Take your pick. There’s the (married) immigration judge in Canada who was sentenced to 18 months in jail for offering to issue a favorable verdict for an asylum seeker in exchange for sex. Not even a regular immigrant, an asylum seeker–someone who was in Canada to flee from a physically abusive father. There’s the new $280 English proficiency test required of all prospective skilled worker immigrants to Canada, even those who have validated degrees from English-speaking universities. And not just people who have degrees from those universities, but people who have PhDs in English literature from those universities. Meet two of them on the other side of that link. Most disturbingly, there’s the news that more restrictive border policy and this summer’s heat wave have resulted in enough dead Mexican immigrants that the the Pima County morgue in Arizona is running out of space. How can we let these deaths continue to occur in our name? Mexican immigrants only want the same opportunity to work that our ancestors were given x number of generations ago.
It’s a real grab bag of crap. Canada has a more enlightened immigration policy than the U.S., though some would argue that it’s because they don’t share a border with Mexico. I don’t care what the reason is for their enlightenment, I’m just glad for it. So in that sense, it’s a big disappointment to see the current Canadian government looking for technicalities like the language test to obstruct the processes that have been working so well, but at least they are being called out for their unfairness and at least real sickos like this predator immigration judge are being dealt with harshly. In the U.S., things look much less rosy. Yes, much of the Arizona paper-check law has been blocked for now, but that’s really a minor issue when you consider that a majority of the country probably would not support an amnesty for illegals and nowhere even close to a majority would favor going to an Ellis Island 2.0, everyone who passes a medical exam can enter the country-type system.
On the good news front, stories like these are making it much easier for me to decide what sort of law I want to study if I enroll in law school in 2011…
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Posted in Miscellany, tagged Ahmed Wali Karzai, Asbo, austerity, Baghlan, Barack Obama, China, civil liberties, David Cameron, Department of Defense, George Osborne, Hamid Karzai, Home Secretary, human trafficking, intelligence community, internet gambling, IRS, Labour, Liam Fox, Pakistan, Patriot Act, pollution, prostitution, Richard Holbrooke, Russia, Tea Party, Thailand, Trident, Youtube on 07/30/2010|
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Phew, magazine internship app completed just in the nick of time! Wish me luck. Now for the links.
- The Independent: British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne tells the Defense Secretary to cut out the public whining over budget cuts. And Osborne’s a Tory. Now imagine any politician in the U.S., Republican or Democrat, telling the Department of Defense or the many agencies of the intelligence community to stop their politicized whining about budget cuts. It’s hard to imagine. Although I guess things are a bit different here because in America, the Secretary of Defense doesn’t have to beg for funding because he has a galaxy of congressmen fighting with each other to see who can simultaneously raise defense spending the most and defame anyone who wants to keep it level or cut it as a traitor the loudest. The burdens of empire…
- The Independent: in another good bit of news for the coalition, the Home Secretary announced plans to scrap the infamous anti-social behavior orders (Asbos) phased in at the height of tough-on-crime Labourism. I don’t think Labour even created Asbos in good faith–I think it was a quick and easy way for them to put more Labour-voting bureaucrats on the government payroll whilst looking tough on crime. Human rights and privacy are so 19th century! I also think we should realize that rather than feeling safe behind “tough on crime” candidates, we should run from them as fast as we can because they are just calculating scumbags who are willing to make the criminal justice system unfairer and more punitive than it needs to be so they can offset their weakness in some other part of their agenda.
- Afghanistan mega-linker: NYT covers the formerly-quiet Baghlan province, which is now overrun by Talibs. This is what happens when you try to garrison a rugged country like Afghanistan with just enough troops to keep the people at home from thinking about the war too much–counterinsurgency becomes a game of whack-a-mole. Also in the NYT, top U.S. political man in Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke tells Congress that far and away the top recruiting point for the Taliban is not morality police stuff but corruption. And yet American teenagers are dying on behalf of the election-stealing mayor of Kabul president and his dope baron half-brother. Clearly corruption is a top concern for us. Oh, and the Taliban’s anti-corruption program? It’s nothing new. It’s what brought them to power the first time, too. And in a sign that we’ve learned absolutely nothing, the WaPo (HT) reports that we are pinning our hopes in the Kandahar countryside on a corrupt drug baron. But hey, at least he has a cool back story and does all the right man’s man stuff. If that wasn’t enough bad news for you, Pat Buchanan recaps a lot of it in his most recent column and reminds us that the neocons are so tired of failure in two wars so far that they’re just itching to start a new one in Iran.
