November 26, 2011

Gary Johnson as the Libertarian Party candidate

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:12

Reason is asking their readers if they’d support Gary Johnson as the US Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate:

Former two-term Gov. Gary Johnson (R-N.M.) tells the Santa Fe New Mexican that he feels “abandoned” by a Republican Party that shut him out of all but two of GOP presidential debates so far. As a result, he’s mulling over the idea of running for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination.

[. . .]

There’s little doubt that Johnson — who unambiguously supports an end to the drug war, a non-interventionist foreign policy, reproductive rights, liberalized immigration policy, free trade, and many other libertarian position — would be the highest-profile LP candidate at least since Ron Paul hit the hustings back in 1988. As a pol who won election twice in a Democratic-heavy state and governed to bipartisan acclaim, he’d also be the first one who could point to administrative experience and success, which would surely help with publicity for the LP’s existence and positions.

Incentives matter, especially in policing

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:31

Radley Balko looks at how federal government incentives to local police departments are encouraging them to concentrate on minor drug offenders instead of helping the victims of violent crime:

Arresting people for assaults, beatings and robberies doesn’t bring money back to police departments, but drug cases do in a couple of ways. First, police departments across the country compete for a pool of federal anti-drug grants. The more arrests and drug seizures a department can claim, the stronger its application for those grants.

“The availability of huge federal anti-drug grants incentivizes departments to pay for SWAT team armor and weapons, and leads our police officers to abandon real crime victims in our communities in favor of ratcheting up their drug arrest stats,” said former Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Stephen Downing. Downing is now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an advocacy group of cops and prosecutors who are calling for an end to the drug war.

“When our cops are focused on executing large-scale, constitutionally questionable raids at the slightest hint that a small-time pot dealer is at work, real police work preventing and investigating crimes like robberies and rapes falls by the wayside,” Downing said.

[. . .]

Several NYPD officers have alleged that in some precincts, police officers are asked to meet quotas for drug arrests. Former NYPD narcotics detective Stephen Anderson recently testified in court that it’s common for cops in the department to plant drugs on innocent people to meet those quotas — a practice for which Anderson himself was then on trial.

At the same time, there’s increasing evidence that the NYPD is paying less attention to violent crime. In an explosive Village Voice series last year, current and former NYPD officers told the publication that supervising officers encouraged them to either downgrade or not even bother to file reports for assault, robbery and even sexual assault. The theory is that the department faces political pressure to produce statistics showing that violent crime continues to drop. Since then, other New Yorkers have told the Voice that they have been rebuffed by NYPD when trying to report a crime.

TV commercials don’t have to be irritating

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:21

Scott Jordan Harris explains that the purpose of TV advertising isn’t — despite all the evidence to the contrary — to irritate the hell out of viewers:

Many of the best short films I see each year are adverts, and this shouldn’t be surprising. There is a small audience for shorts that aren’t shot by Pixar and shown before Disney films, and there are miniscule budgets available for them. Most shorts are apprentice pieces, showy announcements of the skills of film-makers who want to be making features, and display so many signs of it that they fail as individual films.

Adverts do not suffer these problems: their budgets are relatively big, their audience numbers are assured, and they are by nature self-contained. What’s more, they have to be good — very, very good — if they are going to outcompete their rivals.

To disregard commercials as beneath consideration — to adopt the ‘it’s just an advert for a shop!’ mentality that Brooker has, or pretends to have — is naïve, and flows from the feeling that adverts are inherently artistically bankrupt, or rather that they are any more artistically bankrupt than the majority of movies.

This is simply not the case. Most movies are designed to sell us something, from popcorn and DVDs to high-end items advertised through the sophisticated trickery of product placement. Compared to blockbuster films, which charge admission to sell us merchandise, a television advert is relatively benign: it does not pretend to be anything other than it is and it honestly announces its intentions.

This why a good advert is so pleasing: being won over by one is like being won over by a magician’s illusion. We know that it wants to suck us in, and so we are on guard against it. When, despite ourselves, it manages to amuse us, we know it has worked hard to do so.

Daniel Hannan on how the “Occupy” movement misunderstands the right

Filed under: Britain, Economics, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:57

In his latest column in the Telegraph, Daniel Hannan lists ten mistaken beliefs that the “Occupy” folks seem to have about conservatives:

1. Free-marketeers resent the bank bailouts. This might seem obvious: we are, after all, opposed to state subsidies and nationalisations. Yet it often surprises commentators, who mistake our support for open competition and free trade for a belief in plutocracy. There is a world of difference between being pro-market and being pro-business. Sometimes, the two positions happen to coincide; often they don’t.

2. What has happened since 2008 is not capitalism. In a capitalist system, bad banks would have been allowed to fail, their profitable operations bought by more efficient competitors. Shareholders, bondholders and some depositors would have lost money, but taxpayers would not have contributed a penny.

[. . .]

6. Nor, by the way, does state intervention seem to be an effective way to promote equality. On the most elemental indicators — height, calorie intake, infant mortality, literacy, longevity — Britain has been becoming a steadily more equal society since the calamity of 1066. It’s true that, around half a century ago, this approximation halted and, on some measures, went into reverse. There are competing theories as to why, but one thing is undeniable: the recent widening of the wealth gap has taken place at a time when the state controls a far greater share of national wealth than ever before.

7. Let’s tackle the idea that being on the Left means being on the side of ordinary people, while being on the Right means defending privileged elites. It’s hard to think of a single tax, or a single regulation, that doesn’t end up privileging some vested interest at the expense of the general population. The reason governments keep growing is because of what economists call ‘dispersed costs and concentrated gains’: people are generally more aware the benefits they receive than of the taxes they pay.

This week in Guild Wars 2 news

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:04

I’ve been accumulating news snippets about the as-yet-to-be-formally-scheduled release of Guild Wars 2 for an email newsletter I send out to my friends and acquaintances in the Guild Wars community. The game is still in closed alpha testing, and no substantive new information has leaked out about when the closed beta will begin. We’re still expecting it “by the end of the year”, based on the original announcement.


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