The Militant Libertarian

I'm pissed off and I'm a libertarian. What else you wanna know?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

9/11 FEMA videographer at Ground Zero goes public Interviews Kurt Sonnenfeld

As official videographer for the U.S. government, Kurt Sonnenfeld was detailed to Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, where he spent one month filming 29 tapes: "What I saw at certain moments and in certain places ... is very disturbing!" He never handed them over to the authorities and has been persecuted ever since. Kurt Sonnenfeld lives in exile in Argentina, where he wrote "El Perseguido" (the persecuted). His recently-published book tells the story of his unending nightmare and drives another nail into the coffin of the government’s account of the 9/11 events.

This is a very enlightening interview and I highly recommend reading it.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Senate Democrats Address Immigration - With Biometric ID

by Spencer S. Hsu,Washington Post

Senate Democrats outlined plans yesterday to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, including a requirement that all U.S. workers verify their identity through fingerprints or an eye scan.

Speaking on the eve of a White House summit with congressional leaders on immigration, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said a national system to verify work documents is necessary because Congress has failed to crack down on unscrupulous employers and illegal immigrants with fake documents.

"I'm sure the civil libertarians will object to some kind of biometric card -- although . . . there'll be all kinds of protections -- but we're going to have to do it. It's the only way," Schumer said. "The American people will never accept immigration reform unless they truly believe their government is committed to ending future illegal immigration."

By announcing his plans, Schumer, who chairs the Senate's main immigration subcommittee, ushered in what President Obama has signaled will be his next major legislative campaign, after the economic stimulus plan, health care and energy.

Schumer said legislation should secure control of the nation's borders within a year and require that an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants register with the government and "submit to a rigorous process to convert to legal status" or face immediate deportation. Rejecting the euphemism "undocumented workers," he said: "Illegal immigration is wrong -- plain and simple."

A senior White House official said Obama is open to all of Schumer's proposals, including his ID plan, saying that "he wants to listen, he wants to talk. All of it is on the table."

Hispanic leaders and immigrant advocates have pressed Obama to fulfill a campaign pledge to tackle the issue this year. In response, House and Senate Democratic leaders voiced new optimism this week that a deal can be struck before election season heats up next spring.

"I think we have the floor votes to do it," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) added that action could begin "as early, perhaps, as this fall."

Seeking to build momentum, Obama will meet today with at least 20 House and Senate members from both parties, officials said. But White House aides have worked to lower expectations, noting Congress's inability to deliver legislation to former president George W. Bush in 2006 and 2007, and vowing to proceed with debate this year only with strong bipartisan support.

"The president wants to make it clear he is serious," a senior White House official said yesterday. "He also wants to make it clear he's going to need strong partnership and leadership on both sides of the aisle to get the right policies moving."

Key Republicans reacted cautiously, saying they would work with Obama if he thinks a deal is possible.

"What we need now is not another photo op at the White House," Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the ranking Republican on Schumer's panel, said Tuesday. "What we need is a plan from the president of the United States."

In pushing Congress to tackle the subject for the third time in four years, advocates say a bigger Democratic majority, Republican unease over the party's waning support from Hispanics and public demand for solutions will deliver a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the Senate.

But the plan faces obstacles, opponents said, including rising competition for jobs in a collapsing economy, and continued resistance to granting "amnesty" to illegal immigrants.

"Every Democrat that's in a competitive district knows that will be the question next year: Why did they vote for more foreign workers while 14 million workers are unemployed?" said Roy Beck, founder of NumbersUSA, a group that advocates for limiting immigration.

Also unclear is what backing might come from business groups. Schumer's priorities did not include expanding a guest-worker program, which employers sought. Instead, Schumer said that any deal must also create mechanisms to attract highly skilled immigrants, control the flow of low-skilled immigrants and protect native-born workers.

A system to access legal workers "is non-negotiable from a business point of view," said Tamara Jacoby, president of the ImmigrationWorks USA lobby, adding: "But we're open to a discussion of what that legal mechanism should be."

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Friday, June 26, 2009


As the CEO of this organization, I have resigned myself to the fact that Barrack Obama is our President, and that our taxes, and government fees will increase in a BIG way.

To compensate for these increases, our prices would have to increase by about 10%.

Since we cannot increase our prices right now due to the dismal state of the economy, we will have to lay off six of our employees instead.

This has really been bothering me, since I believe we are family here and I didn't know how to choose who would have to go.

So, this is what I did. I walked through our parking lot and found six Obama bumper stickers on our employees' cars and have decided these folks will be the ones to let go.

I can't think of a more fair way to approach this problem. They voted for change; I gave it to them.

I will see the rest of you at the annual company picnic.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Iran uncovers plots in presidential election and PressTV

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry has uncovered ‘terrorist’ plots targeting the country’s security and stability during the presidential election.

“The ministry has dismantled the groups involved in such activities and has arrested almost all group-members in two stages,” IRNA quoted Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei on Wednesday.

He said that the plots included bomb attacks on several sites in Iran, adding that those behind such activities were linked with “the Zionist and non-Zionist regimes outside the county.”

One of the targets, Mohseni-Ejei said, was the holy shrine of the late founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini. After the plot was foiled, the assailant detonated the bomb outside the shrine and “a number of people have been arrested regarding the suicide bombing,” he added.

The Intelligence Ministry and the police also seized a group who were planning terrorist activities in the East of the country and confiscated their equipment.

“The police also captured another group, which planned to carry out a terrorist act in the city of Tabriz when one of the presidential candidates wanted to make a speech there,” he explained.

“Some other terrorist groups in the south of the country especially in Ahvaz were identified and nabbed before they could carry out any activities,” he went on to say.

According to the intelligence minister, the US and some western countries were aiming to achieve unrest in Iran’s elections atmosphere.

When asked by a reporter about the arrest of foreign spies working under the guise of reporters, Mohseni-Ejei said, “Anybody who embarks on espionage activity in the country will be arrested. A foreign reporter has so far been nabbed and another one has been questioned and his things were confiscated.”

The Iranian government has arrested a reporter working for the Newsweek and another one working for the Washington Times.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Stossel: Will They Ever Get It?

by John Stossel

It amazes me that on the front page of the Sunday New York Times there is an article that says there is “wide-support for government-run healthcare”, and yet right adjacent is a giant story on how the veterans administration is botching operations. Don’t they draw connections? Government can botch and botch again but the public and the New York Times still see more government as the solution.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

A Hard Look at the Numbers – What Actually Happened in the Iranian Presidential Election?


Since the June 12 Iranian presidential elections, Iran “experts” have mushroomed like bacteria in a Petri dish. So here is a quiz for all those instant experts. Which major country has elected more presidents than any in the world since 1980? Further, which nation is the only one that held ten presidential elections within thirty years of its revolution?

The answer to both questions, of course, is Iran. Since 1980, it has elected six presidents, while the U.S. is a close second with five, and France at three. In addition, the U.S. held four presidential elections within three decades of its revolution to Iran’s ten.

The Iranian elections have unified the left and the right in the West and unleashed harsh criticisms and attacks from the “outraged” politicians to the “indignant” mainstream media. Even the blogosphere has joined this battle with near uniformity, on the side of Iran’s opposition, which is quite rare in cyberspace.

Much of the allegations of election fraud have been just that: unsubstantiated accusations. No one has yet been able to provide a solid shred of evidence of wide scale fraud that would have garnered eleven million votes for one candidate over his opponent.

So let’s analyze much of the evidence that is available to date.

