The Freeman's Burden:

To defend the principles of human liberty; to educate; to be vigilant against the ever expanding power of the state.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Opposition to Canadian beef is about money, not public health

This week President Bush authorized the return of Canadian beef to the U.S. market after banning it a year and a half ago after a Canadian cow was diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly known as Mad Cow disease. The FDA had investigated and concluded that Canadian beef is just as safe as American beef and cleared the way for the return of Canadian cows that were born after a nationwide ban on feeding ruminants (meat and bone) began in 1997. Despite the safeguards, the American beef industry is having kittens over the Bush administrations decision. Why? Not because they believe that Canadian beef is dangerous and poses a public health risk, but rather because for the last year and a half, American beef producers have enjoyed a near total monopoly of the U.S. beef market. This has allowed them to significantly enrich themselves at the expense of competition and the consumer. So as this debate continues going forward, please keep in mind that the risk to public health from BSE is negligible, this is really a debate about economics. To learn more about Mad Cow disease click here. For the FDA BSE page click here.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Hating Bush is no excuse for being misinformed

Below is a brief excerpt from a December 29 posting by Canadian rock star and compassion fascist Matthew Good. I have mixed feelings about Good because he is my favorite musician, but his ideoligy is a loathsome mix of anti-American and anti-capitalist bomb throwing.
"As of this moment, Bush's January inauguration will cost more than the aid being sent by the United States. Unlike 9/11, this disaster could not be avoided. No reckless policy decisions or covert
undertakings helped fuel the impetus for Sunday's disaster. I can only hope that this is not an indication of how we prize life, that some are worth more than others depending on geography." -
Matthew Good
Good goes on to attack the U.S. for our level of giving and President Bush's decision to wait four days before making a public statement about the disaster. What he fails to point out is that the Bush inauguration is privately funded. He also ignores the fact that Bush was out well ahead of U.N. secretary-General Kofi Annan in addressing the issue. He also appears to be ignorant about America's compassion, both public and private. In 2003, the U.S. government accounted for 40% of all international disaster relief. Private donations from individual Americans and U.S. corporations accounted for almost 50% of all charitable giving worldwide. In this current disaster, all public donations now total almost 500 million dollars, but private giving is double that figure. The vast majority of those private guessed it, Americans. In fact, Americans historically give a higher percentage of their income to charity than any other country in the world. So when high-minded socialist want to use human suffering to score political points against Us, remember who is first to answer the call of those that suffer. Good also seems to ignore another important point about charitable giving and that is that a far greater percentage of private donations reach those in need than public money because there is less corruption and inefficiencies in the private sector. So rather than slamming Bush because he wasn't the first to the sink hole to pour money into, he should do what he has, in fairness, done; encourage his 3 million readers a month to donate directly to the NGO's most equipped and prepared to service the victims rather than taking cheap shots because he doesn't like President Bush or the 60 million Americans that put him back in office.

Debt relief is a cause celeb, but not a panacea

It seems that you can't turn on a T.V. or read a magazine these days without seeing a celebrity extolling the virtues of Third World debt relief. Germany and Canada have called for debt relief for nations effected by the Tsunamis and the U.S. recently pressed nations to forgive billions of dollars of debt owed by Iraq. Rockers Bono and Matthew Good have even made it their personal crusade. But does debt relief really improve the nations that are forgiven or is this little more than a liberal feel-good give-away that does nothing to address the systemic problems that led to massive borrowing and default in the first place? It is certainly true that the servicing of foreign debt represents a huge percent of some of the poorest nations GDPs, but it is also true that forgiveness of that debt would simply encourage further irresponsible borrowing by these usually corrupt, inefficient and undemocratic governments. Compounding the problem is the simple fact that no one wants to loan money to nations that cannot pay their debts. Which means lower credit ratings and higher interest rates when these nations again need to borrow in order to sustain themselves. The real solution then is not tolerating poor fiscal management by allowing debtor nations to slide on their responsibilities to those who have, in good faith, loaned them money. Rather it requires taking a stick and carrot approach that grants lower interest rates and refinancing plans to nations that implement market and fiscal policy reforms while turning a deaf ear to those nations that refuse to take responsibility for their own fiscal house. It is not as sexy as whining about greedy rich countries in Rolling Stone and it isn't as dramatic as an across-the-board debt forgiveness package, but it is far more likely to create sustainable growth and a road out of poverty for nations that desperately need both.
The desire of the masses to live free is again beginning to ripple across China; just as the economic liberalizers in the West promised it would when the effort began to pry open their markets more than ten years ago. Read more here. Far to many people on the left and right fail to recognize that civil liberties and economic freedom are inextricably linked and whenever there is one, the other will come rushing in like a flood because the longing for self-determination is not qualified by the nature of the freedom, but rather by freedom itself.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Foreign aid v. Emergency relief

