wrote of the battle between state and federal officials over restrictions on use of Arizona's wild areas. Specifically, back in August, officials managing the Coconino, Kaibab, and Prescott National Forests issued a terse press release threatening to seize property and issue citations if hunters camped in one place for more than 72 during upcoming hunting seasons. This, even though many hunting seasons last for a week or more, and after decades of a 14-day rule on campsites. Arizonans screamed, the Arizona Game and Fish Department demanded a retraction and an apology, and the Arizona Sheriffs Association objected and refused any help in enforcing the rule. In fact, state and county officials promised to treat any property seizure as a theft. Yesterday, the feds backed down. Sort of.A week ago, I
In an opinion piece distributed to the media for publication, Mike Williams, Kaibab National Forest Supervisor, and Earl Stewart, Coconino National Forest Supervisor, "set the record straight" that they'd been referring to actual abandoned property, not hunters' campsites.
Back in August, the Forest Service distributed a news release that attempted to explain rules regarding abandoned property on the National Forests. The intent of the release was to provide information and clarification on a growing issue facing forest managers. We regret the confusion and concern, particularly among the hunting community in Arizona, caused by our miscommunication.
Let us be 100 percent clear. Forest visitors camping and actively engaging in hunting or other recreational activities are not at risk of being cited or having their property considered abandoned after 72 hours. Hunters and other campers have never been required to move camp every 72 hours and will not be required to do so in the future.
The Kaibab and Coconino National Forests are not implementing any new regulations or policies. Both forests have orders in place for a 14-day stay limit for camping occupancy. Forest users may camp and occupy a site for up to 14 days in a 30-day period. Most of our hunters and campers have long been familiar with this 14-day stay limit, and it has not changed.
That's all fine and dandy. We'd hate to have any miscommunication now, wouldn't we?MORE »
Many doctors will gladly substantially discount their fees in return for up-front payments from people who pay directly for their health care. Hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and urgent care clinics do the same. Why shouldn’t they? They don’t have to pay an army of staff to fill reams of forms and wait weeks to months to collect payment from an insurance company that sometimes is lower than what they get from their direct-pay patients. Yet most of these same providers have much higher “list prices”—the official prices they list publicly—which are used to negotiate compensation contracts with health insurance companies and other third party payers. As Dr. Jeffrey A. Singer points out, health insurance—private or otherwise—does not make health care more affordable. In fact, the third party payment system is the principal force behind health care price inflation.View this article
professional cuddler for just $60. Cops have already threatened to raid the place. Authorities say that if it isn't a front for prostitution it could be something even worse. "There's no way that (sexual assault) will not happen," assistant cityOfficials in Madison, Wisconsin, say they don't like the prospect of any hugging or cuddling going on there. At least, not for money. The Snuggle House recently opened, promising one hour with
If you want your health care, you can keep banging away on the federal Obamacare exchange website until you get routed to taxpayer-funded Medicaid. But you might not get to keep that Medicaid coverage, because you don't necessarily qualify, no matter what the nice, if slightly confused, robots at Healthcare.gov say. But, at least you'll have plenty of company. The vast majority of people getting enrolled in coverage through the website are being signed up for Medicaid. We just don't yet know how many of them will actually get covered by that coverage.
Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute points out in the New York Post:
The good news, if you want to call it that, is that roughly 1.6 million Americans have enrolled in ObamaCare so far.
The not-so-good news is that 1.46 million of them actually signed up for Medicaid. If that trend continues, it could bankrupt both federal and state governments.
That's no joke! My own Arizona, which has a comparatively lean and mean version of Medicaid in the form of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), has seen costs rise by 98 percent from 2004 to 2014 (PDF). In Arizona, AHCCCS is only the second most expensive budget item, while "For most states," points out Tanner, "Medicaid is the single-largest cost of government, crowding out education, transportation and everything else."
But hold on there! Many of those people being routed to Medicaid by Healthcare.gov are arriving in the wrong location. Reports USA Today:
When consumers applying for insurance put their income information into subsidy calculators on HealthCare.gov — the exchange handling insurance sales for 36 states — it tells them how much financial assistance they qualify for or that they are eligible for Medicaid. If it's the latter, consumers aren't able to obtain subsidies toward the insurance, although they could buy full-priced plans.
If the Medicaid determination is wrong, consumers should file an appeal with the federal marketplace, says Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters, but she says she does not have an estimate on how long that would take.
Brokers are reporting that some of their clients are in insurance limbo as they wait for the error to be corrected by HHS or their states so they can reapply.
Jessica Waltman, top lobbyist for the National Association of Health Underwriters, says she's heard a number of reports from around the country of people making as much as $80,000 a year being told they qualify for Medicaid on HealthCare.gov.
Yeah... That's a mistake.
Nobody seems entirely sure how much chaos has been created yet. Basically, officials don't yet know what they don't know. But there's plenty of uncertainty to go around for state budget planners as well as people who just want to buy some health coverage without a hassle.
In our November Reason magazine feature, “How to Break an American City,” we highlighted the dysfunctional fiscal policies driving municipalities into the poorhouse. I made note of a specific policy in the city charter for San Bernardino, California, which was approved to enter bankruptcy earlier this year.
San Bernardino’s charter requires that the city tie the wages of its public safety employees to the averages of those paid in nearby cities with similar population sizes. Unfortunately, San Bernardino is the poorest of those cities, meaning it is legally bound to pay its police and firefighters much more than its market can bear. As a result, even while making its case for bankruptcy months ago, the City Council voted to increase some police salaries. They did so again just last week.
Courtesy of CalPensions and Public CEO:
Following the city charter, a reluctant San Bernardino city council last week approved a police pay raise costing about $1 million, the second $1 million police salary increase since the city filed for bankruptcy last year.
