Rational Review News Digest

News


| Commentary |

Assange: “A lot more material” coming on US elections

"Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said Tuesday his whistleblowing website might release 'a lot more material' relevant to the US electoral campaign. Assange was speaking in a CNN interview following the release of nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee by suspected Russian hackers. However, Assange refused to confirm or deny a Russian origin for the mass email leak, saying Wikileaks tries to create ambiguity to protect all its sources." (07/28/16)


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Nigeria: Boko Haram ambushes humanitarian convoy, wounds five

"Nigeria's military says Boko Haram Islamic extremists have ambushed a humanitarian convoy escorted by troops, wounding three civilians including a U.N. worker and two soldiers. The attack comes as aid agencies are warning that children are dying of starvation daily among half a million people in need of urgent help in recently liberated areas that still are dangerous to reach." (07/28/16)


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Clinton thanks Democrats for sacrificing election prospects to her boundless ego

"Hillary Clinton accepted her party's nomination on Thursday completing the field for an American political campaign without historical precedent. Clinton has now officially become Republican Donald Trump's Democratic rival for the presidency of the United States. 'It is with humility, determination and boundless confidence in America's promise that I accept your nomination for President of the United States,' Clinton said." (07/28/16)


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FL: Cops mistake white flakes from Krispy Kreme doughnut for crystal meth

"An Orlando man was cleared on charges of crystal meth possession, but guilty of having a Krispy Kreme doughnut habit. A Florida cop mistook white flakes on his car's floor -- glazed sugar -- for crystal meth, charging him with possession of the illegal stimulant in December. 'I recognized through my 11 years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer the substance to be some sort of narcotic,' the officer wrote in her arrest report." [editor's note: A cop who doesn't know a doughnut after 11 years on the force? Not believable - TLK] (07/28/16)


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Cosby drops lawsuit against sexual assault accuser

"Bill Cosby has dropped his lawsuit against Andrea Constand, whose accusations led to his pending criminal trial outside Philadelphia. The Canadian woman, an ex-Temple University employee, has accused Cosby of drugging and assaulting her in 2004 in suburban Philadelphia. Cosby has maintained the encounter was consensual. Cosby sued Constand in February for breach-of-contract, saying Constand violated a confidentiality agreement they reached in 2006, after she filed a civil suit against him the year prior." (07/28/16)


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Chinese, Russian navies to hold joint drills in South China Sea

"China says it is to hold joint military exercises with Russia in the South China Sea, amid heightened tensions over the disputed waters. The announcement follows a ruling by an international tribunal earlier this month that rejected China's claims in the region. The Chinese government has vowed to ignore the ruling. China's defence ministry said September's drills would be 'routine' and would not 'target any third party.' Spokesman Yang Yujun said the exercises would be carried out in the 'relevant sea and air of the South China Sea,' but did not give exact locations." (07/28/16)


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Report: Washingtonians spending as much on legal cannabis as on alcohol

"Americans are now lighting up joints as much as they are cracking open beers, a new report finds. An analysis of Washington’s legal marijuana market has found that the typical male customer spends about $647 annually on cannabis products compared to an average of $645 a year on alcohol, reports Market Watch. The survey conducted by Headset, a marijuana sales tracking company, examined 40,000 consumers based in Washington and their expense trends at local dispensaries. Males are the overwhelming majority of pot buyers, who make up 70 percent of dispensary loyalty club members. While 36 percent of those members are between the ages of 21 and 29, male cannabis consumers are also becoming much older, as the average age of loyalty club members is 37." (07/27/16)


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Boeing considers ending 747 production

"Boeing has hinted it may be forced to end production of its iconic 747 jumbo jet amid a prolonged sales slump. 'If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated, ... it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747,' Boeing said in a regulatory filing quoted by Reuters. With its signature hump that houses a second deck, Boeing’s 747 is perhaps the world’s most-recognizable jet -- and one that’s beloved by fliers." (07/28/16)


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Peru gets new president and pro-business cabinet

"Peruvian Presidential elect, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski assumed office on Thursday. Peru’s Foreign Ministry has stated that foreign delegations from 80 countries are expected to attend Kuczynski’s inaugural ceremony. Guests who have confirmed their participation include the Presidents of Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay. Spanish King Emeritus Juan Carlos I also arrived in Peru for the occasion. With decades-long experience in the private sector, this will be Kuczynski’s first major public role." (07/28/16)


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FDA orders blood collection halt in Florida counties amid Zika probe

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered all blood collection centers in Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward counties to stop collecting blood as state health department officials continue to investigate four possible cases of local transmission of the Zika virus. In a statement posted on its website on Wednesday, the FDA said blood centers should stop collecting blood in the two counties until they can implement testing for the Zika virus in each unit of blood collected, or until they can put in place technology that can kill pathogens in collected blood. The FDA also recommends that nearby counties implement the same measures to maintain the safety of the U.S. blood supply." (07/28/16)


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FCC gang seeks bribe from AT&T for skimming from subsidy scheme