It is highly instructive to note that the world's free nations swung quickly into action to aid the victims of the Boxer Day Tsunamis. The U.S., France, Australia, Germany and Canada quickly announced allocations of cash and had experts and workers on planes within hours of this biblical tragedy. NGO's such as Care, Red Cross and World Concern were on the ground offering medical services, needed goods and transportation before the scale of this disaster were fully known. Private donations totaling millions of dollars began flowing to aid agencies and the region in the click of a mouse. And what is the U.N.'s reaction? U.N. emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland called the response "stingy" and suggested that we should raise taxes so more money would be available to governments when disasters struck. This is indicative of the mentality of the U.N. They seem to believe that all good things come from government and that the riches of nations belong not to its citizen's but to the world and that the U.N. is supremely capable of redistributing it as it sees fit. Last year, 40% of emergency aid was provided by the United States. That is hardly stingy and it doesn't even factor in the millions given by private donation and distributed by NGO's. This is very different then the billions that the U.S. has given in direct transfers to governments all over the world, but that aid exposes the flaw in the thinking of the U.N. P.J. O'Rourke rightly pointed out that giving foreign aid to disfunctional, undemocratic and corrupt nations is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenagers. Every year the U.S. gives Egypt 2 billion dollars in direct transfers as part of the bribe that led to the Sinai Accords that ended hostilities between Egypt and Israel. After 25 years, Egypt remains desperately poor, deeply corrupt and completely undemocratic. Our dollars keep their dictator in power and their citizens hatred of us burning. Every country that you look at; from Tanzania to Jordan, 40 years of direct transfers to governments has allowed then to avoid modernization, land reforms and political reforms. If welfare was so destructive to families that in the 1990's we virtually ended it, why does our government consider welfare for the most disfunctional nations any more rational? America should always lead in times of crisis; demonstrating our compassion and our humanity. But it is no less compassionate to insist that nations must reform and acknowledge the rights of their people and to earmark our aid to specific ends with specific conditions.
*********************************************************** has put together an excellent Tsunami information site that includes donation links, latest reports, videos and more

Monday, December 27, 2004

Iraqi elections unlikely to lead to satisfactory result

The Iraqi national assembly elections are now only four weeks away. The Sunni's largest party have just pulled out. The conditions on the ground are so bad that campaigning is impossible and even if the elections go off without widespread violence, (a big stretch by any measure) it is likely the government that will result will look less like Jefferson and more like Khomeni; and will lack legitimacy besides. So we have to ask the question, what was the point? Tens of thousand of people are dead, Iraq is wrecked and the U.S. is now viewed as a unilateralist bully. If the sole purpose of this adventure was to remove Saddam Hussein then we could have left 1300 dead American soldiers ago declaring victory. I can't imagine that the Iraqis, left to their own devices, could have possibly screwed things up as badly as we have. In all likelihood, if Iraq had not had its army dismissed and instead had a government made up of Iraqis, the insurgency ball might never have gotten rolling. So now we pin our hopes to a Shiite cleric and his promise that a Shiite-dominated government wouldn't be autocratic and religious. Our exit strategy, never very well defined, now seems to be that we'll leave when we can. Good plan guys! The chance of a decent outcome now seems highly unlikely. This means that our soldiers, our money and our reputation in the international community have all gone for naught. As for the Iraqis, they have been and will continue to be the worst victims of this foolish, poorly planned and incompetently executed operation. The bottom line -- George Washington remains as sagely today as he was when he warned against foreign entanglements. Our priorities today are so backwards that we waste billions of dollars and thousands of lives fighting a war of our own making half way around the world, but can't fathom the concept of securing our own borders. We have a military to protect the country, but instead they are protecting Germany from Russia and Korea from itself. As for protecting America? No tanks, no soldiers; we create a massive federal bureaucracy full of technocrats to look over our shoulder as we check out library books as thousands of foreigners pour across our borders unchecked. What was it that Jim Traficante used to say on the floor of the House, "Scotty, beam me up!"

