Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Duh, Winning!

The ATF has been arming the drug cartels in Mexico? What could possibly go wrong?

CBS News reports:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allegedly let gun runners walk off with weapons – thousands of them – to see if they’d end up in the hands of the cartels. The Justice Department and ATF have denied it ever happened.

Special Agent John Dodson works in ATF’s Phoenix office and has blown the whistle on the controversial strategy, known as letting guns “walk.”

Dodson believes there are other ATF operations going on that have done the same thing.

[…]

Sources tell CBS News licensed gun dealers often wanted no part of selling to suspicious characters who could be supplying the cartels.

But, sources say, ATF enlisted the gun dealers as paid Confidential Informants and encouraged them to sell even more.

“ATF has asked me to assist in an official investigation,” reads one agreement.

Gun salesmen closed the deals, and ATF watched and listened with recording devices.

“ATF Special Agents conducted surveillance…and identified the dates and times that the conspirators… crossed the international border,” says one court document.

Dodson argues that something that should never be done. “A lot people are going to get hurt with those firearms between the time we let them go and the time they’re recovered again in a crime.”

Sources tell CBS News these ATF operations involved about 450 weapons. Despite the risk, two years later the same strategy was expanded to include thousands of guns.

Hopefully this special agent Dodson won’t receive the “Manning Treatment” for being brave enough to expose this to the media and the American public.

In response to this news, Libertarian Party Chairman Mark Hinkle in a statement said:

“The War on Drugs has caused far more death and destruction than it has prevented. The War on Drugs is a failure in almost every measurable way. The War on Drugs should end.

“It’s becoming more and more unclear whether the U.S. government even wants the violence to decrease. More drug violence means more jobs for federal drug agents. More drug arrests mean more jobs for prison construction and management contractors. There are a lot of people whose income depends on a big, thriving, unsuccessful War on Drugs.

“If the War on Drugs were halted, there would no longer be any such thing as ‘drug trafficking.’ Violence in Mexico would decrease very dramatically, as drug lords would quickly go out of business.

I’m not one who normally subscribes to conspiracy theories but Hinkle makes an interesting point. There are lots of people who benefit from the war on (some) drugs. More convicted drug dealers and drug users means more jobs for those who build prisons and maintain prisons. The prison industrial complex as a whole would suffer mightily if the war on (some) drugs was ever ended.

I also think the antigun crusaders both inside and outside the Obama Administration could also benefit. “These guns are so available to these drug cartels because they are so readily available to just anyone who walks into a gun store” they can say.

Hopefully some heads will roll on the result of this irresponsible scheme. The ATF and the Obama Administration no doubt have blood on their hands.

Selling AK-47s to the drug cartels to scare Americans into accepting even stricter gun control laws while strengthening the prison industrial complex? Duh, winning!

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Quote Of The Day

Will Wilkinson writing for The Economist:

To get at the value of WikiLeaks, I think it’s important to distinguish between the government—the temporary, elected authors of national policy—and the state—the permanent bureaucratic and military apparatus superficially but not fully controlled by the reigning government. The careerists scattered about the world in America’s intelligence agencies, military, and consular offices largely operate behind a veil of secrecy executing policy which is itself largely secret. American citizens mostly have no idea what they are doing, or whether what they are doing is working out well. The actually-existing structure and strategy of the American empire remains a near-total mystery to those who foot the bill and whose children fight its wars. And that is the way the elite of America’s unelected permanent state, perhaps the most powerful class of people on Earth, like it.

Be Thankful I Don’t Take It All…

Here’s the outrage of the day, coming straight out of the UK:

The UK’s tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

Currently employers withhold tax and pay the government, providing information at the end of the year, a system know as Pay as You Earn (PAYE). There is no option for those employees to refuse withholding and individually file a tax return at the end of the year.

If the real-time information plan works, it further proposes that employers hand over employee salaries to the government first.

Now, I’ve read the full proposal (1st link inside the blockquote), and I should, in the interest of fairness, clarify one discrepancy between what is stated above and the intended proposal: The HMRC would not be gathering salaries first and then disbursing what is “left over” after tax to the employee’s bank account. Rather, the HMRC would be involved as a third party — i.e. when the employer directs a salary payment, the HMRC advises the employer’s bank what the tax percentage for withholding is before the bank itself makes the payment. Some would say that it’s a distinction without a difference, but I would mention that the government is not, be default, a true middleman that intercepts the payment itself on its way to the employee.

That said, we’ve all seen what happens between legislation’s introduction and its passage, and I definitely am concerned that a) this little distinction could be removed quickly, or b) that this simply notches the gov’t one step further to being the actual middleman.

The article above goes on to express concern at the likelihood of mistakes in the system, but the real issue is greater government ability to step in and damage your ability to live if they see fit. Assuming that they don’t get direct control over the bank account itself, the government is likely to get compliance from a bank if, for example, they decide that someone’s “deduction” should be 100%. Right now the system is decentralized, so the employer has to calculate deductions based upon published rules and pay their employee accordingly. It doesn’t allow for the government to directly, invisibly, and immediately intrude on the arrangement. That would change, and certainly not for the better.