The four council members who voted for the 3 percent pay hike all criticized a city charter provision linking San Bernardino to the average police pay in 10 other cities, most much wealthier with higher per-capita income.
When a pay hike was approved last March, the city attorney, James Penman, and a councilman, Robert Jenkins, argued competitive pay attracts quality officers to combat a high crime rate. Penman was recalled last month, and Jenkins was not re-elected.
“I think most residents are puzzled and outraged that we are compelled during bankruptcy to provide substantial pay increases,” a newly elected councilman, Jim Mulvihill, said last week. “Not only that, it’s not any negotiation within our community.”
Several groups pushed to repeal the charter provision after the bankruptcy. But the city council chose not to put a repeal measure on the ballot last month, citing short timelines and ballot costs, the San Bernardino Sun reported.
Read the whole story here.
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For one of the few times in its macro economic policy thought and action, the federal government relies on a subtle analysis of "things not seen" to defend its apparent $10.5 billion loss on the General Motors bailout as a success, via USA Today:
U.S. taxpayers no longer own any of automaker General Motors. The Treasury sold the last of its remaining 31.1 million GM shares today.
The taxpayer loss on the GM bailout finishes at $10.5 billion. The Treasury department said it recovered $39 billion from selling its GM stock, and had put $49.5 billion of taxpayer money into the GM bailout....
The administration emphasizes that the loss it took on GM shares is far less constly than had GM been allowed to fail.
"Inaction could have cost the broader economy more than one million jobs, billions in lost personal savings, and significantly reduced economic production," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement announcing that Treasury had sold all its remaining shars.
What might have happened to that money, those resources, those skills, those people, if they had not been diverted by government action? No one knows, or will ever know, and the government would prefer you not think about it.
See "Illegal. Illiberal. Ill-Fated," our Aug/Sept. 2009 cover story on why Washington shouldn't have bailed out the auto industry.
Today the Obama administration hosted the first-ever White House Conference on Drug Policy Reform. But don't be confused: Although "drug policy reform" usually means moving away from the use of violence to stop people from consuming arbitrarily proscribed psychoactive substances, that is not what President Obama has in mind.
"Drug policy reform should be rooted in neuroscience, not political science," says Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, in the email message announcing the conference. "It should be a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue. That's what a 21st-century approach to drug policy looks like."
In truth, this 21st-century approach to drug policy looks a lot like the 20th-century approach to drug policy. Kerlikowske, who is still upset that he does not get credit for ending the war on drugs when he took office in 2009, thinks enlightenment in this area means forcing drug users into "treatment" by threatening them with jail rather than sending them directly to jail. He needs the heavy hand of the state not only to impose treatment on recalcitrant drug users but to imprison people who supply them with the drugs they want. That is why Kerlikowske says drug policy is "not just a criminal justice issue"—because he cannot imagine a drug policy that does not entail locking people in cages for actions that violate no one's rights, whether those actions involve using politically disfavored intoxicants or helping people do so.
Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of the anti-pot group Project SAM, likewise tries to distract attention from the half a million Americans imprisoned for drug offenses. "For too long drug policy has been caught in between the false dichotomy of legalization versus incarceration," Kennedy says in a press release about the White House conference, where he co-chaired a panel. The alternative to legalization is continued prohibition, which requires incarceration. Prohibitionists like Kennedy and Kerlikowske should have the courage to defend stripping people of their liberty for doing nothing more than supplying a product to eager buyers. Instead they pretend this is not happening.
As for Kerlikowske's claim that he seeks to depoliticize drug policy, that is impossible as long as the government tries to dictate what people put into their bodies. How can such an endeavor be anything but political? The Obama administration, for example, is committed to defending the position that marijuana, which the Drug Enforcement Administration's chief administrative law judge once called "the safest therapeutically active substance known to man," has a high potential for abuse, lacks medical value, and cannot be used safely even under a doctor's supervision. This is Kerlikowske's idea of sound science.
Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, argues that Kerlikowske's avowed respect for neuroscience is also belied by his continued support for a policy that encourages people to use a more dangerous intoxicant instead of marijuana. “Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it poses far less harm to the brain than alcohol," says Tvert, co-author of Marijuana Is Safer. "The ONDCP has long championed laws that steer adults toward using alcohol and away from making the safer choice to use marijuana. If the drug czar is truly committed to prioritizing neuroscience over political science, he should support efforts to make marijuana a legal alternative to alcohol for adults."
- routing applicants to Medicaid, even when they're not qualified for that program, and threatening to leave them without any coverage at all. Another glitch in Healthcare.gov: It's
- Edward Snowden will give evidence about spying to the European Parliament, despite much huffing and puffing by British Conservatives.
- Former San Diego Mayor and serial-groper Bob Filner was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement—including his entire apartment complex—and $1,500 in fines for charges including felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery. Stay away from the pool, folks.
- Iran's foreign minister says the long-awaited nuclear deal hammered out in Geneva is off the table if the U.S. imposes new sanctions.
- An FBI probe into jail misconduct led to the arrest of at least three Los Angeles County sheriff's officials so far, with more busts expected.
- Bitcoin—it's not just for cyberanarchists, any more. The virtual currency is gaining an increasingly mainstream following. Not that there's anything wrong with cyberanarchists.
- Catch Reason's own Matt Welch on The Independents, a new roundtable discussion TV program emphasizing economic and civil liberties. It's hosted by Reason.tv's Lisa Kennedy Montgomery (Kennedy), also features Kmele Foster, and debuts tonight on FOX Business Network at 9pm ET.
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A piece of legislation in Ohio is causing some controversy as it aims to affect the practice of religion. The bill's proponents say it will reinforce the First Amendment's protection of religious freedom, whereas its detractors are concerned that it will blur the line between church and state.
