June 19th, 2014

Brickbat: High School Cover Up


Students at Arizona's Sabino High School didn't get their yearbooks in time to pass them around and get each others' signatures. And when they opened them up, they found out why. School staff had spent days using black tape to cover up messages the principal found offensive, such as "I'm drunk on you and high on summer time" and "Come getcha' some." The principal blames the yearbook adviser for the mess because he didn't censor the messages before it went to print.

Andrew Napolitano on Resisting the Temptation to Slay the World's Monsters


The political and military force that is aiming at Iraq's capital calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Its fighting force consists of about 8,000 men, yet it has marched through Iraq quickly. Last week, as ISIS forces approached the capital, a half-million Iraqi civilians got out of their way and tens of thousands of Iraqi security forces dropped their American military gear and fled. The Iraqi army—which the U.S. decimated 10 years ago—cannot defend the current Iraqi government, which is as corrupt, authoritarian, anti-democratic, and untrustworthy as Saddam's was, yet far less competent.

But as we watch all of this unfold, we must, in John Adams' words, resist the temptation to slay the world's monsters, argues Andrew Napolitano. We should gather all Americans in Iraq, take what moveable wealth is ours, and come home. Searching the world for monsters to destroy will only end up destroying us.

View this article.

A.M. Links: Republicans Will Vote on New Leadership, Dick Cheney Takes Heat Over Iraq War Comments


  • Republicans in the House of Representatives

    will vote on a new majority leader
    today. Rep. Kevin McCarthy
    (R-California), the current majority whip, is expected to defeat
    Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), preferred candidate of the Tea Party,
    in the secret ballot.

  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
    rescinded the Redskins trademark
    because it is "disparaging to
    Native Americans." The Washington Redskins label is still protected
    under common law, however, making the decision largely a symbolic

  • Iraqi government forces say they have
    recaptured an oil refinery
    in Baiji that was besieged by
    militants for several days.

  • Fox News' Megyn Kelly
    grilled former Vice President Dick Cheney
     over his
    continued support for the Iraq War in an interview on her show last
    night. "
    Time and time again, history has proven that
    you got it wrong," she said.

  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
    decided to stop publishing
    George Will's columns, calling one
    of his recent pieces "offensive," because it questioned the
    prevalence of rape on college campuses and claimed that victims
    enjoy "privileged status."

Sheldon Richman on How Non-Interventionists Told You So About Iraq


Contrary to popular belief, there is no satisfaction in being able to say, "I told you so." This is especially so with Iraq, where recent events are enough to sicken one's stomach. Yet it still must be said: those who opposed the George W. Bush administration's invasion of Iraq in March 2003 — not to mention his father's war on Iraq in 1991 and the sanctions enforced through the administration of Bill Clinton — were right. The noninterventionists predicted a violent unraveling of the country, and that's what we're witnessing. They agreed with Amr Moussa, chairman of the Arab League, who warned in September 2002 that the invasion would "open the gates of hell." There was no Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) or al-Qaeda in Saddam Hussein's Iraq before the U.S. invasion. And once again, writes Sheldon Richman, the establishment news media have ill-served the American public.

View this article.

Baltimore Cop Slits Dog's Throat, Gets Charged with Animal Cruelty


an heroIt looks like a cop in Baltimore won't be getting away with killing a dog in the line of duty. WRIC, the ABC affiliate in Richmond, Virginia, reports:

Officer Jeffrey Bolger is charged with felony animal cruelty and has been suspended without pay.

Police say Bolger, along with other officers, responded to a woman who said she'd been bitten by a dog. Police say the dog, a 7-year-old Shar Pei, had already been secured with a dog pole when Bolger allegedly pulled out a knife and slit the dog's throat.

Police say the dog didn't appear to be posing any threat to the cops. Bolger is actually the second Baltimore cop to be charged with animal cruelty this year. In February, Officer Alec Taylor beat and choked to death his girlfriend's seven-month-old dog and then sent her a picture, telling investigators he was tired of cleaning up after the dog. Taylor, too, was suspended without pay but not immediately fired.

Private sector employees in roles that require interaction with the public would almost certainly be fired after being charged with animal cruelty—it would be difficult otherwise for a private company to survive the damage such incidents would cause to its reputation. The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) and its officers have no such worries. The officers' jobs are protected by union contracts, and the BPD has a guaranteed revenue stream from taxpayers. Government is just the things we do together and the sociopaths we hire to do them.