- NYT: from the department of right solution, wrong reason, Congress is considering overturning its ridiculous internet gambling ban. It isn’t because they suddenly realized they were violating the non-aggression principle and using force to keep consenting adults from engaging in free commercial transactions. That would be too extreme! It’s because the government hates competition and lost opportunities for revenue, so seeing money go offshore makes them hungry. They project taxing the industry could generate $42 billion in the next decade. What a bunch of sick puppies. I hope that if Congress legalizes internet gambling and brings in the IRS, we suddenly see a rash of Online Gamblers Anonymous chapters across the country. That might teach them a lesson in principle.
- Moscow Times: a Russian court bans YouTube for extremist content. Talk about burning down the barn to kill the rats. You also wonder how much this is about racism and Islamism versus how much it’s about people not needing to rely on the extremely unlikely chance of the state media covering any criticism of the government.
- South China Morning Post: sad report on human trafficking. Most of the article focuses on Thailand. I don’t have a problem with prostitution, but if you’re a Westerner who goes to Thailand for the hookers, you need to look at yourself and admit that you’re probably a pedophile, a willing supporter of human trafficking or some combination of both.
- Kelley Vlahos at The American Conservative: uses a WaPo piece about the Obama administration asking for more e-snooping powers for the FBI to make the point that Obama has been a disaster on civil liberties, in some ways even worse than Bush. And though she doesn’t say it, I get the sense that Vlahos is like me and a lot of other libertarians and old right-type people who maybe didn’t vote for Obama but at least favored him over “Bomb Bomb Iran” McCain for the “hope” he offered on peace, civil liberties and executive powers. That hope is now trampled into dust.
- Andrew Sullivan: making the case that a GOP this hopped up on Tea Party slogans and having spent far too little “time in the wilderness” could be even worse than the Dems for America’s fiscal future this fall. What cuts are they going to make? We know they aren’t going to end the wars. We know they won’t cut defense spending. We know they opposed Obamacare from the left by arguing that it made too many cuts to Medicare. As a collection of ideas, there’s more that I can sympathize with from the Republican platform than the Democratic one, but I think Andrew is right on this issue.
- From the Guardian, via Andrew Sullivan: David Cameron must still be too new to the world stage since he’s still telling the truth. First it was calling Gaza a “prison camp,” now it’s admitting that Pakistan exports terror. That Pakistan has not only been allowed to get away with its bad behavior but in fact has it subsidized extravagantly by Western governments is incredible.
- NYT: remember how China was supposed to have turned over a new environmental leaf just in time for the Beijing Olympics? Sorry Thomas Friedman, that narrative is dead. Pollution is getting worse.
- NYT: French woman accused of murdering eight of her own infants over a two-decade span and burying them in her yard. Why? “She explained that she didn’t want any more children and that she did not want to see a doctor about using contraception,” Mr. Vaillant said. Who needs to endure the shame of asking for birth control pills when you can smother your own innocent offspring and bury them in the garden? This is one of the most repulsive crimes I’ve encountered in a while.
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Posted in Miscellany, tagged Aldi, Arizona, China, cocaine, crack, Daniel Ray Herrera, David Cameron, disgrace, ethanol, Gaza, Great Firewall, immigration, Iraq, John Kerry, mandatory minimum, military power, nationalization, North Korea, porn, privatization, Russia, soft power, subsidies, Theo Albrecht, Trader Joe's, yacht tax on 07/29/2010|
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I hate to do this, but I’m going to just do links for one more night. I’m working hard to finish a magazine internship application due this Friday, so please bear with me.
