NEW YORK — For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America’s rank as the world’s No. 1 incarcerator. It urges states to curtail corrections spending by placing fewer low-risk offenders behind bars.
Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it’s more than any other nation.
The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.
The steadily growing inmate population “is saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime,” the report said.
Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said budget woes are pressuring many states to consider new, cost-saving corrections policies that might have been shunned in the recent past for fear of appearing soft on crime.
"We’re seeing more and more states being creative because of tight budgets," she said in an interview. "They want to be tough on crime. They want to be a law-and-order state. But they also want to save money, and they want to be effective."
The report cited Kansas and Texas as states that have acted decisively to slow the growth of their inmate population. They are making greater use of community supervision for low-risk offenders and employing sanctions other than reimprisonment for offenders who commit technical violations of parole and probation rules.
"The new approach, born of bipartisan leadership, is allowing the two states to ensure they have enough prison beds for violent offenders while helping less dangerous lawbreakers become productive, taxpaying citizens," the report said.
While many state governments have shown bipartisan interest in curbing prison growth, there also are persistent calls to proceed cautiously.
"We need to be smarter," said David Muhlhausen, a criminal justice expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "We’re not incarcerating all the people who commit serious crimes. But we’re also probably incarcerating people who don’t need to be."
According to the report, the inmate population increased last year in 36 states and the federal prison system.
The largest percentage increase — 12 percent — was in Kentucky, where Gov. Steve Beshear highlighted the cost of corrections in his budget speech last month. He noted that the state’s crime rate had increased only about 3 percent in the past 30 years, while the state’s inmate population has increased by 600 percent.
The report was compiled by the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance Project, which is working with 13 states on developing programs to divert offenders from prison without jeopardizing public safety.
"Getting tough on criminals has gotten tough on taxpayers," said the project’s director, Adam Gelb.
According to the report, the average annual cost per prisoner was $23,876, with Rhode Island spending the most ($44,860) and Louisiana the least ($13,009). It said California — which faces a $16 billion budget shortfall — spent $8.8 billion on corrections last year, while Texas, which has slightly more inmates, was a distant second with spending of $3.3 billion.
On average, states spend 6.8 percent of their general fund dollars on corrections, the report said. Oregon had the highest spending rate, at 10.9 percent; Alabama the lowest at 2.6 percent.
Four states — Vermont, Michigan, Oregon and Connecticut — now spend more on corrections than they do on higher education, the report said.
"These sad facts reflect a very distorted set of national priorities," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, referring to the full report. "Perhaps, if we adequately invested in our children and in education, kids who now grow up to be criminals could become productive workers and taxpayers."
The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect an increase in the nation’s overall population. Instead, it said, more people are behind bars mainly because of tough sentencing measures, such as “three-strikes” laws, that result in longer prison stays.
"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."
The racial disparity for women also is stark. One of every 355 white women aged 35 to 39 is behind bars, compared with one of every 100 black women in that age group.
The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in state and federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails. That’s out of almost 230 million American adults.
The report said the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which round out the Top 10.
The U.S. also is among the world leaders in capital punishment. According to Amnesty International, its 53 executions in 2006 were exceeded only by China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan.
You put your trust in the state because it filters out complexities of life you either cannot manage on your own or see no need to. Why do people obey unjust laws? Because — for the majority, in most cases — it’d be a whole lot more problematic and chaotic without the system there. I may recognize that a war we’re involved in is unjust, but I don’t attempt to overthrow the government because the state simplifies my life in ways that more directly affect me.
Well. I, for one, know that if I were an Iraqi child, I would be happy to die so that Jason Smathers can live a simpler life.
Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life?
Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness and methamphetamine addiction in a quiet American suburb.
William F. Buckley Jr., who foundedNational Review and did more than any other intellectual to create a conservative alliance between traditionalists and libertarians (an achievement that seems more impressive with each passing day),died this morning at the age of 82. I think my first introduction to Buckley was through David Frye’s impersonation of him on I Am the President, so for me he was part of a pantheon of important political figures with distinctive voices from early on. I vividly remember watching a 60 Minutes interview with Buckley in the 1970s and being struck by how much he seemed to relish intellectual combat while remaining calm, polite, and self-assured, traits that also came through in his long-running PBS talk show Firing Line. For left-liberals, I realized, he was a house-broken conservative, witty, learned, and cordial even while espousing horrifying opinions. Although many of today’s most conspicuous conservatives eschew that role, Buckley’s dignified, thoughtful approach earned the conservative movement mainstream credibility and may even have persuaded a few people, instead of simply stirring up the mob.
In the early 1990s I worked for Buckley at National Review, although by that time he was not much involved in the day-to-day running of the magazine. He would see us at the editorial meetings every two weeks and treat us to lunch at a neighborhood Italian restaurant he favored. In conversation he was always sharp but gentlemanly. At one of those post-meeting meals I remarked that there was something to be said for the Articles of Confederation. “Yes,” Buckley replied with a sly smile, taking a slug of red wine, “but not much.” This formulation, which allowed for continued argument but also let me drop the subject without embarrassment, was of a piece with his confident but laid-back intellectual style.
As for substance, Buckley often called himself a libertarian; the subtitle of Happy Days Were Here Again, his 1993 collection of columns and articles, was “Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist.” Buckley represented the classical liberal strain of modern American conservatism often enough that his endorsement of statist schemes such as “national service” (or, more recently, tobacco prohibition) caused real dismay. He especially endeared himself to libertarians with his courageous and persistent criticism of the war on drugs, a stance that continues to distinguishNational Review from other conservative organs. Although Buckley’s support for repealing drug prohibition grew more out of pragmatic concerns than a principled commitment to individual freedom, his prolific writings usually reflected skepticism of government intervention. In recent years this skepticism drove him to question another war popular with conservatives, one that could prove to be as long-lived as the war on drugs, if John McCain has anything to say about it. Buckley, in short, admirably combined an ability to fuse the disparate elements of the conservative coalition with a willingness to break them apart when he thought the stakes were high enough.
Rosen’s story contains some anti-conventional wisdom assertions that are sure to make many spit their juice, for example:
"In Saddam’s time, nobody knew what is Sunni and what is Shiite," [Iraqi National Police Capt. Arkan Hashim Ali] says. The Bush administration based its strategy in Iraq on the mistaken notion that, under Saddam, the Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority. In fact, Iraq had no history of serious sectarian violence or civil war between the two groups until the Americans invaded. Most Iraqis viewed themselves as Iraqis first, with their religious sects having only personal importance. Intermarriage was widespread, and many Iraqi tribes included both Sunnis and Shiites….
The story is also belly-up vulnerable to accusations that it’s only focusing on the scary side of the complicated reality of Iraq. Still, it’s well worth a long look for those trying to collect as much data as possible about what America is facing and might soon be facing in Iraq.
The general arc of Rosen’s piece: as Rosen follows various Iraqi and U.S. security forces around on raids, he insists that the Sunni militias known as either “Iraqi Security Volunteers” or Sahwa (“The Awakening”) are another civil war waiting to happen, loyal only as long as the Yankee dollars keep flowing; Iraqis smile to our troops’ faces but behind our backs they hiss: what are troops like you doing in a nation like this? And contempt for the U.S. occupying force is only matched by contempt for the official Iraq government.
A few key excerpts:
After meeting recently in Baghdad, U.S. officials concluded in an internal report, “Most young Concerned Local Citizens would probably not agree to transition from armed defenders of their communities to the local garbage men or rubble cleanup crew working under the gaze of U.S. soldiers and their own families.”
As the soldiers storm into nearby homes, the two men who had tipped off the Americans come up to me, thinking I am a military translator. They look bemused. The Americans, they tell me in Arabic, have got the wrong men. The eleven squatting in the courtyard are all Sunnis, not Shiites; some are even members of the Awakening and had helped identify the Mahdi Army suspects.
I try to tell the soldiers they’ve made a mistake — it looks like the Iraqis had been trying to connect a house to a generator — but the Americans don’t listen. All they see are the wires on the ground: To them, that means the Iraqis must have been trying to lay an improvised explosive device. “If an IED is on the ground,” one tells me, “we arrest everybody in a 100-meter radius.” As the soldiers blindfold and handcuff the eleven Iraqis, the two tipsters look on, puzzled to see U.S. troops arresting their own allies.
The [Iraqi National Police] were also reporting fake engagements and then transferring to Shiite militias the ammunition they had supposedly fired. “It was funny how they always expended 400 rounds of ammunition,” [Maj. Jeffrey] Gottlieb [who trains Iraqi police] says.
The Americans know that the entire raid may have been simply another witch hunt, a way for the Shiite police to intimidate Sunni civilians. The INP, U.S. officers concede, use Al Qaeda as a “scare word” to describe all Sunni suspects.
"Yeah, the moral ambiguity of what we do is not lost on me," Maj. Gottlieb tells me. "We have no way of knowing if those guys did what they say they did."