"AT&T overcharged two Florida school districts for phone service and should have to pay about $170,000 to the US government to settle the allegations, the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday. AT&T disputes the charges and will contest the decision. The FCC issued a Notice of Apparently Liability (NAL) to AT&T, an initial step toward enforcing the proposed punishment. The alleged overcharges relate to the FCC's E-Rate program, which funds telecommunications for schools and libraries and is paid for by Americans through surcharges on phone bills. The FCC said AT&T should have to repay $63,760 it improperly received from the FCC in subsidies for phone service provided to Orange and Dixie Counties and pay an additional fine of $106,425. AT&T prices charged to the districts were almost 400 percent higher than they should have been, according to the FCC." (07/28/16)


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New threat in fight against overdoses: Elephant sedative

"A drug used to sedate elephants and other large animals, 100 times as potent as the fentanyl already escalating the country's heroin troubles, is suspected in spates of overdoses in several states, where authorities say they've found it mixed with or passed off as heroin. The appearance of carfentanil, one of the most potent opioids known to investigators, adds another twist to the fight against opioid painkillers in a country already awash in heroin and fentanyl cases. 'It certainly is a very disturbing trend,' Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. A man suspected of selling carfentanil as heroin was indicted this week in central Ohio on 20 counts, including murder, in connection with a July 10 death and nine other overdoses that happened within hours of one another. Some of the surviving users told investigators they thought they were buying heroin, but testing found none," [editor's note: Seems like this threat is not so "new;" anyone remember back when they mistakenly labeled PCP as "elephant tranquilizers"? - SAT] (07/28/16)


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UK: May warned plans to curb EU migration will be opposed by Eastern European nations

"Theresa May has been warned that her plans to curb the migration of EU nationals is likely to be opposed by Eastern European nations during a visit to Slovakia. Robert Fico, the Slovakian Prime Minister, said the 'perception British voters have' of EU migration was 'slightly different to how we perceive migration on the continent.' Earlier this month Mrs May faced a backlash from her own MPs over her refusal to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote." (07/28/16)


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US weekly jobless claims total 266k vs. 260k estimate

"The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, but the underlying trend continued to point to sustained labor market strength. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 266,000 for the week ended July 23, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 fewer applications received than previously reported." (07/28/16)


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Syria: Regime, Russians to open aid, exit corridors in besieged Aleppo

"Syrian and Russian forces are to open humanitarian corridors for people to flee the besieged city of Aleppo, both countries' state media reported Thursday, the day after Syria's army announced it had encircled the city and cut off rebel supply routes. Three relief corridors would be set up to distribute food and medical aid to civilians in a 'large-scale humanitarian operation,' Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, while a fourth would be established in northern Aleppo for rebels who wished to lay down arms and surrender, according to Russian state media."


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LastPass bug lets hackers steal all your passwords

"A critical zero-day flaw has been discovered in the popular cloud password manager LastPass that could allow any remote attacker to compromise your account completely. LastPass is a password manager that also available as a browser extension that automatically fills credentials for you. All you need is to remember one master password to unlock all other passwords of your different online accounts, making it much easier for you to use unique passwords for different sites." (07/27/16)


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UK: Court rejects Corbyn ballot challenge

"A judge has rejected a challenge to Labour's decision to allow Jeremy Corbyn to automatically stand for re-election as leader. Labour donor and ex-parliamentary candidate Michael Foster was challenging Mr Corbyn's inclusion without having to get MPs' nominations. Mr Corbyn called the court case a 'waste of time and resources.' Mr Foster said he would not be challenging the decision: 'We wanted the courts to adjudicate ... they have.' It means the leadership contest -- between Mr Corbyn and challenger Owen Smith, a former work and pensions spokesman -- will continue as planned, with the outcome due on 24 September." (07/28/16)


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Indonesia: Regime set to murder 14 drug POWs

"Spiritual advisers and families of inmates on death row in Indonesia have been told to prepare for executions tonight as coffins were ferried to the prison island of Nusa Kambangan on Thursday morning. ... Fourteen prisoners on death row, including inmates from Nigeria, Pakistan, India and South Africa, and four Indonesians, have been moved to isolation holding cells on Nusa Kambangan. Thirteen are men and one -- Utami -- is a woman. All were found guilty of drugs offences." (07/28/16)


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South Korea: Illegal lapel pins found near airport

"South Korean police found about 200 lapel pins bearing the image of late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il strewn near the country's main international airport on Thursday, police officers said. Police were analyzing security cameras to find how the 196 lapel pins ended up in a flowerbed of a hotel close to Incheon International Airport .... The possession of such lapel pins would be illegal in South Korea, where praising North Korea is punishable by up to seven years in prison." [editor's note: So much for South Korea being a "democracy," huh? - TLK] (07/28/16)


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VA: Gangbangers in uproar after restaurant denies service to member wearing colors

