It’s to be expected that privacy will suffer a bear market after a terrorist attack or attempt. I’ve seen worse, of course, but was concerned this week to read a piece by Richard Epstein on the Hoover Institution web site that I think sounds needless anti-privacy notes. Professor Epstein is not only an important public intellectual, but a Cato adjunct scholar of which we’re proud, and a friendly professional colleague (to whose defense I’ll leap when he’s wronged).
The issue is what policies governments might adopt toward the end of terrorism prevention. Professor Epstein finds the statement of Massachusetts state senator Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) to be a bridge too far. Hedlund says:
It’s not surprising that you have law enforcement agencies rushing out to use [the Boston bombing and subsequent manhunt] as pretext to secure additional powers but I think we have to maintain perspective and realize that civil liberties and the protections we’re granted under the Constitution and our rights to privacy, to a degree, are nonnegotiable…
You don’t want to let a couple of young punks beat us and allow our civil liberties to be completely eroded. I don’t fall into the trap that, because of the hysteria, we need to kiss our civil liberties away.
Professor Epstein calls that “dead wrong,” saying, “the last thing needed in these difficult circumstances is a squeamishness about aggressive government action.” Given the importance of preventing terrorism, claims of right against increased surveillance and racial or other profiling should be “stoutly resisted,” he says.
I agree with Professor Epstein that flat claims about a “right to privacy” shouldn’t limit surveillance. “Concern” with racial or ethnic profiling is not a sound basis for desisting from the practice. But I don’t take Hedlund’s statement to be a product of squeamishness, and I think it is in the main correct.
Where I think Professor Epstein goes wrong insofar as he wants law enforcement to have its way is in setting aside “technical difficulties” and “means-ends” questions as peripheral. For me, the Fourth Amendment’s bar on unreasonable searches and seizures demands coordination between means and ends in light of the technological situation (both in terms of doing harm and discovering it). It is not a given that government action is reasonable, and no amount of priority given to a threat makes an incoherent response reasonable and constitutional.
An illustration ad absurdum may help: Say the United States is credibly threatened with the possibility that a North Korean agent has snuck a nuclear weapon into the country. In response, the government institutes a program of 100% crotch checks at street corners in major cities. There is essentially no relationship between checking crotches and finding a nuclear weapon (which at its smallest is something like the size of a steamer trunk) or evidence of its whereabouts. It is unreasonable, even given the huge threat, to look for a North Korean nuke where it can’t be found. Searching the crotches of innocents is unreasonable. Affecting the persons of individuals as it does, due to the Fourth Amendment, it is unconstitutional.
The issues in terrorism prevention and punishment are closer, obviously, but it is at least worth discussing whether greater surveillance–greater-than-Boston-Marathon surveillance–would deter terrorists or make them easier to apprehend. Many terrorists are not concerned with worldly justice, and we have in the recent example two brothers who walked right through one of Boston’s most watched and filmed events to deposit their bombs on the street. The possibility of apprehension seems not to have deterred them.
The question raised by the Boston bombing seems not to be whether there should be surveillance, but rather whether the government should supplant civil society’s image-collection–dozens of private actors collecting data for pleasure and (all of our) security–with its own, watchful government net.
One can imagine a network of government cameras so dense, with special surveillance drones scrambled for any large event, that every visage is captured a number of times. If the vagaries of light and angle can be overcome, perhaps the dragnet includes facial recognition software and target tracking that passably identifies the whereabouts of everyone at all times they are in public.
I think it takes not just millions, but billions of dollars to deploy this surveillance architecture everywhere a terrorist act might occur. And for all this spending and cost in obscurity lost to law-abiding people, apprehension of suspects might improve by a few hours.
Such a program fails cost-benefit analysis. It is bad policy on the merits—unreasonable, in a word. And to the extent it is a search of things protected by the Fourth Amendment (not a given, though I’ve been toying with privacy in public since August 2001), it is unconstitutional.
The latest attack makes no case for racial or ethnic profiling. It has added literal Caucasians to the list of ethnicities involved in U.S. terror attacks, according to public consciousness. What profile algorithm turns up two Kazakhs and an American as abettors after-the-fact? Of course, terrorists come in all hues, including some of the most pale.
