Archive for August, 2011

From anarcho-capitalist to congressman

August 12, 2011

It’s hard to believe that a current member of Congress, Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), was once an anarcho-capitalist. It’s too bad he has become an idiot.

Mr. Show commercial

August 11, 2011

I don’t have much to say today, other than that you should watch this advertisement for Mr. Show, a series on HBO in the mid-1990s that is one of my favorite TV comedies.

Okay, stop throwing around “terrorist”

August 10, 2011

Instead of accusing our opponents of supporting “terrorism,” I propose a moratorium on the word. Let us all agree to take the time to explain why the support of this or that group is so bad. The article I link to does a pretty good job of that.

Rumsfeld can be sued for torture

August 9, 2011

I have a number of questions about law after reading this article from the Christian Science Monitor: Appeals court allows US citizens’ torture suit against Rumsfeld

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may be held personally responsible in a civil lawsuit for the alleged torture of two American citizens held without charge in a US military prison in Iraq in 2006, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.

That sounds like a positive development.

Government lawyers argued that the suit must be dismissed based on rulings in earlier cases by appeals courts in New York and Washington, D.C. The Chicago-based appeals court panel said the Vance/Ertel lawsuit was different because the two earlier decisions involved noncitizens.

Why does that matter?

[Judge Hamilton] added: “The wrongdoing alleged here violates the most basic terms of the constitutional compact(Ed. note: WTF?) between our government and the citizens of this country…. There can be no doubt that the deliberate infliction of such treatment on US citizens, even in a war zone, is unconstitutional.”

That’s funny, I don’t remember signing that compact.

While I whole-heartedly agree that the plaintiffs should have the right to sue Rumsfeld for their torture, I’m at a loss as to why that right is not extended to non-citizens. Can someone help me out?

Gibberish that passes for American English

August 8, 2011

From my friend Grant Olson: What American English sounds like to non-English speakers.

These Italians appear to be imitating Bob Dylan’s style of singing. Does he sing like a typical American?

By the way, a few years ago I saw a video on youtube of a man faking several foreign languages such as Spanish, French, German, Italian and Russian. He’s just speaking gibberish, but if you don’t know the language it sounds like he’s really speaking that language. I cannot find the video on youtube. Has anyone seen the video I’m talking about?

Has the Peace Corps been a success?

August 7, 2011

I consider myself a libertarian, which means I think very little of what the government does is justified. However, one government program that is at least somewhat justifiable is the Peace Corps. Forcing a person to pay taxes to support America’s wars strikes me as much more morally problematic than forcing them to support truly destitute people, as the Peace Corps does. 

That said, one of my favorite libertarians, James Bovard, wrote an essay last week questioning the achievements of the Peace Corps. Bovard argues that Peace Corps volunteers do not improve the conditions of the locals they live with:

James Bovard: Throughout Latin America, volunteers were sometimes referred to as “vagos” — Spanish for “vagabonds.” A Brazilian development expert concluded in a Peace Corps-commissioned study in 1968, “As economic developers, Volunteers have not had any lasting impact on any community. They are more efficient spokesmen for their interests than … for the poor.” One Latin American government official complained to a Peace Corps auditor in 1968, “The Volunteers I have known recently — with one exception — are not helping us at all. They created problems for us.”

In an article published on Campus Progress in 2008 called “Reevaluating the Peace Corps,” Peace Corps veteran Adam J. Welti raises similar questions about the organization’s role:

Today the Peace Corps has two main objectives: to provide physical and technical labor to countries that may not have enough trained workforce and to promote cross-cultural understanding between Americans and locals. These two objectives often cause a tension within the organization. Is it more important to provide labor where labor is needed, or to send grassroots ambassadors to strengthen America’s relationships with other countries?

Welti interviewed Ed Rowley and John Roberts, both former volunteers and country directors with the Peace Corps, to answer that question.

“In general we need to do a lot of work to change the world’s image of the United States. Peace Corps can be part of that—in terms of showing the world that America isn’t only about military power,” said Warren.

“Peace Corps is probably the most effective tool ever invented for people to people interactions. Any development contributions are icing on the cake,” said Roberts, who served in Somalia.

I’d like to hear from other Peace Corps veterans on these issues, namely: 1) Have Peace Corps volunteers had a lasting impact on the villages they serve? and 2) Is the purpose of the organization principally to promote development or improve the United States’ reputation?

One fewer reason to watch Lawrence O’Donnell

August 4, 2011

Dear Lawrence O’Donnell:

It’s one thing to launch an ad hominem attack against your ideological foes at Reason Magazine for their coverage of the “Save Our Schools Rally.”  It’s another thing entirely when your ad hominem attack is not even true.

Yours truly,

Andrew Michael Hallman

The low down is that O’Donnell showed Reason’s coverage of the event on his show on MSNBC and then went into a tirade because “right-wing websites” (a category in which he includes Reason, much to the surprise of its staff) scrutinize teachers but never police officers. The claim is especially odd given that Reason dedicated the whole of its July issue to the criminal justice system, which included several stories criticizing police.

Lemonade stands shutdown during RAGBRAI

August 3, 2011

Coralville Police shutdown several children’s lemonade stands.

Bobbie Nelson said she laughed when a police officer told her that a permit to sell lemonade would cost $400.

And here’s the kicker:

“It was never our intent to shut down kid’s lemonade stands,” [Councilor Mitch] Gross said. “We never really thought about it.”

Behold the awesome unintended consequences of law.