Monthly Archives: March 2013

GOP’s Neoconservative Problem

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Chicago, March 28, 2013 - One week after the ten-year anniversary of the Iraq War and twelve years into Afghanistan, neoconservatism yet remains the dominant foreign policy influence within the GOP.  With its embrace of big government and unlimited spending on interventionism, neoconservatism has to a substantial degree, taken the GOP away from the Republican Party’s roots in conservatism and back towards its own Trotskyite utopianism. It remains to be seen whether there is anything other than the public’s aversion to more foreign policy quagmires, budget busting debt, or defeat in national elections that will make the GOP self-correct its foreign policy.

Neoconservatism is a loosely defined ideology, which in its most consistently expressed terms as it relates to foreign policy holds that democracy should be spread to all parts of the world and that doing so will result in peace. It advocates global military intervention and unilateralism over diplomacy and statecraft. The theory being that western democratic and capitalist states are peaceable. This works when you think of Canada or Australia, but from a longer historical perspective, this belief is unsupported by any depth of historical evidence. Historical proof is not necessary however as the enthusiasm for ideologies are rooted in faith - in the case of Neoconservatism, it is a belief that commitment to world-wide revolutionary change that will bring peace, can only be achieved by the spreading of that democracy to all nations even if by global intervention. This is precisely what the Communists tried to achieve in spreading Communism across the globe until they were fiscally exhausted and ideologically isolated. They shared the same belief in a revolutionary ideology.

 

Crony Capitalism: How the Sausage Is Made

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It is surprisingly hard for many people to understand that government regulation is often more of a boon to big business than it is a burden to them, but the current debate on minimum wage serves as a simple illustration.

When I saw a recent headline: Costco CEO: Raise The Minimum Wage To More Than $10 Per Hour, my first thought was, “How does this guy benefit from a higher minimum wage?”, and my second thought was, “Aha!” I cracked the code in an instant. Costco I thought, must pay more than $10 per hour already, while its competitors must pay less. That means Costco would not be affected at all by an increase in the minimum wage to $10, while any of its competitors that pay below $10 per hour could see their business models severely impaired. And so it is.

Costco’s minimum salary is $11.50 per hour while Wal-Mart pays new workers only $8. Costco is very light on service and very high on efficiency, with each customer spending much more per visit than Wal-Mart customers. A skillful, efficient workforce is integral to Costco’s business model. On the other hand, Wal-Mart has myriad employees, some of whom do nothing but greet customers, and with lower priced items and higher customer volume, each employee-customer interaction generates only modest revenue to the company.  Its larger but lower-cost sales force is the only way for Wal-Mart to keep volume up and prices low.

 

Black robed priests to rule on gay marriage

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TAMPA, March 26, 2013 – No satire could approach reality when it comes to the federal government. While its two “polar opposite” political parties continue their standoff over whether the federal budget should increase $2.5 trillion or $2.4 trillion over the next ten years, its supposedly apolitical arm will begin deliberating over who is allowed to get married.

After that, they will take up the question of which end of the egg Americans may break.

Only a full century of government mayhem could have led to this. The court will consider two laws that together make up such a tangled mess that it’s fitting that the body that found Obamacare to be “a tax” should be assigned to sort it out.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is the federal law that stipulates that no state is required to recognize a same sex marriage from another state. It also defines marriage as being between a man and a woman for all “federal purposes,” meaning any benefits normally paid to spouses in a federal retirement or entitlement program.

 

Rand Paul: The Last Two Presidents Could Have Been Put in Jail for Their Drug Use

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Rand Paul discussing the failed war on drugs. He is talking about the common sense solutions, not incarcerating non-violent drug users for decades. He points out that the last two presidents could have been put in jail just like someone serving 30 years for getting caught for possession of an illegal drug.

Artificial intelligence, Zombie cells and Libertarian philosophy

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There’s a big and strange story popping up on many news sites; MSN, CBS and Huffington Post. They are talking about dead cells being brought back to life by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories and University of New Mexico. The cells are coated with a silica then heated up to 400 degrees which somehow creates living cells out of lifeless cells – Zombie cells. At the moment it appears this is contained and we are safe from human flesh-eating monsters taking over the Earth.

However, the CDC recently wrote a story Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse  which is a spoof blog post based on the recent violent attacks by people who were eating other people alive, blamed on bath salts insanity. But does the CDC possibly have real reason to be concerned and is their blog post only half-joking?

 

What the GOP Offers the Libertarian Kids on the Lawn

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Chicago, March 21st 2013 - Senator John McCain’s characterization of Senator Rand Paul’s 13 hour filibuster, was as a stunt to get young “impressionable libertarian kids” riled up. Lindsay “when they say ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, “Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer’” Graham, concurred. However, many of Senator McCain’s fellow Republicans and conservative commentators from Mike Huckabee, George Will to Rush Limbaugh see the libertarian kids as necessary to the future of the GOP-from an actuarial basis this is tough to deny. But who needs who more?