More than thirty pre-election polls were conducted in Iran since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main opponent, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, announced their candidacies in early March 2009. The polls varied widely between the two opponents, but if one were to average their results, Ahmadinejad would still come out on top. However, some of the organizations sponsoring these polls, such as Iranian Labor News Agency and Tabnak, admit openly that they have been allies of Mousavi, the opposition, or the so-called reform movement. Their numbers were clearly tilted towards Mousavi and gave him an unrealistic advantage of over 30 per cent in some polls. If such biased polls were excluded, Ahmadinejad’s average over Mousavi would widen to about 21 points.

On the other hand, there was only one poll carried out by a western news organization. It was jointly commissioned by the BBC and ABC News, and conducted by an independent entity called the Center for Public Opinion (CPO) of the New America Foundation. The CPO has a reputation of conducting accurate opinion polls, not only in Iran, but across the Muslim world since 2005. The poll, conducted a few weeks before the elections, predicted an 89 percent turnout rate. Further, it showed that Ahmadinejad had a nationwide advantage of two to one over Mousavi.

How did this survey compare to the actual results? And what are the possibilities of wide scale election fraud?

According to official results, there were 46.2 million registered voters in Iran. The turnout was massive, as predicted by the CPO. Almost 39.2 million Iranians participated in the elections for a turn out rate of 85 percent, in which about 38.8 million ballots were deemed valid (about 400,000 ballots were left blank). Officially, President Ahmadinejad received 24.5 million votes to Mousavi’s 13.2 million votes, or 62.6 per cent to 33.8 per cent of the total votes, respectively. In fact, this result mirrored the 2005 elections when Ahmadinejad received 61.7 per cent to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s 35.9 per cent in the runoff elections. Two other minor candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaee, received the rest of the votes in this election.

Shortly after the official results were announced Mousavi’s supporters and Western political pundits cried foul and accused the government of election fraud. The accusations centered around four themes. First, although voting had been extended several hours due to the heavy turnout, it was alleged that the elections were called too quickly from the time the polls were closed, with more than 39 million ballots to count.

Second, these critics insinuated that election monitors were biased or that, in some instances, the opposition did not have its own monitors present during the count. Third, they pointed out that it was absurd to think that Mousavi, who descended from the Azerbaijan region in northwest Iran, was defeated handily in his own hometown. Fourth, the Mousavi camp charged that in some polling stations, ballots ran out and people were turned away without voting.

The next day, Mosuavi and the two other defeated candidates lodged 646 complaints to the Guardian Council, the entity charged with overseeing the integrity of the elections. The Council promised to conduct full investigations of all the complaints. By the following morning, a copy of a letter by a low-level employee in the Interior Ministry sent to Supreme Guide Ali Khamanei, was widely circulating around the world. (Western politicians and media outlets like to call him “Supreme Leader” but no such title exists in Iran.)

The letter stated that Mousavi had won the elections, and that Ahmadinejad had actually come in third. It also promised that the elections were being fixed in favor of Ahmadinejad per Khamanei’s orders. It is safe to assume that the letter was a forgery since an unidentified low-level employee would not be the one addressing Ayatollah Khamanaei. Robert Fisk of The Independent reached the same conclusion by casting grave doubts that Ahmadinejad would score third – garnering less than 6 million votes in such an important election- as alleged in the forged letter.

There were a total of 45,713 ballot boxes that were set up in cities, towns and villages across Iran. With 39.2 million ballots cast, there were less than 860 ballots per box. Unlike other countries where voters can cast their ballots on several candidates and issues in a single election, Iranian voters had only one choice to consider: their presidential candidate. Why would it take more than an hour or two to count 860 ballots per poll? After the count, the results were then reported electronically to the Ministry of the Interior in Tehran.

Since 1980, Iran has suffered an eight-year deadly war with Iraq, a punishing boycott and embargo, and a campaign of assassination of dozens of its lawmakers, an elected president and a prime minister from the group Mujahideen Khalq Organization. (MKO is a deadly domestic violent organization, with headquarters in France, which seeks to topple the government by force.) Despite all these challenges, the Islamic Republic of Iran has never missed an election during its three decades. It has conducted over thirty elections nationwide. Indeed, a tradition of election orderliness has been established, much like election precincts in the U.S. or boroughs in the U.K. The elections in Iran are organized, monitored and counted by teachers and professionals including civil servants and retirees (again much like the U.S.)

There has not been a tradition of election fraud in Iran. Say what you will about the system of the Islamic Republic, but its elected legislators have impeached ministers and “borked” nominees of several Presidents, including Ahmadinejad. Rubberstamps, they are not. In fact, former President Mohammad Khatami, considered one of the leading reformists in Iran, was elected president by the people, when the interior ministry was run by archconservatives. He won with over 70 percent of the vote, not once, but twice.

When it comes to elections, the real problem in Iran is not fraud but candidates’ access to the ballots (a problem not unique to the country, just ask Ralph Nader or any other third party candidate in the U.S.) It is highly unlikely that there was a huge conspiracy involving tens of thousands of teachers, professionals and civil servants that somehow remained totally hidden and unexposed.

Moreover, while Ahmadinejad belongs to an active political party that has already won several elections since 2003, Mousavi is an independent candidate who emerged on the political scene just three months ago, after a 20-year hiatus. It was clear during the campaign that Ahmadinejad had a nationwide campaign operation. He made over sixty campaign trips throughout Iran in less than twelve weeks, while his opponent campaigned only in the major cities, and lacked a sophisticated campaign apparatus.

It is true that Mousavi has an Azeri background. But the CPO poll mentioned above, and published before the elections, noted that “its survey indicated that only 16 per cent of Azeri Iranians will vote for Mr. Mousavi. By contrast, 31 per cent of the Azeris claim they will vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad.” In the end, according to official results, the election in that region was much closer than the overall result. In fact, Mousavi won narrowly in the West Azerbaijan province but lost the region to Ahmadinejad by a 45 to 52 per cent margin (or 1.5 to 1.8 million votes).

However, the double standard applied by Western news agencies is striking. Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern in his native state of South Dakota in the 1972 elections. Had Al Gore won his home state of Tennessee in 2000, no one would have cared about a Florida recount, nor would there have been a Supreme Court case called Bush v. Gore. If Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards had won the states he was born and raised in (South and North Carolina), President John Kerry would now be serving his second term. But somehow, in Western newsrooms Middle Eastern people choose their candidates not on merit, but on the basis of their “tribe.”

The fact that minor candidates such as Karroubi would garner fewer votes than expected, even in their home regions as critics charge, is not out of the ordinary. Many voters reach the conclusion that they do not want to waste their votes when the contest is perceived to be between two major candidates. Karroubi indeed received far fewer votes this time around than he did in 2005, including in his hometown. Likewise, Ross Perot lost his home state of Texas to Bob Dole of Kansas in 1996, while in 2004, Ralph Nader received one eighth of the votes he had four years earlier.

Some observers note that when the official results were being announced, the margin between the candidates held steady throughout the count. In fact, this is no mystery. Experts say that generally when 3-5 per cent of the votes from a given region are actually counted, there is a 95 per cent confidence level that such result will hold firm. As for the charge that ballots ran out and some people were turned away, it is worth mentioning that voting hours were extended four times in order to allow as many people as possible the opportunity to vote. But even if all the people who did not vote, had actually voted for Mousavi (a virtual impossibility), that would be 6.93 million additional votes, much less than the 11 million vote difference between the top two candidates.

