‘OPPO' firms trawl through hours of video looking for dumb comments made by political opponents. Our US editor explains
‘OPPO' firms trawl through hours of video looking for dumb comments made by political opponents. Our US editor explains
THE CARDS have been stacked against Atlantic City for years. This resort city in New Jersey lost its casino monopoly in the region when neighbouring states began legalising gambling a decade ago. Gaming revenues have been steadily falling ever since. In 2012 Pennsylvania, which opened its first casino in 2006, edged out Atlantic City to become the nation’s second-largest gambling market. New Jersey no longer holds all the aces.
The casino industry is the city’s biggest employer, and roughly a quarter of all jobs are now in jeopardy. Four of Atlantic City’s dozen casinos have already announced plans to close their doors. The Atlantic shuttered in January, leaving about 1,600 people jobless. The 2,100 employees at Showboat Casino on the iconic boardwalk may lose their jobs by the end of the summer, as could the 3,100 workers at Revel, which just entered its second bankruptcy. The latest stroke of bad luck came on Friday when Trump Plaza’s owners announced it may shut its doors in September. Notices went out to its 1,000 employees yesterday.
The city’s leaders have decided to shuffle the deck. In a press briefing on...Continue reading
VOTERS, journalists and just about everyone paying some attention to politics all tend to over-estimate the power of the president. When Barack Obama swept into office in 2008, Americans were dazzled by his promises of change at home and a more judicious mix of strength and humility abroad. Indeed, it was hoped the president would rescue America’s image after eight years of George Bush's brand of ham-fisted, cowboy-booted diplomacy. But many worry President Obama has also managed to tarnish the country’s brand, either through too little intervention, which has made America look weak (see Syria, Iraq and Ukraine), or through too much, which has made the country seem callous (the use of drones, phone-tapping and the like).
But for all of this anxiety about what the rest of the world thinks, it seems America's star has not quite fallen, at least according to the Continue reading
“O RIGHTEOUS God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure,” requests Psalm 7:9. Alas, God alone cannot be expected to ensure righteous folk are safe from violence. In the office of Keith McBrayer, the sheriff of Henry Country in Georgia, assembled church leaders yesterday were also asked to do their bit.
The Georgia Safe Carry Protection Act came into effect on July 1st. This means Georgians with certain licenses can now carry their guns to a whole host of new places: bars, parts of airports, some government buildings, schools (with special permission) and even churches. But the law is “vague”, according to Sheriff McBrayer. Many are confused over who is, and who is not, allowed to bring their weapons to church. And some, such as your correspondent, are moved to ask why a magnum might be welcome in church at all.
Faith-based organisations across the country are Continue reading
I WASN'T sure what to expect from the Porcupine Freedom Festival, but I was delighted by what I found. At this annual gathering of libertarians, anarchists and jovial “freedom-lovers”, the conversations were thoughtful, the atmosphere festive and the bonhomie infectious. Sure, there was plenty of hyperbole about the “inevitable collapse of the state” (in the words of Jeffrey Tucker, Chief Liberty Office of Liberty.me). But I also met plenty of people running for local office with some good ideas for removing silly regulations and reducing official corruption. Many of these revellers have already pledged to move to New Hampshire in the hopes of making it the “most free” state in the union. “To have so many extremely thoughtful people moving to our state is really positive,” observed Jim Rubens, a New Hampshire Republican who was busily shaking hands and...Continue reading
AMERICA’s Congress has been struggling for years to come up with legislation to address cyber-security issues, without success. Now it is trying yet again. On July 8th a draft bill, known as the Cyber Information Sharing Act, or CISA, cleared the Senate’s intelligence committee and will now be debated by the full chamber. The proposed legislation is likely to face stiff opposition from privacy groups, who have already given warning about some of its provisions.
We have been here before. In 2012 another cyber-security bill, the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), was heavily promoted by its supporters, but ended up being stymied because of concerns that it did not do enough to protect people’s privacy. Since then, Edward Snowden’s revelations about the mass surveillance activities of the National Security Agency (NSA) have made folk even warier of anything that could result in more information ending up in the hands of government.