Why We Need Government: To Prevent 9-Year-Olds From Running Free Little Lending Libraries


Advances in providing for the education and enlightenment of the general public, from the city of Leawood, Kansas, as reported by KMBC TV:

Leawood city leaders have told Spencer Collins that he has to stop sharing books with his neighbors.

Collins had to take down his little free library, essentially a communal bookshelf, on Wednesday. The motto of the sharing center had been "take a book, leave a book," but Collins learned there's a lot less give and take in city government....

"When we got home from vacation, there was a letter from the city of Leawood saying that it was in code violation and it needed to be down by the 19th or we would receive a citation," said Spencer's mother, Sarah Collins. 

Leawood said the little house is an accessory structure. The city bans buildings that aren't attached to someone's home.

The hand of government is wise, and sympathetic, but it must be firm:

"We empathize with them, but we still have to follow the rules," said Richard Coleman of the City of Leawood. "We need to treat everybody the same. So we can't say if somebody files a complaint but we like the little libraries -- we think they're cute -- so we ignore it. We can't do that."

Because Leawood is a community that cares about culture, but also about safety: "Leawood said it has received two complaints about Spencer Collins' library."

Meanwhile, the utopian anarchists in neighboring community Prairie Valley "told KMBC 9's Haley Harrison that the city simply doesn't enforce codes that would restrict little free libraries."

Excruciating Pain from Above: Drones Get Pepper Spray


This is why people will be suspicious of even harmless surveillance drones used to help in rescue operations.It was inevitable. Now it's happening. Desert Wolf, a company in South Africa, has created a drone capable of shooting pepper spray and "blinding lasers" at unruly crowds. The company has sold 25 of the drones to a mining company after showing them off at a trade show, the BBC reports. They offer more details of the drones' weaponry:

Desert Wolf's website states that its Skunk octacopter drone is fitted with four high-capacity paintball barrels, each capable of firing up to 20 bullets per second.

In addition to pepper-spray ammunition, the firm says it can also be armed with dye-marker balls and solid plastic balls.

The machine can carry up to 4,000 bullets at a time as well as "blinding lasers" and on-board speakers that can communicate warnings to a crowd.

CNet notes that these "blinding lasers" are forbidden for use in war by the Geneva Convention and adds that weapons that are classified as "non-lethal" often do kill anyway:

"These weapons cannot be sufficiently well controlled to avoid causing serious injury, especially to eyes," warns Mark Gubrud of campaign group the International Committee for Robot Arms Control. "Many existing "non-lethal" crowd-control weapons can and often do kill."

Right now it appears that mining companies in countries that have seen violent clashes between striking workers and authorities are most interested. But is it only a matter of time before the infamous "pepper spray cop" is replaced by a "pepper spray drone"? Well, at least the drone won't apply for workers' compensation payments afterward.

Plastic Bag Bans Are Expensive, Ineffective, and Kinda Gross


You know what's gross? Reusable grocery bags. Think about it: You put a leaky package of chicken in your cloth or plastic tote. Then you empty the bag, crumple it up, and toss in the trunk of your car to fester. A week later, you go shopping again and throw some veggies you're planning to eat raw into the same bag. Ew.

And that's just the yuck factor. There's also an ongoing debate about the environmental and economic impact of these increasingly popular bans and taxes. Luckily, Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason magazine, issued a new report today that looks at the issue from just about every angle. 

The report addresses my pet peeve, the health impact of reusable bags, quoting one survey in Arizona and California which found coliform bacteria in half of the bags tested. But that's just a small part of the report.

A few more fun facts:

One common justification for bans is that using less plastic means using less oil. But the lightweight plastic bags we are accustomed to using—high-density polyethylene bags—are actually made almost entirely from natural gas, not oil. Meanwhile, a popular kind of reusable totes—non-woven polypropylene (NWPP) bags—are derived from oil. 

Municipalities seem to be in a contest to claim ever-increasing percentages of their litter are attributable to plastic bags. As the report notes:

A 2006 report by the California Coastal Commission claimed that plastic bags comprise 3.8% of beach litter. More recently, a Dallas City Council memo claimed that 5% of all litter comes from plastic bags. Most dramatically, a study from the California Ocean Protection Council claimed that plastic bags of all types make up about 8% of all coastal litter. 

