Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Matthew Barganier (Guest Blogger)
- An Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal has found that military police dogs were used to frighten detained Iraqi teenagers as part of a sadistic game, one of many details in the forthcoming report that were provoking expressions of concern and disgust among Army officers briefed on the findings.
Earlier reports and photographs from the prison have indicated that unmuzzled military police dogs were used to intimidate detainees at Abu Ghraib, something the dog handlers have told investigators was sanctioned by top military intelligence officers there. But the new report, according to Pentagon sources, will show that MPs were using their animals to make juveniles -- as young as 15 years old -- urinate on themselves as part of a competition.
Roderick T. Long
Matthew Barganier (Guest Blogger)
- "There was sadism on the night shift at Abu Ghraib, sadism that was certainly
not authorized," Schlesinger said."It was kind of Animal House on the
Matthew Barganier (Guest Blogger)
Matthew Barganier (Guest Blogger)
Ah yes, noble
sport triumphed over nasty politics as it always does. Adolf Hitler's
supposed humiliation at the hands (and feet) of Jesse Owens is one of the great
myths of the modern age. Funny, the IOC
summary doesn't mention which country won the 1936 Summer Olympics. I wonder
why. Here is the medal
count (top 10 countries only):
COUNTRY GOLD SILVER BRONZE
Germany 33 26 30
USA 24 20 12
Hungary 10 1 5
Italy 8 9 5
Finland 7 6 6
France 7 6 6
Sweden 6 5 6
Japan 6 4 8
Netherlands 6 4 7
Great Britain 4 7 3
Implicit in the IOC's analysis is the disgusting fascist belief that sporting
success proves national superiority. In 1932 in Los Angeles, pre-Adolf, pre-"Aryan"
Germany finished a miserable 9th. In 1936, Germany won, easily, despite Jesse
Owens. The Berlin Olympiad was used to prove Hitler's theories of Aryan racial
superiority, most notably in Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia.
"Hitler, we who covered the Games had to concede, turned the Olympics
into a dazzling propaganda success for his barbarian regime."
The fascist conflation of sporting triumph and national superiority lives on: in England, whose football hooligans long for a Führer-and in Canada, where our 1972 hockey triumph over the Soviet Union has become the most celebrated national myth of all. How well I remember the shame I felt reading innumerable letters to the editor declaring that Canada's victory in Moscow proved the superiority of our way of life to theirs. And if the Soviets had won instead? What fools. What rubbish.
Such classes have long been the object of the war against excellence that has existed in our schools for the last forty years. One wonders whether the decline in respect for learning that Cosby and Lee have observed in the black community aren't part of broader trends.
As the 21st century dawns, Americans have come to define patriotism as uncritical support of war and the military. In this year’s presidential campaign, John Kerry touts his war exploits in Vietnam, and those with connections to George W. Bush try to rewrite this history decades later. The president dresses up in military garb and lands on an aircraft carrier, pretending to be a war hero to make people forget that he avoided the danger of conflict years earlier. Both Bush and Kerry favored the unprovoked U.S. invasion of a sovereign nation (Iraq)—the same thing Saddam Hussein did to become a world pariah in 1990. And both the president and his challenger said they would have invaded even if they knew in advance that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Such militarization of U.S. society and foreign policy would cause the founders of this great nation to roll over in their graves.
The profligate use of the war metaphor in unrelated matters demonstrates that the glorification of war runs deep in contemporary America. The word “war” is so effective in raising passions that it is used as a propaganda tool for the cause of the day. For example, there is a war on poverty, a war on drugs, and a war on terrorism. (Terrorist attacks are usually isolated in time and place and often can be better countered when thought of as crime). None of these “campaigns” have been very successful, and often the term “war” is used only as a marketing tool to garner support from an all-too-eager American public. The use of such terminology could be dismissed as harmless rhetoric rather than an intrinsic subconscious desire for war. The reality, however, is that the U.S. government’s post-World War II meddling in the affairs of countries overseas has embroiled the United States, either directly or through proxies, in many conflicts. Some foreign policy scholars on both the left and right—Chalmers Johnson of the Japan Policy Research Institute and Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, respectively—have decried the militarization of U.S. foreign policy. This interventionist foreign policy is an aberration in American history that now seems like the rule. For more than 170 years before the Cold War began, the United States followed, albeit imperfectly, a policy of military restraint overseas and eschewed permanent, entangling alliances that could drag the nation into unnecessary war.