That is why CISA faces an uphill struggle. The bill has provisions that would, among other things, encourage the government to share more classified information about cyber-threats with...Continue reading
CORY BOOKER and Rand Paul hardly seem like natural bedfellows. Mr Booker, the former mayor of Newark and now a junior senator from New Jersey, has devoted himself to finding big-government solutions to seemingly intractable problems such as urban blight and poor schools; Mr Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, seems fairly certain that the government is at the root of most problems. Yet the two men share a disgust for America’s prison system, which locks up too many people for too many things, trapping millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty and incarceration.
“Our criminal justice system is broken,” said Mr Booker this week. This is an understatement. America is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. More than 2m Americans are locked up at any given time, more than half of them in state prisons. This is costly, at $29,000 per federal inmate per year and more for state prisoners—about the price of sending each one to an Ivy...Continue reading
ROSS DOUTHAT thinks liberals should object less strenuously to the Hobby Lobby decision because religion often impels corporations to do things that liberals would consider morally praiseworthy. He points out that Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft shops, was itself lauded by the left-wing website Demos last year for paying its employees excellent wages and donating to charities, and that this sense of ethical responsibility flows from the Christian convictions of its owners.
Mr Douthat's argument is a mess. Liberals do not object to Hobby Lobby paying its employees higher-than-average wages out of a sense of Christian responsibility; they object to it trying to dictate the sexual and reproductive choices of its employees, whether out of a sense of Christian responsibility or not. They...Continue reading
Tom has continued to tinker with his now super-sized document, Excellence. NO EXCUSES! He asked the opinion of his Twitter followers, and they approved the addition of “Moral Bedrock of Management,” available here. It is now item number 6 in this latest version of Excellence. NO EXCUSES! We encourage you to download it, or one […]
SO MUCH for the Supreme Court’s summer recess. Not 72 hours after they wrapped things up for the year, the justices had an emergency application to contend with. The plea came from Wheaton College, a Christian institution in Illinois. As a religious non-profit, Wheaton is one of the organisations with objections to paying for their employees’ contraceptives the Obama administration tried to accommodate a year ago with this compromise: fill out a form self-certifying to your objection, and you do not have to pay for the birth control. The third-party insurance company will provide the birth control at no cost. Wheaton, like dozens of other evangelical organisations, finds this alternative arrangement unacceptable because filling out the form “triggers” the delivery of contraceptives.
Yesterday, by a vote of 6-3, the justices gave Wheaton a temporary exemption from the accommodation. It need not fill out the form, pending resolution of its legal claim in court.
EVERYTHING in America has gotten bigger since 1776 but the sentences. Were Thomas Jefferson writing today, the baggy monsters with which he opens the Declaration of Independence would be hacked to bits by editors and spin doctors mindful of the need for quick sound bites. As tortuous as we think the Declaration's opening sentences are, though, one of them may have been even longer in the original, reports Jennifer Schuessler in the New York Times. Danielle Allen, a professor at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, believes she has found a mistake in the current standard transcription of the Declaration: the period after "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" was actually a comma.
The clause that follows the disputed punctuation states "that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Ms Allen argues that by splitting the thought into two sentences, the period changes the meaning:
"The logic of...Continue reading
ON INDEPENDENCE Day, Andrew O'Shaughnessy explains how Britain lost a war it should have won
BACK in the 1980s the most annoying thing about walking into a guitar store was the certainty that some long-haired guy would be sitting in the back with a Stratocaster playing "Eruption". These days the most annoying thing about attending any tech, trade or "ideas" conference is the certainty that some short-haired individual will be strutting around a stage yammering about disruption. Entrepreneurs, business journalists and tech gurus have spent the past decade-plus claiming that whatever new gimmick they wanted people to read about or invest in constitutes a "disruptive technology"—by which they mean they have discovered something that will force existing businesses to radically rethink their very existence. Last month Jill Lepore, a professor of American history at Harvard, finally declared war on the term. In an article in the New Yorker she attacked the research and thinking behind the "The Innovator's Dilemma",...Continue reading
HOW broad is the ruling in Burwell v Hobby Lobby? To listen to Justice Samuel Alito, author of the majority opinion, letting some religious employers off the hook for providing no-cost birth control to their employees is quite modest. The decision applies only to “closely-held” corporations, he wrote, and it is “concerned solely with the contraceptive mandate”:
Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.