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Pray for the dead, but help the living

Yesterday's massive earthquake and tsunami has devastated portions of South Asia. Making this story even more heartbreaking is the plight of the poorest people in Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, The Maldives, Thailand, Bangladesh and Indonesia. The massive tidal wave hit the beaches at 8 AM at more than 300 mph and measured as much as 30 feet high. Many tourists were still in there hotels, but fishermen, poorest of the poor, were already on the water. These men ply the waters of the Indian Ocean to squeak out a subsidence living for their families who often live further inland. This storm has taken thousands of breadwinners from their wives and their children who must now try to build back their lives without husbands, fathers, or even the tiny boats on which they depended. U.S. Dollars and Euros go a very long way in these impoverished regions and I am asking you to please help. The tablets needed to make one gallon of water drinkable cost 19 cents. Even if it is only 5 or 10 or 20, to turn our backs on these people would be to turn our backs on our shared humanity. - F2S

International Committee of the Red Cross

Donate Now


There have been a number of devastating earthquakes in the last 100 years. Here is a list of the most notable earthquakes of the 20th Century (CBC News In Depth):

April 18, 1906......San Francisco..........8.3........................503
Aug. 16, 1906.......Chile.........................8.6....................20,000
Dec. 16, 1920.......China........................8.6...................100,000
Sept. 1, 1920........Japan........................8.3..................100,000
May 22, 1927.......China........................8.3...................200,000
March 2, 1933......Japan........................8.9......................2,990
Jan. 15, 1934........India........................8.4.....................10,700
Jan. 24, 1939........Chile........................8.3.....................28,000
May 21-30, 1960..Chile........................9.5......................5,000
April 10, 1972........Iran.........................7.1.......................5,350
July 28, 1976.........China..................7.8 to 8.2...............242,000
Sept. 16, 1978........Iran....................7.5 to 7.9.................15,000
Sept. 19, 1985.......Mexico.....................8.1.......................9,500
June 21, 1990.......Iran..........................7.7.......................35,000


Posted by Hello

"Now we are free!"

With exit polls and early returns showing pro-western former central banker & PM Viktor Yushchenko ahead of his Russia-supported opponent by more then 20%, he has declared victory in Ukraine's protracted presidential race.

Vladimir Putin, in a striking reversal, claims now that he can and will work with Yuschenko (once he wipes the egg off his face.)

Saturday, December 25, 2004

APF reports that Russian state oil company was behind purchase of Yukos

I hate it when my cynicism proves well founded. Agency Presse-France is reporting that Russia's state oil company Rosnefts has purchased the never-never holding company that swooped in last week to purchase the largest part of Yukos, the privately owned oil giant that Vladimir Putin has been waging a private war against since its founder began challenging the power of the Russian state. This move completes the governments take-over of the once mighty oil company. It also reveals the degree to which the rule of law has become a punch line in Putin's Russia. Read the complete story here.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Municipal elections raise hope for Palestinian democracy

It has been almost completely unreported in the West, but yesterday municipal elections were held in the West Bank. Turn-out is reported to be as high as 90%. This is the first time that Hamas has participated as a political party and exit polls show that they finished strong behind Fatah. Granted, most Westerners cringe when we here Hamas and Fatah are the top parties in Palestine, but you have to start somewhere. Female candidates were also well represented in the vote where 16% of city council seats were reserved for women. Read more here.