State Representatives Tim Derickson (R-Oxford) and Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) introduced the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) last Wednesday. The bill would require that the state demonstrate “compelling government interest” to create any laws, policies, or regulations that place burdens on the exercise of religion.
Patmon announced at a press conference that “this legislation will help reassert the foundation upon which this country was founded and has grown and prospered on—freedom of religion and the practice of it.”
However, various groups are arguing about the legality of the bill, and whether it would protect religion or push it on others. At odds on the issues are the American Civil Liberties Union's communications coordinator, Nick Worner, and the Alliance Defending Freedom's legal counsel, Joseph LaRue. The Columbus Dispatch reports:
“The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Whatever a piece of state legislation does, it’s not going to trump the U.S. Constitution,” Worner said. “Individual religious freedom is extremely important, but it’s never been a free pass to impose your religious beliefs on other people.”
LaRue, who helped draft the Ohio bill, agrees with the ACLU that the U.S. Constitution is the law of the land, but adds, “That’s only part of the story.”
“The U.S. Constitution is a baseline,” he said. “States can go above and beyond what the U.S. Constitution provides.”
“What we’ve seen in states without RFRA is an increasing and creeping reduction in religious freedom,” LaRue said. “They are taking away rights of individuals to live their lives in public consistent with their faith.”
Another Dispatch article quotes Patrick Elliott of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He warns that “the wording is so broad that all aspects of state enforcement, state statutes, and local ordinances would be impacted.”
On the other hand, Patmon's and Derickson's bill finds precedence in the federal RFRA, which passed twenty years ago, and 17 similar state-based pieces of legislation, none of which have resulted in the cataclysm against which Elliot warns.
How exactly the bill will play out if passed is unknown. Responding to a recent incident in which the ACLU persuaded an Ohio public school to remove religious artwork, LaRue and Patmon – who are on the same side of the debate over the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act – expressed contradictory opinions in the Dispatch about how the legislation would affect such situations.
With 45 cosponsors, nearly half of the state's representatives have expressed support for the bill. The vast majority of cosponsors are Republicans.
shot at a minivan full of children when the driver, Oriana Farrell, tried to pull away a second time after being stopped for going 71 in a 55. Dascham video shows an officer trying to smash the passenger side window before Farrell drove away the second time. Police said they were trying to shoot out the minivan’s tires, but as Jess Remington noted then, police experts don’t consider that a safe practice. Police eventually arrested Farrell, charging her with fleeing an officer, child abuse, and possession of drug paraphernalia (two marijuana pipes were allegedly found in the minivan). Her attorney has claimed Farrell drove away fearing for the safety of her children in the presence of police, and that if anyone ought to be charged with child abuse it should be the officer who shot.Last month, a cop in New Mexico
Now, after a disciplinary hearing, that officer, Elias Montoya, has been fired, a decision made by the state’s police chief, who said the “buck stops” with him. But, because he’s a public sector employee with public union privileges, Montoya is appealing that decision. His attorneys provided no comment to the AP on the merits of the case, only that they intended to appeal on their client’s behalf. And being afforded that privilege, why wouldn’t he?
h/t to sarcasmic, who pointed this out in my earlier post about a sexually inappropriate middle school teacher it’s taken too long to fire thanks to generous privileges afforded public sector employees.
In the London Review of Books--in a story that both the Washington Post and the New Yorker could have printed but chose not to, the Post having told Hersh they didn't find the sourcing solid enough--journalist Seymour Hersh lays out at great length his reasons for thinking the case against the Assad regime for poison gas attacks is unproven.
Excerpts and summation: Hersh's first point is the administration knew that the al-Nusra front, a rebel group with Al Qaeda ties, also had access to sarin.
Then he found various (anonymous) sources he says should be in a position to know who doubt the administration's assurance of blame:
One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’
The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack. The military intelligence community has for years produced a highly classified early morning intelligence summary, known as the Morning Report, for the secretary of defence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a copy also goes to the national security adviser and the director of national intelligence. The Morning Report includes no political or economic information, but provides a summary of important military events around the world, with all available intelligence about them. A senior intelligence consultant told me that some time after the attack he reviewed the reports for 20 August through 23 August. For two days – 20 and 21 August – there was no mention of Syria. On 22 August the lead item in the Morning Report dealt with Egypt; a subsequent item discussed an internal change in the command structure of one of the rebel groups in Syria. Nothing was noted about the use of nerve gas in Damascus that day. It was not until 23 August that the use of sarin became a dominant issue, although hundreds of photographs and videos of the massacre had gone viral within hours on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites. At this point, the administration knew no more than the public.
And Hersh argues that they probably should have known more than the public if it was Assad, because of a supposedly very effective "secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal" which allegedly worked last December to see a possible sarin attack planned (or maybe just an exercise for one), which triggered Obama's first "red line" warning to Assad about using gas weapons.
Hersh goes on to make much of the fact that the intelligence later presented indicating possible Syrian official preparation for a gas attack was not obtained and understood in real time before the attack occured but merely reconstructed later. (Given that he admits the U.S. lacks fully efficient real time surveillance of all Assad regime communication, this doesn't seem such a slam dunk argument.)MORE »
As advertised, there's a brand new TV show in the universe, anchored by Reason.tv contributor Kennedy, co-hosted by Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch and occasional Reason contributor Kmele Foster. It's called The Independents, will approach politics and culture from an unorthodox spirit and point of view familiar to readers of this website, and you can find it on a Fox Business Network channel near you.
The show will air Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Fridays for 1 hour between 9 and 10 pm. (Thursdays in that time slot is reserved for the one and only Stossel, who a little birdie tells me may be a participant in this evening's live broadcast.)
