You are browsing the archive for 2013 April.

Avatar of admin

by admin

6 Horrifying Facts Every American Should Know About Guantanamo Bay and the Ongoing Hunger Strike

April 30, 2013 in Blogs

By Alex Kane, AlterNet

As the hunger strike grows, the U.S. is sending more medical personnel to help force-feed the prisoners. Here are some of the facts you should know about the protest and the prison camp.


The hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay continues to grow. The U.S. recently forced many prisoners into solitary confinement. The military now admits that 100 prisoners at the camp are refusing to eat. But lawyers for Guantanamo detainees say that more than 130 detainees are on hunger strike.

While the claims and counter-claims bounce back and forth, the situation continues to deteriorate. Here’s 6 facts you should know about Guantanamo Bay and the ongoing act of protest most of the prisoners are participating in.

1. U.S. Medical Reinforcements Have Arrived to Force-Feed Prisoners

One of the latest news items is that “medical reinforcements” from the U.S. Navy have arrived at Guantanamo Bay to cope with the growing hunger strike. The Naval nurses and specialists are there to help facilitate the process of force-feeding the detainees.

“We will not allow a detainee to starve themselves to death, and we will continue to treat each person humanely,” Guantanamo prison spokesman Samuel House told the New York Times.But the practice of force-feeding has been criticized by human rights groups.

When detainees are force-fed, they are shackled to a “restraint chair.” Then, U.S. military officials force a tube into their nose to pump nutrients into their body. The American Medical Association has come out strongly against the practice. “Every competent patient has the right to refuse medical intervention, including life-sustaining interventions,” AMA President Jeremy Lazarus wrote in a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the Miami Herald reports.

In a harrowing New York Times Op-Ed, Guantanamo prisoner Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel described the process of force-feeding. “I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up,” he wrote. “I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

No More Tax-Paid Presidential Pyramids

April 30, 2013 in Economics

By Gene Healy

Gene Healy

Last week, at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, President Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter put partisanship aside and descended on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas to say nice things about our 43rd president, (They’re all in the same racket, after all.)

At 226,560 square feet and a cost of $250 million, the Bush Presidential Center is the biggest and most expensive yet of the 13 presidential libraries that one scholar has derisively called “America’s Pyramids.”

One of the key exhibits at the Bush megalith is Decision Points Theater, a virtual Situation Room wherein visitors can “consult” video advisers and make their own calls on some of the “Decider’s” key decisions, like war with Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and bailing out the banks.

If our ex-presidents want whitewashed shrines to their legacies, they should run them without taxpayer help.”

As Bush put it in an interview with CNN’s John King, “hopefully, people will go to the Decision Points Theater and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t understand that’ or ‘I now understand it better.’ “

In Decision Points Theater, if you decide not to go to war with Iraq, “43” himself comes onscreen to tell you flatly that you’re wrong: “Saddam posed too big a risk to ignore. … The world was made safer by his removal.” Bush is entitled to his own spin on the decisions he made, but he should burnish his legacy on his own dime.

Though the libraries’ construction is privately funded, they’re managed by the National Archives and Records Administration, using federal tax dollars.

Last year, it cost the American taxpayer some $75 million to keep them open.

Sure, that’s chump change in a $3.5 trillion federal budget — still, we’re chumps to allow it, given that modern presidential libraries are publicly subsidized propaganda vehicles — garish shrines to the cult of the presidency.

Historian Benjamin Hufbauer, author of “Presidential Temples: How Memorials and Libraries Shape Public Memory,” writes that our presidential libraries “present an ideologically charged narrative that valorizes a presidential life, helping to incorporate it into the nation’s civil religion.”

In the newer libraries, exhibits “often amount to little more than extended campaign commercials in museum form, because the former president and his supporters essentially control the content.”