Honduran death penalty opponents murder 28

I couldn't make this up. Read the full article here.

Happy Holy-days!!!

I have been asked how it is that, as an agnostic, I am so sympathetic to Christianity and its traditions. I suppose because I was raised in a Christian home and I believe that America is a decent, hopeful and Christian society. I have read our founding documents and I don't try to pretend that those great men of faith weren't influenced and guided by that faith. I love that America is the only country in the world founded on the idea that our rights don't come from man, but instead come from the creator and, therefore, no man can take them away. It doesn't mean that I am not free to practice no religion; to the contrary, it frees me to enjoy whatever beliefs I choose. As for Christmas, it is more than a religious observance. The Christmas story is a story of hope, forgiveness and redemption. Who could possibly be opposed to that. The holiday is a time to come together, reconnect with friends and family and share the blessings of freedom and liberty. I can think of nothing I would rather celebrate. I hope your holiday season is filled with love, laughter, family and joy.


Brother Tom Friedman is preachin' the gospel truth about Iraq. Read about the struggle between good and evil in his Decmber 23rd article, "Insurgents in Iraq are the face of pure evil"


"Privacy Advocates Refuse to Release New Report"

On the eigth day God created The Onion

Thursday, December 23, 2004

An end of year message to the Democratic party

It's been a tough year for you guys, I know, I sympathize. Try being a Libertarian for a day. None the less, you have a responsibility to this country to be the "loyal opposition." America has changed. The populace is more conservative, more religious and more patriotic than it was four years ago and certainly more than it was in the Clinton years. I want a strong opposition party in this country because, as Lord Acron rightly said, "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." If you guys run in a way that gives the impression that you are the pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, anti-military, anti-religion obstructionist party then you will continue to lose election after election. The Republicans will dominate and ram through every awful idea that unchecked power can produce. I hate to criticize, but what you are doing isn't working. It is not a question of left or center, it is a question of being with or against where most of the American people are. I am not asking you to compromise your values, but rather to frame those values in a way that Americans can subscribe to. Good luck Dems.

Freedom House brands Russia "Not Free"

U.S.-based human rights organization Freedom House says that, for the first time since 1991, Russia has slipped from a rating of "partly free" to "not free". In spite of this, the Bush administration continues to give Putin political cover as he re-establishes a totalitarian state. Read the article here. On the bright side, the same annual study found that freedom is expanding around the world. According to its director, former CIA director James Wolsey, almost half the nations in the world are now democratic. This is more than double the number recorded in 1972, however there is still much to be done. Read the complete report here.
A note on political discourse and posting on this site. I am a fervent advocate of free speech and honest, respectable debate and I abhor censorship. That said, I found a couple of recent posts to this site rather troubling. A non-Christian posted advocating violence against Christians and using inappropriate language in the effort. A Christian then responded passing moral judgment on his soul. This entire exchange is disturbing and, frankly, deeply stupid. Both posters pandered to the worst impressions that people have about their opponents on this issue and revealed themselves to be anti-intellectual reactionaries. I strive to foster dialog, not diatribes. If you are not interested in revealing the quality of you character by engaging in a brisk, yet respectful expression of your views, there are plenty of web sites where closed-minded demagogues gather to parrot hate speech. This is not one of them. I don't care what ideology or position you advocate so long as you do it with integrity, respect and dignity for both yourself and my readers. That said, I have decided not to remove the offending posts because I do believe in free expression and the right of people to access and reject for themselves that sort of hateful and ignorant content. - F2S

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Washington State Dems recounted until they got result they wanted

