jindal (4 percent), Rick Perry (2 percent), and Susana Martinez (1 percent).
Among Democratic voters, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tops the list of most favorable at 84 percent, followed by Vice President Joe Biden (73 percent), and Senator Elizabeth Warren a distant third at 43 percent.
In hypothetical match-ups among likely primary voters, Hillary Clinton beats each potential Republican candidate. Hillary beats Chris Christie by 4 points, Rand Paul by 6 points, and Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan by 7 points. However, Chris Christie beats Joe Biden by 9 points 49 to 40 percent. Nevertheless, Joe Biden beats the remaining potential Republican contenders: by 2 points over Marco Rubio, 3 points over Paul Ryan, and 4 points over Rand Paul.
PPP surveyed 1247 voters included oversamples of Democratic and Republican primary voters from March 27-30 2013. The margin of error is +/- 2.8% overall, +/-3.8% for Democrats and +/-2.9% for Republicans.
It was probably inevitable that as ObamaCare began to fail, Republicans would get the blame. After all, Republican legislators in Congress didn’t vote for it, Republican voters have never supported it, and nearly every Republican governor has let the federal government build and run the law’s health exchange in their state. Republican critics of the law warned before it was passed that it would be too expensive, to complicated, and too onerous on both individuals and businesses. So of course now that the implementation process has begun to reveal signs of trouble, it’s the Grand Old Party’s fault. Who else could possibly be responsible?
If you want the complete argument for why Republicans are the culprit here, you can find it in Think Progress health wonk Igor Volsky’s piece making the case for, in his words, “why Republicans are to blame for ObamaCare’s delays.” The piece is hooked to this week’s announcement that the choice option in ObamaCare’s small business exchanges would be delayed for a year, and the short version is that because Republicans refused to implement the law themselves in the states and have declined to provide additional funding for implementation at the federal level, the GOP is on the hook for delays and failures.
It’s hard to blame Republicans for the delay of the small business choice option: it’s not something that Republicans have focused on to any great degree, and the main reasons for the delay seems to be a the technical challenge of designing a multitude of plans that fit the exchange requirements and the administrative burden of having to design those plans while working on other exchange features in the law. Republican opposition doesn’t have anything to do with it.
Overall, Volsky makes a good try, but sorry, no: Democrats are to blame for the failures and problems of a law designed by Democrats, passed by Democrats, and implemented by Democrats. That it is not working now is the fault of the people who said it would work, decided to try making it work, and are now tasked with the responsibility to make it work. They are failing, and the law is failing because of them—not because of Republicans.
More generally, though, this offers a lesson in why it’s ill advised to pass major legislation on strict party lines that is supported by neither the opposition party nor the bulk of the public. Especially when the law is predicated on the assumption that the opposition will cheerfully help with implementation. That Democrats seem to have assumed that Republicans would give in and play ball suggests some mix of deep arrogance, wishful thinking, and willful ignorance of the national political dynamic. It’s just plain bad policy design: A law passed by Democrats that can only work if Republicans decline to oppose the law is a law that almost certainly will not work.
And sure enough, three years after passage, ObamaCare shows signs that it might not be quite as wonderful as promised. But ObamaCare’s supporters are so determined to avoid admitting that it might be a failure—or even just less functional than they insisted it would be—that they are refusing to take responsibility for the politically troubled bureaucratic mess they created.
- pre-emptive strike on the country. British Prime Minister David Cameron is also concerned the nuclear threat to the West is real. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is buying the fear North Korea is trying to sell us and wants to launch a
- Another day, another political scandal in New York. A state lawmaker who represents the Bronx was arrested for taking bribes in order help some developer buddies.
- Another day, another solar power industry failure. Former employees of a recently shuttered (and subsidized) solar plant in Pennsylvania are trying to force the company into bankruptcy proceedings for its failure to pay their severances.
- Idaho lawmakers have signed off on legislation to require police to get warrants to use drones for surveillance, except in emergencies.
- Google appears to be challenging one of the National Security Letters that are used to demand the company hand over private data about users.
- The United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of brutal warlord Joseph Kony.
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In 1858, hundreds of residents of Oberlin and Wellington, Ohio — many of them students and faculty at Oberlin College — surrounded Wadsworth's Hotel, in Wellington, in which law enforcement officers and slavehunters held a fugitive slave named John Price, under the authority of the Fugitive Slave Act. After a brief standoff, the armed crowd stormed the hotel and overpowered the captors. Price was freed and transported to safety in Canada. J.D. Tuccille, Managing Editor of Reason 24/7, knows these details because his son recently borrowed from the library The Price of Freedom, a book about the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, as the incident is called. He and his wife used it as a starting point for telling their seven-year-old why they don't expect him to obey the law — that laws and the governments that pass them are often evil. They expect him, instead, to stand up for his rights and those of others, and to do good, even if that means breaking the law.View this article
It's a sad day for fans of film criticism: Roger Ebert, one of the most influential and famous movie critics of the last four decades, has died of cancer. He was 70 years old.
Ebert reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years, and was the first film reviewer to win a Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Here's how the Sun-Times obituary start:
For a film with a daring director, a talented cast, a captivating plot or, ideally, all three, there could be no better advocate than Roger Ebert, who passionately celebrated and promoted excellence in film while deflating the awful, the derivative, or the merely mediocre with an observant eye, a sharp wit and a depth of knowledge that delighted his millions of readers and viewers.
“No good film is too long,” he once wrote, a sentiment he felt strongly enough about to have engraved on pens. “No bad movie is short enough.”
You can read the rest of the obit here.
In response to overwhelming calls for information about the Florida couple who "abducted" their own children yesterday, the Slidell Police Department in Slidell, Louisiana, has issued a press release about the June 2012 arrest of Joshua Hakken and the confiscation of his children:
In June of 2012, Joshua and Sharon Hakken were staying at a local hotel in Slidell. The Slidell Police Department was called in reference to a disturbance involving Mr. and Mrs. Hakken. When police arrived, both Mr. and Mrs. Hakken were acting in a bizarre manner that alarmed officers. They were talking about “completing their ultimate journey” and were traveling across the country to “take a journey to the Armageddon”. Let it be noted that both of their children were present in the hotel room at the time.
Based off their behavior, and the fact that narcotics and weapons were located inside of the hotel room, officers contacted the Office of Child Services (OCS). OCS determined that the children were in danger and needed to be taken into custody by the State of Louisiana and temporarily placed in a foster home. Mr. Hakken was placed under arrest for Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and the Use of a Controlled and Dangerous Substance in the Presence of Minors. Officers also took custody of several weapons for safe keeping.
Approximately two weeks later, Slidell Police were notified that Mr. Hakken had shown up to the foster family home (somewhere in Hammond, LA) with a firearm demanding the return of his children. The foster parents called 911, and Mr. Hakken fled without his children. We have heard nothing until yesterday. Slidell Police was contacted by the FBI and the authorities from Florida to inform us about the kidnapping. They requested any and all information that we had on the Hakken’s.
I asked the Slidell Police Department for Hakken's arrest report, and was told that it's being kept private because Hakken's drug charges are still pending. As I noted in an update a few minutes ago, the Slidell Police Department says the claim that Hakken was arrested at an "anti-government rally" simply isn't true, and they don't know where it came from.MORE »
The ACLU talks some sense about gun control, civil liberties, and privacy, as reported by Daily Caller:
As Senate Democrats struggle to build support for new gun control legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union now says it’s among those who have “serious concerns” about the bill....
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, a top lobbyist for the ACLU announced that the group thinks Reid’s current gun bill could threaten both privacy rights and civil liberties.
The inclusion of universal background checks — the poll-tested lynchpin of most Democratic proposals — “raises two significant concerns,” the ACLU’s Chris Calabrese told TheDC Wednesday.
While not against background checks in all cases, Calabrese says:
“However, we also believe those checks have to be conducted in a way that protects privacy and civil liberties. So, in that regard, we think the current legislation, the current proposal on universal background checks raises two significant concerns,” he went on.
“The first is that it treats the records for private purchases very differently than purchases made through licensed sellers. Under existing law, most information regarding an approved purchase is destroyed within 24 hours when a licensed seller does a [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] check now,” Calabrese said, “and almost all of it is destroyed within 90 days.”
Calabrese wouldn’t characterize the current legislation’s record-keeping provision as a “national gun registry” — which the White House has denied pursuing — but he did say that such a registry could be “a second step.”
He notes that government databases sometimes stretch in use beyond their original intent.
Calabrese says that [Nevada Democratic Senate leader Harry] Reid’s legislation fails to include...“privacy best practices.”
“Contrast this with what the existing [Reid] legislation says, which is simply that a record has to be kept of a private transfer,” Calabrese highlighted, “and it doesn’t have any of the protections that we have in current law for existing licensees.”
“We think that that kind of record-keeping requirement could result in keeping long-term detailed records of purchases and creation of a new government database.”
“And they come to use databases for all sorts of different purposes,” Calabrese said. “For example, the National Counterterrorism Center recently gave itself the authority to collect all kinds of existing federal databases and performed terrorism related searches regarding those databases. They essentially exempted themselves from a lot of existing Privacy Act protections.”....
