October is Iraq’s bloodiest in five years since “liberation”

Andrade_Iraq1032October was Iraq’s deadliest month since April, 2008. In those five and a half years, not only has there been no improvement in Iraq’s security situation, but things have gotten much worse. More than 1,000 people were killed in Iraq last month, the vast majority of them civilians. Another 1,600 were wounded, as car bombs, shootings, and other attacks continue to maim and murder.

As post-“liberation” Iraq spirals steadily downward, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in Washington last week to plead for more assistance from the United States to help restore order to a society demolished by the 2003 US invasion. Al-Qaeda has made significant recent gains, Maliki told President Obama at their meeting last Friday, and Iraq needs more US military aid to combat its growing influence.

Obama pledged to work together with Iraq to address al-Qaeda’s growing presence, but what was not said was that before the US attack there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq. The appearance of al-Qaeda in Iraq coincided with the US attack. They claimed we had to fight terror in Iraq, but the US invasion resulted in the creation of terrorist networks where before there were none. What a disaster.

Maliki also told President Obama last week that the war in next-door Syria was spilling over into Iraq, with the anti-Assad fighters setting off bombs and destabilizing the country. Already more than 5,000 people have been killed throughout Iraq this year, and cross-border attacks from Syrian rebels into Iraq are increasing those numbers. Again, what was not said was that the US government had supported these anti-Assad fighters both in secret and in the open for the past two years.

Earlier in the week a group of Senators – all of whom had supported the 2003 US invasion of Iraq – sent a strongly-worded letter to Obama complaining that Maliki was far too close to the Iranian government next door. What was not said was that this new closeness between the Iraqi and Iranian governments developed under the US-installed government after the US invasion of Iraq.

Surely there is plenty of blame that can be placed on Maliki and the various no-doubt corrupt politicians running Iraq these days. But how was it they came to power? Were we not promised by those promoting the war that it would create a beach-head of democracy in the Middle East and a pro-American government?

According to former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, in early 2001 as the new Bush administration was discussing an attack on Iraq, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, “Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that’s allied with US interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond it. It would demonstrate what US policy is all about.”

We see all these years later now how this ridiculous this idea was.

I have long advocated the idea that since we just marched in, we should just march out. That goes for US troops and also for US efforts to remake Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and everywhere the neocon wars of “liberation” have produced nothing but chaos, destruction, and more US enemies overseas. We can best improve the situation by just leaving them alone.

The interventionists have unfortunately neither learned their lesson from the Iraq debacle nor have they changed their tune. They are still agitating for regime change in Syria, even as they blame the Iraqi government for the destabilization that spills over. They are still agitating for a US attack on Iran, with Members of Congress introducing legislation recently that would actually authorize US force against Iran.

It looks like a very slow learning curve for our bipartisan leaders in Washington. It’s time for a change.

Worst Politician of the Week: Douglas Gansler

As part of a continuing series to expose any politician who is clearly unfit for office, we will expose the biggest lie, craziest statement, or most egregious behavior of an elected official or one running for office every week.

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Wave to the camera, Mr. Gansler

In this edition of the Worst Politician of the Week, we’re taking a look at Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler who was recently seen at a party his son was DJing at (pictured on the right).  Naturally, the party contained underage drinking.  The Attorney General (the person who represents the prosecutorial arm of the law in a state’s government) arrived, went upstairs to speak with his son, then left the party as if he had never been there.

“There could be Kool-Aid in the red cups,” he said, “but there’s probably beer in the red cups.” (source)

Obviously, it is his job to uphold the law as the Attorney General of Maryland, and many might expect even the slightest concern at the fact a party his son is at is filled with underage drinking. Even if he disagrees with a minimum drinking age law, he still represents an office that executes the law, not legislates it, and therefore has some modicum of responsibility.

Howeverthis is not the reason he wins the Worst Politician of the Week award.  Instead, he wins it because he’s a complete hypocrite surrounding underage drinking altogether. He has been a member of the Montgomery County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commit since 2004, a member of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program to prevent underage drinking, a participant in Teen Court, and has been awarded the “Hero Award” from Mother’s Against Drunk Driving in 2002.

He’s been a staunch advocate against underage drinking for years, but apparently lost his principles at his son’s party – principles, of course, he so vigorously defended in his ascension to the Attorney General’s office.  He claims it is not his place. He is a parent and has no responsibility at the party. This would be fine and dandy except for the fact he is the Attorney General of Maryland with a history of staunch support against underage drinking. His defense?

“Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party. How is that relevant to me? . . . The question is: Do I have any moral authority over other people’s children at beach week in another state? I say no…. My responsibility is only to my child.” (source)

At this stage, he’s hardly a random private citizen who happened to wander aimlessly into a party. Nor is it a case where he has never gone on record about underage drinking. He didn’t even pull his 19 year old son out of the party after seeing the ‘widespread drinking’. If he wants to be responsible to his own child, you’d think he’d stick to his almost two decades of strong anti-underage drinking principle’s and pull his own underage son out of there.

At worst, a shameless charlatan who will say anything to curry favor to slither his way to the political top.  At best, he is your run of the mill simpleton who doesn’t understand the gravity of his position or respect for the rule of law.

For these actions, Douglas Gansler is hereby given the Worst Politician of the Week award in recognition of being a complete hypocrite who will only show his true colors when photographic evidence comes out against him.

Education experts also oppose Common Core

Common CoreJust about anyone who opposes the Common Core national curriculum standards, currently under serious fire in New York, is either a kook or a self-interested schemer. That, at least, is the impression an impartial observer would get from listening to many Core supporters. But the reality is quite the opposite: Education thinkers from across the political spectrum are taking on — and apart — the Core.

In the Empire State, education commissioner John King infamously declared parents and concerned citizens opposed to the Core “special interests.” He made the accusation as he cancelled a series of town hall-style meetings scheduled across the state. After major blowback, he scheduled new events, but the message King delivered was clear: Many Core opponents only care about themselves, not kids.

Alas, this marginalization strategy is not confined to New York. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, arguably the Core’s greatest champion, has accused Core opponents of employing conspiracy theories. And, in an op-ed being shopped to outlets around the country, Michael J. Petrilli and Michael Brickman of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute characterize Core opponents as a “small but vocal minority of conservatives” coupled with a bit of “the far left.” Read: scary fringe types.

Of course there are some Core opponents who say outlandish things, but that is the exception, not the rule. And much more important is a diverse group of people opposing the Core who are the exact opposite of the schemer stereotype: education experts.

The Common Core is opposed by scholars at several leading think tanks on both the right and left-hand side of the political landscape, including the Heritage Foundation, The Hoover Institution, the Brookings Institution and my own Cato Institute. My research has shown that there is essentially no meaningful evidence that national standards lead to superior educational outcomes.

Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Eric Hanushek, a well-known education economist and supporter of standards-based education reform, has reached a similar conclusion about likely Core impotence. He recently wrote: “We currently have very different standards across states, and experience from the states provides little support for the argument that simply declaring more clearly what we want children to learn will have much impact.”

Hanushek’s conclusion dovetails nicely with Common Core opposition from Tom Loveless, a scholar at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. In 2012, Loveless demonstrated that moving to national standards would almost certainly have little, if any, positive effect because the performance of states has had very little connection to the rigor or quality of their standards, and there is much greater achievement variation within states than among them.

In fact, Loveless has been one of the clearest voices saying the Core is not a panacea for America’s education woes, writing: “Don’t let the ferocity of the oncoming debate fool you. The empirical evidence suggests that the Common Core will have little effect on American students’ achievement. The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools.”

Moving to arguably the far left, prolific education historian Diane Ravitch has also taken on the Core, noting that it is untested, was assembled behind closed doors, and was essentially foisted on schools by the federal Race to the Top funding contest. That it also seems intended to produce huge increases in test failures — as occurred when New York employed Core-aligned tests without Core-aligned curricula — seemed to push Ravitch over the edge.

“This is what we know: the Common Core tests cause a huge decline in test scores. Passing rates fell 30 percent in Kentucky and about the same in New York,” Ravitch wrote on her blog recently. “Where are we heading? It won’t do to keep saying, as [U.S. Education] Secretary Duncan likes to, that only extremists oppose the standards. Reasonable people question them as well.”

There is an extremely well-informed opposition to the Core, and dismissing opponents as loony or selfish does New York’s children no service.

As Commissioner King picks up his statewide Core tour, he owes it to the kids to seriously contemplate the massive evidence against his favored reform.

Originally posted on Cato.org.

