Archive for May, 2012

NEWS LINKS: Standing near a terrorist makes you a terrorist?

by Staff Monkeys

In a long New York Times story about U.S. policy toward killing suspects with no arrest or trial, administration officials also make it clear how they decide who’s a terrorist. If you’re anywhere near a suspected terrorist, you are automatically considered a terrorist — and will be killed without further questions. Radley Balko breaks down the NYT story on this point.

  • Writing in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank asks whether Mitt Romney might really be a unicorn and thus not eligible to be president. There’s no proof he’s not a unicorn. Shouldn’t he have to prove this? (In case you think he’s serious, consider the case being made that Barack Obama’s supporters have to prove his birthplace again and again.)
  • When a group of Catholic monks in Louisiana decided to start selling their hand-made coffins, the state swooped down on them like a hawk, letting them know that only funeral homes are allowed to sell coffins. The state claims it’s to protect consumers, of course, but it’s clear that the real purpose is to protect the funeral home industry. With the help of the libertarian Institute for Justice, the monks are slowly winning in court. Here’s a short Institute for Justice video on the case last year.

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U.S. veteran: ‘If I knew what I know now, I would never have joined…’

by David McElroy

We’re frequently told that we must support foreign invasions and military operations in other countries because that means “supporting the troops.” A veteran of the military gave me his thoughts on this whole idea on Memorial Day.

Those who support invading other countries and continuing wars that can’t be won tell us that doing so honors and supports the men and women who are fighting the wars. If that’s true, why did 87 percent of contributions from active-duty U.S. military people to GOP candidates go to Ron Paul — the only candidate who supports an end to military adventurism, reserving the U.S. military to the role of defending this country rather than invading other countries that haven’t attacked us?

More of those in the armed services have grave reservations about the way the military is used today. Some might be blindly supportive of the militaristic view of their civilian bosses, but a substantial number know better. And as many of them finish their time in the military and reflect on what they’ve seen and heard, they come to view things in very different ways. This is what a veteran said to me Monday in discussing the illustration above:

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UPDATE: Judge drops charges against Diane Tran; $100,000 raised

by David McElroy

If you’ve been watching the story of Diane Tran, you’ll be happy to know that the 17-year-old has won. Houston television station KHOU reported Wednesday evening that Judge Lanny Moriarty says he will clear her record of all charges.

That’s good news, but it’s just as exciting that the efforts to raise money to help her have been successful. The goal was to raise $100,000 and that goal was hit Wednesday afternoon.

This is a victory for Diane Tran, but it’s also a victory for all of you who shared her story and helped bring about awareness of it. I think it’s safe to say that Moriarty wouldn’t have backed down if it hadn’t been for your pressure.

If you live in his county and still participate in the electoral system, please make sure someone beat this bad judge in the next election.

NEWS LINKS: Labor figures show ‘lazy’ Greeks work long hours

by Staff Monkeys

How much of a difference does it make to a country to have a more productive workforce, good technology, good financing and low corruption? European surveys show that Greeks are considered the least hardworking people in the other European countries, but the Greeks actually work longer hours. The analysis suggests that shorter work hours correlate with other things that lead to higher prosperity.

  • Radley Balko has a story that shows (once again) the problems that develop when police are militarized and given free rein to use SWAT teams with no cause. Four years ago, a Connecticut police chief wanted to raid a man’s home. He got a tip — with a woman using a fake name — that there was cocaine use going on in the man’s house. The SWAT team hit the home, complete with flash-bang grenades and all of their usual toys. One of their own grenades struck one of the raiding officers, so he yelled that he was hit — causing all the other officers to shoot to death the unarmed man inside. The story will make you angry if you care anything about rights.
  • There’s a new study from Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute arguing that if Canada could cut government spending, the U.S. government can do the same. (PDF) We’re skeptical it’s political possible here, but the paper reviews Canada’s reforms since the 1980s, including free trade, privatization, spending cuts, sound money, corporate tax cuts, balanced federal budgets, block grants and decentralization in government.

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Outraged folks around world letting Diane Tran know she’s not alone

by David McElroy

In most cases, there’s very little we can do to change the bad things we see in the news. But people all over this country and in other countries who were angered at how Texas teen Diane Tran was being treated are reaching out to help her.

Diane is the 11th grader who was sent to jail for 24 hours and fined $100 for missing more than 10 days of school in a six-month period. Judge Lanny Moriarty said at the time that his rough treatment of the 17-year-old was to send a message to others.

“If you let one [truant student] run loose, what are you gonna do with the rest of ’em? Let them go too?” Moriarty said.

Now you can help Diane Tran — as people in 46 U.S. states and 12 other countries have done. The Louisiana Children’s Education Alliance has set up a fundraising site to help the girl, who is already considered an adult under Texas law. As of Tuesday evening, the fund had reached more than $65,000. You can learn more at

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NEWS LINKS: Debt crisis means Greece losing Euro membership

by Staff Monkeys

It appears that Greece might be losing its membership in the European Union’s joint currency zone, according to CNBC. The country has managed it affairs so poorly that the country is being tossed out of the EuroZone in about three weeks. If your eyes glaze over at that and you’re not sure it matters, we recommend you listen to this episode of This American Life from a few months ago. It explains how the European debt crisis got so bad and why it’s a problem.