Reid’s legislation is hauntingly vague about who would physically keep information about American gun purchases, but it’s crystal clear that records will be kept.
While I'd rather the ACLU consistently take on gun laws head-on as restrictions on an explicit constitutional civil liberty, it's nice to see they care.
Via Greg Sargent at The Washington Post:
A new McClatchy-Marist poll finds that the percentage of Americans who don’t believe the sequester cuts are hurting the economy has actually jumped 13 points over the last month, while the percentage who think they are damaging the economy is going down:
When it comes to the impact of the automatic spending cuts on the economy, 40 percent of adults nationally say they have had no effect on the economy. 36 percent believe they have had a negative impact while 14 percent say the sequester cuts have had a positive one. 10 percent are unsure.
There has been an increase in the proportion of Americans who think these across-the-board spending cuts have had little impact on the nation’s economy.
That wasn’t what the president was hoping to hear.
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The New York City Junto, a group dedicated to "libertarianism, Objectivism, investing," about the split within the Republican Party between Rand Paul/Justin Amash-style libertarian conservatives and John McCain/Karl Rove-style GOP establishmentarians. There will be argument, drinking, and Reason.tv videos!Tonight, beginning at 8 pm, I will be giving a sure-to-be-contested talk at
When: Thursday, April 4, 8 pm. Arrive early for “socializing.”
Admission: Oh, she is free! No reservation required.
Will There Be Opportunity to Antagonize the Speaker? More of a duty, really.
Drinks Afterward? That is the plan, yes.
See you there!
noted earlier today, President Obama professes to be worried about a lack of trust and empathy in the gun control debate, even as he accuses his opponents of blocking life-saving legislation out of sheer partisan perversity. Here are a few other ways in which Obama's speech in Denver sows mistrust:As I
He conflates a failed background check with stopping a criminal from obtaining a gun. "Over the past 20 years," Obama says, "background checks have kept more than 2 million dangerous people from buying a gun." That claim is based on two faulty assumptions: 1) that everyone who fails a background check is dangerous, which plainly is not true, given the ridiculously broad categories of people who are legally barred from buying firearms, and 2) that a criminal intent on obtaining a weapon will give up if he cannot get it over the counter at a gun store, rather than enlisting a straw buyer or turning to the gray or black market.
He falsely equates "assault weapons" with military guns. Obama inaccurately calls one of the guns used in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado, massacre an "assault rifle," which is a military weapon capable of firing automatically. He calls the guns he wants to ban "weapons of war," again implying that they fire continuously, when in fact they fire once per trigger pull, like any other semi-automatic firearm.
He says there is no logical connection between "universal background checks" and gun registration. "We're not proposing a gun registration system," Obama insists. "We’re proposing background checks for criminals." But there is no way to enforce a background-check requirement for every gun transfer unless the government knows where the guns are. Federally licensed gun dealers are readily identified and can be required to keep sale records. Individual gun owners who might dare to sell their property without clearance from the government cannot be identified unless the government compiles a list of them. Hence Obama's assurances amount to saying, "Don't worry. We will make a big show of passing this new background-check mandate, but we won't really enforce it."
He pooh-poohs the idea that there could ever be anything adversarial about the relationship between Americans and their government:
You hear some of these quotes: "I need a gun to protect myself from the government." "We can't do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away."
Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. (Applause.) They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It's a government of and by and for the people.
One of the constraints on the federal government is the doctrine of enmuerated powers, which says every act of Congress must be justified by a specific constitutional grant of authority. Where is the clause that empowers Congress to say how many rounds you can put in a magazine or whether your rifle can have a barrel shroud? Furthermore, as Obama surely has heard by now, there is this thing called the Second Amendment, and it is hardly frivolous to argue than an arbitrary and capricious piece of legislation like the "assault weapon" ban Obama supports would violate the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Yet to Obama's mind, anyone who makes such an argument is one of those "people who take absolute positions" and therefore can be safely ignored. After all, the government is us.
escape of two inmates from a federal prison in downtown Chicago in December. A regional manhunt included police in the village of Hazel Crest, a Chicago suburb, where cops shot and killed a six-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. The dog’s owner said the dog was in their yard, which was closed, while the police department said officers feared for their safety before shooting the dog three times.It all started with the
Now the owner, Charlotte Weaver, has filed a lawsuit, claiming that the police opened the gate to her yard, which allowed the dog to get free. The lawsuit further claims that when she went to the police department to file a complaint about the opening of the gate and the shooting, she was given a citation for having a loose dog. More details about the lawsuit via Courthouse News. More puppycides stories from Reason here.
"Cops with Drones: Alameda, CA Weighs Technology vs. Privacy," 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
reports the Pew Research Center, "a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. A national survey finds that 52% say that the use of marijuana should be made legal while 45% say it should not.""For the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue,"
Here's the demographic breakdown:
The survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted March 13-17 among 1,501 adults, finds that young people are the most supportive of marijuana legalization. Fully 65% of Millennials –born since 1980 and now between 18 and 32 – favor legalizing the use of marijuana, up from just 36% in 2008. Yet there also has been a striking change in long-term attitudes among older generations, particularly Baby Boomers.
Half (50%) of Boomers now favor legalizing marijuana, among the highest percentages ever. In 1978, 47% of Boomers favored legalizing marijuana, but support plummeted during the 1980s, reaching a low of 17% in 1990. Since 1994, however, the percentage of Boomers favoring marijuana legalization has doubled, from 24% to 50%.
Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, came of age in the 1990s when there was widespread opposition to legalizing marijuana. Support for marijuana legalization among Gen X also has risen dramatically – from just 28% in 1994 to 42% a decade later and 54% currently.
The Silent Generation continues to be less supportive of marijuana legalization than younger age cohorts. But the percentage of Silents who favor legalization has nearly doubled –from 17% to 32% – since 2002.
H/t Tom Angell
declared, "We've got to get past some of the rhetoric that gets perpetuated that breaks down trust and is so over the top that it just shuts down all discussion." I agree. Here is an example of such debate-squelching rhetoric, drawn from the speech surrounding the president's call for calm and rational discussion:Speaking about gun control in Denver yesterday, President Obama
It's now been just over 100 days since the murder of 20 innocent children and six brave educators in Newtown, Connecticut—an event that shocked this country and I think galvanized parents all across the country to say, we’ve got to do something more to protect our kids. But consider this: Over those 100 days or so, more than 100 times as many Americans have fallen victim to gun violence. More than 2,000 of our fellow citizens, struck down, often because they were just going about their daily round. They weren't doing anything special. Just doing what folks do every day—shopping, going to school. Every day that we wait to do something about it, even more of our fellow citizens are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.
Here Obama is not-so-subtly charging his political opponents with complicity in murder. If Congress passes his "common-sense proposals," the president avers, fewer people will be killed by guns. Therefore if legislators refuse to "do something," they have the blood of innocent children on their hands. This is the same emotional appeal Obama has been making since December, when he said that if you don't agree with him about gun control you are in effect saying "we're powerless in the face of such carnage" because "the politics are too hard."
Why would anyone oppose new gun controls? Not for any decent, honorable, or principled reason that the president is willing to concede:MORE »
All that money. All that effort. All the sermonizing and bloodcurdling imagery and still, Americans don't seem to be evolving quickly enough on the environment. Progressives, writes David Harsanyi, still have their work cut out for them.View this article
UPDATE: Det. Daniel Seuzeneau, who it turns out is the public information officer for the Slidell Police Department, and not the officer who arrested Joshua Hakken, emails: "Mr. Hakken, as far as we know, was not at an anti-government rally. I never made that statement and don’t know where that came from."
It's been 24 hours since Joshua Hakken allegedly broke into his mother-and-law's house in Tampa, tied her up with zip ties, and left with his sons Cole and Chase--who are two and four years old--in his mother-in-law's car. Florida law enforcement authorities say the "anti-government" couple of Joshua and Sharyn Hakken are now on the run with Cole and Chase in tow. Law enforcement agencies in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana have all issued child abduction alerts, as well as disseminated pictures of the Hakken family.
Over the course of those 24 hours, we've learned a thing or two about the Hakkens from law enforcement and the media. The story taking shape is both tragic and infuriating, as it appears from an interview with officials in Louisiana that the couple's problems do indeed stem from Joshua Hakken's 2012 marijuana arrest.
Here's what we know at this point about the chain of events that led the Hakkens to "abduct" their own children:MORE »
The 2016 race for president may already be getting under way, but there’s a more imminent election in 2014, and the campaigner-in-chief is in California today raising money for that effort, and, by extension, for his second-term plans.
President Barack Obama said Wednesday at a DCCC fundraiser it would be difficult for him to pass a slew of second-term agenda items without Nancy Pelosi regaining her speakership.
"I would be dishonest if I didn’t say that it would be a whole lot easier to govern if I had Nancy Pelosi as Speaker," Obama said at the second Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser he attended, this one at the home of San Francisco investor Gordon Getty.