Ahmadinejad is certainly not a sympathetic figure. He is an ideologue, provocative, and sometimes behaving imprudently. But to characterize the struggle in Iran as a battle between democratic forces and a “dictator,” is to exhibit total ignorance of Iran’s internal dynamics, or to deliberately distort them. There is no doubt that there is a significant segment of Iranian society, concentrated around major metropolitan areas, and comprising many young people, that passionately yearns for social freedoms. They are understandably angry because their candidate came up short. But it would be a huge mistake to read this domestic disagreement as an “uprising” against the Islamic Republic, or as a call to embark on a foreign policy that would accommodate the West at the expense of Iran’s nuclear program or its vital interests.

Nations display respect to other nations only when they respect their sovereignty. If any nation, for instance, were to dictate the United States’ economic, foreign or social policies, Americans would be indignant. When France, under President Chirac opposed the American adventure in Iraq in 2003, some U.S. Congressmen renamed a favorite fast food from French Fries to “Freedom Fries.” They made it known that the French were unwelcome in the U.S.

The U.S. has a legacy of interference in Iran’s internal affairs, notably when it toppled the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. This act, of which most Americans are unaware, is ingrained in every Iranian from childhood. It is the main cause of much of their perpetual anger at the U.S. It took 56 years for an American president to acknowledge this illegal act, when Obama did so earlier this month in Cairo.

Therefore, it would be a colossal mistake to interfere in Iran’s internal affairs yet again. President Obama is wise to leave this matter to be resolved by the Iranians themselves. Political expediency by the Republicans or pro-Israel Democrats will be extremely dangerous and will yield serious repercussions. Such reckless conduct by many in the political class and the media appears to be a blatant attempt to demonize Iran and its current leadership, in order to justify any future military attack by Israel if Iran does not give up its nuclear ambition.

President Obama’s declarations in Cairo are now being aptly recalled. Regarding Iran, he said, “I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.”

But the first sign of respect is to let the Iranians sort out their differences without any overt –or covert –interference.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Whistleblower Who Linked “Taliban” Leader To US Intelligence Is Assassinated

by Steve Watson,

A whistleblower who defected from the Pakistani Taliban has been assassinated just days after he claimed that the group was working with US intelligence to destabilize the country.

Qari Zainuddin, a tribal leader of the South Waziristan region in Pakistan was shot dead on Tuesday by a gunman said to be loyal to Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

Analysts said that Mr Zainuddin’s murder was a serious blow to the military campaign against the militants, as support of his faction was considered crucial, reports the London Times. “[It] is a warning to other pro government tribal commanders,” said Mahmood Shah, a retired brigadier who had served as top official in the tribal region.

Zainuddin had rejected Mehsud’s Taliban tribe, and shifted his allegiance to the Pakistani government, following a string of suicide bombings targeting mosques and civilians.

The Pakistani government also claims that Mehsud was responsible for the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto.

One of Qari Zainuddin’s aides, who was also injured in the attack that killed the tribal leader, told the media that a lone gunman was able to enter Zainuddin’s office and open fire, before escaping uninjured.

“It was definitely Baitullah’s man who infiltrated our ranks, and he has done his job,” Baz Mohammad told the Associated Press news agency.

Zainuddin had recently hit out at Mehsud in an interview with the AP.

“Whatever Baitullah Mehsud and his associates are doing in the name of Islam is not a jihad, and in fact it is rioting and terrorism,” Zainuddin said.

Though the BBC and other mainstream sources highlighted this interview with Zainuddin, they neglected to cover the fact that Zainuddin also reportedly denounced Mehsud as “an American agent”.

Both Iranian and Pakistani media independently covered his remarks, adding that Zainuddin also described Baitullah Mehsud as having strong links with both Indian and Israeli intelligence.

In an interview with local media the defector said that Mehsud had established strong links with Israeli intelligence services, which were destabilizing the nuclear armed country, reports the Iranian news service Press TV.

“These people (Mehsud and his men) are working against Islam.” the report quotes Zainuddin as having said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s largest daily newspaper, The News, carried a report last Sunday that highlighted the remarks:

“In interviews to various media organisations on Thursday, Qari Zainuddin and his deputy Haji Turkistan had alleged that Baitullah was an American and Indian agent, he had killed Benazir Bhutto and that the real Jihad was going on in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan.” the report stated.

“Many diplomats contacted Foreign Office and Interior Ministry officials as well as media persons, seeking answers to their questions. Some Western diplomats were particularly confused over the claim that Baitullah was an American agent and that he had killed Benazir Bhutto. These diplomats were asking a question that if Baitullah was involved in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, does that mean that the American authorities were also involved in the conspiracy.” the report continued.
Of course, whether you put faith in the Iranian and Pakistani media on these reports, is another question, however, there have been suspicions for some time amongst some Pakistanis that Baitullah Mehsud is on the CIA payroll and is being protected by the intelligence apparatus.

According to retired brigadier and former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Shaukat Qadir, the Pakistani military has requested US help to kill Baitullah Mehsud on several occasions and provided the US with accurate information of his location. Despite this, he claims, Mehsud was never targeted.

Other analysts hold suspicions that Indian and US intelligence are funneling weapons, financial aid and even fighters to the Pakistani Taliban.

The history of the Taliban in Afghanistan, as we have previously reported, is replete with connections to western controlled intelligence agencies.

These facts were also recently highlighted by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who admitted that the CIA and his country’s ISI together created the Taliban.

The Taliban’s spread into Pakistan has also been connected to intelligence driven plots to Balkanize the middle East.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Don't Worry, Obama Will Save Us All (video)

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

N.Y. lawmaker says Holocaust memorial only for Jews

NEW YORK (JTA) -- A New York state assemblyman said a Brooklyn Holocaust memorial should only be for Jews.

Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat, said the memorial should not recognize the other victims of the Nazis, the New York Post reported. The memorial in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood was erected by the City of New York.

"These people are not in the same category as Jewish people with regards to the Holocaust," said Hikind, an Orthodox Jew whose district includes the heavily Chasidic section Borough Park. "It is so vastly different. You cannot compare political prisoners with Jewish victims."

Along with 6 million Jewish victims, millions of gays, disabled people and Roma also were persecuted by the Nazis -- a fact that several city officials played up in their defense of a plan to recognize those groups at the memorial.

"It wasn't only the Jews that were massacred," said the city's Jewish mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

"There's no doubt that most of the atrocities at the Holocaust were done upon Jewish people," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "But it goes against history and their memory to not commemorate all groups that were persecuted by the Nazis."

Hikind, who speaks out frequently on Jewish issues, made the comments at a news conference attended by his 89-year-old mother, Frieda, a survivor of Auschwitz.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cafe owner thrives with no-pricing policy

by amzolt, Bloggersbase

I hang out at a local café (you may have noticed I use many imaginative dialogues at the beginning of posts and they’re almost always in a café). I also do some of my own work at the café plus volunteering a little marketing and promotion—basically, I like the place.

However, this creeping, crawling economic downturn (aka recession or crunch) hit the owner of Java Street Café pretty hard. I’ve spent hours talking business with him and watched as a bright and friendly man became progressively morose and extremely exhausted (when a business has hard times, paying employees becomes a problem and the owner has to not only run the business but literally Work it).

Months went by, things getting worse, while the owner, Sam, in spite of the grueling conditions, continued to try various ideas to attract customers…

Finally, last week, an idea he’d been experimenting with became a what-the-hell—”I can’t lose more than I already have”—Decision:

Take All The Prices Off The Menu—let people pay whatever they feel is a Fair Price!

