We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Big Box Blues

Posted 7/28/2006 from IBD:

Economics: A week after a judge ruled that Maryland lawmakers can't make company policy for Wal-Mart, the Chicago City Council has decided what the retail giant will pay its employees.

On Wednesday, the city council voted by the veto-proof margin of 35-14 to require large retailers to set their minimum pay at $9.25 an hour in 2007 and raise it to $10 an hour in 2010. Benefit supplements must be increased, as well, from $1.50 an hour in 2007 to $3 an hour in 2010.

The law doesn't single out Wal-Mart — it applies to stores covering 90,000 or more square feet. Target, Home Depot, Lowe's and a list of department stores fall into the "big-box" category. But the intended quarry is Wal-Mart, which was told two years ago by aldermen that it could not build a store on the city's South Side.

Just as Maryland lawmakers lacked the authority, both moral and legal, to force Wal-Mart to pay at least 8% of its payroll costs on employee health care or pay the difference to the state, neither does the Chicago City Council have the authority to tell businesses in the city what they can pay workers.

In addition to overstepping their boundaries as public servants, the Maryland Legislature and the Chicago City Council passed laws that harm local communities.

"I've got these white liberals telling me what's good for my community," Chicago Alderman Isaac Carothers said last week in the Chicago Tribune.

"But this big-box thing will cost black people jobs. If I put out a notice that there were 500 jobs waiting in my ward — what Wal-Mart was offering for each store — you'd see a line of people from my ward all the way to Mississippi. People want jobs. That's it."

All politicians want votes. But is anti-Wal-Mart pandering smart?

Sure, it's trendy, particularly among the media and political elites, to bash Wal-Mart. But forcing big retailers to raise wages will cost jobs. Only so much of their budgets can be paid to workers. Isn't it better to have 50 employees working at $8 an hour ($1.50 more than the Illinois minimum wage, $2.85 above the federal minimum) at a store than 43 working at the mandated $9.25 an hour?

Or how about no jobs at all?

Wal-Mart, with hundreds of jobs and low prices, said it's dropping plans to build as many as 20 Chicago stores in the next five years. Target might stop building at three Chicago locations and shut existing stores in the city. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the big-box law could cost 8,000 jobs.

We wonder whose interest the aldermen are really looking out for.

Killing The Death Penalty

Posted 7/28/2006 from IBD:

Lethal Injection: Serious moral and religious arguments can be made against the death penalty. The chance that a murderer might experience a moment of suffering is not one of them.

When the Founders conceived the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishments," they probably never dreamed that the ultimate criminal penalty would become as gentle as it is today.

"Gentle" is a relative term. Lethal injection, the method of execution used in most states, does end a life and is said to cause severe, if short-lived, pain when not administered properly. But compared with older methods, from hanging and beheading to the electric chair, firing squad and gas chamber, it is more humane. And as commonsensical people like to point out, any suffering it causes is nothing close to the agony that murderers inflicted on their victims.

Despite all that, attorneys for death row inmates still make the cruelty case against executions, and lately they have been winning rounds in court. Last Tuesday, a federal judge refused to accept Missouri's revised lethal injection procedure, keeping that state's death penalty in limbo. Other lethal-injection challenges have put executions on hold in California, Maryland, Florida and Delaware. The U.S. Supreme Court has not weighed in on lethal injection specifically, but it ruled in June that a Florida inmate could raise the issue of execution methods in appealing a death sentence.

The claim in all these cases is essentially the same: That the standard three-drug sequence may not always work as planned. The first drug, a sedative, is supposed to induce unconsciousness during administration of the next two, a paralyzing agent and a drug that stops the heart. Not every execution goes so smoothly. Technicians sometimes struggle to find veins in inmates with a history of drug use.

And an article last year in the British medical journal Lancet raised doubts about lethal injection by claiming, on the basis of post-mortem blood samples, that the level of the initial sedative might not be high enough to keep the inmate blacked out.

The Lancet study has been criticized because it did not measure drug levels at the time of execution (some samples were as much as two days old). But it carries weight in the American legal system, which tends to give death row appellants every benefit of the doubt.

Though judges are not barring lethal injection outright, they are setting near-impossible conditions on its use.

In California, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel said the state could use its standard drug protocol if an anesthesiologist is on hand to make sure the inmate is unconscious. The state could not find any physicians willing to violate ethics (as they saw them) by assisting in an execution. Another federal judge, Fernando Gaitan, has made the same demand of authorities in Missouri. Inmates in both cases, by the way, had been sentenced to death for raping and murdering teenage girls.

Such rulings, if allowed to stand, would effectively grant murderers the right to a painless death. That would put them in a uniquely favored class. No one else (and certainly not murder victims) would be legally protected against suffering at the end of life. It's reasonable to ask that executions do not cause needless pain, but no system will ever be perfectly free from accident or errors, including the errors of those medical professionals that judges now want to see on board.

What players of the pain game seek is an end to executions by any means, no matter how absurd. This is a new variation on the old theme of using the courts to nullify the death penalty rather than try to change laws through democratic means. Even death-penalty opponents should object to this new tactic because it trivializes an issue — the taking of human life — that should be treated with seriousness on both sides of the debate.

Hokey Hawkery

Posted 7/28/2006 from IBD:

Foreign Policy: Some decidedly dovish Democrats are using Israel to masquerade themselves as hawks. Watch out for a Democratic election strategy that muddles our vital objectives in the global war on terror.
It looks like some top Democrats have found a way to pass themselves off as Mideast hawks while at the same time undermining our efforts to replace terrorism with democracy. National Committee Chairman Howard Dean last week launched a blistering attack on Iraq's democratically elected Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for refusing to denounce Hezbollah's attacks on Israel. Al-Maliki also condemned Israel's military campaign in Lebanon as "an operation of mass destruction and mass punishment."

"The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite," declared Dean in a speech in Florida. "We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah."

In a letter to al-Maliki, Senate Democrats said the prime minister's statements raise "serious questions about whether Iraq under your leadership can play a constructive role in resolving the current crisis and bringing stability to the Middle East."

A number of Democratic senators and congressmen boycotted al-Maliki's address to a joint session of Congress. They included Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who asked: "Which side of the war on terror is he on?" Sen. Hillary Clinton, also of New York, did attend the speech. But she called al-Maliki's statements "unfortunate and discouraging."

The prime minister's remarks may have been disappointing. But it's beyond naive to expect the leader of a fragile new Arab democracy to speak kindly about an Israeli operation against an Arab state. We don't dictate who runs Iraq, and pulling the rug out from under al-Maliki, as Dean seems to want, could sabotage the chances of a lasting democracy there — not such a great thing for Israel's long-term security.

Democrats also seem set to exhibit their hawkish plumage in the renomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. The American Jewish Congress and other supporters of Israel have said the war in the Middle East makes this a bad time to yank our representative to the U.N. And so Schumer and Clinton, both of whom voted against Bolton last year, are expected to switch, along with other Democratic senators.

That would greatly lessen the chances of a filibuster by Democrats. The two New York senators have issued strong statements of support for Israel's campaign against Hezbollah.

Bolton, who has strongly supported Israel, was sent to the U.N. in a temporary recess appointment by President Bush last year. Bolton has exposed the institution's immense waste and corruption, and in his renomination he seems to have the votes of all Senate Republicans.

For Democrats, backing Israel in its current confrontation with terror can be no cover for their steadfast refusal to support the long war that Western civilization — including Israel — faces. Instead of standing behind our efforts in Iraq and recognizing the Bush administration's success in using the most advanced technological methods of tracking terrorist communications and financing, Democratic leaders have called for a pullout and charged the White House with illegality.