After deciding to pursue the execution of the man charged with fatally shooting 12 people in a Colorado movie theater last summer, the prosecutor declared that "for James Egan Holmes, justice is death." By that definition, he might have added, justice is also highly unlikely. If we know anything about the death penalty in this country, writes Steve Chapman, it's that there is nothing swift or sure about it.View this article
willfully ignorant L.A. Times sports columnists, and watching MLB Network's surprisingly enjoyable "Bleacher Feature" movie series, especially its rebroadcasts of that '70s latchkey classic, The Bad News Bears.How have you celebrated Major League Baseball's opening week, Daddy-O? I prepared for the season in the usual fashion—screaming at
If you haven't seen The Bad News Bears, you really should (baseball fandom is not a pre-requisite). Short of that, enjoy the trailer below, which is currently being discussed with occasional alarm over at Reddit, under the subject-header:
"Jews, spics, niggers, and now a girl?" Actual line delivered by an 11 year-old in the 1976 Paramount trailer for "The Bad News Bears"
Ah, you're interested now, aren't you?
Before dismissing the discomfort at this as just another sign that kids nowadays are P.C. softies, it's worth remembering that, as I wrote in 2005 after viewing the neutered re-make starring Billy Bob Thornton, it could just be that America has moved on to a mostly better place:
We now live in a country where big moments on the professional baseball diamond are no longer automatically accompanied by thousands of half-drunk fans flooding the field to tackle the victors; where power black-outs are no longer guaranteed riots; where inflation is tamed, presidents aren't morose, and Little League is no longer the favorite dumping ground for latch-key parents.
Movies are reflections of their times, and one of the few perks of encroaching middle age is that we get to enjoy the shocked reactions when younger generations encounter the anachronistic rancidness of our childhood faves. Also, I can exclusively report that The Bad News Bears still totally holds up, though as the trailer hints at above, it is on the slow side compared to modern editing practices.
Hat tip to my former co-Little League team coach, Tony Pierce.
Investor's Business, the always-interesting John Merline sends word of a troubling development when it comes to Obamacare: The very people it was supposed to help the most - the uninsured - don't seem to want the damned thing.Over at
After looking at a series of slides posted by Health and Human Services (HHS) that lay out the department's marketing plan to reel in new customers, IBD's editorial board notes,
It turns out that the Democrats and the Obama administration apparently didn't bother to investigate who these uninsured people actually are before they forced through a $1.8 trillion plan to help them.
What they've learned since is that more than half of the 48 million who the government says are uninsured aren't interested in health insurance, which is why they don't bother to buy it in the first place....
The biggest market segment identified by HHS, in fact, is what it describes as "healthy and young," who make up 48% of the uninsured population.
They have "a low motivation to enroll" because they are in "excellent to very good health" and so "take health for granted."...
Then there are the "passive and unengaged," which make up 15% of the uninsured and also have a "low motivation to enroll" because they "live for today." They also cite cost as a key factor.
The problem, of course, is that ObamaCare will make insurance vastly more expensive for many of those who fall into these groups by larding on new benefit mandates and placing limits on premium-lowering deductions and co-pays. It will also introduce insurance market rules that force the young and healthy to subsidize premiums for those older and sicker.
Obamacare backers pushed the plan as a way to cover the 50 million Americans who didn't have health insurance coverage (and let's be clear that having health insurance isn't the same thing as having good health). After the law passed, they chucked the idea that 50 million people were going to get covered, usually dropping the number down to around 30 million. Which off the bat is a tell of some sort: Why are we spending trillions of dollars and creating a new, untested program to cover 30 million people (while leaving another 30 million out at sea)? If basic insurance coverage was the goal, wouldn't giving people some sort of voucher or payment ticket to buy insurance be a cleaner, easier solution (and one that could have been implemented overnight)? Not that such a system wouldn't have caused all sorts of unintended havoc on the status quo, but it wouldn't have created an tsunami of uncertainty and guaranteed rate hikes that are everywhere around us.
Here's HHS's latest fact sheet on the uninsured.
Back in 2008, Reason TV revealed a bold new health care plan that would have covered about half of the uninsured. Take a look:
disheartening part of his column is his recitation of these facts:In today's Washington Post, columnist George Will has a terrific column indicting the diversity propaganda complex in government elementary and secondary schools, but the most
Today, the school systems in 20 states employ more non-teachers than teachers. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice reports that between 1950 and 2009, while the number of K-12 students increased 96 percent, full-time-equivalent school employees increased 386 percent. The number of teachers increased 252 percent, but the number of bureaucrats — including consciousness-raising sensitivity enforcers and other non-teachers — increased 702 percent. The report says states could have saved more than $24 billion annually if non-teaching staff had grown only as fast as student enrollment. And Americans wonder why their generous K-12 financing (higher per pupil than all but three of the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations) has done so little to improve reading, math and science scores.
Consider also the fact that per pupil spending has increased (in real dollars) from $4,600 in 1972 to $10,700 in 2009. On the other hand, SAT scores have not budged:
And it's not just poor American kids whose academic performance lags. A new report released earlier this week compares U.S. middle class student achievement with that of other developed countries. The news is not good:
America Achieves today released new data showing that America's middle class schools have a long way to go to be best in the world. The report is based on new analyses of math and science data disaggregated by economic and social advantage from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). U.S. students in the second to top quarter of socio-economic advantage lag behind their international peers—significantly outperformed by 24 countries and regions in math and 15 in science. Previously published results show that U.S. students in the second quarter of economic advantage lag significantly behind 10 other countries in reading.
Although those countries also run government school monopolies, they are not yet strangled by the sort of bureaucratic overgrowth cited by Will.
Transparency International defines corruption as...MORE »
- passed a grab-bag of stupid and intrusive gun restrictions that wouldn't have prevented the Newtown shooting and guarantee to criminalize, overnight, large numbers of state residents. Connecticut lawmakers
- American and Ugandan troops have stopped looking for war crimes suspect Joseph Kony, having concluded that he's no longer in the country. American troops? In Uganda?
- Japan will try, once again, to jump-start its long sputtering economy — by doubling the money supply out of thin air. Can't imagine a downside to that.
- Concern is spreading among climate scientists over why the global warming they've been cautioning us about seems to have stopped almost twenty years ago.
- North Korea's wacky leaders reportedly moved a long-range missile to the east coast, within striking distance of Japan or South Korea, in an ongoing effort to get the country reduced to a parking lot that glows ever so softly at night.
- Colorado's Westword alternative weekly may employ America's first (legal) marijuana critic. Sweet job.
- A particle detector on the International Space Station may have finally detected dark matter. Either that, or it woke one of the old gods. Pretty momentous, either way.
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What happens when the government goes bankrupt? This question is one that sounds like a hypothetical exercise in a law school classroom from just a few years ago, where it might have been met with some derision. But today, writes Andrew Napolitano, it is a realistic and terrifying inquiry that many who have financial relationships with governments in America will need to make, and it will be answered with the gnashing of teeth.View this article
negligent homicide in the shooting death of James Ahern. Brackney spent one month in jail and was fired from the Bella Vista police department. But he later got the conviction expunged, and a state board ruled that he could once again serve as a police officer. The Sulphur Springs City Council recently hired Brackney as their new police chief.Three years ago, an Arkansas court found police officer Coleman Brackney guilty of
We could publish Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions, but then we'd have to kill everybody. That's the gist of the Obama administration's arguments in a federal court room, give or take a little literary license. Well, a lot of literary license. Anyway, the administration doesn't want us knowing the details of a FISA ruling that went against the government — or any other decisions of the court. Do you think federal officials are just getting bashful? The administration's argument's came in response to efforts by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to unearth just what sort of surveillance could be so over the top that it offended even the secretive FISA court.
The President Barack Obama administration is informing a federal judge that if it’s forced to disclose a secret court opinion about the government illegally spying on Americans, the likely result could be “exceptionally grave and serious damage to the national security.”
The statement came in response to a lawsuit demanding the administration disclose a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion issued as early as last year. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) was briefed on the opinion as a member of the Intelligence Committee and was authorized last year to reveal that the surveillance had “circumvented the spirit of the law” and was “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation of San Francisco sought the ruling as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The government rejected the request. The digital rights group sued in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
In response, the government said that disclosure of the secret opinion should be barred because it “implicates classified intelligence sources and methods.”
Follow this story and more at Reason 24/7.
noted yesterday, the Connecticut General Assembly is passing a new set of gun restrictions on an "emergency" basis, thereby avoiding the inconvenience and potential embarrassment of public hearings. Still, Connecticut's legislators are slowpokes compared to New York's, who managed to pass a gun control package demanded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo three months ago, on the first full day of their current session. (It helps if you don't bother to read legislation before approving it.) Did the people of Connecticut benefit from their legislature's comparatively contemplative approach? That depends on your perspective.As J.D. Tuccille
While New York reduced its magazine limit from 10 rounds to seven, Connecticut, which had no magazine limit until now, settled on 10 in its Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety. That might strike gun controllers as inexcusably lax, but it does have the advantage (or disadvantage?) of corresponding to magazines that actually exist. Cuomo, after realizing he had mandated magazines that are not available for most firearms, proposed changing the law so that people can still buy 10-round magazines, as long as they don't put more than seven rounds in them. I am totally serious. Connecticut's lawmakers liked that approach so much that they decreed something similar for currently owned (and properly "declared") magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds: You can keep them as long as you don't load them with more than 10 rounds. Except at home. Or the shooting range. Or on Tuesdays. OK, I a made up that last one. But Connecticut does cut gun owners a bit more slack than New York does when it comes to loading their magazines.MORE »
Start organizing your parties today, tax haters. On April 18, we all will have handed over enough money to the government to have paid our average total tax bill for the year.