- Der Spiegel: for me, this was the biggest headline of the day–Theo Albrecht, the younger of the two reclusive German billionaire brothers who had each pioneered and headed up their own division of Aldi, died. I loved Aldi much more before I cut processed foods out of my diet, but it’s still an incredible store with some killer, common sense business techniques–shopping cart rentals (no cart pushers), bag fees (green and efficient), simplicity of choice (usually only one in-house brand per item for sale) and merchandise stocked directly on its pallets. North American consumers should be especially sad because though Karl’s Aldi Sued division operates the Aldi stores here, it was Theo who owned Trader Joe’s.
- Jacob Sullum at Reason: Congress takes a sensible step toward fixing the ridiculous crack cocaine vs. regular cocaine sentencing disparity. They should both be outright legalized and if you’re going to stick with the status quo, decriminalizing use or at least equalizing the sentences 1:1 would make sense, but any step Congress takes in the right direction is worthy of some praise. Under the current system, 5g of crack gets you the same mandatory minimum sentence of five years as 500g of cocaine powder. Arbitrary justice is the best!
- NYT: federal judge blocks parts of the Arizona immigration bill. I haven’t had time to read the specifics, but anything that weakens that bill is a good thing in my book. I couldn’t help but think of the Arizona bill as I read this story about Cincinnati Reds farmhand Daniel Ray Herrerra, a Hispanic who was arrested for public intoxication yesterday for doing what sounds like nothing more than walking around whilst drunk and not white. We don’t need this sort of vileness in the land of the free.
- The Corner: Andy “I love torture” McCarthy calls David Cameron a “disgrace” for his honest remarks on Gaza yesterday. I guess calling an open-air prison like Gaza by a fitting term like “prison camp” is just as offensive for McCarthy as calling human rights violations like waterboarding a fitting term like “torture.” If he complains long and loud enough, maybe the NYT will decide to avoid political controversy and call Gaza whatever McCarthy wants.
- People’s Daily: so much for stories last weekend about the Great Firewall loosening up and more porn sites operating in China–the Chinese shut down or blocked 19,000 porn sites today. I don’t find much to like about the crazy evangelicals and Andrea Dworkinite feminists who rail against porn in the U.S., but at least they tend to focus their efforts on persuasion, education and boycotts, not the iron-fisted violations of free speech favored by their atheist, chauvinist Chinese comrades in thought.
- NYT: cash-strapped Russian government looks to sell off minority stakes in nationalized industries to generate revenue. The bottom line in this story is that almost twenty years after the fall of the USSR, Russia still has a deeply unhealthy and unreformed economy that was able to masquerade as a nascent power this past decade because high natural resource price levels. You’d think they would’ve learned a lesson from seeing how the tanking oil market of the 1980s laid bare the weaknesses of the Soviet economy and did more to drive the country to ruin than any burning tanks in Afghanistan. Also, if you’re an investor, why would you want to invest in these companies? Sure, they have access to incredible resources, but you’re choosing to trust a Russian government that hasn’t hesitated to renationalize companies before. My guess is that most investors will get involved to curry favor with the Kremlin.
- Juan Cole: the good doctor reacts to news that the Pentagon can’t account for more than $8 billion worth of Iraqi aid money. Cole came up with a pretty good quote: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was wrong when he declared in 1840 that ‘property is theft.’ But I can offer a more solid and more consistently true aphorism: ‘War is theft.’ And not only of money; of supposedly inalienable rights, as well.”
- Via Peter Suderman at Reason, WaPo: end the ethanol subsidies. They’re bad for the environment, they’re bad for price levels in agricultural commodity markets, they’re bad for pandering in the Iowa caucuses, they’re bad for the budget and most of all, they’re just not morally justifiable. Ethanol tax incentives cost the country $6 billion in 2009.
- The Corner: it doesn’t get much dumber and unoriginal than calling John Kerry a fake leftist for trying to avoid paying a yacht tax. It’s cute to see someone who is probably not a materialist using materialist, class interest arguments against Kerry.