Most recent terror attacks in the United States have come from people claiming Islam as their religion. This fact is as undeniable as it is unhelpful in discovering terrorists. Knowing the correlation narrows the search for (our current, most concerning) terrorists down to one-fifth of the world’s population.
Profiling based on ethnicity or religion is a rather obvious statistical error that wastes the time and resources of law enforcement while it invades the interests, and sometimes rights, of the law-abiding. Even without considering equal protection or the right to practice one’s religion, the unreasoned nature of racial or religious profiling makes it a candidate for unconstitutionality if it results in a constitutional search or seizure. Claims of religious motivation can complete the picture, of course, when they inform an otherwise well-founded investigation and prosecution.
The right to have means and ends matched up in at least a plausible way is a right under the Fourth Amendment when it affects Americans’ security from government in their persons, houses, papers, and effects. That’s just a different expression of the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. This right is nonnegotiable, I think, and it is not a product of timidity about addressing terrorism. The government should not act incoherently in reaction to threats against the public, and I don’t think Professor Epstein would want it to.
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Greens: Massive civil disobedience if Obama OKs Keystone pipeline
By Ben Wolfgang
The Washington Times
Monday, April 22, 2013
As the White House creeps toward a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, some environmental groups used Monday — the 43rd annual Earth Day — to warn President Obama again that approval of the massive project would carry very real consequences.
“You’ll see … the biggest spread of peaceful civil disobedience in modern American history,” Becky Bond, political director of the liberal activist group Credo, told reporters.
The organization has been among the loudest opponents of the proposed pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Alberta, Canada, south through the U.S. heartland to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Credo, which helped organized a San Francisco rally earlier this month as Mr. Obama visited the city for a fundraiser, says it already has 60,000 activists willing to get themselves arrested if necessary.
But for critics and supporters of the project, Monday was bigger than just Earth Day. It also was the last day the State Department would accept public comments on its environmental impact study of the pipeline.
The department’s draft version of the study, released March 1, offered a largely favorable review of the pipeline and concluded that the Canadian project wouldn’t result in notably higher greenhouse gas emissions. The review also found that Keystone would not increase American dependence on crude oil, as many critics had claimed.
The environmental community immediately panned the report and began to flood the State Department with comments; more than 800,000 reportedly have been received, though officials at State wouldn’t give a more specific number Monday.
All comments will be reviewed before the department offers its official recommendation on whether Keystone is in the “national interest,” an opinion expected in the late summer or early fall.
“I know that we’re doing this in a rigorous, transparent and efficient manner, but I don’t have a specific date” for the release of the final recommendation, Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesman at the State Department, told reporters Monday.
He also promised that the “full text of all comments” will be made available for public inspection “as expeditiously as possible.”
In addition to written comments, the department also has held Keystone town hall meetings, including a raucous forum in Omaha, Neb., last week. The state has become ground zero in the environmental fight to stop it, and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed off on the project only after its route was changed in order to avoid sensitive aquifer areas in the state.
While environmental groups in Nebraska and across the nation remain vocal in their opposition, the administration has received many favorable comments as well.
“Keystone is critical to our national security and energy independence,” said Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, in comments to the State Department. The trade association represents companies in the gasoline, diesel, home heating oil, chemical and other sectors.
Many other business and labor groups have echoed those sentiments, as has a growing bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, the White House also is coming under international pressure. Numerous officials from Canada have in recent months visited Washington and publicly called on Mr. Obama to green-light Keystone.
They’ve strongly hinted that, if Keystone isn’t built, Canada will seek to ship its vast energy reserves to China and other Asian nations.
Keystone supporters Monday were also touting a poll which found strong public support for the project on both sides of the border.
Some 70 percent of Americans and 60 percent of Canadians surveyed by the Canadian pollster Nik Nanos had a “positive or somewhat positive view” of the project, the firm said. Energy security outrated reducing greenhouse gases as a national priority among American respondents by a 2-to-1 margin, the pollster added.