Some would argue that much of the post-World War II period was spent in the laudable fight against the forces of totalitarian communism. But that jousting against a second—rate enemy (the Soviets’ dysfunctional communist economic system made it an “Upper Volta with missiles”) masked a U.S. effort to remake the world in its own image. The United States established alliances and military bases around the world and regularly intervened in the affairs of other nations through coercion, covert action and the use of armed force. The best evidence that this U.S. overseas “empire” was not created mainly to fight communism was its retention—and even expansion—after the Soviet rival collapsed into the dustbin of history.
After the demise of the rival superpower, however, the advantages of wanton U.S. global intervention have declined precipitously. And blowback from foreign meddling—for example, the September 11 terrorist attacks—has demonstrated that the dangers of such a policy have increased exponentially, especially if hostile terrorists could acquire a nuclear weapon.
It’s time to reconsider the founders’ original foreign policy of restraint overseas—made possible by America’s blessed geographical position oceans away from the world’s centers of conflict. Today, with the most powerful nuclear arsenal on the planet, the United States remains secure from the vast preponderance of threats, except that of catastrophic terrorism.
In the short-run, the United States needs to neutralize al Qaeda, but in the longer term it needs to ask why the group attacked U.S. targets. If the United States quietly abandoned its interventionist foreign policy, it would greatly reduce the worldwide anti-U.S. hatred and the resultant blowback terrorist attacks. General Anthony Zinni, the tough Marine who commanded U.S. forces in the Middle East, perceptively advised that the United States should avoid making enemies but treat its intractable foes forcefully.
As the founders astutely realized, when the leaders of nations start wars of aggrandizement, the costs—in lost lives, taxes, and reduced liberties—often fall on the backs of the common people. Even General George Washington was suspicious of unnecessary foreign wars and a large military, leading to big government oppression at home. His form of patriotism is truer to the American spirit than its modern day militaristic counterpart, which treats war as a cool videogame and has more in common with German and Soviet-style patriotism of the 20th century.
David T. Beito
"We cannot have a generation of young black kids growing up not being able to read and write.....Intelligent kids dumb down because they don't want to be ostracized. They don't want to be called a white boy or a white girl. Or a sell-out. Or an Oreo. Somehow, they equate ignorance with being black and being real and being street. The ghetto has become a badge of honor. And that's more than insane. That's bananas."
This rhetoric is encouraging but how does it translate into action? What are some of the specific actions that Spike Lee, and others who have chimed in to agree with Cosby, propose to reverse this trend?
http://online.barrons.com/article_print/SB109293948636396212.html (WSJ subscribers only, unfortunately)
ONE OF THE PROUDEST ELEMENTS of President Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda has been government financial support to home buyers for down payments. Bush is determined to end the bias against people who want to buy a home but don't have any money. But he is exposing taxpayers to tens of billions of dollars of possible losses, luring thousands of moderate-income families into bankruptcy, and risking the destruction of entire neighborhoods.
Congress passed Bush's American Dream Downpayment Act last fall. It authorizes federal handouts to first-time home buyers of up to $10,000 or 6% of the home's purchase price, whichever is greater, to anyone with income 20% less than their local median income. In San Francisco, where the median income is more than $113,300, a family of four with an income of up to $90,500 is eligible for this freebie.
Down-payment handouts are now part of building up the American character. Bush proclaimed on June 16, 2003: "Homeownership is more than just a symbol of the American dream; it is an important part of our way of life. Core American values of individuality, thrift, responsibility, and self-reliance are embodied in homeownership."
Is individuality something that the Feds have any competence to try to mass produce?
Is thrift something which can be fertilized with billions of additional dollars of deficit spending?
Is responsibility something which can be maximized through political grandstanding?
Is self-reliance so wonderful that the government should subsidize it?
President Bush's policies are pouring fuel on a fire that is already ravaging many neighborhoods in the U.S. While the percentage of Americans who own homes has risen in recent years, the foreclosure rate is rising much faster, tripling since the early 1980s. The percentage of FHA single-family home loans that have defaulted rose 54% between 1999 and 2002, reaching 4.25%. Payments on roughly 12% percent of all FHA mortgages are past due. Millions of American homeowners are at risk of sustaining collateral damage from this debacle.