We will have an open thread later for heckling and/or fashion critiques, but for now please sign up early and often for The Independents on various social media platforms:
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The Los Angeles Times is reporting that more than twelve current and former Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) officials will be arrested following grand jury hearings into whether officers hid FBI informant, Anthony Brown, from federal handlers:
At least one witness testified that sheriff's officials moved the inmate and changed his name in an attempt to hide him from federal agents, and that top officials in the department played a role in the plan, according to another source familiar with the grand jury testimony.
Sheriff's officials insist they were not hiding Brown from the FBI but protecting him from other deputies.
Brown told the FBI the names of corrupt deputies and incidences of excessive force inside the LASD Men's Central Jail. He was found out in August 2011 during a cell search when jail deputies found the phone Brown used to communicate with the FBI. From the LA Times in 2012:
Brown said FBI agents rushed into the jail to visit him soon after they learned his cover had been blown. But as the meeting began, Brown said, a sheriff's investigator came in and ended it. "This…visit is over," the official said, according to Brown.
Brown said sheriff's officials moved him, changed his name several times and grilled him about what he knew and whether he would testify in the federal investigation.
"I didn't know it then, but they were hiding me from the feds," said Brown, who is serving 423 years to life in prison for armed robbery.
More details about the charges are expected after a press conference at 1pm (Pacific) with officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI.
LOS ANGELES – Five criminal cases that charge a total of 18 current or one-time deputy sheriffs of various ranks were unsealed today as part of ongoing and wide-ranging FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights violations and corruption involving members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Four grand jury indictments and one criminal complaint allege crimes that include unjustified beatings of jail inmates and visitors at downtown Los Angeles jail facilities, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.
Federal authorities announced the charges after 16 of the defendants were taken into custody earlier today. Those defendants are expected to be arraigned on the charges this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
The LA Times has also posted a copy of the indictment against seven officers a part of hiding informant Brown from FBI handlers.
For more on the LASD and misconduct within the department, read and watch LA County Sheriff's Hassle Photographer, Trample Constitution, Get Lauded by Bosses:
An unnamed American official has told CNN that U.S. military planes will be used to transport French and African peacekeepers to the Central African Republic.
Troops will be flown from Burundi to the Central African Republic capital of Bangui, which has been wracked with violence.
The American military also expects to fly in some French troops, which are working to secure the airport and disarm some militia members.
The United States will provide security for its planes, but there is no indication on the number of troops involved. The operations is expected to be relatively small.
Violence on the ground, which has included machetes, knives, rifles and grenades, will be a "big factor" in any U.S. operation, the official said.
Last week, the French began their intervention in CAR after the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the use of military force in the former French colony.
The British are already assisting the French, having sent military equipment on a C-17 to help with the peacekeeping mission.
Since the intervention began French troops have begun patrolling the streets of Bangui, CAR’s capital, and have come under fire while trying to disarm rebels in an incident French officials described as “insignificant.”
For the last several years, American and British intelligence agencies have been conducting surveillance operations inside of online video game worlds Second Life and World of Warcraft, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming service, according to a report in The New York Times, ProPublica, and The Guardian. The operations, which neither British spies nor the NSA would confirm, stemmed from fears amongst the spy agencies that the games would be used by terrorists for communications and financial transactions.
The whole project appears to have been a bust, however, with millions of dollars spent for little if any meaningful success in stopping terrorists. A few lowlights from the report:
There were so many government snoops running around Second Life that they had to set up a management team to make sure they didn’t all run into each other. “So many C.I.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a 'deconfliction' group was needed to avoid collisions.”
The spies didn’t ask for permission from World of Warcraft’s creators. “One American company, the maker of World of Warcraft, said that neither the N.S.A. nor its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, had gotten permission to gather intelligence in its game.”
They didn’t have any actual evidence that terrorists relied on the games in their plots. “In the 2008 N.S.A. document, titled “Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments,” the agency said that “terrorist target selectors” — which could be a computer’s Internet Protocol address or an email account — “have been found associated with Xbox Live, Second Life, World of Warcraft” and other games. But that document does not present evidence that terrorists were participating in the games.”
There’s no indication that the spying stopped any terrorist attacks. “The documents, obtained by The Guardian and shared with The New York Times and ProPublica, do not cite any counterterrorism successes from the effort.”
In-game communications were subject to mass collection. “One document says that while GCHQ was testing its ability to spy on Second Life in real time, British intelligence officers vacuumed up three days’ worth of Second Life chat, instant message and financial transaction data, totaling 176,677 lines of data, which included the content of the communications.”
U.S. defense forces created mobile video games designed to spy on users. “The Pentagon’s Special Operations Command in 2006 and 2007 worked with several foreign companies — including an obscure digital media business based in Prague — to build games that could be downloaded to mobile phones, according to people involved in the effort. They said the games, which were not identified as creations of the Pentagon, were then used as vehicles for intelligence agencies to collect information about the users.”
The government spent millions of dollars on video game behavior research to reach really, really obvious conclusions. “A group at the Palo Alto Research Center, for example, produced a government-funded study of World of Warcraft that found ‘younger players and male players preferring competitive, hack-and-slash activities, and older and female players preferring noncombat activities,’ such as exploring the virtual world. A group from the nonprofit SRI International, meanwhile, found that players under age 18 often used all capital letters both in chat messages and in their avatar names.”