If hiding behind Israel in the hope it makes Democrats not seem soft on terrorism is Dr. Dean's election strategy this year, he can start digging his stethoscope out of storage now.

Friday, July 28, 2006

At Your Own Risk

From IBD:
Posted 7/27/2006

Personal Responsibility: An Arab-American advocacy group is suing the U.S. government, saying it failed to protect Americans from the fighting in Lebanon. What about the warnings against going there to begin with?

It is a sign of our litigious society and the growing sense of entitlement that Americans evacuated from Lebanon have, well, carped about the pace and aggravation as the country that once hosted them is torn apart, its citizens dying by the hundreds. Some even decided to take the government that rescued them to court.

The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee has filed a suit on behalf of about 30 Americans claiming Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld failed to take all necessary steps to protect them in Lebanon after Israel responded to Hezbollah's attacks.

Please. The entire Middle East is a war zone and has been for years. Americans living in, traveling to or working for companies in Lebanon knew well of the travel advisories issued by their government and the risks of being there. Lebanon is a beautiful nation for which there was, and is, much hope, but it is not yet Switzerland.

Evacuating as many as 25,000 Americans on virtually a moment's notice is quite a logistical problem. It's not like calling a cab. If we had decided to put 25,000 troops there, it would not happen overnight. There are considerations, such as U.S. warships that get too close to shore being fired on. Helicopters might be fired on.
Even worse, large gatherings of Americans waiting to be evacuated could be the ultimate terrorist target.

In most cases, these citizens put themselves at risk. We are in a worldwide war on terror. Israel is on our side in that war. We are fighting in Iraq, as Israel is fighting in Lebanon, precisely to protect Americans and civilized people worldwide from the Osama bin Ladens, Zarqawis and Hassan Nasrallahs of the world.

We can understand the necessity of employing the U.S. military to get those who wish to leave out of Lebanon. But once they're out, whose responsibility is it to get them the rest of the way home and who pays for lodging and transportation?

Outrage over the fact that evacuees were initially required to sign promissory notes pledging to repay Washington for costs incurred was expressed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:
"A nation that can provide more than $300 billion for a war in Iraq can provide the money to get its people out of Lebanon."

Maybe so, but she forgets a 1956 law authorizing the State Department to charge evacuees for the cost of their extraction and sign such a promissory note. When the law came up for renewal in 2003, Pelosi was one of the 170 House Democrats who voted in favor. The State Department has since waived the fees.

American taxpayers will end up paying for those who made the decision to go to Lebanon and are alive to whine about their rescue. Unlike the Lebanese, they were able to get out of harm's way.

A Flintier FEMA?

From IBD:
Posted 7/27/2006

Disasters: It's good to see the government taking steps to prevent a repeat of the post-Katrina aid fraud. But the reforms won't stick without an attitude change.

Let's start with the attitude of learned helplessness, which left much of New Orleans' welfare-dependent population unprepared to deal with the basic business of survival. Then there is the attitude of entitlement, which showed up in some early criticism of new rules for disaster aid at the Department of Homeland Security.

The department, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is cutting initial, unrestricted aid for future disasters to $500 from $2,000. Also, FEMA will grant emergency cash assistance only after checking computer records to make sure applicants aren't double-dipping, using false Social Security numbers or faking addresses. Families also would have to register with FEMA before moving into free hotel rooms.

These rules are designed to prevent the sort of fraud that marked the giveaway after Katrina. Government auditors say as much as $1.4 billion of the $5.4 million in cash aid handed out after that hurricane may have been misspent on items such as diamond rings and sex videos.

But where most might see reasonable requirements, others see too much rigidity.

"Certainly there are some people who may have lied about being from the disaster zone," Shanna L. Smith, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, told The New York Times. "But to punish a large group of people for the behavior of a few seems quite harsh to me."

Mark C. Smith, a spokesman for Louisiana's emergency management agency, told the Times that the new limit on upfront cash aid was overly stingy: "Five hundred dollars is really not a lot of money, especially if it is for a family."

In one sense Smith is right. A family really can't live very long on $500. But this money isn't meant to cover a family's ongoing expenses. It is stopgap cash for the days immediately after a disaster.

The government has other aid, as well, such as free hotel rooms or low-cost trailers, for longer-term needs. That assistance can be abused, too. It took far too long for FEMA to ease people out of hotels, and thousands of people are still living in FEMA trailer parks.

If there's one moral to the disaster-aid story, it's that you can't stress the message of self-reliance too much. To do so, unfortunately, the government has to get used to saying "no" more often and demanding some evidence of eligibility and need from those who claim to deserve aid. It's making a good start in that direction with its new aid procedures.

But it shouldn't expect understanding from all quarters. Come the next disaster, a flintier FEMA is almost sure to take hits in the media for allegedly prolonging some victims' hardship. Its reforms can survive only if the public sees through the critics' false compassion and puts the proper value on personal responsibility.

Losing an issue

By Robert D. Novak

WASHINGTON - Both the Senate and White House have risen from an all-year slumber that ignored their issue of judicial confirmations until now. Last Thursday night, the Senate unexpectedly confirmed four judges, on a voice vote after no debate. On Tuesday, another appeals judge was confirmed, 67 to 30, after token debate. Without fanfare, the White House suddenly poured out 13 judicial nominations. But, from the Republican standpoint in 2006 midterm elections, it looks like too little, too late.

On June 16, six conservative Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had sent President Bush a private letter protesting the slow pace of judicial confirmations. They noted an unusually high number of judicial vacancies for the sixth year of a presidency, including nine on the circuit courts, with no nominations made over a two-month span early this year. Pleading with the president, the senators said "the fast-approaching November elections make it imperative that the Senate confirms as many strong nominees as possible in the limited time remaining in the 109th Congress."

Bush did not answer the senators. Coincidentally or not, however, the president sent up the 13 nominations -- including six circuit judges -- between June 28 and July 13. Still, the president has not submitted a name for five vacancies on circuit seats and 14 empty district seats. This failure is inexplicable considering how the collapse of the Democratic obstruction campaign contributed to 2004 GOP election victories. Holding a weak hand in 2006, the Republicans are discarding a rare trump card.

Justice Department officials have quietly passed word that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist advised it was too late in the year for new nominees. When I checked, Frist unequivocally denied that. Perhaps the Justice officials misunderstood Frist aides who have argued that if the White House dawdled, there would be no time for confirmation. Nevertheless, Frist indisputably put judicial confirmation on the back burner.

Although the number of judges confirmed in this Congress is extraordinarily low, Frist has sounded like Democratic predecessor Tom Daschle in issuing statements boasting of the number of judges confirmed under his watch. The party leadership has scheduled no floor debate time on judges between now and the November elections. No debate, no campaign issue.

While not happy with Frist, conservatives view Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter as a bigger problem. Specter, never attuned to national Republican concerns, has shown less interest in confirming conservative judges than in intelligence controversies, asbestos law reform and voting rights extension. But one Judiciary Committee conservative (who asked that his name not be used) rated Specter and Frist as 10 percent of the problem and the White House 90 percent -- especially Harriet Miers, Bush's pal from Texas and failed first choice to be the last Supreme Court nominee.

As White House counsel, Miers has been criticized on Capitol Hill for the caliber of some recent nominees and the lethargic pace of appointments. She wanted her friend, Columbia Law School professor Debra Livingston, named to the prestigious District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. Conservatives blocked Livingston as undependable.