But the definitive American litter study—yep, such a thing exists—finds figures that are closer to 1 percent or even lower:

The Reason report also takes on storm drains, the infamous "garbage patch" in the Pacific Ocean, cost to consumers, and much more.

A complementary report released today by Reason Foundation looks at the impact of a proposed ban in California as well.

And here's a blast from the past: Yours truly in a live broadcast at The Huffington Post debating two adorable school children and some sea turtles about plastic bag bans.

Steve Chapman on Voters' Deluded Attitudes About Government Debt


The gross U.S. government debt now stands at $17 trillion, more than double what it was a decade ago. It's still expanding, as the Treasury Department pays out more than it takes in, and the shortfall is expected to grow over the next decade. So it's deeply gratifying to learn that Americans are "highly concerned" about the problem.

Americans do want Washington to bring the budget under control. The catch is that they have no idea what it would take—and reject the steps that would be needed, writes Steve Chapman. They want it in the same way they want to be thin, rich and well informed: only if the goal can be achieved with no effort.

Americans, in short, are willing to do anything to cut the deficit and restrain the debt except what needs to be done. They overwhelmingly prefer bogus remedies to real ones and magical thinking to reality, according to Chapman.

View this article.

The FDA Is Now Regulating Tweets


I can't imagine what kind of people follow pharmaceutical companies on Twitter, but apparently some do. Seeing as following folks on Twitter is completely voluntary, I assume those who do find their tweets informative, interesting, or useful in some way. But tweeting about pharmaceuticals will be effectively banned if new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines are adopted. Under draft guidelines proposed Tuesday, any pro-prescription drug tweet from a drug company would also have to list risks and side effects.

Because Twitter is a medium built on non-voluntary brevity, the new rule would make legally tweeting about prescription drugs nearly impossible. According to the FDA, risk information includes "all risk concepts from a boxed warning, all risks that are known to be fatal or life-threatening, and all contraindications from the approved product labeling," in addition to a hyperlink to more detailed information.

There are potential workarounds—attaching an image with a drug's complete warnings label to all tweets, using a tweet extension app like TwitLonger—but whether these would suffice for the FDA is anyone's guess. The draft guidelines would also require drug companies to include a product's exact indication ("mild to moderate memory loss" as opposed to just "memory loss" was the FDA's example).

"If a firm concludes that adequate benefit and risk information, as well as other required information, cannot all be communicated within the same character-space-limited communication, then the firm should reconsider using that platform for the intended promotional message," the agency says.

The whole matter (like so many the FDA tackles) seems to involve searching for a problem that doesn't exist. There are already ample ways a person can find out about a drug's risks and side effects; and because these are prescription drugs, it's not as if a person can run out and buy them based on one Tweet. At some point, a doctor, pharmacist, and boatload of pharmaceutical literature will confront patients before they get their hands on it, providing ample opportunity for discussions about, recitations of, and printed warnings listing risks and side effects. 

Thomas Sullivan, editor of the Policy and Medicine blog for medical education company Rockpointe, said it wasn't clear whether abbreviations or shortened words would be allowed. 

"The FDA isn’t necessarily up on the realities of social media," Sullivan said, adding that the agency has offered to allow companies to submit their tweets for approval beforehand.

Sullivan said that Facebook, which has no character limitations, might still be useful for drug sellers looking for some traction on social media. So far the agency has refrained from suggesting regulations for image sharing sites like Pinterest and Instagram, Sullivan said.

I'm sure it's only a matter of time, the way things are going.

But should we automatically dismiss the idea of regulating how drug companies can advertise on social media? Twitter and Facebook are, after all, advertising platforms in this context; and the FDA governs how drug companies advertise in more traditional mediums. Rightly or wrongly, the FDA currently has the authority to require risk disclosures in printed or broadcast drug advertisements. But it can't compel a person, even a company spokesperson, to follow all statements about X with Y and Z. So is a drug tweet more like a television ad or an uttered statement? Does it matter? 

Advertisement or not, commercial speech is still afforded protections by the First Amendment—even commercial speech from drug companies. And I'm a fan of erring on the side of free speech. If a drug company makes false statements on Twitter, there are already existing legal correctives for that. But that's not what we're facing. The FDA's Twitter guidelines seem to surpass what consumer protection warrants and cross over into unconstitutional speech infringement.