Even without the nightmare scenario, it allows for much less visible and more immediate changes to the tax code. Enabling centralized deductions ensures that if the legislature approves a tax rate or policy change, they don’t need to inform employers and set up a long lag time — citizens just start seeing a slight change to their take-home pay. This will make it easier to raise taxes.

Finally, I’ve often said that the nanny-state and regulatory-state policies of Britain are a leading indicator for the US (although oddly, reading deeper I think we may have beat them to withholding by a year — lucky us!). If this is being pushed there, it is no stretch to think that it’ll be very long before our own politicians want to follow their example.

Of course, it’s only appropriate to close with the song “Taxman”. While I’m partial to the Stevie Ray Vaughan version myself, with this being a story from the UK it’s gotta be the original: The Beatles.

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

On Islam and the Middle East, Where is Pat Buchanan Coming From?

When I first heard Pat Buchanan talking about Palestine and Israel as a politically naive teenager, I thought he was a conservative who broke from the path because he thought the Palestinians had been mistreated. Things are obviously a lot more complicated than that.

Given Pat Buchanan’s proclamation that America is “a country built by white people” and his writing of an entire book called The Unnecessary War, a historical revisionist screed based on the absurd premise that Winston Churchill led Adolf Hitler into war, his declaration that there are “too many Jews on the Supreme Court” and his fear of “losing White America” (all of which is the tip of the iceberg for Buchanan) my own suspicions have arisen about where Buchanan is coming from. It seems as if he shares Mel Gibson’s ideology and sees the Palestinians as victims of another war started by the killers of Christ. Why else does he consistently stick up for one oppressed group but no other (like gays, for instance)?

As a person who generally thinks that freedom of religion is good and that people should be able to believe whatever it is that they want, I generally agree with Buchanan in this video:

However, politics does make strange bedfellows and it is easy, especially if governed by principle, to end up associated with a group you have little else in common with based on one or two issues. (This is an eternal curse for libertarians.) Buchanan, as an intellectual conservative, seems to know enough about history to find common sympathy with Muslims who are in conflict with Jews. He’s not the first European anti-semite to do so.

If you find yourself agreeing with Buchanan on policy towards Israel or Muslims, don’t. Read Edward Said’s Blaming the Victims instead, which was co-written by Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky (both of which are most definitely not harboring anti-semitism). If you find yourself in agreement on the insanity of many politicians’ responses to the building of a Muslim community center two blocks from Ground Zero in NYC, don’t. Read Christopher Hitchens’ article on the subject instead.

Pat Buchanan is apparently a really nice and cordial fellow, but he carries with him some wicked and nasty ideas and prejudices.

I Was Wrong About the War in Iraq

The following is a post I started a little over 2 years ago explaining my 180 concerning the war in Iraq. This is easily the most difficult post I’ve ever written because of the life and death nature of the subject matter and admitting being on the wrong side of this issue for so long. As tempting as it has been to continue to ignore this issue, I felt that I owed it to the readers of The Liberty Papers to finally explain myself before moving on to other posts.

I think that most Americans on both sides of the Iraq debate have the best interests of America at heart (to the extent there even is a debate anymore).

Much of the Iraq debate seems to be based on emotion rather than reason. Emotional talking points from the Left such as “Bush lied, people died” (though I do believe he over sold the threat), “Bush wanted to be a war time president,” and “the Iraq war is really about Halliburton” or “BIG oil” remain unconvincing to me. I took great exception to war critics who resort to calling anyone who supports any war for any reason a “war monger” or a “chicken hawk” (and I still do).

I also took great exception to those on the Right who would say that “you can’t support the troops if you don’t support the mission.” Such a claim is obviously ludicrous because some of the troops themselves do not support the mission. That would mean they do not support themselves! Arguments that individuals should not criticize the president because “we are at war” have always seemed Orwellian and scary to me.

Though I like to think of myself as a man of reason, reasonable people will fall into emotional traps from time to time; no one is 100% logical or reasonable 100% of the time on each and every issue. I fell into the emotional traps that many on the Right (and most everyone else for at least a short time) fell into in the aftermath of 9/11: anger, hatred, and fear.

Why I supported the War in Iraq

My immediate response to the aftermath of 9/11 was anger, hatred, and fear (and I’m sure I wasn’t alone). I was angry that these religious extremists attacked my country, I hated them for their reasons for doing so, and I feared more attacks would come at any moment. I wasn’t interested in justice for those responsible for the attacks, I wanted vengeance!

Though I never believed that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, I believed that it was time to rethink my positions on how America should deal with rogue states such as Iraq. While I would not have supported invading a nation, overthrowing that nation’s government, and rebuilding a nation prior to 9/11, it seemed that America needed to be proactive and “preempt” such nations from even the possibility of attacking America first. I supported the invasion because I truly believed the WMD threat was real and that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would lead to liberty spreading throughout the region and thus would make America safer.