Sam had his back against the wall, he was willing to try just about anything, and he “happened” to choose and made a commitment to act on what could seem like a very crazy idea…

That was last week…

Since then, he’s been interviewed on CNN twice, phone interviewed on MSNBC and Fox, appeared on all four of the local channels, been on three out-of-state radio talk shows, will be appearing in a morning cooking segment on the local Fox affiliate, and received calls of thanks from three other states and Canada…

As if that weren’t enough, the blogosphere is starting to warm up to the story and it’s on the edge of tipping into the viral realm.


Because it’s “crazy” and unusual?


That may have been the initial and conscious decision of the media but, after watching it happen and, especially, watching his customers react, the real and deeper reason for all the interest certainly seems to be related to a nearly archaic principle—Business Ethics…

Sam’s customer’s have a variety of reactions when he takes their order then says, “O.K., what do you think is a fair price for what you just ordered ?”:



“What’s your usual price?”

“Oh, my! I have to think about it?”

“You’re kidding, right?

Sam’s not kidding, they do have to think about it, his “usual” price is now “your price”, and, when the day is done, the under-payers and the over-payers even out and he’s collecting what he used to get when he had prices…

Of all the various reactions, my personal favorite, and the one that sings of ethics in business during hard times, is what the woman from Missouri said, when she called to thank Sam for his decision:

“After I saw the story on CNN, I cried…”

Spiritual Quote:

“As a practical step in contributing to a dialogue about development and social transformation that explicitly takes account of spiritual values and perspectives, some 100 influential development organizations, international and government agencies, religious representatives, and academics recently gathered in New Delhi to participate in a colloquium on the theme of Science, Religion and Development. The primary goal of the event was to explore how a unified interaction between scientific methods and religious insights can promote the building of human capacity, particularly in the areas of governance, education, technology and economic activity.”

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Stolen Election in Iran? An Inside View of Vote Fraud

by Maarten Doude van Troostwijk

Although not having been present at the recent presidential elections in Iran and thus not able to state on the basis of personal observation whether there was or wasn’t fraud committed, I was struck by the familiar refrain of some of the arguments by those in the Western media who seem to believe that the election must have been stolen by the incumbent. After observing elections for over ten years in the former communist world – from the Balkans to the Baltics, and from Central-Asia to the Caucasus – one starts to recognize certain recurring arguments in the analysis and assessment of an election.

For instance, in the country where an election is taking place, a particularly predictable ploy for an election official to use in some poor, forgotten village where no one seems to bother to show up for the vote, is that "everyone is working in the fields." Never mind that you saw a normal level of human movement on the village streets on your way up to the polling station but no sign of activity in any field whatsoever. You are assured that the real mass of enthusiastic voters will show up just after you will have left for the next apathetic place.

Western arguments making TV audiences or newspaper readers believe the opposite of what was happening in an election in general sound more plausible, but are often no less deceptive. One typical and recurring argument appeared in various commentaries on the recent election in Iran.

Much was made of the fact that millions of paper ballots had been counted within just a few hours. "Not possible," according to some pundits, and a clear sign of blatant vote rigging. Surely such a huge number of pieces of paper cannot be sorted and counted within such a short time! The authorities must have been making the results up before the counting had finished, was the seemingly logical conclusion.

This is not necessarily so. In fact, results that take one or more days to come out are to be treated with far more caution. It raises the suspicion that some backroom haggling had been going on, where one candidate needed some time to convince the other – either by the sweet lure of money, or the menacing spectre of the bullet – to see things his way. In the properly run elections I observed, the count was often swift and accurate. To illustrate this, a simple bit of arithmetic may suffice.

In my experience an average polling station has anywhere from less than one thousand to 3000 registered voters; let’s take the figure of 2000 for this exercise. An election commission consists typically of some five people; again, an average. In Iran, there were four candidates on the ballot and the reported turnout was around 85%. Thus, assuming that precincts in Iran did not have a meaningfully higher number of registered voters than 2000, some 1700 ballots needed counting. (To be precise, all ballots need to be counted, including the unused and invalid ones, but those are obviously quicker to process than used ones). This comes to 340 ballots per commission member.

Let’s give the election officials one hour to sort the ballots, one hour to count them, and one hour to fill out the various electoral protocols (and count the unused and invalid ballots), so that results can be in within three hours after the closing of the poll. This requires each commission member to sort a little less than 6 pieces of paper per minute, not a particularly cumbersome job, particularly given that there were only four candidates and thus only four different piles on which to put a particular ballot. Now that the ballots are sorted, each member has the same ten seconds per ballot for the count – not a Herculean task either. In fact, a sea of time – enough to allow for a double-check and still make it within the hour.

Given the enthusiastic Western reports of the role played by modern communication technology in the present Iranian upheaval – it seems that everybody is tweeting and facebooking over there – we can safely assume that reporting the official results from the local precincts to the Regional or Central Election Commission did not have to be done by time-consuming pigeon-post.

Wherever I witnessed fraud on the precinct level it either consisted of blatant ballot stuffing (Azerbaijan: the emptying of the ballot box was followed by a loud thud where the huge wad of folded together ballots came down), ballot stealing (Serbia: in order to render the election null and void by "disappearing" ballots so the turnout would fall below the legally required 50%), or voter-faking (Georgia: a tiny, empty station where hardly anyone had voted at noon had magically produced over 1000 enthusiasts for democracy just a few hours later, all using the same curled signature on the voter register…). In all these cases the subsequent count was no doubt perfect (I wasn't at each of these counts, after all, so I cannot be entirely sure), but, if so, that didn’t make the final results fair. The actual counting fraud I have come across was always done at one or two levels above the precinct level – for the sophisticated fraud it made no sense to fiddle results where too many people might see what is going on. It also took time to arrive at these fake results, because it takes time to either buy people off or threaten them enough to make them shut up. Falsifying results is also a bit of a conspiracy – you have to keep (the representatives of) the victims of your fraud away from the action, paperwork has to disappear, people have to be intimidated – it takes some work, really.

Another thing to bear in mind when assessing allegations of fraud in an election is who might have committed the fraud. All too often in the Western mind, the storyline of an "opposition" fighting against a "regime" leads to a reflexive sympathy for, and trust in, the former. Yet, politicians being what they are, it is always possible that the opposition employs the underhand methods in order to fight its way to power. Although not likely applicable in rigid one-party states or violent personal dictatorships, this question is of importance in societies with an active and sizeable opposition, even though – or especially when – they cannot be called fully democratic. In this case, for instance, one has to ask the question, "who controls the electoral process in the cities that were expected to see a clear victory for the opposition candidates?"

Nothing in the above proves or disproves fraud in the recent election in Iran, of course. But since there seem to be hardly any reports indicating the type of blatant, precinct-level fraud as described above, the way it must have been done – if at all – is on the level of the Regional or Central Electoral Commission by manipulating the count. If so, one would expect results to have taken longer to be announced for the above-mentioned reasons. Of course, the manipulation of results could have been done crudely too, particularly if it was done in a panic – by a bunch of incompetents who hadn’t prepared their conspiracy to defraud properly (which would render the current Iranian authorities not much of a dictatorship – proper dictatorships don’t mess up their hold on power). In that case we should see real evidence soon. After all, if the candidates were interested in a fair vote they will have had their representatives and their observers on the various electoral bodies. They will have independently collected the results on the precinct level. They will have their campaign headquarters where they can collate their findings and compare them to the officially announced results. In short, they will have facts.

If not, they are not interested in a fair vote but only in power, which would render the distinction between a "white" – or green in this case – opposition and a "black" regime rather meaningless.

