You are browsing the archive for 2014 December 23.

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Share Your Story, Preserve Our Voices

December 23, 2014 in History

December 23, 2014 4:00 p.m.

The First Days Story Project is a collaboration between StoryCorps and PBS’s AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, which aims to collect, preserve, and celebrate the stories of Vietnamese American refugees and Vietnam veterans. The project invites members of the Vietnamese American community and Vietnam veterans with strong ties to the post war diaspora and evacuation to have a 40-minute, uninterrupted conversation with a loved one or friend, in order to document the Vietnamese American refugee experience through the voices of those who lived it.

It took me a couple viewings of “Last Days in Vietnam” before I could fully comprehend its central message: the human cost of war. As a 1.5 generation Vietnamese American, I grew up with the Vietnam War as a constant topic of conversation in my home, amplified by the fact that I am essentially a byproduct of that conflict that has left such a strong imprint on American history. My father was a lieutenant who fought in the South Vietnamese army for a democratic Vietnam alongside American soldiers. When the war ended, he tried to escape Vietnam but was eventually imprisoned in an internment/re-education camp for eight years before making his way to the United States with my family in 1992 as part of the Humanitarian Operations (HO) Program. The local newspaper in Saigon announced my family’s name as part of a series of groups qualified to go to the U.S. at the time. We said our goodbyes to our relatives at Tan Son Nhat Airport as we boarded the plane to start our new lives first in Thailand’s refugee camps for several weeks before arriving in Boston. I was four years old at the time and the fourth of five children. My mom carried my two-year old baby sister and held my hand as my dad led my three siblings, bringing only one big red luggage containing our possessions. My family’s story is one of many Vietnamese American stories from the diaspora that illustrates the refugee experience. These voices are central to painting a fuller picture of what happened during the Vietnam War and its aftermath to the formation of many resilient and vibrant Vietnamese communities throughout the U.S. today.

The importance of the First Days Story Project as an effort to collect stories and as an extension of Last Days in Vietnam lies not only in …read more

Source: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE

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Common Folk Live Better Now than Royalty Did in Earlier Times

December 23, 2014 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

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Richard W. Rahn

As we go into this Christmas week, you should count your blessings that you live in 2014. Would you prefer to live as the French King Louis XIV did (1643-1715), or as you do today? The average low-income American, who makes $25,000 per year, lives in a home that has air conditioning, a color TV and a dishwasher, owns an automobile, and eats more calories than he should from an immense variety of food.

Louis XIV lived in constant fear of dying from smallpox and many other diseases that are now cured quickly by antibiotics. His palace at Versailles had 700 rooms but no bathrooms (hence he rarely bathed), and no central heating or air conditioning. One hundred years ago, John D. Rockefeller was the richest man in the world. He did have bathrooms but still no air conditioning. Like Louis, he and his family were still in constant danger of dying from what would now be quickly treatable aliments or accidents. Rockefeller could travel by train or steamship, or very short distances by the newly invented automobile on largely dirt roads — luxuries not available to Louis XIV.

Louis and Rockefeller had many servants to gather and prepare food for them, but they could not get fresh food out of season and had a tiny choice of food compared with anyone who has access to a modern supermarket, where one is increasingly able to purchase prepared meals of far higher quality and variety than anything Louis or Rockefeller could obtain.

As we go into this Christmas week, you should count your blessings that you live in 2014.”

My Cato colleague Marian Tupy has created a website, HumanProgress.org, which graphically details the enormous progress humans have made on nearly all fronts. People in the world live far better today than they did a mere half-century ago. World per-capita gross domestic product is now a little more than $14,000 per year, a little less than where the United States was in 1960 or where the Japanese and United Kingdom were in the mid-1970s (inflation adjusted). In October, the World Bank reported that those living in extreme poverty fell from 36 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2011.