"Avoid Forests" and Other Helpful Summer Safety Tips


Now's the time for summer fun...warnings. New Jersey's Star Ledger lists "46 Ways to Have a Safer NJ Summer." That's right,  almost 50 helpful precautions to digest before the children of the Garden State are faced with the horror of the great outdoors.

The tips range from the helpful ("If you're caught in a rip current...swim parallel to the shore") to the blindingly obvious ("Use insect repellent") to the stunningly, blindingly, in case you just arrived from Alpha Centauri obvious ("If you see a bear while out hiking, do not feed or approach it"). Really? Not even if it's a cute cub out with its mama?

While it's not a bad idea to learn how to take a bee stinger out (although the words "venom sac" do give pause), it is truly a terrible idea to plan for an afternoon outside as if it's the invasion of Normandy.

Some of these tips almost guarantee you and/or your kids will cower inside all day with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare instead of heading out to enjoy the warm weather.

For instance:

"Avoid forests"

Swear to God, the list says to avoid God's gift. After all, you could get ticks.

"Soak in the sun...for five to 10 minutes a day."

If you go out for any longer than that unslathered in sunscreen, you might as well call Sloan-Kettering right now.

"Talk to the lifeguards"

That is, distract them from looking out for drowning folks while you grill them about "water conditions and the existence of dangerous currents."

"Don't dig too deep"

Because once, in 2012, a child smothered in a sand tunnel, you should worry about every hole your kids dig from now on.

And my favorite:

"Supervise children on playgrounds. Adults should always [boldface, mine] be nearby when children are on playgrounds. When kids are playing on the equipment, they can sometimes stumble or become off balance for a moment....If parents are nearby, they can catch the child before they fall and possibly injure themselves."

So put down that peach, stop talking to the other moms, and stand, arms outstretched, under the jungle gym. After all, your kid could "become off balance for a moment." No children have ever been known to survive that condition.

Be prepared.

New Pot Breathalyzer May Be the Solution to Marijuana's DUI Problem


Marijuana legalization is making impressive headway, but now states must face a different problem when it comes to one of America's favorite drugs—driving while stoned.

The limitations of current tests used to determine if someone is impaired by marijuana are well documented. Hair, saliva, and blood tests all may indicate if someone has consumed marijuana recently, but they do a poor job of determining whether someone is actually high or not. The Marijuana Policy Project reported that:

"The inability to accurately measure marijuana impairment is why both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have stated that marijuana impairment testing via blood sampling is unreliable."

Despite this, Colorado has persisted in its law that 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood is enough evidence to convict someone of a DUI. Many states where medical marijuana is legal such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Nevada have an even lower cut-off of 2 nanograms. Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason, profiled all the problems associated with such an antiquated means of measuring marijuana impairment in the July 2014 issue

A new device called the Cannabix may offer a much-needed solution to this problem. Vice reported that the breathalyzer, being developed by a Canadian police officer named Kal Malhi, will theoretically be able to detect whether someone had smoked marijuana in the past two hours. A study published last fall in the peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Chemistry demonstrated the plausibility of such a test. The research concluded that:

"Breath may offer an alternative matrix for testing for recent driving under the influence of cannabis, but is limited to a short detection window (0.5–2 h)."

If the Cannabix is all that it is cracked up to be and is actually capable of determining whether someone is too high to drive, then the pot-loving community should support its implementation in law enforcement. Having a legitimate means of measuring marijuana intoxication would unclog court dockets, lead to safer roads (even though traffic fatalities have decreased since marijuana was legalized), and allow cannabis consumers to travel unencumbered by the fear of getting pulled over by a cop that could potentially give them a DUI even though they are stone sober. It might also provide a nudge for states on the fence about marijuana decriminalization and/or legalization.

Hard Drive Containing Ex-IRS Official Lois Lerner’s Emails Reportedly Destroyed. Were There Server B


You can probably quit holding out any hope that additional recovery efforts might retrieve some of the missing emails from former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner’s hard drive: The drive, which the IRS says crashed in 2011, just days after Republicans began investigating the tax agency’s scrutiny of conservative non-profits, was apparently thrown away.

House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa subpoenaed the hard drive earlier this week, but he’s not likely to get it. Multiple sources tell Politico that the IRS has indicated that the drive was destroyed.

