Brickbat: I'm Not Dead Yet

Lothar Matthaus played in 150
international soccer games for Germany, including
five World
Cups
. And he’s currently involved in a financial dispute with
an ex-wife. But when a Munich court sent legal documents to him,
they were returned with a stamp saying he is dead. Matthaus insists
he is alive, pointing to numerous appearances on TV and in public
that he claims to have made.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/brickbat-im-not-dead-yet
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Nigeria Bans All Things Gay

"Get the cuffs!"Not to be outdone by Russia or
India or Uganda, Nigeria’s president has signed a law criminalizing
same-sex relationships, and arguably even worse, stripping gays of
any sort of freedom of association with each other. Reuters

reports
:

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill on Monday
that criminalizes same-sex relationships, the presidency said,
defying pressure from Western governments to respect gay and
lesbian rights.

The bill, which contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison
and bans gay marriage, same-sex “amorous relationships” and
membership of gay rights groups, was passed by the national
assembly last May but Jonathan had delayed signing it into law.

Two similar bills have been proposed since 2006 but failed to
make it through parliament.

Sodomy is already illegal in Nigeria, so the actual
criminalization of gay marriages, while reprehensible, shouldn’t be
much of a surprise. Really, the country’s attacks on free speech
and association should be much more of a concern right now:

Any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs,
societies and organizations or directly or indirectly makes public
show of same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria commits an offence
and shall each be liable on conviction to a term of 10 years in
prison.

That’s some scary stuff right there. Much like Russia’s ban on
“gay propaganda” making it next to impossible to legally advocate
for gays having the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts,
this part of the law essentially criminalizes any sort of
organizational efforts to ultimately overturn the law or attempt to
change public opinion so that Nigerians don’t see homosexuals as
enemies.

Meanwhile, here in the states,
Indiana
is considering a constitutional ban on recognizing
same-sex marriage. Were it to actually move forward and be approved
by voters in November, it would be the first time since
North Carolina
did so in May 2012 that voters rejected
recognition.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/nigeria-bans-all-things-gay
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Ted Cruz Faults Obama for Not Imposing Marijuana Prohibition on States That Have Rejected It

Last Friday, as part of a
broader attack on President Obama’s “imperial”
tendencies
, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
criticized
the Justice Department for
indicating
 that it will not prosecute marijuana growers
and sellers who comply with state law, provided they are properly
regulated. Speaking at a Texas Public Policy Foundation conference
in Austin, Cruz said this prosecutorial forbearance illustrates
Obama’s habit of ignoring the law when obeying it would prevent him
from doing what he wants:

A whole lot of folks now are talking about legalizing pot….And
you can make arguments on that issue. You can make reasonable
arguments on that issue. The president earlier this past year
announced the Department of Justice is going to stop prosecuting
certain drug crimes. Didn’t change the law.

You can go to Congress. You can get a conversation. You could
get Democrats and Republicans who would say, “We ought to change
our drug policy in some way,” and you could have a real
conversation. You could have hearings. You could look at the
problem. You could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should
happen or shouldn’t happen. This president didn’t do that. He just
said, “The laws say one thing”—and mind you, these are criminal
laws; these are laws that say if you do X, Y, and Z, you will go to
prison. The president announced, “No, you won’t.”

Contrary to the Raw Story headline,
Cruz said nothing about “locking up marijuana users in Colorado.”
The federal government generally avoids penny-ante pot cases, and
it has never made it a priority to bust cannabis consumers. Almost
all such arrests are made by local police. But that very fact
suggests something is wrong with Cruz’s argument. Since possessing
any amount of marijuana is prohibited by the Controlled Substances
Act, did Obama’s predecessors forsake their duty to uphold the law
by focusing on big pot cases? Or were they exercising appropriate
discretion in deciding how best to allocate federal law enforcement
resources?

That is precisely what the Justice Department claims to be doing
in connection with states that have legalized marijuana for medical
or general use. In his
August 29 memo
outlining the policy, Deputy Attorney General
David Cole said it is all about “using [the department’s] limited
investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most
significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational
way.” With that goal in mind, Cole said, U.S. attorneys should
focus on cases that implicate “certain enforcement priorities,”
including preventing marijuana consumption by minors, diversion to
to the interstate market, and drugged driving or “the exacerbation
of other adverse public health consequences associated with
marijuana use.” Contrary to Cruz’s implication, the memo offers no
guarantees. Federal prosecutors can decide to crack down at any
time for one of the reasons Cole mentions or for other reasons they
make up on the fly. The memo closes with a warning that “nothing
herein precludes investigation or prosecution, even in the absence
of any one of the factors listed above, in particular circumstances
where investigation and prosecution otherwise serves an important
federal interest.”