As of late Wednesday afternoon, it appears that the Democrat efforts to "count all the ballots" until they counted enough to win, has paid off. Bloomberg reported last night that the Dems had managed to squeak out an 8 vote win when King County (Seattle area) reports their recount results today. Furthermore, the heavily Democratic Washington Supreme Court has, just today, overturned a lower court ruling that over 700 new ballots discovered after the second recount began should be included in that count. So, it seems, the Democrats have perfected the strategy that they began to employ in Florida in 2000. If the race is close, keep counting until they win. In this case, Republican Dino Rossi had already won the original vote count and a machine recount. The Democrats themselves paid for a second recount in order to change the results of an election where there were no claims of fraud or irregularities, just the wrong result. Needless to say, the Republicans and Libertarians are NOT happy. I would expect many more court fights and a possible re-vote before the state seats a new governor.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Russian Gov't auctions Yukos to itself

Now that may sound cynical, but one has to wonder how a company that no one has ever heard of was able to swoop in and buy up 11% of the Russian oil market without some cozy connections to Putin and his thug regime. Yukos made 17 offers to the Russian government in its attempt to prevent the seizure and sell-off of the company. But anyone who has followed this story knows that this was never about a tax bill and all about Putin's consolidation of power. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Yukos's billionaire owner, was a vocal opponent of the Kremlin before Putin had him arrested and jailed on a variety of inventive allegations. This, combined with Putin's take-over of the little bit of independent media that existed in Russia, his involvement in the fixed elections in Ukraine and Belarus and his new powers (granted by the Duma, which by fraud and ruthlessness he now completely controls) to appoint governors, tap phones and prevent reporters from entering Chechnya, would seem to indicate that when President Bush looked into his eyes and saw a democrat, the President was probably suffering from the effects of poisonous soup. The real tragedy of the whole situation is that if the U.S. hadn't bent over backwards endorsing this former K.G.B. officer and now almost total dictator, he likely would never have felt emboldened to move as ruthlessly and as brazenly as he has. But Bush gave him the cover he needs to claim that all his actions are justified by, you guessed it, the "War on Terror." No matter what the Polyannas may want to believe, Russia remains our most dangerous enemy and the most dangerous enemy of freedom in the world. Osama has fanatics with no love of life, Russia has 3000 nuclear missiles that can be pointed at us in minutes and they have a problem. It's what is known in international relations circles as a security dilemma. Russia has, historically, been invaded...a lot. It has usually come from the west and it has wrecked the country...a lot. Now the Soviet Union is gone and the country is far less powerful than it once was. This makes them feel insecure. Nato and the E.U. are expanding east. This makes them feel insecure. George Bush is running around invading countries he thinks he needs to in order to insure American security. THIS makes them feel insecure. So Putin has determined that stability and strength are far more important than democracy. He meddles in Belarus and Ukraine because he wants a buffer between Russia and Europe. He poisoned a reformer because the reformer was talking about E.U. membership and "Westernization." Russia's national pride is bruised and they don't want to give up any more than they already have. This is logical. It is also dangerous. I would very much like to see the U.S. take a tougher line with Putin and stop allowing him to justify every anti-democratic and power-grabbing move he makes with the claim that it is necessary to fight terror. It doesn't hold water here, yea alright it does, but Bush isn't locking up his political enemies and taking over CNN and Texaco.
Now that it seems that the unchecked killing of ethnic Africans in Sudan might be abating; or not, it's kinda day to day, we must ask ourselves, "Where will the next genocide come from?" The Onion has found the answer.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Freeman's Burden's Person of the Year

However you may feel about him or who you believe him to have been, you have to admit that Jesus has had a good year. From the Passion of the Christ to the Bush re-election, Jesus has been front and center in American culture. As we approach the Christmas holiday, Jesus is flexing his muscles; or at least his many followers are. They have the forces of secularism in retreat. From nativity scenes to candy canes with Christian messages, the faithful have started to fight back against those who would have Jesus relegated to the home and the church and have proven they are a force to be reckoned with. America has undergone a cultural shift since 9.11 and Jesus Christ is back in vogue in a way he hasn't been in many years. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on your point of view. Even before 9.11, America had the highest rates of church attendance and personal conviction that Jesus is God made flesh of any country in the Western world. How will this affect our culture, our politics and our foreign policy? The verdict is still out. But for now, congratulations Jesus Christ, you are my Person of the Year!

