Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Notice: I am going on vacation to sunny San Diego, things will be awfully quiet around here over the next couple of weeks.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
First They Come for Your Cigarettes.....
A lot of people I know are not bothered in the least by the government enforced smoking ban. The smell bothers them, they aren't smokers, etc. But I warned them, this is not about smoking, but the larger issue of property rights - the right for a bar/restaurant owner to decide whether or not he wants to let people smoke inside of his own building. Why should a handful of old men on a city council get to make this decision for a city writ large? Let the government chip away at a few property rights, and it's only logical they'll start to take them in chunks.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) -- Texas has begun sending undercover agents into bars to arrest drinkers for being drunk, a spokeswoman for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said Wednesday.
The first sting operation was conducted recently in a Dallas suburb where agents infiltrated 36 bars and arrested 30 people for public intoxication, said the commission's Carolyn Beck.
Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness, Beck said.
But there was no one left so speak for me....
Monday, March 27, 2006
Great Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell on the absurdities of the oil companies being investigated for 'greed' and collusion:
After hurricane Katrina destroyed a lot of oil processing capacity around the Gulf of Mexico, there was — surprise! — less oil being processed. With less oil being supplied — surprise again! — gasoline prices rose.
However much economists rely on supply and demand to explain price movements, politicians need villains, so that the pols can play hero. Big Oil is a favorite villain and has been for decades.
There is nothing like the political melodrama of summoning oil company executives to televised hearings before some Congressional committee, where politicians can wax indignant at Big Oil's profits.
It so happens that Big Government takes more money in taxes out of a gallon of gas than Big Oil takes out in profits. But apparently somehow taxes don't raise prices. They certainly don't raise indignation from the politicians who voted for those taxes.
After the oil processing facilities were repaired and put back in operation — yet another surprise! — prices came back down. Supply and demand has been doing this for centuries but apparently the word has not yet reached some politicians.
And with world demand rising as a result of industrialization and growth in countries like China and India, the obvious antidote to high prices would be to increase supply.
But the very politicians who are noisiest about the high price of oil are the most bitterly opposed to increasing the supply.
Drilling for more oil might disturb some animals or birds or fish. Worse yet, on a clear day people with beachfront homes might be able to see an offshore oil rig out on the horizon.
Even those who can't see oil being drilled in some isolated hinterland in Alaska would know that the drilling was going on, and that would upset their sensitive natures.
He gets less charitable, and more entertaining from here. Read the rest.
Friday, March 24, 2006
A week or so ago I came across a post from Dean Esmay where he links to a critical piece on Francis Fukuyama. Having been quite impressed with Fukuyama's famous book, "The End of History" I thought I would have a fair amount to say about the critical article, especially because I find the criticism entirely warranted. As it turns out, I do have a lot to say, I just haven't been able to get it organized, so it is probably going to be one of those many posts that stays in 'draft' status forever. Or maybe I'll finish it next week.
Anyway, Dean makes a simple, yet elegant observation that I did not want to fall by the wayside just because I can't get my thoughts on Fukuyama organized. Here it is:
Me? I keep looking at the fulminating reactionaries who claim that Iraq is a "mess" and a "debacle." Their evidence? An increasingly desperate fascist "insurgency" sets off bombs and murders innocent people.
Which leads me to conclude that the best way to get what you want out of those people is to set off bombs and murder innocent people.
In other words, if these people were in charge, terrorism would always be an excellent strategy for getting whatever you wanted out of them.
It's a good thing they're not in charge, isn't it?
Yes, it is.
Well, some of them are in charge of newspapers apparently, but that is survivable. ;-)
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
War and Peace Figures
(Update: Wretchard has much worth reading on the below.)
(via Glenn) This is one of those figures that is absolutely astounding:
On the third anniversay of the Iraq war, the MSM keeps bombarding us with stories and statistics trying to compare this war to the carnage in Vietnam, trying to make us think that US soldiers are dying at an alarming number due to Bush's failures.
While every lost serviceman and servicewoman is certainly tragic and should be mourned, the actual statistics tell quite a different tale from the MSM and Democratic doom-and-gloom outlook. Comparing the numbers of lost US military personnel to past years, and past presidential terms, may even be a shock to supporters of the war.
Take a look at the actual US Military Casualty figures since 1980. If you do the math, you will find quite a few surpises. First of all, let's compare numbers of US Military personnel that died during the first term of the last four presidents.