Cruz therefore is wrong to suggest that the administration has
declared the Controlled Substances Act inoperative in states that
have legalized marijuana. Nor does the policy described in the Cole
memo violate that statute, which has never been enforced against
every violator. In that respect Obama’s grudging tolerance of
marijuana legalization differs from, say, his decision to ignore
certain provisions of the health care law he championed when they
became inconvenient—another, more apposite example of lawless
presidential action cited by Cruz.

Speaking of Obamacare, it is rather strange to see one of its
leading opponents argue that the president should seek to scuttle
marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington. The main
constitutional problem with the Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act is that it
exceeds
the federal government’s powers under the Commerce
Clause—an issue the Supreme Court dodged
by implausibly treating the penalty for failing to obtain
government-approved medical coverage as a tax. The same is true of
the federal ban on marijuana, at least insofar as it purports to
criminalize intrastate activity. In fact, the 2005 Supreme Court

decision
upholding enforcement of federal marijuana prohibition
against patients in states that allow medical use is widely seen as
the most extreme example of stretching the Commerce Clause beyond
recognition to accommodate every congressional whim. “If Congress
can regulate this under the Commerce Clause,” Justice Clarence
Thomas observed in that case, “then it can regulate virtually
anything—and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and
enumerated powers.” Yet here is Cruz, an avowed constitutionalist
and
federalist
, demanding that Obama impose marijuana prohibition
on states that have opted out of it, based on an absurdly broad
reading of the power to regulate interstate commerce.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/ted-cruz-the-federalist-faults-obama-for
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Obamacare’s Spanish Language Website Is Full of Garbled Translations

Like much of the rollout of Obamacare’s federal
exchange system, the launch of the Spanish-language version of the
site hasn’t gone so well.

It was delayed on multiple occasions, and eventually went live
in “soft-launch” mode two months after the originally scheduled
October start-up date.

It’s still not ready for prime time. We’re now the middle of
January, and apparently the site is still full of garbled
translations and bad information,
according to the Associated Press
:

The site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, launched more than two months
late.

A Web page with Spanish instructions linked users to an English
form.

And the translations were so clunky and full of grammatical
mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated —
the name of the site itself can literally be read “for the caution
of health.”

“When you get into the details of the plans, it’s not all
written in Spanish. It’s written in Spanglish, so we end up having
to translate it for them,” said Adrian Madriz, a health care
navigator who helps with enrollment in Miami.

In other words, work on the Spanish-language site, as on the
rest of it, was late and remains sloppy. And that’s despite the
fact that Spanish-speakers,
many of whom are young, healthy, and uninsured
, are one of the
administration’s target demographics for health insurance sign-ups
under the law.  

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/obamacares-spanish-language-website-is-f
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Obamacare's Spanish Language Website Is Full of Garbled Translations

Like much of the rollout of Obamacare’s federal
exchange system, the launch of the Spanish-language version of the
site hasn’t gone so well.

It was delayed on multiple occasions, and eventually went live
in “soft-launch” mode two months after the originally scheduled
October start-up date.

It’s still not ready for prime time. We’re now the middle of
January, and apparently the site is still full of garbled
translations and bad information,
according to the Associated Press
:

The site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, launched more than two months
late.

A Web page with Spanish instructions linked users to an English
form.

And the translations were so clunky and full of grammatical
mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated —
the name of the site itself can literally be read “for the caution
of health.”

“When you get into the details of the plans, it’s not all
written in Spanish. It’s written in Spanglish, so we end up having
to translate it for them,” said Adrian Madriz, a health care
navigator who helps with enrollment in Miami.

In other words, work on the Spanish-language site, as on the
rest of it, was late and remains sloppy. And that’s despite the
fact that Spanish-speakers,
many of whom are young, healthy, and uninsured
, are one of the
administration’s target demographics for health insurance sign-ups
under the law.  