Congressional investigators are interested in the drive because the IRS says that it contained archives of Lois Lerner’s email correspondence; without the drive, the agency claims it cannot produce emails between Lerner and outside groups or agencies. Lerner was the head of the agency’s tax-exempt division, and she is at the center of investigation, but she has repeatedly declined to answer congressional questions about the IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, citing her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

If the crashed hard drive had the only copies of Lerner’s email, then those communications are likely gone forever.

But is the hard drive really the only place those emails would have been stored? Records-retention protocols released by the IRS indicate that before May of last year, employee inboxes were limited, external backup tapes kept only six months of data and were then recycled, and that, as a result, there was no centralized backup of email. Employees were individually responsible for preserving much of their own email correspondence.

Yet just a few months ago, current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen—who promised to cooperate fully with the investigation—indicated in a congressional hearing that the emails were not stored on individual computers, but "taken off and stored in servers." Via Townhall’s Guy Benson, here’s the relevant exchange between Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Koskinen:

Chaffetz: What email system do you use there at the IRS?

Koskinen: What email system do we use?

Chaffetz: Yeah, is it Outlook, or…

Koskinen: Yes, we have actually Microsoft -- or at least I have -- Microsoft Outlook.

Chaffetz: So you go on there, and you want to find all of the items you sent under your name, how long would that take?

Koskinen: Well it'd take awhile because they're not all on my computer. They're all stored somewhere….

[Some discussion about how long it might take to collect emails with Lerner’s address.]

Chaffetz: That's [part] of the brilliance of the email system. You go in and you check the 'sent' box, and the inbox, and you suddenly have all of the emails, correct?

Koskinen: Right. They get taken off and stored in servers…

Watch the full clip at the bottom of the post.

It’s of course possible that Koskinen, who is not a tech staffer, just didn’t understand the specifics of the IRS backup protocols, and didn’t know that emails were only stored centrally for a short period of time.

But if Koskinen, who was being questioned about the agency’s compliance with documents requests and surely had to have been briefed on the agency’s efforts to gather documents up to that point, was correct when he said that the emails are taken off individual desktops and "stored in servers," then Lerner’s hard drive shouldn’t be necessary.

It’s also worth asking what Kosinen knew about the destroyed drives and lost emails when he was speaking before Congress: The hearing occurred in March—but according to the House Ways and Means Committee, the agency has known about the crash since at least February, but held off on telling House investigators.

Lerner isn’t the only IRS official whose communications have gone missing thanks to convenient computer troubles. According to the House Ways and Means Committee, the agency says it cannot produce some records for six more employees, including Nicole Flax, a regular visitor to the White House and former chief of staff in the IRS commissioner’s office. Flax's communications were also apparently lost due to hard drive failures. If there are still email records "stored in servers," as Koskinen says, then it would be nice to have them. 

Barack Obama's Iraq Decision


taking our talents to iraqPresident Obama is scheduled to make a statement "on the situation in Iraq" at the White House at 12:30p.m 1:15p.m*. Last week, the president indicated he was considering intervening militarily in Iraq. U.S. forces, of course, left the country in 2011 despite efforts by Obama to extend their stay there. 

The White House insisted yesterday the president hadn't made a decision yet, and The Hill reports:

After a meeting with top congressional leaders Wednesday afternoon in the Oval Office, lawmakers said they did not think the president would come to them to ask for authorization for a military strike.

"The president briefed us on the situation in Iraq and indicated he didn't feel he had any need for authority from us for steps that he might take and indicated that he would keep us posted," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a resolution to repeal the Congressional authorization of the use of military force (AUMF) in Iraq at the beginning of the year, but the Democrat-controlled Senate has not acted on it. President Obama, who has generally not sought any kind of congressional authorization for his various military interventions, is naturally unlikely to do so here, especially given the Congress' inability, or unwillingness, to repeal the Iraq AUMF.

The president initially said he wouldn't be sending troops to Iraq, although a few days later he did send troops to Iraq. He's also considering air strikes against insurgents in Iraq, something Iraq's beleaguered prime minister secretly asked for last month, before the Al-Qaeda linked Islamic State in Iraq (ISIS) made significant gains across the country.

In his statement he announced the U.S. would send 300 military advisors, insisting they were not troops. He reserved the right to order airstrikes as necessary in the future. 

Check Reason 24/7 for reactions.

*The White House delayed the statement by 45 minutes, no word given as to why.