For a short time, this theory seemed to becoming a reality. U.S. and coalition troops defeated the Iraqi forces in record time. The cable news channels showed Iraqis pulling down Saddam Hussein’s statue and in broken English saying such things as “Thank you America” and “Thank you Mr. Bush.” Shortly thereafter, President Bush made his infamous tail-hook landing on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln which had a large banner which read “Mission Accomplished.” I thought for sure that this meant the troops would be coming home and that the critics of the war had been proven wrong in their dire predictions. Sure, Saddam Hussein and his sons were still at large, there was still some violence in the immediate aftermath, and no stockpiles of WMD had been found but all these things would be taken care of in a matter of time. A few more months perhaps?

It all made a great deal of sense in theory but the reality seems to be quite different.

What Changed?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when I began to realize the invasion and subsequent occupation Iraq to be a mistake. When weapons hunters failed to find the WMD in the first couple of years after the invasion, my thinking was that perhaps the “preemption” approach was wrongheaded but because the troops were already there, the damage had already been done. I believed that because American foreign policy lead to the chaos that followed the invasion, it was the duty of our government to clean up the mess (i.e. the “you broke it, you bought it” argument). I further believed that if coalition troops pulled out of Iraq “the Islamofascists will follow us home” unless the Iraqi government was stable enough to handle the violence itself.

The truth of the matter is my reasoning was clouded by fear. This post I wrote in early 2007 illustrates this fear . We could not afford to allow our enemies to claim victory in Iraq as they would become “emboldened” and be encouraged to carry out future attacks both on American soil and abroad. This is not a war we could afford to lose; failure was not an option.

But when I was challenged by readers and fellow TLP contributors define exactly what “victory” in Iraq would look like, I struggled in vain to find a satisfactory answer. I now realize that if American troops were to leave tomorrow, next year, or 100 years from now, the radical Islamists will claim victory no matter when the troops leave. They are master propagandists and those who follow their ideology do not allow facts to get in the way of their beliefs. Some of these people don’t even acknowledge that the Holocaust even happened despite all of the mountains of documentary evidence to the contrary.

The first thing that has changed in my thinking is the fear factor. The whole purpose of terrorism is to cause people to be terrorized. When we overreact and do such things as pass the Patriot Act, surrender liberties we otherwise would not, or send troops to fight undeclared wars against countries that might have WMD and may directly or indirectly use these weapons against the U.S. or her allies, the terrorist act has accomplished its intended goal.

The second big change is my understanding of contemporary history. My thinking was that America’s military might would be enough to transform the Middle East from a region of oppression to a region of freedom. These were people yearning to be free. All that needed to happen was for the despots to be deposed, the people liberated, and our world would be more peaceful as a result.

In the Point post “A Case for Non-Intervention,” Brad correctly pointed out the flaws of this logic of fatal conceit: that man can shape the world around him according to his wishes. By the time I wrote the Counterpoint to Brad’s post, I was already beginning to see the error of my thinking but still holding out hope that somehow we could avoid the “reverse King Midas effect” this time.

But why would this time be any different?

At least since President Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. has been intervening in internal affairs of other countries allegedly to “make the world safer for democracy.” But rather than making the world safer, in most cases it seems, American foreign policy has created more enemies rather than less. The conditions that led up to the adventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan are in many ways the result of American foreign policy. The continued presence of American troops occupying and nation building in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere fosters resentment among these populations.

Lessons Learned

One argument I used to make was that leaving Iraq as a failed mission would mean that those troops who had died for the cause would have died in vain. I no longer believe this necessarily has to be the case if we as a people learn the right lessons of Iraq.

There were people who opposed the war in the very beginning for very principled reasons (and I’m not talking about the so-called anti-war Democrats who seem to have nothing to say about Iraq now that their guy is in office). Others like me, unfortunately, had to learn the lessons of Iraq the hard way. I was naive and trusted that the government was acting in such a way that would make its citizens safer but I now see the error in this thinking. Neither North Korea nor Iran seems to be slowing down their WMD programs as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And despite the anti-terror policies that have been enacted since 9/11 and despite this war, our cities are likely as vulnerable if not more so than before 9/11. Our own government is a much greater threat to our liberties than al Qaeda ever will be.

It’s really the open-ended nature of this “war on terror” and failure on the part of our government to define who exactly the enemy is that makes the concept of victory unobtainable. Who specifically is our enemy? Is it just al Qaeda and/or the Taliban or is it anyone and everyone the U.S. government calls a “terrorist”? If we cannot even define exactly who our enemy is, how is victory even possible?

Once the enemy has been identified, the congress (not the president) should debate whether or not to declare war on the enemy. Any declaration of war should include not only who the enemy is but define in precise terms the meaning of victory (as opposed to making it up as they go along). The idea of going into another undeclared war in the future should be considered a complete non-starter (and the notion of “preemptive” wars of choice in particular).

Now What?

Its time for the people of Iraq to decide for themselves what kind of future they want. Our brave soldiers have done the heavy lifting for far too long. Its time for our brave troops to come home to their families and let them move on with their lives.

Ditto for Afghanistan. The only troops that should be left behind should be those with the sole mission of hunting Bin Laden and his extremist followers. The nation building mission should be brought to an end.