The non-profit think tank appropriately named the Tax Foundation makes this calculation every year to designate Tax Freedom Day. For 2013, the date falls five days later than it did in 2012, thanks to some well-publicized (at least here at Reason) culprits:
Tax Freedom Day is five days later than last year, due mainly to the fiscal cliff deal that raised federal taxes on individual income and payroll. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act’s investment tax and excise tax went into effect. Finally, despite these tax increases, the economy is expected to continue its slow recovery, boosting profits, incomes, and tax revenues.
The Tax Foundation notes further that if federal borrowing were included, another 21 days of handing over your income would have to be added.
Believe it or not, considering current political battle over government spending (the debate between “too much” vs. ”way too much”), 2013 does not bear the distinction of latest Tax Freedom Day. That honor goes to the year 2000, when it fell on May 1.
Well, there’s always next year.
See the Tax Foundation’s chart below the jump:MORE »
With the NCAA Final Four just days away, Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice was fired after video surfaced of the coach abusing his players verbally and physically.
But, says Nick Gillespie, college sports abuses virtually all students, including ones who never play on a varsity team or buy a ticket to a game or competition.
The vast majority of colleges—public and private—massively subsidize varsity sports directly out of mandatory student fees and other school funds. Despite the ability of top-tier teams to earn a lot of revenue via television contracts, ticket sales, merchandise sales, and other activities, most schools still hit up students in both direct and indirect ways.
Rutgers subsidizes its sports teams with almost $30 million in student fees and other school funds. This year's Cinderella team in the NCAA tournament, Wichita State, kicks in over $6.5 million to its sports teams and its opponent in Saturday's Final Four game, the University of Louisville, spends $10 million on the same. This happens despite serious research showing that good sports teams don't benefit colleges in terms of getting better students or more alumni dollars.
In an era where tuition keeps increasing, isn't it time to rethink the millions of dollars students—and taxpayers—shell out involuntarily on college sports?View this article
- White House concert later this month. Cyndi Lauper, Justin Timberlake and others are expected to perform. The president is, though, generously returning five percent of his salary in solidarity with furloughed employees, which works out to $20,000. Hollywood and the presidential family truly are America’s royalty. The sequestration cuts will not interfere with an annual
- Cory Booker’s potential coronation into the Senate might be hampered by his mixed record as mayor of Newark. His political ambition has caused some to see him as an absentee leader.
- After a thumbs up from its House of Representatives, Alabama is inching closer to legalizing homebrewed beer, but only in limited amounts for personal consumption.
- A Florida man is facing 25 years in prison minimum for allegedly selling his old prescription painkillers to a police informant.
- Some Catholic traditionalists are not happy that Pope Francis is deflating some of the pomp out of ceremonies
- Elections approach in Zimbabwe in a few months, so now is the time for President Robert Mugabe’s party to start threatening the opposition.
- Science Fiction writer Iain Banks, author of the “Culture” series of books, has been diagnosed with late-stage gall bladder cancer and likely only has months to live.
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reintroducing the bill in January, she said banning what she calls "assault magazines" would "go a long way toward making our country safe." If DeGette seems overly optimistic about the potential impact of her legislation, especially given the fact that many millions of "high-capacity ammunition feeding devices" would remain in circulation, perhaps that's because she does not realize magazines are reusable. At a Denver Post forum on gun control yesterday, DeGette explained why she thinks her bill would be effective:Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) is the chief co-sponsor, with Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), of the High Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, which would ban the sale or transfer of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. Upon
What's the efficacy of banning these magazine clips? I will tell you these are ammunition, they're bullets, so the people who have those now, they're going to shoot them. And so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high-capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won't be any more available.
The Denver Post notes that the audience "chuckled" after DeGette's remarks (which you can watch in the video below, starting at minute 31) and that Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith, "responding as the audience was laughing, urged people who hadn't shot a gun to 'get to the facts,'" adding, "Let’s be educated as we make this decision.'" DeGette's office says she "misspoke"—just like McCarthy did when she described a barrel shroud, one of the assault-weapony firearm features she wants to ban, as "the shoulder thing that goes up."
[Thanks to Mike Krause at the Independence Institute for the tip.]
just weeks away from selecting Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter, as U.S. ambassador to Japan. It’s a choice as unserious as it appears.President Obama may be
Writing for Foreign Policy, Clyde Prestowitz reviews the history of post-world war II ambassadors to Japan, starting with JFK’s nomination of Harvard Japan scholar Edwin Reischauer in 1961. That nomination, Prestowitz says, signaled to Japan that Kennedy was serious about the country and its relationship with the U.S. It led to the nominations of people like Mike Mansfield, a former Senate majority leader, and Tom Foley, a former Speaker of the House. Barack Obama broke that mold, according to Prestowitz, when he selected a top fundraiser from Silicon Valley to represent the U.S. in Japan during his first term. As for Caroline Kennedy? Writes Prestowitz:
I'm sure she's a lovely person and a good lawyer and author and, of course, she comes from a prominent American family and was wise enough to choose the right father. Even more wisely, she supported Barack Obama politically at a critical moment.MORE »
But she knows little of Japan, speaks no Japanese, and is not particularly experienced in world affairs and diplomacy. Here we are at a moment when China and Japan are at loggerheads over the Senkaku Islands. This could easily turn into a shooting conflict. North Korea is saying that it is in a state of war with South Korea and that it is turning on its nuclear generator. And the United States is trying to conclude a major international free trade agreement in which the United States and Japan will be the major players. In short, this is a serious moment -- a Reischauer moment.
But this appointment is an ornamental one. It tries to evoke the good feeling of the Kennedy years, but without the substance of those years.
Do you think Caroline might have the good sense to turn it down and urge Obama to imitate her dad with a Reischauer-like appointment?
[Read our update on this story here.]
This story probably isn't going to end well: Joshua Michael Hakken and his wife Sharyn Hakken are on the run in Florida after kidnapping their own two children from Sharyn's mother this morning. Patricia Hauser has had legal custody of her grandchildren, four-year-old Cole and two-year-old Chase, since 2012, when Joshua and Sharyn lost custody for displaying pot in front of their sons at an "anti-government rally" in Louisianna. ABC Action News has more:
Investigators say Joshua Michael Hakken, 35 entered the home of Patricia Hauser at 14040 Shady Shores Drive around 6:30 a.m. Hauser is the maternal grandmother of Chase Hakken, 2, and Cole Hakken, 4. It's believed Hakken's wife, 34-year-old Sharyn Hakken was waiting outside.
Investigators did not know if the children were taken at gunpoint and it was not clear if the mother was directly involved in the abduction.
Reporters were told at a Wednesday afternoon news conference the State of Louisiana took away the parents' parental rights and gave Hauser temporary custody.
Joshua Hakken tied up Hauser, took the children and fled in Hauser's 2009 silver Toyota Camry, which was later found a few blocks away.
According to investigators, the couple lost custody of the two boys after an anti-government rally in Louisiana. The father was charged was possession of marijuana in the presence of the children.
Afterward, Joshua Hakken tried to take the children, reportedly at gunpoint, from a Louisiana foster care facility, but was thwarted, according to the sheriff's office.
There aren't a lot of details out there right now, so it's possible that the Hakkens really were a danger to their kids. But it will be just so goddamn awful if all of this is the result of them using some marijuana at a rally in front of their kids.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Hakkens run an engineering firm in the Tampa area. Their parental rights were terminated by a Louisiana court yesterday.
Update: More on Hakken's June 17, 2012 drug charge that may have gotten his kids taken away, from the Time-Picayune police blotter: "Joshua M. Hakken, age 34 of 3609 S Sterling Avenue, Tampa, FL, was arrested for Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Possession of a controlled dangerous substance in the presence of a minor."
Update II: Florida media outlets are really playing up the anti-government angle. This is at the top of the Orlando Sentinel's home page.MORE »
Legalizing just medical marijuana might not be able to get a hearing in places like Florida, but the effort to legalize recreational marijuana continues elsewhere.
Forty years after Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, lawmakers are considering a bill that would regulate its production, processing and sale.
"Marijuana legalization is coming to Oregon sooner rather than later," said Anthony Johnson of Portland, Ore., an activist who leads New Approach Oregon. "It makes sense to regulate marijuana like alcohol and for the Legislature to take the lead on the issue and make sure sensible regulations are in place."