These down-payment initiatives are key planks in the Bush re-election campaign. Bush will get the applause and political credit now, while the defaults from the program will not surge until sometime after November 2004.
Transferring the risk of homeownership from buyers to taxpayers does not endow virtue in America. Giving people a handout that leads them to financial ruin is wrecking-ball benevolence.
Rather than boosting the number of people dependent on government for a roof over their heads, the Bush administration should devote its energy to dismantling HUD, the biggest single blight on urban America.
Last week, I wrote an entry about the smear campaign directed at John Kerry, entitled"Sinking into the Filth." Unfortunately, subsequent events compel me to revisit this very unpleasant subject.
A few aspects of the general context in which this vicious campaign is taking place should be noted at the outset -- and these particular facts are those which the people engaging in the Kerry attacks would prefer that everyone forget. To begin with, it is altogether remarkable that those attacking Kerry on these particular grounds are obvious Bush partisans. That is unquestionably their right -- but when Bush himself chose not to go to Vietnam and opted instead for National Guard service, while Kerry did the opposite, it is very peculiar to pick this argument out of many other possibilities. Choosing National Guard service was perfectly honorable, of course, and I do not question Bush's choice in that regard. However, the record is clear that it was Bush's family connections that helped him avoid combat in ways not available to many others -- and many questions still remain about whether Bush fulfilled all of his infinitely safer obligations.
Another underlying theme is the following: the Bush supporters who have launched or who endorse these attacks on Kerry's war record portray themselves as great supporters of the military, and of military honor. But these attacks have given the lie to this claim, once and for all. In their zeal to smear Kerry in any way they can, it apparently never occurred to these people (who are clearly possessed of limited analytic ability) that their attacks would affect many people in addition to Kerry.
That this was the inevitable result is now made even clearer by developments this weekend:
The commander of a Navy swift boat who served alongside Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry during the Vietnam War stepped forward Saturday to dispute attacks challenging Kerry's integrity and war record.Rood's full first-person account can be found here.
William Rood, an editor on the Chicago Tribune's metropolitan desk, said he broke 35 years of silence about the Feb. 28, 1969, mission that resulted in Kerry's receiving a Silver Star because recent portrayals of Kerry's actions published in the best-selling book"Unfit for Command" are wrong and smear the reputations of veterans who served with Kerry.
Rood, who commanded one of three swift boats during that 1969 mission, said Kerry came under rocket and automatic weapons fire from Viet Cong forces and that Kerry devised an aggressive attack strategy that was praised by their superiors. He called allegations that Kerry's accomplishments were"overblown" untrue.
"The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us. It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there," Rood said in a 1,700-word first-person account published in Sunday's Tribune.
Rood's recollection of what happened on that day at the southern tip of South Vietnam was backed by key military documents, including his citation for a Bronze Star he earned in the battle and a glowing after-action report written by the Navy captain who commanded his and Kerry's task force, who is now a critic of the Democratic candidate.
Rood's previously untold story and the documents shed new light on a key historical event that has taken center stage in an extraordinary political and media firestorm generated by a group calling itself the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. ...
Rood's account also sharply contradicts the version currently put forth by the anti-Kerry veterans. Rood, 61, wrote that Kerry had personally contacted him and other crew members in recent days asking that they go public with their accounts of what happened on that day.
Rood said that, ever since the war, he had"wanted to put it all behind us—the rivers, the ambushes, the killing. … I have refused all requests for interviews about Kerry's service—even those from reporters at the Chicago Tribune."
"I can't pretend those calls [from Kerry] had no effect on me, but that is not why I am writing this," Rood said. "What matters most to me is that this is hurting crewmen who are not public figures and who deserved to be honored for what they did. My intent is to tell the story here and to never again talk publicly about it."
Rood declined requests from a Tribune reporter to be interviewed for this article. Rood wrote that he could testify only to the February 1969 mission and not to any of the other battlefield decorations challenged by Kerry's critics—a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts—because Rood was not an eyewitness to those engagements. ...
In his eyewitness account, Rood describes coming under rocket and automatic weapons fire from Viet Cong on the riverbank during two separate ambushes of his boat and Kerry's boat.