Its time to completely rethink the American foreign policy of the last 100 years or so. Has the presence of American troops made the world, and more importantly America safer? Is it still necessary to our national security to have so many troops stationed around the globe? (Was it ever?) What ever happened to the “walk softly” part of “walk softly but carry a big stick”?

Its time to move beyond the Cold War posture and allow other nations to determine their own futures.

In the mean time, we should be doing all we can to secure our own futures and help our wounded war veterans put their lives back together.

Chavez Running New Gambit To Break Opposition Media

This doesn’t sound good:

Chavez said the authorities have determined that 25.8 percent of shares in Globovision belong to one of the owners of the Banco Federal, which the government took over last month citing financial problems and irregularities.

With that minority ownership stake, the government will have a right to name a board member of Globovision, Chavez said.

“We’re joining the business,” he said.

Globovision takes a consistent anti-government stance, and its broadcasts have been a frequent target of the president’s wrath.

Chavez also suggested the government could take over an additional 20 percent stake that belonged to a shareholder who recently died, which would raise its ownership to 45.8 percent.

“If someone receives a concession and dies, the state recovers that concession,” he said.

Chavez has been fighting for years to fully consolidate the media in state hands. I’m not sure he’s got enough power to walk in the front door, but he just might have found an unlocked window.

Welcome, but insufficient to the needs of the day

David Cameron today apologized for the  British Armies conduct on Bloody Sunday.

Great… now do something of substance. Either treat the north as a real part of the rest of the damn country, or get the hell out.

The UK is firmly wedded to a lot of government involvement in industry, in finance, in development… fine. Ok. If that’s what the people of the UK want, then so be it. But it stifles entrepreneurship. The barriers to entry get so high, that it becomes nearly impossible to do anything without government support.

This is coming from someone who has founded and run businesses in the republic, in the north, and in England. I am an American, but also a dual citizen with Ireland. My father is an Irish immigrant. His father was a member of the IRA from the age of 15; when the IRA was still a legitimate organization. Most of my family still lives in Ireland; and I lived in Ireland, and in the UK, for years.

This is not just an American pontificating from afar, I have lived and worked there… and my position on the troubles is that none of it is justified, ever. Terrorism is terrorism, and is never to be tolerated. Government repression is similarly, not to be tolerated.

This isn’t about the troubles anymore. This is about the future of the North… or the lack of future represented in todays situation; because mark me, the north has no future, if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue.

Without government support, it’s near impossible to get anything done in the north. It’s somewhat easier in England itself, in that there is no less interference, but that the government cares more about business development; so it makes things smoother, and gives approvals, and planning etc… more attention.

What this means is, effectively, there is no economic development in the north without government intervention… but they don’t particularly want to intervene, and spend the taxpayers money on PRODUCTIVE projects in the north, when so much is already being funneled into nonproductive drains.

So long as there is no real industrial or technical development support by the government, except in a token way; the north will always be an economic disaster. It is that economic disaster, and the sense of neglect, of second class citizenship, of disrespect, disregard, and disdain… which allows the thugs their safety, and their income.

Either REALLY support economic development, or get the hell out of the way and allow some real entrepreneurship. Get people working, productively. Get the tax base up. Get people motivated to seek higher education, by having something useful for them to do when they get it.

So long as the north is dependent on the government teat, the real government on the street will be the organized crime gangs that masquerade as unionists, or republicans. So long as the thugs are safe, the police are not, and will respond with repression. It’s automatic. A + B will always equal C.

Oh and I should be clear, I don’t blame this situation on the great mass of the population of the United Kingdom.

I blame it on an incoherent, and uncommitted government position on Northern Ireland since 1921.

There is no real policy, nor any real rationale behind what is promulgated as policy. The only conclusion one can come to is that the government of the United Kingdom does not want to govern northern Ireland, but also does not feel they can stop doing so…

So instead, they neglect, and waffle, and make bad and inconsistent decisions. They fight, they withdraw. They take a hardline, then they fold…

It’s insane.

Oh and yes I know, they’re a giant welfare suck… But if the people (and the politicians) of England would treat the people of northern Ireland like actual human beings, not just as a national joke, or a drain on social spending, or a potential terrorist, or an electoral distraction… That might help a bit too.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Ron Paul And Rudy Giuliani Still Sparring Over 9/11

In one of the early Republican debates in the 2008 election cycle, Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani sparred over the September 11th attacks and the role that U.S. foreign policy choices may have played in inciting the attacks:

On Iraq, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988, stood alone in railing against the decision to go to war, comparing it to a quagmire he said engulfed U.S. troops in Vietnam a generation ago. “We don’t go to war like we did in Vietnam and Korea, because the wars never end,” he said.

When Paul later suggested that terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, because of what he described as America’s 10-year campaign of bombing in Iraq, an angry Giuliani demanded that he retract the statement.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11,” Giuliani said.

Paul refused to give in, saying that terrorists react to the United States’ actions in the world. “If we ignore that, we ignore that at our risk,” Paul said.