So far, however, the fact in itself that the results of this election were known within a short time after the closing of the polls cannot be a convincing argument that there must have been fraud. On past experience of observing elections, it tends to indicate the opposite.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

You Took My Freedom But Where’s My Security?

by Vedran Vuk

Rarely do our intelligence services blow their cover. But with the New York City Temple Bomb Plot –that’s exactly what the FBI did. Except in this case, our intelligence wasn’t hiding from the enemy but instead from us.

For years, Americans have been told that the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, etc. are working hard to watch over the nation. The evidence presented has been the lack of a major terrorist attack since 9/11. Who can argue with the results, right? So much of our domestic peace is accredited to these secretive agencies.

According to the common mythology, innumerable terror plots have been stopped, an endless number of Al-Qaeda cells discovered, and tens of thousands of lives saved, thanks to the post 9/11 bi-partisan programs and expanded powers. But after the NYC Temple Bomb Plot, I gave up all hope that any of these unspoken successes were true.

Think about it. The FBI publicized the arrest of four radicalized losers who couldn’t even obtain explosives without the help of the agency. Even more alarming is that the case took an entire year to put together.

These arrests hardly increase my confidence in our national security. After years of espionage, wire-tapping, and torture, these agencies should do a little better than the NYC roundup.

The clandestine services had a clever PR strategy by not saying a word. If no one reported details, the public could keep imagining great and noble accomplishments. Vague and fuzzy worked so well for so long. When no one knows the agencies’ daily activities, it’s easy for them to take credit for the domestic tranquility.

The specifics have always been the missing link in the homeland security debate. Just recall the scenario used to justify torture, "What if a prisoner knew about a major attack? Would it be appropriate to torture then?" To ask the question is to find the problem. The question is theoretical. After eight years of torture, we still don’t have an example where a prisoner was tortured and a major attack was prevented as a result.

With the NYC Temple Plot, the FBI crossed the Rubicon and clearly explained their operation. With the silence broken, any citizen has to ask himself, "Is this it? Is this the best our national security can do?" After billions spent and our traditional freedoms undermined, the best results are a couple of dope-smoking losers and the occasional hide-out in Pakistan.

All this time, I had hoped – like any tax payer does – that at the very least the spending would be somewhat effective. Hoping for national security to work effectively feels similar to evaluating local road construction. You know the project will be overpriced, the contractor will make out of the deal like a bandit, and your taxes will pay the bill. But at least, the town will have a new halfway decent road.

I didn’t like the homeland security agenda from the beginning. I knew it was overpriced – the highest cost being our freedoms. And even though I disagreed with the programs, I hoped that they were working to make us safer. Maybe, some of the money was being used efficiently.

After the NYC Temple Bomb Plot, I could no longer hold onto this delusion. If this is the biggest bust that the FBI has to offer, then we’re all in big trouble.

As crazy as it sounds, I wish that our freedom was traded for security. I wish that our torture techniques could pay off with terrorists stopped and evil plans thwarted. But the saddest part of the War on Terror is that we can’t claim any such victories.

The United States has tortured for no recognizable gain, and trading freedom for security remains only a theoretical argument. Our liberty has been swapped for absolutely nothing in return. We are not safe and grow less safe everyday.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

The Incredible Bread Machine

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fixing Health Care in the US


The large majority of Americans hold health insurance. It is estimated that about 15.6% don’t. But out of those who don’t, most are between jobs and not having health insurance remains a temporary phenomenon. About a quarter of the uninsured lack coverage for periods of less than one year.

The health care debate in the US too often focuses on health insurance per se. The real problem, however, is the fact that health care products and services themselves are too expensive. If one had to pay only a tenth or less of current prices for, say, a hospital visit or a doctor’s appointment, one might not even need insurance and could easily pay out of his pocket.

But even if one were to buy an insurance policy, the premiums would be much lower if prices for products and services were lower. Thus, the main objective of health care policy needs to be the lowering of prices along with an improvement of quality of all health care products and services offered.

Why are prices for health care so high in the US? It is simply because, aside from defense, there exists no sector in this country with higher government involvement than health care. In fact, public health care spending in the United States is higher than in most other large western countries. The Trouble With Bureaucracy is that always and everywhere it leads to higher prices and lower quality.

Every expansion of governmental powers (…) will inevitably lead to a bureaucratic misuse of the scarce factors of production available, an increase in poverty, and a lower standard of living for everyone.

The Montreal Economic Institute points out some interesting fact about the US health care system in Two myths about the U.S. health care system:

A totally private system?
Another big myth presents the U.S. health care system as totally private, or almost. It is true that most health care establishments are private – either for profit or non-profit – and that private health insurance systems generally run on a for profit basis (apart from Blue Cross and Blue Shield). But it is incorrect to suggest that public health care spending is low or that no public health insurance system exists in the United States. The U.S. very clearly has public health insurance systems, Medicare and Medicaid. Heavy public spending also goes toward various areas such as public hospitals or Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

With everything taken into account, public health care spending in the United States is higher than in most other large western countries (see Figure 1). Public health care spending as a proportion of GDP is 6.6% in the U.S., putting it ninth among the 30 OECD countries. It should be noted that the U.S. comes just after Canada, where public health care spending accounts for 6.7% of GDP. Moreover, per capita government spending is higher in the U.S. than in Canada – $2,364 compared to $2,048 at purchasing power parity, based on OECD data.
The corollary of this myth is that the health care market in the United States is completely free and that unbridled capitalism runs rampant. In fact, the U.S. health care market is highly regulated at several levels, leading to distortions in the use and supply of care. This explains in part the difficulty that millions of Americans face in paying for private insurance. Standards set by state governments and by federal authorities are ubiquitous in the insurance field, limiting the introduction of cheaper, more accessible policies. Regulations specify, for example, which medical procedures an insurance policy must cover. Private health care supply is also tightly regulated, both by the medical profession and in the management and financing of health care establishments.
Contrary to myths that have been going around, only a small minority of Americans are involuntarily uninsured on a long-term basis, and even these people generally have access to free health care. Public health care spending is higher in the United States than in most other OECD countries, and the U.S. has sizable public health insurance systems.

The problems of the U.S. health care system largely result not from its private character but rather from the heavy regulation to which it is subjected and from the way the insurance system functions. The tax treatment of insurance and the very low degree of direct involvement by policyholders in controlling health care costs are partly responsible for bloated insurance premiums and for the presence of a certain proportion of uninsured people.

As with public financing, when the payer is a third party, costs tend to run wild. In this regard, it is not very surprising to see that the most innovative solutions proposed for reforming the U.S. health care system resemble those suggested for dealing with problems in the Canadian system. These solutions involve the assumption of greater responsibility by patients receiving care and a liberalization of supply mechanisms, whether in terms of care or its financing.

One highly promising suggestion involves health savings accounts, established in 2003 with slightly over a million accountholders across the United States by March 2005. These accounts enable individuals to build tax-free savings for coverage of health care costs while purchasing insurance policies with fairly high deductibles but lower premiums. Be that as it may, a more realistic perspective of the advantages and flaws of the U.S. health care system would lead to a more pertinent debate than the repetition of unfounded myths.

… if we truly want to fix the US health care system, that means lowering prices for health care services and products, we need to take those facts into account.

Any proposal that suggests even more government involvement, decrees, and spending than we already have, needs to be rejected unconditionally.

If you want to look for true solutions, listen to those people who recommend the opposite of what we have been doing for the past decades, and in particular the past 8 years, during which President Bush presided over an increase of public health care expenses on the federal level of no less than 100%.