Praise for the mission led by Kerry came from Navy commanders who far outranked Hoffmann. Rood won a Bronze Star for his actions on that day. The Bronze Star citation from the late Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, then commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam, singled out the tactic used by the boats and said the Viet Cong were" caught completely off guard." ...
Rood acknowledged in his first-person account that there could always be errors in recollection, especially with the passage of more than three decades. His Bronze Star citation, he said, misidentifies the river where the main action occurred.
That mistake, he said, is a" cautionary note for those trying to piece it all together. There's no final authority on something that happened so long ago—not the documents and not even the strained recollections of those of us who were there.
"But I know that what some people are saying now is wrong," Rood wrote."While they mean to hurt Kerry, what they're saying impugns others who are not in the public eye."
The concluding paragraphs above identify another issue I discussed last week. At this point in time, and with regard to legitimately disputed points (and leaving aside the most obviously prejudiced claims), there is no way to settle these questions once and for all. That doesn't mean there is not an actual version of events during that period. Of course, there is -- but given fading memories, the various agendas that almost everyone is pursuing now, and any number of other factors, determining precisely what in fact happened is next to impossible. And that is one of the major reasons which ought to lead genuinely decent people to leave questions like these alone.
The Vietnam War left permanent scars on everyone who served in it -- and it also scarred an entire generation of Americans, whether they served or not. It created bitterness on all sides, and it is a wonder that anyone would choose to reopen those wounds all these years later. And when people fling charges around, without considering their effects on the direct targets and on many others who now lead entirely private lives, the degree of intellectual and moral irresponsibility involved is profound.
And that irresponsibility is even greater when one realizes that all of this is driven only by narrow political concerns. All of those now actively engaged in this smearing of Kerry have one aim above all others: they want Bush to be reelected, and they want Kerry to be defeated. That is a legitimate aim, certainly -- but it does not make any means employed legitimate, or decent, or honorable. And when one remembers that past Bush-connected campaign efforts have smeared John McCain and Max Cleland (and with regard to Mr. Cleland, those despicable efforts have continued even more recently), the viciousness and lack of honor of all such people becomes unquestionable.
(I also note that even certain individuals once affiliated with Ayn Rand have jumped on this detestable bandwagon. One would think they might remember that Rand herself was frequently the target of vicious smear campaigns, and that those memories would give them pause. It is obvious that certain people have learned next to nothing in the course of their own lives, and are no better than those they used to criticize in the most vehement ways. Such people have no concern with truth, with honor, or with basic decency. I have no idea what actually motivates them, but for the reasons set forth here and in related entries, it is not any of those factors that they themselves claim are of concern to them.)
Finally, I want to offer some observations about one of the significant underlying dynamics at work. It is clear that one of the factors that might motivate at least some of the anti-Kerry veterans is their deep disapproval of his anti-war statements once he returned to the United States. That is certainly understandable, since they could think that such criticisms cast doubt on the honor of their own service. In that narrow sense, I have great sympathy for their concerns.
However, such concerns do not apply to those who did not serve in Vietnam themselves, a category which includes Bush himself and most of his present-day supporters. In the following, I am not concerned with arguing about what might or might not be legitimate ways to protest a war in which one's country is involved. Obviously, visiting North Vietnam while we were at war with that country was profoundly wrong (and possibly treasonous). But actions as clearly wrong as ones of that kind are not the target of most of those so angered by Kerry's anti-Vietnam War pronouncements.
As we have seen, and are still seeing, with regard to Bush's"War on Terror," both in general and more specifically in connection with the invasion of Iraq, there are those who want to shut down any dissent or disagreement with"official" policy completely, and across the board. I have sometimes referred to those who make this kind of deeply un-American argument as Ministers of Propaganda (and take a look at this brief follow-up post, which makes one key issue even clearer) -- and that is precisely what they are. This stigmatizing of dissent has a long and dishonorable history in America, and one of its most notable victims was Robert LaFollette during World War I. That particular episode is one that many hawks ought to learn or remember, and which provides many cautionary lessons.
Underlying much of the current criticism of Kerry -- and the reason it resonates today in connection with our battles with our new enemies -- is a demand arising out of a certain underlying psychology. I am not speaking here of a specific individual's psychology, but a certain mental stance that is revealed across a culture, and that is embodied in any number of people to varying degrees.