- Der Spiegel: forget China’s military, worry about their international influence. I agree that the international influence is far more worrisome, but I think Der Spiegel has bee just as influenced by Chinese propaganda as anyone else. China isn’t about to take over the world, even by soft power. China is living atop a tremendous bubble right now. They are the guy with his foot on a landmine. Let’s not rush to call this the Chinese century until China proves it can successfully integrate waves of newly-prosperous people into a dictatorship.
- National Post: review of what sounds like a cool book on everyday life in North Korea. I put it on my list. North Korea is so mysterious and secretive that I’m dying to know what things are like. Hopefully the regime will have met its deserved end before I have time to get around to reading the book.
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Posted in Miscellany, tagged African Union, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Al-Shabab, Barack Obama, bayou, BP, Cajuns, China, consumer protection agency, crony capitalism, David Cameron, Dodd-Frank, drone strikes, drug war, Elizabeth Warren, financial reform bill, foreign exchange, free trade, Gaza, guest worker, Gulf fishing, Gulf oil spill, Hester Prynne, immigration, J-1 visa, labor camp, Mexico, NAFTA, party plates, public shaming, quotas, sex offenders, Somalia, stimulus, tariffs, temporary worker, transitional government, Turkey, Vicente Fox, war in Afghanistan, war in Iraq, Wikileaks, xenophobia on 07/28/2010|
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It was an exceptionally busy day today and I’m tired, so you’ll have to make do with an extra-long list of links for the day. Full coverage returns tomorrow.
- The Corner: xenophobe and immigrant-basher Mark Krikorian hyperventilates because J-1 visa-holding foreigners might be coming to the U.S. to earn summer paychecks and not learn through foreign exchange. Oh the humanity! I know a lot of Russian students who have come to the U.S. on J-1s to work over the summer. They might not be in classrooms learning English or blithely backpacking across the U.S., but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting invaluable English practice, forming friendships with Americans and learning what it means to work here. It doesn’t even mean that they wouldn’t rather be sitting lazily in classrooms and learning about gerunds, just that getting a visa, flying over here and having a place to live is pretty expensive for a Russian college student. You know someone is a truly vile xenophobe when they’ve graduated from getting worked up over permanently-resident illegal aliens to legal, visa-holding temporary workers.
- NYT: $59 billion more for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq passes the House by a 308-114 vote. Supposedly, the anti-war movement is supposed to see this as a victory because 102 Democrats voted no, as compared to 32 nays for a nearly-identical bill last year. Hey, but don’t worry–at least some of the Democrats who voted no this time did it because stimulus funds, including some earmarked for saving teachers’ jobs, had been stripped out of the bill. Not, you know, because American teenagers are getting blown up by roadside bombs as they make Afghanistan safe for dope-running by Ahmed Wali Karzai whilst we wipe out innocent people with drones and bombs. Heaven forbid you oppose war funding for those reasons…we mustn’t be too extreme!
- NYT: with the skeletal and intentionally vague financial “reform” bill having passed into law with the understanding that unelected regulators would fill in the gaps, an army of industry lobbyists and lawyers mobilize in Washington to “help” write the laws for the benefit of their clients. First the “reform” bill enshrined too-big-to-fail in law, now it adds makes the crony capitalist economic model still more poisonous. But Congress had to do something, lest the proles get too upset at their inaction!
- Marginal Revolution: speaking of the financial “reform” bill, Tyler Cowen makes the case against the shoo-in Elizabeth Warren as head of the new consumer protection agency. Warren has apparently made a big deal out of beefing up usury laws and driving predatory lenders out of business. Cowen’s point: is allowing a high-risk borrower and a rapacious lender to freely agree to terms any worse than allowing two STI-untested gay men to have consensual and unprotected sex? Like Cowen, I will always side with informed consent over anti-choice emotionalism.
- NYT: in a rare bit of good news, the oil on the surface of the Gulf is is dissolving quickly. What remains to be seen is what sort of damage the oil will have done to swamps and marshlands, what it did to the ecosystem at depths and whether or not there is still a sub-surface plume issue. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the best, most of all for the Gulf Coast fishermen and unique regional communities like the Cajuns who might be on the verge of losing a generations-long occupation.