George W. Bush . . . . . 5187 (2001-2004)
Bill Clinton . . . . . . . . .4302 (1993-1996)
George H.W. Bush . . . . 6223 (1989-1992)
Ronald Reagan . . . . . . 9163 (1981-1984)
Even during the (per MSM) utopic peacetime of Bill Clinton's term, we lost 4302 service personnel. H.W. Bush and Reagan actually lost significantly more personnel while never fighting an extensive war, much less a simulaltaneous war on two theaters (Iraq and Afghanistan). Even the dovish Carter lost more people duing his last year in office, in 1980 lost 2392, than W. has lost in any single year of his presidency. (2005 figures are not available but I would wager the numbers would be slightly higher than 2004.)
In 2004, more soldiers died outside of Iraq and Afghanistan than died inside these two war zones (900 in these zones, 987 outside these zones). The reason is that there are usually a fair number that die every year in training accidents, as well as a small number of illness and suicide. Yet the MSM would make you think that US soldiers are dying at a high number in these zones, and at a significantly higher number than in past years or under past presidents. This is all simply outright lies and distortion.
When I see things like this, it makes it very hard to take seriously the cries from the far left that they care so much about the troops. I can't recall any fretting from them during the Clinton administration about 4000+ troops that died during his two terms. Then again there would have been no anti-Bush significance in those complaints so why bother?
Monday, March 20, 2006
First, an enlightening post from Mohammed at Iraq the Model:
The smoke faded away and we woke up to see all the chains gone and instead of the God-president and his iron grip over our destinies, we found ourselves without a guide, without any guidance but our long buried primitive nature, the long repressed nature of loving freedom and practicing it.
The change began then, at that moment where reason mixed with sentiments; were we free... or, were we lost?
Actually it was a lot of both and there was also a sense of great relief that the terrifying warnings from hundreds of thousands of deaths, famine and mass refugees were not true at that point, on the contrary the military operation itself was clean and successful by all standards and didn't cause any serious harm to the civilian population, the infrastructure, or the marching troops.
Saddam was gone and suddenly Iraqis and Americans found themselves face to face in a place that felt new to both of them. They knew almost nothing about each other as the prison Saddam built around us left the world with little knowledge about Iraqis except for the whispers of Iraqis who fled the horrors of the tyrant.
Read the whole thing.
In a related note, Dean Esmay offers this:
The Iraq operation follows a sadly predictable pattern. We endure months of non-stop negative press caused by one thing and one thing only: horrible fascist murderers set off bombs in a few of Iraq's provinces, and some street thugs murder each other in reprisal. Then, we get a spate of undeniably fantastic news that the press just can't keep a lid on. Then, back to making fascists who murder innocents the media darlings of the day.
Lather, rinse, repeat. It's happened in 3-6 months cycles ever since we toppled Saddam's fascist, terrorist-sponsoring, mass-murdering regime. I expect it'll keep going that way for a few more years. Those of us who feel duty-bound to point it all out will just have to keep repeating ourselves, hoping we'll be heard.
So, since this all needs to be pointed out all over again periodically, here we go again:
Read the rest.
Dean asks why we must continually point this out, I've come to the conclusion that it is almost exclusively about Bush and not wanting anything to possibly reflect well on him. Sadly, even so called 'progressive' causes take a back seat to Bush hatred.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
When checking my email over the weekend, I saw this screaming headline as one of Yahoo's four rotating big stories:
8,000 Desert During Iraq War
I didn't bother reading the story, figuring that it was likely devoid of any context. Turns out I was slightly wrong. Hearing mention of it again today, I decided to give it a read, and to my surprise, the article actually did provide context. Context that makes the big headline almost meaningless.
At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
...The Army, Navy and Air Force reported 7,978 desertions in 2001, compared with 3,456 in 2005. The Marine Corps showed 1,603 Marines in desertion status in 2001. That had declined by 148 in 2005.
Clearly, a headline more reflective of reality would have read:
2005 Desertion Rates Half What They Were in 2001
It's almost like the media is slanted.... or something.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Must Read... Twice
Perhaps I am guilty of a bit of hyperbole here, but I'll say that this post highlights the value of the blogosphere all by itself. I don't know where else one could possibly gain such valuable insights relating to war, history, and humanity.
It's worth reading twice.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Remember when Amnesty International made the laughable comparison of Guantanamo Bay to the Russian Gulags in a transparent effort to pander to the most reflexive anti-Americanism out there? Longtime readers of this blog already know about Guantanamo Bay and Living Standards but here is more: (via Dean Esmay)
Mar 6, 2006 — BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Inmates at Guantanamo Bay prison are treated better than in Belgian jails, an expert for Europe's biggest security organization said on Monday after a visit to the controversial U.S. detention center.
But Alain Grignard, deputy head of Brussels' federal police anti-terrorism unit, said that holding people for many years without telling them what would happen to them is in itself "mental torture."
"At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model prison, where people are better treated than in Belgian prisons," said Grignard.
...Grignard told a news conference that prisoners' right to practice their religion, food, clothes and medical care were better than in Belgian prisons.
