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Reason Alert: Mobility Matters, Libby, Putin

July 12, 2007

Why Mobility Matters to Our Personal Lives
In a new policy brief, Reason Foundation's Ted Balaker examines what the ability to get around town quickly means to our professional and personal lives: "The average person can walk about four miles per hour, but cars can easily travel on arterial streets at 30 miles per hour. It's a substantial increase in speed, but the impact may be even greater than it seems. A person who walks for an hour has access to 50 square miles, but someone who drives at 30 miles per hour for 60 minutes has access to 2,827 square miles. In other words, the driver's opportunity circle is more than 56 times as large as the walker's. And when conditions permit, motorists may drive much faster on highways, thus expanding opportunity circles even more...Yet, as they have always done, Americans will trade in their cars once a superior form of transportation comes along. Telecommuters already outnumber transit commuters in 27 of the top 50 metro areas, and telecommuting has already partially replaced cars for millions of American workers. And why not? Even with no traffic congestion and nothing but green lights, driving to work will never be as fast as the zero-minute commute that telecommuters enjoy. New technology has given us a new kind of mobility. Armed with cell phones, laptops and PDA’s we can 'be' almost anywhere without crawling into a car, train or plane. But that should not diminish the importance of 'old-fashioned' mobility — moving people, parts, and products across physical space."
» Study: Ranking State Highway Systems
» Study: How Bad Will Your City's Traffic Be in 2030?
» Watch Reason's Sam Staley Discuss Traffic, Clean Air on CNBC 7/11/07

Don't Stop With Scooter Libby
Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum says it is easy to "find injustices more egregious than the one Bush said compelled him to intervene on [Scooter] Libby's behalf" and urges Bush to examine cases where people are serving decades or life in prison for petty crimes because mandatory sentencing laws left the presiding judges with no other options. Sullum goes looking for compassionate conservatism and finds: "In six and a half years, Bush has granted 113 pardons, typically used to clear the records of reformed criminals after they've completed their sentences. Counting Libby's, he has issued only four commutations, which allow people who receive excessive sentences to go free early...President Bush, who in other areas has been quick to assert broad authority, even when its constitutional basis is questionable, has been strangely reluctant to exercise a power that is indisputably his in the manner the Framers envisioned. So far he has been much stingier with clemency than any of his recent predecessors, except his father. Bush is averaging 18 acts of clemency a year, compared to 57 for Clinton, 19 for George H.W. Bush, 51 for Reagan, 142 for Carter, 164 for Ford, 168 for Nixon, 237 for Johnson, 192 for Kennedy, 145 for Eisenhower, 264 for Truman, and 301 for FDR. With less than 18 months left in his presidency, this is one area where Bush has room to improve and can still leave an admirable legacy."

Bush's Strange Romance With Putin
Reason magazine's Cathy Young says President Bush's cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin gives "moral sanction to a regime that shows blatant contempt for democratic and civilized norms." Young details changes in Russia since Bush and Putin's first meeting: "In the six years since then, much has happened in Russia: first and foremost, a steady and brutal rollback of the freedoms gained since the start of glasnost in the late 1980s. Independent television has been obliterated; most of radio and the print press have been muzzled as well. The multiparty system has become an unfunny joke. Vocal critics of Putin have ended up in prison and, in several notorious cases, suspiciously dead. What's more, Russia, an ostensible ally in the War on Terror, has used this alliance mostly to justify its military's atrocities in Chechnya while refusing to back the U.S. on a wide range of foreign policy issues (mostly notably on sanctions against Iran). Anti-American hysteria has been rampant in the servile Russian press. In his speech last May commemorating Russia's victory over Germany, Putin transparently suggested that the United States was seeking world domination in the same manner as the Third Reich. Meanwhile, the beautiful friendship endures."

Balancing Risks and Benefits at the FDA
Reason magazine science correspondent Ronald Bailey examines the tradeoffs between getting prescription drugs onto the market quickly and waiting out the long regulatory process: "...if slower regulatory approvals are the price we need to pay for safer drugs, surely that's a good tradeoff. Not really. A fascinating 2005 study by University of Chicago economists calculated that the speed up in FDA drug approvals that occurred after 1992 may have been responsible for saving the equivalent of 180,000 to 310,000 life-years. On the other hand, the economists estimated that at worst, about 56,000 life-years were lost to drugs that were eventually withdrawn for safety reasons. Unfortunately, it's much easier to identify people who are harmed by drugs than those who are saved by drugs. In the face of this information asymmetry regulators focus on reducing lives lost to unsafe drugs rather than preventing deaths by speeding effective new therapies to patients...Regulators and the public have to keep in mind that erring on the side of caution can be the really risky thing to do."

Nick Gillespie on Fox News Channel Tonight
Reason Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie is scheduled to discuss the day's news on Fox News Channel's Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld tonight at 11 p.m. Pacific / 2 a.m. Eastern. Reason's Kerry Howley is scheduled to be on the program tomorrow.

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