- NYT: the African Union decides to send more peacekeepers to Somalia. Outside of the sham, Western-backed Lesser Mogadishu Municipal Authority transitional government, I don’t know who this move benefits. The article also reminds us that the U.S. has already whizzed away $200 million of aid money in Somalia, with at least some of it going to help the transitional government employ child soldiers. Meanwhile, how about a solution that actually makes sense: “But many analysts argue that it would be better, in the long run, to pull out all the peacekeepers, let the transitional government fall, let the Shabab take over the country, and then allow clan militias and businessmen to rise up and overthrow them. The eventual result, analysts argue, would be a government that would be more organic and therefore more durable than a government that relies on outside forces to survive.”
- People’s Daily: Chinese villagers arrested for protesting against a new landfill that might just ruin their livelihood. But have no fear, two have already been released from “re-education through labor” camps! I wonder what Thomas “China for a day” Friedman would have to say about this story.
- Der Spiegel: more analysis of the Wikileaks documents, this time focusing on drone aircraft.
- Via Scott McConnell at The American Conservative, The Guardian: David Cameron visits Turkey and compares blockaded Gaza to a “prison camp.” Now imagine what Sarah Palin would try to do to any right-of-center American politician outside of Ron Paul who spoke the truth like Cameron. In a dream world, having a right-of-center Israel-realist in No. 10 would encourage Obama to move towards a neutral position as well.
- AlterNet: U.S. gives Mexico a $1.6 billion aid package with little oversight, Mexico gets a full-on gang war in its northern states. The war on drugs wins again! The article mentions former Mexican president Vicente Fox’s recently-stated support for marijuana legalization. If Fox can do it, why can’t ex-toker Barack Obama?
- Western Standard: uses this Toronto Star article on ridiculous hold-ups to two “free trade” agreements Canada is negotiating to make the point that “free trade” agreements like NAFTA don’t really establish free trade at all. But the case the Standard blogger makes is especially interesting–19th century free trade was fundamentally different because government was still small and fed primarily by tariff revenues, whilst 21st century government is massive and funded primarily by income and sales tax revenues. Thus, tariff barriers can be lowered with little damage, so long as quotas and other restrictions are maintained.
- NYT: Chinese government looking to end “public shaming” component of criminal punishment. It’s ironic that just as the Chinese get rid of these vulgar Hester Prynne laws, U.S. states now do things like require DUI offenders to have color-coded license plates and send postcards with pictures and vital information of sex offenders to their neighbors. Ho-hum.
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Posted in American politics, tagged Afghanistan, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Bradley Manning, Der Spiegel, free press, Hamid Karzai, ISI, Julian Assange, New York Times, Pakistan, Pentagon Papers, Taliban, The Guardian, whistle-blower, Wikileaks on 07/27/2010|
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The biggest news of the day: Wikileaks releasing 90,000+ classified documents on the war in Afghanistan. Alleluia! Two quick thoughts:
- If you can afford it, donate to Wikileaks here and help them continue to speak truth to power
- If you hear or read anyone saying, “Look, this isn’t a big deal, this doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know,” ignore that person as a death-worshiping neocon and draw your own conclusion on the story. Nearly every pro-war response to the Wikileaks release has hewed so close to this line that it almost seems orchestrated. A perfectly good example is all-around horrible person Bill Kristol 2.0 Max Boot (HT). The people using this line are the equivalent of the cop at any major accident scene going, “Move along, nothing to see here.”
Coverage-wise, you should start with the main NYT article on it since they were one of three newspapers given access to the files weeks ahead of publication. Another of the lucky three papers was Der Spiegel, and their lead-in page with links to all of their articles can be found here. Make sure you don’t miss their interview with Wikileaks founded Julian Assange, who came up with an instant classic line: “I enjoy crushing bastards.” Justin Raimondo at Antiwar.com pays tribute to Wikileaks, but also reminds us not to forget the brave whistle-blower who made all of this possible, the imprisoned Spc. Bradley Manning. Andrew Sullivan aggregates even more reactions here. Salon republishes some responses from government officials here, including everyone’s least favorite hawk, Joe Lieberman.