Instead, Bush on June 29 nominated conservative Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler for the D.C. circuit. However, Miers maneuvered Livingston to a seat on the New York-based 2nd Circuit.

Beyond the White House, Republicans are in disarray on judges. Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the conservative signers of the June 16 letter, is under fierce attack from the right for opposing Bush's nomination of Pentagon General Counsel William J. Haynes to the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., because of his role in handling terrorist detainees. In response, Graham has contended Haynes and two other embattled nominees (whom he supports) are "wounded" and asked for new, better-qualified choices.

Despite recent nominations and confirmations, it seems too late for a Senate battle to impact the midterm campaign. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy must sigh in relief. His grand design to block Bush's judicial nominees was a fiasco, handing Republicans a major 2004 campaign issue and leading to confirmation of two conservative Supreme Court justices. It is the last issue Kennedy wants to engage before the 2006 campaign, and Republicans are granting his desires.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Malignant Neglect

By Joseph KleinFrontPageMagazine.com July 24, 2006

As expected, spokespersons from the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Conference and an assortment of human rights organizations have condemned Israel for its ‘disproportionate’ response to Hezbollah’s unprovoked attacks. They have called for an immediate ceasefire, which is exactly what Hezbollah wants in order to stay in place and build up for more devastating future attacks.

Contrary to the distorted prism through which Israel’s usual critics judge Israel’s motives, Israel clearly understands that it faces a mortal threat to its survival from a well-armed, fanatical terrorist militia that the international community allowed to metastasize after years of malignant neglect. Israel was not simply overreacting to a kidnapping of a couple of soldiers and to some isolated rocket attacks, as bad as such aggressive acts were in themselves. Rather, it has finally acted to remove a dagger aimed at its heart by a terrorist state-within-a-state lying on its northern border. Israel should not stop until it creates the conditions to ensure real security for its people. That can only be accomplished by a decisive military victory over Hezbollah that leaves its military infrastructure in tatters.

Israel’s hypocritical critics conveniently forget some recent history that places Israel’s actions in proper context. Israel left Lebanon in 2000, after being assured that there would be an effective buffer in the southern region of Lebanon to protect Israel from any further terrorist attacks. Kofi Annan at the time also sought to allay any Israeli concerns about Hezbollah’s intentions. In a meeting with then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on June 21, 2000, Kofi Annan expressed faith in Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrollah.

Annan praised Hezbollah’s exercise of “restraint, responsibility and discipline after the withdrawal” and assured Barak that Nasrollah intended to continue exercising such restraint. (Source: The Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2006) UN forces on the ground in Lebanon were to be reinforced to help keep the peace. The Lebanese government was supposed to establish its authority in southern Lebanon and put an end to Hezbollah’s de facto military control in the area.

Perhaps Israel had some genuine reason for hope, since Hezbollah’s reason for existence as a military force – to resist Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory – was no longer relevant after Israel’s complete withdrawal. Even the United States came to believe that the fledging democracy in Lebanon would bring Hezbollah into the political fold and induce Hezbollah’s militia to lay down its arms.

Of course, as we now know, things did not turn out as expected. The so-called United Nations Interim Force should be more accurately described as the UN Impotent Force, since it was entirely ineffectual in dealing with the growing Hezbollah threat. Hezbollah did join the Lebanese government but never disarmed. In fact, it used the cover of seeming normalcy to build up its armaments at an alarming rate, totally out of proportion to any possible defensive needs. The Lebanese government was too weak to control its own borders or to force Hezbollah to disarm. Everyone looked the other way while Hezbollah built up its offensive military capability right along Lebanon’s border with Israel.

The truth of the matter is that Hezbollah is Iran’s front-line brigade in Iran’s publicly proclaimed quest to destroy Israel altogether. Iran, in turn, is Hezbollah’s chief financier and arms supplier, while Syria provides some assistance and weaponry as well. According to an Iranian military source close to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard leadership, quoted in the London Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has established permanent missile bases along the Israeli border and has equipped Hezbollah with mobile bases for carrying and launching missiles. Between 1992 and 2005, Hezbollah received approximately 11,500 missiles and rockets. Last year, according to the Iranian military source, Hezbollah started receiving shipments of even larger missiles with 333-millimeter warheads and SAM7 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. More ominously, it also received C802 missiles, copied from Chinese missiles, which were used to hit an Israeli ship. There are Iranian Revolutionary Guard trainers, experts, technicians, intelligence agents, and elite officers who are assisting Hezbollah’s missile unit, and helping to select targets to hit in Israel. (Source: The Middle East Media Research Institute quoting from Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 16, 2006)

Kofi Annan’s poster boy for restraint, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrollah, foreshadowed what was coming. Back in February 2006, he was quoted by one of Iran’s state-owned news agencies, IRNA, as declaring Hezbollah’s devotion to Iran’s Ayatollah Khamnei and pledging themselves “to the martyrs".

Nearly two months before the present crisis erupted, Nasrollah threatened Israel directly at a conference on ‘The Culture of Resistance’. He declared that “(W)e can hit Israel's entire northern region with thousands of rockets... Our presence in South Lebanon, in proximity to the north of occupied Palestine, is our greatest advantage..." (Source: The
Middle East Media Research Institute quoting from Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), July 12, 2006 )

Nasrollah was waiting for a pretext to precipitate a battle with Israel and a signal from Iran to go ahead. Israel’s battles with Hamas in Gaza provided the excuse. Iran’s desire to divert the G-8 summit and the UN Security Council from dealing with Iran’s nuclear enrichment program provided it reason enough to encourage Hezbollah to proceed against Israel at this time. Both Iran and Hezbollah agreed that Hezbollah’s attack marked the beginning of the military campaign to “liberate Palestine”, as Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel put it. A news editor, who is affiliated with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei, stated that "The Hizbullah attack... is the beginning of a new chapter in the struggle against Israel, which will change the regional balance of power in favor of the Islamic world... Further attacks will very soon [lead to] the annihilation of this small regime." (Source:
The Middle East Media Research Institute quoting from Kayhan (Iran), July 16, 2006)

Some of Israel’s critics dismiss all of this and condemn Israel for causing a humanitarian catastrophe in Lebanon. Civilians are being killed and maimed, they say, because of the massive Israeli bombardments against targets where innocent Lebanese civilians are likely to be found. At best, the human rights activists place Israel and Hezbollah on the same moral plane, condemning both for targeting civilians and demanding that they stop their respective actions immediately. For example, the United Nations’ top human rights official, Louise Arbour, essentially proclaimed pox on both sides and accused both of committing possible war crimes.

The International Red Cross and Amnesty International also weighed in with equal criticism of both sides. "Israel must put an immediate end to attacks against civilians and against civilian infrastructure in Lebanon, which constitute collective punishment. Israel must also respect the principle of proportionality when targeting any military objectives or civilian objectives that may be used for military purposes," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East Programme. "Hizbullah must stop launching attacks against Israeli civilians and it must treat humanely the two Israeli soldiers it captured on 12 July and grant them immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross," Mr. Smart continued.

What these moral relativists fail to understand is that Hezbollah intentionally targets innocent civilians for death. Indeed, they were the ones who first introduced the idea of suicide bombings as a means to inflict terror against military and civilian targets alike and encouraged the Palestinian terrorists to adopt this barbaric tactic, which they have done with devastating effect. Hezbollah also aimed rocket attacks directly at large civilian populations in Israeli cities and have bragged about it, threatening even more indiscriminate attacks. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has put Lebanese civilians at risk by hiding rockets in their homes and blending into the civilian population. In contrast, Israel has given Lebanese civilians advance warning to get out of harm’s way, and Israel has used as much precision bombing as possible to minimize civilian casualties.