Biden Threatens Russia as Ukraine Ceasefire Looks Unlikely


Well, that didn't last long. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko yesterday announced plans for a ceasefire with the pro-Russian militants who control parts of eastern Ukraine. Fighting has already resumed, and NATO claims that Russia is again building up troops along the Ukrainian border. Vice President Joe Biden today weighed in on the situation. 

Biden warned today that the U.S. will "impose further costs on Russia" if the country doesn't rein in the separatists. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a similar threat earlier this week when insurgents shot down a Ukrainian military plane, killing all 49 people on board. The U.S. has been expanding its economic sanctions against Russia since mid-March. 

Reuters reports on today's action:

Both Ukrainian government and rebel accounts of the fighting suggested a major battle involving armoured vehicles including tanks. One military source said 4,000 separatists were involved, while rebels sources in Donetsk said Ukrainian infantry supported by 20 tanks and many other armoured vehicles were storming the village of Yampil, about 12 kilometres east of Krasny Liman.

A top rebel commander, Igor Strelkov, reported "heavy losses" in equipment and arms among the separatists, faced with a huge superiority in heavy armour on the government side at Yampil.

"We beat off the first attack and destroyed one tank. But it is difficult to take on 20 tanks. The battle is going on. Our people are holding but we can't rule out that they [government forces] will break through," Strelkov, who is also known as Girkin, said in a video statement. He urged Moscow to "take some measures."

On top of this setback to Poroshenko's peace plan, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asserts that Russia is only fanning the flames:

I can confirm that we now see a new Russian military buildup — at least a few thousand more Russian troops deployed to the Ukrainian border — and we see troop maneuvers in the neighborhood of Ukraine. … If they're deployed to seal the border and stop the flow of weapons and fighters that would be a positive step. But that's not what we're seeing.

Likewise, last week the Ukrainian government said that several tanks had crossed the border from Russia through a separatist-held checkpoint, a claim that NATO backed up with satellite images. There is evidence that some of the fighters for the so-called people's republics of Donetsk and Luhansk are actually hired mercenaries from Chechnya and Ingushetia

Jesse Walker: 'The Superpower Should Retire'


As Barack Obama announces that he's sending up to 300 military advisors to Iraq, his neoconservative critics are pushing for a deeper intervention. One of those critics—Robert Kagan—has been the talk of D.C. lately, thanks to his New Republic feature "Superpowers Don't Get to Retire." Kagan's article is deeply wrong, Jesse Walker writes, but it is wrong in an informative way: This really is how a lot of America's foreign policy elite sees the world.

View this article.

Surveillance Video Contradicts Cop’s Claim Overhead Lights Were On When He Ran a Stop Sign and T-Bon


bustedJames McLaughlin is suing the city of Buffalo, New York, after he was injured two years ago when his car was T-boned by a police cruiser that ran through a stop sign at an intersection. A police report claimed the cop car was "using overhead lights and siren," but surveillance footage (no audio) of the accident shows the car turning its overhead lights on only after the accident. WGRZ, the NBC affiliate in Buffalo, reports:

Attorneys Steve Boyd and John Elmore represent James McLaughlin, the driver of the car that was hit. They're suing the city and looking for any witnesses to the accident.

"The tape is obvious that the lights weren't on and our client certainly could not hear any sirens, so it's very important that these witnesses come forward," Elmore said.

McLaughlin did not want to appear on camera, but in a statement said, "I was shocked when I read the police reports that indicated the police car had its lights and siren on ...it did not."

You can watch the surveillance footage in the WGRZ segment here.

Medicaid Made $14.4 Billion in Improper Payments Last Year


For the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has designated Medicaid, the joint federal-state health program for the poor and disabled, as being a high risk for fraud.

But despite years of attention from the government watchdog, the program continues to waste billions annually on fraud, abuse, and other forms of improper payment.

In the 2013 fiscal year, the agency says in a new report, Medicaid spent about $431.1 billion—about $14.4 billion of which was improperly spent.

That’s actually down from the previous year, when the program spent $19.2 billion improperly. But the fact that it’s still so high—that’s nearly the total amount that Obamacare will likely pay out in subsidies for private insurance this year—mostly serves to reveal how big the problem is.

Of course, Medicaid looks positively thrifty when compared with its bigger sibling, Medicare. The health program for seniors improperly spent $49.9 billion in 2013, a nearly 12 percent increase from 2012.