Nine women shot dead every week because victims lack deadly force

Domestic-Violence-9Women-1_Meme-noURL-320x447The “Moms Demand Action” disarmament group touts October as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month”, claiming numbers published from a new Violence Policy Center report indicate nine American women are shot dead by their husband or intimate partner every week.  Clever as they are, the group has taken clear advantage of those numbers by once again pushing Congress to pass so-called “common sense” gun reforms that, in their eyes, somehow take guns out of the hands of women abusers.

Amazing.  Without missing a step, these mothers have missed an opportunity to better protect women from abusive partners.  Involved as this group might be in empowering women to protect themselves, focusing instead on hotly contested political diatribes in direct opposition to clear public opinion (just ask the people of Colorado) and the Constitution inadvertently dismantles any credibility the anti-gun group may have had.

Rather than empowering women by teaching how guns can protect their families, “Moms Demand Action” pleads for government laws to remove guns from the aggressors instead, standing atop a collection of fragile political miscalculations and a wasteful campaign geared towards disarmament, rather than empowerment.  Yet again, an anti-gun group loses the battle before firing the first shot.

The report only studied the number of incidents involving a female victim and a male aggressor.  Doing the math, 468 women die at the hands of gun-wielding men every year.  Eager to capitalize on the findings, the group responded.

“We urgently need better policies that protect women and their families from this senseless violence,” wrote the founder of “Moms Demand Action”.  In reality, the group’s “Please protect us!” response smacks of foolhardy carelessness.  It quietly gives off the impression that women cannot protect themselves and are somehow defenseless and feeble, dependent only on what the government can provide for them.  Worse, it savagely implies that women lack the competence and ability to fight back.  How about empowering women to better protect themselves instead?  “Moms Demand Action” will have none of it.

In truth, violence against anyone needs addressing, but not with blindly headstrong attempts to disarm the American people with legislation that even supporters in Congress admit will not prevent the next gun attack.  Harebrained adventures into the rough political waters of gun control are about as effective as our government’s ability to manage its own debt.

These numbers should indicate to “Moms Demand Action” that women should take a more proactive approach to self-defense by learning what it takes to protect themselves against those who would do them harm.  Our government could ban every gun in the United States tomorrow, but if an ex-boyfriend shows up at the doorstep of his former girlfriend’s house with an illegal firearm, no law in existence can possibly protect her.  A call to 911 is critical, but what happens in the five to 15 minutes between the call and the police’s arrival?  That depends on the victim and how prepared she is to fight back.

To the chagrin of “Moms Demand Action”, women are buying guns at record rates.  According to a Gallup poll published earlier in the year, nearly a quarter of all women are gun owners.  That adds up to almost 20 million women in our nation who are refusing to become the next victim.

The truth is guns do an excellent job at protecting women – laws do not.  A law cannot step in and diffuse the situation.  No angry gunman will turn around and leave because a law says he cannot commit that crime.  However, a 6-inch gun barrel pointed right between the lunatic’s eyes might.  The man probably does not expect a fight.  Why would he?  Groups like this imply women are helpless.

Instead of wishing for a bunch of laws to protect women from crime, take action!  Attend a self-defense class and learn how to protect yourself.  Buy a gun and learn how to use it.  Never hope for the passage of laws – that criminals will side step – to protect you.  Refuse to be a victim.

Learn how to fight back, or risk becoming another weekly statistic.

Libertarian Laura Delhomme to end state income tax, rules on marriage, drugs

969899_10151613204987726_2031601185_nLibertarian Laura Delhomme, who is running for delegate in Virginia’s 47th district, aims to end the state income tax, enact marriage equality, end the failed War on Drugs and remove state restrictions on means of transportation.

“Taxes are too high,” Delhomme said in a debate with her opponent, Democrat Patrick Hope. “That’s because Virginia’s state spending is too high. I want to reduce both.”

Earlier this year, the legislature and governor passed a massive tax increase with the support of both Republicans and Democrats, including Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

“If elected, I will file a budget bill that cuts state spending immediately by 25 percent or more,” she said. “That will allow us to end the income tax and give back, on average, more than $3,400 to each Virginia household — every year!”

Delhomme vows to file a bill to end marijuana prohibition in Virginia.