If the liberty kids are the future of the GOP, then they will have to change it to make it consistent with a liberty minded platform because many parts of the GOP’s platform, in its current iteration, are not consistent with liberty. Repackaging a tired platform, as Sen. Paul suggested at CPAC, will not work—nor by the way will repackaging slightly warmed over old ideas merely by having them articulated by the closest available ethnic speaker. Tokenism does not make your tent bigger, it looks transparently so.

Ideas formed more by opposition to liberal ones than an internally consistent value system will be exposed as Sen. Paul suggested by a “’Facebook generation’ [that] can detect falseness and hypocrisy a mile away.” Many liberals love to label the GOP the Party of Stupid because they find it easy to mock an ideology that is heard expressing itself more often in terms of the hatred of ‘sluts’, the discussion of legitimate rape, naked Islamaphobia, birthers, vagina probes, and a distrust of higher education and science that smacks of crude, bumper-sticker ideology more than it resembles the higher aspirations of a kinder, gentler society-completely leave aside bringing a thousand points of light into the matter. And while CPAC speakers like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and Donald Trump are admirable people -you might be in trouble if they constitute your party’s intellectual brain center.

 

The Moral Hazard of Socialism

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When I first heard that the new pope took the name Francis in an effort to focus the Church on the poor, I thought it could go either way.  St. Francis gave up his wealth and lived in poverty, and Franciscan priests take a vow of poverty to this day. Dedicating oneself to the poor is noble, of course, but I have grown skeptical when the poor are invoked as a call to action. I have found that too often the poor are used as an excuse to expand the size and scope of government, while decade after decade we are told we must redouble our efforts in the War on Poverty.

My fear that the new pope might have a political or economic message rather than a purely moral one was heightened when I realized he was a Jesuit–some of that order are well known for promoting governmental redistribution of wealth, which to me is not charity but theft.

This very thought process, however, made me realize how cynical I had become. I have come to the point where I hurry past beggars and think ill of them, wondering, “Would you sell your vote for cigarettes?” Or being tempted to mutter, “I pay enough, buy your own beer.”

 

Why conservatives lost the gun control debate

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TAMPA, March 18, 2013 – Conservatives believe they’ve won the gun control debate because they expect any new restrictions on gun ownership to be relatively minor. That doesn’t really jibe with their position that gun ownership was already too restricted before the Sandy Hook shootings, but that is the way things go in America. Both sides declare victory, the government gets a little bigger and more intrusive, and the next debate starts from there.

The underlying problem is that neither conservatives nor liberals truly believe in inherent, inalienable rights. Americans think conservatives do, but that doesn’t jibe with any of their arguments on gun control (or anything else). Conservatives believe that rights come from the government or long tradition, not from nature.

No one who believes that the right to defend one’s own life is inherent and inalienable would rely so heavily on the existence of the 2nd Amendment. The right to keep and bear arms exists regardless of whether there ever was a 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It exists regardless of the American Revolution or the 800 or so years of British tradition that preceded it.

Thanks to Rand Paul, libertarian politics is more popular than ever

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Rand Paul won the presidential straw poll at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but he appears to have won the debate on drones by an even larger margin.

A poll of CPAC attendees found that 86% opposed the use of drones to “kill US citizens,” while 70% were against using them to “spy on U.S. citizens”. More strikingly, 50% of respondents at America’s largest gathering of conservative activists agreed with the following statement: “Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, it’s time for our European, Asian, and other allies to provide for their own defense.”

Only 34% agreed with this statement: “As the world’s only superpower, the US needs to bear the responsibility of protecting our allies in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world.” Another 17% didn’t know, weren’t sure or preferred not to say.

The wording of the questions certainly made conservatives more likely to give non-interventionist responses. One simple edit in the drone questions –changing “US citizens” to “terrorists” – might have elicited a somewhat different answer. Nevertheless, the momentum definitely appears to have shifted. Gone are the days of Americans supporting anything in the name of US security.

Read full article here

UN says Obama’s US drones violate Pakistan’s sovereignty – 400 confirmed civilian deaths

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ISLAMABAD (AP) — The head of a U.N.team investigating casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes — a position that has been disputed by U.S. officials.

President Barack Obama has stepped up covert CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border since he took office in 2009.

The strikes have caused growing controversy because of the secrecy surrounding them and claims that they have caused significant civilian casualties — allegations denied by the United States.

According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by U.S. drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator’s three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left.

Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson’s team, said Friday that the organization he runs, the Centre for Research and Security Studies, gave the U.N. investigator during his visit case studies on 25 strikes that allegedly killed around 200 civilians.

Read full article here

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