Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

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Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment. PGP public key.

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Going viral today almost as fast as a good pepper spray video is the latest idea from Occupy Wall Street: the Rolling Jubilee, a project to buy up and zero out people's debts. David "How To Sharpen Pencils" Rees explains:

Now OWS is launching the ROLLING JUBILEE, a program that has been in development for months. OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you're a debt broker, once you own someone's debt you can do whatever you want with it—traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We're playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)

Over at Slate, Matthew Yglesias offers limited praise:

That said, almost all charitable undertakings are organized around some gimmick or other that serves as a focal point and helps get people interested. If the pecularity of the distressed debt situation and the concept of a jubilee happens to inspire people and motivate them to be more generous with their time and money than would otherwise be the case, this is a perfectly good idea.

But ultimately, the Rolling Jubilee could do much more than inspire charity. Spending $500 to cancel $14,000 in debt is an amazing bang for the buck—or, seen differently, an amazing illustration of how the financial system that we all bailed out now enslaves many of us. Even if the Rolling Jubilee becomes wildly successful, it probably won't cancel out more than a tiny fraction of our trillions worth of personal debts. Its value is as a devastating political statement: Debt is cheap, except when it's owned by the banks.

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California Is No Longer Your Crazy Deadbeat Uncle

This is what happens when you let Democrats govern. . . California's credit rating has been slashed to junk-bond status, and citizens are advised to stock up for the not-too-far-off day when cigarettes and Botox become the hard currency of choice. At this stage, we couldn't give California back to Mexico.Ann Coulter, 2003

For the past few decades, making fun of California has been a favorite pastime of conservatives and, for that matter, just about everybody. We're either the Libertine State (Ganja! Gays!), the Nanny State (Eat your fruit before you get your Happy Meal toy!), or a redoubt of ecofascism. (AB 32: the horror!) But more than anything, we're just perpetually broke—the governmental equivalent of Annie Liebovitz or Mike Tyson. And regarding that Ann Coulter actually speaks the truth. Well, except for the part about blaming government by Democrats.

Rocky Mountain High

Colorado on Tuesday night became the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana, beating out Washington by about an hour.

Barring a legal challenge, anyone over the age of 21 can soon walk into a marijuana dispensary in the Rocky Mountain State and buy some bud—and not the kind made by Anheuser-Busch.

But the fight for legal weed in Colorado and around the country is far from over. Cracking down on pot is still a centerpiece of federal drug enforcement policy, and the feds may try to quash Colorado's legal weed program before it gets started.

Video of Ludicrously Long Voting Lines in Florida

As I've previously reported here, Florida has been beset by massive delays at the polls due to shortages of key voting equipment such as ballots and ballot scanners, and understaffing at polling places. Now comes this shocking video from Video The Vote, showing a voting line snaking around the block in Miami. It should be noted that, as of 6:40 EST, the Florida presidential race was insanely close. NPR was reporting a 500-vote difference.

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