The Difference Between an Illegal Immigrant and Me A Little Memoir and Some Questions It Raises February 20, 2008 Robert Higgs
I was born in what the local rulers represented to be the sovereign state of Oklahoma. This circumstance was not my fault. I suppose I might blame my parents, but they had a similar excuse, my father having been born in the same jurisdiction and my mother having been brought there as an infant. In any event, by virtue of my birthplace, I became a citizen of that state and, as such, I bore a heavy burden of misfortune.
Our part of Oklahoma, you see, was not exactly at the cutting edge of economic and social development in those days. Good jobs were not easy to find, and even a resourceful workingman who was willing to labor long and hard, as my father was, could not earn much. Many of the schools were primitive. When I began the first grade, in 1950, the school comprised about fifty students in grades 1–8. My first-grade class met in a little shack along with the second-grade class, while the rest of the students met in a larger, one-room building with a removable divider in the middle of the room. With the divider put in place, grades 3–5 met on one side of it, grades 6–8 on the other side. Three teachers made up the entire staff, except for the cook, who happened to be my mom. I won’t say that I couldn’t possibly have remained in that environment and still become an astronaut. Maybe I could have. But the odds did not look promising.
For a time during the war, when I was an infant, my father had taken the family to Portland, Oregon, where he worked in one of Kaiser’s shipyards as a welder until the war ended. So he had tasted the sweet nectar of West Coast wages. Of course, after the war, such elevated wages were no longer available for the asking, yet West Coast wages still stood well above those in Oklahoma, as my father knew from the accounts of friends who had migrated to California earlier and sent back glowing reports.
In 1951, a old friend of my father’s who worked on a ranch near Mendota, California, a dusty little town 35 miles west of Fresno, arranged for the ranch owner to hire my father and my older brother as tractor drivers during the summer—my father had several months of accumulated vacation time. So the family packed a few of our belongings and headed west on Route 66, as so many Okies before us had done during the previous twenty years.
Reaching our destination at the Encher Ranch, we moved into a small living area walled off at the end of a larger structure built originally as a bunkhouse for immigrant Japanese workers before the war. There was no extra charge for the outdoor toilets and showers. In those days, such labor camps dotted the San Joaquin Valley thickly, housing not only the migrant Okies, Texans, and other wretched refuse of the Dust Bowl, but also an abundance of migrant Mexicans. A sprinkling of Italians, Portuguese, Basque, Chinese, and Japanese spiced the area’s population.
At the end of the summer, my father’s work having proved more than satisfactory to the employer, and the wages more than satisfactory to my father, we returned briefly to Oklahoma, arranged for the shipment of our household belongings, such as they were, and moved back to California permanently.
Lest you wonder about the point of this mundane little narrative, I hasten to emphasize that my father had done something quite remarkable: he had left the sovereign state of Oklahoma, crossed the sovereign states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and entered into and established permanent residence in the sovereign state of California, all without the permission of any of the rulers of these states. Imagine that!
Ho-hum, you say; any American can do the same whenever he wants. Well, yes, that’s true. But Americans can do so only because the sovereign states that belong to the federal umbrella state known as the United States of America have worked out a system of essentially unimpeded cross-border passages, and their laws recognize that in general anyone with permission from the U.S. authorities to be in the United States may move freely within the constituent states of the union. No law forbade my father to leave Oklahoma without approval by the Oklahoma government, and no law forbade him to enter California without approval by the California government. (Earlier, in 1937, California did enact a statute that became known as the “anti-Okie law,” aimed at preventing certain Americans from entering the state, but the law was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1941 in Edwards v. California [314 U.S. 160].)
Many of the Mexican children with whom I grew up might have told a tale similar to mine. The only difference would have been that for them, the origin of their migration to California happened to be not one of the states of the United States of America, commonly known as America, but one of the states of the United Mexican States, commonly known as Mexico. Was this difference important? If so, why? Do the lines that government officials draw on maps sever the heart of humanity?
It may not be entirely beside the point to note that the area in which my family settled in 1951 had previously been part of Mexico, from the time of Mexico’s independence until its leaders were coerced into signing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended what the Mexicans aptly call la Intervención Norteamericana (the War of North American Invasion). As the spoils of this war, the U.S. government snatched not only the whole of present-day California, but also all of present-day Nevada and Utah, most of present-day Arizona, and substantial parts of present-day New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Recall this history the next time you hear someone talking about the current Mexican “invasion” of the United States. If only the Americans under General Winfield Scott’s command in 1847 had invaded Vera Cruz to pick lettuce, rather than to kill the local people.
To return to my story, however, the undeserved misfortunate that many of my childhood comrades suffered sprang from the simple, morally irrelevant fact that the government officials who ruled the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and others included in the thirty-one states of the Mexican union had not entered into the same agreement that the government officials who ruled Oklahoma, Texas, California, and others included in the (then) forty-eight states of the United States of America had made with regard to state border crossings.
From time to time, people of my acquaintance were rounded up and deported, as if they were criminals. What was their crime? Picking cotton? If so, then I was guilty, too, because when I was growing up, many of the ranchers had yet to switch from Okies and Mexicans to mechanical pickers, and by the time I was eleven or twelve years old, I could fill a 12-foot sack and, having weighed my pickings, haul it up the ladder like a man to empty its contents into the cotton trailer.
So far as I was ever aware, the deportations pleased nobody: neither the unlucky individuals wrenched from their homes and places of employment; nor the ranchers and other business owners who readily hired these hardworking people; nor the rest of us, whose relations with the Mexicans were generally cooperative and cordial. La Migra—the immigration officers—was like a natural disaster. These obnoxious state functionaries descended on the community like a plague or a swarm of locusts, benefiting no one, yet collecting salaries at public expense for their mischief. I knew one young man who was deported several times, and each time he returned after a short while. He took special offense at these costly disruptions of his life because, in fact, he had been born in California, but he lacked official documentation of his birthplace.
If you are not familiar with immigration enforcement, here’s an introduction, for which we are indebted to Pat Mora, whose poem “La Migra” begins:
Anti-immigrationists often say that the Mexicans come here only to go on welfare. Aside from this declaration’s manifest misrepresentation of the truth, one wonders why the obvious remedy for this alleged problem does not occur to them: get rid of welfare—after all, nobody, regardless of his place of birth, has a just right to live at other people’s coerced expense.
Others claim that the “illegals” crowd the public schools and hospitals, sucking resources away from the taxpayers. If so, then the answer is the same: get the government out of the business of schooling and healing; it ought never to have gone there in the first place.
Some Americans clothe their hatred with the charge that the foreigners who come here commit crimes, such as selling drugs and conducting businesses without a license. Of course, drug peddling and working without a government license ought never to have been criminalized in the first place, for anybody, because these acts violate no one’s just rights. If people are worried about real crimes, such as robbery and murder, they need to recall that laws against these crimes already exist, and no special “preemptive war” against potential immigrant offenders can be justified, any more than I can justify nuking Philadelphia today on the strength of my absolute conviction that some residents of that city will commit serious crimes tomorrow.
I attended public schools in California from the second grade until my graduation from high school, and later, after a year at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, I attended institutions of public higher education there, graduating from San Francisco State College in 1965 and then attending the University of California at Santa Barbara for a year of graduate study before going on to greener pastures at Johns Hopkins (a so-called private university whose entanglements with the Pentagon you’d best not look into, if you wish to retain your faith in “private” universities).
Whether my father paid any more in taxes to the state of California, its subsidiary governments, and the school district than our Mexican neighbors paid I greatly doubt. Everybody, regardless of his birthplace or documentation, paid excise, gasoline, and general sales taxes whenever he made certain purchases. Everybody, regardless of his birthplace or documentation, paid the property tax (indirectly) whenever he rented a house or apartment. Everybody, regardless of his birthplace or documentation, paid fees for driver’s licenses, hunting licenses, bridge tolls, and other privileges the state graciously permitted the peasantry to enjoy for a price.
Of course, because my father never earned an enormous salary, he might well have paid less in taxes than the cost of my education in the California schools; who knows? If so, should I have been kicked out of the state and deported—sent, as they say, “back where [I] came from”? Was my family sponging off the longsuffering taxpayers of California any less than the Mexican family down the road from us? And what difference does it make where the sponger comes from? Isn’t the sponging itself the heart of the matter? Do the self-styled “Minutemen” who undertook recently to “secure the border” with Mexico swat only the mosquitos that have hatched on the south side of the Rio Grande?
If we must choose—and indeed we must—between the world’s most powerful and aggressive state, on the one hand, and a man who wishes to move to Yakima to support his family by picking apples, on the other hand, which side does human decency dictate that we choose? Unfortunately, in this situation, it is all too plain that many Americans are choosing to worship the state and to make a fetish of the borders it has established by patently unjust means. As for this wandering Okie, I’d sooner prostrate myself before a golden calf.
Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for The Independent Institute and Editor of the Institute’s quarterly journal The Independent Review. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Johns Hopkins University, and he has taught at the University of Washington, Lafayette College, Seattle University, and the University of Economics, Prague. He has been a visiting scholar at Oxford University and Stanford University, and a fellow for the Hoover Institution and the National Science Foundation. He is the author of many books, including Depression, War, and Cold War.
Here is something that I wrote a couple years ago about the State and its efforts to protect the hell out of us all whether we want it to or not:
The State is, as Catharine MacKinnon says, male in the political sense. But not only because the law views women’s civil status through the lens of male supremacy (although it certainly does). It is also because the male-dominated State relates to all of its subjects like a battering husband relates to thehousehold of which he has proclaimed himself the head: by laying a claim to protect those who did not ask for it, and using whatever violence and intimidation may be necessary to terrorize them into submitting to his protection. The State, as the abusive head of the whole nation, assaults the innocent, and turns a blind eye to assaults of the innocent, when it suits political interest — renamednational interest by the self-proclaimed representatives of the nation. It does so not because of the venality or incompetance of a particular ruler, but rather because that is what State power means, and that is what the job of a ruler is: to maintain a monopoly of coercion over its territorial area, as a good German might tell you, and to beat, chain, burn, or kill anyone within or without who might endanger that, whether by defying State rule, or by simply ignoring it and asking to be left alone.
I didn’t mean the analogy between government protection and domestic violence quite this literally, but, well, here we are.
This is how government cops protect you: by beating the shit out of a suspect woman after she’s already been handcuffed, turning off the camera so that they won’t be caught on tape doing it, and then claiming that she ended up lying a pool of her own blood in the middle of the room, with two black eyes, a broken nose, and missing teeth, was that she tried to leave the room and fell and hurt herself in the process. Besides, even if he did, she was belligerent (which, since there’s no evidence of her trying to use physical force against the cop at any point, is cop-speak for mouthing off).
Please note that the explicit reason for this violent creep handcuffing her, slamming her up against the wall, and then beating the hell out of her was that there are rules you have to follow (where there are is cop-speak for I make, and you have to means or else), which rules absolutely require that you keep her in a tiny room no matter what, by any means necessary, and don’t set aside your paperwork for even a moment so that she can call her somebody to let them know where she is, no matter how easy it would be for you to do so and no matter how quickly that would de-escalate an extremely stressful situation.
Please also note that, because Wiley Willis is a cop and his victim, Angela Garbarino, is not, so far the only consequences that this violent sociopath — who had already been named in at least two unrelated brutality complaints in the past two years — is that he was given a paid vacation for three months, and then finally lost his job after an administrative hearing. But in the view of other Shreveport cops, Willis deserves this proverbial walk around the block because After reviewing the evidence, we decided it was something that needed to be handled internally and that it was not enough to pursue criminal charges. Nowadays, thanks to the concerted struggle of our feminist foremothers to reform the police and courts’ handling of violence against women, if any man who didn’t sport a badge and a uniform had been alone in a closed room with a woman who ended up getting hurt so bad she needed to be hospitalized, with a video clearly showing him shoving her around, handcuffing her, slamming her against the wall, and then deliberately turning the tape off up until she ended up bruised and bleeding, that man would be in jail right now on charge of assault and battery. Even without such comprehensive evidence almost any court would long ago have issued a restraining order against the violent pig. I’ll bet that there are a lot of people in Shreveport who wish they could get one of those against Wiley Willis and the paramilitary force that employed him.
In the YouTube comments thread, you can find the usual sado-fascist bully brigade of police enablers, one of whom summarizes the situation as follows:
She was very cooperative when the officer was polite to her and did not yell or demand anything…Yah right! Saying the word Miss and Mam didnt do any good. She decided to get drunk and stupid, not follow directions, would jerk away,and thought she was in charge. When she got arrested she needed to shut her cock-holster! The officer cant make her take the test. All he had to do was state she refused to take the test and be done with it. She got the best of him because now she will get paid.
she’s a woman. act like a lady or get treated like a man. she got much better treatment than a man would even after she kept disobeying
His conclusion (and I am quoting): the b(((* was asking for it.
I wasn’t there, nor have I ever been to Abu Ghraib; therefore, I am not qualified to offer expert analysis as to the events that occurred at either. However, I do know that making generalizations about humans placed in a position of power and authority over others is grossly unfair to the many who serve our nation.
… Maybe the handling of Ms. Steffey was not properly conducted; maybe it was. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I do know that Sheriff Swanson has requested outside assistance from the Ohio attorney general’s office in investigating the incident, and I am willing to await its findings before I make judgment.
Should the investigation prove that the deputies involved did abuse their authority, I will then consider them responsible individually. I will not hold every human being in a position of authority, or every deputy in the sheriff’s office, accountable for the actions of a few.
McClelland’s position on the particular case — which he fraudulently passes off as a critical suspension of judgment, when in fact it is nothing more than overt denialism toward obvious abuse captured on film — is objectionable enough by itself. But what’s even more foolish, and extremely dangerous in the long run, is the notion that a tightly-organized class of people, who exercise such a tremendous advantage over the rest of us in both physical force and legal power, ought to be given every benefit of the doubt when they’re accused of hurting people that they willingly chose to put under their legally-backed and heavily-armed power, and that the basic institutional structures which back up their power cannot be called into question without unfair generalization or stereotyping. When every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police department almost invariably doing everything in its power to conceal, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously harmless or helpless the victim may be, it defies reason to keep on claiming that there is no systemic problem here. What you have is one of two things: either a professionalized system of control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, and unrepentant abuse against powerless people, or else a system which has clearly demonstrated that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.
While researching my column for this week (about Barack Obama’s position on gun control), I came across this lame response from Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, to the recent shootings at Northern Illinois University (NIU):
Do we give up and say we can’t do anything about these tragedies? Or do we take common-sense steps today to make it harder for dangerous people to get dangerous weapons?…
Over the years, the Brady Campaign has proposed numerous common-sense measures to reduce and prevent gun violence. It may be difficult to stop “suicide shooters” like the Northern Illinois University killer, but there are steps we can take as a nation.
We can require background checks for every gun transaction in America. Current Federal law requires that only Federally licensed gun dealers do a computer check on the criminal backgrounds of purchasers who buy guns from them. Yet there is no such restriction on unlicensed sellers who sell guns at gun shows, from the trunk of their cars or at their kitchen tables. If we want to make it harder to dangerous people to get dangerous weapons, we must close this loophole, and require that all gun buyers undergo a background check.
We can limit bulk purchases of handguns to cut down on the illegal gun trade. Gun buyers currently have no Federal limits on the number of guns they can buy at one time. Gun traffickers take advantage of the unlimited number of guns they can purchase at a time in order to sell guns to criminals and gangs….
We can also ban the sale of military-style assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines. One thing the Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University shooters had in common was that they both used high capacity ammunition magazines that would have been prohibited under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004.
The NIU murderer, Steven Kazmierczak, legally purchased the shotgun and three handguns he used, which did not qualify as “assault weapons,” from a licensed dealer on three trips over seven months, and there does not seem to have been anything about his background that disqualified him from owning firearms. So the only possibly relevant suggestion offered by Helmke is to reimpose a 10-round federal limit on the size of magazines. But considering that Kazmierczak fired the shotgun six times and the handguns 48 times; that it takes just a few seconds to switch magazines; and that police arrived about six minutes after the attack started, by which time Kazmierczak already had killed himself, it is doubtful that the death toll was any higher than it would have been had he been carrying 10-round magazines. In fact, I cannot recall reading an account of a mass murder in the U.S. where “high capacity” magazines made a demonstrable difference.
The rest of Helmke’s “common-sense steps” could not possibly have stopped this attack. So why trot them out and pretend otherwise? Because that’s what gun controllers routinely do, as I noted in a 1994 article for reason. Their lobbying, publicity, and fundraising imperatives prevent them from admitting the truth: With something like 200 million guns in circulation and no reliable way of predicting which quiet graduate student will go on a rampage one day, this sort of thing is bound to happen occasionally. No policy short of wholesale firearm confiscation can prevent such incidents, although (as I’ve argued) allowing law-abiding people to carry concealed weapons in heretofore “gun-free zones” might help reduce the number of injuries and deaths after an attack starts.
ACT RESPONSIBLY: DON’T VOTE!!Act Responsibly: Don’t Vote! That’s not a bumper sticker you’re likely to see in coming weeks. Instead the ballot will be revered like a religious object and voting will be declared a duty. But what if the ballot is just one more government form to fill out? What if the most politically powerful act is to say “no” by tearing the form in half?
This November, most people won’t “do it” in the voting booth despite attempts to shame them. They will spend the time on activities that enrich their lives: buying groceries, playing with children, catching up on work.
If war itself can’t motivate people to put a checkmark in a box, it is time to consider non-voting from a radically different perspective. Maybe non-voters are right. After all, if most people refuse to buy a product with which they’re acquainted, do you blame them or the product? Politicians have only themselves to blame if people are not buying what they sell.