There’s a lot more money to be made for the government in keeping drugs illegal than there ever was in keeping gays from getting married, so don’t expect politicians to jump on the anti-drug war bandwagon as fast as they did in support of gay marriage. Nevertheless, the eventual end of the drug way may be becoming just as inevitable as gay marriage.
worries that "the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children." That sounds plausible, especially since ADHD diagnoses have increased by 41 percent in the last decade. But since ADHD is a malleable concept based on subjective impressions, it is hard to know what it means to say that someone who has received that diagnosis does not really have it.According to new CDC data, one in 10 American kids, including nearly a fifth of boys in high school, have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The New York Times
New York Times reporters Alan Schwarz and Sarah Cohen say stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse "can drastically improve the lives of those with A.D.H.D. but can also lead to addiction." What do they meant by "addiction"? Presumably something other than relying on a daily dose of a drug to function normally, since that describes what they consider to be the appropriate use of prescription stimulants. Similarly, although Schwarz and Cohen warn that ADHD medication can be "abused," the line between use and abuse seems pretty fuzzy. "While some doctors and patient advocates have welcomed rising diagnosis rates as evidence that the disorder is being better recognized and accepted," they write, "others said the new rates suggest that millions of children may be taking medication merely to calm behavior or to do better in school." But isn't that exactly what you would expect from a drug aimed at reducing hyperactivity and boosting attention?
Maybe abuse is what happens when someone is misdiagnosed and starts taking Adderall or another stimulant to treat a nonexistent disease. Schwarz and Cohen explain that "A.D.H.D. is described by most experts as resulting from abnormal chemical levels in the brain that impair a person's impulse control and attention skills." So determining whether a kid has been properly diagnosed should be straightforward: If he has "abnormal chemical levels," he has ADHD; if not, he doesn't. But it turns out that all the talk about chemical levels is mere supposition. As Schwarz and Cohen concede, "the disorder has no definitive test and is determined only by speaking extensively with patients, parents and teachers, and ruling out other possible causes—a subjective process that is often skipped under time constraints and pressure from parents."
In other words, it is impossible to say for sure whether someone diagnosed with ADHD actually has it. A subjective assessment of whether he meets the criteria laid out by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the best we can do. Furthermore, those criteria will change next month, when the fifth edition of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is scheduled to be published. Under DSM-V, ADHD symptoms must appear by age 12 rather than the current 7, and they need only "impact" daily activities, rather than causing "impairment." Those changes, Schwarz and Cohen say, are expected to result in "higher rates of diagnosis." If someone who is diagnosed with ADHD under the new, looser criteria would not have qualified under the old definition, does that mean he has been misdiagnosed? Since ADHD, like other mental disorders, is whatever the APA says it is, I'm not even sure that's an intelligible question.
Judging from Schwarz's previous reporting on the "Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill," I gather that he believes something like this: When a below-average student takes Adderall to improve his academic performance, that is legitimate treatment of a bona fide disease. When an above-average student does exactly the same thing, that is drug abuse. This seems like moralizing masquerading as medicine.
"Republicans once again should take a strong stand against drug use and legalization," writes former Bush 41 staffer Peter Wehner in the Washington Post. "Virtually no lawmaker in either party is doing so."
If you're like me, you probably want the next paragraph to explain why no one in Washington, D.C. is railing against legalization. But Wehner doesn't even take a crack at the question. Instead, he shuffles through a list of talking points that held sway during his tenure in the Bush 41 White House, but which were pretty much dead by the time "Got the Life" was retired after 65 days on Total Request Live. (That was a joke about the 90s.)
And yet Wehner would have you believe that legalization can be stopped in its tracks using these arguments; they "simply need to be deployed." So let's deploy them:
1.) "The vast majority of people who are addicted to harder drugs started by using marijuana."
This is a reverse version of the old gateway claim, which Wehner likely didn't use in its original form because we now know that alcohol is more of a gateway drug than marijuana. So instead of saying that the vast majority of marijuana users go on to use harder drugs, Wehner says that most people who use hard drugs started with marijuana. That's like saying the vast majority of mass shooters started by playing Duck Hunter; or, that the vast majority of sex workers started by playing with Barbies. The claim is only meaningful if there's a verifiable causal relationship between the two activities. In this case, there's not: There were 18.1 million regular marijuana users in the U.S. in 2011 (which means they used it in the 30 days prior to being surveyed) 1.4 million regular cocaine users, and 281,000 regular heroin users. The causal relationship between marijuana and hard drugs is very, very weak.
2.) "Drug legalization will lead to more cases of addiction, which shatters lives."
Even under prohibition we can't stop people from developing chemical dependence on drugs. What we do have control over is how we treat the small number of people whose chemical dependence leads them to commit crimes. Currently, we consign the bulk of these addicts to prisons or homeless shelters, where drugs are plentiful. One of the best arguments for drug reform--as evidenced by Portugal's decriminalization strategy--is that there are more holistic and humane ways to help these people.
It's also worth mentioning that the addiction rate for most illicit drugs is lower than people realize: 23 percent for heroin, 17 percent for cocaine, and 9 percent for marijuana. Alcohol, with a prevalence for dependence rate of 17 percent, is more like cocaine; and tobacco, with an addiction rate of 32 percent, is worse than pretty much everything.
3.) "One of the main deterrents to drug use is because it is illegal. If drugs become legal, their price will go down and use will go up."
In 2011, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 18.1 million people reportedly used marijuana, but according to the FBI, only 658,000 people were arrested that year for marijuana possession. The same disparity exists for harder drugs: Roughly 2 million people reportedly used heroin or cocaine in 2011, but only 260,000 people were arrested for possessing heroin, cocaine, or one of their derivatives. This tells us not only that illegality is a weak deterrent, but that making it an effective one would require arresting millions more people than we currently do. Millions.
As for the price of legal pot: The news coming out of Washington state and Colorado suggests that excise taxes will be high, which means the price of legal pot will be close to black market rates. If I thought Wehner's biggest concern is that legalization would result in a free-for-all, I'd tell him not to worry one bit. As Mark Kleiman (who is consulting Washington state on their regulations) put it: "[A] legal cannabis market should be run to protect public health and safety, not to maximize revenues." That's likely what we'll see in every state that taxes and regulates pot.
But it appears that Wehner actually sees drugs as a front in the culture war. Bad simply because they're bad, regardless of what the science says. That's the only explanation I can come up with for why he spends roughly half of his alotted op-ed space arguing that
Drug legalization...would send an unmistakable signal to everyone, including the young: Drug use is not a big deal. We’re giving up. Have at it.
[D]rug use is wrong because it is morally problematic, because of what it can do to mind and soul. Indeed, in some liberal and libertarian circles, the “language of morality” is ridiculed. It is considered unenlightened, benighted and simplistic. The role of the state is to maximize individual liberty and be indifferent to human character.
I don't know if Wehner thinks parents in Colorado and Washington who voted to legalize marijuana want their children to "have at it," but that's essentially what he's saying. He's also saying that it doesn't matter if legalization and decriminalization are successful. I don't suggest the GOP follow his lead.
Conservatives are now complaining that they’re losing the fight over same-sex marriage because the left has done a better job of framing the issue. All of a sudden, conservatives are sounding a lot like George Lakoff—the liberal linguistics professor who gripes about the über-powerful message machine of the American right.
But saying the other side wins simply because it frames the issue better is, in a way, saying it wins because voters are too stupid and gullible not to realize your own side is right. This might feel good, writes A. Barton Hinkle, but it is a problem—because it allows you to avoid engaging the arguments other people find so persuasive.View this article
"If you're an artist type who lives in a city like Seattle," says cartoonist, author, and Reason contributor Peter Bagge, "it is just so much easier to toe the Democratic Party line and go along with whatever it is our Dear Leader wants us to believe in."
An interview with cartoonist Peter Bagge is the latest offering from Reason TV. Watch the video above, or click the link for full text and downloadable versions.View this article
excellent piece taking the Federal Communications Commission to task for refusing to concede that the the market for mobile communications is competitive. The FCC was charged by Congress with determining exactly that and, over the course of a 400-page report, the federal body hems, haws and asserts that the mobile industry is too dynamic to determine one way or the other, and that there's no clear definition of "competitive" anyway, so it can't tell. This, Downes credibly suggests, is a cynical effort by bureaucrats to head off conclusions that their services aren't needed.Larry Downes, at CNet, has an
There's a lot of verbiage in the 16th Mobile Competition Report, released March 21, but the gist is nicely captured here:
Given the Report’s expansive view of mobile wireless services and its examination of competition across the entire mobile wireless ecosystem, we find that the mobile wireless ecosystem is sufficiently complex and multi-faceted that it would not be meaningful to try to make a single, all-inclusive finding regarding effective competition that adequately encompasses the level of competition in the various interrelated segments, types of services, and vast geographic areas of the mobile wireless industry.
We note as well that there is no definition of “effective competition” widely accepted by economists or competition policy authorities such as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). ...
We take an approach consistent with the Commission’s first seven Annual CMRS Competition Reports, which did not reach an overall conclusion regarding whether or not the CMRS marketplace was effectively competitive, but provided an analysis and description of the CMRS industry’s competitive metrics and trends. This Report, like the previous two Reports, adopts an approach similar to the earlier reports, but undertakes an expanded and more detailed competitive analysis of the entire mobile wireless ecosystem. We provide an analysis of whether or not there is effective mobile wireless competition, but refrain from providing any single conclusion because such an assessment would be incomplete and possibly misleading in light of the variations and complexities we observe.