"A Virginia police officer was refused service at a restaurant Monday because one of the cooks refused to serve her while she was in uniform. Authorities said the uniformed Alexandria police officer was standing in line at Noodles & Company when the cook came out from the back and told the cashier, 'You better pull me off the line, because I'm not serving that,' according to Fox 5 DC. The department said the cashier and the cook started to laugh and the officer left the restaurant. Police Chief Earl Cook was upset and spoke to management at the restaurant Tuesday. ... In an effort to smooth things over, Alexandria Police Union rep Pete Feltham said the restaurant agreed to post signs on their doors to support police." (07/28/16)


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Catalonia: Parliament votes to secede from Spain

"Nationalists in Catalonia approved a plan to secede from Spain in a vote held by the region's parliament, defying the nation's Constitutional Court and challenging acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he struggles to form a government. Spain's caretaker administration said it has called on the state's attorney to present a challenge before the Constitutional Court dismissing the plan, which lists the steps that would be followed to create independence, including drafting a Catalan constitution. The latest escalation in the multiyear separatist movement signals renewed impetus from Catalans to break away from Spain. It coincides with a seven-month political deadlock sparked by two inconclusive elections that left the nation without a government." (07/27/16)


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MD: Prosecutors drop all remaining charges against killer cops in Freddie Gray case

"Prosecutors dropped all remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers accused in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in a downtown courtroom on Wednesday morning, concluding one of the most high-profile criminal cases in Baltimore history. The startling move was an apparent acknowledgement of the unlikelihood of a conviction following the acquittals of three other officers on similar and more serious charges by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, who was expected to preside over the remaining trials as well." (07/27/16)


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Turkey: Regime calls for abduction of 47 more journalists

"Turkey's prime minister has warned that the crackdown following a failed coup was not over, as authorities issued arrest warrants for dozens of former newspaper staff. More than 15,000 people have been detained for suspected links to the coup and at least 8,000 remain in custody, according to the interior ministry. Tens of thousands more have been purged from state institutions .... Ankara said that Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric, was behind the failed uprising by a faction within the military that led to some 290 deaths on 15 July. ... The Turkish government has also issued arrest warrants for 47 former staff of the Zaman newspaper, which supported Gulen and is suspected of links to the cleric." (07/27/16)


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US board declines to release “20th hijacker” from Guantanamo

"A board reviewing the status of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has decided against releasing a Saudi who U.S. authorities believe narrowly avoided becoming one of the hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Lawyers for prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani asked the Periodic Review Board last month to send the prisoner to a rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia for treatment of severe mental illness. The board, made up of representatives of six government agencies, turned down the request in a statement released Wednesday." (07/27/16)


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Fed leaves rates unchanged, says risks to outlook reduced

"The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday but said near-term risks to the U.S. economic outlook had diminished, opening the door to a resumption of monetary policy tightening this year. The U.S. central bank said the economy had expanded at a moderate rate and job gains were strong in June. It added that household spending also had been 'growing strongly,' and pointed to an increase in labor utilization. While Fed policymakers said they continued to closely monitor inflation data and global economic and financial developments, they indicated less worry about possible shocks that could push the economy off course." (07/27/16)


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Commentary


| News |

Free market works despite laws

"I try to assume everyone is generally decent until they prove otherwise. If they weren't, society would be impossible; government or no government. Good people don't need to be governed, bad people can't be, and smart bad people become government Look for problems, and you'll find them. If you treat people as you want to be treated, most will meet you halfway." (07/28/16)


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Free Talk Live, 07/28/16

"Twenty reasons not to vote :: Ricky (caller from PA) is now a deputy :: Cameras inside rental cars :: Ralph considers the Democrats to be Nazis :: Donald Trump had an AMA on Reddit, and moderators banned 2200 people :: Free speech and tax deductions :: New Zealand athlete kidnapped by Rio police ahead of the Olympics." [Flash audio or MP3] (07/28/16)


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Trump’s nomination and backward immigration policy

"Alas, this is not the first time that Trump has accused immigrants of possessing inherent criminal tendencies. In the past, he's referred to Mexican immigrants in particular as criminals, drug dealers, and 'rapists.' As I noted in my earlier blog, this narrative simply fails to match up with the statistics. Study after study after study has found that both illegal and legal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be put in jail than their native counterparts. ... In a similar way, Trump’s concern for the 'resources' taken by immigrants once again doesn't stand up to empirical investigation (or a two minute search of any internet search engine for that matter). Ku and Bruen, for example, found that when it comes to public benefits like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), low-income immigrants use these services at a lower rate than native-born individuals. Moreover, a practical mountain of studies has found that immigrants, illegal included, pay far more in taxes than they receive in public assistance." (07/28/16)


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Free speech and political conventions

"Though the political parties are private entities with their own rules, they have invited their members and supporters to these quadrennial conventions for the purpose of engaging in public political conversations. Yet if the Republicans wanted only pro-Trump sentiments to be expressed in the hall in Cleveland and if the Democrats wanted only pro-Clinton sentiments to be expressed in the hall in Philadelphia, since neither entity is the government, both are free to abridge the freedom of speech without legal consequences. The consequences of such abridgments would presumably be political; those whose speech is silenced and those who oppose silencing public political speech would cast their votes against the silencers. Yet this summer, the heavy hand of government was involved in silencing speech." (07/28/16)