The knee-jerk response is to accuse non-buyers of apathy. In many cases, this may be true but it isn’t the non-voter’s fault if he thinks a ballot is irrelevant to his life. Gerrymandered voting districts that almost ensure results, preppy and prepped candidates, a two-party system that restricts access to alternate voices, candidates in debt to corporate sponsors and lobbyists, campaign promises that dissolve, and dubious election procedures. The notoriously corrupt New York politician Boss Tweed once said, “You may elect whatever candidates you please to office, if you will allow me to select the candidates.” In short, by the time names are on the ballot, the fix is in. And apathy becomes a reasonable response.
Non-voting is a gauge of how deeply alienated the average person is from the political establishment. Sometimes political disgust converts non-voting from an act of indifference to one of protest through which people express a word that all politicians fear: “no.” Not just “no” to them but to the entire process.
Everyone who chuckles at the old joke, “Don’t vote, it only encourages them,” connects on some level with the idea of making a statement through consciously not voting. But, for most non-voters, such protest if it exists at all is on an emotional level. That is, a sense of disgust or disillusionment with the system makes them shy away from participating in it.
Those for whom non-voting is conscious statement of protest generally argue as follows:
The check mark or the punched chad on a ballot means “yes” it is the consent you give to the electoral process by virtue of participating. No wonder all candidates agree on one point: you should vote. They are like religious leaders who urge you to worship at the church of your choice. First and foremost, politicians want you to sanction the process by which they acquire power and money because, without that sanction, they have no legitimacy.
It is commonly said, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain about the outcome.” The opposite is true. By playing the game, voters agree to the rules. Only those who don’t play and withhold their consent have a right to complain about the outcome, especially since the winner will have his hand in the non-voter’s pocket.
Voting is not an act of political freedom. It is an act of political conformity. Those who refuse to vote are not expressing silence. They are screaming in the politician’s ear: “You do not represent me. This is not a process in which my voice matters. I do not believe you.”
Non-voting has a rich and long history through which the dissenting electorate has expressed everything from religious convictions to political cynicism. That history has been conspicuously ignored. If people truly believe voting is important, they should use their mouths to do more than insult non-voters and utter election slogans. They should discuss and debate the issue with those who disagree.Wendy McElroy - Tuesday 26 February 2008 - 02:09:46
On Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a segment on the federal government’s pretty outrageous and politically-motivated prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Unlike much of the U.S. Attorney imbroglio, the pursuit of Siegelman reeks of genuine scandal, and may involve actual criminal acts committed by members of the Bush administration.
I am now hearing from readers all across Northern Alabama—from Decatur to Huntsville and considerably on down—that a mysterious “service interruption” blocked the broadcast of only the Siegelman segment of 60 Minutes this evening. The broadcaster is Channel 19 WHNT, which serves Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee. This station was noteworthy for its hostility to Siegelman and support for his Republican adversary. The station ran a trailer stating “We apologize that you missed the first segment of 60 Minutes tonight featuring ‘The Prosecution of Don Siegelman.’ It was a technical problem with CBS out of New York.” I contacted CBS News in New York and was told that “There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.” Channel 19 is owned by Oak Hill Capital Partners … Oak Hill Partners represents interests of the Bass family, which contribute heavily to the Republican Party.
This is pretty brazen stuff. Siegelman’s serving seven years for something that happens every day in this country, at every level of government. If this can happen to a popular former state governor, you wonder what happens to people accused of federal crimes who don’t have that kind of clout.
From a Public Policy Institute of California comes a study finding that immigrants, legal and illegal, in California are not more likely to show up in prison than native-born Americans. Some findings:
• Foreign-born men make up about 35 percent of the state’s adult male population, but they are roughly 17 percent of the state’s overall prison inmates.
• U.S.-born men are jailed in state prisons at a rate more than three times higher than foreign-born men and are 10 times more likely to land behind bars.
• Male Mexican nationals ages 18 to 40 - those more likely to have entered the country illegally - are more than eight times less likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to be imprisoned.
• Those who entered the country when they were 1 year old or younger make up about 0.8 percent of those institutionalized.
The low crime rate among foreign-born Californians can be seen in the crime tallies for cities such as Burbank, Glendale and Norwalk, which large proportions of the state’s immigrant population call home.
From 2000 to 2005, those cities experienced crime dips far greater than cities with smaller immigrant populations.
Update: I added the actual link to the SJMN story above. Some commenters below ask whether deportations deflate the number of immigrant prisoners. The study, which again I haven’t read, apparently takes something like that into consideration. See this SF Chron summary.
This is what the revolution looks like. Freedom doesn’t mean ballot boxes and it doesn’t mean barricades. Freedom is made up of direct action. We will know we have won when we can walk away whistling and just ignore the bellowing blowhard brigade.
Here’s a recent strip from the Calvin and Hobbes reruns. This one’s going up on my door.
When we have won, this is what freedom will look like. It won’t take any ballot boxes and it won’t take political parties, let alone guns and barricades. Direct action means being able to walk the other way and just ignore them.
Singapore has one of the most zealous pro-fertility agendas in the world, involving a state-run matchmaking service, cash bonuses for child production, and a PR campaign dubbed “Have Three or More, If You Can Afford It.” A few decades back, of course, overpopulation seemed rather more pressing (See: Famine, 1975!), and the city-state was running a campaign called “Stop at Two.” I’ve posted one of these over at my own blog, but here are a few more classic please-stop-breeding posters that the Singaporean government has archived online:
Mister Buckles is taking back our democracy from the party establishment!
Playing the government game and taking the government’s patronage means playing by the government’s rules. The longer you keep walloping at it, the more stuck in it you get. Primary goals — like solidarity and social justice, or intellectual discovery and creation — have already been replaced by secondary goals — like winning elections or tugging on legislative purse-strings. Soon the secondary goals are swallowed up by tertiary goals — spending four-year election cycle after four-year election cycle bashing yourself against the hardened barricades of the Party establishment, or wrangling with political factions over the best process to find and bring in a boss combining the right balance of academic chops with the political connections needed to keep the university mainlining politically appropriated funds. This is no way to make a revolution. It’s not even a way to make small change.
In anarchy, there is another way. When the things that matter most in our lives are the things that we make for ourselves, each of us singly, or with many of us choosing to work together in voluntary associations, there will be no need to waste years of our lives and millions of dollars fighting wars of attrition with back-room king-makers—because we will not need to get any of the things that they are trying to hoard. There will be no need to fight battles between academic senates and Boards of Trustees over the right balance of academic competence and political savvy in a university President —because when universities’ funding rises from the people who participate in, or care about, the academic community, rather than being handed down by the State, the university has no need for political bodies like Boards of Trustees or smooth-operator self-styled Chief Executive Officers. We will not need to get any of the favors that they might be able to grant. When we go after the State’s patronage, politics makes prisoners of us all. But freedom means that when the powers that be try to rope you along for something stupid, or try to snuff out something brilliant, we can turn around, walk away, and do things for ourselves—whether they like it or not.
This has been done, acknowledges Ben Steil of the Council on Foreign Relations (a group I’m not in the habit of quoting favorably), by compelling other governments around the world to print huge mounds of their own currencies to prop up the dollar by buying Treasury Notes.
Thus when the Fed inflates, central banks world-wide follow suit, thereby driving up consumer prices for those ruled by satraps of Washington’s global empire. Not surprisingly, at least some of those on the unfavorable end of this equation are getting restive, which is whythe Gulf Cooperation Council has been making noises about removing the “dollar peg” that holds this corrupt arrangement together.
He just can’t leave wretched enough alone, can he? The execrable Alan Greenspan at an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, urging the region’s petro-oligarchs to abandon the dollar.
Oh — and wasn’t it cute of Alan “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” Greenspan, addressing an investors’ conference in Jedda, to advise GCC governments to drop the dollar peg in order to protect them from the consequences of his own inflationary policies?
Foreign purchases of our debt bonds started to taper off three years ago. If the GCC governments act on Greenspan’s advice, it will probably provoke a world-wide flight from the dollar and, in short order, the end of our status as a First World nation. I wouldn’t blame the GCC or anybody else for bailing on the buck, of course. But it is indigestibly rich to see Greenspan wielding the pin that may be used to pop the dollar bubble he so diligently inflated during his term as Fed Commissar.
To understand the likely consequences of the course Greenspan now prescribes, a different metaphor is called for.
For decades, the fiat dollar has been the world’s reserve currency, issued by the world’s largest debtor. The results of this unprecedented combination were entirely predictable: Washington has generated a flood tide of inflation that has inundated more or less the entire world.
A tide is a reciprocating phenomenon — if it goes out, it must come back in. But how to we describe what happens when a relatively small stretch of coastline suddenly has to absorb the impact of every returning tide from all the world’s oceans all at once? “Tsunami” is an entirely inadequate term.
Well, in economic terms, we’re going to find out, and probably sooner than any of us will admit. And auguries of this potentially apocalyptic development abound.