Thus, Hufbauer notes, the Reagan Library omits any discussion of the Iran-Contra scandal, and the JFK Library “does …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Avatar of admin

by admin

Privatize Almost Everything

April 30, 2013 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

As a mental challenge, try to think of all of the governmental activities — federal, state and local — that could be privatized. Now, go a step further. Suppose you were required to develop a plan to privatize, or make self-supporting through user fees, nearly every activity of government. Could you or a group of your friends do it? Try it. I expect your success will surprise you.

The reason this is relevant is because most governments will reach their borrowing limits in the not-too-distant future, which means they will have to operate on current revenue from taxes and fees. Many governments have reached or are reaching their ability to increase taxes, and income-tax systems will begin to fall under their own weight. Governments will be forced to downsize and privatize — or private citizens and groups will just take over as they are increasingly doing because of failing government schools, for example.

The U.S. government was created to protect people and property and to ensure liberty; but more and more often, it does just the opposite.”

The U.S. government was created to protect people and property and to ensure liberty; but more and more often, it does just the opposite. The air-traffic controller fiasco last week was a perfect illustration of how almost all governments eventually turn against the citizens they are supposed to protect and serve. As The Wall Street Journal noted April 26, the Federal Aviation Administration “managed to convert a less than 4 percent budget cut into a 10 percent air traffic control cut that would delay 40 percent of flights.” This occurred despite several years of substantial budget increases for the agency, coupled with a decreasing number of flights and workload for the controllers.

The episode demonstrates not only gross managerial incompetence but an incredible degree of mean-spiritedness by the folks at the FAA and in the administration, right up to President Obama himself. Furthermore, the president had the unmitigated gall to attack Congress (as well as a large majority of the members of his own party in both houses of Congress) in his weekly radio address for coming up with a fix for a problem he had created.

The Founding Fathers understood that it was not uncommon for political leaders to turn on their own people. Hitler, Stalin and Mao showed there is no limit as to how far some leaders will go. Even in rather civil, democratic regimes, it is common to see …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Avatar of admin

by admin

I Agree with Paul Krugman

April 29, 2013 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein

In an unusually perceptive post, Krugman complains that “again and again, people on the opposite side prove to have used bad logic, bad data, the wrong historical analogies, or all of the above.” He points out that one side of the macroeconomic debate “is, in essence, political,” driven by “hostility to any intellectual approach” that might cast doubt on its preferred p0licies. “Too many influential people just don’t want to believe that we’re facing the kind of economic crisis we are actually facing,” leading to “the spectacle of famous economists retreading 80-year-old fallacies, or misunderstanding basic concepts.”

Of course, Krugman is talking about all non-Krugmanians — he doesn’t provide names, because he sees Not Krugman as an amorphous blob of evil and stupidity — but he’s really onto something, just with the players reversed. Old fashioned Keynesianism, as practiced by the likes of Krugman, resembles a set of religious dogmas, not scientific propositions. Austrians view economics as a science, a body of theory and application that helps us understand the world. Keynesians see economics as a set of political tools useful to rationalize and justify an a priori faith in unlimited government. Krugman, like Keynes himself, dislikes businesspeople, consumers, and especially entrepreneurs and investors, and prefers a world in which an elite cadre of intellectuals and bureaucrats controls most investment, production, and consumption decisions. Fine, everyone has a right to his personal belief system. But let’s not pretend there’s anything scientific about the multiplier, the marginal propensity to consume, the liquidity trap, and the other relics and sacraments of the Keynesian religion.

Engaging True Believers like Krugman on economic theory and policy is mostly a waste of time — one side uses reason and evidence, the other appeals to personal faith. (BTW this doesn’t apply to New Keynesians such as Mankiw and the Romers, whom I regard as reasonable and serious folks.)