As Bill the Cat might say, "Thppppt!"
But Downes adds a little more detail to his critique, writing:
Genachowski's tenure was marked by dubious interventions, large and small, in the markets over which the FCC has authority -- including broadcasting, cable, telephone, and mobile. While the chairman promised that the commission under his leadership would practice fact-based decision-making , the FCC instead frequently engaged in results-oriented politics aimed at supporting White House efforts to appear tougher on corporations.
Its refusal to find "effective competition" in the mobile ecosystem -- along with related non-conclusions on the pace of deployment of all broadband services -- was cynically designed to leave the chairman a free hand to activate emergency powers. These powers include everything from net neutrality to extracting conditions on a variety of spectrum transactions and mergers.
Downes goes on to deride the report as a "wasted opportunity" to recognize the dynamic, wide-ranging nature of a fast-evolving industry, but the report's fudged conclusions are more than that. They're yet more evidence that it's a really, really bad idea to allow government officials to determine whether or not their continued accumulation and exercise of power is necessary. So far as they're concerned, it always is.
The French may not be leaving Mali as quickly as they would like.
French President Francois Hollande had said that he wants the number of French troops in Mali to be cut to 1,000 by December from the roughly 4,000 troops that are there now. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said that a UN peacekeeping force could be made up of African soldiers that are already assisting Malian and French forces.
However, despite plans for a UN peacekeeping force recent attacks by Islamic militants and the political situation in Mali mean that the French troop reduction could be delayed.
Last weekend Islamist militants launched their second attack on Timbuktu in a fortnight, shortly after French President Francois Hollande insisted the elections must take place as scheduled and unveiled the plan to slash troop numbers.
Launched in January, the French-led offensive quickly succeeded in pushing a mix of Islamists out of their northern strongholds and remote mountain bases, hitting the local leadership of the al Qaeda-linked groups.
But new clashes have followed a handful of suicide attacks and raids on towns won back from the rebels, underscoring the task of securing the country as France prepares to hand over to the Malian army and a 7,000-strong regional African force.
The nightmare scenario is that of a repeat of the Afghan war, where Taliban insurgents have prevented a full pull-out of NATO-led troops after a 13-year conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
While it is understandable that the French would like to avoid their own Afghan war there is the possibility that Islamic militants will return to northern Mali after the number of French soldiers is reduced. It is easy to see why those living in northern Mali who experienced the rule of Islamic militants would not be reassured by a mere 1,000 French troops, a U.N. peacekeeping force, and a disorganized Malian military that is facing accusations of human rights violations.
As well as the possibility of Islamic militants returning there is also the ongoing issue of slavery to worry about, with some Tuaregs who are seeking independence in northern Mali but who have distanced themselves from Islamic militants continuing the practice of slavery. Despite the French-led intervention 250,000 people still live in conditions of slavery in Mali.
From The Guardian:
The recent French intervention in Mali does seem to be paying some security dividends with most of the Islamist fighters driven out of the main urban areas. But many slaves and ex-slaves say they still do not feel safe, since a new Tuareg group, the Islamic Movement for Azawad, is in control of the remote town of Kidal.
The unfortunate reality for the French government is that if they wish to leave Mali in a safer, more secure, and politically stable situation they may have to stay longer than they initially anticipated, which will almost certainly have effects on the government’s popularity in France.
Environmental activists and politicians would like you to think that we must love their regulations -- or hate trees and animals. But that's not true, writes John Stossel. You can love nature and still hate the tyranny that environmental regulations bring.View this article
what I've written before: 3D printing has the ability to decentralize manufacturing to the DIY level and thereby render legal restrictions irrelevant. If prohibited or restricted items can be created in the privacy of your home or office, the law doesn't matter. We also discussed chemical printing and CNC machines, but as is often the case, only a brief bit on 3D printing made it into the report, There's no embeddable version available The embedded video is below, or you can see it here. My contribution begins at the 3:00 mark.Yesterday, RT America ran a report on the impact of 3D printing on the debate over firearms and gun control laws. RT's Marina Portnaya interviewed me for the report, and I told her
Free-Range Kids to describe the harassment he had received from police for teaching his 6-year-old daughter how navigate their quiet suburban neighborhood and then having the temerity to decide on his own when she may do so unsupervised. After letting her walk to a nearby store, he discovered when she failed to return that the police had taken her:In early March, an Ohio father wrote to parenting site
Once I got to the police station they would not release her to me for over 20 minutes, though she was sitting behind bullet-proof glass just 20 feet away. When the police finally came to talk to me, I was told that they had responded to a call of a young child being unsupervised. They refused to identify a reasonable cause for her detention, or even what law had been broken. They insisted that they were waiting for CPS to respond before they would let me see my daughter, but then they later came back and said that they were releasing me to her because CPS had told them to give her to me, since I was waiting for her.
That sounds like resolution of sorts, right? Child Protective Services told the police to give her back to her parent. But the story took a turn for the worse, detailed again on Free-Range Kids today:
”Emily” and I are both walking back from the library. She wants to do it herself, so I let her walk separate from me some of the time. The cops get a phone call from a concerned citizen who says there’s a strange guy talking to a little girl. Three officers respond and cite a concern for Emily’s safety in crossing the street. I confirm that I am her father and give my name, as is required by law. They refuse to state any reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed or say what law has been broken, and so, in accordance with my 5th amendment rights, I refuse to answer any questions. We are detained for over half an hour before being released. (I asked many times over the course of the detention whether I was “free to go” and I was told that I was not. We were told that we were being held for an “investigative detention.”) The sergeant who responded to the scene stated over the radio that he wanted to “hook this guy” for child endangerment. (The recording of radio traffic during the encounter was later received through a public records request that I made.)
They were again reported to CPS, even though police say they haven’t broken any laws. Later he deals with CPS directly:
I talk with the supervisor at CPS on a recorded phone call. I refuse to answer any questions or make any statements. Though he did relay that he was concerned about a child “roaming the streets of [Our City, OH],” he refuses to tell me what law has been broken. We go around and around for about 25 minutes. I find out through my employer shortly after the phone call that if I do not “cooperate” CPS is threatening to seek an ex parte order, which would allow CPS to take custody without a hearing, to separate us that Friday (and then keep Emily all weekend since a hearing would not have to be held until close of business on Monday). Note that I have cooperated to the full extent required by law. The Home School Legal Defense Assn. is very helpful in getting CPS to agree not to seek an ex parte order so long as Emily does not go outside again by herself.
Since then CPS has knocked on the door many times. I did answer the door when the CPS supervisor came by–I thought that he was a delivery guy or what not since he didn’t have a uniformed police officer with him–but otherwise we have simply ignored them. There is no law requiring someone to answer their door, and since I had no interest in talking to them or getting detained by the cops simply ignoring them seemed the best course of action.
CPS has responded by filing a complaint alleging neglect and attempting to take the child into protective custody. They are also attempting to try to force the family to allow CPS officials into their home, search the house and interview their children.
Free-Range Kids is asking for pro bono legal help in Ohio to assist the family.
Our Reason TV interview with Free-Range Kids founder Lenore Skenazy is here.
(Hat tip to Popehat)
poll out on the popularity of various conspiracy theories. The firm's write-up highlights the differences between Democrats and Republicans on these issues, which doesn't strike me as the most enlightening information here. (Republicans are more likely than Democrats to believe Barack Obama is the Antichrist! Who could have predicted that?) More interesting to me is how this compares to past polls on the subject.PPP has a new
Take the JFK assassination. This is the most popular theory in the survey, with 51 percent of the country believing a conspiracy larger than Lee Harvey Oswald was behind the killing and just 25 percent saying he acted alone. (The other 24 percent aren't sure.) That sounds pretty overwhelming, but 10 years ago an ABC News poll showed many more Americans -- 70 percent -- blaming a conspiracy for the president's death. Similarly, PPP shows 11 percent of the country believing the U.S. government knowingly permitted the 9/11 attacks to happen, with 11 percent unsure. In 2006, by contrast, a nationwide Scripps Howard survey had 36 percent of the people polled believing it either "very" or "somewhat" likely that U.S. leaders either allowed 9/11 to happen or actively plotted the assaults.
Comparing polls is a tricky business, and it's possible that the different numbers just reflect different methodologies. People might, for example, be less inclined to embrace JFK and 9/11 theories when they are proposed alongside such obvious kook-bait questions as "Do you believe Paul McCartney actually died in a car crash in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a lookalike so The Beatles could continue?" and "Do you believe that shape-shifting reptilian people control our world by taking on human form and gaining power to manipulate our societies?"*
But it's also possible that these changes reflect a greater distance from the events being discussed. The number of JFK conspiracy believers was even higher in 1983 -- 80 percent, according to ABC -- so we may be seeing a steady decline in those theories' popularity as the assassination recedes into the past. And the anger that led many people to blame 9/11 on Washington may have cooled somewhat since George W. Bush left office. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that in 2023, there will be far fewer birthers, because there will be far fewer people who care whether ex-President Obama was qualified to hold office.