No word yet, however, on how many government agents hit the level cap, or what they really thought about all the business with the magic pandas.
suspended (without pay!) for the last 20 months over a series of sexual harassment complaints made by students and at least one fellow teacher. The teacher, James Lang, was tenured and under a union contract that meant the school’s decision to terminate him could be reviewed by a state judge. The administrative judge ruled last week that Lang should be fired, that he was “not fit to lead in an educational institution,” that he “violated all standards of decency,” and that the middle school teacher’s “grotesque and sexual behavior” helped create “a sexually demeaning environment.” Lang was accused of calling his female students hos, whores, and prostitutes, and making sexual advances toward them as well as at least one female teacher.A middle school teacher in Woodbridge was
Amazingly, the judge’s decision is still not final. Lang’s attorney, who denies the charges, says he is planning to appeal the decision; it can be overturned by the state education commissioner. These are the benefits of tenure, a concept originally formulated to protect college-level educators from reprisals for teaching unpopular subjects or opinions, not to protect perverts who manage to land jobs at middle schools. How did Lang get to tenure in the first place? The accusations date back to 2003, the year Lang started with the Woodbridge Public Schools, but he received “consistently satisfactory” performance evaluations, according to MyCentralJersey.com, which also reports he worked at three schools in the district. Among the accusations against Lang related to his interaction with middle school students were:
• Calling a student “Jo-Jo the Ho-Ho” and a “dirty ho,” slang terms for a prostitute.
• Calling a student a whore and suggesting that she wear less clothing on dress-down day.
• Telling a female student who bent over to pick up a paper that he would “tap that.”
• Asking students during class whether they would be afraid if his “snake were in their bed.”
• Saying that a female student’s “mouth was fast and on the weekends it runs extra fast.”
• Telling his class that he used to watch students shower at a former job at a community center.
Despite public sector unions insisting their employees have the right to “due process” in employment, not being terminated immediately for these kinds of accusations, at the discretion of administration, is not a right, nor a privilege that ought to be extended to them.
Back in 2012, Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) asked the telephone companies to supply records of the number of times law enforcement asked for their customers cell phone data. It turns out that the wireless surveillance of Americans is quite extensive. The telcos revealed that they had received 1.3 million requests for wireless data from federal, state, and local law enforcement in 2011.
This year, the telcos reported to Markey that they received 1.1 million requests for cell phone data from law enforcement in 2012. The New York Times notes that this figure is not comparable to the 2011 numbers because Sprint declined to answer all of the senator's queries. In a press release from his office, Sen. Markey declared:
"As law enforcement uses new technology to protect the public from harm, we also must protect the information of innocent Americans from misuse. We need a 4th amendment for the 21st century. Disclosure of personal information from wireless devices raises significant legal and privacy concerns, particularly for innocent consumers."
The senator further noted:
"If the police want to know where you are, we should know why. When law enforcement access location information, it as sensitive and personal as searching an individual’s home and should be treated commensurately."
The Senator plans to introduce legislation that would curb law enforcement cell phone surveillance: The legislation would...
- Require regular disclosures from law enforcement on the nature and volume of requests.
- Curb bulk data information requests such as cell tower dumps that capture information on a large group of mobile phone users at a particular period of time, and require that any request be more narrowly tailored, when possible.
- Require, in the case of emergency circumstances, a signed, sworn statement from law enforcement authorities after receipt of information from a carrier that justifies the need for the emergency access.
- Mandate creation of rules by the Federal Communications Commission to limit how long wireless carriers can retain consumers’ personal information. Right now, no such standards exist.
- Require location tracking authorization only with a warrant when there is probable cause to believe it will uncover evidence of a crime. This is the traditional standard for police to search individual homes.
In my January 2013 article,"Your
Cell Phone is Spying on You," I argued:
Cultivating and maintaining a society of free and responsible individuals is impossible under the permanent Panoptic gaze of the government. Ubiquitous surveillance becomes indistinguishable from totalitarianism. “The ultimate check on government as a whole is its inability to know everything about those it governs,” Keizer writes in Privacy. In other words, state ignorance is the citizenry’s bliss.
Probable cause warrants should be the least requirement for giving the police the power to spy on individual citizens.
Go here for the telco reports sent to Markey.
"I view one of the big myths of the [2007-08 financial] crisis as that it was purely the effect of free markets, that this is what happens when you have free markets," says Jim Bruce, filmmaker behind the new documentary "Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve."
Bruce predicted the meltdown, invested accordingly, and used the money he made from the collapse to fund his movie, which features interviews with economists who predicted the crisis, as well as former and current Federal Reserve officials such as Paul Volcker and future Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
Bruce sat down with Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller to discuss the film and his thoughts on current Fed policy, incoming Fed Chair Janet Yellen, the legacy of alleged free marketeer Alan Greenspan, and the future of the U.S. economy and monetary system.
Approximately 9 minutes. Shot by Tracy Oppenheimer, Alex Manning, and Alexis Garcia. Edited by Zach Weissmueller.
Watch the video above, or click the link below for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV’s YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material goes live.View this article
The news comes a few days after Paul said that his wife opposes him running.
(Reuters) - Republican Senator Rand Paul said on Sunday he is giving serious thought to a run for the presidency in 2016 but might decide against it because of the burden a campaign would cause for his family.
"Well, you know, the thought has crossed my mind," the Kentucky senator said on "Fox News Sunday." "And I am seriously thinking about it.
"But I'm also very serious about the family considerations."
Paul, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, said politics had become "uncivil" and that sometimes "you have a good week" and other times "the haters and the hacks go after you."
More from Reason.com on Rand Paul here.
today is reporting that various members of the European Parliament are working to arrange for video testimony from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden before that body's committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs. From The Guardian: The Guardian
The LIBE committee would most likely want questions on what role other European information services played in data gathering for the NSA, and whether servers and data networks in the EU were used as part of the process...
European parliament sources considered it likely committee members would vote in favour of a Snowden hearing, with the only vocal opposition from British Tory MEPs...
Sarah Ludford, the Lib Dem MEP, said: "Edward Snowden's revelations merit serious debate on whether the intelligence services are out of control. But if Snowden's video appearance is to be more than a high-profile stunt, it is essential that he is asked the right questions, including whether he had any other motivation than the public interest.