Here’s video of that exchange from nearly three years ago:

That Giuliani-Paul exchange figured prominently in an ad that Trey Grayson ran several weeks ago in an effort to paint Rand Paul as a 9/11 truther.

Now, the battle has been joined again.

Today, Giuliani endorsed Trey Grayson, and issued this statement:

“Trey Grayson is the candidate in this race who will make the right decisions necessary to keep America safe and prevent more attacks on our homeland. He is not part of the ‘blame America first’ crowd that wants to bestow the rights of U.S. citizens on terrorists and point fingers at America for somehow causing 9/11,” Giuliani said.

He continued, “Kentucky needs a Senator who understands the threat posed by our enemies abroad. I witnessed firsthand the destruction and loss of life our enemies can cause. Like me, Trey Grayson knows we must stay on offense against terrorism, and he supports using all the essential tools we have in that fight, including monitoring the conversations and activities of suspected foreign terrorists as allowed by the Patriot Act. He is a fresh face that Republicans can trust to best represent their values – both on national security and fiscal responsibility – in Washington. Kentuckians could not elect a better Senator than Trey Grayson.”

Congressman Paul responded with a statement of his own:

The Neo-Con establishment is pulling out all the stops to beat Rand.

First, Dick Cheney endorsed his opponent. Next, Rick Santorum. And today, Mr. Big Government Republican himself is slithering into the race.

That’s right. Rudy Giuliani has stuck his beak into Rand’s race, endorsing his opponent and blaming Rand for being part of the “blame America” crowd. Disgusting.

Especially since Giuiliani is still committing the same willful distortion that he was guilty of three years ago:

Did Paul really say that American foreign policy was to blame for 9/11 ? Personally, I don’t think so. What he said was that American foreign policy was a contributing factor to the formation of the forces that now seek to destroy us.

And Andrew Sullivan contends that Giuliani openly lied about what Paul said:

Giuliani, interestingly, openly lied about Ron Paul’s position on 9/11. Paul specifically did not make a statement, as Giuliani immediately claimed, that the U.S. invited 9/11. I rewound to double-check. It was the Fox questioner who ratcheted up the stakes on that question, not Paul. Paul demurred on a specific answer and switched the question to the general issue of blowback. As to who’s right, the answer is both. Bin Laden – still at large and operating within the territory of Pakistan, an alleged ally which Cheney recently visited – both justified the 9/11 attack on those grounds but has a theology that doesn’t require such a casus belli. But now he doesn’t even need the theology. We have, alas, made more terrorists by our bungling in Iraq than Bin Laden could have dreamed of just six years ago.

That, I think, is the point that Congressman Paul, somewhat inarticulately, was making last night. American intervention and adventure-ism in the Middle East, which has been marked mostly by a history of bungling and backing the wrong guy 9 times out of 10, has helped guys like bin Laden recruit from among the Arab masses.

Another Rudy-Ron battle ?

I know who I’m putting my money on.

Life Expectancy — Due To Lack Of Healthcare Or Gluttony and Smoking?

A new study suggests that simply due to the results of blood pressure, obesity, blood glucose levels and smoking, American life expectancy is artificially low by 4.9 and 4.1 years for men and women, respectively (h/t Reason):

A new study led by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in collaboration with researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood glucose and overweight and obesity currently reduce life expectancy in the U.S. by 4.9 years in men and 4.1 years in women. It is the first study to look at the effects of those four preventable risk factors on life expectancy in the whole nation.

Below is the number of years that would be gained in life expectancy in the U.S. if each individual risk factor was reduced to its optimal level:

  • Blood pressure: 1.5 years (men), 1.6 years (women)
  • Obesity (measured by body mass index): 1.3 years (men), 1.3 years (women)
  • Blood glucose: 0.5 years (men), 0.3 years (women)
  • Smoking: 2.5 years (men), 1.8 years (women)

This study in particular was largely looking at different subgroups within the US (ethnicities, geographies, etc) to determine relative differences in life expectancy due to those factors.

But I’d like to see a wider question answered. America typically ranks lower on life expectancy rankings than most European countries with generous welfare states and single-payer or heavily-socialized health care systems. This fact was largely heralded all during the debate over the health care bill. America is also considered to be gluttonous, unhealthy, lazy*, and fat compared to Europe; anecdotally, on my one trip to France, the only fat people I met spoke perfect English.

So I’d like to see a serious academic look at what drives the life-expectancy differences between America and Europe. I’ve heard in the past that non-healthcare death rates (automotive accidents and homicides) are significantly higher here, but is it also the case that we’re eating and smoking ourselves to death at a rate much higher than Europe?

And if so, does anyone think — as I do — that the healthcare bill will do little or nothing to affect this life expectancy gap?
» Read more

LP’s Wes Benedict on ‘Limited Government’ Conservatives

Those of us who truly believe in limited government* tend to be simultaneously amused and irritated hearing the folks at CPAC speak of limited government as though it’s a principle they truly support. Yesterday, the Libertarian Party’s Executive Director Wes Benedict, monitoring the CPAC festivities from afar, said some of the things that many of us have been thinking:

Unlike libertarians, most conservatives simply don’t want small government. They want their own version of big government. Of course, they have done a pretty good job of fooling American voters for decades by repeating the phrases “limited government” and “small government” like a hypnotic chant.