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Final 2004 Presidential Vote Count

President of the United States
George W. Bush (R) 60,693,281 51%
John F. Kerry (D) 57,355,978 48%
Ralph Nader (I) 407,992 0%
Michael Badnarik (Lib.) 390,542 0%
Michael A. Peroutka (CST) 135,681 0%
David Cobb (Green) 113,318 0%
Leonard Peltier (PFP) 25,101 0%
Walter F. Brown (I) 10,285 0%
James Harris (SWP) 6,984 0%
Roger Calero (SWP) 3,944 0%
None of These Candidates (Una.) 3,646 0%
Thomas J. Harens (OTH) 2,388 0%
Bill Van Auken (I) 2,227 0%
Gene Amondson (Lib.) 1,928 0%
John Parker (LU) 1,577 0%
Charles Jay (PCH) 880 0%
Stanford "Andy" E. Andress (Una.) 763 0%
Earl F. Dodge (Phb.) 137 0%

For state-by-state vote counts check out The Washington Post's Elections At A Glance I think I speak for all America in encouraging Earl Dodge and the Prohibition Party to keep plugging away. We need you now more than ever!
How big does the government have to get before it becomes oppressive? Cato senior editor Gene Healy looks at some recent cases of a Fed run amok. Read the short, but powerful article here.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Air Force, Boeing procurement scandal continues to grow

Sen. John McCain is now calling for hearings into the apparent favorable treatment given to Boeing in contract awards for the Air Force in exchange for jobs and favors. Sen. John Warner called the management at the Air Force, "woefully inadequate," in a letter to Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfield. Read more here.

Stadium deal rejected, victory for D.C. tax-payers

The not-usually-so-responsible Washington D.C. city council voted to kill a stadium deal that would have forced the district to pay almost $600 million dollars to bring baseball back to the city. The Libertarian Party moved quickly to congratulate the city council for rejecting this tax-payer fleecing sports-welfare package. Read the story here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

FCC declines opportunity to regulate satellite radio

The FCC, responding to a complaint filed by a broadcast radio provider, declined to open hearings about indecency on satellite radio today citing precedence in staying away from services that do not indiscriminately broadcast to children. I would have preferred the FCC decline the complaint on first amendment grounds, but a win is a win. Read the story here.
Apparently the Metal of Freedom now represents tactical ineptitude, strategic stupidity and political blundering. President Bush sullied the honor by presenting it to the man who assured him the Iraqis had WMD, the man who disbanded the Iraqi military and the man who sat by while the country was looted and the insurgency organized that has now killed more than 1300 U.S. soldiers and countless Iraqi civilians. I am sickened by this arrogant, self-servicing dog and pony show by the President. We should be humble in the face of our failures and our continuing desire to arrive at an acceptable result. Instead, we get this continued white-washing of the Iraq conflict designed to convince the American people that we are on the side of the angels and that the administration has the situation well in hand and has not made mistakes. What planet is this President living on? Read more about this national embarrassment here.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The 527 that won't go away or The gift that keeps on giving have sent a letter to the DNC declaring "Now it's our party: we bought it, we own it and we're going to take it back." Over at the Democrat Leadership Council the moderates are mixing the Jonestown cool-aid. Read the article here.
Jacques Chirac recently gave what was described as a major address about his vision for a multi-polar world while maintaining good relations with the U.S. No one paid any attention, but hey -- it's silly and naive and serves to remind us why the French led by Chirac shouldn't be taken very seriously. Read the article here.