  • In Atlanta, a Citizen Review Board was set up to look into police misconduct after police wrongly raided a home and killed a 92-year-old woman a few years back. It was supposed to put police actions in the spotlight, but it turns out that opposition from the police department and the police union have made it pretty much useless.
  • After an Iraq vet called a phone counseling hotline, Washington, D.C., police raided his home, even though he wasn’t actually suicidal and he wasn’t contemplating shooting himself — all because he admitted to the phone counselor that he owned guns.

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We all see bits and pieces of reality; not a one of us sees whole picture

by David McElroy

I found myself involved in a couple of online debates Monday that I wasn’t happy about. In both cases, someone who disagrees with me attacked me personally about that disagreement. In both cases, I felt attacked personally and responded more harshly than I meant to. I avoid those kinds of arguments these days, so they both upset me — partly at the other people, but partly at myself.

Both of the debates were about military action around the world. The specifics don’t matter, but in both cases, the other person was attacking the idea that the United States has behaved inappropriately with some military actions around the world in the last decade or so. (In one of the cases, the woman called those of us who opposed her position “dissenters,” as though that was a vile thing to be.) The truth is that arguments such as these don’t end up being about the subjects themselves. The arguments end up very personal. They end up between two people (or more) who have very different views of the world — and it’s about each trying to convince the other than his model of reality is the correct one.

How in the world can we deal with humans living together when we see the world in so many different ways? And does it have to be this way?

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NEWS LINKS: U.S. defense secretary quietly beats war drums against Iran

by Staff Monkeys

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta didn’t come right out and threaten Iran Sunday, but he may as well have. He said the United States is “ready from a military perspective” to stop Iran’s nuclear program if “international pressure” didn’t work. (We assume that’s a code name for threats and intimidation.) We don’t like the Iranians having nukes, but we’re not crazy about countries such as Israel and Pakistan having them, either. We can’t see a reason to create another generation of people who hate the West just to slow a program down that’s ultimately going to succeed anyway. (Remind us again which countries have actually used nukes on innocent civilians so far. Hmmmm.)

  • It wasn’t a good week for the Birmingham Police Department. One officer was arrested and charged with a series of arsons in a nearby rural community. Another officer was arrested in a nearby suburb on child porn charges. It’s a good thing these fine men are around to keep us safe.
  • After a woman had her iPhone stolen on a cruise, she thought she had lost it forever. But then she realized that the thief apparently didn’t understand the phone was connected to her iCloud account. That meant all the photos he took were automatically uploaded to her account, so she was able to keep watching what was taken. When she finally saw the thief’s name tag on a uniform, she was able to identify him and work with the cruise line to recover her phone. There’s no word about whether the thief had to walk the plank.

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Best remembrance of fallen fighters? Limit military’s role to actual defense

by David McElroy

It’s Memorial Day in the United States, a day we set aside to remember men and women who’ve died in wars. Politicians make a lot of speeches today and lay a lot of wreaths, but the best way to honor the fallen would be to quit using the men and women of the military as expendable pawns in a global game for world influence.

There’s something honorable about fighting for something you believe in, and I respect the dedication and bravery of many thousands of those who’ve died. But since we can’t bring them back to life (and we can’t change the horrors they lived through), the best we can do is change how the U.S. government conducts itself around the globe so that fewer Americans will join the ones being honored today in military cemeteries — and fewer loved ones will face living without them, as the woman in the picture above had to do when her fiance was killed in Iraq in 2007.

Even if we set aside the question of the legitimacy of the state, there’s much to be gained from making U.S. foreign policy less intrusive and less aggressive. It’s not the business of the U.S. government what happens around the world, and it’s not U.S. taxpayers’ responsibility to pay for whatever happens elsewhere. It’s not U.S. soldiers’ legitimate role to die invading countries which haven’t invaded their homeland.

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NEWS LINKS: State’s taxpayers lose $75 million on failed game studio

by Staff Monkeys

Why do governments persist in thinking they ought to be in the venture capital business? When private investors place bets on companies, it’s money that’s voluntarily provided, so the gains are private and the losses are private. But when states give money to businesses, they’re placing casino bets with money that’s been taken from other people. The latest example of why it’s a disaster is Rhode Island, which lent $75 million to a game development company headed by a former major league baseball player. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, everything has gone wrong — and taxpayers are looking at a huge loss.

  • We reported something similar to this a few months back, but this story provides added detail. Roughly half of all U.S. households receive at least some form of money from the U.S. government. Since governments have no money of their own, that means the money is coming from the other half of the people.
  • It must be a nightmare to live under the totalitarian monsters of North Korea’s government. A new report says that 30 North Korean officials who were involved in talks with South Korean officials have been executed — for the crime of being unsuccessful in negotiating a deal to improve relations between the country, even though the communist government was continuing with its nuclear program that was the source of the actual problems.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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