In sum, Hezbollah bears total responsibility for any violations of international humanitarian law that have ensued from the present conflict. Hezbollah was the aggressor. It turned Lebanese civilians into willing or unwilling accomplices in its misdeeds and put them in the frontlines of its guerilla war against Israel at a time when Israel had no presence in Lebanon to justify any sort of military resistance. After years of malignant neglect of Hezbollah’s destructive growth -courtesy of its patron Iran (with the help of Syria) - the world community should simply get out of the way and let Israel remove this cancer completely from its northern border.

Once Hezbollah’s military capability is effectively destroyed, a multinational force can be deployed in southern Lebanon to stabilize the area and help the Lebanese national government to restore its authority. In order to work, this multinational force must be akin to the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan or Bosnia, not a mere expansion of the UN Impotent Force

Is Anyone on Wall Street Safe From America’s Sinking Paychecks?

By Christopher Hancock July 26, 2006

What does $53 a day buy you?

For many Americans, it’s got to cover all the basic necessities: food, clothing, electricity, heat, car payments, phone service. It’s a real issue for a lot of households. It’s going to be a real dilemma for a lot of equities, too.

Here’s the problem.

The average household that shops at Wal-Mart earns about $40,000 annually.

After subtracting federal taxes (excluding any credits, such as the standard deduction, mortgage deductions, etc.), the family is left with $34,730. That comes out to $2,894 dollars a month, or a mere $723 dollars a week.

Let’s assume this average household is a family of four. And let’s assume they have a mortgage. The median U.S. home price in 2003 was $180,000. That figure soared 21% since then, but we’ll stick with 2003 data to be fair. Using a 3% fixed mortgage, our family’s total monthly payment (including property taxes and homeowner’s insurance) will be $987 a month.

And let’s assume they own two cars. With U.S. gas prices averaging $3.00 a gallon, two midsize sedans are going to cost our family roughly $100 a week, or $400 a month. And that’s assuming they go to the pumps no more than once a week.

So before factoring in anything else, the average Wal-Mart household is left with a meager $1,507 a month, $376 a week, or $53.82 a day.

Even if we granted our family exemption from federal income taxes, altogether, they would still only be left with roughly $70 a day. Two trips to McDonalds alone would eat up nearly half of that.

Frankly, I don’t know how the average American family does it.

As I’ve written before, I believe the inflation rate is much greater than the 3.55% the government reports.
If the Bureau of Labor Statistics measured the Consumer Price Index (CPI) by the same standards used in the 1970s, today’s inflation rate would more than double from 3.55% to 8%. Furthermore, at the pace we’re going, the 1970s method would propel the projected 2006 annual inflation rate well into the double digits.

But I’m not going to waste my breath and your time, dear reader, extrapolating the actual rate of inflation.

You know it’s there. It’s more severe than the government would have you believe. You see it on every bank statement, credit-card bill, and restaurant check.

My advice to you: Keep an eye out on stocks dependent on the American consumer. He’s becoming cautious, tight-fisted… unable to spend more than he earns much longer.

Be especially concerned with the retail sector…

UPS just reported disappointing second-quarter earnings. Chief financial officer Scott Davis said retail customers were showing signs of weakness.

Shares of Amazon.com, a customer of UPS, are down as much as 22% today on reports of a dramatic fall in net income. Higher operating expenses are taking their toll. Shipping promotions are having a significant impact on the bottom line. Free shipping saves a pricey trip to the store. But that can’t last forever.

The point is: People are trying to stretch that $53 a week further and further. I took my car to be serviced this weekend. The station attendant told me he didn’t have the proper oil filter. I asked him why it wasn’t in stock.

He told me that people were requesting oil changes without replacing the oil filter. They’re saving any way they can, he said.

So when I read that tire companies issued profit warnings today, I wasn’t surprised. “There’s an inclination to run tires a little balder,” according to Saul Ludwig, analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets.

As long as oil prices stay at record levels, industries especially sensitive to the American consumer look to struggle. Take special note to industries with low gross margins.


by Dr. Hans Sennholz
Many Americans are unhappy about the growing inequality in individualincome and wealth. Corporate profits are rising, executive salaries aresoaring, but the wages of most workers are barely moving. Even employeeswith technical skills are feeling squeezed and college graduates arefinding it difficult to make a fitting beginning. It is not surprisingthat politicians, in search of a popular issue, are adding theirinterpretations and recommendations. On the left, they are criticizingcorporations for unpatriotic behavior, exporting American jobs in searchfor ever higher profits. On the right, they are condemning corporationsfor hiring illegal aliens who come to the United States and labor in theunderground economy. Both sides are waving the American flag and fillingthe air with political malice and strife.

Men are made by nature unequal. Surely, to assure social peace, all menmust be equal before the law and have an equal right to the protection ofthe law. But they do not have equal ability and productivity and,therefore, do not have equal incomes. A political order that endeavors tocreate economic equality by force is unnatural; it is destined toself-destruct in destitution, discord, and strife.

Individual incomes always depend on a person's productivity in renderingservices to others. Most individuals merely earn compensation for servicesrendered, commonly called wages, salaries, fees, or honoraria. Thriftyindividuals may enjoy also interest income on their savings. Andenterprising individuals may even reap pure profits which flow fromcorrect anticipation of future needs and supplies, future costs andprices, in short, future states of the market. In a welfare state manypeople also enjoy transfer benefits forcibly taken from taxpayers. Morethan fifty million Americans presently draw such payments from theirfellow countrymen.

In a free market economy individual differences in income may be veryvisible although rather limited in numbers. There are few corporateexecutives, artists, and authors with million-dollar salaries andhonoraria every year. There are not many investors enjoying million-dollarinterest payments on their holdings. But there always are some youngentrepreneurs who manage to foresee important market changes and thereforereap million-dollar profits. But all such differences pale in significancewhen compared with those caused by man's choice of social and economicorganization. Depending on his perception of the nature of man and on hisunderstanding of social and economic cooperation, he may choose to live ina great variety of economic orders. Some are highly productive yieldinghigh standards of living for all; others are barren and poor condemningmembers to short and wretched lives. According to The Economist's World inFigures, 2006 edition, the people in Luxembourg, for instance, areenjoying an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of $55,500 per year, inNorway they are producing $37,910, and in the United States $37,750. Incontrast, the people of Somalia subsist on $440 a year, in Sierra Leone on$530, and in Malawi on $590. The life expectance in the latter is aboutone-half of that in the former.

Such country differences began to develop some 300 years ago when inWestern Europe a new social and economic philosophy began to removeinstitutional barriers to economic development. The laissez-fairephilosophy of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and many other authors inEngland, France, Germany, and the United States replaced old doctrinesthat branded economic freedom and acquisitiveness as immoral and advocatedlegal barriers to economic inequality. The new philosophy set the peoplefree to remove these barriers and pursue their economic interests.Economic production immediately accelerated and standards of livingincreased visibly. Unfortunately, occasional relapses to old thoughts andpolicies interrupted the economic progress, and many countries that havenever been exposed to the light of economic freedom continue to linger indismal poverty.

At the present, the light is spreading slowly throughout many parts of theworld, even where the political structures continue to be authoritarian.China, Vietnam, and India seem to be leading the way. But economicstagnation is holding many other countries in its grip as new productionbarriers are being erected to reinforce the old. Business taxes may beraised and business capital may be consumed not only by the poor and needybut also an ever-hungry bureaucracy. There is economic stagnation inFrance, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. In many countries someeconomic pursuits do prosper while others stagnate or even decline.