My favorite response was actually a very measured and balanced one, coming in this Globe & Mail editorial. Money quote:
If a war is to incur such a high cost, in lives and treasure, and is based on such a nuanced argument, then support for it cannot be taken for granted. Governments have a special duty to speak extensively about operations, including individual combat incidents. They need to disclose the facts – regarding the support of Pakistan or the effectiveness of the Afghan security forces – that underpin the strategy. Where such information is not forthcoming, leaks of raw military intelligence are a necessary, if extreme, service that fills in the picture.
Try to dispute that argument. Even a neocon, if he or she cares about liberal democratic values at home as much as they purport to care about them abroad, should have nothing to argue with in that statement.
My feelings on the case are mainly a deep sense of gratitude to Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and everyone responsible for Wikileaks and a tiny breath of relief as a small bit of optimism creeps back into me and hopes that these revelations might turn public opinion against this awful war once and for all. Westerners have to be moved by these stories of targeted killing squads wearing our uniforms, innocent families accidentally being shot to death and, in the anecdote that was most disturbing to me, a deaf-mute man being shot dead for failing to heed a command to halt. We have to say these horrors–our teenagers coming home in body bags as they protect highways for Hamid Karzai’s dope baron half-brother to make a quick buck, our soldiers being put in bad situations that end up with them putting civilian lives at risk, our soldiers being ordered to do vile things like execute people without trial–will not continue in our name. It’s time that we make Obama earn his Peace Prize and end the war now.
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Posted in Miscellany, tagged anonymity, Barack Obama, bloggers, China, Citizens United, corporations, Crimea, Department of Homeland Security, DISCLOSE Act, Dodd-Frank, drug war, Duch, financial reform bill, forced sterilization, free market, free speech, Hong Kong, Islom Karimov, John Roberts, Khmer Rouge, Kyra Phillips, Lysander Spooner, moral hazard, Moscow, reproductive rights, securitheatre, Sevastopol, snooping, Transportation Security Administration, Ukrainian nationalism, unions, Uzbekistan, womens' rights, Yuri Luzhkov on 07/27/2010|
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- NYT: Obama says that Republicans have nothing to fear from the openly anti-free speech DISCLOSE Act. In case you’ve forgotten, DISCLOSE is the kneejerk product of the Citizens United decision. It would keep the new-found free speech rights granted to unions and the PACs with enough lobbyists to get special exemptions from the bill authors, whilst restricting anew the rights of corporations and smaller PACs. Democrats are claiming that it’s a matter of keeping the “money” out of politics, even though unions have been by far the biggest spenders of any of the newly-unrestricted groups so far. And even if that wasn’t the case, this isn’t an issue of money. It’s an issue of the Constitution and our right to free speech.
- Peter Suderman at Reason: of the newly-passed financial reform bill, which is skeletal and will be filled out by unelected bureaucrat regulators, Suderman writes, “For regulators in Washington, this is a He-Man moment: They get to life (sic) thousands of pages of legislation above their heads and declare, ‘I have the power!’ The trouble seems to be figuring out what to do with that power once they have it.” Horrifying. Even at its best, the reform bill did nothing to kill too-big-to-fail and in fact enshrined the concept in law. Now at its worst, we will be treated to a spectacle of industry lawyers and lobbyists working furiously to influence the writing of the regulations in exactly the way most beneficial to their clients.
- NYT: first major verdict against a Khmer Rouge butcher handed down. The thug who ran the central prison, in which 14,000 people were tortured and killed, got off with a 35-year sentence, reduced to 19 after time served. I don’t believe in the death penalty in any circumstance, but the idea that this guy could oversee the forcible violation of the most fundamental human right–the right to life–of so many people and come away with only 35 years is mind-boggling. How many people who died in his prison would have had 35 more years to live? Let’s hope subsequent trials will deliver nothing more or less than life sentences.
- Via Tim Cavanaugh at Reason, Newsbusters: CNN anchors John Roberts and Kyra Phillips decry the anonymity of the internet and glibly discuss ways to silence bloggers. I can’t tell if they feel more threatened for their network’s future or for their bad philosophy.
