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Political scientists Sidney Verba, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Henry E. Brady were recently honored in Orlando for their book Voice and Equality. The book and its authors won the 2012 American Association for Public Opinion Research Book Award, recognizing influential scholarly works that inspire critical thinking on the topic of public opinion. Their extensive survey analysis demonstrated that some citizens have a greater voice in political matters than others, and that this disparity arises due to unequal access to education and other crucial resources. The civic imbalance is most lop-sided in situations where participating requires monetary donations as opposed to sacrificing one’s time.

In short, the book concludes:

… [M]eaningful democratic participation requires that the voices of citizens be clear, loud, and equal: clear so that public officials know what citizens want and need, loud so that officials have an incentive to pay attention to what they hear, and equal so that the democratic ideal of equal responsiveness to the preferences and interests of all is not violated. Our analysis of voluntary activity in American politics suggests that the public’s voice is often loud, sometimes clear, but rarely equal.

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Phillip R. Greaves

Phillip R. Greaves

Phillip R. Greaves, author of a self-published book on pedophilia, was released yesterday after spending more than three months in jail.

From BBC News:

Phillip Greaves pleaded no contest on Wednesday in Florida to a charge of distributing obscene material depicting minors engaged in harmful conduct… He was arrested in December after he sold a copy of the self-published book to an undercover detective in Florida.  He was arrested in Colorado on behalf of prosecutors in Polk County, Florida, and was extradited to the southern US state. (Read the full article).

It all started last fall when Anderson Cooper spearheaded CNN’s crusade against Greaves. The goal, at first, was just to compel Amazon.com to stop selling Greaves’s book.  Amazon initially responded by saying that it supported the author’s rights to free speech:

Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable.

Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.

Viewers of AC360 were then encouraged to boycott Amazon.com until the website pulled the book.  Predictably, Amazon eventually reneged on its commitment to the First Amendment, removing the book from its website within a day.

But here’s what CNN and Cooper failed to mention.  Nobody besides the author had ever read, purchased, or even heard of this book until CNN started giving it free publicity.  To hear the CNN pundit tell it, it was as if the book were a national bestseller.  But in reality, Greaves’s typo-filled book hadn’t even been published by an actual publisher.  It was only available in Kindle form.  Absolutely anybody is eligible to sell their crap on Amazon in Kindle form.  But neither Amazon nor Greaves were getting on account of this book.  In fact, guess how many copies had sold before CNN went berserk?  Just one.  So even though CNN ultimately succeeded in preventing Amazon from “selling” the book, the cable news network likely caused more readers (including real-life pedophiles) to buy the book than Greaves ever could have sold himself in the absence of a national freak out.  (Let this be a First Amendment lesson for all major media organizations: if your goal is to censor distasteful material, don’t provide it with free advertising).

But whatever good fortune the boost in Kindle sales brought to Greaves was no doubt offset by what came next.  During the global outcry surrounding Greaves, a self-righteous Florida sheriff saw an opportunity to get famous.

From Bay News 9:

Sheriff Grady Judd saw all the national attention about the book and wanted to do something about it. He had his detectives order the book.

When it got to Polk County, Judd had a judge sign an arrest warrant. Two deputies then flew to Colorado to arrest Greaves.

Greaves has no other connection to Florida.

Judd was criticized for spending money on the case. Today, Judd defended his decision to send his detectives to Colorado.

“What’s that worth to the parents across the United States? I would say an investigation like that is priceless and it cost us very little,” Judd said. “And if at the end of the day it only saved a child in Colorado from being a victim, who would argue with that? I am proud of that expenditure.”

(See news video about arrest).

It was an outcome even CNN never intended (but nonetheless celebrated).

Though ordered to serve two years probation, Greaves does not have to register as a sex offender because he was never accused of actually molesting a child, only thinking about it and fantasizing about it in writing. He told Bay News 10 that he intended to celebrate his release with a pizza and a Dr. Pepper in a local motel last night.  Today, he will attempt to purchase a bus ticket back to Colorado using social security checks that accumulated during the

As Greaves was released yesterday, he told told reporters:

I don’t really think that I did anything that was so terribly wrong. I was trying to be objective, I was trying to reach out and help people that everybody hates and it backfired on me.

Bullies Suck

Everyone should face down their demons at least once in life.

Have I ever mentioned that I despise bullies?  If not, you must have inferred.

Bullying can come in all forms–corporate corruption, abuse of power by wealthy elites,  or just your garden variety punks in the schoolyard.  I think the thing that bugs me most about bullying is that it’s not just done with a particular end in mind; often, the joy of dominating and subordinating the weak is as big a reward to the bully as whatever concrete gain they sustain as a result.

That’s why those who refuse to back down deserve our unending praise.

Governor Rick Scott recently announced his new budget for the state of Florida. Don’t worry, socialism-haters, it does not “take from the rich and give to the poor.”

Instead, it takes from the kids and gives to the rich!

No, seriously.  The new budgets cuts over $1.7 Billion in education, and gives $1.6 billion of that to the rich in the form of tax breaks.

Thus, Rachel Maddow defines “The Rick Scott Test”:

A simple test for determining whether your quality of life and your share of the American Dream is going to shrivel significantly this year for a real economic reason or just because you have a bad governor.

We call this the Rick Scott Test because newly-elected Florida Governor Rick Scott didn’t just use a state budget deficit to justify cutting public education down to the bone… No, Rick Scott gets the bad governor test named after him because Rick Scott found a way to make huge devastating cuts to education in a way that does not help the state’s budget deficit at all.

Specifically, Governor Scott’s new Florida budget

takes more than $1.7 billion out of public schools. And instead of putting that money back into the budget, the budget gives it away in corporate and property tax breaks. So, K through 12 education gets absolutely eviscerated in the state of Florida and the money that is saved by the state no longer spending the money on the schools doesn’t close the state budget gap at all. It leaves it roughly exactly as is and instead gives the saved money away in the form of tax cuts. So, you get all of the pain and none of the gain.

Is your state about to become a much worse place to live because of an actual economic shortfall in your state? Or is your state about to become a much worse place to live because it`s just what your governor wants? It is the Rick Scott test. It`s empirical. Tax cut for dummies.

(Read the full transcript here).