Economic progress builds on the formation and investment of businesscapital which raises output and income. It may do so with new methods ofproduction and new inventions or without altering the mode of production.Market pressures then divide the new income between the entrepreneurs wholead the way and the suppliers of the factors of production. In the shortrun, the entrepreneurs may be the beneficiaries but, in the long run,production adjustments always eliminate the entrepreneurial profits andmake workers the primary recipients. In the United States and all othercapitalistic countries they have been the main beneficiaries ever sinceobstacles were first removed and new investments were made.Short-run syndromes of change now are permeating the American economy.Some executive incomes are counted in the millions of dollars, but thewages of many workers are barely keeping up with the rate of inflation.And once again, old explanations are making their appearance, findinggrievous fault with such profits and the profit motive. These criticsfavor a more progressive tax system that would reduce the gap between therich and the poor. They would reform and expand social welfare, inparticular the health care system and the public pension system. And aboveall, they would restructure the education system in which only threepercent of students at top colleges come from the poorest quarter of thepopulation. Unfortunately, such reforms not only would boost the powers ofthe political reformers but also raise the costs of labor and weaken thelabor market. They may even increase the rate of unemployment, especiallyof unskilled workers. There would be more beneficiaries of SocialSecurity, Medicare, Medicaid, and generous scholarships, but socialmobility would suffer another blow. In a heavily taxed and regulatedeconomy it is much more difficult for a poor worker to advance in income,wealth, and position than for a wealthy person to remain wealthy.

Globalization is outsourcing some white-collar jobs, which is more gristfor the mill of the reformers. Their eyes are glued on executive incomes;they are blind to policies that have undesirable consequences, policiesthat may even give rise to the very effects which they deplore. Therecannot be any doubt that the monetary policies of the Federal ReserveSystem greatly affect not only the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar butalso individual income and wealth. When economic activity slowed down in2002 the Fed immediately slashed its discount rate to 11/4% and then 1%,the lowest in 45 years. Resting on the Fed rate, all other interest ratespromptly plummeted to levels far below true market rates, which inducedsome investors to search for higher rates and higher incomes abroad. Withthe discount rate at 1% and all other rates not much higher, and withforeign rates at double and triple levels, it is only natural that manyinvestors seek higher returns abroad. They may even have to leave thecountry in order to meet the competition that is now abroad. Surely, thedriving force is the investor's profit motive, but it is the FederalReserve policy that creates the foreign opportunities.

In a free and unhampered economy the short run is a period of readjustmentto a changing market condition. Entrepreneurs and investors react quicklyin order to maximize their profits. When legislators and regulators, forany reason, erect their barriers, they obviously delay the readjustment;labor productivity and wage rates may stagnate or even decline.Legislation and regulation may turn a free market economy into a commandeconomy with rigid income and class structures. Massive deficit spendingmay pave the way. At the present, the federal government is sufferingbudget deficits amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars, which arereadily financed by the Federal Reserve System. Surely, the Fed does notdirectly purchase new Treasury I.O.U.s; it merely enables American andforeign financial institutions to buy them.Extraordinary expansion of money and credit gave rise to phenomenal tradedeficits, $618 billion in 2004, some $700 billion in 2005, and probablyhigher yet in 2006. Suffered by any other country, such deficits wouldsoon cause the national currency to flounder and thus call an early haltto the deficits. But the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency ofthe world, which persuades many foreign creditors to cling to theirdollars or invest them in dollar claims. According to some estimates,foreign banks and investors are holding some $9 trillion of U.S. paperassets. They are owning some 43% of U.S. Treasuries, 25% of U.S. corporatebonds, and 12 % of U.S. corporate equities. Dollar cash holdings as wellas U.S. Treasury obligations obviously are no investments in businessfacilities, such as corporate stocks, bills, notes, or bonds, which wouldraise labor productivity and wage rates.

Many Americans undoubtedly are unhappy about the growing inequality inindividual income and wealth. They are guided by simple motives andbeliefs in the equality of man, which theologians, philosophers, andstatesmen have featured since the beginning of time. Thomas Jeffersonaffirmed it in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths tobe self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed bytheir Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,Liberty and the pursuit of happiness." No matter how we may read thisdeclaration, it does not dwell on any equality of income and wealth. Onthe contrary, it speaks of "unalienable rights" in "the pursuit ofhappiness," which undoubtedly comprises also the right to pursue incomeand wealth.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration Continental Congress hadlittle money and poor means of obtaining more. The financial situation wasrather precarious. Congress then authorized many issues of paper dollarsand the states followed suit, issuing their own. By the end of the war,they were "not worth a Continental." Surely, the current situation differssignificantly from that of the American Revolution, but it also resemblesit in several important aspects. Then and now the political authoritieseagerly issued paper dollars that lost some of their value every day. Theeconomic maladjustments which the issues brought about created countlessopportunities for knowledgeable entrepreneurs to make the neededreadjustments. While labor productivity and income stagnated or evendeclined, business opportunities and profits actually soared.

The old order always changes, yielding to the new; but many economicchanges merely reflect variations in monetary policy and their inescapableconsequences.

Editor's Note: Dr. Hans Sennholz is president emeritus of The Foundationfor Economic Education (FEE) in Irvington, NY. His essays and articleshave appeared in over 36 major German journals and newspapers, and 500more that reach American audiences. Dr. Sennholz is also the author of 17books covering the Great Depression, Gold, Central Banking and MonetaryPolicy. You can write to him at this address: hans@sennholz.com

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Senate Granting Amnesty to 66 Million Illegals

From the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF.org)

The U.S. Senate is trying to scam the American people -- you and me -- AGAIN!
Right now -- under the cover of darkness -- the Senate is moving forward -- full steam ahead -- with plans to allow as many as 66 million aliens into the United States.

Remember several months ago when the Senate voted 83-16 to authorize the building of a 370-mile fence along the Mexican border?What you probably didn't know is that recently -- when they thought you weren't looking -- the Senate voted AGAINST an amendment by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to actually FUND that fence . The vote was 71-29.

Minutes later, the Senate voted down another Sessions' amendment (66-34) that would have allocated necessary funds to the Department of Homeland Security to hire 800 full-time employees to investigate immigration fraud.

So what do these votes mean?

Simply put... No money... no fence and no real border enforcement.
Simply put, your suspicions were correct all along -- "comprehensive immigration reform," as the Senate calls it, continues to be nothing more than a code phrase for "granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens!"
It's often difficult to fathom the monumental arrogance and outright deceit of the U.S. Senate.

Our Senators know what the American people want, what they have demanded -- secure borders.Our Senators know this is a vital issue for millions of Americans -- people like you and your family who they are supposed to represent.

These Senators have read the polls. They've heard from their constituents back home.BUT NOW THEY THINK YOU AREN'T WATCHING! THEY THINK YOU HAVE GIVEN UP THE FIGHT!Now is the time to show them once again that you mean business -- that you demand secure borders and NO Amnesty for ILLEGALS!

Use the hyperlink to send your urgent and personalized 30 Blast Fax messages to President George W. Bush and the leadership of the House and Senate.

Tell them in no uncertain terms just how outraged -- how disgusted you are at their amnesty shenanigans.
Tell them you haven't forgotten what happened in 1986, when Congress gave three million illegal aliens amnesty and citizenship on the promise that our borders would be secured.