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Avatar of admin

by admin

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Subsidizing the Security of Wealthy Allies

April 29, 2013 in Economics

How much does the United States spend on the military relative to our allies? A lot. A new information-packed short Cato video puts this comparison in perspective. The data, pulled from the Cato infographic from last week, shows how we are subsidizing the security of wealthy allies who can and should defend themselves to a far greater extent than they do. Instead, we provide for their security while they spend their money on just about everything else (especially their bloated welfare states).  This is no way for your tax dollars to work.

…read more

Source: CATO HEADLINES

Avatar of admin

by admin

Wall Street Journal Response: Rand Paul Replies on Combatants

April 29, 2013 in Politics & Elections

The Journal wants those of us who believe in the Bill of Rights to shut up about civil liberties in the wake of the Boston bombings (‘Enemy Combatants in Boston,’ Review & Outlook, April 22). Like children in the schoolyard you chant: ‘See, look at these bombers, they don’t deserve trials or lawyers!’
But the Journal wants to gloat about a case where the evidence has already been paraded across every television in America. Most of us have seen enough of the tragedy in Boston that I doubt anyone can conceive that a jury will find Dzhokhar Tsarnaev innocent in a court of law.
I have never claimed that there won’t be special exceptions to the rules, especially in regard to acts of terror. What I have opposed are those who want so many exceptions that there are no longer any rules-where the Constitution and the Bill of Rights become null and void, especially as part of a war with no discernible end and no geographical limits.
What the Journal ignores are the difficult cases where guilt or innocence can be more elusive. What if the evidence is not very clear? What if the suspect is an American college student, perhaps an Arab-American, whose parents have been here for three generations? Does that person have the right to a trial? Yes.
Because some terrorists will battle us here at home doesn’t mean we want the laws of war or martial law at home. The Bill of Rights still needs to reign supreme. Our soldiers have sacrificed life and limb for our Constitution-it seems the least we can do is defend them in the homeland.
…read more

Source: RAND PAUL

Avatar of admin

by admin

Policy or Regime Uncertainty: Recovery Aborted

April 29, 2013 in Economics

By John P. Cochran

Bill McNabb, CEO of the Vanguard Group, in today’s WSJ op ed Uncertainty Is the Enemy of Recovery discusses Vanguard’s estimate that policy uncertainty has created a $261 billion drag on the U.S. economy.

While it is good to see policy uncertainty highlighted, the more relevant concept is Robert Higgs’s regime uncertainty as discussed in these Mises Dailies and Circle Bastiat posts:

Regime Uncertainty: Some Clarifications – Robert Higgs   – Mises Daily

Nov   19, 2012 A business-hostile administration will provoke more   apprehension than a business-friendlier administration.

Regime Uncertainty   and the Non-Recovery – Mises Economics Blog

Dec   14, 2011 Robert Higgs introduced the concept of “regime   uncertainty”, government policies and actions that threaten property   rights, in his outstanding

Malinvestment and Regime   Uncertainty – John P. Cochran – Mises

Oct   29, 2012 Robert Higgs’s concept of regime uncertainty has   caught on with businessmen and the press.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Avatar of admin

by admin

Syria: The Only Red Line Should be to Stay Out

April 29, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The Syrian civil war lurches on, adding new casualties every day. The campaign to push the U.S. into the Syrian civil war also marches on, threatening to add American casualties to the human toll. Possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government is another reason to stay out, not to get in.

Washington’s foreign policy should be one of peace. There are tragic times when war becomes necessary, but thankfully not often. Especially for America, which enjoys a privileged international position.

Today the U.S. is without peer. Terrorism is the most serious security threat facing the country, but it is only exacerbated by promiscuous intervention in conflicts not America’s own. Bombing, invading, and occupying other nations creates enemies who want to hurt Americans.

Nor do wars, against even seemingly weak opponents, such as Iraq, usually turn out the way one expects or wishes. Inadvertent and unintended consequences are the rule rather than the exception.

Even limited steps would entangle America without resolving the conflict.”