Obligatory advertisement: Preorder my book The United States of Paranoia today!
(* In case you're curious: The Paul-is-dead theory is reportedly embraced by 5 percent of the population -- far less, no doubt, than believed it in 1968, though you might expect all those mediocre solo albums to make the theory more popular rather than less. The Icke/Slitheen thesis about reptilian overlords was endorsed by 4 percent of the country. I figure a bunch of those "yes" answers were only trolling, but some of the "no" answers surely came from people who just DIDN'T WANT THE LIZARD MEN TO KNOW THEY WERE ONTO THEM, so let's call it a wash.)
While the NRA does sometimes come across as less a civil rights organization for the Second Amendment and more a lobbyist for actions to actively help gun makers and users, it struck me as strange that a Detroit CBS news website ran on April 2, not marked as a joke, what was originally pretty clearly an April Fools Joke from Green Car Reports:
According to a new position paper recently released, the NRA intends to pursue a mandate requiring electric cars to offer a mobile source for recharging energy-pulse rifles owned by U.S. citizens.
“As Bushmaster semi-automatic rifles become more and more common in properly armed U.S. households,” said NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, “we see electric cars as a wonderful and portable source of new-generation ammunition.”....
He suggested that the NRA will throw its considerable political clout behind similar legislation for the U.S.–though, he noted, the energy-flow rates would have to be far higher to permit rapid recharging of even today’s energy-pulse weaponry.
“What could be more important to the safety, security, and Second Amendment rights of normal American citizens,” LaPierre asked at a Washington, DC, news conference this morning, “than mandating that carmakers must offer the ability to use the stored electric energy owned by our citizens to protect their families from attacks by the government, trespassers, aliens, the mentally ill, zoning boards, and the other criminal elements that are besieging this once-great nation?”
The laff value of it is in the eye of the beholder, but CBS running this on April 2 with no obvious sign I could see it was a joke seems strange. (I wonder how long the link will live.)
My book, Gun Control on Trial, had some more measured critiques of how the NRA chooses to pursue gun rights.
With Bitcoin now going for over $100 per unit and amassing a value of over $1 billion worldwide, everyone has an opinion on the curious currency - whose creator is still unknown. The short interview above is a great place to get some basic facts. Go here for more details and links.
Allie Bohm of the ACLU has praised the domestic drone bill being considered by legislators in Rhode Island. The bill requires public accountability for the use of drones by law enforcement officials, that UAVs not be equipped with weapons, and a ban on data retention.
From The Atlantic:
As anxiety about domestic drone use continues to mount, at least 30 states are weighing new laws that would regulate them. A Rhode Island proposal is among the best, according to Allie Bohm at the ACLU. Unlike her, I haven't read every bill introduced by a state legislature. But I have read the bill The Ocean State is mulling, and many of its provisions desserve wider attention. I'd be thrilled if something with this many civil liberties protections was actually passed and enforced.
Follow this story and more at Reason 24/7.
Those delightful doomsayers at Zerohedge may or may not be kidding when they float the idea after contemplating in charts the 14 times rise in Bitcoin value in dollar terms in the past year, and the 50 percent rise in just the past two days, "which line item on the Fed's Balance Sheet is 'Virtual Currency Transactions'... what better way to destroy an up and coming currency competitor than to blow a bubble in it and explode it?"
As someone who did not buy bitcoins two year ago when all his crazy friends were advising him to, I am agnostic (and quivering with rage!). When people start wondering if the Federal Reserve is deliberately "helping" the private digital competition, we are perhaps through a rabbit hole, perhaps fretting unduly as a wonderful new world unfolds, or perhaps just making wild guesses about simple causal explanations for the impossibly complicated blooming buzzing confusion of the ol' catallaxy.
George Mason University economist, and advocate of anarcho-capitalism, Bryan Caplan explains why details of the ideological history of human attitudes toward methods and techniques of government show that ideas that almost everyone dismisses offhand as nutty and impossible can and in fact have come to dominate our political culture.
I mean, you think anarcho-capitalism is crazy? Imagine how people used to react to democracy?
Imagine advocating democracy a thousand years ago. You sketch your basic idea: "Every few years we'll have a free election. Anyone who wants power can run for office, every adult gets a vote, and whoever gets the most votes runs the government until the next election." How would your contemporaries react?
They would probably call you "crazy." Why? Before you could even get to the second paragraph in your sales pitch, they'd interrupt: "Do you seriously mean to tell us that if the ruling government loses the election, they'll peacefully hand the reins of power over to their rivals?! Yeah, right!"
A thousand years later, the planet is covered with democracies. In most of them, defeated incumbents consistently make the "crazy" decision to peacefully walk away from power. In long-standing democracies, this pattern is so familiar we take it for granted. But we shouldn't. The viability of democracy is an amazing fact that begs for an explanation....
Caplan then points out that in the modern world, a political leader who told his cronies their response to losing an election would be to start killin' would not be obeyed, but condemned as "crazy."
The lesson: "Crazy" is relative to expectations. A thousand years ago, everyone was used to despotism. No one expected a defeated incumbent to voluntarily hand over power. As a result, refusing to hand over power didn't seem crazy. Since it didn't seem crazy, incumbents who refused to hand over power after losing an election probably would have managed to retain power. In modern Sweden, in contrast, everyone is used to democracy. Everyone expects a defeated incumbent to voluntarily hand over power. Refusing to hand over power seems crazy. As a result, refusing to hand over power would end not democracy, but the incumbent's career.
Now, Caplan says, anarcho-capitalism sounds as nuts as to most everyone as democracy likely did in those days of yore:
"Do you seriously mean to tell us that privatized police companies will peacefully settle disputes, instead of attacking each other until one firm becomes the new government?! Yeah, right!"
....Suppose however that a stable anarcho-capitalist system existed. Then this logic reverses. Since everyone is used to this system, people expectprivate police firms to amicably resolve disputes. In such a setting, a CEO who advocates a war of conquest would seem crazy - and his pleas to his co-workers would fall on deaf ears. In a stable anarcho-capitalist society, a war-mongering CEO doesn't get a war. He gets fired.
Since we've never had anarcho-capitalism, this peaceful equilibrium sounds like wishful thinking. But it's no more wishful thinking than stable democracy. Both systems sound crazy when first proposed. Neither can be stable as long as people expect them to be unstable. But both can be stable once people expect them to be stable.
You could object: The expectations necessary to sustain anarcho-capitalism are highly unlikely to ever arrive. But the same was true for democracy a thousand years ago. Yet somehow, expectations radically changed and stable democracy arrived. How did expectations change so dramatically? It's complicated. But can expectations change dramatically? Absolutely.
As someone who was first exposed to anarcho-capitalist ideas 25 years or so ago, has written histories of the libertarian movement since then, and is quite confident (even without survey data) that the ideas seem far less crazy to far more people than he could have imagined then, I think Caplan has a point. (On a far narrower level of precipitous shifts in cultural attitudes toward "crazy," I think the progress of ideas such as gay marriage and marijuana's use as medicine or legalization recently are encouraging signs. Things do change.)
Part of the key to Caplan's "It's complicated" is the tireless work of ideological and economic education pursued by all the various thinkers and organizations and journalists and advocates working under the rough rubric of the "libertarian movement," whose history was told in my 2007 book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, and whose most recent surprising success was told in my book from last year, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.
The new video from Project Veritas - James O'Keefe's merry band of guerilla filmmakers who have scored major hits on ACORN, NPR, and voter fraud - is a compelling watch. From the YouTube writeup:
@Project_Veritas investigators urge Piers Morgan, Oprah Winfrey's production company (Harpo), and Robert DeNiro's production company (Tribeca) to help ban all guns from past and future movies. With some disturbed murderers citing violent movies as the impetus for their crimes, would Hollywood elites agree to remove guns from their flicks #ForTheChildren? Or would money and fame supersede their malleable ideology?
To that end, Project Veritas asks a bunch of people involved in media and film if they would sign a petition to delete guns from old and new movies. The answers...will surprise you.
I'm less interested in the rank hypocrisy that surrounds debates on the effects of popular culture on behavior and more interested in the way that this video shows that by framing the debate differently you might actually have a really interesting conversation.
But wherever you stand on the issue of guns, violence, and movies, if you've ever watched a Merchant Ivory movie, you will enjoy this video.
And if Project Veritas's plan to delete guns from new and old movies sounds implausible, recall the big push to airbrush smoking out of movies and other forms of entertainment. (My favorite contribution to that effort was Joe Esterhas's heartfelt but stupid bit). Some years back, the U.S. government went full Orwell on the stamp honoring bluesman Robert Johnson. Click here for more egregious airbrushing of famous cigarettes from photos.
The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery....
For more background on how easy money housing loan policies promoted by the Federal government helped cause the Great Recession see Veronique de Rugy's, "The Truth About Fannie and Freddie's Role in the Housing Crisis," and Sheldon Richman's, "Clinton's Legacy: The Financial and Housing meltdown."