It’s interesting that conservatives only notice “big government” when it’s something their political enemies want. When conservatives want it, apparently it doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants a trillion-dollar foreign war, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants a 700-billion-dollar bank bailout, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to spend billions fighting a needless and destructive War on Drugs, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to spend billions building border fences, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants to “protect” the huge, unjust, and terribly inefficient Social Security and Medicare programs, that doesn’t count.

– If a conservative wants billions in farm subsidies, that doesn’t count.

It’s truly amazing how many things “don’t count.”

Benedict went on to point out the lack of concern these same people had with the government expansion of President Bush and the health care mandates of another CPAC favorite – Mitt Romney.

While I’m by no means a supporter of the Obama Administration, the idea that many Conservatives seem to have that all the problems we are faced with started on January 20, 2009 is completely ludicrous**.

These are the same people who would gladly support Sarah ‘the Quitter’ Palin, ‘Mandate’ Mitt Romney, or ‘Tax Hike Mike’ Huckabee – none are what I would call ‘limited government’ by any stretch of the imagination.

» Read more

This Is Who We’re Gonna Wreck Our Economy For?

So, it appears the Tuvaluans are angry about climate change, and they’re going to make sure Copenhagen knows about it:

Tuvalu demanded – and got – a suspension of negotiations until the issue could be resolved.

The split within the developing country bloc is highly unusual, as it tends to speak with a united voice.

After talks resumed in the afternoon, the Tuvalu delegation walked out when it appeared that the issue might be sidelined.

Private discussions will now continue behind the scenes among a small group of concerned countries.

Tuvalu’s negotiator Ian Fry made clear that his country could accept nothing less than full discussion of its proposal for a new legal protocol, which was submitted to the UN climate convention six months ago.

“My prime minister and many other heads of state have the clear intention of coming to Copenhagen to sign on to a legally binding deal,” Mr Fry said.

“Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, and our future rests on the outcome of this meeting.”

They demand that draft restrictions supposedly targeted at holding temperature rises below 2C be cut to 1.5C, and that greenhouse gas emissions restricted at about 20% lower than the draft.

So I asked myself: just who ARE these Tuvaluans, anyway? Well, there’s only a little under 12,000 of them. I suspect, actually, that they’re just trying to return the rest of humanity to the sort of “sustainable” economy they’ve developed:

Tuvalu has almost no natural resources, and its main form of income consists of foreign aid. Virtually the only jobs in the islands that pay a steady wage or salary are with the government. Subsistence farming and fishing remain the primary economic activities, particularly off the capital island of Funafuti. Government revenues largely come from the sale of stamps and coins, fishing licences and worker remittances.

Substantial income is received annually from the Tuvalu Trust Fund, which was established in 1987 by Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom and supported also by Japan and South Korea. This fund grew from an initial $17 million to over $35 million in 1999. The US government is also a major revenue source for Tuvalu, with 1999 payments from a 1988 treaty on fisheries at about $9 million, a total which is expected to rise annually.

In 1998, Tuvalu began deriving revenue from use of its area code for “900” lines and from the sale of its “.tv” Internet domain name. In 2000, Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its Internet domain name “.tv” for $50 million in royalties.

Got it? The only way to live in the entire country is subsistence farming, fishing, or working for the government (which survives on foreign aid).

And this is who we’re listening to on climate change?

Liberty Rock Friday: “Prison Song” by SOAD

Here’s a perfect song to complement my recent call to action to pass the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009.

toxicity

System of a Down
“Prison Song”
Toxicity (2001)

Written by: Tankian, Serj;Malakian, Daron;Odadjian, Shavarsh; and Dolmayan, John

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,

Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,
Following the rights movements
You clamped on with your iron fists,
Drugs became conveniently
Available for all the kids,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Nearly 2 million [*] Americans are incarcerated
In the prison system, prison system,
Prison system of the U.S.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)

Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don’t even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

The percentage of Americans in the prison system
Prison system, has doubled since 1985,

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences,
All research and successful drug policy show
That treatment should be increased,
And law enforcement decreased,
While abolishing mandatory minimum sentences.

Utilizing drugs to pay for secret wars around the world,
Drugs are now your global policy,
Now you police the globe,

I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch
right here in Hollywood.

Drug money is used to rig elections,
And train brutal corporate sponsored
Dictators around the world.

They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison, (for you and me to live in)
Another prison system,
Another prison system,
Another prison system. (for you and me to live in)
For you and I, for you and I , for you and I.
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
They’re trying to build a prison,
For you and me,
Oh baby, you and me.

*This number has since increased to about 2.4 million according to the Sen. Webb’s findings.

Evil Doesn’t Need Warrantless Wiretaps — They Have Facebook

It’s not often when I come across something so bone-chillingly despicable that I want to post about it but can offer nothing to say beyond the mere actions taken… So look at what Iran is doing:

His first impulse was to dismiss the ominous email as a prank, says a young Iranian-American named Koosha. It warned the 29-year-old engineering student that his relatives in Tehran would be harmed if he didn’t stop criticizing Iran on Facebook.