In a long series of entries here, I have been discussing the invaluable work of Alice Miller. The key dynamic that Miller identifies is this one:
[L]et me summarize my understanding of Miller's central argument. By demanding obedience above all from a child (whether by physical punishment, by psychological means, or through some combination of both), parents forbid the child from fostering an authentic sense of self. Because children are completely dependent on their parents, they dare not question their parents' goodness, or their"good intentions." As a result, when children are punished, even if they are punished for no reason or for a reason that makes no sense, they blame themselves and believe that the fault lies within them. In this way, the idealization of the authority figure is allowed to continue. In addition, the child cannot allow himself to experience fully his own pain, because that, too, might lead to questioning of his parents.As I pointed out in a subsequent essay which discussed certain statements from Rich Lowry and Andrew Sullivan, this demand for obedience expresses itself in the absolute demand that one never question our government or our military, or at least not question them beyond a certain point. After excerpting an Army War College study which fundamentally undercuts one of the key arguments made by Sullivan and many other hawks, I said:
In this manner, the child is prevented from developing a genuine, authentic sense of self. As he grows older, this deadening of his soul desensitizes the child to the pain of others. Eventually, the maturing adult will seek to express his repressed anger on external targets, since he has never been allowed to experience and express it in ways that would not be destructive. By such means, the cycle of violence is continued into another generation (using"violence" in the broadest sense). One of the additional consequences is that the adult, who has never developed an authentic self, can easily transfer his idealization of his parents to a new authority figure. As Miller says:
"This perfect adaptation to society's norms--in other words, to what is called"healthy normality"--carries with it the danger that such a person can be used for practically any purpose. It is not a loss of autonomy that occurs here, because this autonomy never existed, but a switching of values, which in themselves are of no importance anyway for the person in question as long as his whole value system is dominated by the principle of obedience. He has never gone beyond the stage of idealizing his parents with their demands for unquestioning obedience; this idealization can easily be transferred to a Fuhrer or to an ideology.
Well,"idiocy" [Sullivan's term] apparently comes from sources that Secret Agent Sullivan would be all too happy to embrace if he agreed with their conclusions -- but since this study would threaten his denial mechanism, he will simply ignore it. In these kinds of ways, the mechanism of denial and obedience is left intact. And the primary commandment survives, in all its lethality: the authority must not, under any circumstances, be questioned. Just as with Vietnam, the authority in this case is the United States government, and the U.S. military. As to Sullivan's final lie -- the statement that"only we can choose to lose" this war, with its implication that if we lose, it would be a failure of"national will" -- I dealt with that vicious slab of mendacity here.The current smear campaign against Kerry is another of those many horrors, albeit a very pale one compared to the actual atrocities of history, and of the current day.
With no effort at all, you could multiply examples such as these a thousandfold, every single day. In this manner, defenders of our current foreign policy wipe out of existence all the facts, all the costs, all the deaths, and anything else that might bring into question what is an absolute of their faith: the United States is right, what we have done and are doing in Iraq is right, our military is right, we are inherently unable to make mistakes, and the authorities must not be questioned.
These are the victims described by Miller -- now grown into adulthood, continuing their denial, with additional authority figures added to the ones they first had. Besides the original parent, they now revere our government and our military and, beyond a certain point, nothing they do is to be challenged. As I discussed in Part III, to do so would bring into question these individuals' entire false sense of self, it would undermine their worldview completely, and it represents a threat that cannot be allowed to come too close. As always, what is dispensable in all this are facts, untold national wealth, reputation and prestige, and above all, the lives of human beings.
As I have said before, it is in this manner that horrors are unleashed upon the world. And if this mentality is carried far enough, you will finally end up with the kind of thinking, and the kind of psychology, that lies behind the journal entry from World War II (written by a German soldier) that I quoted in the previous part of this essay:
"On a roundabout way to have lunch I witnessed the public shooting of twenty-eight Poles on the edge of a playing field. Thousands line the streets and the river. A ghastly pile of corpses, all in all horrifying and ugly and yet a sight that leaves me altogether cold. The men who were shot had ambushed two soldiers and a German civilian and killed them. An exemplary modern folk-drama. (1/27/44)"
If you never allowed your authentic self to develop (or your parents never allowed you to develop one), if you denied and continue to deny the reality of your own pain, then you will deny the pain of others, even as the corpses pile up -- and you will be prepared to believe anything.