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12 crazy conspiracy theories that really happened

"Ever get the feeling that someone is out to get you? What about several someones, some group made up of influential and powerful figures, set on ruining your life, or maybe even on world domination? The culture of seeing conspiracies at work in every part of society has been around forever, and while we laugh at most conspiracy theories, there's a somewhat chilling point that must be made about them: Conspiracy theories have often proved to be true." (07/28/16)


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After DNC hack, the case for paper ballots

"Somebody (probably, though not certainly, Vladimir Putin’s intelligence apparatus) has hacked the Democratic Committee's email servers and released some of what it found via the Wikileaks site. As Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith notes, this is something new: Although meddling in foreign elections is old stuff for intelligence agencies (including our own), this sort of email release is unprecedented. As disruptive as the DNC email release has been, there's room for something much worse: A foreign government could hack voting machines, shut down election computers, or delete or alter voter registration information, turning Election Day into a snarled mess and calling the results into question regardless of who wins. Worse yet, hackers are already working on this." [editor's note: Still a diversion from the real issue this time, but at least it's about privacy instead of foreign policy - SAT] (07/28/16)


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Is Vladimir Putin deliberately destabilizing US politics?

"When WikiLeaks dumped tens of thousands of often embarrassing internal Democratic Party emails, it didn’t take long for the finger to be pointed at Moscow. In many ways, that should hardly be surprising. The distinctly idiosyncratic dynamic between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has long been a topic of fascination for pundits. Some of the Republican presidential candidate’s approaches and statements (particularly questioning the U.S. commitment to NATO) are almost certainly appealing to Moscow. The Russian intelligence services have a largely deserved reputation for excellence when it comes to cyber-spying, not to mention dirty political tricks. And, perhaps most importantly of all, a growing number of Western officials and security experts are increasingly convinced that Russia is doing everything it can to politically destabilize the West. Getting through the smoke and mirrors to work out to what extent that is actually happening, however, is another matter entirely." (07/28/16)


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Repent in prison, Leslie Van Houten

"'If the word 'Manson' was not attached to Leslie, she would have been out 20 years ago,' attorney Richard Pfeiffer told me about his client, convicted Manson 'family' killer Leslie Van Houten, who is serving a life sentence for her role in two 1969 murders. On Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown reversed a parole board recommendation to parole Van Houten, 66, because she is remorseful, has accepted responsibility for her crimes and no longer poses a danger to society. 'As our Supreme Court has acknowledged,' Brown wrote, 'in rare circumstances a crime is so atrocious that it provides evidence of current dangerousness by itself.'" (07/28/16)


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The science behind Hillary Clinton’s trust deficit

"Large swaths of the American public want Donald J. Trump to be their president – maybe even a majority, according to an analysis from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight in late July. Many people (Democrats and Republicans alike) find this shocking. Trump made his name as the 'You’re fired' guy. He has never held political office, has arguably failed to generate concrete or realistic policy proposals, regularly changes his positions on issues and consistently gets the facts wrong. This stands in sharp contrast to Hillary Clinton, who has served as secretary of state, senator from New York and first lady of the United States. In his endorsement of her, Barack Obama described Clinton as the most qualified presidential nominee in U.S. history. Presumably experience with, and knowledge of, the system and issues are qualities that make for a good president; so why is this race even close? Research, including new work from our Human Cooperation Laboratory at Yale, suggests Trump may be successful precisely because of his hotheadedness and lack of carefully thought-out proposals. Being seen as uncalculating can make people trust you." (07/28/16)


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Aren’t they always? part 2 — Nazgul

"Just as political parties are always screaming about how evil their opponents are, so too are Nazgul constantly finding reasons to steal away rights, often for their own perceived self-interest. Ammoland talks about how Ruth Ginsburg, the infamous Nazgul who trashed Trump and STILL hasn't moved to New Zealand (well, give her the benefit of the doubt: the election is still three months away). She continues to make it clear that Americans (and everyone else) should be disarmed and the Second Amendment's protection of our liberties gutted even more than it is today, much as other protections have been rendered ineffective. It is no surprise." (07/28/16)


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The Economist and Star Trek Beyond

"Of course, 'Star Trek' is renowned for being more than a mere 'space opera.' It was a product of Cold War anxiety and the enduring memory of World War II. Its creator, Gene Roddenberry, imagined a spaceship in which an American captain could trust a Russian navigator. A black woman was the indispensable communication officer, and a bizarre Vulcan a much respected and authoritative aide to the ship's captain. 'Star Trek' is a plea to understanding and brotherhood among different peoples, seeking peace all together after much strife. Alas, not unlike many others, Roddenberry apparently saw economic life as a main driver of tension and conflict. Therefore, in the pacified Federation of Planets he imagined there is no use of money -- and exchanges and transactions happen somehow like magic, clearly helped by bountiful technology." (07/28/16)


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Hillary Clinton’s one-percent dilemma gets more awkward