Listen to the people who recommend to get the government out of health care, to spend less on Medicare and Medicaid, and to get rid of government decrees and rules that aim at regulating the market for health products and services.

Only then will the dream of affordable health care for every single American become reality.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Government grinds the gears

by Richard W. Rahn

If you knew that baseball teams with winning records tended to be more profitable for their owners than those with losing records - and if you learned that the Baltimore Orioles had just been purchased by the major league umpire's union, would you expect the Orioles to win more or fewer games? Almost everyone implicitly understands why the umpires should not be allowed to own teams they referee.

In a free-market economic system, the government is supposed to be the referee and not a player. Its job is to set and enforce the rules, but if it is allowed to also become a player, by owning and managing business enterprises, it is unlikely to treat the competing companies fairly, and there will be little check on its own misbehavior. Congress is now debating whether the U.S. government will create its own national health provider. The government is now the majority owner of the nation's biggest automobile manufacturer (General Motors Corp.), the biggest bank (Citigroup Inc.), and the biggest insurance company (American International Group Inc.). The record of government ownership and/or control of companies in the United States and elsewhere has been one long disaster.

Look at the past year alone. The nation's largest man-made environmental disaster (according to the New York Times) was the coal-ash spill in Tennessee on Dec. 28, 2008, caused by negligence at the Tennessee Valley Authority (a federal-government-owned enterprise). By volume, this spill was 48 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill. This September, the government formally took over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, whose financial holes were many times larger than those of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., WorldCom, Enron Corp. or GM. Fannie and Freddie were both U.S. government-sponsored and -regulated companies that had the implicit guarantee of the U.S. taxpayer.

Yet the companies not only failed, but between them have also left the U.S. taxpayer liable for more than $1 trillion. All too many in the mainstream media choose to ignore or underreport government failures while hyping private- company failures. Just look at the press coverage of the Exxon Valdez versus the TVA Tennessee spill, or the coverage given Enron versus Fannie and Freddie.

The Democratic majority in Congress is pushing to create a federal government national health care provider that is supposed to operate in competition with private health care companies. Anyone who thinks the government would operate such a company competently, efficiently and fairly is ignoring 200 years of history. Without a doubt, it will engage in health care rationing, create an expensive and bloated bureaucracy, provide poorer service, stifle innovation and seek to repress its more efficient and preferred private competitors.

President Obama recently said he does not "want to run General Motors." The question then is, "Why is he?" No one is forcing him to. The administration could sell GM within a week or give the stock to taxpayers (as some Republicans have proposed).

With the government owning GM, stockholders of and workers at Ford Motor Co. and all the other companies are put at unfair disadvantage, because GM and its financing arm have a lower cost of capital (thanks to the taxpayer) than the privately held and managed competitors. Under government management, GM will probably continue to lose money, and you can bet the referee (the U.S. government) will show favoritism to GM to keep its losses down versus its private competitors. As a result, taxpayers will be forced to pick up the liabilities, and consumers will have less choice.

The government has destroyed tens of billions of dollars of stockholder value (read "pensions" for many American workers) by forcing banks that did not want or need government money to take it, and then put in retroactive restrictive provisions on management as part of its ownership "right."

When the chief executive officer of a truly private business runs the stock of his company into the ground, he or she is usually properly berated in the press and often subject to lawsuits. However, government officials who engage in similar or worse mismanagement are rarely criticized in the press and are immune from lawsuits, even though they have destroyed part of the financial well-being of their fellow citizens.

The American Founding Fathers well understood human nature, and that is why they developed the system of checks and balances for the new republic.

Before the Berlin Wall fell, many compared the West German Mercedes-Benz with the East German Trabant (a small, dangerous, smelly, polluting piece of junk posing as an automobile) to illustrate the superiority of capitalism over socialism.

When government fails to limit its role to being the referee, and also begins to field a team in competition with private parties, the system of checks and balances breaks down. The result - more incompetence, less efficiency, fewer innovations, poorer service and more corruption!

There is still time left to prevent the Trabantization of the American health care, financial and industrial sectors by merely saying no!

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Drug Control Begets Gun Control

The violence in Mexico is caused by prohibition, not firearms. by Jacob Sullum

During his April visit to Mexico, President Barack Obama suggested that Americans are partly to blame for the appalling violence associated with the illegal drug trade there. “The demand for these drugs in the United States is what’s helping keep these cartels in business,” he said. “This war is being waged with guns purchased not here but in the United States.”

Obama is right that the U.S. is largely responsible for the carnage in Mexico, which claimed more than 6,000 lives last year. But the problem is neither the drugs Americans buy nor the guns they sell; it’s the war on drugs our government has drafted the rest of the world to fight. Instead of acknowledging the failure of drug control, Obama is using it as an excuse for an equally vain attempt at gun control.

“More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States,” Obama claimed, repeating a favorite factoid of politicians who believe American gun rights endanger our southern neighbor’s security. The claim has been parroted by many news organizations, including ABC, which used it in a 2008 story that suggested the sort of policy changes the number is meant to encourage. The story, which asked if “the Second Amendment [is] to blame” for “arming Mexican drug gangs,” quoted an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives who said, “It’s virtually impossible to buy a firearm in Mexico as a private citizen, so this country is where they come.”

But as Fox News and have shown, the percentage cited by the president greatly exaggerates the share of guns used by Mexican criminals that were bought in the United States. Fox estimates it’s less than a fifth, while says it may be more like a third.

If the guns used by Mexican drug traffickers do not mainly come from gun dealers in the U.S., where do they come from? Many of the weapons are stolen from the Mexican military and police, often by deserters; some are smuggled over the border from Guatemala; others come from China by way of Africa or Latin America. Russian gun traffickers do a booming business in Mexico.

Given these alternatives, making it harder for Americans to buy guns is not likely to stop Mexican gangsters from arming themselves. The persistence of the drug traffickers’ main business, which consists of transporting and selling products that are entirely illegal on both sides of the border, should give pause to those who think they can block the flow of guns to the cartels.

The futile effort to stop Americans from consuming politically incorrect intoxicants is the real source of the violence in Mexico, since prohibition creates a market with artificially high prices and hands it over to criminals. “Because of the enormous profit potential,” two senior federal law enforcement officials told the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, “violence has always been associated with the Mexican drug trade as criminal syndicates seek to control this lucrative endeavor.”

The more the government cracks down on the black market it created, the more violence it fosters, since intensified enforcement provokes confrontations with the police and encourages fighting between rival gangs over market opportunities created by arrests or deaths. “If the drug effort were failing,” an unnamed “senior U.S. official” told The Wall Street Journal in February, “there would be no violence.”

Perhaps it is time to redefine failure. Three former Latin American presidents, including Mexico’s Ernesto Zedillo, recently noted that “we are farther than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs.” The attempt to achieve that impossible dream, they observed, has led to “a rise in organized crime,” “the corruption of public servants,” “the criminalization of politics and the politicization of crime,” and “a growth in unacceptable levels of drug-related violence.”

Instead of importing Mexico’s prohibitionist approach to guns, we should stop exporting our prohibitionist approach to drugs.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

A Clear Case of Armed Robbery (and More)

by William L. Anderson

As one who eagerly reads whatever Will Grigg has to write, and especially his posts on the LRC Blog, I was especially interested in his post regarding the conduct of two Denver police officers last May. The post describes an action which in normal cases would be considered armed robbery and also would set up the perpetrators for federal charges, if the U.S. attorney in Denver so chose.