Syria stands out as a conflagration in which the U.S. should play no role. There is no threat to America. President Bashar al-Assad is evil, not stupid. He wouldn’t attack the U.S. or an allied government, such as Israel, before; he certainly wouldn’t do so now with his regime under siege.

Damascus may have facilitated attacks on U.S. forces during Washington’s occupation of Iraq, but it’s late to use that as a casus belli. Moreover, Americans should pause before treating such action as a cause for war: today the U.S. is actively aiding Syria’s rebels and during the Cold War Washington armed insurgents against the Soviet Union and its Afghan ally, as well as Nicaragua. America may well do the same again in the future against other nations viewed as hostile.

Syria is a civil war, not genocide. The killings are awful, but that is what happens in low-tech conflicts. Two sides, with the military balance steadily equalizing, are battling for control of the country. Such a struggle is unlikely to have a good outcome, whoever prevails.

Indeed, Syria’s two sides reflect the stark choice that Washington has faced throughout the Arab Spring. One side is stable dictatorship. The other side is a messy mix of democrats and authoritarians, in which the most radical elements are gaining influence if not control. Even if regime opponents win, the fighting is not likely to stop. Rather, Assad’s ouster …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Avatar of admin

by admin

Should We Be OK with Expanding Background Checks?

April 29, 2013 in Economics

The Senate recently blocked a compromise measure that would have compelled unlicensed sellers at gun shows and online gun sellers to conduct background checks. Senator Joe Manchin has indicated that he plans on reintroducing the legislation. While Cato scholars have generally questioned the usefulness of background checks, in the New York Times, Cato chairman Robert A. Levy makes the case that the background checks are a “reasonable” price to pay for the elements of the legislation more favorable to gun rights proponents.

…read more

Source: CATO HEADLINES

Avatar of admin

by admin

Has RTD's FasTracks Been Worth It? No

April 28, 2013 in Economics

By Randal O'Toole, Brian T. Schwartz

Randal O'Toole and Brian T. Schwartz

With great fanfare, RTD opened its West Rail Line for business on Friday. This light-rail line was a boondoggle when it was first planned in 1997. It’s even worse today.

Last year, RTD expected the project to cost $709 million. Surely officials will brag about being “under budget,” as the final actual cost was $707 million. But in 1997, RTD estimated a total cost of just $250 million, or about $350 million in today’s dollars. So the line actually cost more than twice the original projections.

Moreover, RTD’s predictions of how many riders the West Rail Line will carry — and therefore how much congestion it will relieve — have greatly declined. In 2003, RTD predicted 29,100 west line riders per weekday in its first year of operation. Now, it predicts just 19,300. If the train carries 19,400 riders, RTD will likely claim it exceeded expectations when it actually fell one-third short.

Taxpayers, transit riders, and motorists will all rue the day that RTD built its first light-rail line.”

Even that level of ridership will be achieved because RTD is canceling six express bus routes, herding riders to the slower and more expensive train. Daily commute times for some riders will increase by 40 minutes or more, RTD board member Natalie Menten told us. “I am getting a ton of calls and e-mails complaining about elimination or reduction. One person alone sent me a scanned petition with about 50 rider signatures from just one route,” Menten said. Many riders “stated they’ll just drive instead of enduring the extra hours they face away from home or family.”

Back in 1997, RTD compared light rail with bus rapid transit (BRT) on high-occupancy vehicle lanes on U.S. Highway 6. It found the bus was 88 percent as effective at reducing congestion, and for half the cost. Notably, the only BRT line that RTD included in its 2004 FasTracks plan has had the smallest cost escalations of any FasTracks route. That means that, for about the same price as RTD thought the West Rail Line would cost, it could have added BRT on both U.S. 6 and Interstate 70, relieving almost twice as much congestion for twice as many people. BRT was much more cost-effective than rail, yet RTD chose the more expensive alternative.

With double the construction costs and only two-thirds of the riders, the West Rail Line …read more

Source: OP-EDS