On Monday, Canada’s environment minister, Peter Kent, joined with officials from Alberta to launch the “Joint Oil Sands Monitoring” project, an online clearinghouse with data on air and environmental quality, land use, and biodiversity, along with other information about what’s happening in the nation’s oil sands region.
“By openly reporting on our data and our progress, we are ensuring the rest of the world recognizes our commitment to responsible and sustainable resource development,” said Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:42 pm
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The federal government won’t say who they are, but in 2013 two people still get government payments for the U.S. Civil War, which ended nearly 150 years ago. No government official made that information public. It only emerged as the result of an investigation of federal payment records by the Associated Press, which also found that 10 people are still receiving federal government benefits for the Spanish-American War, which ended more than 100 years ago, at a cost of some $50,000 a year.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I, which the United States did not join until 1917, a year before the conflict ended. But AP sleuths found that federal government is still paying 2,289 people linked to that war, at a cost of some $20 million a year. World War I was the “war to end all wars,” but of course it didn’t.
In 1939, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, then allies under the Nazi-Soviet Pact, invaded Poland starting World War II. The United States joined the conflict in December 1941, after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. The war ended in 1945, nearly 70 years ago, but the AP found that the federal government is still paying out $5 billion a year for that conflict, and that the costs peaked in 1991.
The Korean War never officially ended but the shooting stopped more than 60 years ago. The federal government, the AP found, is still paying out some $2.8 billion per year related to that conflict. The Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago but the federal government is paying out some $22 billion annually for that conflict.
The AP found that wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf are costing $12 billion for those who left service or family members of those who died. Post-service costs exceed $50 billion since 2003 “and are poised to grow for many years to come,” according the AP.
Former senator Alan Simpson wants to “affluence test” recipients. Sen. Patty Murray says when we go to war we have to consider “the cost.” True, but continuing payments for wars that ended more than a century ago is another reminder that federal spending remains out of control.
View full post on MyGovCost | Government Cost Calculator
20,000 Swiss civil servants protest austerity
AFP – Some 20,000 teachers, police, hospital workers and other civil servants gathered in the Swiss capital Saturday to protest austerity measures and demand better working conditions and salary increases, unions said.
"The canton of Bern doesn’t have enough money and it is the civil servants who are paying the price," Michael Gerber, a spokesman for the regional teacher’s union LEBE that helped organise the demonstration, told AFP.
Gathered in Bern’s main square, the Bundesplatz, the demonstrators urged the cantonal government to "Stop the demolition".
The canton has, according to the ATS news agency, balanced its budget by binning automatic public sector salary increases and slashing some 55 million Swiss francs ($59 million, 45 million euros) in spending, especially in the school and health sectors.
"Salaries have basically been frozen, (and) working conditions are far from what they should be," Gerber lamented.
He pointed out that the canton six years ago scrapped a law that previously ensured regular salary increases for teachers, instead allowing lawmakers to decide each year whether there is enough money in the pot to up their pay.
The demonstration, which reportedly marked the biggest protest by Bern civil servants in more than a decade, should also be seen as "a message against the bad financial policies," Beatrice Stucki, a Socialist parliamentarian and head of the SSP civil servant union, told ATS.
Charging that the canton government was handing out tax breaks to the wealthy while cutting spending on education, security and healthcare, she demanded "resources for all" to avoid the creation of a "two-tier society."
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:17 pm
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Civil war leaves Syrian agriculture ‘in tatters’
The conflict in Syria has halved grains production, besides destroying many poultry farms and threatening livestock herds with starvation, the United Nations said.
Syria’s agriculture sector has been left "in tatters" by the civil war, now nearly two years old, between rebels and the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a mission to the country by the UN’s food agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, found.
The FAO delegates found that poultry production, a source of cheap animal protein "has been severely hit", with "many farms destroyed" in the conflict areas of Homs, Hama and Idleb.
The unrest has also prevented the movement of livestock to grazing areas, and animals’ "survival is compromised by the lack of animal feed", besides a shortage of veterinary drugs, the importation of which is hampered by sanctions.
In cereals, the FAO estimated Syria’s combined barley and wheat crop – the great majority of cereals production – last year at less than 2m tonnes.