Two days later, his mom called. Security agents had arrested his father in his home in Tehran and threatened him by saying his son could no longer safely return to Iran.

“When they arrested my father, I realized the email was no joke,” said Koosha, who asked that his full name not be used.

Tehran’s leadership faces its biggest crisis since it first came to power in 1979, as Iranians at home and abroad attack its legitimacy in the wake of June’s allegedly rigged presidential vote. An opposition effort, the “Green Movement,” is gaining a global following of regular Iranians who say they never previously considered themselves activists.

The regime has been cracking down hard at home. And now, a Wall Street Journal investigation shows, it is extending that crackdown to Iranians abroad as well.

In recent months, Iran has been conducting a campaign of harassing and intimidating members of its diaspora world-wide — not just prominent dissidents — who criticize the regime, according to former Iranian lawmakers and former members of Iran’s elite security force, the Revolutionary Guard, with knowledge of the program.

That’s just the start of it. Working with several Iranian ex-pats (who left in the wake of the Revolution), I wonder exactly how much they must value the freedom of living in America. But most of them still have family back home, and while the regime can’t touch them here on our shore, they can still reach deep inside and threaten those who my coworkers most care about.

I don’t often throw out words like “evil.” But there is little else to describe trying to silence critics abroad by threatening their innocent families in their homeland.

Hat Tip: Coyote Blog

Liberty Rock Friday: “Peace Sells” Edition

In commemorating President Barack Obama’s (undeserved) Nobel Peace Prize, I thought the classic Megadeth song “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?” would be appropriate. Considering some of the other individuals who have won the prize (Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore) Obama’s undeserved recognition shouldn’t be all that surprising.

peace_sells
What do you mean, “I don’t believe in God”?
I talk to him every day.
What do you mean, “I don’t support your system”?
I go to court when I have to.
What do you mean, “I can’t get to work on time”?
I got nothing better to do
And, what do you mean, “I don’t pay my bills”?
Why do you think I’m broke? Huh?

Chorus
If there’s a new way,
I’ll be the first in line.
But, it better work this time.

What do you mean, “I hurt your feelings”?
I didn’t know you had any feelings.
What do you mean, “I ain’t kind”?
I’m just not your kind.
What do you mean, “I couldn’t be president, of the United States of America”?
Tell me something, it’s still “We the people”, right?

Chorus

Can you put a price on peace?
Peace,
Peace sells…,
Peace,
Peace sells…,
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?

Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
Peace sells…,but who’s buying?
no, no no no no

peace sells,
peace sells,
AHH

The One™

From the LA Times:

President Obama, who has pledged to place diplomacy ahead of confrontation and reached out to a skeptical world with offers of mutual understanding, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today for what the committee called “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Obama is only the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Prize for Peace — President Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906, President Woodrow Wilson in 1919.

Obama was nominated for the prize after just weeks in office, with the award today after less than nine months into the president’s term a sign that the Nobel committee is recognizing aspirations for peace over achievements.

Yes, you heard that right. His nomination occurred just 11 days after his inauguration (the deadline for submissions was Feb 1). It shows that, like much of Obama’s career, he’s being judged by his campaign rhetoric rather than what he’s actually doing. Things like:

  • Delay on closing Guantanamo
  • Continuation of Bush terrorist detention policies
  • Failure to rein in medical marijuana raids as promised
  • Withdrawal from Iraq no faster than the plan Bush already had in place
  • Extension of wiretapping and other aspects of the PATRIOT ACT
  • Complete and utter silence on DADT
  • Accomplished so little of his agenda that SNL spoofed him as doing nothing.

I can only suppose this is the logical end of the American celebrity-worship culture. Obama gets a Nobel Peace Prize for who he is, not what he’s done.

Hollywood’s Incomprehensible Defense of the Child Rapist, Roman Polanski

From The LA Times:

More than 100 industry leaders and prominent authors — including directors Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Michael Mann, Mike Nichols, Woody Allen and Neil Jordan — have signed a petition asking that [Roman] Polanski be released from Swiss custody. “Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision,” the petition says.

On the television show “The View,” Goldberg said, “I think he’s sorry. I think he knows it was wrong. I don’t think he’s a danger to society.”

I am rarely shocked by the hypocrisy of the Hollywood elites but I never dreamed that even these self-important hypocrites would come the defense of a child rapist. Though accused of drugging and forcibly raping his 13 year old victim, Polanski plead guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful sex with a minor. Yet Hollywood idiots such as Whoopi Goldberg go on national television and say things like “I think he’s sorry…I don’t think he’s a danger to society” and “it wasn’t ‘rape’ rape.”