Justice Alito is a smart guy, so the weak and disingenuous arguments he strings together in this section of his opinion are...Continue reading
LAST November, as Barack Obama was delivering one of many speeches on immigration reform, a heckler shouted that the president "had the power to stop deportations for all." "Actually, I don't," replied a peeved Mr Obama, adding that he was obliged to follow the law of the land. But yesterday the president who has presided over more deportations than any other offered the biggest hint yet that just maybe, yes, he can.
In an 11-minute speech delivered outside the White House, Mr Obama acknowledged what has been clear to congressional observers for some time: that the prospects of the Republican-led House of Representatives passing an immigration-reform bill this year have dwindled to zero. Mr Obama chastised the Republicans for failing to take any sort of action on immigration a year after a bipartisan group of senators Continue reading
WHO counts as a state employee? One of the most important Supreme Court cases this year turned on the answer to this deceptively simple question. Pamela Harris, a mother in Illinois, says she is not a state employee. The state of Illinois insisted that she was. By five votes to four, the justices largely sided with Ms Harris.
Ms Harris looks after her severely disabled son at home. The government pays her to do this, via Medicaid. Because Ms Harris and other home-health assistants accept a cheque from the government, Rod Blagojevich, a former governor of Illinois, decreed in 2003 that they were public employees, and that therefore they could unionise. In effect, this meant that they all had to pay fees to the SEIU, the labour union that represents such workers in Illinois.
Ms Harris and others objected, saying they would rather keep their money. In a case filed in 2010 against the state and Pat Quinn, the governor, they said that being forced to subsidise the union amounted to a “pernicious form of compelled expressive association” that violated their First Amendment rights.
The state's argument...Continue reading
THE Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, has been battered again and again since its enactment in 2010. On June 30th it got its latest beating, this time from the Supreme Court. The justices ruled that a company can, indeed, bring religious objections against Obamacare.
In the case, Burwood v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc, the court ruled that closely held companies can refuse to offer workers coverage of contraception without facing fines. The case was brought by two Christian families and their businesses: the Greens own Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft shops, and Mardel, a Christian bookstore; the Hahns own Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet company.
Obamacare requires firms to offer their workers health coverage, including coverage of contraception at no extra cost to the employee. The Greens and Hahns believe that some of those contraceptives, which may keep a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterine wall, amount to abortion. Federal law defines pregnancy from implantation, not fertilisation. Nevertheless, the issue before the court was not...Continue reading
IT'S not every day that an old-school magazine makes a splash by interviewing an ageing character actor. But Playboy seemed to know exactly what it had on its hands when Gary Oldman unleashed a sweeping, unguarded commentary on everything from marriage and sobriety to Mel Gibson and, er, the Jews.
It takes a special kind of skill at interviewing to guide a celebrity on a publicity tour toward statements like “we’re up shit creek without a paddle or a compass”—and then to nudge him into detailing exactly why, and how, and who is to blame.
In the ensuing avalanche of disregard, Mr Oldman critiques helicopter parents, reality television and a high-school coach who talked two students into going undercover to bust a pot deal. He slams Hollywood and the media for manufacturing superficially uncontrollable “little monsters” like Miley Cyrus.
Woven in between thoughtful reflections on life, art and his work, Mr Oldman’s pointed attacks leave few of America’s sacred cows left standing. But, in a kind of poetic irony,...Continue reading