"Hillary Clinton’s 1 percent dilemma just got more awkward. Progressive Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts kicked off the Democratic convention on Monday in Philadelphia blasting the rich. With inequality atop the party platform, they told a cheering crowd that they expect the former secretary of state to rein in millionaires. Yet, they are her biggest donors." (07/26/16)


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Economic reforms will not lead to democracy in Cuba

"Do economic reforms lead to democratization, or does democratization lead to economic progress? This is the fundamental question surrounding the debate over the new U.S.-Cuba policy. President Obama and his supporters believe that economic reforms will empower the population to demand political reforms, whereas critics point out that General Castro has been perfectly clear that Cuba will not undertake any political reforms. Let's put aside, for present purposes, the ethical problems of a U.S. foreign policy that embraces despots and establishes a moral equivalence between oppressors and the oppressed. The focus here is on the 'what should come first' aspect of reforms. The transition experience of East European countries provides the answer to the question." (07/28/16)


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The sex offender registry is bullshit

"The sex offender registry, like all government registries, is bullshit. How can I say that? Do I want neighborhoods to be ignorant of the sexual predators living within them? Do I want sexual predators to be free to roam the streets and prey on the innocent? These are the kinds of questions I'm asked when I state my opposition of the registry. Obviously I don’t want any such things. But I subscribe to Blackstone's formulation, which states 'It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.' When people think of the sex offender registry they think of creepy middle-aged men fondling children or raping women. The reality is far different. What's the most common age of people charged with sex offense? It's not 40. It's not 50. It's 14 ..." (07/28/16)


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A turn in European terror

"Terror attacks in Europe have taken an ominous new turn. On July 26, while America was distracted by the nomination of Hillary Clinton and the continuing disgruntlement of the Bernie-or-Bust faction, terror in Europe took an ominous new turn. An 85-year-old Catholic priest was murdered in front of his altar and members of his congregation by two young terrorists whom ISIS immediately claimed as its 'soldiers.' One of the attackers, 18-year-old Adel Kermiche, had reportedly attempted on two occasions to join ISIS forces in Syria, for which he was arrested and placed under electronic surveillance by French security forces. Why his electronic bracelet failed to prevent the attack will surely be a matter of great concern to investigators." (07/27/16)


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There are many critical omissions from Clinton’s job application

"Bill and Hillary have been a close working team for over three decades and she stands on his record. Never has she publicly objected or disconnected herself from his deplorable abuses of power and betrayals of public trust. So we have a conjugal employment record to review in evaluating her job application. ... Trump is a novice, a political wild card with no relevant work history or resume to evaluate, but Hillary has a long, deeply corrupt and repeatedly deadly work history. How can prospective employers ignore that?" (07/28/16)


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The secret rules that allow the FBI to spy on journalists

"The bones of our democracy -- the core elements that separate that way of life from others -- lie in the First Amendment to the Constitution, specifically the rights to free speech and a free press. Without the ability to speak freely, and to have things about our government reported equally freely to us, most of the rest of the concept of what was laid out on July 4, 1776 and later falls away. Thomas Jefferson himself stated that an 'informed citizenry' was the key to everything. So it is with more than a little anxiety that we learned secret rules allow the FBI to spy on journalists with such ease that the restraints are really nothing more than a bit of paperwork." (07/28/16)


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There’s nothing quite as conservative as a progressive radical

"A common observation of ours here is that there's really nothing quite as conservative as the British left. The more they proclaim themselves to be progressive, radical even, the more they retreat into the world of yesterday. Owen Smith is a case in point." (07/28/16)


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The nationalist-socialist moment is here

"[T]he two presidential candidates Americans got most excited about were Donald Trump, a nationalist, and Bernie Sanders, a socialist. Between the two of them, they make a pretty good national socialist. Trump won his party's nomination and Sanders ceded his to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is (arguably) a little bit more of a nationalist and (arguably) a little bit less of a socialist, but in many ways a much better distillation of the partnership between big government and big business that characterizes our current political moment. How's that libertarian moment working out for you?" ()7/28/16)


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Can Jill Stein lead a revolution?

"So, can Stein really lead a political revolution? Her diagnosis of the problems plaguing the country isn't so different from Sanders's assessment. Like the senator, she sees a country overrun by big money and corporate power. She wants to make health care a right, break up big banks, and ensure that high-quality education is accessible for Americans. Stein has also embraced positions that put her to the left of the senator. At the Bernie-or-Bust rally, she called for reparations as part of a conversation on fighting racism rooted in the 'criminal institution of slavery.' Add all that up and the campaign's most effective selling point may be that Stein can act as a kind of stand-in for Sanders now that his campaign has reached an end. But political revolutions are the stuff of bold promises, not plan Bs and second-choice candidates." (07/28/16)


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Jealousy, Jouvenel, and the war against socialism

"Those of us who value both our lives, and the freedom to conduct them without violent interference from outside forces, have little rational choice but to arrive at a distinct conclusion: The fight against socialism is not one waged against a mere difference of opinion, but, to be sure, a struggle for every aspect of human survival itself. It is in every sense, a war. Not just of ideas, but for the inherent right of every human being to be afforded the opportunity of choice, prosperity, and liberty -- words perverted and misused in every way conceivable by left-wing apologists; where 'choice' means only government-approved alternatives, 'prosperity' means government-provided welfare, and 'liberty' means not having a Wal*Mart nor any gun owners in your local neighborhood." (07/28/16)


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Don’t give up on the monarch butterfly!