If anyone has spent any time at all watching Dr. Phil, Oprah, To Catch a Predator, or virtually any other television program on the subject, one point that is often made is that pedophilia is “incurable” and are therefore offenders are always and forever a “danger to society.”*

Speaking of Oprah, where is she on this case? She spends a great deal of time and energy advocating stricter penalties for sex offenders and increasing budgets of local, state, and federal sex crimes task forces yet I have found nothing on her website or elsewhere about her thoughts on Polanski or the response of her Hollywood friends. Is she too afraid to offend her friends or does she also seem to believe that exceptions should be made for rich and famous celebrities?

Oprah, your silence is deafening.

My first thought was that this was another case of Hollywood exceptionalism but upon further inspection, this may not necessarily be the case. Had Roman Polanski committed a particularly heinous crime like voting for Bush, making a Jesus movie, or questioning Obama’s healthcare plan, these same people wouldn’t be signing petitions of solidarity or be so forgiving of him being a child rapist.

While the elites continue to point out that this crime occurred over 30 years ago and say we should forgive and forget, many thousands of individuals are required by law to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. Some of these individuals’ crimes are actually quite tame** in comparison to what Polanski plead guilty to doing. In some extreme cases, registered offenders are forced to move if a school bus stop is moved closer to their home (yes, this means that even though the registered offender was already living there before the home was near a bus stop, s/he is required to move). Because no one wants to live near a sex offender, these individuals have great difficulty finding a place to live; some end up homeless living under bridges.

Just yesterday, Radley Balko reported at The Agitator that Georgia sex offenders were ordered to live in the woods…until the story broke and the public outcry forced them back out of the woods. Balko points out that they will have to once again notify the state of their new address even though they have nowhere to go (which is not an excuse; failure to notify the authorities could result in arrest).

If these sex offenders have to endure this sort of treatment, it only stands to reason that Polanski should endure the same. Sure, I suppose none of these other sex offenders directed Oscar winning movies but I’m sure that many of them made positive contributions to society as well, their sex offenses notwithstanding.

Whether its Roman Polanski, Roman Catholic priests, or any other individual who chooses to abuse children, justice demands that the criminal justice system treats them the same. Shame on the Hollywood hypocrites and Polanski sympathizers who demand anything less.

» Read more

The Brits Have Finally Lost It

…why don’t they just make stabbing illegal?

Plans to replace the traditional pint glass with one made of shatter-proof plastic will not be accepted by drinkers, the pub industry has warned.

The Home Office has commissioned a new design, in an attempt to stop glasses being used as weapons.

Official figures show 5,500 people are attacked with glasses and bottles every year in England and Wales.

“There’s going to be quite a push behind this in terms of the Home Office.”

The Home Office Minister, Alan Campbell, said the redesign could make a significant difference to the number of revellers who are injured.

He said: “Innovative design has played an important role in driving down overall crime, including theft, fraud and burglary.

“This project will see those same skills applied to the dangerous and costly issue of alcohol-related crime and I am confident that it will lead to similar successes.”

When I first came across this on Lowering The Bar, I thought it must be false. I thought even the Brits would avoid pushing themselves into a reductio ad absurdum. They were warned about the slippery slope, and responded by saying that slippery slopes are dangerous and it’s a lot safer to be all the way down at the bottom!

Stories like this almost make me feel like my home, California, is free!

Honduras sheds light on Obama

Juan Carlos Hidalgo asks the question of the day in a post at Cato@Liberty:

What Principle is Guiding Obama’s Honduras Policy?

The Obama administration is threatening not to recognize the result of Honduras’ presidential election in late November unless Manuel Zelaya returns to the presidency beforehand.

The presidential poll was already scheduled prior to Zelaya’s (constitutional) removal from office last June. The candidates had already been selected by their parties through an open primary process. The current civilian interim president, Roberto Micheletti, is not running for office and plans to step down in January as stipulated by the Constitution. Both major presidential candidates supported the ouster of Zelaya. The political campaign is playing out in an orderly manner, and there’s a significant chance that the candidate from the opposition National Party will win the presidency. The independent Electoral Tribunal is overseeing the process.

And yet the U.S. Department of State is signaling that it won’t recognize the result of the poll in the name of defending Zelaya’s return to power.

The Obama Administration has been going out of its way to be on the wrong side of both the law and morality when it comes to Honduras. Obama has his first chance to rebuke the shameful history of the US being propping up dictators in Latin America and what does he do? He goes out of his way to prop up a would-be dictator who had neither the support of the people nor of the Honduran Constitution. He’s laid sanctions on the Honduran people. He refuses to recognize the legal, constitutional government of a country.

Why would he do this? Zelaya was the elected President of Honduras. He had been given the power, through the vehicle of democratic election, to shape Honduras.

Let’s cast it again: Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. He has been given power, through the vehicle of democratic election, to shape the United States.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Remember this incident from the early days of the Obama administration:

President Obama listened to Republican gripes about his stimulus package during a meeting with congressional leaders Friday morning – but he also left no doubt about who’s in charge of these negotiations. “I won,” Obama noted matter-of-factly, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

Obama won. Zelaya won. To the victors go the spoils. There is no higher principle behind the US Government’s abuse of the Honduran people, just that.

Even more worrisome, though, is what the Obama Administration’s treatment of Honduras means for us when we try to hold them to the limits of our Constitution.

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