According to the CBS affiliate in Denver, two off-duty Denver police officers drove to a McDonald’s drive-through early on May 21 of this year, but became agitated with what they believed to be slow service. According to the report:

Sources familiar with the case, and the fast food worker's account of what happened, say two off-duty Denver police officers placed an order from their car in the early morning hours of May 21. But once at the drive through window, the employee said the men became agitated and angry at how long their food was taking. The men thought they were being ignored, according to contacts familiar with the worker's account. The male clerk then said one of the officer's flashed his police badge and pointed a pistol through the drive through window in a threatening manner, before driving off without paying.

Both officers are assigned to Denver International Airport although only one has been placed on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of the case.

If the man at the window is telling the truth, then this is a clear case of armed robbery. First, the officer allegedly pulled out a gun and pointed it at the clerk. It does not matter that he flashed the badge, as the badge means nothing in this case because it does not entitle the officer to any free food.

The key is that he drove off without paying. That is robbery, and the use of a gun in this situation, even if it were not loaded and even if he did not tell the clerk that he had better give him the food or else, the fact that he showed a gun and drove away without paying for his food is enough to trigger an armed robbery charge.

The second officer also is liable for the same crime because he was with his friend. That is all that it takes for him to face charges, even if he had nothing to do with the other officer’s actions. People who accompany armed robbers are charged with the same crime even when they did not know the other person was going to commit a robbery.

Second, if the local U.S. attorney wanted to become involved, he or she easily could charge the officers with one of the many "gun crimes" that dot the federal code. Lest one think I am joking, it is a federal crime to use a firearm in the commission of any robbery, and driving off without paying and pointing a gun at the person handing over the item, whether it be food or anything else, is armed robbery. In fact, the officer could be charged with a gun crime even if he did not point the gun at anyone or even had left it in his holster.

That is right. The government regularly charges people with gun crimes simply if a gun was nearby. I recall one case in which a person was charged with "using a firearm in commission of a felony" because the gun – unloaded, by the way – was lying in the locked trunk of the car. In other words, the very presence of a firearm nearby is enough to trigger such a charge, and the courts have made such charges stick, no matter how dishonest and ridiculous they might be.

If a private citizen were to have done what this officer allegedly did, I can assure you that he or she would be arrested and held on a very high bond. There is no way around the fact that this would constitute an armed robbery, and a district attorney easily could – and would – make that case.

However, in this situation, the police officer is on paid leave and the other officer still is working his regular job at Denver’s International Airport. No doubt, the officer will argue that he just lost his head and was frustrated with the slow service and acted rashly, and he promises not to do that again.

The trouble is that his excuse just might work. However, for the rest of us who do not have the privilege of owning a police badge, I would recommend that you not try this ploy of getting free food the next time you go to McDonald’s.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Lessons Learned From the Battlefield

by Michael Gaddy

I continue to receive a large number of emails questioning what would be the best instrument for communication in the event of a national emergency, economic chaos or civil unrest on a massive scale. I believe the answer can be found in what has worked, and not worked, for the Iraqi resistance. (I refuse to call anyone fighting for their homes and families an insurgent)

In a great number of instances, communications has been the Achilles Heel of the resistance in Iraq. They have learned to constantly change their modes and methods of communication in order to keep their opponents off balance.

The cell phone is the easiest and most preferred method of communication in use by the modern day 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) participant; it is also the easiest to exploit. First, remember SIM cards are exploitable and can and will be used against you. It is possible to exploit a SIM card in 30 seconds without the holder even knowing it, once your opponent has your phone number. All that is needed to pinpoint location with a cell phone is 2 towers for those who do not have a phone with GPS. There are also technologies that allow the government to create false towers that seek out your phones specific signal and will allow them to troll around an area until they get a hit, and then it will lead them right to your location. These techniques have been developed, tested, and used effectively in Iraq and Afghanistan. All the opponent needs is your number, which gives them the specific signal to your phone.

Counter measures are simple; never ever keep the phone on, or the battery in. Never store numbers in the phone, always use throwaway cell phones and change them often. Set up prearranged talk times, and always talk on the move. Never talk in your home, or while you are stationary. Never ever send text messages, and always talk in code on the phone. Hard line to hard line is the best way to call if you can still find a pay phone.

Radios of any kind are the same as cell phones, but will get you located quicker. The opponents expect them to be used, and almost always have their ears on. Today’s military units have the ability to listen and pinpoint the point of broadcast of any type communication device and jam it. Unless you hardwire your area of operations (AO) with WWI field phones, keep your messages short, sweet, and move quickly after you broadcast.

I warned here of new members to your group who advocate violence or offer to provide weapons and/or explosives. Also be extremely cautious of any members of your group who are gone for any period of time or those you know have been contacted by the authorities. Even the most loyal can be coerced with threats to family, etc.

Read and study 4GW tactics and strategies; these tactics have yet to be defeated in modern military history. I highly recommend the series of books written by Colonel John Poole on the subject. The Colonel’s works reveal a detailed history of 4GW and a wealth of information that could prove invaluable.

Author, Patriot, and LRC reader, Matthew Bracken, has written a trilogy of novels on probable scenarios concerning civil unrest and its complications. There is a wealth of information that can be gleaned from his works, as well as some disturbing possibilities. Matt has laced his writing with interesting characters that makes for an informative, entertaining, though sometimes alarming read.

Those who prepare, educate and equip for the coming chaos will be those most apt to protect themselves and their families. Remember, those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

Found Cause: Don't Call Me a Conservative

by Bill Kauffman

In Edward Abbey’s after-the-collapse novel Good News, Sam the Shaman tells the valiant anarchist cowboy Jack Burns, “There’s one thing wrong with always fighting for freedom, and justice, and decency, and so forth.”

“Only one thing?” replies Burns. “What’s that?”

“You almost always lose.”

In deference to Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology poet and anti-imperialist states-rights Democrat, I shan’t quote Clarence Darrow’s line about lost causes being the only ones worth fighting for. Masters had been Darrow’s law partner, and he disdained the Chicago loudmouth as a headline-hogging welsher.

Still, there is the matter of the lostness of our cause. Peace, it seems, often passeth understanding.

Is The American Conservative a contrail in the sky of a dying America or the bright harbinger of revival—of a better, more humane Little America? I do not say this better America would be a more conservative America because for half a century, “conservative” has been a synonym of—a slave to—militarism, profligacy, the invasion of other nations, contempt for personal liberties, and an ignorance of and hostility toward provincial America that is Philip Rothian in its scope. The conservative movement, like the empire whose adjunct and cheerleader it is, is a daisy chain of epicene dissemblers and vampiric chickenhawks who feast on the carrion of our Republic. The c-word is quite simply beyond reclamation. The anarchist founder of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Frank Chodorov, had the right idea, even if it did contradict his pacifism: “Anyone who calls me a conservative gets a punch in the nose.” If we have to play Name that Tendency I’d opt for Little American, front-porch republican, localist, decentralist, libertarian, or, to borrow Robert Frost’s term, plain old Insubordinate American—anything but C! (With a nod to Shel Silverstein.)

Be not deceived that a few opportunistic Republicans who said absolutely nothing in defense of our America during the Bush octennium are now sending up false flags of state sovereignty and the Tenth Amendment. Their Contract with America doppelgangers pulled the same stunt a decade ago before signing on, without any apparent qualms, to the brutally consolidationist Bush-Cheney regime. Recall that Bob Dole carried a copy of the Tenth Amendment during his flaccid 1996 presidential campaign, presumably in the same pocket that held the pills he needed to gulp in order to entertain the gracious Liddy. If these people were anything other than cynical party hacks I would be enthusiastic, but for God’s sake, Charlie Brown, how often does Lucy have to yank the football away before you wise up?