Incomes in the United States, Japan, France and many other developed countries have been rising at slower rates for the past several years, primarily because of the growth of government regulation, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Yes, of Course We Should Lift The Cuban Embargo

December 23, 2014 in Economics

By Scott Lincicome

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Scott Lincicome

President Obama’s announcement last week that his administration will seek to normalize relations with Cuba elicited strong opposition from many freedom-loving conservatives. Several aspects of the deal — the prisoner swaps, the president’s unilateralism and rhetoric, the timing, and so on — probably warrant scrutiny and, in some cases, even scorn. But one aspect deserves support from those who stand for free markets, limited government, and individual liberty: an end to the Cuban embargo’s trade and travel restrictions.

It’s far from clear that the president’s actions will actually achieve these ends, and it’s certainly clear that the proper way to achieve them is through the legislative process. But there really can be no doubt that, as a general matter, it’s past time for the embargo to go.

Communist-hating lovers of liberty have offered myriad reasons to oppose the current Cuban embargo (see, for example, hereand here), but today I want to focus on the most basic: over the last two decades, the United States government has utterly failed to justify its forcible, legislated ban on Americans’ freedom of travel, contract, and commerce. Because we live in a country of natural rights and limited, constitutional government, the state alone bears a heavy burden of proving that its restrictions on individual liberty are in fact warranted. In the case of free trade, and especially freedom of movement, this means that there is a strong presumption in favor of Americans’ right to freely travel to wherever they want, and transact with whomever they want — one that may only be overcome where the state establishes a compelling interest in prohibiting or limiting those actions.

The U.S. government had two decades to prove its Cuban embargo would work. It failed.”

One such compelling interest is national security, something even a hardcore free trader like Milton Friedman has acknowledged is a perfectly sound justification for trade and investment restrictions. It’s for this reason that even most libertarian free traders do not oppose, for example, multilateral attempts to isolate and impoverish rogue regimes actively seeking and spreading weapons of mass destruction.

The Cuban Embargo Has Not Changed Regimes Nor Deterred Investments

In the case of Cuban embargo, however, the federal government has failed to meet its basic burden of proof. First, legislation codifying the embargo — i.e., the “Helms-Burton” Act of 1996 — has not achieved either of its two primary objectives: regime change and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Soft Hearts and Hard Minds: The Enduring Challenge of U.S. Foreign Policy

December 23, 2014 in Economics

By A. Trevor Thrall, Erik Goepner

A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner

The furor over the CIA Torture Report is only the most recent illustration of an enduring challenge facing U.S. foreign policy: maintaining a “soft heart” toward the problems of the world while bringing a “hard mind” to the debate about the solutions. The recent history of U.S. foreign policy abounds with examples of how difficult it has been to strike the proper balance.

For instance, conventional wisdom suggests America’s efforts in Rwanda surrounding their genocide were too hard-hearted. President Clinton referred to it as one of his greatest regrets. Others suggest that hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved had the U.S. acted earlier, arguing that just 5,000 peacekeepers would have prevented the genocide.

Such soft-hearted claims appeal to our humanity, yet they ignore critical considerations. How might 5,000 have kept the peace in Rwanda, when New York City has a police force seven times larger for a similar sized population? When would they have gone in? A few months before the genocide, when Rwanda’s violence levels placed it well behind those of India, Iraq, Bosnia, and Somalia? Once the genocide became publically known? The first reference in U.S. news came two weeks into the genocide and a U.N. resolution followed a month later, after a majority of the killings had already occurred. Most importantly, what would the peacekeepers have done? Neither side wanted them there. The Hutus wanted no prying eyes as they sought a final solution to their tensions with the Tutsis. The Tutsi-dominated insurgency did not want to be slowed down. They were well on their way to winning the civil war, ultimately ousting the Hutu government in just three months.

In the case of CIA torture, hard hearts mixed with soft minds to further a policy that was not only grotesque, but unwise.”

Even when the U.S. does balance a soft heart with a hard mind, it can be difficult to maintain this balance. President Obama has managed thus far not to send U.S. military forces to intervene directly on the ground in the Syrian civil war. Despite our concern for the tens of thousands who have died and the millions displaced by the conflict, there is simply no practical way for the U.S. to use military force to improve the situation. Obama has thus wisely held to indirect support only for those affected by the …read more

Source: OP-EDS