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/obamacares-spanish-language-website-is-f
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A. Barton Hinkle Says Let Gamblers Gamble

Gambling is a low and dirty act that starts in
cupidity and ends in crime, bankruptcy and broken homes—or at least
so say its foes, as they have been saying for centuries. A. Barton
Hinkle says we should treat private casinos no differently than the
state run lottery—and there is no good reason to allow one but not
the other.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/a-barton-hinkle-says-let-gamblers-gamble
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You Could Make a Radical Push for Grassroots Empowerment, Or You Could Just Cut a Country-Pop Record

The president embraces volunteerism by setting aside a day each week to read stories to young delinquents.John McClaughry, a contributing
editor
here at Reason and a longtime stalwart of the
GOP’s small libertarian/decentralist wing, has been serializing his
memoirs at the Front Porch Republic site. In his latest
(and final)
installment
, he has pretty much left national politics behind,
but he takes note of President George H.W. Bush’s rhetoric about
volunteerism and “a thousand points of light.” He meets with C.
Gregg Petersmeyer, who as director of the White House’s Office of
National Service is in charge of the points-of-light program, and
concludes that Petersmeyer’s “concept of that role was to organize
the power and majesty of the White House to bestow tributes upon
the (politically acceptable) volunteers and organizations working
for good causes.” This prompts McClaughry to write a memo to the
director, drawing on his experience in past “civil society”
efforts:

“Voluntary Action/Private Sector Initiatives” (or
whatever it is labeled) means different things to different people.
To oversimplify:

a) Well-meaning Republicans favor a typically upper middle class
view: those who have should take up a collection for those who
don’t. The collection finances Christmas turkeys and other
benefits. This is the “Lady Bountiful” approach: the gift can be
given and the recipients forgotten. Republican voluntary action
efforts have been plagued with this myopic perspective. Republicans
typically do not understand what life is like in a lower-income or
minority community, and are uncomfortable with spontaneous
grassroots efforts which seem to them to be potentially subversive
of the existing order, of which they general approve.

b) Liberals tend to think of using tax dollars to finance
institutions to assist the poor, thereby making themselves feel
good while sending the bill to an otherwise uncaring “society”
through taxes. This attitude gives rise to the “welfare-industrial
complex”, with the government financing an elaborate institutional
structure which employs liberals to take care of the poor. The idea
that their tax-financed institutions as often as not defeat the
self-help efforts of the poor rarely if ever occurs to
liberals.

Are you sure these people are Republicans, Muffy?c) People at the grassroots, faced with
collective problems, usually want the tools, resources and
opportunities to solve their problem themselves. They almost
invariably view government and other institutions as part of the
problem (usually true) and hate paying taxes to finance their
oppressors and pay for programs which don’t really do them any
good. They lean Democratic because of income and class
characteristics, but will vote Republican when the right candidate
comes along who speaks their language.

McClaughry’s memo goes on to identify an alternative
approach to fostering volunteerism, which would focus on
identifiying and removing “specific barriers to organized
grassroots self help.” It also warns that “Almost every ‘barrier’
was put there for a reason,” that “Some interest or institution
will oppose almost every proposal of any merit,” and that fighting
those battles “without the President’s clear understanding and
blessing is for you to call down much grief upon yourself with
little chance of a payoff.”

And there the memorandum ends. “Not surprisingly,” McClaughry
tells us, “I never heard from him again.”

So the Bush administration ignored McClaughry’s advice. What did
it do instead? So glad you asked:

The song
reached #3
on the Billboard country chart. (1991 was
not Nashville’s finest hour.) According to
The New York Times
, the songwriters and a Bush flunky
“smoothed out the lyrics in a meeting.” Elsewhere in the White
House, a “Point of Light coordinator” helped “the President pick
his ‘daily point of light,’ a group or individual chosen every day
but Sunday for outstanding volunteer service.”

Bonus links: Past posts about McClaughry’s series can
be found
here
,
here
, and
here
.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/you-could-make-a-radical-push-for-grassr
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NSA Bulk Collection of Americans’ Phone Data Had “No Discernible Impact” on Preventing Terrorism, Says New Study

NSA spyingThe national security researchers at the
Washington, D.C.-based New America Foundation have combed through
data on 225 individuals identified as posing possible terrorist
threats to the United States. The analysts sought to uncover data
that suggests that the National Security Agency’s unconstitutional
bulk collection of the phone records of essentially all Americans
significantly helped in any of those investigations.

The NAF analysts begin by pointing out after the revelations of
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were first published the agency’s
abettors countered by claiming that their extensive spying on
Americans had averted several terrorist attacks. As the NAF reminds
us:

President Obama defended the NSA surveillance programs during a
visit to Berlin, saying: “We know of at least 50 threats that have
been averted because of this information not just in the United
States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany. So lives have
been saved.”  Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA,
testified before Congress that: “the information gathered from
these programs provided the U.S. government with critical leads to
help prevent over 50 potential terrorist events in more than 20
countries around the world.”  Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.),
chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
said on the House floor in July that “54 times [the NSA programs]
stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in Europe –
saving real lives.” 