Tell them not to dare try that scam again -- EVER! No Amnesty! Seal our borders NOW!

We've Won This Battle Before -- We Can Win Again

Over the spring, the Senate delayed voting on the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill until after the Easter recess thinking that public pressure would evaporate.

But pressure didn't evaporate!

In fact, each and every time they tried to pull the wool over your eyes -- you soundly rebuked them and sent them reeling back to the proverbial drawing board!

But they're NOT ready to give up with plans to grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens -- not just yet -- and they're still conspiring to deceive you, to fool you and to con you with an amnesty bill that's 100% guaranteed to invite disaster.In 1986, Congress granted amnesty and citizenship to three million illegal aliens -- but at the time they solemnly promised -- Scout's Honor -- to seal the borders as well.Today, 12 MILLION illegal aliens are in the United States and the American people are still waiting -- 20 years later -- for the enforcement provisions enacted into law in 1986 to take effect!

They didn't fulfill their promise to secure the border as they promised in 1986 when they gave AMNESTY to 3 million illegals. And, based on the actions of the Senate during the last week, they have no plans to secure the border today. Here's what the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector -- perhaps the nation's leading expert on immigration -- said about the Senate legislation.

"Allegedly, the border will first be sealed. This will be then followed by another mass amnesty and, inevitably, a huge flood of new immigrants."

Put the emphasis on the word "allegedly."

But after all... Isn't that what we all want? Mass amnesty? Hoards of illegal aliens skipping, across our border? Tens of millions of "new citizens" who refuse to assimilate as they maintain allegiance to the countries of their birth?But wait a minute! The Senate says it will seal the borders first.

Rector says that's baloney.

He points out that a genuine seal-the-border bill should contain such provisions as the following:
A requirement that millions of illegal immigrants who work while using fake Social Security numbers be fired!
Enforcement of strict penalties against employers that hire illegal aliens "off the books."

On Social Security, the Senate said NO! In May, the Senate effectively REJECTED an amendment -- introduced by Senator John Ensign -- that would have prohibited illegal aliens from collecting Social Security benefits based on past illegal employment -- even if the job was obtained through forged or stolen documents.

On strict penalties for employers that hire illegals, the Senate bill actually grants AMNESTY to employers currently using illegal aliens for cheap labor.

The Senate, Rector says, "will accept no such tough measures. Therefore, talk of 'enforcement first' is hollow.""Hollow" is too kind a word. The Senate's actions are a betrayal!Rector's last word: "The Senate's immigration bill deserves burial in a very deep grave."

Let's dig that grave -- RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW!

Tell them not to dare try that scam again -- EVER! No Amnesty! Seal our borders NOW!

66 Million Aliens...

Robert Rector's estimate of the number of new immigrants the Senate legislation would bring in to the United States over a 20-year period is -- are you ready for this? -- MORE THAN 66 MILLION, more than 20 percent of the current American population!

But Rector isn't the only one sounding the alarm:

Charles Hurt, reporting in the Washington Times, points out that the Senate bill would forbid State and local law enforcement officers from detaining illegal aliens for being in the country illegally; thus leaving the task entirely to the under-staffed, under-funded U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Hurt also reported that the Senate bill "would guarantee wages to some foreign workers that would be higher than the minimum wage -- in effect, higher than American workers could be paid at the same work site."

But these aren't the worst problems we face.Our borders are war zones. But, our border patrols and National Guardsmen are out-manned and out-gunned. Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez of Zapata County, Texas tells it like it is.

"For years we have seen individuals enter the country illegally. However, recently, we feel that many of these persons are no longer entering the country to look for legitimate employment. We are now seeing that many of these persons are members of ruthless and violent gangs. All of us are concerned that the border with Mexico is being used as the front door to this country and that terrorists are already in our back yard."

He's talking about ragtag armies like MS-13 -- the most dangerous street gang in the Western hemisphere -- with affiliates all over the United States.

Gonzalez again:
"In May of this year my office received information that the cartels immediately across our border are planning on threatening or killing as many police officers as possible on the United States side. This is being planned for the purpose of attempting to 'scare us' away from the border. It is very possible these cartels may form the nexus, or have already formed one, with members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups."

Sheriff Gonzalez and his men have found evidence that terrorists have already crossed the border -- Middle Eastern currency, Muslim clothing, a jacket with patches from countries where al-Qaida operates. And 71 members of the U.S. Senate DON'T CARE ENOUGH TO SECURE OUR BORDERS!!!It's not just Democrats -- but Republicans too. Their behavior is sickening.

Let them know you're watching -- RIGHT NOW -- TODAY!

But Securing The Borders Simply Won't Work... Right?

WRONG! A DEA report -- one that 71 senators don't want you to see -- clearly indicates that the very presence of the heroic force -- we know as the Minutemen -- has had a dramatic effect on drug traffic in Cochise County.A DEA report states that the amount of bulk shipments of marijuana crossing the border "dropped significantly." DEA official Anthony Coulson, said, "When you have eyes on the border -- I think any law enforcement will admit this -- you have a great deterrent effect of keeping things away... [The gangs] just kind of hunkered down, waiting till the Minuteman Project was over..."According to a DEA graph, there was a 20% decrease in trafficking while the Minutemen stood guard.

So... the Senate doesn't want to appropriate money to build that wall -- the one they voted to build in May...
We can change that.

Most of us simply can't go to the border and join Minutemen patrols.

But we can make our voices heard in Washington, DC. We can flood our elected leaders' fax machines and let them know that we our watching. We can remind them that, in this election year, we will hold them to account at the polls if they don't do what the American people want.
Make you voice heard -- RIGHT NOW -- TODAY!

Use the hyperlink to send your urgent and personalized 30 Blast Fax messages to President George W. Bush and the leadership of the House and Senate.

Tell them in no uncertain terms just how outraged -- how disgusted you are at their amnesty shenanigans.

Tell them you haven't forgotten what happened in 1986, when Congress gave three million illegal aliens amnesty and citizenship on the promise that our borders would be secured.

Tell them not to dare try that scam again -- EVER! No Amnesty! Seal our borders NOW!

Center for Individual Freedom113 S. Columbus St., Suite 310Alexandria, VA 22314703-535-5836 Fax:703-535-5838