“By establishing drug prohibition, our government has taken a modest problem and turned it into a huge problem,” she said. “Now we have to deal with drug gangs and black markets, and taxpayers have to pay to keep thousands of people in jail. I want to end this nonsense. Ending marijuana prohibition will make our neighborhoods safe; respect the rights of peaceful, responsible marijuana users; and keep taxes down.”

Delhomme said that unnecessary state involvement in transportation drives up costs, reduces choice, creates congestion, and provides opportunities for corruption. The solution, she argued, is more free-market initiative.

“I oppose regulations that restrict the supply of taxis and restrictions against private buses and jitney services,” she said. “More transportation alternatives will make it easier and cheaper to get around, and it will create much-needed jobs.”

Delhomme aims to fund any necessary transportation projects, such as new roads or rail systems, by cutting government waste, not raising taxes.

“If elected, I would not raise any taxes, including fees, to pay for transportation solutions,” she said. “If more money is to be spent on transportation, I would get those funds by cutting spending on other programs.

“The state has more than enough money, and taxes are already too high,” she continued. “We need to end the habit of dumping high costs on taxpayers. This will keep more money in their pockets to take care of their families and will force lawmakers to cut government waste.”

To learn more, visit Laura Delhomme’s campaign website or Facebook page.

Libertarian: naive, idealistic, and proud of it

The recent government “shutdown” has made some folks realize how little we need the federal government to control our everyday lives.  It also reinforces the notion that more government in your life isn’t always the answer, but also, it  reminds me of why we are libertarians – we believe in people over governments.

First, I want you to think of all the times that you have tried to talk to someone about your political viewpoint.  Think about the dialogue you had and how the other person reacted to your libertarian beliefs. I find, often, when I mention to someone that I am a libertarian, I generally get one of two responses from well-reasoned, rational individuals:

“You are too naive and the world doesn’t really work that way.”
OR
“You are being too idealistic about people and  humans need rules, regulation, and restriction to function.”

I am sure you have as well. Even as a teenager, this reaction always bothered me.  It seems to come from both the left and the right – in equal proportion – and it seems to engulf every aspect of political debate. Whether it is the economy, welfare, gun control, third parties, foreign policy, or any other hot button topic of the week – I’m always too “naive” and “idealistic”.

If I say that heavy taxation causes a deadening effect upon the economy, then I do not understand that people need the services the government provides to survive – and therefore taxes, even when exorbitantly high, are necessary.

If I state that social programs (welfare, medicaid, social security) are all government handouts that “give a man a fish, but do not teach them to fish for themselves”, I am too idealistic to assume that people can make wise financial decisions in their lives or maintain skills that make them desirable on the job market.

If I suggest that foreign intervention in other people’s lives for our profit leads only to resentment and aggression against us, I am being yet again too naive and we must fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.

And the list goes on, and on, unfortunately.

I am always, and consistently, dumbstruck by this argument. It is gleefully uttered, usually with a condescending  and dismissive tone, as if it somehow denigrates my reasoning to that of a child or some other simpleton unable to comprehend the vast complexities of human behavior. At every turn, the notion that humans must be controlled in all aspects of their life (financially, socially, and religiously) is creeping into our government, slithering into our homes, and no one seems to care — as long as their political party sponsored it. It seems that these individuals do not mind trampling on the rights of the people as long as they inflict on others their will “for the greater good”.

And it hits me: both left and right genuinely believe people are evil, dishonest, and will trespass against their neighbor without constant supervision and control. They believe the people must be controlled, whether through something as obvious as gun control and forced subsidization of social programs or less obvious like the war on drugs, abortion and religion in schools — it’s obvious they believe their way is the only way. Not only is it the only way, but you will obey and accept it by the force of the gun.

However, to be a libertarian, one believes that people regulate themselves without government involvement in virtually every facet of our lives.  In order to do that, you must believe that people are inherently good. You must believe that the vast majority of people will not mass murder hundreds of innocent people with firearms, will not rob banks, be greedy and avaricious, and find their own religious path in life. Sadly, this is a scary notion to most who believe in either political party.

Truthfully, it should be scary to them - you have just announced that their party is not needed.

What a terrible world these individuals live in.  People are not inherently evil regardless of what the religious right wants us to believe. People are not too stupid to take care of themselves regardless of the self-aggrandizing left tries to force us to support.  So, I have come with a new response to those who believe I am too naive or idealistic about my fellowman: good, I am glad I believe in humanity, if I didn’t believe that most people were good  and capable of reasoning, why would I choose to live in the same society?  Why not return to caveman days, for civilization has clearly bred degenerates and miscreants, unfit to share space with one another.