UN FAO estimates for Syrian barley and wheat harvests
2012 – "less than 2m tonnes" combined
2011 – 800,000 tonnes: 3.25m tonnes
2010 – 900,000 tonnes: 3.60m tonnes
2006-10 average – 799,000 tonnes: 3.68m tonnes
"Only 45% of farmers were able to fully harvest their cereal crops," with one-in-seven growers unable to harvest at all "due to insecurity and lack of fuel".The lack of fuel, combined with damage to water channels, has also cut farmers’ ability to irrigate crops.
The estimate for the barley and wheat harvests compares with a December forecast by the FAO of more than 3m tonnes, and is less than half the 4.0m-4.5m tonnes of the cereals that Syrian farmers would reap in a normal year.
The US Department of Agriculture, whose grains estimates are particularly closely watched by investors, pegs last year’s wheat harvest at 3.7m tones, and barley production at 800,000 tonnes.
The latest FAO estimates imply a need for significant grain imports by Syria, which typically consumes some 4.5m tonnes of wheat a year, and 1.0m tonnes of barley.
However, while wheat and other foods are excluded from Western trade sanctions imposed on the country because of the government’s heavy-handed suppression of the uprising, curbs on banking transactions have acted to deter international traders from participating in Syrian tenders.
This has meant Syrian buyers purchasing grain through intermediaries, in Asia and the Middle East, often at higher prices than other imports pay.
Last month, Syria’s grains agency paid about $408 a tonne, including freight, for milling wheat, thought sourced from the Black Sea.
Egypt paid some $50 a tonne less, including shipping, the same day, albeit for US soft red winter wheat, potentially of a lower spec than the bread-making grain purchased by Syria.
Syria has also made purchases of 100,000 tonnes of wheat in November, and twice in October, plus a 50,000-tonne order in September.
It is also known to have imported at least 25,000 tonnes of French barley earlier this month.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Jan 23, 2013 10:40 pm
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Christian Gergils is the founder of the Freedom Front (Frihetsfronten), a free-market activist organization and think tank located in Stockholm, Sweden. The Freedom Front was founded in 1990 and became known for acts of civil disobedience in Sweden — setting up pirate radio stations and owning and operating an underground bar and club outside of state-mandated business hours.
In this speech given at the International Society for Individual Liberty’s World Conference in 1991, Gergils talks about the Freedom Front’s first year and the success of it’s projects, particularly among Swedish students.
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If Americans will trample one another just to save a few dollars on a television, what will they do when society breaks down and the survival of their families is at stake? Once in a while an event comes along that gives us a peek into what life could be like when the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted is stripped away. For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey there was rampant looting and within days people were digging around in supermarket dumpsters looking for food. Sadly, “Black Friday” also gives us a look at how crazed the American people can be when given the opportunity. This year was no exception. Once again we saw large crowds of frenzied shoppers push, shove, scratch, claw, bite and trample one another just to save a few bucks on cheap foreign-made goods. And of course most retailers seem to be encouraging this type of behavior. Most of them actually want people frothing at the mouth and willing to fight one another to buy their goods. But is this kind of “me first” mentality really something that we want to foster as a society? If people are willing to riot to save money on a cell phone, what would they be willing to do to feed their families? Are the Black Friday riots a very small preview of the civil unrest that is coming when society eventually breaks down?
Once upon a time, Thanksgiving was not really a commercial holiday. It was a time to get together with family and friends, eat turkey and express thanks for the blessings that we have been given.
But in recent years Black Friday has started to become even a bigger event than Thanksgiving itself.
Millions of Americans have become convinced that it is fun to wait in long lines outside retail stores in freezing cold weather in the middle of the night to spend money that they do not have on things that they do not need.
And of course very, very few “Black Friday deals” are actually made in America. So these frenzied shoppers are actually killing American jobs and destroying the U.S. economy as well.
The absurdity of Black Friday was summed up very well recently in a statement that has already been retweeted on Twitter more than 1,000 times…
It has gotten to the point where it is now expected that there will be mini-riots all over the country early on Black Friday morning each year. The following are a few examples of the craziness that we saw this year…
Fortunately, many Americans are starting to get fed up with Black Friday. In fact, one activist named Mark Dice actually went out and heckled Black Friday shoppers this year. I found the following You Tube video to be very funny, and I think most of you will too…
In the end, it is not that big of a deal that people want to fight with one another to save 50 dollars on a cell phone.