Situation Review: Lebanon with Israel and Hezbollah

Stratfor: Special Report - July 18, 2006
> Special Report: Situation Review
> By George Friedman
> We have been following developments in the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict
> closely for several days. At this writing, the air-rocket war
> continues to rage, but the Israeli ground offensive that we would have
> expected by now has not yet been launched. There is some speculation
> that it will not be launched -- that a combination of air operations
> and a diplomatic process will be sufficient, from Israel's point of
> view, to negate the need for a ground attack.
> While the various processes grind their way along, it is time to
> review the situation.
> The first point to bear in mind is that the crisis did not truly begin
> with the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. The kidnappings
> presented a serious problem for Israel, but could not, by themselves,
> define the geopolitical issue. That definition came when Hezbollah
> rockets struck Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, on July 13. There
> were also claims coming from Hezbollah, and confirmed by Israeli
> officials, that Hezbollah had missiles available that could reach Tel
> Aviv. Israel's population is concentrated in the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem
> corridor and in the Tel Aviv-Haifa corridor. In effect, Hezbollah had
> attained the ability to strike at the Israeli heartland. Hezbollah has
> been hitting the northern part of this heartland, as well as pounding
> Israel's northern frontier.
> The capture of two soldiers posed a symbolic challenge to Israel, but
> the rocket attacks posed a direct geopolitical threat. Israel had
> substantial room for maneuver regarding the captured troops.
> The threat to the heartland, however, could not be evaded. To the
> extent possible, Israel had to stop the missile attacks. As important,
> it also had to eliminate Hezbollah's ability to resume such attacks.
> The Israelis can tolerate these strikes for a certain period of time,
> so long as the outcome is a final cessation. What was not an option
> for Israel was to engage in temporary solutions that would allow
> Hezbollah to attack the heartland regularly, at its discretion.
> Hezbollah has posed a problem that Israel cannot choose to ignore.
> Hezbollah's reasons for doing so at this time are not altogether clear.
> It certainly has to do with the crisis in Palestinian
> politics: Hezbollah wants to stake a place for itself as Palestine
> redefines itself. It also has to do with the vacuum created by the
> withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and freedom of action for
> Hezbollah that previously has been denied it by the Syrians.
> Finally, it is clear that Iranian and Shiite politics within the wider
> Islamic world have made Hezbollah action at this time attractive for
> the group's Iranian patrons.
> However complex Hezbollah's motives might be, the consequences of its
> actions are crystal-clear: From the Israeli perspective, it is
> imperative that the rocket attacks must be shut down.
> Israel's Imperfect Options
> Israel has three tools at its disposal.
> One is diplomacy. There is a general consensus, even among many in
> Lebanon and Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, that Hezbollah's
> actions have been unreasonable and undesirable. It would not be too
> difficult, we would think, to create a circumstance in which the two
> Israeli soldiers are released, a cease-fire is declared and an
> international monitoring team inserted into the region. That is what
> the French, for example, have proposed, and what is being discussed now.
> The problem with this option, from the Israeli point of view, is that
> it puts off a solution to the deeper problem posed by Hezbollah to a
> later day
> -- one that might not be so advantageous for Israel. Israel has a
> built-in distrust of international peacekeeping operations -- dating
> back to May 1967, when the United Nations, without consulting Israel,
> withdrew peacekeepers from Sinai at the behest of the Egyptians. This
> cultural bias against peacekeepers is reinforced by the fact that
> Hezbollah could rearm itself behind the peacekeeping shield. Whether
> the peacekeepers would conduct operations to prevent this -- in
> effect, carrying out counterinsurgency operations in Lebanon in
> support of Israel's goals -- is doubtful in the extreme. Instead, the
> presence of a peacekeeping force might facilitate a more substantial
> Hezbollah capability down the road. This is, at least, how the
> Israelis think of it, and their position therefore has been
> consistent: The outcome of this conflict must be the destruction of
> Hezbollah, or at least its offensive capability, for an extended period of time.
> That leads to Israel's other two options, both of which would be
> carried out with military force.
> The first step has been the Israeli air campaign. All modern military
> operations by advanced powers begin with air campaigns.
> Their purpose is to prepare the battlefield for land attack and, in
> some cases, to force a political settlement. In Kosovo, for example,
> air attacks alone were sufficient to convince the Yugoslav government
> to concede its control over Kosovo. In the case of Desert Storm, the
> air campaign came in preparation for a ground attack.
> Air forces around the world like to make extravagant claims as to what
> air power can do; the Israeli air force is no exception.
> However, while an air campaign can severely hamper Hezbollah --
> particularly by attacking launch sites and storage facilities, and
> generally making launches difficult -- the likelihood that air power
> can, by itself, eliminate the threat is unlikely.
> To reiterate a key point, the nature of the threat is continual
> attacks on Israel's geopolitical heartland. Now, it is possible that
> Israeli air operations could force some sort of political settlement,
> but again, as with the diplomatic option, it is difficult to conceive
> of a political settlement that guarantees what Israel wants. Even a
> Hezbollah withdrawal from southern Lebanon, coupled with occupation of
> the area by the Lebanese army, does not solve the problem. This
> solution assumes that the Lebanese army has the will and ability to
> prevent Hezbollah's return. For this to work, the Lebanese army would
> have to agree to dismantle Hezbollah's infrastructure, and Hezbollah
> would have to agree to let them do so -- and Israel would have to
> place its faith in both Hezbollah and the Lebanese army and
> government. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which the
> Israelis can reach a satisfactory political settlement. The air
> campaign as a political tool suffers from the same defect as the
> diplomatic track: It is of value only if Israel is prepared to accept
> a solution that does not guarantee a complete end to the threat posed
> by Hezbollah -- and potentially might leave the Israelis in a worse position, militarily, down the road.
> There is an additional political fact and problem. Obviously, any
> threat to a heartland generates a unique political response. In
> Israel, the Olmert government is heir to Ariel Sharon's quest for an
> imposed political settlement on the Palestinians. This is a strategy
> opposed from the right, by Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, who argues
> that any settlement that leaves military options in the hands of the
> Palestinians is unsustainable. The Hezbollah issue is the Palestinian
> issue on steroids. If Olmert were to agree to any settlement that does
> not include dismantling Hezbollah's capabilities or that relies on a
> third party to police that dismantling, Netanyahu would attack hard --
> and we suspect that enough of Olmert's coalition would defect to force
> a political crisis in Israel.
> There has been no attack from Netanyahu, however. This can be partly
> explained by the Israeli tradition that politics stops when war begins.
> But we suspect this goes deeper than that. Olmert is keeping Netanyahu
> informed as to his intentions and Netanyahu is content with the course
> being pursued, making it clear in public that his support depends on
> the government faithfully pursuing that course -- meaning the
> destruction of Hezbollah as an organized entity. Olmert does not have
> much room for maneuver on this, nor is it apparent that he wants any.
> The goal is the destruction of Hezbollah; anything less would not
> work, on any level, for Israel.
> The Logic for a Ground Offensive
> From this, we must conclude that the air campaign comes in preparation
> for what is Israel's third option: a ground offensive.
> If Israel's goal is the destruction of Hezbollah's ability to strike
> the Israeli heartland for an extended period of time, the only way to
> hope to achieve this is from the ground. Those conducting air
> operations can see only what can be seen from the air. And even if
> they can hit whatever they see, eliminating the threat requires a ground presence.
> Therefore, we continue to believe that logic and evidence argue for an
> Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon -- and that any possible
> diplomatic or political resolution, however tempting, ultimately could
> not satisfy Israel's security requirements.
> When we say invasion, we do not mean occupation. Israel has had its
> fill of counterinsurgency operations in Lebanon. This would be a raid
> in force. A large force would push into Lebanon, with two
> missions: the destruction of Hezbollah as an army and the location and
> destruction of all heavy weaponry. This solution would not be
> permanent, but it would achieve two ends. First, it would mean that
> for Hezbollah or a successor organization to regroup would take years.
> Second, it would leave no third party shielding Hezbollah while it
> regrouped. This strategy gives Israel what it wants now and options in the future.
> Three more Israeli battalions were mobilized today. The United States,
> which certainly knows Israel's intentions, is now extracting U.S.
> citizens from Beirut. Israeli aircraft are working over Hezbollah
> positions in the Bekaa Valley. The United States, Israel's patron, is
> clearly in favor of the destruction of Hezbollah and there is no
> broad-based opposition to an Israeli offensive internationally. It is
> a window of opportunity that Israel will not pass up. The very thing
> that makes diplomatic solutions possible also makes invasion, for the
> Israelis, attractive.
> Our analysis therefore runs as follows:
> 1. Only an invasion on the ground can provide Israel with the solution
> it wants to the threat Hezbollah has posed.
> 2. A diplomatic or political settlement not only cannot guarantee this
> outcome, but it would make later Israeli responses to Hezbollah even
> more difficult. Israel has more room for maneuver internationally now
> than it will have later.
> 3. The internal politics of Israel will make it very difficult for
> Olmert to come out of this with a less-than-definitive outcome.
> 4. Israel will seek to deal with Hezbollah without undertaking
> counterinsurgency operations in the long term. This means attack,
> sterilization of the threat, and withdrawal.
> There has been much speculation about diplomatic solutions, the
> possibility that there will not be an invasion, and so on. But when we
> ignore the rhetoric and look at the chessboard, it is difficult to see
> how this conflict ends without some action on the ground.
> When we examine the behavior of the Israelis, they are taking the
> steps that would be needed for an invasion. Obviously we could be
> wrong, and clearly the invasion has not come at the earliest possible
> moment, as we had predicted. Nevertheless, when we step through the
> logic, we keep coming out with the same answer:
> invasion.