"We also need to get testimony from the intelligence chiefs responsible if we are to give European citizens the answers they deserve."
After President Obama pardons Snowden, perhaps he could testify about the constitutional abuses of national security surveillance in the U.S. before the judiciary and intelligence committees in both Houses of Congress.
Back in February, President Obama proposed “working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.” This is worrisome, says A. Barton Hinkle, because the claim was bunk. Yet, the president’s proposal enjoys growing support.View this article
Reason's annual webathon ends at midnight on Wednesday, December 11. So far, 449 generous readers - including one jaw-dropping gift of $50,000! - have donated $127,000 in dollars and Bitcoins. We still need $23,000 to hit our target of $150,000.
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open letter to President Barack Obama and to Members of Congress urging them to rein in the growth of the national security surveillance state. From the letter:Today, eight leading internet companies have published in several major newspapers an
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.
For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.
We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight.
The companies behind the letter are AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo. They set out a list of five principles at the ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com website including (1) no bulk collection of user data; (2) independent judicial review of intelligence agency demands, (3) transparent reports on what is being compelled; (4) no country firewalls against cross border data; and (5) a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) among countries to prevent conflicts.
Given the attitudes of authoritarian governments with respect to the internet privacy of their citizens, a comprehensive MLAT that also protects the constitutioinal rights of American citizens to be free from government surveillance might be difficult to negotiate. Or sadly, given the Edward Snowden revelations about the extent of National Security Agency spying, perhaps not that difficult after all.
Privacy violations mean something very different when companies collect collect vast amounts of customer data in order to target ads and services (as annoying as that may be to some users) than when governments collect the similar information in order to monitor the activities of their citizens. The government gaze is a lot more threatening to liberty than is the Google gaze.
- launching a campaign to call for restrictions on US surveillance and more transparency about the practices involved. Google, Apple, Microsoft, and other tech companies are
- The FBI has reportedly had the ability for years to operate laptop cameras remotely without the users’ knowledge.
- Rand Paul says his wife doesn’t want him to run for president in 2016 but that he’s a “very able politician” who should be able to convince her otherwise.
- Democrats believe Scott Brown may run for Senate again, in New Hampshire, and want to be prepared for it.
- Rick Santorum compared the fight against apartheid to the one against Obamacare, saying both were against “great injustices.”
- A TSA agent at the St. Louis airport confiscated the two-inch toy pistol of a cowboy sock monkey, because, she argued, it could be mistaken for a real gun.
- Pro-Europe protesters in the Ukraine toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin, a symbol of Russian nationalism.
- Six people were reportedly admitted into a hospital in central Mexico for radiation exposure. They may be linked to last week’s hijacking of a truck carrying radioactive material.
Have a news tip? Send it to us!
If you thought the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) couldn't stoop any lower, you'd be wrong. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the agency responsible for setting off the events that led to Waco and were at the center of the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal are using mentally disabled teenagers to advertise businessess that are actually fronts for ATF sting operations.
The Journal Sentinel's expose leads with the tale of Aaron Key, a 19-year-old stoner whose mind is not quite all there. The ower of a head shop in Portland, Oregon, befriended Key and his friends online and then paid them to get neck tattoos advertising "Squid's Smoke Shop."
He and his friend, Marquis Glover, liked Squid's. It was their hangout. The 19-year-olds spent many afternoons there playing Xbox and chatting with the owner, "Squid," and the store clerks.
So they took the money and got the ink etched on their necks, tentacles creeping down to their collarbones.
It would be months before the young men learned the whole thing was a setup. The guys running Squid's were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.
The tattoos had been sponsored by the U.S. government; advertisements for a fake storefront.
The teens found out as they were arrested and booked into jail.
Earlier this year, when the Journal Sentinel reported on an ATF sting operation in Milwaukee involving a "low IQ" informant, authorities wrote it off as an isolated act of rogue agents. The Journal Sentinel documents at least half-a-dozen stings from around the country that use the same "rogue" tactics of creating fake storefronts and using low IQ people to set stings in cities such as Pensacola, Florida, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Wichita, Kansas.MORE »
To achieve any ambitious goal, you have to want it badly enough to work and sacrifice. But there is such a thing as trying too hard. Overzealous pursuit of your heart's desire can end up chasing it away. The Chinese government may be learning that right now. China, a great civilization brought low by foreign powers in the 19th and 20th centuries, has long burned to acquire a global stature corresponding to its self-image. Its transformation from an economic catastrophe to an export machine has made it a much bigger player in world affairs. But sometimes, writes Steve Chapman, efforts to assert itself generate not respect and cooperation but fear and resistance.View this article
make offensive remarks against the country could be fined up to 30,000 euros. The measure now goes to parliament.The Spanish government has recommended increasing fines for unauthorized street protests up to 600,000 euros. The maximum fine would apply only if protests turn violent, but those who cover their faces or who
On December 3, Reason's Paul Detrick filed a report from Southern California, where Fullerton cops are on trial for the killing of Kelly Thomas, a homeless shizophrenic they apprehended at a bus depot.
Detrick's earlier reports on the story not only exposed police actions that were at best misguided and at worst criminal; he also underscored the ways in which new media brought the case to public attention.
Here's the original writeup of his dispatch from the start of the trial:
The trial of former Fullerton, California, police officers, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli began December 2, 2013, in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old drifter with schizophrenia. Thomas died after a July, 2011, altercation with six police officers in which he was tasered, beaten with batons, and hit repeatedly in the face with the end of a Taser. Ramos is charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree murder and Cicinelli is charged with excessive force and involuntary manslaughter.
Opening statements from District Attorney Tony Rackauckas detailed Thomas begging the officers to stop.