A reminder to the Bush administration

"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity...those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path." - Ronald Reagan
The International Herald Tribune is reporting that the French offered to help train Iraqis more than a year ago, but the U.S. never responded. Kinda makes you wonder if the Bushies wouldn't prefer that the French be a punching bag rather than an ally. They sure warmed up quickly to other anti-war countries such as Germany, Mexico and Chile after Saddam fell. On the other hand, they may have intelligence about the relationship between the Chirac administration and Iraq that puts the French in a special category. Like maybe oil-for-food or arms sales?
The hand recount for the Washington State Governor's mansion continues. Follow the counting and root for your favorite lousy candidate here. As of this posting, Republican empty suit Dino Rossi has expanded the 42 vote lead he enjoyed over Democrat nitwit Christine Gregoire at the end of the machine recount by an additional 28 votes out of 2.7 million ballots cast. For me, the real story is Ruth Bennett. The Libertarian candidate and out lesbian appealed to traditional Democratic voters, drawing from Gregoire's support. Rossi had better keep that in mind if he comes out ahead and give the Libertarian Party a seat at the table in his administration.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

You take the good, you take the bad

On the heals of my last post, two important things have happened. First and foremost, Marwan Barghouti has withdrawn from the race for the presidency of the Palestinians and has endorsed the front runner, former Prime Minister Abu Mazan. Granted, he advised leaving open the option of armed resistance, but it is a positive sign nonetheless. On the downside, rumors continue to fly about the death of Yassar Arafat. Many in the territories believe he was murdered despite French insistence that they simply bored him to death. Just kidding. On the down side, the relative calm of the past month was shattered today by a complex and coordinated attack by Hamas on an Israeli checkpoint. A statement by Hamas said that it was a response to Arafat's alleged murder, but this doesn't jive with the facts. A tunnel was dug beneath the checkpoint and then filled with explosives. When the explosives were detonated, gunmen opened fire. Officials believe the operation took about four months to plan and execute -- well before Arafat's death.
Canada has seen a huge jump in its air traffic as the U.S. continues to become more insulated and draconian in it's security measures. I had to show my passport eight times, go through four metal detectors and be subjected to three baggage searches upon returning from France last month. Do we really want to live in a fish bowl?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The end of the intifada