"Last winter, monarch butterfly numbers soared, increasing by more than one-third in their overwintering habitat. Yet we are well into July, and while my milkweed garden has been abuzz with bees feasting on the nectar, there's no sign of any monarchs or their caterpillars. I am probably not alone in my dismay, but hopefully butterfly enthusiasts won't give up -- at least I won't. According to MonarchWatch.org, storms this past winter took a toll on the population of overwintering butterflies in Mexico. It seems that Mother Nature did not want to cooperate this year with human efforts to help restore the ailing butterfly populations. Despite such frustrations, private action to help save monarch butterflies is well worth it." (07/27/16)


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Neither Clinton nor Trump would reduce the national debt

"Tonight's Democratic National Convention featured a brief video starring former Obama administration economic adviser Gene Sperling. Sperling brought up a topic we haven't heard a whole lot about at this year's DNC: the federal debt. His point was that GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump would be far worse for the national debt than Hillary Clinton. By all accounts, Sperling was right: Although Trump's economic plans are frustratingly vague and difficult to pin down, every credible attempt to estimate has found that his plans would massively increase total debt. ... But here's the thing: Hillary Clinton would also let the debt rise substantially. Under her plans, according to the same CRFB analysis, debt held by the public would rise from $14 trillion to $23.9 trillion over the next decade. Gross national debt would rise from $19 trillion to more than $29 trillion." (07/27/16)


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Why I favor limited government, part 1

"If everyone in the world behaved in a peaceful manner toward others and if everyone amicably settled his disputes with others, there would be no need for government. But we all know that life doesn't work that way. In every society, there are those who choose to violate the rights of others with violence. There are murderers, rapists, thieves, defrauders, robbers, and the like. We also know that well-meaning people are often unable to arrive at an amicable settlement of disputes with each other. And we know that throughout history there have been brutal regimes around the world that have invaded and conquered other countries and subjugated their citizenry. That's why we need government -- to protect people's right to live their lives as they want, so long as their conduct is peaceful." (07/28/16)


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Why we need profits

"Monetary profit isn't the only kind of profit, and people may do many things for psychic profit. Nevertheless, in a complex and industrialized world, monetary profit is essential in building sustainable economies. It is relatively easy to understand and appreciate the benefits of direct cooperation. The value of familial gift-giving, mutual help between friends, and barter exchange is typically obvious enough even to the economically untrained mind. However, as social cooperation reaches ever more complex levels, its character becomes increasingly abstract, and, in intellectual terms, its proper appreciation becomes increasingly demanding." (07/28/16)


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A real Houdini done it — how a dead magician killed Freddie Gray

"The coroner who examined the body of Freddie Gray declared his death was the result of a homicide. Today the last three police involved in the arrest during which he died were cleared of all charges. Strange things are afoot, my friends. Mysteries upon mysteries. But don't worry, ya'all, because as impossible as a homicide that nobody committed is, there may be an explanation after all. Now this might sound crazy, although not as crazy as a single party homicide, but the famous but long dead Harry Houdini is likely the person responsible for Gray's death. Where did I get this information? Directly from Houdini himself. A few hours ago I gathered with a Secret CopBlock Coven to perform a seance." (07/27/16)


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Night of the hollow men: Notes from the Democratic convention

"Since my co-editor Joshua Frank prefers to go surfing rather than do his reportorial duty and watch the DNC Convention from gavel-to-gavel, he's telling me that I have to write another account of tonight's proceedings. I'm not sure I'm up to it 'frankly.' What would Hunter Thompson do? Oh, yes, he would get his body and mind in fighting form by having breakfast. I guess I'll follow the good Doctor's example: 'Four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned-beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert.' All to be consumed while naked. Snarf! Sniff! Belch! ALRIGHT! I’m primed. Bring on Biden!" (07/28/16)


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ABCs of deceptive politics

"In breaking news, a major politician has promised to give important benefits to the poor and the middle class. She did not specify where those benefits would come from. But we know where they do come from: taxpayers. What this politician has done is promise to take from some to give others. Actually, it's even more complicated -- after taking from some folks, then there's the skimming off the top (or: taking a big chunk); and after that, there's the hoopla about the money she is 'giving' back. This is how politicians work." (07/28/16)


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The terror of the status quo

"Once upon a time the big threat to civilization was al-Qaeda. But today it is ISIS, alternatively known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh. Transcending their existence as actual physical entities, the names or acronyms have become metaphors for terrorist attacks, striking fear in the hearts of the people and enabling the political class in Europe and the United States to grow government in response. At the Republican National Convention, presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed to destroy ISIS -- and the Democrats led by Hillary Clinton will probably follow suit. But can it be done? Or, more to the point, how does one go about doing it? How will Trump and Clinton keep their promises to keep Americans safe from Islamic radicals?" (07/28/16)


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Free Talk Live, 07/27/16

"Federal Junk Food Subsidies :: Sorghum :: Federal Reserve :: Snooty the Manatee :: Dave Grady Appreciation Thread Takedown? :: Trump in China :: Sara is Celebate :: Russia and Clinton :: Not Voting :: Dave Grady's OK Cupid Profile." [Flash audio or MP3] (07/27/16)


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A vote for Mickey Mouse is a vote for Donald Trump

"The general election seasons is underway, and so now it's time for partisans to try to stop you from voting third party. You'll hear people say that a vote for Johnson, Sanders, or Stein is a vote for Trump. Trump supporters will also say that a vote for Johnson, Sanders, or Stein is a vote for Clinton. Neither claim is literally true. If you vote third party, you don't vote for Clinton or Trump. You don't hurt Clinton or Trump. You at most fail to help them win. Maybe 10 or so Americans will write in Mickey Mouse. (A good choice, actually.) Another 10 or so will write in 'Santa Claus.' It seems weird to say that such Americans thereby 'voted for the worse of two evils' or anything like that. Rather, they spoiled their ballots. Should we say a vote for Mickey Mouse is a vote for Trump? Or Clinton?" (07/27/16)


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Election 2016: Think three’s a crowd? Try 2,000

"OK, I admit it: History and money say the odds are with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton -- that one of them will be the next president of the United States. The last time a third party or independent candidate really threatened to win the White House was 1992, when Ross Perot knocked down nearly 20% of the popular vote, having at one time polled ahead of both Republican incumbent George HW Bush and the eventual winner, Democratic nominee Bill Clinton. But it's strange year. It feels like almost anything could happen. And while Clinton and Trump are the frontrunners, the field is, well, YUGE. As of July 27, the Federal Elections Commission lists 1,814 candidates for president on its web site." (07/27/16)


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Trump, Clinton, and executive power

"When Bill Clinton was first elected president, his advisor Paul Begala waxed rhapsodic about executive orders. 'Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Kind of cool,' he gushed to the New York Times. Clinton was followed by George W. Bush, whose favored mechanism was the signing statement. That allowed him to sign bills into law, while simultaneously saying that he didn't feel bound to enforce them. This led us, in turn, to Barack Obama and his famous 'a pen and a phone.' Now, we have two candidates who both promise to expand executive power to as yet unseen dimensions. Partisans on both sides will undoubtedly cheer their candidate, who, they're certain, will only use that power to do good things. They should be careful what they ask for." (07/27/16)


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The air conditioners are coming

"Forget about ISIS. Forget about Al-Qaida. Forget about all the savage Islamic terrorists. The air conditioners are coming. Yes, dear readers, what is even more life threatening -- what you have to fear the most -- is the army of air conditioners and refrigerators. They're out to get you. They're going to kill you. Do you think I’m joking? Well, I'm not joking. That's what United States Secretary of State John Kerry warned in all seriousness while in Vienna Austria last week working to amend the 1987 Montreal Protocol that would phase out hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) from those common appliances. Air conditioners and refrigerators are as big of a threat to life as the threat of terrorism posed by groups like the Islamic State." (07/27/16)


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Peace & freedom 101: The opposite of authoritarian is libertarian

"There should be little doubt why the left-right hatred in America today has gotten so senselessly violent that people not only screech obscenities back and forth at each other but now routinely bloody one another with guns and stones and sticks and fists and knives: It comes from the top. It's politics as usual. The Democratic and Republican Parties have identical agendas: To use the legalized monopoly on force held by the massively overreaching, corrupt, dictatorial federal government to coercively impose their own beliefs on everyone else. Neither side can stomach the worldview of the other so they're willing to use violence to both stop the other's agenda and to impose their own." (07/26/16)


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The DNC is one big corporate bribe

"To get to the Democratic National Convention, you take the subway to the AT&T Station and walk to the Wells Fargo Center. Along the way, you’ll stroll by the Comcast Xfinity Live complex, where delegates and honored guests can booze it up. You’ll also see the 'Cars Move America' exhibit, an actual showroom sponsored by Ford, GM, Toyota, and others. Finally, you’ll reach your seat and watch Democrats explain why we have to reduce the power of big corporations in America. Party conventions have always been collection points for big money. But many major corporations sat out last week’s Republican gathering for fear of Trump contamination. There’s no such reticence here in Philadelphia; in fact, it feels like they’re making up for that lack of investment." [editor's note: Given how obvious this all is, I continue to chuckle at the "progressive" Dems who think their party will change things - SAT] (07/27/16)


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Weight and see

Cartoon. (07/26/16)


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Freedom from the State in Rio