"I know no Belgian prison where each inmate receives its Muslim kit," Grignard said.
I know no Middle Eastern country where one could find all of that.
Apparently the prisoners aren't so sure either:
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The prisoner from a western region of China faced serious accusations as he appeared before a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. But he had a much more pressing issue on his mind: Where he might go if he were released.
If he were sent back to China, he might be executed, the man, identified only as Mahmut, told the panel at the start of his hearing, according to a transcripts released by the Pentagon.
"I do not want repatriation and am seeking political asylum," he said.
....The Uighur identified as Mahmut was accused of being a member of al Qaeda, which he denied, and of training with a Muslim militant group -- an organization he insisted was dedicated only to establishing an independent homeland in Chinese Turkistan.
"I want to go somewhere where I can live a free life," he said. "That's why I left my country."
Right, he was looking for a country where he could live free so he chose..... Afghanistan under the Taliban!
His fear, according to a review of dozens of other transcripts from hearings at the prison in eastern Cuba, was not uncommon among the detainees.
Prisoners from Uzbekistan, Yemen, Algeria, and other nations told tribunals that they or their families could be tortured or killed if they are sent home.
...A man from Syria who was detained along with his father pleaded with the tribunal for help getting them political asylum -- in any country that will take them.
"You've been saying 'terrorists, terrorists.' If we return, whether we did something or not, there's no such things as human rights. We will be killed immediately," he said. "You know this very well."
Human rights? Remember that these guys were picked up on the battle field in Afghanistan, fighting for the Taliban, fighting for such noble causes as keeping women illiterate, subserviant, and locked in their homes. Oh yeah, and the right to stone gays.
A Saudi identified only as Yasim, who said he attended an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan and was jailed in his country for selling drugs, told the tribunal that after being repeatedly interrogated at Guantanamo, he fears his fellow prisoners as well as others back in Saudi Arabia.
"I can't go back to my country. I have been threatened to be killed by many people," he said according to the transcripts, which the Pentagon released Friday in response to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.
Wahhhh! Wahhh! Wahhh! I went to an Al-Qaeda trainging camp and now my life is in danger. Wahhhh!
In the case of one group of prisoners, Muslims from western China known as Uighurs, the U.S. has struggled to find a solution.
A military tribunal has determined that five are "no longer enemy combatants" and can be released from Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. agrees they could face persecution back in China, but so far has not found a third country to take them.
For now, the Uighurs are being kept at Camp Iguana -- a privileged section of the prison where inmates have unlimited recreation time, televisions, stereos and a view of the Caribbean.
It's pretty apparent that prisoners inside the walls of Guantanamo live under significantly better conditions than citizens of Cuba residing outside those walls. Yet Amnesty International (and many of our own politicians for that matter) see fit to apologize for Fidel Castro while castigating America. That ought to reveal something about their motivation.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Tour of Torture
Michael Totten continues his remarkable independent reporting from Iraq, this time he'll take you on a cerebral tour (with pictures) of one of Saddam's former torture chambers through what must be one of the darkest places humanity has ever created. Included are translations of what child prisoners carved into the walls during their final hours before execution.
10,725 people died in the building and all during torture - official executions took place at Abu Ghraib.
Be sure to hit Totten's tip jar, this is all self-financed.
If you want to travel back in time, and see the real thing, well, you can do that too. These video clips are very violent and incredibly disturbing, they are what Saddam's Iraq actually looked like. Follow this link to the 4 videos, they'll take a couple minutes to load.
The daily partisan warfare (Bush Lied!) that goes on is almost embarrassing when weighed against the above. It's really nothing more than transitory noise in the historical struggle towards universal human freedom. Do you want to see rule by gang violence driven from the face of the earth?
Or is it too expensive?
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Mark Steyn - Required Reading
Mark Steyn at his best is gritty, insightful, and most of all, devastating. This is one of those times.
On the neverending UN scandals:
In fact, however, the UN is a shamefully squalid organization whose corruption is almost impossible to exaggerate. If you think—as the media and the left do in this country—that Iraq is a God-awful mess (which it’s not), then try being the Balkans or Sudan or even Cyprus or anywhere where the problem’s been left to the United Nations. If you don’t want to bulk up your pension by skimming the Oil-for-Food program, no need to worry. Whatever your bag, the UN can find somewhere that suits—in West Africa, it’s Sex-for-Food, with aid workers demanding sexual services from locals as young as four; in Cambodia, it’s drug dealing; in Kenya, it’s the refugee extortion racket; in the Balkans, sex slaves. On a UN peace mission, everyone gets his piece.
Didier Bourguet, a UN staffer in Congo and the Central African Republic, enjoyed the pleasures of 12-year-old girls, and as a result is now on trial in France. His lawyer has said he was part of a UN pedophile network operating from Africa to southeast Asia. But has anyone read anything about that? The merest glimpse of a U.S. servicewoman leading an Abu Ghraib inmate around with girlie knickers on his head was enough to prompt calls for Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation, and for Ted Kennedy to charge that Saddam’s torture chambers were now open “under new management.” But systemic UN child sex in at least 50 percent of their missions? The transnational morality set can barely stifle their yawns. If you’re going to sexually assault prepubescent girls, make sure you’re wearing a blue helmet.
...The child sex racket is only the most extreme example of what’s wrong with the UN approach to the world. Developed peoples value resilience: when disaster strikes, you bounce back. A hurricane flattens Florida, you patch things up and reopen. As the New Colonial Class, the UN doesn’t look at it like that: when disaster strikes, it just proves that you and your countrymen are children who need to be taken under the transnational wing. The folks who have been under the UN wing the longest—indeed, the only ones with their own permanent UN agency and semi-centenarian “refugee camps”—are the most comprehensively wrecked people on the face of the earth: the Palestinians. UN territories like Kosovo are the global equivalent of inner-city housing projects with the blue helmets as local enforcers for the absentee slum landlord. By contrast, a couple of years after imperialist warmonger Bush showed up, Afghanistan and Iraq have elections, presidents and prime ministers.
A bit on transnationalism:
In the old days, ramshackle dictatorships were proxies for heavyweight patrons, but not any more. These days, psychotic dictators represent only themselves. Yet somehow, in the post-Cold War talking shops, the loony tunes’ prestige has been enhanced: the UN, as Canadian writer George Jonas puts it, enables “dysfunctional dictatorships to punch above their weight.” Away from Kofi and Co., the world is moving more or less in the right direction: entire regions that were once wall-to-wall tyrannies are now filled with flawed but broadly functioning democracies—e.g., Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America. The UN has been irrelevant to this transformation. Its structures resist reform and the principal beneficiaries are the thug states. That really is an important point. One starts to wonder, has the UN done anything right? Has the UN ever actually stopped a genocide? Has the UN ever forced a murderous tyrant from power?
OK, maybe the UN is just bad with autocrats, they can certainly bring humanitarian aid in the wake of a natural disaster right?
When the tsunami hit last year, hundreds of thousands of people died within minutes. The Australians and Americans arrived within hours. The UN was unable to get to Banda Aceh for weeks. Instead, the humanitarian fat cats were back in New York and Geneva holding press conferences warning about post-tsunami health consequences—dysentery, cholera, BSE from water-logged cattle, etc.—that, its spokesmen assured us, would kill as many people as the original disaster. But this never happened, any more than did their predictions of disaster for Iraq: “The head of the World Food Program has warned that Iraq could spiral into a massive humanitarian disaster.” Or for Afghanistan: “The UN Children’s Fund has estimated that as many as 100,000 Afghan children could die of cold, disease and hunger.”
It’s one thing to invent humanitarian disasters to disparage Bush’s unilateralist warmongering; but in the wake of the tsunami, the UN was reduced to inventing a humanitarian disaster in order to distract attention from the existing humanitarian disaster it wasn’t doing anything about.
And for all of the 'never again' we've heard about genocide, it's been going on in Sudan for well over a year now. But the UN finds a semantic way out:
After all, consider the alternative to American action. As you may have noticed, the good people of Darfur in Sudan have been fortunate enough not to attract the attention of the arrogant cowboy unilateralist Bush and have instead fallen under the care of the UN multilateral compassion set. So, after months of expressing deep, grave concern over whether the graves were deep enough, Kofi Annan managed to persuade the UN to set up a committee to look into what’s going on in Darfur. Eventually, they reported back that it’s not genocide.
That’s great news, isn’t it? Because if it had been genocide, that would have been very, very serious. As yet another Kofi Annan-appointed UN committee boldly declared a year ago: “Genocide anywhere is a threat to the security of all and should never be tolerated.” So thank goodness what’s going on in Sudan isn’t genocide. Instead, it’s just 100,000 corpses who all happen to be from the same ethnic group—which means the UN can go on tolerating it until everyone’s dead, and none of the multilateral compassion types have to worry their pretty heads about it.
That’s the transnational establishment’s alternative to Bush and his “coalition of the willing”: appoint a committee that agrees on the urgent need to do nothing at all. Thus, last year the UN Human Rights Commission announced the working group that will decide which complaints will be heard at its annual meeting in Geneva this spring: the five-nation panel that will select which human-rights violations will be up for discussion comprises the Netherlands, Hungary, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe. I wouldn’t bet on them finding room on their crowded agenda for the question of human rights in Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe.
I showed a lot of restraint in not excerpting even more, go read the whole thing. It's required.