Even for the government, with its giant budgets and loose attitude toward wasteful spending, this isn’t pocket change. And it’s likely that similar sorts of payment mistakes will continue under Obamacare, which is already paying insurance subsidies for roughly 2 million people whose applications had inconsistencies. Indeed, the GAO report warns that Obamacare's Medicaid expansion could further complicate the already complex, state-level program integrity efforts for the program. The most straightforward way to shrink fraud and abuse in these giant, complex health programs is to shrink the programs themselves. Instead, we’ve expanded them, and made more opportunities for improper spending in the process. 

The Politics of Punk: Nirvana's Krist Novoselic on Dems, Reps, and the Glorious Future of Rock and R


"America is just...really...stuck," says Krist Novoselic, the bassist for Nirvana, chairman of FairVote, and active member of the 19th-century fraternal organization the Grange.

Novoselic sat down for a wide-ranging discussion with Nick Gillespie to explain why he dumped the Dems, gave money to Ron Paul, eats corporate vegetables, and still really dislikes Ronald Reagan. The recent inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also talks about Kurt Cobain the person (as opposed to the icon), intellectual property laws, and how he gets along with Celine Dion fans.

Watch by clicking above. For full links, downloadable versions, and more resources, click below.

View this article.

Obama Declares Plans for Iraq, Supreme Court Limits Idea-Based Patents, Ron Paul to Appear in At


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George Will Was Right: Victimhood Undeniably Confers Privilege on Campuses


George WillSyndicated conservative columnist George Will was widely condemned for an article he penned about sexual assault and victimhood on college campuses. Critics have signed petitions calling on news outlets to stop carrying his column, and yesterday, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch did just that.

What was the problem? Here is the section of the column that the Dispatch cited in its decision to axe Will:

Colleges and universities are being educated by Washington and are finding the experience excruciating. They are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate. And academia’s progressivism has rendered it intellectually defenseless now that progressivism’s achievement, the regulatory state, has decided it is academia’s turn to be broken to government’s saddle.

The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein writes that while other criticisms of Will's perspective may have merit, the above section—far from being unsayable heresy—certainly rings true:

So Will is making two points here. First, that university culture encourages students to perceive themselves as victims, and those that can credibly claim victimhood are sometimes given higher status. I don’t think that’s reasonably debatable, as it’s exactly what the apparently common trope, "check your privilege" is about; students seen as "privileged" by dint of skin color, sex, wealth, etc., should shut up and let the more authentic and wise voices of members of societies' victim classes proliferate. And the general rule is, if you subsidize something, you get more of it, and there's no reason to think this wouldn’t include self-perceptions of victimhood or self-identification as a victim. It's notable that a recent well-circulated column by a Princeton student taking exception to the "check your privilege" meme took pains to note that the author himself is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, the quintessential victims.

Even back in my day, Yale Law School had a "student strike for diversity," at a rally for which students were encouraged to tell their individual tales of woe. I thought it striking that one student actually got up to discuss what a victim he was because he was a "first-generation professional." Thus, for example, while seemingly everyone else knew how to dress for a job interview, he did not. The horror of being on the cusp of a six-figure salary and having to ask the clerk at Brooks Brothers for assistance! (I could sympathize with the student–for my first "desk" job, I showed up, on advice of my parents, in short sleeve dress shirts and a tie, leading to subsequent teasing from co-workers–but a member of a victim class? No.)

Is it really controversial to suggest that college campuses encourage their students to see themselves as victims, given the policies many universities enact to prevent their students' delicate emotions from being shattered by unfamiliar ideas and troubling memories?

Door-to-Door Dope Delivery: "Pot Is the New Pizza" in Washington State


bakingMeet Evan Cox, who left his gig as a pizza delivery dude and now employs 50 people in Washington state as part of his pot delivery company, Winterlife:

Although it is legal to buy marijuana in Washington state, the person who delivers it could be guilty of a felony. That hasn’t stopped Winterlife from attracting competitors.

Mr Cox has registered as a business with the city and state, but he cannot open a bank account, thanks to federal rules.

In April, he paid $167,000 in sales tax to the Washington State Department of Revenue—in cash.


Of course, Reason's own Jacob Sullum already covered all the angles in his great feature on Washington's legal marijuana mess in our last issue, plus a sidebar on how entrepreneurs are being forced to keep their marijuana money in the mattress.

There are certainly still hurdles to clear, but when The Economist declares that "pot in the new pizza," we can all rejoice.