I hate being optimistic, it only leads to bitter disappointment later. But I am going to go out on a limb. Yassar Arafat's death has also led to the end of the second intifada. I know my pro-Palestinian friends are going to cringe, but it appears that without Arafat pulling the strings and instructing his terror network, the violence movement has petered out and there is real hope for a settlement. Since his death, there has been neither a rocket attack, nor a suicide bombing in Israel. Things have settled down so much that the Israeli army has begun documenting incidences of stone throwing for the first time in two years. The Palestinians sense the change as well.
"Hassan Yousef, a top West Bank Hamas leader, said the group "accepts a Palestinian independent state within the 1967 borders with a long-term truce."- Jerusalem Post"
A recent poll in the Palestinian territories shows that:
"A majority of 51.8 percent of the Palestinians polled said that they were opposed to "military operations" against Israeli targets and consider them harmful to Palestinian national interests, compared with 26.9% last June. Only 41.1% of the Palestinians believe that terrorist attacks should continue compared with 65.4% last June." - Jerusalem Post
This is dramatic and historic. However there remain many roadblocks and pitfalls left to be traversed. While Sharon's Gaza pull-out plan has been approved by his party and labor will soon be joining his Lakud government, the chance of backlash from the settler community derailing the pull-out and hence the road map remains a distinct possibility. The relative weakness of Abu Mazen and the desire of Syria to hold on to the Palestinian cause for political reason can also undermine the peace. Marwan Barghouti's effort to run for the Palestinian presidency from a prison cell (and polling in a close second) is also worrying. Barghouti represents the old, Arafat-era politics of symbols over substance. If the Palestinians truly want a state instead of a cause, he must be convincingly defeated. What should the U.S. do? Get out of the way mostly. Giving aid to the P.A. sends a positive message, but the messenger is suspect. If the Palestinian leadership is seen as becoming cozy with the United States, their credibility will be ruined and chaos will return. Be firm, but not paternalistic, with the Israelis. America has sacrificed much to support Israel and now it is time for them to return that loyalty with bold action. We must be prepared to tell them that we will not support them if they refuse to negotiate away the barrier fence, we will not support them if they refuse to accept the '67 borders and we will not support them if a complete disengagement from all Palestinian territories is not on the table. To the Palestinians we must say, Israel cannot exist with a Jewish minority. There is no right of return and you must not stymie the peace process over this unobtainable goal. There is no acceptable level of violence, as long as Israel is threatened, the Palestinian people are sending the message that they are not ready to be a responsible state and are not ready to join the family of nations. This is an important moment in the "war on terror" as well. There is no more polarizing issue in the Muslim world today than the Israel-Palastinian conflict. Ending it will disengage the United States from it's most compromising international public relations issue. It will slow fund-raising to terror groups and take a propaganda tool away from our most strident adversaries, be they state or non-state actors. The importance of the issue to Mid-East leaders was clear this week a the "Forum for the Future":
RABAT (AFP) Arab nations rebuffed US calls for speedy democratic reforms, insisting that steps the United States deems essential to stem terrorism be tied to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.While agreeing that political, social and economic liberalization is desirable, senior Arab diplomats disagreed with outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell's argument that reforms could not be delayed for any reason.Speaker after speaker at the "Forum for the Future" conference here said progress would be difficult, if not impossible, without a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and lambasted the perceived US bias toward Israel.In the final chairman's statement, meeting participants said "their support for reform in the region will go hand-in-hand with their support for a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict."
A Middle East peace would be a victory to the United States, but not for the United States, far more important than Iraq or Afghanistan. When talking to other Americans, I often get the sense that they don't comprehend just how much credibility with the rest of the world that the US has sacrificed in order to support Israel or how important this issue is to people in Europe and the Middle East. Much that has been lost could be regained if Abu Mazen and Ariel Sharon could sit down at a table and make the deal, but it will require the statesmanship and integrity that Arafat could never muster.
The new intelligence bill passed by congress is a disaster, but don't take my word for it. Read Tom Friedman's dead-on analysis of this legislative train wreck here.
I am required by outrage and fear to remind everyone how dangerous the Patriot Act and the growing American police state are to freedom and liberty. The Republicans have painted this argument as just rhetorical grandstanding by the Democrats, but anyone who believes in the Constitution and the sovereignty of the individual must scream from the rooftops, "NOT IN MY COUNTRY!!!" You can start by reading Timothy Lynch's article "More Surveillance Equals Less Liberty"

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Fox judge speaks out on civil liberties and the constitution

Writing for the Cato institute, Judge Andrew Napolitano examines the conduct of law enforcement and government in post-9/11 America; touching on the dangers of "enemy combatant" status and sovereign immunity. Read the article here.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Drugs and federalism

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Ashcroft v Raich. The government is attempting to overturn the ruling of the Ninth Circuit that, in a nutshell, said that the feds cannot use the Commerce Clause to prohibit the possession of marijuana for medical purposes as authorized under California law. It is a classic struggle between statists who choose to believe that the Tenth Amendment does not exist and libertarians seeking precedence that can be used as a weapon to prevent federal interference in other issues over which the States have constitutional purview. The Weekly Standard's Terry Eastland frames the issues brilliantly. Read his article here.
Last month I passed through French immigration as I entered DeGuille Airport. This consisted of holding up my passport as I walked passed a lone, bored border agent and dropping a declaration form in a pile. He never glanced up. Last week French terrorism police hid explosives in a piece of baggage and then lost it! Ninety planes had to be searched as they reached their destination. The explosives were never found. Agency representatives have ask the recipient to please return the police their explosives. Thanks.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Dino Rossi's new best friend

Defying all odds, it now appears likely that Republican Dino Rossi will win the Washington State Governor's mansion. The primary reasons for this huge upset will be debated for years, but the weak campaign by Democrat Christine Gregoire as well as her history of beaurocratic ineptitude will certainly be part of it. Just as important has been the strong showing of Libertarian Ruth Bennett, especially in the gay community of Seattle's King County. Read more here.