For instance: “Euros only” signs have sprung up on the streets of Manhattan. No, this doesn’t mean proprietors of small shops would flatly reject FRNs (Federal Reserve Notes) if offered in sufficient quality. It does mean, however, that with the inversion of the exchange rate in favor of the European Union’s flavor of fiat currency, and the corresponding influx of European tourists, at least some small businessmen in New York — particularly those who have traveled to Europe recently, and learned just how little a dollar will buy on the Continent — are trying to avoid the hassle and stress of converting currencies.
"I need euros," one street vendor from Niger explained to theWashington Post. “The dollar’s going down. I don’t want to change it before I go home.”*
We’d better get used to that kind of thing. In fact, it would be a good idea for Americans to study what’s happening to another dollar, the Zimbabwean variety. The regime led by the demented Marxist thug Robert Mugabe will admit to an official inflation rate of 100,580 percent in January, up dramatically from a more, ahem, modest rate of 66,212 percent last December. But unofficial — which is to say, more reliable — estimates put the rate at around 150,000 percent.
A millionaire street beggar in Zimbabwe displays bundles of that nation’s increasingly worthless fiat currency. He has an endearing and radiant smile now, but the history of hyperinflation suggests this young man is in for incredibly hard times. Say a prayer for him.
The typical Zimbabwean is a multi-millionaire: The country’s per capita gross domestic product is $9 dollars (U.S.), or about 70 million of that country’s dollars. But then again, a kilo of chicken goes for 15 million Zimbabwean dollars.
While Zimbabwe’s “millionaires” starve, its ruler and his posse feast. Amid chronic shortages of gasoline, food, and other essentials, the sub-cretinous hordes who compose that nation’s ruling elite recently raised 3 trillion Zim-dollars to celebrate the Dear Leader’s 84 birthday.
Of course, we’re not suffering Zimbabwe-style hyperinflation, at least not yet. But here’s the cold, unyielding reality: As measured by our current account balance (which is not the sole definitive measure of an economy, I hasten to point out), our country is poorer than Zimbabwe, at least according to the CIA’s World Factbook (a fact brought to my attention by the diligent folks who run the Freedom’s Phoenix newssite). Of the 163 nations on the CIA’s list, Zimbabwe is 95th. The United States is dead last.
Our nation is broke in a way no country has ever been broke before. And as households, Americans are about to grow much poorer.
William Lapp of Advanced Economic Solutions recently told participants a the USDA’s Outlook Forum that a wave (there’s that image again) of “real food inflation” is about to reach consumers. His assessment was seconded by Larry Pope of Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork processor: “I think we need to tell the American consumer that [prices] are going up…. We’re seeing cost increases that we’ve never seen in our business.” (Emphasis added.)
Joseph Glauber, the USDA’s chief economist, took note of a fact that should be obvious to anybody who’s shopped for breakfast cereal recently: The price of wheat has surged dramatically, and stands at nearly $20 a bushel, an increase yet to be fully factored into consumer prices.
As Lapp soberly pointed out, we’re just at the beginning of this trend. And the kind folks at the United Nations, who never met a problem they couldn’t transform into a crisis, or a crisis they couldn’t nurture into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe,is reportedly drawing up plans for food rationing in urban areasshould commodity price inflation goes hyperbolic and food riots ensue.
Of course, this kind of thing would only happen in desperately impoverished countries without the means to meet the obligations imposed on them by their governments, and whose populations can’t afford to buy food. You know, countries like Zimbabwe today … and perhaps the United States in the near future.
*I experienced a moment of mild and bitter amusement reading this observation in thePost story: “U.S. currency is the only legal tender money in the United States, but parties can agree to satisfy a debt by other means.”
Oh, really? Well, what if the parties agreed to an exchange of goods for Liberty Dollars, which are either made of, or fully redeemable in, the only constitutionally permissible money — gold and silver? The Feds regard an equitable transaction between fully informed parties that involves real money to be a species of “forgery.” What the Post meant to say, apparently, is that parties are free to conduct transactions using other fiat currencies.
I’ve expressed my disappointment that the Democratic primaries haven’t thrown up a more demographically electable antiwar candidate (here and here). I’ve been accused of over-emphasizing demographics but, judging by Michael Medved’s “The Blue-Eyed Rule,” the opposite may be true:
“It turns out that in all of U.S. history, only five presidents had brown eyes – John Quincy Adams, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, LBJ and Nixon. …
“[T]wo of our three presidents who faced serious impeachment proceedings (Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon) were among our brown-eyed minority. The other three brownies (John Quincy Adams, Chester A. Arthur, and Lyndon Johnson) all hoped to win an additional term as president but failed to do, falling victim to bitter political critics and rivals.
“The general incidence of blue eyes in the population is about 16% today. In 1950, it was estimated at 30%; in 1900, 50%. …
“[O]ur population almost certainly never featured the 89% blue-eyed incidence of all our presidents. …”
Occasionally the Mass Murderer-in-Chief will make a candid comment that serves as a core sample of his personality. Beneath the superficial affability that disguises his inbred sense of unearned privilege, below the dense-pack arrogance, hidden away under multiple layers of ignorance and corruption, at the center of his being, Bush is a creature of the kleptocratic State, in its crudest and most destructive form.
It’s not just that Bush has completely internalized a dimwit’s version of Keynesianism. He also appears genuinely to believe that war –heedless wholesale destruction — is more profitable than constructive private enterprise.
“Y’see” — I can imagine him saying in his practiced mock-drawl, his shoulders hunched over in that oddly simian way of his, a self-satisfied smirk creeping across that face that could have been designed by Matt Groening – “these idiots in the private sector jus’ went out and built a whole buncha houses nobody could afford, an’ now we gotta big mess. Don’t know why the fools went and overbuilt the housing market. Here’s the cool thing, though: You can’t overbuild the military. Heck, if we build too many bombs, or tanks, or missiles, we can always find some use for ‘em, and if we can’t, I’m sure the Israelis or the Saudis or someone can take ‘em off our hands – even if we have to pay them to.”
While Bush is well-known for his significant contributions to the practice of military Keynesianism, he has played no small role in expanding the practice of the domestic version as well – including the same vastly overbuilt housing and mortgage market.…
In a country where major news developments rarely precipitate anything but deeper misery, Cuba awoke Tuesday to the news that el jefe maximo, Fidel Castro, had formally ceded power to his younger brother Raul. Cuba has grown accustomed to a seemingly endless and ageless set of images of the revolutionary father delivering a stultifying oration on Yanqui this-or-that, reposing in a monogrammed track suit, mumbling incoherently about his days in the Sierra Maestra. But to Cuba watchers and exiles, his official ceding of power was unexpected.…
Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning Professor (Emeritus) of Economics at the University of Chicago and Hoover Institution Senior Research Fellow, Stanford University
In 1972, almost twenty years ago, President Nixon started a war on drugs - the first intensive effort to enforce the prohibition of drugs since the original Harrison Act. In preparation for this talk today, I reread the column that I published in Newsweek criticizing his action. Very few words in that column would have to be changed for it to be publishable today. The problem then was primarily heroin and the chief source of the heroin was Marseilles. Today, the problem is cocaine from Latin America. Aside from that, nothing would have to be changed.…
BELGRADE, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Scores of protesters smashed their way into the U.S. embassy in Belgrade on Thursday in anger at Kosovo’s independence, ransacking rooms and setting fires before riot police dispersed the crowd.
Police, nowhere to be seen earlier as the building was attacked, moved in half an hour later, firing teargas and beating and detaining rioters.
Local media said more than 30 people were injured, half of them police, and taken to hospital.
Police in armoured vans secured the streets and tried to cordon off the whole embassy district. Local agencies reported attacks on missions of several other countries, among them Britain, Croatia, Bosnia and Turkey.
People tried to flee clouds of painful teargas. Police helicopters flew over the area.
The United States urged Belgrade to protect its embassy, and Serbian President Boris Tadic urged rioters to stop.
"I appeal to our citizens to protest calmly. All those who take part in the unrest I want to withdraw from the streets and stop attacking foreign embassies," he said in a televised appeal. "This only keeps Kosovo distant from Serbia."
The storming of the U.S. embassy, which had been closed and boarded up after rioters stoned it earlier in the week, came during a state-backed rally to protest at Kosovo’s secession on Sunday attended by some 200,000 people.
Rioters — many wearing balaclavas and scarves to hide their faces — had attacked the building with sticks and metal bars after destroying two guard boxes outside.
They ripped metal grilles from windows and tore a handrail off the entrance to use as a battering ram and gain entry.
One man climbed up to the first floor, ripped the Stars and Stripes off its pole and briefly put up a Serbian flag.
Other people jumped up and down on the balcony, holding up a Serbian flag as the crowd below of about 1,000 people cheered them on, shouting “Serbia, Serbia”.
Black smoke billowed out of the embassy. Papers and chairs were thrown out of the windows, with doors wedged in the window frames and burning.