"He posed no threat at all, to the police or to anyone else," said Rackauckas to jurors. The District Attorney dramatically demonstrated the events of the encounter using a wooden police baton.
Last Thursday, writes Nick Gillespie, protesters in over 100 cities stood outside of fast-food joints and called for doubling the wages of burger flippers and fry-vat operators from $7.25 an hour (the current federal minimum) to at least $15.
View this article
Regardless of how much solidarity or sympathy you might feel about the people who assemble your Triple Steak Stack or your Cheesy Gordita Crunch, this sort of demand is economic fantasy at its most delusional and counterproductive. Doubling the wages of low-skilled workers during a period of prolonged joblessness is a surefire way not just to swell the ranks of the reserve army of the unemployed but to increase automation at your local Taco Bell.
If you’re reading this on the job, take a look around and ask yourself if your workplace could soak up twice its labor costs without seriously trimming the number of employees. While you’re at it, ask yourself if you’re worth twice your current salary.
led at the time to an internal investigation by the police department and a promise to quit it. The term “nickel ride” comes from a time when amusement rides cost a nickel, and the practice is apparently as old.Reporting by the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2001 about so-called “nickel rides,” the practice of Philadelphia police throwing suspects into police vans without any seatbelts or other restraints and then driving recklessly with the intent to cause suspects harm,
The Inquirer noted that these rides led to “massive civil settlements,” including one case in which a man who alleged he was paralyzed during a “nickel ride” was paid out $1.2 million. Twelve years later, the Inquirer reports the practice may still be alive and well, focusing on three recent lawsuits alleging injury from police van rides, including one that began with an altercation between an off-duty cop and the subsequently injured victim. Via the Inquirer:
[Officer James] O'Shea was off duty and in plainclothes at the time. He says he was forced to subdue [James] McKenna and arrest him after McKenna punched a bartender in a Center City tavern.
"He was highly intoxicated and highly aggressive," O'Shea said in an interview.
McKenna denies hitting a bartender. He said the incident began after he saw a woman he knew at the bar and sent her and a friend a drink. When the women refused the drinks, McKenna said he went over to ask why.
At that point, he said, O'Shea flashed his badge and told him to leave. As he started to walk away, McKenna said, the officer jumped him from behind.
O'Shea summoned police and they arrived in an emergency patrol wagon.
"F- this guy up," McKenna said O'Shea told his fellow officers.
O'Shea denied that. "That's completely false, 100 percent," he said.
Handcuffed, McKenna was put in the back of a police wagon. He said he wasn't strapped in.
He said the van took off, taking turns at high speeds, then braking suddenly, throwing him from the seat and to the floor.
McKenna was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor. At a trial, the bartender testified that McKenna had struck him, but McKenna said he had not seen the bartender that night. The judge found McKenna not guilty.
McKenna withdrew his lawsuit last year when his attorney dropped out after McKenna’s neck surgeon said he planned to testify it was possible for McKenna to have injured himself. McKenna tells the Inquirer he wants to refile his lawsuit, asking “"What if I'd broke an officer's neck?" Read the rest of the Inquirer article, which includes the story of one suspect who died two weeks after allegedly being taken on a “nickel ride,” here. Philadelphia’s police commissioner, who previously invited the FBI to review his department’s use of deadly force, did not offer the newspaper any comment.
On the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, it's a great time to revisit one of ReasonTV's earliest productions - Mexicans and Machines: Drew Carey on NAFTA.
Here is the orginal text from the June 28, 2008 video:
Campaign season is just getting warmed up, but looking back on the primaries we've already seen plenty of the usual fare: candidates shaking hands, hanging out at diners, and scaring voters about foreigners who are taking your jobs.
Sometimes the threat comes from China, Japan, or outsourcing to India. Today, it's NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement-you know, all those Mexicans taking our jobs.
Senator Barack Obama joins the likes of CNN's Lou Dobbs in decrying NAFTA. So many free trade foes fret about cheap foreign labor, yet they rarely holler about competitors who will work for far less than any foreigner. Politicians don't pay much attention to it, but-from Terminator toIce Pirates-Hollywood films have been warning us about humanity's inevitable war against the machines.
"Now, think about it," says Reason.tv host Drew Carey. "How are we supposed to compete against something that doesn't get paid, doesn't get health insurance, and never goes on breaks?"
Today, we don't need human workers to book our travel, do our banking, or file our taxes. From factory workers to symphony conductors, countless workers are locked in battle with soulless job stealers known as computers, websites, and robots.
"No job is safe from the robot threat!" warns Carey. Of course, the warning is more than a little tongue-in-cheek. There's no need to take a sledgehammer to a robot, because, although technology shakes up the labor market, it ends up giving us higher living standards as well as more and better job opportunities.
Like technology, trade gives us more good stuff than bad-yet Americans are likely to cheer technology and fear trade. No doubt TV talkers and White House wannabes will keep stoking our fears of foreigners until voters and viewers stop buying it-or until robots snag their jobs, too.
Here's yet another reason to support Reason during our annual webathon: We're out on the streets covering all sorts of events that matter.
Consider last Thursday, when the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) coordinated "wage strikes" in over 100 cities and called for a minimum wage of $15 an hour for fast-food workers. Reason TV covered the event held in New York City and filed a report that you didn't see on your evening news.
Take a look by clicking above and read the original writeup of our coverage by going below the fold.