And the horrors continue, beyond all human reckoning -- and without end.
But the anti-Kerry smears come from the same roots -- and in time and under the right circumstances, they could lead to horrors of the kind mankind has too frequently only barely managed to survive in the past. Given the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the globe, we might not always survive them in the future. And as long as many people refuse to acknowledge or address the underlying causes which lead to such horrors, the likelihood grows that one day, we will not survive.
The motives and goals that lead many to fling unsubstantiated, cruel, and irrelevant charges in an effort to gain momentary political advantage are the same ones that also have led, and can lead again, to internment camps, world war, and mass slaughter. Perhaps one day, enough people will begin to look at the underlying causes, and they will finally have enough.
But that day is far from where our world finds itself today, as daily events continue to make tragically clear. And our future thus remains in great danger, along with our lives -- and along with the value of human life itself.
(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)
Roderick T. Long
The years 1848-1852 were particularly interesting times (in the Chinese sense) for France; I'm currently reading through accounts of this period by such contemporary witnesses as Tocqueville, Dunoyer, Proudhon, Molinari, Marx, and Hugo. (This was also of course the period in which the"problem of the best régime" was finally solved -- in theory though alas not in practice -- by Molinari in his works The Production of Security and Soirées on the Rue Saint-Lazare.) Some of these writers favoured the revolution of 1848 and some of them opposed it, but they all agreed in condemning the establishment of the Second Empire in 1852.
Most recently I've been reading Hugo's searing account (in Napoléon the Little and History of a Crime) of the December 1851 coup that brought Napoléon III to power, thus paving the way for the Second Empire. Hugo shared Acton's and Rothbard's conviction that the historian should be a hanging judge, and he levels unanswerable denunciations not only of the coup (and the mass detentions and mass murders attendant thereon), but also of the court intellectuals who whitewashed the crimes of the self-styled"Prince President" (a term I'm tempted to start using for Bush II) and glorified his oppressive and bloodthirsty modus operandi.
I was irresistibly reminded of Hugo's account of the Empire by reading Jeff Tucker's excellent critique of American conservatism on LRC today. As Tucker points out, today's apologists for sanguinary statism, like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity, are still"screaming for blood, exalting the imperial state, decrying the very basis of civilization (peace), and demanding the jailing of dissidents." (Read it now.)
Hugo saw the Second Empire as an anachronism, a throwback to a less civilised era, and he felt confident that the peaceful and enlightened 20th century would see the end of such barbarism. On the contrary, of course (as Molinari among others predicted quite clearly), the 20th century mostly followed the model of the Second Empire -- and the 21st so far seems to be following suit.
Unrelated P.S. - In addition to the MP3 and PDF versions of my anarchy talk to which I previously linked, there is now an HTML version.
Now, maybe going 87 sounds fast to you, but consider: it was a clear day, a big highway (I–65), and there was little traffic; moreover, just about every car made in the last ten years, including mine, can cruise at 80 or 90 (or more) in comfort and ease. So I wasn’t endangering anyone, wasn’t a menace, and wasn’t driving recklessly or under the influence.
So why should I pay $172 to the courthouse in podunk Tennessee? The trooper who got me was hiding on the back side of an overpass, just over a hill. So there was no way to see him until you had passed him--by which time he already got you on radar. I asked him why he had been sitting there like that. “Just to catch speeders?” I asked. “Yep,” he replied. After giving me the ticket, he added the obligatory, “We’re here to keep the highways safe. Now you drive safely.” His grin while uttering that last sentence conveyed his real meaning: thanks for the money, sucker, and come back real soon.
To me it is all but self-evident that speeding tickets issued on highways are for one purpose only: income. They don’t make the highways safer, and they are not issued in the hopes of “making highways safer.” There are lots of ways to prove this, but perhaps these two considertions will suffice. First, there have been numerous studies showing that lower posted speed limits do not, in fact, lead to fewer driver fatalities. (These studies are easy to find; here’s one; here’s an interesting site discussing Canadian data.) Second, if the troopers really wanted drivers to slow down, why not announce that speeding tickets will cost, say, $10,000? Then no one would speed. But then, of course, the states would not get their revenue—which explains why they don’t do that.