- Moscow Times: annoyingly chauvinistic Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, whose annexationist leanings on Ukraine made him persona non grata there until just the past few weeks, has now purchased a sanatorium in Crimea for city officials. Yes, Crimea–conveniently located in south Ukraine, many miles away from Moscow…natural pick for a municipal vacation spot. The real issue is that Crimea is the most Russified part of Ukraine, an autonomous republic still home to a major Russian naval base and an irredentist target for annexation for Russian nationalists in Ukraine and Russia. I certainly think hardline Ukrainian nationalists can be a paranoid, xenophobic bunch, but Luzhkov is just spitting in their collective face so soon after being granted access to Ukraine again. What a classy move.
- LewRockwell.com: a brief profile of Lysander Spooner, the 19th century libertarian so pro-freedom that he started a private postal service to compete with the state monopoly. He was frozen out of business by Congress, but not before getting the rate cuts he desired.
- NYT: select Mexican prisoners, armed with weapons from their guards, were allowed out at night to commit gang murders. Still think the drug war is working?
- St. Petersburg Times: Uzbek women lodge claims of forcible sterilization against the government. They share an anecdote of a woman who went in for a c-section, only to have the following happen: “She learned that the surgeon had removed part of her uterus during the operation, making her sterile. The doctor told her that the hysterectomy was necessary to remove a potentially cancerous cyst, while she believes that he sterilized her as part of a state campaign to reduce birthrates.” It struck me as a bit speculative and paranoid, but is apparently attested by human rights workers. A booming population has been an issue in Uzbekistan since Soviet times, but this crude violation of reproductive rights is absolutely the wrong way to handle it.
- AlterNet: why does the publicly-funded Transport Security Administration maintain separate security lines for first- and business-class customers of private companies? It’s not the first time I’ve seen this observation made–I have a friend who will always at least attempt to enter the first-class checkpoint and he has found that the TSA people don’t have much of a defense against him. The issue underlying all of this is that the TSA is a bureaucratic joke, the very embodiment of the idea of “securitheatre,” and that it should be replaced with a system devised and maintained by the airlines themselves.
- People’s Daily: China is going to make it illegal for parents to secretly search through their kids’ electronic records–cell phones, emails, chat-logs and the like. It’s interesting that a society that once encouraged children to squeal on their “counter-revolutionary” parents is now prohibiting parents from doing something less intrusive to their kids. I don’t think parents should secretly snoop on their kids. I think they should talk to kids and keep abreast of what they’re doing online, lest something ugly like the Jessi Slaughter incident occur again. But for the government to tell parents how they can raise their kids? Intrusion in the highest.
- South China Morning Post: a bad editorial arguing that Hong Kong has nothing to fear from anti-free market laws because their market has never actually been that free, irregardless of what countless third party economists might have to say. I’m only linking because of one really egregious sentence: “As the free market, on its own, is unable to deal with its moral hazards, the government has had to step in and accept the need for legislation on a minimum wage and fair competition.” The free market deals with moral hazards brutally–in a free market, there are no banks that cannot fail and there are no liability caps on oil spills. Bad actors quickly become ex-actors. It is only the interventionist state and its corporate clients that create moral hazard in the sense that we understand it today.
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I came across a pair of interesting, seemingly contradictory stories on secondary education this weekend. The first was a piece in the NYT, bemoaning the fact that America had gone from first to twelfth place in the percentage of adults 25-34 with college degrees. The other was a post on The Economist’s Democracy in America blog about for-profit colleges in America. You would think that if more people are going to for-profit schools like University of Phoenix, America’s college degree rate would be increasing. The discrepancy emerges because of the significantly higher number of people who start programs–university, community college, for-profit, vocational, etc—but don’t finish them.
I think most people would probably assume that we should pin the low completion rate on the cost of education in the U.S. We certainly do pay a lot of money for secondary education here. But it’s my contention that the low completion rate is in large part because of the lowering of standards at pre-secondary levels. (more…)
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