Some 200 riot police arrived half an hour later, driving the crowd away. Some protesters sat on the ground, bleeding. Fire engines arrived to put out the flames, local media reported.
Meanwhile, the main rally proceeded as planned with a march to the city’s biggest Orthodox cathedral for a prayer service, just several hundred metres (yards) away.
State television switched between scenes of the rioting and the choral singing of the church service.
Small groups of looters also broke into some street kiosks and shops, making off with cigarettes, chocolate and shoes.
News agencies said some foreign banks and McDonalds fast-food stores were also attacked and eight city buses damaged. Crowds later marched towards a liberal television station, but large crowds of police awaited them there.
Washington urged Belgrade to keep order.
"We are in contact with the Serbian government to ensure that they devote the appropriate assets to fulfil their international obligations to help protect diplomatic facilities, in this case our embassy," said a State Department spokesman.
"They (Serbia) have been up until this point very good." (Reporting by Ellie Tzortzi, writing by Richard Meares)
Due to the United States government’s immigration and customs Securitate, a 14-day-old baby boy with a serious heart condition, whose life was supposed to have been saved by emergency medical care, is dead.
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa— American Samoa’s delegate to the U.S. Congress is calling for an investigation into the death of a baby at Honolulu International Airport.
Delegate Eni Faleomavaega has asked the Department of Homeland Security to begin an investigation into death of 14-day-old Michael Tony Futi last Friday.
The baby had been flown to Honolulu for emergency heart surgery. He died while detained inside a customs’ room at the Honolulu airport with his mother and a nurse.
The family plans to sue the federal government for compensation. They certainly deserve it. But if their case isn’t thrown out of court on the excuse of sovereign immunity—which is what will probably happen—then the unaccountable thugs who murdered this family’s baby boy still won’t pay a damned cent for what they did. What they’ll do, public servants that they are, is to help themselves to tax money to cover the pay-out, thus sticking the rest of us, who had nothing to do with their asinine security theater or their callous indifference to human life, with the bill.
Finland has a secret list of blacklisted sites that are not accessible through Finnish servers. The blocked sites are supposed to be child pornography only, but (surprise!) the list of banned sites was recently expanded to include a critic of the government’s policy who published a list of the sites, which he says includes other legal sites as well:
Now the censorship list has been appended with a site called lapsiporno.info[translates to childpornography.info] that is maintained by a Finnish Internet activist Matti Nikki. The site does not contain child pornography, but articles that criticise censorship and a list of blocked IP addresses.
Leena Romppainen, a member of the Effi board wonders: “If the site really had some illegal content, wouldn’t the correct solution be to take the site down and take the site owner to the court? The site is located on a Finnish server and the name of the site owner appears visibly on the root page of the site.”
Think this sort of thing only happens to crazy foreigners? Think again:
The United States had its own close encounter with a secret blacklist of ostensible porn sites in the form of a Pennsylvania statute that coerced Internet providers into blocking access to certain Web sites the government didn’t like. In 2004, a federal judge ruled the law was unconstitutional, noting that “there is an abundance of evidence that implementation of the Act has resulted in massive suppression of speech protected by the First Amendment.”
All’s well that ends well in the Pennsylvania case, but you’d think we’d know by know that secret government blacklists can get pretty messy.
Based on surveys of young Internet users and interviews with government investigators, University of New Hampshire researchers have concluded that the risk from online pedophiles is not trumpeted often or loudly enough. Just kidding. In the latest issue of American Psychologist, they debunk the following misconceptions, as summarized by McClatchy Newspapers:
Myth: Internet predators are driving up child sex crime rates.
Finding: Sex assaults on teens fell 52 percent from 1993 to 2005, according to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, the best measure of U.S. cri
me trends. “The Internet may not be as risky as a lot of other things that parents do without concern, such as driving kids to the mall and leaving them there for two hours,” [sociologist Janis] Wolak said.
Myth: Internet predators are pedophiles.
Finding: Internet predators don’t hit on the prepubescent children whom pedophiles target. They target adolescents, who have more access to computers, more privacy and more interest in sex and romance, Wolak’s team determined from interviews with investigators.
Myth: Internet predators represent a new dimension of child sexual abuse.
Finding: The means of communication is new, according to Wolak, but most Internet-linked offenses are essentially statutory rape: nonforcible sex crimes against minors too young to consent to sexual relationships with adults.
Myth: Internet predators trick or abduct their victims.
Finding: Most victims meet online offenders face-to-face and go to those meetings expecting to engage in sex. Nearly three-quarters have sex with partners they met on the Internet more than once.
Myth: Internet predators meet their victims by posing online as other teens.
Finding: Only 5 percent of predators did that, according to the survey of investigators.
Myth: Online interactions with strangers are risky.
Finding: Many teens interact online all the time with people they don’t know. What’s risky, according to Wolak, is giving out names, phone numbers and pictures to strangers and talking online with them about sex.
Myth: Internet predators go after any child.
Finding: Usually their targets are adolescent girls or adolescent boys of uncertain sexual orientation, according to Wolak. Youths with histories of sexual abuse, sexual orientation concerns and patterns of off- and online risk-taking are especially at risk.
Here (PDF) is a press release about the study, produced by the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, and here (PDF) is the full text.
We need to be incredibly sensitive as we leave Iraq to the welfare of Iraqis who are going to be left in our wake. That potentially entails the idea of sectarian or ethnic relocation if people are in a mixed neighborhood and feel that they’d be safer in a more homogenous neighborhood. Also, [it entails] massive support for neighboring countries that have taken in 2 million refugees, and some very systematic effort between now and the time we begin leaving to build funding and resource streams to internally displaced people.
We have shown again and again that we care about Iraq only insofar as it serves our interests. But I think it’s time to show not only Iraqis but the rest of the world that at least as we leave, we’re leaving with a very vigilant eye on how to mitigate the consequences of our actions.
Quite remarkable. So here’s the plan from the author, incidentally, of a book on genocide. Accept the realities imposed by ethnic cleansing; give plenty of money to several of the neighboring countries that have been responsible for sustaining the fighting in Iraq; and pay off displaced Iraqis so that the U.S. can feel less guilty about abandoning them to their sad fate.
I exaggerate? Not much. Power wants to have her cake and eat it too. Essentially, her solution is a grand buy-off. Drop some money into everyone’s cup, call it “mitigating the consequences of our actions”, and, with vigilant eye closed, blame everything on the Bush administration if the U.S. leaves chaos and death in its wake.
I would be able cynically to stomach her scheme if it were not couched in the hypocritical language of moral self-righteousness. Power knows enough about killing to know that she really needs to answer the question: What happens if an American withdrawal leads simultaneously to mass murder? But the egghead smells a foreign policy post. She’s not about to jeopardize that by possibly straying off the reservation.
An ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba’s president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he will not accept a new term when parliament meets Sunday.
The end of Castro’s rule - the longest in the world for a head of government - frees his 76-year-old brother Raul to implement reforms he has hinted at since taking over as acting president when Fidel Castro fell ill in July 2006. President Bush said he hopes the resignation signals the beginning of a democratic transition.
"My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath," Castro wrote in a letter published Tuesday in the online edition of the Communist Party daily Granma. But, he wrote, "it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer."
Earlier this year, Castro had said that there would be no change in the Cuba-U.S. relationship until that man in the White House had vamoosed. And George W. Bush, along with most Dems and Reps, haven’t shown much interest in changing the ongoing, and idiotic, U.S. embargo of Cuba. (Two pols who dare speak logic on this issue are Reps. Jeff Flake and Charles Rangel).
U.S. policy toward Cuba has been generally misguided for well over a century. Here’s hoping the Congress and the president will do something right to accelerate a shift to freedom there. And here’s hoping that Cuba becomes a better place as Castro puts one foot into the grave. I don’t believe in hell, but I sort of hope there is a place like it for a guy like Castro.