But this kind of extreme selfishness and desperation could become a massive problem someday if society breaks down and suddenly millions of extremely selfish and desperate people are scrambling for survival.
With each passing day our economy is getting even weaker, and the next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching. What are people going to do when the next spike in unemployment hits us and nobody can find work?
To get an idea of where things are headed, just look at Europe. In both Greece and Spain the unemployment rate is over 25 percent and civil unrest has become almost a constant problem in both of those countries.
So what kind of riots will we see in the United States when the economy gets much worse than it is now?
Already there are signs of social decay all around us, and most Americans are completely unprepared for what will happen if a major disaster or emergency does strike.
Sadly, the reality is that most Americans live on a month to month basis. Most families do not have any emergency savings to speak of, and one recent poll found that 55 percent of all Americans only have enough food in their homes to survive for three days or less.
To me, that is an absolutely insane number.
We just came through a summer of extreme drought and global food supplies have dropped to a 40 year low. Our world is becoming increasingly unstable, and the global financial system could fall apart at any time. Most of us just assume that there will always be huge amounts of very cheap food available to us, but unfortunately that simply is not a safe assumption. The following is from a recent article in the Guardian…
Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board.”
“Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production.”
When I watch my fellow Americans trample one another to get a deal on a television or a video game, it makes me wonder what they would be willing to do if they went to the store someday and all the food was gone.
Desperate people do desperate things, and someday if there was a major economic breakdown in the United States I think the level of desperation in this country would be extremely frightening.
So what do you think? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…
View full post on The Economic Collapse
Would Obama Incite Civil Unrest to Win?
By Daren Jonescu
Is President Obama willing to incite civil unrest to win re-election? As we have all been encouraged to wear our dog-whistle decoders these days, one can hardly be blamed for wondering. Worse yet, we know the answer. He is already doing it.
Please bear with me, as this topic requires considerable delicacy.
According to Rolling Stone, Barack Obama has now called Mitt Romney "a bull*****er," on the record. His anger at the challenger was palpable — that is, carefully staged — during each of the last two presidential debates. And he has made a central theme of his campaign the warning that a Romney presidency would erase all of the "equality" victories of the 1960s and ’70s.
Consider these typical words from his October 25 rally in Las Vegas:
You can choose to turn the clock back 50 years for women and immigrants and gays. Or in this election you can stand up for the principle that America includes everybody. We’re all created equal — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, abled, disabled — no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from or who you love, in America you can make it if you try.
This, to restate, is his message down the stretch: before the revolutionary uprisings of the 1960s, America only "included" white men. Romney is a white man who wants to return to that time. So if you are a woman, an immigrant, gay, black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or disabled, then you should not merely oppose Romney as a candidate who does not represent your interests; rather, you should fear him, as a man who wishes to eliminate you from the American portrait.
If Romney wins, and you are not an "abled" white male, America will no longer "include" you, according to Obama. In less than two weeks, you are going to be reduced to second-class citizenship, your fortunes cast back to the bad old days of 1962, before radical feminism, the Nation of Islam, gay rights, the Black Panthers, free love, flag-burning, the "drug culture" — and of course, before the days of America’s first "gay," black, America-hating, drug-damaged, contraceptive-dispensing, progressive feminist Islamic-Christian president.
And now, after scowling at him through two debates, after his vice-president spent ninety minutes calling Paul Ryan a liar, and in the context of all this fear-mongering about the threat of a return to White Male America, Obama has branded his opponent a "bull*****er."
From Lyndon Johnson or Harry Truman, this kind of remark might have been regarded as innocuous, albeit unpresidential. From Obama, the Harvard genius with the well-creased pant leg, the bestselling author and master of political oration, it is an expression of bitter rage and supreme disdain. And in an era when representatives of Obama’s base are flooding Twitter with threats to assassinate his opponent, such heated rhetoric could be dangerous.