The new NAF report finds that these claims are almost entirely
specious:

Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible
impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal
of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as
fundraising for a terrorist group. Furthermore, our examination of
the role of the database of U.S. citizens’ telephone metadata in
the single plot the government uses to justify the importance of
the program – that of Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego cabdriver who in
2007 and 2008 provided $8,500 to al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s affiliate
in Somalia – calls into question the necessity of the Section 215
bulk collection program.  According to the government, the
database of American phone metadata allows intelligence authorities
to quickly circumvent the traditional burden of proof associated
with criminal warrants, thus allowing them to “connect the dots”
faster and prevent future 9/11-scale attacks. Yet in
the Moalin case, after using the NSA’s phone database to link a
number in Somalia to Moalin, the FBI waited two months to begin an
investigation and wiretap his phone. Although it’s unclear why
there was a delay between the NSA tip and the FBI wiretapping,
court documents show there was a two-month period in which the FBI
was not monitoring Moalin’s calls, despite official statements that
the bureau had Moalin’s phone number and had identified him. ,
 This undercuts the government’s theory that the database of
Americans’ telephone metadata is necessary to expedite the
investigative process, since it clearly didn’t expedite the process
in the single case the government uses to extol its
virtues. 

Additionally, a careful review of three of the key terrorism
cases the government has cited to defend NSA bulk surveillance
programs reveals that government officials have exaggerated the
role of the NSA in the cases against David Coleman Headley and
Najibullah Zazi, and the significance of the threat posed by a
notional plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.

Go
here
to read the full report.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1cegCqn
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NSA Bulk Collection of Americans' Phone Data Had "No Discernible Impact" on Preventing Terrorism, Says New Study

NSA spyingThe national security researchers at the
Washington, D.C.-based New America Foundation have combed through
data on 225 individuals identified as posing possible terrorist
threats to the United States. The analysts sought to uncover data
that suggests that the National Security Agency’s unconstitutional
bulk collection of the phone records of essentially all Americans
significantly helped in any of those investigations.

The NAF analysts begin by pointing out after the revelations of
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were first published the agency’s
abettors countered by claiming that their extensive spying on
Americans had averted several terrorist attacks. As the NAF reminds
us:

President Obama defended the NSA surveillance programs during a
visit to Berlin, saying: “We know of at least 50 threats that have
been averted because of this information not just in the United
States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany. So lives have
been saved.”  Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA,
testified before Congress that: “the information gathered from
these programs provided the U.S. government with critical leads to
help prevent over 50 potential terrorist events in more than 20
countries around the world.”  Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.),
chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
said on the House floor in July that “54 times [the NSA programs]
stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in Europe –
saving real lives.” 

The new NAF report finds that these claims are almost entirely
specious:

Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible
impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal
of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as
fundraising for a terrorist group. Furthermore, our examination of
the role of the database of U.S. citizens’ telephone metadata in
the single plot the government uses to justify the importance of
the program – that of Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego cabdriver who in
2007 and 2008 provided $8,500 to al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s affiliate
in Somalia – calls into question the necessity of the Section 215
bulk collection program.  According to the government, the
database of American phone metadata allows intelligence authorities
to quickly circumvent the traditional burden of proof associated
with criminal warrants, thus allowing them to “connect the dots”
faster and prevent future 9/11-scale attacks. Yet in
the Moalin case, after using the NSA’s phone database to link a
number in Somalia to Moalin, the FBI waited two months to begin an
investigation and wiretap his phone. Although it’s unclear why
there was a delay between the NSA tip and the FBI wiretapping,
court documents show there was a two-month period in which the FBI
was not monitoring Moalin’s calls, despite official statements that
the bureau had Moalin’s phone number and had identified him. ,
 This undercuts the government’s theory that the database of
Americans’ telephone metadata is necessary to expedite the
investigative process, since it clearly didn’t expedite the process
in the single case the government uses to extol its
virtues. 

Additionally, a careful review of three of the key terrorism
cases the government has cited to defend NSA bulk surveillance
programs reveals that government officials have exaggerated the
role of the NSA in the cases against David Coleman Headley and
Najibullah Zazi, and the significance of the threat posed by a
notional plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange.

Go
here
to read the full report.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1cegCqn
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Kmele Foster Says Consumers Should Drive Medicine

In 2007 David Goldhill’s father was admitted to a
New York City hospital with pneumonia. Five weeks later, he died
there from multiple hospital-acquired infections. Kmele Foster
interviews Goldhill, a self-described liberal Democrat and CEO of
the Game Show Network, who now believes that a system of
incentives puts most health care purchasing power in the hands of
insurance companies and bureaucrats, while cutting patients out of
the equation.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/13/kmele-foster-says-consumers-should-drive
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