If you want to expose the absurdity of the state, think governmental accounting. Really, there is no better way to show the impossibility of a government solution to scarcity than by reading the annual audit of any governmental entity.Goethe considered double-entry bookkeeping — the essence of accounting — to be “one of the finest inventions of the human mind.” For without accounting, we lose the ability to calculate, and without the ability to calculate, modern civilization is impossible.Accounting lets the entrepreneur know whether he earned a profit, utilizing scarce resources in order to produce something of greater value. Accounting also lets the entrepreneur know whether activities he performs are better outsourced, or, conversely, whether he should expand into new orders of production. In essence, accounting directs the entrepreneur toward activities that satisfy the wants of the consumer.Government accounting is a true oxymoron. We can determine the cost of government, but what about the value produced? What is the product? What is its value? What is the bottom line? Of course, these unanswered questions do not stop government from playing business, pretending to create value and profit for society.Governmental entities operate under the cash basis of accounting, tracking cash in and cash out. To direct their activities, these entities create budgets that list revenue and expenditures. Accounting then is simply the recording of cash flows against the budget. In this world, the cheered concept of fiscal accountability is the process of reporting how close the entity’s final revenue and expenditures matched its approved budget. And nothing more.This is an important point to note: whenever government officials speak of fiscal accountability, they are only considering approved budget versus actual spending. They are not referring to worthiness of expenditures, only whether or not they spent revenue according to the budget, with no outright theft of money. Oh, sure, the officials will claim that fiscal accountability means that money was spent on productive activities since, as expected, it is assumed by the governmental entity that only productive activities were approved in the budget. Circular reasoning.With cash accounting, the cost of infrastructure investments — roads, bridges, buildings, etc. — is reported in the year it occurs, though the capital assets continue to have value or usefulness for years. Reporting cash flow misses the complete financial picture of the government entity, leaving this question unanswered: is it in a better financial position than the year before?To answer that question, the Government Accounting Standards Board issued its Statement 34 in 1999. Annual reports that satisfy this statement supposedly detail the financial health of governmental entities as if these entities were profit-oriented businesses. Reporting is now done on the accrual basis of accounting, and assets are depreciated over their lifetime. This change provides a bottom line: net assets. With a view of either increasing or decreasing assets over liabilities, we can now determine a profit or loss of sorts.Under this logic, when a governmental entity has more net assets this year than the prior year, it is in a better financial state — it has achieved a profit. Government can now report to its constituents whether or not it was able to take scarce resources and turn them into something of greater value. Socialism, here we come.But not so fast. Government assets are the product of theft, not the result of satisfying the wants of consumers. A governmental entity with increasing assets is simply stealing more from taxpayers year after year. Ironically, the same holds true for a governmental entity that has decreasing assets. In either situation, more is being thieved, with nothing of value being created.The implication is that a governmental entity that increases its tax revenue faster than its expenditures is performing a service for its constituents; the entity is achieving a profit for the taxpayers. Conversely, a governmental entity in a deficit cycle is creating a loss for its taxpayers. So, the more a government confiscates, the better off the taxpayers. Does that make sense? Down is up, and up is down. Somewhere, somehow, we ventured down the rabbit hole.
$10$6"In government accounting, the cost itself is a benefit."It is as if we are to cheer a government that taxes and builds since increasing assets count as profit, not waste. The public school district that builds a $50 million high school is bettering its financial position. Whether or not the high school produces anything of value is of no consideration. In government accounting, the cost itself is a benefit. Of course, that is not how businesses serve the consumer, but, with government, we are through the looking glass.The difference between government and business is the chain of taxation versus the dollar vote. The public school district taxes regardless of value produced. Once the bond issue passes the voters, the bill must be paid, to be enforced by the long, strong arm of government. On the other hand, the entrepreneur must face the consumer every day, product in hand, hoping to make a sale. The consumer can as easily bypass as enter his store, based on a whim if he so chooses. The taxpayer? Well, just try to hide.If government is of the people, and I am one of the people, shouldn’t I include changes in the net assets of my local school district in my financial portfolio? Since the local schools are my schools — or so the mantra goes — don’t those changes have an impact on my finances? Shouldn’t I record changes of district assets in my ledger?Moreover, shouldn’t I be able to sell my shares of the supposed public good and use the resulting proceeds for my benefit? Yes, I should. But, as I learned growing up in Allegheny County in southwestern Pennsylvania, the sign that reads, “Keep out, Property of Allegheny County,” does not refer only to those who live outside the county; it means that even the taxpayers of Allegheny County have no right to that property.The bottom line — increasing government net assets — is not my property; never was; never will be.Jim Fedako, a homeschooling father of five who lives in Lewis Center, OH, maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist. Send him mail. See his archive. Comment on the blog.Notes Of course, accounting has changed as taxation creates financial incentives to beat the taxman by showing as little profit as possible, but that is another article. During the Cold War, both the US and Soviet governments calculated Soviet GDP to include tractors rusting on the plains of the Ukraine. That the tractors had no real value to the local farmer was not considered. With government, cost is always recorded as value.
It may surprise you, as it did me, to learn that no study has ever demonstrated any academic benefit to assigning homework before children are in high school. In fact, even in high school, the association between homework and achievement is weak — and the data don’t show that homework is responsible for higher achievement. (Correlation doesn’t imply causation.)
Finally, there isn’t a shred of evidence to support the folk wisdom that homework provides nonacademic benefits at any age — for example, that it builds character, promotes self-discipline, or teaches good work habits. We’re all familiar with the downside of homework: the frustration and exhaustion, the family conflict, time lost for other activities, and possible diminution of children’s interest in learning. But the stubborn belief that all of this must be worth it, that the gain must outweigh the pain, relies on faith rather than evidence.
So why does homework continue to be assigned and accepted? Possible reasons include a lack of respect for research, a lack of respect for children (implicit in a determination to keep them busy after school), a lack of understanding about the nature of learning (implicit in the emphasis on practicing skills and the assertion that homework “reinforces” school lessons), or the top-down pressures to teach more stuff faster in order to pump up test scores so we can chant “We’re number one!”
All of these explanations are plausible, but I think there’s also something else responsible for our continuing to feed children this latter-day cod-liver oil.…
It’s official. Toshiba just made a statement saying, ” it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders.” Cessation of the player and recorders are targeted for March 2008. Volume production of HD DVD disk drives for PCs and games will end in the same time frame. However, Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation did say that Toshiba will, “continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives.” That’s it folks, the format war is over, Blu-ray has won. Full press release after the break.
Toshiba Announces Discontinuation of HD DVD Businesses
19 February, 2008
Company Remains Focused on Championing Consumer Access to High Definition Content
TOKYO—Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.
HD DVD was developed to offer consumers access at an affordable price to high-quality, high definition content and prepare them for the digital convergence of tomorrow where the fusion of consumer electronics and IT will continue to progress.
"We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called ‘next-generation format war’ and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation. "While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality."
Toshiba will continue to lead innovation, in a wide range of technologies that will drive mass market access to high definition content. These include high capacity NAND flash memory, small form factor hard disk drives, next generation CPUs, visual processing, and wireless and encryption technologies. The company expects to make forthcoming announcements around strategic progress in these convergence technologies.
Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008. Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same timeframe, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand.
This decision will not impact on Toshiba’s commitment to standard DVD, and the company will continue to market conventional DVD players and recorders. Toshiba intends to continue to contribute to the development of the DVD industry, as a member of the DVD Forum, an international organization with some 200 member companies, committed to the discussion and defining of optimum optical disc formats for the consumer and the related industries.
Toshiba also intends to maintain collaborative relations with the companies who joined with Toshiba in working to build up the HD DVD market, including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation and major Japanese and European content providers on the entertainment side, as well as leaders in the IT industry, including Microsoft, Intel, and HP. Toshiba will study possible collaboration with these companies for future business opportunities, utilizing the many assets generated through the development of HD DVD.
In commemoration of Presidents’ Day (or of the possible alternative holiday No-Presidents Day) I offer these thoughts from William Godwin on the problems with elective and limited monarchy – since an elective limited monarchy is essentially what the Presidency is:
ON ELECTIVE MONARCHY
Having considered the nature of monarchy in general, it is incumbent on us to examine how far its mischiefs may be qualified by rendering the monarchy elective.
One of the most obvious objections to this remedy is the difficulty that attends upon the conduct of such an election. There are machines that are too mighty for the human hand to conduct; there are proceedings that are too gigantic and unwieldy for human institutions to regulate. The distance between the mass of mankind and a sovereign is so immense, the trust to be confided so incalculably great, the temptations of the object to be decided on so alluring, as to set every passion that can vex the mind in tumultuous conflict. …
The design with which election can be introduced into the constitution of a monarchy must either be that of raising to the kingly office a man of superlative talents and uncommon genius, or of providing a moderate portion of wisdom and good intention for these functions, and preventing them from falling into the hands of persons of notorious imbecility. To the first of these designs it will be objected by many ‘that genius is frequently nothing more in the hands of its possessor than an instrument for accomplishing the most pernicious intentions’. … If then genius can, by temptations of various sorts, be led into practical mistake, may we not reasonably entertain a fear respecting the effect of that situation which is so singularly pregnant with temptation? If considerations of inferior note be apt to mislead the mind, what shall we think of this most intoxicating draught, of a condition superior to restraint, stripped of all those accidents and vicissitudes from which the morality of human beings has flowed, with no salutary check, with no intellectual warfare, where mind meets mind on equal terms, but perpetually surrounded with sycophants, servants and dependents? To suppose a mind in which genius and virtue are united and permanent is also undoubtedly to suppose something which no calculation will teach us to expect should offer upon every vacancy. And, if the man could be found, we must imagine to ourselves electors almost as virtuous as the elected, or else error and prejudice, faction and intrigue, will render his election at least precarious, perhaps improbable. Add to this that it is sufficiently evident, from the unalterable evils of monarchy already enumerated, and which we shall presently have occasion to recapitulate, that the first act of sovereignty in a virtuous monarch whose discernment was equal to his virtue would be to annihilate the constitution which had raised him to a throne.