Anyone who wonders whether perhaps Obama just does not want to be president anymore should think again. He wants to be president. What he does not want is to have to exert so much effort to retain the presidency. What he does not want is what Hugo Chávez does not want, what Vladimir Putin does not want, what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not want: a fair fight, an unobstructed challenger, an unintimidated electorate.
It was so easy in the past. Swept along on a wave of adulation and enthusiasm, protected by leftist media and academia, and helped out when necessary by an Axelrod-arranged scandal or two, Obama has barely had to lift a finger to gain political office and to climb the ladder. Authoritarians do not understand why one should have to do so.
So he is angry. And this anger has become central to his campaign strategy. The fear he is seeking to inculcate among his base has an even uglier flip-side. The Obama campaign is attempting to cast Romney and his supporters not as people with the wrong ideas, but as The Enemy. In this circumstance, fear can easily give way to extreme outrage — and perhaps to violence and intimidation. This is particularly true when the target audience of this fear-inducing invective is ignorant, emotion-driven, and dominated in its thinking by entitlement greed, rather than by considerations of right and wrong. Consider Sandra Fluke, Snoop Dogg, Occupy Wall Street, and student leftists (see examples).
When Harry Truman’s daughter, a singer, was panned by critic Paul Hume, the sitting president wrote a letter threatening to bust Hume’s nose if they ever met. In 1950, however, none of Truman’s supporters would have been inclined to do the dirty work for him, or even to take the whole thing seriously. Needless to say, Obama’s supporters are quite different from Truman’s.
Could Obama really be reduced to attempting to win re-election through mob protests and intimidation — i.e., through a climate of fear?
Let us examine the broad facts. According to the recent polls, most of which have been conducted by organizations sympathetic to Obama, Romney appears to be on his way to victory. Obama’s policy record is insupportable on the basis of its results, and his campaign knows it. His one ace in the hole, his alleged effectiveness in the Middle East, has been exposed once and for all as a disastrous lie. And his opponent’s past seems to be scandal-free, thus eliminating the one major comeback technique his inner circle has shown any past skill in executing.
All appears lost for Obama according to normal campaign channels. It is time for the Hail Mary pass. But do we have any grounds for imagining that he and his team would stoop so low as to seek to incite mass incivility, on or before Election Day?
Let us examine a few more facts. Barack Obama’s primary occupation before electoral politics was as a community organizer in Chicago. He was an adviser to ACORN, the election fraud racket and socialist activism organization founded by former SDS radical Wade Rathke. His mentors in Chicago included Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, the Weather Underground leaders who staged the Days of Rage in 1969; Rashid Khalidi, apologist for and promoter of anti-Israeli violence; and Jeremiah Wright, whose most famous words are "God damn America!" In his youth, of course, Obama’s primary male role model was Frank Marshall Davis, a communist and, naturally, a community organizer.
Would any of the people I just named stop short of using intimidation or civil unrest to achieve their political ends, if they believed it would be effective — or that it was their only hope?
Too speculative, you say? What does any of this have to do with Obama himself, you ask?
A few more facts. On Election Day 2008, New Black Panther militants, one carrying a billy club, stood threateningly in front of a polling station in Philadelphia. (See here.) They were charged with voter intimidation. Obama’s Justice Department dismissed the charges. In March 2012, when Florida was on pins and needles over the Zimmerman-Martin case, and the Al Sharpton types were trying to escalate the tensions and incite racial unrest, Obama spiked his presidential message of national "soul-searching" with the race-baiting Sharptonesque observation that "[i]f I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon."
Obama has spoken sympathetically of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and, more importantly, embraces its leftist class warfare rhetoric. His stock line about Romney’s economic plan is, "it turns out that it’s just a one-point plan — a sketchy deal that says folks at the very top get to play by a different set of rules than you do." Pure "99 percent" stuff. Ayers and Dohrn, who hosted his first ever political campaign event, have given presentations to OWS groups.
The Obama administration funded a study redefining domestic terror threats to exclude radical Islamists, while including people who are "reverent of individual liberty" and "suspicious of centralized federal authority."
In short, the Obama presidency has been consistent in its lack of scruples when it comes to demonizing wealthy people, conservatives, and now Mitt Romney — not opposing them, but painting them as racist, greedy, dangerous potential terrorists hell-bent on doing harm to women, blacks, gays, and immigrants.
But now, most remarkably, we have Obama’s Benghazi gambit. The focus of the story, of course, has been on the administration’s deliberate concoction and dissemination of a fairy-tale about a video protest to obscure the damaging facts concerning the murder of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans. That story gets uglier, and more damning, by the day. (See American Thinker.)
There is, however, another side to Obama’s Benghazi lie — a side most instructive on the present question.
Administration officials knew, on September 11, that the attack was in no way related to the airing of the obscure YouTube video, and that in fact there was no protest in Libya on that day. In spite of this knowledge, they systematically cited the video as the primary source of the (nonexistent) protest in Benghazi and implied that the murderous attack grew spontaneously out of that protest.
The political fallout of that lie is devastating. But we must not neglect its practical results for the world beyond the Obama campaign.
By making the video the centerpiece of its various public statements over the days following the Benghazi attack — including of Obama’s September 25 address to the U.N. — the administration itself publicized and aggrandized it. They repeatedly branded it a "disgusting" and "intolerant" offense against Islam, thereby giving credence to the mock outrage being stoked by a television host on the Egyptian Islamist station al-Nas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government. In other words, their repeated apology for the video’s offense against Islam, couched as a (feeble) defense of Western values — "we protect free speech, but we hate religious intolerance" — helped to justify, heighten, and prolong the Arab outrage over a video almost no one had seen.
Rather than responding to the Ansar al-Sharia attack with force in real time, labeling it accurately at once, and promising with credibility to crush any copycat incidents — a response which might have defused or defanged any further uprising from the "Arab street" — Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others in the administration told a story that justified and empathized with Islamic anger, while weakly pleading for non-violent protests. In addition to inviting a bounty on the filmmaker’s head; the administration’s rhetoric helped to swell the protests, to increase the intensity of subsequent violence at U.S. diplomatic missions, potentially to endanger the lives of Coptic Christians in Egypt; and to legitimize the sharia advocacy of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Deaths have been reported at post-September 12 "video protests" in various countries. At the peak of this Obama-fed furor, even al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri jumped on the bandwagon, calling for more anti-U.S. "protests" against the video.
In short, the administration’s Benghazi cover story, by repeatedly citing and publicizing a supposedly grave insult against Islam, endangered many lives, and risked igniting a much larger outbreak of anti-Western violence in a region of the world Obama claims to admire and respect.
And it must not be forgotten that the inflammatory words with which Obama and his team carelessly stoked Muslim outrage, thereby needlessly endangering so many Arab and Western lives, were a calculated, bald-faced lie, and Obama knew it.
This lie, with all its resulting risk to human safety, was apparently judged to be worth it simply in order to shield Obama’s re-election campaign from harm.
Think about that. Think about Obama’s attempts to brand Romney a threat to every leftist cause of the last fifty years. Think of his supporters among the New Black Panthers, the SEIU, and the Communist Party USA. Think of his condemnation of Romney at this final, desperate hour, as a "bull*****er" from the one percent who wishes to revoke the equal rights of blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, gays, women, and immigrants.
Benghazi teaches us that Obama is willing to risk inciting civil unrest abroad for the sake of protecting his re-election hopes. Is he willing to take the same risk at home?
One must hope that the harsh realities of life in Obama’s America have dulled the enthusiasm of even his most ardent supporters, and his "new era of civility" — Chicago-style civility — will come to nothing.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:05 am
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Mario Rizzo is currently an associate professor of economics at New York University and the director of the Program on the Foundations of the Market Economy. Rizzo is co-author (with Gerald O’Driscoll) of The Economics of Time and Ignorance (1985).
In this lecture given at an Institute for Economic Studies conference in Aix-en-Provence, France in 1999, Rizzo speaks about various problems the state has had with civil society throughout history. He gives three examples — Pliny the Younger and Trajan’s letters about licensing clubs, organizations, and fire departments; the Falun Gong movement in China, and the state of private universities in America. He says that by encouraging rent-seeking and lobbying efforts by private groups, the state’s attitude toward civil society over the course of history has shifted from distrust and outright hostility to one of pandering and encouraging complicity.
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By David Kirby
Last week, I posted data from the latest Reason-Rupe poll showing 77 percent of libertarians supporting Romney—the highest percentage share of the libertarian vote of any Republican presidential candidate since 1980.
Many commenters on Twitter and Facebook were horrified! Surely, many reasoned, this large vote share is a measure of antipathy for Obama rather than affinity for Romney. Others commented that any libertarian supporting Romney doesn’t deserve to be considered a “true” libertarian.
I wanted to reflect on this last comment. Who should count as a libertarian?
In our Cato research, David Boaz, Emily Ekins and I have taken to using a relatively broad definition of a libertarian. Why? Compared to other political words like “capitalism” or “socialism,” fewer know the word “libertarian.” Many who hold libertarian views call themselves “moderate” or “independent” or even “conservative.” Few polls even offer respondents an option to identify themselves as “libertarian.” Those that do reveal confusion about what the word means.
Given all this, we have preferred to probe respondents’ basic background beliefs about the role of government, using questions commonly asked on national polls. Libertarians give different answers than liberals or conservatives. For instance, in the Reason-Rupe poll, we chose three questions to screen libertarians. This gives us a 20 percent group of libertarian likely voters. Other methods and questions produce slightly higher or lower estimates.
But what if you look deeper—at say, only libertarians who self-identify as such? Or libertarians who prioritize civil liberties, like support for the legalization of marijuana? Or libertarian independents? Or tea party libertarians? The chart below breaks out these different segments of the broader libertarian vote.* (Thanks again to Emily Ekins for sharing the crosstabs.)
- Civil liberties libertarians: Among libertarians (by our broader definition) who favor “legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use,” Romney support drops, but only to 63 percent. While many civil libertarians held out hope for Obama, he has continued many of the Bush era drug policies. For instance, Obama’s Justice Department continues to raid medical marijuana dispensaries in California and support Bush era surveillance policies.
- Tea party libertarians: The data show that half of the tea party movement is libertarian. Among libertarians who also support the tea party, Romney would win his largest percentage vote share at 93 percent. Though interestingly, tea party libertarians seem as willing as other libertarians to consider voting for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Johnson wins 13 percent of tea party libertarians if you add him to the candidate list.
- Libertarian independents: Among libertarians who consider themselves “independent” (like the voters Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie profile in their book Declaration of Independents), 71 percent would vote for Romney, 23 percent for Obama. Interestingly, among libertarian independents, Gary Johnson pulls a larger share away from Obama voters than Romney voters.
- Self-identified libertarians: Among those who self-identify as “libertarian”—the smallest of these groups at only 4 percent of likely votes—Romney would win 66 percent of the vote and Obama 32 percent. Perhaps not surprisingly, self-identified libertarians are most willing to consider voting for a Libertarian Party candidate, with 51 percent saying they’d vote for Johnson if he is offered as an option.
So who are the true libertarians? Take your pick!
My own perspective is that the libertarian “brand” seems broader and more self-aware today than ever before—and that’s a good thing. Ron Paul has certainly played a big role in this. It also may be that in confusing economic times, people are more open to the libertarian ideas long espoused by Cato, Reason, FreedomWorks, and other free-market organizations. In interviews at the grassroots level, Emily and I found more and more voters who act like libertarians, talk like libertarians, and reason like libertarians.
And who knows—as pollsters, strategists, and pundits pick up on the importance of the libertarian vote, more politicians may start to behave like libertarians.
*Note: One should be cautious when comparing such small subsets of voters, as the statistical margin of error increases, making comparisons problematic. For instance, Reason polled only 787 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4%. Among the broadest 20 percent of libertarians, the margin of error increases to +/- 7%. Among self-identified “libertarians,” who represent only 4 percent of likely voters, the margin of error increases to +/- 15%. For instance, given this large margin of error, we cannot say that Romney’s vote share among self-identified libertarians is really different than Romney’s vote share among libertarians more broadly. But the jump in support for Johnson is definitely statistically significant.
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