If you appreciate this sort of thing, please consider giving us a tax-deductible donation. Details on all that here.MORE »
We are at a turning point in medicine, Peter Huber explains in his new book, The Cure in the Code. Knowledge of the individual's genetic makeup will soon allow molecular medicine to reach deep inside each of us to cure most of the maladies that afflict us—and perhaps even slow the rate at which we age. First we will learn to understand each person's genome; then we will learn to craft treatments tailored to his or her genetic constitution. But it may not be so easy—and not for purely scientific reasons. Timid regulators at the Food and Drug Administration stand in the way of dramatic medical progress. Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey's review first appeared in the Wall Street Journal.View this article
Before we get to the sales pitch here on Day Five of Reason's annual webathon—in which we ask our readers to contribute dollars or Bitcoins to the 501(c)3 nonprofit that makes all our libertarian journalism and commentary possible—a little palate cleanser:
That clip was embedded in an obituary here six weeks back, titled "How Lou Reed Inspired Anti-Communist Revolutionaries and the Rest of Us." It was the latest installment in the ongoing Reason genre of coverage of defending popular or "low" culture against political attacks from the left and right, and celebrating how the stuff can liberate the world in ways wholly unintended its creators.
Here's a great Reason.tv compendium of ridiculous congressional attacks on culture, as put together by Anthony Fisher:
Here's another classic, "Bollywood vs. Bin Laden: Why radical Islam fears pop culture," as anchored by Shikha Dalmia:
Partisan/ideological bores tend to treat music, film, art, and other expressions of culture either instrumentally—judging a work by how well it satisfies a particular political mission—or reactionarily, by trying to play defense against a perceived assault on decent human values. Nick Gillespie correctly identified the mistaken frameworks, while championing individual autonomy, all the way back in February 1996:
The audience has a mind of its own. Individuals sitting in a theater, or watching television, or listening to a CD don't always see and hear things the way they're "supposed" to. [...]
That would be news to most participants in the public debate over depictions of sex and violence in movies, TV, and music. Liberals and conservatives are as tight as Beavis and Butt-head in agreeing that consumers of popular culture–the very people who make it popular–are little more than tools of the trade. Joe Sixpack and Sally Baglunch–you and I–aren't characters in this script. Just like TV sets or radios, we are dumb receivers that simply transmit whatever is broadcast to us. We do not look at movie screens; we are movie screens, and Hollywood merely projects morality–good, bad, or indifferent–onto us.
"We have reached the point where our popular culture threatens to undermine our character as a nation," Bob Dole thundered last summer in denouncing "nightmares of depravity" and calling for movies that promote "family values." "Bob Dole is a dope," responded actor-director Rob Reiner, a self-described liberal activist. Fair enough, but it apparently takes one to know one: "Hollywood should not be making exploitive violent and exploitive sex films. I think we have a responsibility [to viewers] not to poison their souls," continued Reiner, who rose to prominence playing the role of Meathead on All in the Family. [...]
Of course, it is hardly surprising that denizens of Washington and Tinseltown frame the debate so that all interpretive power resides with would-be government regulators and entertainment industry types. Clearly, it makes sense for them to conceptualize popular culture as a top-down affair, one best dealt with by broadcasters and bureaucrats. This consensus, however, has implications far beyond the well-worn notion that entertainment should be properly didactic.
Because it assumes that the viewer, the listener, or the audience member is a passive receiver of popular culture, this consensus must inevitably result in calls for regulation by the government (such as the V-chip, which is part of both the House and Senate telecommunications bills) or paternalism by producers ("More and more we're tending toward all-audience films ...that have civic values in them," Motion Picture Association of America head Jack Valenti told the Los Angeles Times). The viewer simply can't be trusted to handle difficult, sensitive, ironic material--or to bring his own interpretation to bear on what he sees.
decisive stand against totalitarians, anti-Taliban Afghan men going nuts over Leo DiCaprio, or rap/metal enthusiasts fueling the Arab Spring, American culture bemoaned by political critics at home can have galvanizing effects abroad.As we never tire in pointing out, audiences can frequently surprise you with how they use pop culture to leverage their own freedom. Whether it's dirty Czech rock musicians using the Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa to take a
Once you grant consumers the decency of their own free will in interpreting cultural works, a whole host of interesting philosophical and political implications tumble forth. I know not a small number of people whose introduction to libertarianism came through this cultural-interpretive portal. It's one that Reason works tirelessly at keeping open.
Won't you please donate to Reason today? We’re just over $115,000 of the way to our $150,000 goal, with donations from more than 375 readers. Help get us over the top, and thumb our noses at the cultural pessimists always conspiring to keep us less free. Donate to Reason right the hell now!
If politics is the art of the possible, it's at least plausible that reasonable conservatives and moderate liberals might reach a grand bargain taming the two big policy beasts: immigration and healthcare. That could happen, writes Terry Michael, director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism, if Tea Party Republicans decide they dislike Mexicans less than they despise the Affordable Care Act. And it would require enough scared moderate liberal Democrats to realize immigration liberalization is more attractive to swing voters than illusory healthcare "reform."View this article
For the first time in two decades, World Trade Organization’s (WTO) member economies approved an agreement to boost global trade, a move that could add $1tn to the world economy.
Ministers from WTO’s 159-member countries approved on Saturday a “trade facilitation” accord that will set common customs standards and ease the flow of goods through borders all over the globe.
The ministers also made decisions on several issues such as how the WTO should take action on government food security programs as well as securing better market access for the world’s least developed nations to developed economies.
India put up some resistance to a deal over some kinds of food subsidies it wanted to keep, and Cuba threatened to veto it over a removed reference to the US embargo on the country. India reached a compromise with the US to deal with food subsidies at a future meeting and Cuba withdrew its veto threat.
You can read the draft text of the declaration here. The deal covers only a portion of the issues being negotiated under the wider Doha round of WTO talks, which started in 2001.
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The criminal justice system as we know it is a product of state arrogation and a repudiation of individualism. But would a free society be a crime-free society? Sheldon Richman assures that he isn't being utopian when he says we have good reason to anticipate it.View this article