But we will suppose the purpose of instituting an elective monarchy, not to be that of constantly filling the throne with a man of sublime genius, but merely to prevent the office from falling into the hands of a person of notorious imbecility. Such is the strange and pernicious nature of monarchy that it may be doubted whether this be a benefit. Wherever monarchy exists, courts and administrations must, as long as men can see only with their eyes, and act only with their hands, be its constant attendants. But these have already appeared to be institutions so mischievous that perhaps one of the greatest injuries that can be done to mankind is to persuade them of their innocence. … To palliate the defects and skin over the deformity of what is fundamentally wrong is certainly very perilous, perhaps very fatal to the best interests of mankind. … If I lived under an elective monarchy, I certainly should not venture to give my vote to a fickle, intemperate or stupid candidate, in preference to a sober and moderate one. Yet may it not happen that a succession, such as that of Trajan, Adrian and the Antonines, familiarizing men to despotism, and preparing them to submit to the tyranny of their successors, may be fraught with more mischief than benefit? It should seem that a mild and insidious way of reconciling mankind to a calamity, before they are made to feel it, is a real and a heavy misfortune. …
ON LIMITED MONARCHY
I proceed to consider monarchy, not as it exists in countries where it is unlimited and despotic, but, as in certain instances it has appeared, a branch merely of the general constitution.
Here it is only necessary to recollect the objections which applied to it in its unqualified state, in order to perceive that they bear upon it, with the same explicitness, if not with equal force, under every possible modification. Still the government is founded in falsehood, affirming that a certain individual is eminently qualified for an important situation, whose qualifications are perhaps scarcely superior to those of the meanest member of the community. …
But, if we consider the question more narrowly, we shall perhaps find that limited monarchy has other absurdities and vices which are peculiarly its own. In an absolute sovereignty, the king may, if he please, be his own minister; but, in a limited one, a ministry and a cabinet are essential parts of the constitution. In an absolute sovereignty, princes are acknowledged to be responsible only to God; but, in a limited one, there is a responsibility of a very different nature. In a limited monarchy, there are checks, one branch of the government counteracting the excesses of another, and a check without responsibility is the most flagrant contradiction. …
An individual is first appointed, and endowed with the most momentous prerogatives; and then it is pretended that, not he, but other men, are answerable for the abuse of these prerogatives. … Having first invented this fiction, it becomes the business of such constitutions, as nearly as possible, to realize it. A ministry must be regularly formed; they must concert together; and the measures they execute must originate in their own discretion. The king must be reduced, as nearly as possible, to a cypher. So far as he fails to be completely so, the constitution must be imperfect.
What sort of figure is it that this miserable wretch exhibits in the face of the world? Everything is, with great parade, transacted in his name. He assumes all the inflated and oriental style which has been already described …. We find him like Pharaoh’s frogs, “in our houses, and upon our beds, in our ovens, and our kneading troughs.” … A limited monarchy… might be executed with great facility and applause if a king were, what such a constitution endeavours to render him, a mere puppet regulated by pulleys and wires. But it is among the most egregious and palpable of all political mistakes to imagine that we can reduce a human being to this neutrality and torpor. He will not exert any useful and true activity, but he will be far from passive. The more he is excluded from that energy that characterizes wisdom and virtue, the more depraved and unreasonable will he be in his caprices. … A king does not fail to hear his power and prerogatives extolled, and he will, no doubt, at some time, wish to essay their reality in an unprovoked war against a foreign nation, or against his own citizens.
“Citizens may resist unlawful arrest to the point of taking an arresting officer’s life if necessary.” Plummer v. State, 136 Ind. 306. This premise was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case: John Bad Elk v. U.S., 177 U.S. 529. The Court stated: “Where the officer is killed in the course of the disorder which naturally accompanies an attempted arrest that is resisted, the law looks with very different eyes upon the transaction, when the officer had the right to make the arrest, from what it does if the officer had no right. What may be murder in the first case might be nothing more than manslaughter in the other, or the facts might show that no offense had been committed.”
“An arrest made with a defective warrant, or one issued without affidavit, or one that fails to allege a crime is within jurisdiction, and one who is being arrested, may resist arrest and break away. lf the arresting officer is killed by one who is so resisting, the killing will be no more than an involuntary manslaughter.” Housh v. People, 75 111. 491; reaffirmed and quoted in State v. Leach, 7 Conn. 452; State v. Gleason, 32 Kan. 245; Ballard v. State, 43 Ohio 349; State v Rousseau, 241 P. 2d 447; State v. Spaulding, 34 Minn. 3621.
“When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self defense, his assailant is killed, he is justified.” Runyan v. State, 57 Ind. 80; Miller v. State, 74 Ind. 1.
“These principles apply as well to an officer attempting to make an arrest, who abuses his authority and transcends the bounds thereof by the use of unnecessary force and violence, as they do to a private individual who unlawfully uses such force and violence.” Jones v. State, 26 Tex. App. I; Beaverts v. State, 4 Tex. App. 1 75; Skidmore v. State, 43 Tex. 93, 903.
“An illegal arrest is an assault and battery. The person so attempted to be restrained of his liberty has the same right to use force in defending himself as he would in repelling any other assault and battery.” (State v. Robinson, 145 ME. 77, 72 ATL. 260).
“Each person has the right to resist an unlawful arrest. In such a case, the person attempting the arrest stands in the position of a wrongdoer and may be resisted by the use of force, as in self- defense.” (State v. Mobley, 240 N.C. 476, 83 S.E. 2d 100).
“One may come to the aid of another being unlawfully arrested, just as he may where one is being assaulted, molested, raped or kidnapped. Thus it is not an offense to liberate one from the unlawful custody of an officer, even though he may have submitted to such custody, without resistance.” (Adams v. State, 121 Ga. 16, 48 S.E. 910).
“Story affirmed the right of self-defense by persons held illegally. In his own writings, he had admitted that ‘a situation could arise in which the checks-and-balances principle ceased to work and the various branches of government concurred in a gross usurpation.’ There would be no usual remedy by changing the law or passing an amendment to the Constitution, should the oppressed party be a minority. Story concluded, ‘If there be any remedy at all … it is a remedy never provided for by human institutions.’ That was the ‘ultimate right of all human beings in extreme cases to resist oppression, and to apply force against ruinous injustice.’” (From Mutiny on the Amistad by Howard Jones, Oxford University Press, 1987, an account of the reading of the decision in the case by Justice Joseph Story of the Supreme Court.
As for grounds for arrest: “The carrying of arms in a quiet, peaceable, and orderly manner, concealed on or about the person, is not a breach of the peace. Nor does such an act of itself, lead to a breach of the peace.” (Wharton’s Criminal and Civil Procedure, 12th Ed., Vol.2: Judy v. Lashley, 5 W. Va. 628, 41 S.E. 197)
It was with astonishment that The Economist surveyed Hugo Chávez’s first five years in office: “In the five years to 2003, Mr Chávez’s performance was disastrous. The proportion of households below the poverty line increased by more than 11 percentage points…It was the first time since data were collected that poverty rose even as the oil price did too.”
But in the past few years, the Venezuelan economy has undergone significant growth, with an influx of oil money resulting in 18 percent growth in 2004 and 10 percent in 2005 (though the economic expansion has tapered off in recent months). Back in 2006, Latin American studies Professor Michael Shifter, who is somewhat sympathetic to the Chavism, said that while the economy has improved, and “record oil profits…are funding social spending, [Chavez’s] initiatives have yielded only very modest gains.” In a previous piece on the caudillo of Caracas, I quoted former chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly Francisco Rodriguez on the much-heralded decrease in poverty: “It’s normal for poverty to decline during economic expansions and that the decline under Chávez is not unprecedented—indeed, it is smaller than the decline observed during similar periods in the past.”
And despite oil hovering at around $100 a barrel, the economic situation seems to be getting worse. This is what one must endure if one wants to buy “subsidized food” in the city of San Antonio de Tachir:
The New York Times' excellent Latin America correspondent Simon Romero has a must-read(well, for those interested in such things) on Chavez’s eroding popularity. A sample:
While Mr. Chávez remains Venezuela’s most powerful political figure, his once unquestionable authority is showing signs of erosion. Unthinkable a few months ago, graffiti began appearing here in the capital in January reading, “Diosdado Presidente,” a show of support for a possible presidential bid by Diosdado Cabello, a Chávez supporter and governor of the populous Miranda State.
Outbreaks of dengue fever and Chagas disease have alarmed families living in the heart of this city. Fears of a devaluation of the new currency, called the “strong bolívar,” are fueling capital flight. While the economy may grow 6 percent this year, lifted by high oil prices, production in oil fields controlled by the national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, has declined. Inflation soared by 3 percent in January, its highest monthly level in a decade.
Add to this Exxon’s court-approved freezing of $12 billion in PdVSA (Venezuela’s state oil company) assets and widespread food shortages (those pesky price controls again!) and it looks like Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution is, at long last, in decline.