The national “conversation,” to misuse that word, is and has been limited to belligerent neoconservatives and liberal imperialists for many years now. Ed Abbey’s Jack Burns is sooner to wind up on a Department of Homeland Security watch list than he is on CNN. But so what? We dishonor our forebears if we whine that the rulers and their lackeys are nasty, tyrannical, and placeless. Of course they are—they’re rulers and lackeys.

The great John Randolph once explained his contumacy: “I found I might co-operate, or be an honest man. I have therefore opposed them and will oppose them.” This is even truer today, though mere opposition is a debilitating condition for all but the most friendless crank. Standing athwart things is a good way to get neutered. Luckily, we are for things—a restoration of the Republic, the rebirth of citizenship, social and political life on a human scale, a peaceful America that minds its own damn business. These goals will confound those who mimic the attitudes (never the Beatitudes!) blared from the rectangular soul-stealer in the living room, but among those who think up their own notions and sign their own names, to borrow Edmund Wilson’s phrase, we have company. Anyone who engages in authentic civil or social life—ref in a pickup basketball game, drummer in a cowpunk band, secretary of a ladies’ study club, rhubarb-cutter in a community garden—is acting upon the healthy, voluntaristic, small-is-not-always-beautiful-but-at-least-it’s-human impulses that animate the first, last, and best alternative to the empire.

Whether we ever get together politically remains an open question. Protest politics is mostly boring street theater overseen by puppet-master choreographers in service of the two parties. True dissenters who undertake national campaigns—Ron Paul, Ralph Nader—are mocked, libeled, or ignored. Words are stripped of their meaning, even inverted, so that a vote for change produces Joe Biden, and a cheer for family values brings forth Newt Gingrich. I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused, though how much, really, can one take? And for how long? Sixty-one years ago the disgusted but amused H.L. Mencken covered his last campaign, which pitted the double atom-bomb dropper Harry Truman versus the little man on the wedding cake, Thomas E. Dewey. Was Obama versus McCain really that much worse a choice?

Our decline predates the Bushes, the Clintons, even the Kennedys. Trace it, if you like, back to the overthrow of the gentle Articles of Confederation and the triumph of Hamilton, Madison, and James Wilson over Patrick Henry, Luther Martin, and Melancton Smith in 1787-88. We have a helluva losing streak going, but there is a value in showing up for a game and taking your swings even if you have no chance. To give in is a sin.

So many of the vital and flavorful American political traditions go utterly, offensively, incredibly unrepresented in national discourse: the Anti-Federalists, the Populists, Brahmin anti-imperialists, independent liberals, prairie socialists, Old Right libertarians. It is our ennobling duty to keep these fires burning, even in the present darkness. For they illuminate the hopeful signs in our midst: homeschoolers, community-supported agriculture, independence movements from Vermont to Hawaii, the kids fired up by Ron Paul.

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts,” advises Wendell Berry. Excellent advice.

Our country is Wendell Berry, Townes Van Zandt, Mavis Staples, Ken Kesey, Cormac McCarthy, Levon Helm… How can one despair with these by our sides, at our backs, in our heads? Editorialists in the New York Times and Washington Post, shouters on the television, sallow callow master bloggers who jerk out their vitriol over dissenters: they aren’t worth the scorn in a thumbnail vial. Their depressing and ephemeral work dissipates with the air it befouls, the paper it poisons, the screen it scars. The real country endures. It produces whatever books and songs and films and paintings add up to American culture. It is where sandlot baseball and farm markets come from; it is where peace dwells in this nation of perpetual war.

Sursum corda, pals. We ain’t dead yet. Turn off the TV. Reject the chains they have fashioned for you. Live as if in a free country. Look again at the things nighest unto you. That’s America. That’s worth saving.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website:

The Pending Cash for Clunkers Program: Failure From the Get-Go?

by Aaron Turpen,

The much-argued “Cash for Clunkers” program will become law soon enough. The House and Senate have agreed on wording and terms and where to put the bill to get it passed and signed by President Obama.

There are a few things to note about this bill and the surrounding controversies:
Much argument was given over funding, which settled at $1 billion.

To fund and pass the bill, Congress had to stuff it into the war spending bill (for Afghanistan and Iraq).

The total funding is barely 1/4 of the total estimated costs for this program.
The program is not likely to start until close to the end of the fiscal year (September 30).

These points are significant for several reasons, not the least of which is the apparent sneakiness going on to push the bill through. The Senate’s major concern (in debate) was the payouts for these trade-in vouchers. They wanted higher mileage requirements and less money being paid.

In the House, the debate was mainly just how they could frame the bill so that it would pass the Senate. It takes fewer votes in the 100-member Senate to make a bill into scrap paper, after all. This bill was controversial from the beginning anyway.

The bill works pretty simply, but looks pretty easy to take advantage of too. The trade-in must have mileage numbers (mpg) at 18mpg or less (combined city/highway) and the new car being purchased must have at least four miles better than that to get a $3,500 voucher. If the new car gets at least 10mpg higher than the trade-in, the voucher will be for $4,500.

Trucks are figured differently, with the replacement vehicle required to have at least 18mpg combined. That’s not actually hard to achieve today, with the average pickup truck (in medium and heavy duty classes) getting closer to 20mpg. The new vehicle only has to get 2mpg better than its trade-in counterpart, however. A big concession to Detroit, it appears.

So a pickup truck that gets 15 city/19 highway will have a combined mileage of 17mpg. This truck, if traded in for a heavy duty Ford diesel (21mpg combined) would be eligible for a $3,500 voucher towards that new truck. If a dream were to come true and that pickup were traded for a Honda Insight (fat chance), the voucher would be for $4,500–which is about 1/4 of the Insight’s price tag.

Little heed was ultimately given to the two major concerns I have with this bill: a similar one in Europe (esp. Germany) proved to be disastrous in both budget and outcome and where does this money come from, exactly?

The first question involves how this bill will help car sales, if at all, and whether it is really doing anything to improve things environmentally or otherwise. In Europe, for example, vehicles that would otherwise have been scrapped regardless were turned in under the government’s program because there is a huge difference between scrap price for a vehicle ($50 average) and a $3,500+ voucher.

This disparity hurt scrap yards and the industry, since the scrapped vehicles didn’t necessarily go to local scrappers and none of them ended up in the wrecking yard to be sold off as spare parts. Not only that, but many of the purchasers were going to buy a car anyway, so the number of cars sold was not boosted nearly as much as was predicted with the law’s passage.

To further complicate things, analysts are predicting that a further slump will hit many European auto companies next year because the law may have enticed new buyers this year that would have otherwise waited until next.

Overall, no one who was not in the market to purchase a car inside the next 12 months seemed to be enticed into doing so because of the bill. At least not in any numbers of note.

The scheme in Germany has gone over budget by millions and may be closed down due to the unforseen costs associated with the bill outside of the vouchers themselves.

The really big question here, for me at least, is why, exactly, did America so desperately need this bill? If car buyers were going to buy anyway, if the cars being traded in were going to get scrapped regardless, and if new versus old is already at the bill’s listed efficiency numbers… what, exactly, is being gained here?
In my mind, nothing but improved government wastefulness, a lot of wasted money, and some fake green cred to the bill’s major supporters.

All I see is wasted time, effort, money, and hot air from the morons in Washington. In other words: business as usual in D.C.

Got comments? Email me, dammit!
Permanent link for this article which can be used on any website: