November 11, 2009
Executing the DC Sniper
Last night, John Alan Muhammed, who brainwashed John Malvo, a teen, and manipulated him into a murder spree that terrorized the Washington area, was executed.
Personally, as one who lives there and lived in fear of death, I am not entirely displeased with this. Of course, this means that my opinion of the rightness of the execution is a bit clouded - much in the same way I would not seeing Osama bin Laden's head on a platter (although I believe he is already dead from kidney disease). Again, because I was within shrapnel range of the Capitol on September 11, having been evacuated from the Department of Labor two blocks away, my judgment on the issue of his fate is also clouded.
On Friday, a gunman went on a rampage and killed almost a dozen people at his former office, blaming the firm which fired him years before for his actions. He, the beltway shooter and bin Laden seem to have gone down a path of deliberate evil. The question is, does this evil merit execution?
While capital punishment is allowed under canon law, there is a condition. This can only occur if a suitable confinement is not possible - suitability including the risk posed to other inmates. This responsibity to make these decisions formerly rested with the sovereign. In a democracy, however, we are all sovereign so it is our call collectively - as well as our responsibility to protect innocent life (including the lives of other inmates).
In my opinion, murders are not altogether sane. If there is a reason for this insanity and it can be reversed with either medication or sobriety, it is not just to kill them. Indeed, after some period they should be released. Indeed, if there is no doubt about their guilt or their mental state, they should be allowed to plead guilty by reason of insanity and serve the penalty for voluntary manslaughter in a hospital setting.
Those who cannot be cured are another matter. I once read that those who are sentenced to life without parole consider themselves sentenced to death. Indeed, this is likely true, since their incarceration will indeed be the cause of their deaths eventually. If they are locked up alone in a "super-max" facility they will likely become insane before too long (if they were not already) and they are being killed by slow torture. It would be better to kill them quickly if they cannot be cured, not for the sake of justice, but as a form of permissible euthenasia. We should not be in a hurry to do so, so that they may have the chance to repent in time, although if they chose to be executed, we should not stop them. Indeed, many executions occur because the condemned decides to quit fighting. Perhaps this is a model of how this should be done.
What of Mr. Muhammed? I doubt that he has been given a real evaluation as to his sanity or his reformability and that is likely an injustice. If I were Governor of Virginia, I would at least try to find out and then bless my stars that the office is term limited.
April 16, 2009
Obama backs Bush position vs habeas corpus
Magna Carta? Who needs it?
April 13, 2009
Obama DOJ backs Bush admin state secrets, wiretapping
January 07, 2009
CNN passes on a local story about two San Francisco 49 fans who are suing the NFL over pat down searches prior to entering the ball park. The NFL maintains that no one is forced to go to a Niners game (given there record of late, I would not be so sure), so that any requirement is legal. The season ticket holders disagree, claiming the searches are an unreasonable invasion. Note that the pat downs are conducted privately, which makes you wonder if it is the war on terror or the war on Jack Daniels and do it yourself concessions that is the real enemy.
Interesting dichotomy - a libertarian individual right vs. a libertarian commercial right.
I think the answer depends on who owns the stadium. If the event is being held at a public venue, then the NFL has no business searching citizens, since they are using the space at the sufferance of the community (especially the way they play). The community should put its foot down and direct its elected leaders to stop the searches. If the team paid for the stadium - and without the usual corporate welfare associated with such ventures - it can dictate terms, otherwise it must be made to respect the rights of the masses to smuggle in Evian,
July 17, 2008
Who will watch the Watch List
Over the last few days, I have been noticing the saga of a CNN reporter who finds himself on the terror watch list (after reporting on the same critically some months before). He, and one of his interviewees, have applied to be taken off, but to no avail.
It is time to eliminate this assault on our liberties, as it is blatantly unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment to deprive American citizens of life, liberty and property without due process of law. Designation as a person of interest without some proceeding restricts both liberty and property interests of those so designated. Placement on the watch list restricts individual freedom of travel and the right to spend money on air transportation without undue interference. If someone is a suspected terrorist, they should be confronted immediately. The current regime is a hamhanded excuse for security.
I know I am preaching to the choir here - but it is time someone challenges this practice in court.
April 21, 2008
Latest outrage in airline security: Elena Reichman, a 74-year old Holocaust survivor has been charged with battery for allegedly shoving a Transportation Security worker.
Latest outrage from the federal prosecutors: "Adult" filmmaker and libertarian activist John Stagliano is the latest target of the "war on obscenity." I bloged about the absurdity of the federal government putting a priority on protecting us from dirty pictures here.
January 18, 2008
Hornberger Takes on the Wall Street Journal
I like his blog which can be found here. He is responding to this piece which took Ron Paul to task for being right on Iraq and just about every other foreign policy misadventure this nation has undertaken.
September 23, 2007
Dilbert Author Skewers Ahmadinejad Visit Panic (graphic language)
I never knew Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, held such strong and well-informed opinions. This is his take on the hyperventilation surrounding the visit of Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
August 15, 2007
Harry Potter's alright, but make mine Buffy
Those looking for an intelligent, well-written, fictional exploration of the issues of pre-emptive war and other aspects of the war on terror could do worse than checking out Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, the new comic book series by Joss Whedon, mastermind of the Buffy TV series.
Most Free Liberal readers know Whedon through his libertarian-themed sci-fi show Firefly and its movie follow-up Serenity, but he first claimed a spot in cult-TV history with Buffy. During its seven-year run, Buffy was one of the rare shows that was consistently well written and never insulted its audience's intelligence. The only show that rivaled (and sometimes suppressed) Buffy was its spin-off Angel.
Warning: Major spoilers after the jump
Joss' new comic series picks up where the TV series left off, with Buffy and her "scobby gang" finding and training the army of slayers created in the last episode's climatic battle with the "First Evil." However, the US Government has deemed Buffy and a slayer army a threat to humanity. The Government is convinced that Buffy and her army will eventually grow dissatisfied merely using their powers to protect humanity from the vampires, demons, and other things that go bump in the night. At some point, the slayers will decide to use their powers to remake the human world to their liking, and thus go from being humanity's protectors to humanity's oppressors. The US army is prepared to use every means at their disposal--including alliances with a very evil witch and a wannabe warlock--to launch a pre-emptive strike on the slayers.
While the analogy with recent events seams obvious, readers should not expect a simple "Buffy good, government bad" morality play. Knowing Joss, the storyline will likely include more than a few instances where the audience will be lead to question whether Buffy and the rest of the slayers do pose a threat to humanity and whether Buffy is really all that different from her nemesis. My description hardly does this remarkable tale justice, take my word for it and buy these books. You won't regret it, time spent with Joss Whedon is always time well spent.
July 20, 2007
Bush Backs Down on Torture
Here's some news likely to upset eight of the ten top GOP presidential wannabes:
President Bush signed an executive order Friday prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment, including humiliation or denigration of religious beliefs, in the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.
There's one minor flaw, though.
The legislation said the president can "interpret the meaning and application" of international standards for prisoner treatment, a provision intended to allow him to authorize aggressive interrogation methods that might otherwise be seen as illegal by international courts.
July 09, 2007
If Big Brother can make it there...
Apparently, the NYPD has been listening to Joe Lieberman as they are planing to install a sweeping network of cameras and roadblocks around lower Manhattan. Wonder if the cameras will also be used to enforce Bloomberg's smoking ban?
June 03, 2007
The media and other candidates are sure to use this weekend's arrests as a pretext to attack Dr. Paul as "soft" or possibly "anti-American" in Tuesday's Presidential debate.
Dr. Paul should note that it is too early for anyone other than a demagogue to comment on the case, as enough is not yet known. In noting such, he could cite the example of the so-called "Miami terror plot."
Recall the great fanfare which accompanied the arrest of the "Miami 7" last year. After court documents eventually came to light even such an establishment organ as the Washington Post had to report on the incompetence of the "plotters" and the heavy smell of entrapment about the whole affair. Short version: an FBI informant found a group of totally incompetent inner-city Jesus-freak potheads and only after he and another FBI informant spent months giving them tens of thousands of dollars, were they able to convince the accused to recite a kind of "disloyalty oath" against the U.S.
Don't be surprised to find out a couple of weeks from now that the FBI informant was the brains of the JFK operation as well. One of the recordings released to CNN this weekend featured one of the non-FBI "plotters" making the genius observation that bombing a pipeline connected to JFK airport would be as traumatic to the American people as executing the now-beloved Jack Kennedy, the man, all over again.
May 16, 2007
Ron Paul-Giuliani Exchange on War
This video that I mentioned in my blog posting of yesterday is a treasure. So rarely are the points Dr. Paul makes ever placed before the public.
May 15, 2007
Ron Paul Stands Up for Reality in Republican Debate
Just watched part of the Republican debate and saw the rather intense discussion of US foreign policy. I simply do not understand how Giuliani and the rest of the Republican contenders -- not to mention much of the audience -- believe that the US can do whatever it wants overseas with zero impact or "blowback." Ron Paul is exactly correct when he asks how we'd react if China set up military bases on US soil or in the Gulf of Mexico. Given the xenophobia displayed by most of the Republicans in the field, I doubt they'd be too keen on any other country weilding that kind of influence here.
Did US foreign policies "cause 9/11?" The terrorists didn't attack New Zealand or Switzerland, did they? Sure, they may have happened anyway, but with the level of anger towards us throughout the Middle East over our perpetual meddling in their affairs, isn't it time we tried something different?
April 24, 2007
Pentagon Lies Exposed Today
In case you missed it, the family of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch were on Capitol Hill today to tell their stories and expose the Pentagon's propaganda machine and how the stories of Tillman and Lynch were warped and used to rally popular support for war in Iraq.
I rarely sit and watch Congressional testimony because of the long-winded nature of our congresscritters, but the testimony is worth watching (you can fast forward through the platitudes).
April 19, 2007
Peace Movement Must Take on AIPAC
AIPAC (the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) is the driving force behind America's uber-aggressive foreign policy. Unless the pro-peace movement takes them and their rhetoric -- not to mention their outright disloyalty on -- then we will not get anywhere in our efforts to stop future wars against Iran, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East.
April 07, 2007
Is Cheney Living in an Alternate Universe?
Someone needs to check the residency restrictions for Vice Presidents. I think Cheney is no longer living on planet earth...perhaps he is now an inhabitant of Bizarro World. Even President Bush has denied the link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda prior to 9/11, but Cheney is sticking to his guns.
April 02, 2007
Many military prosecutors are refusing to pursue cases against "enemy combatants" because they have been subject to torture by those who love freedom. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan and the Wall Street Journal (!) for bringing this all to rare act of moral courage to our attention:
"When the Pentagon needed someone to prosecute a Guantanamo Bay prisoner linked to 9/11, it turned to Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch. A Marine Corps pilot and veteran prosecutor, Col. Couch brought a personal connection to the job: His old Marine buddy, Michael "Rocks" Horrocks, was co-pilot on United 175, the second plane to strike the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The prisoner in question, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, had already been suspected of terrorist activity. After the attacks, he was fingered by a senior al Qaeda operative for helping assemble the so-called Hamburg cell, which included the hijacker who piloted United 175 into the South Tower. To Col. Couch, Mr. Slahi seemed a likely candidate for the death penalty.
"Of the cases I had seen, he was the one with the most blood on his hands," Col. Couch says.
But, nine months later, in what he calls the toughest decision of his military career, Col. Couch refused to proceed with the Slahi prosecution. The reason: He concluded that Mr. Slahi's incriminating statements - the core of the government's case - had been taken through torture, rendering them inadmissible under U.S. and international law.
The Slahi case marks a rare instance of a military prosecutor refusing to bring charges because he thought evidence was tainted by torture. For Col. Couch, it also represented a wrenching personal challenge. Laid out starkly before him was a collision between the government's objectives and his moral compass...
In the following weeks, Mr. Slahi said, he was placed in isolation, subjected to extreme temperatures, beaten and sexually humiliated. The detention-board transcript states that at this point, "the recording equipment began to malfunction." It summarizes Mr. Slahi's missing testimony as discussing "how he was tortured while here at GTMO by several individuals."
Thanks also to Sullivan, who is wrong on many things but one of the most eloquent voices against the regime's claim of power to "indefinitely detain" and torture anyone simply because the executive has labeled them an "enemy combatant, for this, and this.
February 13, 2007
The Case Against War
The Bush Administration has officially begun its efforts to make a bogus case for war with Iran. Although the Administration and the media will once again work in lock-step to steamroll the opposition in making the case for war, Congressman Ron Paul, in a very simple and straightforward manner, explains the myriad reasons not to go to war.
February 01, 2007
4 Terror Plots Thwarted?
In his State of the Union address, Bush claimed that four terror plots had been prevented. Unfortunately, he forgot to notify American intelligence because a number of those on the front lines in the so-called "War on Terror" simply have no idea what Bush is referring to. Keith Olbermann calls him on it.
January 29, 2007
The Feingold Option
It is truly unfortunate that Russ Feingold is not running for President in 2008. He seems to be one of the few Senators who not only understands the situation in Iraq, but is willing to do something about it. As Justin Raimondo points out, it is time to get behind Feingold's push to force the Bush Administration to bring the troops home from Iraq.
January 21, 2007
Can Congress Stop the War?
Most Americans intuitively understand that Congress has the authority not only to stop Bush's "surge" of troops in Iraq, but to stop the Iraq War entirely. Jonathan Turley explains exactly what Congress could and should do to thwart Bush.
As Turley points out, the question is whether the Democrats have the guts to stand up to Bush on this. Americans from all walks of life were frustrated enough to vote the Republicans out of office, but large numbers of Democrats supported the war from the beginning and are still unwilling to take a stand. We'll see soon enough whether an opposition party exists in Washington. Personally, I doubt it. I think they'll give Bush more rope to continue the debacle as close to the '08 election as possible.
January 20, 2007
Ahmadinejad and Bush: Something in Common
It turns out that "democracy" is on the march in the Middle East after all, but not because of the Bush Administration's policies. In fact, Iran's President Ahmadinejad is becoming increasingly unpopular at home because he's spending too much time bashing the United States and not enough time reforming his nation's stagnant economy. As an elected leader, he is now facing serious political problems. See how Democracy works President Bush?
The preoccupation both men have with belligerent foreign policies is dragging both men down. While Iran thankfully remains on the back burner for now, Bush should immediately abandon his misguided effort to reform the Middle East and should instead concentrate on enhancing Americans' freedoms here at home. This means bringing the troops home starting now. Unfortunately for us as Americans, according to the article above, the Iranian people seem to be doing a better job of pressuring Ahmadinejad to change direction than we are.
January 04, 2007
90% of Iraqis "We Were Better off Under Saddam"
In perhaps the most damning sign of our failure in Iraq, a recent survey of Iraqis indicates that a large majority of them long for the days of Saddam Hussein ruling with an iron fist.
Of course, "spreading democracy" was a dumb idea to go into Iraq in the first place. We certainly should not base our foreign policies on what foreigners think, rather we should go to war only when it is absolutely necessary and to protect Americans from direct threats to their lives, liberty, and property. That said, the level of displeasure with the way things are going in Iraq among Iraqis should make it pretty clear that things are not going to improve and that a "surge" in troop levels is only going to make the situation worse.
December 16, 2006
I have always beleived that the concept of the libertarian warmonger or even hawkish libertarian was an impossible contradiction, but Doug Bandow makes a very compelling and thorough argument as to why this must be the case here. More than any other single issue, I think the Iraq War has been responsible for the libertarian defection from the GOP that Bruce Bartlett believes to be occurring.
Regardless of which party the libertarian vote shifts to, I hope that they do so in great enough numbers to have a real impact.
November 19, 2006
The Lessons of Vietnam?
So Bush was in Vietnam the other day and, when asked by a reporter if the experience in Vietnam offered lessons for Iraq, Bush said, "We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile."
Now, I wasn't alive during Vietnam, but I've studied the history books pretty well, and I don't think that the Vietnam War was ever going to be successful, no matter how long we stayed. After all, large numbers of American combat troops began to arrive in 1965 and the last left the country in 1973. That was after the French and then American "advisors" had been in the country since the end of WWII. Hardly a case of "inadequate patience" in my opinion considering that American involvement in WWII itself lasted less than 4 years.
No, rather than paying attention to our dear leader, perhaps the American people should have learned from Vietnam and Iraq that it is unwise to trust politicians when it comes to matters of war and peace and that warmongering is a bi-partisan affliction.
November 09, 2006
Hint for Democrats: Protect Whistleblowers
Following up on yesterday's blog about Democrats losing focus on why they were elected, today I offer a reminder of the sort of things we Free Liberals would like to see from the new Congress.
Sibel Edmonds continues her fight to get protection for national security whistleblowers. Democrats could be strong on national security by being bold in protecting those who work in the field. Read the Liberty Coalition petition, here.
-- Kevin D. Rollins
October 31, 2006
Pat Tillman's Birthday
If you haven't already read it yet, check out this powerful article written by the brother of former NFL football star and US government military prop Pat Tillman. His is a crushing indictment of the so-called "War on Terror" and the policies of the Bush Administration.
The interesting thing is that the Bushies are still counting on the support of large numbers of military men and women on Election Day. With stinging indictments from patriots like Kevin Tillman, I wonder if military folks are just not willing to see that our government is abusing our military in Iraq or if they are just burying their heads in the sand. There is a time for being a good soldier and their is a time to speak out. There must be thousands of military like Kevin Tillman out there.
October 22, 2006
I rarely watch cable news because of its negative impact on actual knowledge, but Keith Olbermann has been saying some really strong stuff recently and his show might actually be worth tuning into. Unlike most of the media who have acted as lapdogs as opposed to watchdogs throughout much of the Bush Administration, Olbermann understands the perils now facing this nation and is not shy about it.
September 27, 2006
It is happening here
Andrew Sullivan is wrong on many things, but he has been one of the best critics of the legislation to allow the executive unfettered power to label people "enemy combatants" subject to indefinite detention and "coercive interrogation." Sullivan's blog has also been an invaluable source of information regarding this scheme. For a sample, check out his latest:
"Walking Back" on "Tyranny"?
"Late last night, before nodding off, I wondered, as I often do, whether I'd hyperbolized the threat from the looming detention-torture bill. "Legalizing tyranny" is a very strong phrase and I don't want to cry wolf. In the sense that this president intends to seize random Americans and rush them into black sites and torture them at will, it's hyperbole. But in a deeper sense, I think it's completely accurate. The system we're talking about is to do with wartime. A president in the past has had the option of seizing enemy combatants on a battlefield and detaining them without charge as POWs. There's no threat to liberty there. What's new is that in this war, enemy combatants have been designated as such not just on the battlefield - but anywhere in the world. What's new is that they are no longer entitled to POW status. What's new is that this war is for ever. So any changes are not just for a time-limited emergency but threaten to alter basic balances in constitutional order. What's also new is that torture is now allowed on the down-low, on the president's authority. And what's also new is that an enemy combatant may or may not be an American citizen.
Put all that together and you really do have the danger of taking emergency measures for wartime and transforming a peace-time constitution into an essentially martial system, where every citizen or non-citizen can be apprehended at will and detained without charge. I repeat: this is a huge deal. It really should be a huge deal for conservatives who care about restraining government power. Its vulnerability to abuse is enormous; sanctioned torture, history tells us, never remains hermetically sealed. It always spreads. It eats away at decency and law and civility. If the president sincerely believes that torture is our most potent weapon in this war, and that habeas corpus is a quaint relic from the past, then we are in far greater peril than even the most dire pessimists believe."
September 11, 2006
9--11 and cult of the omnipotent state
Alexander Cockburn exposes the flaws in the thinking of the 9-11 conspiracy theorists:
"One characteristic of the nuts is that they have a devout, albeit preposterous belief in American efficiency, thus many of them start with the racist premise that “Arabs in caves” weren’t capable of the mission. They believe that military systems work the way Pentagon press flacks and aerospace salesmen say they should work. They believe that at 8.14 am, when AA flight 11 switched off its radio and transponder, an FAA flight controller should have called the National Military Command center and NORAD. They believe, citing reverently (this is from high priest Griffin) “the US Air Force’s own website”, that an F-15 could have intercepted AA flight 11 “by 8.24, and certainly no later than 8.30”.
They appear to have read no military history, which is too bad because if they did they’d know that minutely planned operations – let alone responses to an unprecedented emergency -- screw up with monotonous regularity, by reason of stupidity, cowardice, venality, weather and all the other whims of providence."
I have thought for some time that a belief in the omnipotent state is the root cause of some people's insistence that some in the government "were in on" 9-11. These people were likely taught at a very young age that the government had the power to make all things right and protect them from all evil. Thus, they cannot accept that the government could be so incompetent as to fail to stop something like the 9-11 attacks. Therefore, the only logical explanation is that those in charge of the state where somehow "in on" the events of 9-11. The logical result of this type of thinking is an emphasis on getting state power into the hands of good people, so we can all benefit from the all-mighty state. Libertarians should have no problem believing that the state is both evil and stupid.
Thanks to Charles Featherstone at the lewrockwell.com blog for bringing this to my attention.
September 09, 2006
Osama bin Laden as Cultural Icon
Five years after September 11th, the War on Terror's failings have become farcical and Osama bin Laden seems more like a cultural icon than a public menace. Bush is Wiley Coyote and he can't quite get his Road Runner. We laugh at the late night punchlines, but there is a sinister sadness that we won't ever feel safe again. This is our "new normal."
There is even a new board game which captures our witless pursuit of public enemy number one.
The game's rules are fairly straightforward,"if you get a card that mentions finding al-Qaeda members, you'll move forward. If you get a card that talks about invading Iraq, Saddam Hussein, WMDs, or "Mission Accomplished", you'll be going backwards..."
Perhaps even more appropriate would be a a Where's Waldo-type book series for kids... only you have to look for the guy clutching a suitcase nuke.
July 30, 2006
The importance of foreign policy
Is it really possible to be a "libertarian" warmonger? Robert Higgs makes a persuasive case that while there is room for disagreement among true lovers of freedom over a variety of issues, war and foreign policy are so integral to the government power that anyone who seriously questions governments role in our lives must take a dim view of war and governments as "protectors."
-- Paul Gessing
July 23, 2006
More on Israel's Aggression in Lebanon
Paul Craig Roberts is one of the few journalists or individuals for that matter understands the situation unfolding in the Middle East and is willing to discuss it openly. Rarely are both political parties and all of the mainstream media so united on a particular issue. When that happens, we all have good reason to be concerned. Bush's encouragement of Israel's aggression is sowing the seeds of the next 9/11.
July 16, 2006
What is going on in Lebanon/Israel?
Paul Craig Roberts explains here the shameful attacks now taking place in Lebanon and why America and its neo-conservative cabal is ultimately responsible.
July 09, 2006
Prominent Neo-Con: Suspend Constitution!
Charles Krauthammer will never be mistaken for a lover of freedom, but in this column he argues that just as the Supreme Court turned a blind eye from Lincoln's jailing of his political opponents during the Civil War and Roosevelt's internment of the Japanese , the current Supreme Court should simply ignore President Bush's ongoing violations of the Constitution.
Of course, in an indefinite "war on terror," he is essentially arguing that Bush should have the ability to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, regardless of the Constitution, as long as it is done to fight terrorism. Come to think of it, that is really the neo-conservative philosophy in a nutshell: perpetual war for perpetual peace.
-- Paul Gessing
June 23, 2006
The WTC Memorial and Admissions Fees
New York politicians and city officials are wrangling over what to charge people who visit the proposed memorial at Ground Zero. State lawmakers won't fund any project requiring an admissions fee. I suppose they fear turning a gravesite into an amusement park. However, NYC officials are correct to point out that the city taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for a museum which people from all over the world will visit.
There is a solution which involves no required admissions fee and will also work to get the visiting public to pick up part of the cost. The museum could make clear that it cannot stay in operation without donations from visitors. The "suggested contribution" could be the same as the needed admissions fee. It seems reasonable that there will be some visitors who contribute more and some who contribute less. Given the national feeling towards what happened on September 11th, I predict that such a scheme would be just as good as an admissions fee. It might even work better. Further, the voluntary nature of the contribution would provide visitors a way of personally honoring those who died.
If anyone doubts that this is a reasonable strategy for providing the service, consider the plethora of blogs supported by user donations. Also consider the vast array of charitable organizations from churches and aid organizations, to think tanks and schools. Think about the amount of change handed out to the beggars on the streets everyday. The beggars wouldn't beg if anonymous passersby didn't regularly pay to keep their sense of dignity while strolling down the boulevard. For a cause which the visitor is emotionally involved in, there should be no question of her willingness to pay.
-- Kevin D. Rollins
June 07, 2006
Ann Coulter is insane
I wouldn't give Ann Coulter the time of day if she stopped me on the street and her hateful drivel normally doesn't rise above the noise of Bill O'Reilly and the rest of conservative punditry to raise my hackles. But, when she attacks a group of 9/11 widows and calls them "witches" for calling for the 9/11 Commission and supporting the Democratic Party, she is just showing how nasty and irrational some on the right have become.
The fact that the "witches" comment was made not in an off-the-cuff comment on the radio or to the newsmedia, but in her new book, is yet another sign that Coulter needs treatment.
April 01, 2006
The Truth Will get you in Trouble
While there is nothing inherently wrong with supporters of a specific country or point of view petitioning their government, the combination of repeated denials and inability of our nation's policymakers to even discuss the issue in an open and rational manner is rather indicative of the level of influence of the Israel lobby and its entrenced nature.
-- Paul J. Gessing
February 18, 2006
Pow! Smack! Wham! The madness escalates across the Muslim world as protests against the Danish cartoon of Muhammed continue. This Houston Chronicle story says that 15 people were killed in Nigera today. One poor fellow met his death at the hands of a lynch mob.
"An Associated Press reporter saw mobs of Muslim protesters swarm through the city center with machetes, sticks and iron rods. One group threw a tire around a man, poured gas on him and set him ablaze."
I suppose if you can't kill the person you really want to, you might as well settle for some random pedestrian. That makes perfect sense.
For more on the absurdity of the whole situation I recommend this recent article from Tech Central Station.
-- Kevin D. Rollins
December 11, 2005
Conspiracy Theory Conspiracies
Morton Keller, a Professor of History Emeritus at Brandeis, writes over on the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal, that:
“…in modern America, the path to war is beset with actions that rest on uncertain or arguable justification. The political/ideological fringes will craft theories of conspiracy with scant regard for fact or probability. And the opposition will make what it can of this material, within the limits of political prudence.”
He lays out the history of recent wars and a few of the conspiracy theories about those wars. This as an attempt, apparently, to counter the “Bush lied” position among the anti-Iraq-II set, of which I count myself. But I don’t necessarily use the word “lie” to describe what Bush did. Manipulate, perhaps. Shade the facts to make his case. “Lie” is a strong word, and requires the ability to read another’s mind. Sadly, that’s a skill few have developed.
Some “freedomistas” like to engage in such conspiracy theorizing. The “State,” they say, is our enemy, and pretty much anything “they” do is inherently a lie and mal-motivated.
To me, this sort of thinking is self-defeating. To Joe Six Pack (and to me), it sounds paranoid. If there’s a secret cabal of “statists,” who are these people? Do they have a secret handshake?
The point is: Governments do a lot of things that infringe on our liberties. Sometimes the motive seems benign. Sometimes its actions are outright duplicitous. Sometimes – often! mostly! – the government acts based solely on momentum, justifying previous actions that were themselves poor decisions initially.
So, Keller’s piece helps us to see a few things. First, that motivation for wars are sometimes trumped up, or at least questionable. Second, that the opposition is sometimes prone to overstatement in pressing its case, too. If the opposition presses its case too hard, they come off like zealots. Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” was a great example. He overreached, and in so doing, he solidified his base, but alienated the middle.
When it comes to war, it strikes me that we should recognize that the “cover story” is often just that, a cover. Almost always, war advocates – often motivated by the desire to exact vengeance – press for immediate action. But history tells us that, perhaps, the more prudent approach is always maintain a bias for inaction, especially when lives are on the line. The “clear and present danger” test seems to capture this notion quite well.
Bush never, IMO, made the case for a clear and present danger, except with WDM, perhaps. That proved to be incorrect. It’s interesting to know that some in his Administration were apparently itching to “go after” Saddam pre-9/11.
To call him a “liar,” however, does very little to advance the cause of peace. No one disputes that Saddam had WDM, and its whereabouts are still in question. The “lie” charge may galvanize the opposition, but the real question is: Does that work?
I see no evidence of that.
What Keller seems to miss, however, is that war is itself “fringe.” Killing people for where they live, what they believe, how they worship, etc., is now, and has always been, most marginal of thinking, IMO.
November 27, 2005
McCain on Torture
Senator John McCain has a tremendous editorial on torture in the current Newsweek. As a former guest of the North Vietnamese, McCain speaks about torture with the perspective of someone who has been on the receiving end.
Simply put, “The mistreatment of prisoners harms us more than our enemies.” He notes that it doesn’t produce quality intelligence as “a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear.” So, the benefits are not what we might hope they would be. And on the cost side, legalized torture erodes the United States’ moral standing when in comes to humanitarian issues, and possibly gives license to other governments which may torture Americans in the future.
McCain addresses “the ticking time-bomb scenario” question. “What do we do if we capture a suspected terrorist who we have sound reasons to believe possesses specific information about an imminent terrorist attack?” He notes the possibility that torture can still be used even with it being illegal.
George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok has argued, on his blog MarginalRevolution.com, that keeping torture illegal “raises the price of torture” to the government official imposing it. But it “does not raise the price to infinity,” writes Tabarrok, “If the President or the head of the CIA thinks that torture is required to stop the ticking time bomb then they ought to approve it knowing full well that they face possible prosecution.”
McCain echoes Tabarrok’s concept. McCain suggests, “an interrogator might well try extreme measures to extract information that could save lives. Should he do so, and thereby save an American city or prevent another 9/11, authorities and the public would surely take this into account when judging his actions and recognize the extremely dire situation which he confronted.”
This seems like a much better policy than the Jack Bauer-approach of torturing everybody who might know anything that seems to be the modus operandi on Fox’s 24.
-- Kevin D. Rollins
Free-for-all (frfr-ôl) -- n. A disorderly fight, argument, or competition in which everyone present participates.