So join with me in staying naive and idealistic. It might be the only shot for a better tomorrow we have left.

Time to stop the madness with a third party?

two-partiesThose who follow the nation’s politics understand that the creation of a viable and effective third political party in the US is the LAST thing Washington wants.  The dems and repubs will fight a third party with all the power, energy, zeal, vehemence, vigor, cunning, and skulduggery they can manage – and then some. 

Look.  Our political system was designed for multiple political parties … not just two parties such as we have today.

Having only two parties is extremely risky.  Over the years we have seen the two parties switch positions and recently we have watched as the Republican Party, supposedly the home of those of the conservative persuasion, adopt the liberal and progressive positions of the Democratic Party on a scale that has rendered the GOP as something of a pale reflection of the party that has been the traditional home of Socialists, Marxists, and Progressives– the Democratic Party.

What that means to Americans is simply this: We actually have two branches of the same party trying to govern in Washington today … the Democratic Party and the Democratic Party LITE. The GOP (the Republican Party) exists in name only.

Creation of another political party, as a third political party, is something of a misnomer.  In fact, it would be the creation of a SECOND political party as we currently have only one political party — with two branches — in authority in the Congress today.

I mentioned at the beginning of this piece that our Founding Fathers actually meant us to have multiple political parties and not just the two we have come to think were bequeathed to us by The Founders.

President John Adams, one of the most intelligent presidents this country has had the good fortune to have, said this:

   “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

George Washington, the first President under the constitution,  agreed.  Washington said this in his farewell presidential speech:

  “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

I have come to believe that the current two-party system in America is — UNAMERICAN.  Here’s why I say that:

Above I mentioned the two parties had merged their  ideologies effectively blurring the lines between them.  But what troubles me even more is the feeling I get that, between them, the two parties have created a “ruling class” in America and THAT is absolutely un-American. 

I fear I would not be welcome in any political party these days.  See, I don’t like compromise… period.  Compromise is NOT honesty — therefore compromise cannot be a virtue.  If one believes one’s political philosophy, one’s core belief,  is correct, then why compromise? Why LIE?  Seems to me that if a man truly believes that WHAT he believes IS THE TRUTH,  he will hold fast and not budge one iota from that position — for any reason.  That used to be referred to as “having the courage of one’s conviction.”  Sadly, few, these days, have such conviction — or courage.

We have become so used to compromise — going along to get along, group think, being good little socialists — that when a person who has the courage to stake out a position and refuse to give it up to those who disagree and stands pat and defends his position against all comers, he is pilloried, said to be a mental case, cursed, metaphorically spat upon, and made an outcast of our hypocritical society. 

I must tell you, there is something dead and rotting at the core of any society that treats a courageous citizen in that manner.   Look. I may not agree with that person’s conviction, but I admire his courage, his honesty. 

In the meantime, get used to the mess we have in Congress today.  It WILL get worse.  

There is no constitutional answer to this particular problem.  We can’t recall them and we can’t dissolve the Congress and hold national elections and send a new crop to DC.  (Would that we could!) We can only lawfully do it — a handful of seats at a time in both houses — every two years.

The title to this piece was posed in the form of a question.  My answer to the question is:  “I don’t know.”  Believe me, that is not meant as some sort of cop-out.  I REALLY don’t know.  I cannot escape the feeling that there is something basically, fundamentally, WRONG with the government today.  Not JUST the government, but society, as well.

Like so many Americans today, I am frustrated to the nth degree.  No matter our protestations, the government isn’t listening, therefore nothing is resolved — no matter how hard we try to get our message through to them and acted upon.  It is as though we are racing in a circle, at an ever increasing speed, in an ever decreasing circle.  Only disaster awaits us. 

I fear the old constitution-based America is in a death spiral from which it will not, nay, cannot, escape or recover.  

History tells us that when a democracy crashes and burns it is followed by a dictatorship – every time.  Already, we see evidence of the encroachment of a dictatorship in America today as many of us are convinced we have already entered the “police state” stage of devolvement. 

If my assessment proves correct, then another political party won’t make much difference now, will it?