- campaigning for gun control. President Obama is in Colorado
- Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford won his GOP House primary yesterday.
- The GEO Group, a private prison company, withdrew from a deal to name Florida Atlantic University’s football stadium after it sparked protests.
- The U.S. is considering imposing sanctions on Pakistan for a $7 billion pipeline deal the country made with Iran.
- Cyprus has agreed to a $12.8 billion bailout that includes a doubling of tax on interest income and a hike in the corporate tax rate.
- The British government says it won’t cut the minimum wage despite complaints from small businesses, but it may freeze it.
- South Korea’s defense minister says military action is an option in response to North Korea’s threats.
- A Saudi man who stabbed his best friend ten years ago, when he was 14, was sentenced by a court to be paralyzed, just like his victim.
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seizing radios in villages across the country. Officials say the radios are being used to spread hate speech. But human rights activists worry it's part of a clamp down on media before elections later this year.Zimbabwean police have been
In two cases last week, lawyers urged the Supreme Court to respect the democratic process by upholding bans on legal recognition of gay marriages. But Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says only one of those bans can plausibly be portrayed as representing the will of the people. Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that overturned a California Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, reflected popular opposition to what was perceived as arrogant meddling by unelected judges. Although the federal Defense of Marriage Act was driven by a similar populist impulse, Sullum says, in practice it frustrates the will of the people in states where voters or their elected representatives decide to treat gay and straight couples equally.View this article
Now that the firestorm over how the Associated Press refers to partners in gay marriages has died down, it’s time to stoke some new flames! The Associated Press announced today it will no longer use the description “illegal immigrant” as part of its style.
Via ABC News:
The Associated Press, the largest news-gathering outlet in the world, will no longer use the term "illegal immigrant."
The news came in the form of a blog entry authored by Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll on Tuesday afternoon, explaining that the decision is part of the company's on-going attempt to rid their Stylebook of labels.
"The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term 'illegal immigrant' or the use of 'illegal' to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that 'illegal' should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally," Carroll wrote.
AP reps go on to note that they prefer to label behavior rather than people, describing schizophrenics as people “diagnosed with schizophrenia” rather than just schizophrenics.
Does this mean they’ll also stop using the word “felon”? We have a lot of nouns in the English language that have behavioral labels and judgments embedded in them.
Follow this story and more at Reason 24/7.
The saga continues for 38 Studios, the video game company founded by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, which received a $75 million loan from the state of Rhode Island less than a year before going bankrupt. As reported by the Associated Press:
Rhode Island's economic development agency says there is "crushing evidence" that former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and others concealed financial information about his now-defunct video game company and that its lawsuit against them should be allowed to move ahead.
Reason TV covered "Curt Schilling's Crony Capitalism Debacle" earlier this year:
mixed, it's understandable that public health–types might busy themselves with the problem of getting veggies into people's hands.The idea that food deserts are to blame for obesity is superficially plausible. There are many zip codes where it's tough to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, but easy to buy McNuggets. While the evidence about the impact of food deserts and proximity to fast food on obesity and healthy diet is actually
And the problem can seem intractable: How can people without access to reliable transportation get a reliable flow of leafy greens? How about....a bus?
An independent grocer in Baltimore recently realized that they could drum up business and publicity by sending out a bus to pick up shoppers. So yesterday, they announced the Santoni's shuttle, explaining that they'd rather have people spend money on groceries than cabs.
“People are looking for dependable and inexpensive transportation,” Santoni said. “A hack or sedan or taxi service can be 15 or 20 dollars round trip and that money would come out the food budget. With our service, seniors and the underserved can expand their food budget and eat healthier.”
Obviously, this doesn't solve every problem, and the announcement about the shuttle bus mentions that the local public health department is a "partner" in the endeavor, so there may be government backing, but this is still a great example of how seemingly tough public policy problems may actually just be profit opportunities.
The Associated Press is reporting that the lack of military aid being sent to the Syrian opposition by the Obama administration may be because of negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
From The Associated Press:
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's reluctance to give military aid to Syrian rebels may be simply explained in part in three words: Iranian nuclear weapons.
For the first time in years, the United States has seen a glimmer of hope in persuading Iran to curb its nuclear enrichment program so it cannot quickly or easily make an atomic bomb. Negotiations resume this week in Almaty, Kazakhstan, where encouraging talks in February between six world powers and the Islamic Republic ended in what Iranian diplomat Saeed Jalili called a "turning point" after multiple thwarted steps toward a breakthrough.
It is true that Iran would be less willing to negotiate with the U.S. had American military aid been sent to Assad’s opposition. However, this was evidently not a major concern over the summer when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus both recommended Obama send arms to Syrian rebels.
A Syrian opposition representative recently said that rebels now view France and the U.K. as more likely than the U.S. to intervene in the conflict. Last month French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that both France and the U.K. would consider arming Syrian rebels even if such a move would be in violation of the European Union’s arms embargo on Syria.
It is interesting that the Obama administration, which has hardly expressed a reluctance to intervene in other countries, is prioritizing Iran’s nuclear program over the urgent humanitarian disaster unfolding in Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he prepared to act unilaterally if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon.
National Public Radio host Steve Inskeep warns us that we're about to listen to some scary real-world effects of the sequester:Act 1: In which
OK. It's been a month since automatic spending cuts went into effect. Many Americans have not yet felt the impact, but that's soon going to change. And people who fly out of small, regional airports could be among the first to notice.
Act 2: NPR's David Greene brings on Yvette Aehle, director of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany, Georgia, to talk about the terrible danger that passengers will face now that Aehle's airport stands to lose its air traffic controllers:
GREENE: So is this unheard of, operating an airport with no one in the tower?
AEHLE: Well, it's not unheard of. I mean, there's lots of airports around America that do not have an air traffic control tower. However, we've always had one. And to go back to being an uncontrolled airport is not something that we're used to doing and don't want to do.
GREENE: What does mean, an uncontrolled airport? I mean, where are their pilots, kind of who are they talking to when they're getting directions and so forth?
AEHLE: We have a common traffic frequency that they will all switch to, and they will all talk to each other. Pilots know there's a typical pattern, and they know how to fly in and land on our runways. But it's going to be a see-and-be-seen. And the closest metaphor that I can explain to people is it's like having a stoplight, and then going to a flashing red light.
Act: 3: Under the heat of extremely friendly and credulous questioning, it is revealed that, well, ah, you see ... most planes at this airport already land without benefit of a controller:
GREENE: I hear you using words like mistake and more of a chance for error. I mean, it sounds like it is less safe to fly in and out of your airport if things are working out this way.
AEHLE: Well, I don't really want to say anything is less safe. It's just a better opportunity for people to listen and to be heard and to understand where they are. And also, I'd like to point out that we don't have 24-hour tower coverage here currently. Those air traffic controllers are only directing traffic between 8 am to 8 pm seven days a week. And most of our heavy traffic is outside of those hours.
GREENE: Well, this sounds like a very important point. Most of your traffic already is flying in and out of your airport without any air traffic controllers at your airport.
AEHLE: Yes. Yes. Yes.
GREENE: So this is not a stunning change for you.
AEHLE: No. It's not a stunning change, but that's not something that we'd like.
There you have it. The sequester makes Yvette Aehle uncomfortable. And she doesn't like that.
Reason on sequestration here. Thanks to Scott Ross for the tip.
announced that it's not a huge deal if you use a smoking cessation aid (or "nicotine replacement therapy," in the FDA's words) for longer than the recommended period, nor is it a big deal if you use a smoking cessation aid and smoke a cigarette at the same time.Do you like nicotine? Then the Food and Drug Administration has some good news for you! No, seriously: Yesterday the FDA
Years of clinical research, the FDA says, have shown that "some warnings and limitations specified in the directions for use on the labels of these products are no longer necessary to make sure they are used safely and effectively to quit smoking." To that end
FDA is allowing the companies who make these OTC products to make several changes to the warnings and limitations in the directions for use on their labels to allow some flexibility on how they are used and for how long. These changes mean the following for consumers:
- There are no significant safety concerns associated with using more than one OTC NRT at the same time, or using an OTC NRT at the same time as another nicotine-containing product—including a cigarette. If you are using an OTC NRT while trying to quit smoking but slip up and have a cigarette, you should not stop using the NRT. You should keep using the OTC NRT and keep trying to quit.
- NRT users should still pick a day to quit smoking, and begin using the OTC NRT product on their "quit" day, even if they aren't immediately able to stop smoking.
- Users of NRT products should still use the product for the length of time indicated in the label—for example, 8, 10 or 12 weeks. However, if they feel they need to continue using the product for longer in order to quit, it is safe to do so in most cases. Consumers are advised to consult their health care professional if they feel the need to use an OTC NRT for longer than the time period recommended in the label.
None of this is news to folks who heretofore have, for reasons of both pleasure and weakness of will, mixed a fresh piece of Nicorette with a Parliament, or used Nicorette forever and ever. Writing on his blog, Reason contributor Jacob Grier calls the FDA's announcement a "sensible move," and wonders what it might mean for e-cigarettes.