"Latin American religious political thought includes colonial Spanish and Portuguese ideologies that preceded independence but have survived into the post-independence era, authoritarian ideologies supportive of military governments in the twentieth century, and progressive liberation theologies. In this article, I present a distinct tradition: a version of classical liberal thought. This tradition is skeptical of big government, opposed to caste systems, supportive of a high degree of federalism, uneasy with militarism, and supportive of democratic institutions while affirming religious social norms." [abstract, full paper available as PDF download]


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Hillary’s energy policies: Enriching Wall Street cronies

"In his less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of Hillary Clinton as the Democrats' choice for President, Sen. Bernie Sanders decried 'Greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior' and declared that we couldn't let 'billionaires buy elections.' Perhaps his opposition research team discovered what we have about Clinton's connections with the very entities he despises: Wall Street -- which he's accused of 'gambling trillions in risky financial instruments;' and 'huge financial institutions' that he says: 'simply have too much economic and political power over this country.' Wall Street and its 'huge financial institutions' are Clinton allies -- supporting both her campaign and donating big bucks to the Clinton Foundation." (07/27/16)


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Will this be the year Latino votes make the difference?

"You could have made a successful career in American politics warning, or promising, that the Latino vote is about to become the deciding factor in presidential elections. For decades. In the aftermath of the 2012 race the Republican Party establishment itself highlighted the importance of Latino voters. Bemoaning the fact that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney received only 27 percent of the Latino vote, an autopsy by the party of its defeat noted that by 2050 nearly 30 percent of all Americans will be of Hispanic origin. This made the party’s inability to connect with Latino voters all the more alarming: 'If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States (i.e. self-deportation), they will not pay attention to our next sentence.'" (07/27/16)


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Disheartening

"To all protectionists -- to everyone who is attracted to Donald Trump's and Bernie Sanders's hostility to free trade -- let me again ask questions of you of a sort that have been asked since the time of Adam Smith and which remain as probing today as ever: Are you made richer if the supermarket (call it Acme Stores) at which you once shopped hires armed goons to force you to start shopping there again? ... Do you believe that the owners and the employees of Acme Stores are so ethically entitled to your continuing patronage as a consumer that they are justified in employing armed goons to prevent you from shopping elsewhere? ... Do you believe that, now that Acme Stores has successfully forced you not to shop at competing supermarkets, that the owners and employees of Acme Stores will work as diligently and as creatively as possible to keep the prices they charge low and the quality of their service high?" (07/27/16)


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Oh smoke-filled room where are you now? (continuted)

"Donald Trump shooting his mouth off to say that Russia should spy on Hillary Clinton does not both me as much as it bothers some people. I pretty much expect him to say terrible things. It's part of his media strategy. And while all of the experts seem to agree that the hack of the DNC was done by Russians, I am willing to wait just a bit to see ... If (notice that I put that word in) the security apparatus honestly believes that the DNC hack was a pro-Trump operation by Russians, and if Trump encourages these speculations both in his rhetoric and in his choice of paid advisers, then this reinforces my conviction that the GOP's current incarnation is about to collapse." (07/27/16)


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The Never Trump crowd prefers statism with pleasantries

"While I never have, and certainly never will, get on board the 'Trump Train,' I am perhaps more annoyed by the certain type of Republican and evangelical 'conservative' who opposes Trump specifically for reasons such as his vulgarity, his alleged racism, his rudeness and crudeness, his un-Christlikeness, his narcissism, and so on. ... these same 'Never Trump' hashtag users literally would have been just dandy with Mitt Romney, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, and so on. In other words, what matters to them is not the fact that the GOP's leaders and champions are Big Government, pro-welfare state, pro-warfare state, pro Federal economic regulation/intervention, pro- Taxes, pro spending, pro-nationalization of commerce and industry; no, what matters most to them is that the politician is 'nice.'" (07/26/16)


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In Brazil, a pre-Olympics folly

"Hardly anything about the Olympic dream these days is feeling particularly dreamy. The Rio de Janeiro games, some are charging, have already turned into 'a large-scale catastrophe,' with everything from massive evictions and expenditures billions over budget to doping scandals and degraded environments. Have the Olympics become, asks veteran sportswriter Sally Jenkins, anything more than 'an unwieldy cash-and-corruption-engorged monster that descends on the host country with a ravenous maw and leaves a swath of human and economic casualties in its wake'? My, how things have changed since 2009, the year Rio celebrated winning the hosting rights for this summer’s games. The 2016 Olympics, Brazil’s proud leaders figured, would amount to a spectacular 'coming out party' for the world’s newest economic powerhouse." (07/27/16)


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It’s the stupid economy

"When Bill Clinton ran for president, the slogan inside his campaign's war room was a blunt reminder to focus on 'the Economy, Stupid.' This was Clinton's first enduring contribution to the American stock of catch-phrases. Now, Bill's wife, Hillary, seeks the top banana position. But she has a harder job than Bill: he could fight against a lackluster incumbent caught in a big lie ('No New Taxes,' another slogan). Hillary is almost required to defend the outgoing president, in no small part because she served in his Cabinet." (07/27/16)


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