It’s the same mentality with the sinisterly symbiotic relationship between states and smoking. They all officially want everyone to stop smoking, but they are far too dependent on the revenue generated by taxes on sales of tobacco to want it to actually stop. Otherwise, again, why not put, say, a $500 tax on every pack of cigarettes? Cigarette sales would plummet to virtually nil, which means states would get virtually no revenue from their sales—which, again, explains why they don’t do that.
Most people drive 10–15 miles over the speed limit. Police know this, and that’s part of the reason they want speed limits where they are and not higher: to protect their profits, in other words. It strikes me as an extortion racket like any other. State troopers across the nation are constantly buying state-of-the-art speed-detection devices, photo cameras, even using traffic helicopters and other aerial means of checking your speed—all to issue more tickets. By all means, stop reckless drivers, people driving under the influence, and so on. But if revenue is what you want, do the honest thing and lobby to get taxes raised. At least that way we citizens might have some say. I for one would tell the cops to go back to fighting actual crime. That might not be as fun (or easy) as getting those dastardly speeders, but it is, after all, what cops are supposed to be doing.
. I love the comments that if a"powerful" and"important" person like King, I mean Senator Kennedy can get treated this way, imagine what the other peons, I mean citizens are going through! (I've been similarly harassed, but somehow my complaints don't get me taken off the"secret 'no-fly' lists.")
Aeon J. Skoble
However, when it comes to discussion of the two elections in question what I think of Chavez and Hussein or what Pat Lynch thinks of them for that matter is completely irrelevant. The only important thing is what the people who voted in those elections thought. And my point is this, the Bush Administration did not like Hussein therefore they assumed that the bulk of the Iraqi people did not like him. The administration then went on to make policy, extremely bad policy, based on that false assumption. This was a bogus conjecture because most Iraqis either were apolitical or they approved of the fact that he was a strong leader. There were millions of them and only one of him, if they really hated him that much they would have gotten rid of him long ago. Stalin was one of the most evil and destructive people who ever walked the face of the earth, yet, when he died something in the order of 1500 people were trampled to death trying to get near his coffin.
The question now is will the Bush Administration make the same mistake in Venezuela that it made in Iraq? Will it project its dislike of Chavez on to the Venezuelan people? Because, if it does we will all soon be paying $5 a gallon for gasoline. Chavez may only be distributing crumbs to the poor but if all you ever got from the government before was a boot on the back of your neck then those crumbs are probably very welcome to a solid majority of Venezuelans and they will fight to keep them.
My point about Taiwan in the first post was that we live in a country, for the time being, where we can express any opinion we want without the fear of a knock on the door in the middle of the night. Yet, only a very small minority of people express opinions in a public way. Half the people do not even vote when the ballot is anonymous. How much less participation would there be if consequences of opposition here rivaled those of Iraq under Hussein or Taiwan under Chiang Kai Shek. That does not make the knock on the door right, it just makes it a fact of life that people take into account.
As far as the democratic process and public choice goes, I have had far too many they both (Bush and Kerry) really, really, really suck conversations lately to argue with Pat Lynch on this point. And one last item in this response, I am not trying to excuse the hideous behavior of Hussein while he held power. I am merely very tired of the Johnny come lately holier than thou attitude of those who supported and encouraged Saddam while he was doing most of the ghastly deeds that they are now so exercised about. Remember many of the son’s advisors/spokesmen were also advisors/spokesmen in the father’s administration and I have this to say to the first George Bush, Dr. Frankenstein he is your monster. The refusal of those in government to acknowledge their part in what took place in Iraq and what is taking place now is but one more example of the avoidance of responsibility in our society.
Aeon J. Skoble
Aeon J. Skoble
Ah, the “different form of writing” line. Holy Ebonics Debate, Batman! But note the false dichotomy there – content not grammar. If the grammar is bad, the content is obscured. Good writing needs to be good in more than one sense. As George Orwell noted long ago, sloppy writing breeds sloppy thinking, and vice versa.
But that’s not an objection to any particular medium in which the writing takes place. I’m sure one can also use classblogs to encourage and develop more careful writing and thinking. Bottom line:"If it gets kids excited about learning," [Assistant Principal] Mrs. Contner said,"we might as well try it."
Aeon J. Skoble