Confirm Bolton

From IBD:
Posted 7/24/2006

Diplomacy: John Bolton, made U.S. ambassador to the United Nations last year in a recess appointment after Senate Democrats wouldn't allow a vote, is proving to be one of our finest U.N. envoys.

Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick once described her job at the U.N. as refusing to let the U.S. wear a "kick me" sign at the organization. As the Senate this week again debates Bolton's nomination, it's hard to think of anyone more Kirkpatrick-esque. His achievements include:

• Beginning the long, hard task of "revolution of reform" — and refusing to accept Secretary-General Kofi Annan's less-than-adequate package of changes. As Bolton recently wrote, "The world is waking up to the glaring inefficiencies within the U.N. system."

He says the U.S. will look for other ways of working with friendly governments absent true U.N. reform.
• Looking at the relationship between funding mechanisms and performance — even suggesting that U.N. dues be replaced with voluntary contributions, which would let states choose which U.N. programs they wish to fund.

• Promoting a replacement for the corrupt U.N. Human Rights Commission — in which serial human rights violators get to sit in judgment on the world.

• Pushing the genocide in Darfur to the top of the Security Council agenda during America's council presidency this year, and blasting Annan for failing to use U.N. forces to stop atrocities there.

• Personally becoming one of the most effective — and visible — administration spokesmen on foreign policy. He never seems to turn down an invitation to talk. For instance, speaking to a hostile student crowd at Yale, his alma mater, he defended using the U.S. legal system to try soldiers accused of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.

"I'm just curious; those of you who are hissing, who do you think will judge better than us?" he asked the audience.

Last time around, Senate Democrats pretended they were opposing Bolton because he had a bad temper. A Bolton subordinate complained he used hostile body language — hands on his hips — when talking to him.
In the case of Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who now promises a "bruising fight" against Bolton, the real reason was that Bolton had a track record of fighting the Castro regime in Cuba.

This time, Democrats will have to oppose Bolton on substance, and it won't be easy. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who last year called Bolton a "poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be" is now solidly in the pro-Bolton camp, as are all Senate Republicans.

A New York Times editorial last year strongly opposed his nomination because "Mr. Bolton expresses contempt for the U.N." and "tried to get a top CIA analyst who disagreed with him transferred."

Considering the incorrigible corruption of the U.N., the recent misbehavior of the CIA and the disrespect for national security shown by the Times, those reasons are as good as any to keep America's man at the U.N. right there where he's needed.

Memo To Syria: Rethink Chutzpah

From IBD:
Posted 7/24/2006

Axis Of Evil: Syria has said if Israeli troops enter Lebanon in force, Damascus will enter the conflict. But the Syrians are already in it. In fact, they helped provoke it. Time to call their bluff?

The latest warning came from Syrian Information Minister Moshen Bilal. After meeting in Madrid with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moaratinos, Bilal told Spanish newspaper ABC that "if Israel makes a land invasion of Lebanon and gets near us, Syria will not stand by with arms folded. It will enter the conflict."

This bravado came after Sami al Khaymi, the Syrian ambassador to London, said in an interview with the BBC on July 14 that Hezbollah should stop firing missiles at Israel. "Syria is not interested in joining the battle," he said.

But those missile warheads stuffed with Syrian-made ball bearings suggest differently.

The object of Syria's concern, as Bilal expressed it, is that "if Israel makes a land entry into Lebanon, they can get to within 20 kilometers of Damascus."

To us, that seems more of an opportunity than a problem, an opportunity to rid the world of a state sponsor of terror and a threat to Middle East peace.

If the Israelis wanted to march on Damascus, they wouldn't have to go through Lebanon to do it. Israel already holds the Golan Heights, which is Syrian territory. The reason they hold the Golan is to prevent it from being used to bombard Israeli towns and villages, as has been the case in the past.

Hezbollah now does that for Damascus using either missiles transshipped through Syria from Iran or missiles directly from the Syrian army inventory, a factoid that doesn't seem to bother Bilal.

The current conflict began when exiled Hamas warlord Khaleed Meshaal gave the order from Damascus — the Club Med for terrorist groups — to attack an Israeli patrol near Gaza, killing two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping another. Hezbollah followed suit. And when Israel responded in self-defense, Hezbollah began raining missiles supplied by Syria or through Syria from Iran on Haifa and other Israeli cities and towns.

Hezbollah's ability to hit an Israeli ship with a missile and reach deep into Israel surprised many observers. But it's the warning by Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in a recent TV appearance, vowing to surprise Israel by land "just as we surprised you at sea," that both intrigues and concerns us.

"Israel doesn't know our capabilities on every level," Nasrallah said, and we wonder whether those capabilities include the biological weapons smuggled into Syria from Iraq just before Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Earlier this year, Moshe Yaalon, who was Israel's top general at the time, said Iraq had transported such weapons to its fellow Baathist dictatorship in Syria six weeks before the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

Gen. Georges Sada, the No. 2 official in Saddam's air force, says Hussein smuggled his mass-murder weapons into Syria using two hollowed-out Boeing jets, making a total of 56 trips. Could they be what Nasrallah means by a "surprise" awaiting Israel?

If there were regime change in Syria, Iran would find it well nigh impossible to supply and arm Hezbollah. There would be no Syrian intelligence operatives to interfere in Lebanon's internal affairs even to the point of assassination of those who resist Syrian interference.

Beirut might then find the courage, backed by the international community, to take on Hezbollah and enforce U.N. Resolution 1559.

We would benefit as well. Syria has served as a sanctuary for jihadists moving in and out of Iraq, prompting Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, to call Syria the Cambodia of the Iraq War. It would be a major victory in the war on terror to eliminate one of terrorism's state sponsors.

Yes, we realize that Iran, and not the marionettes in Syria, is really pulling the strings in this conflict. And yes, Israel needs to be careful not to provoke those Arab nations that — as long as Hezbollah has been the focus — have been remarkably restrained in their reaction to the Israeli strikes.

Still, if the Israelis want to hang a right when they get to the Beirut-Damascus highway, don't expect us to stop them. Mideast peace might be only 20 kilometers away.

Is Free Trade Dead?

From IBD:
Posted 7/24/2006

Globalization: "World Trade Talks Collapse" is the typical headline, greeted mostly by yawns, on dispatches from the so-called Doha round in Geneva. Yawns aside, the news is an ominous sign for the world economy.
To say that the prosperity the world has enjoyed since World War II has been due largely to the growth of trade is not an exaggeration. The growth of trade has been largely due to successive rounds of talks that have lowered barriers and slashed tariffs from an average 40% in 1946 to about 4% today.

Despite that record, the Doha round of talks — named for the city in Qatar where they commenced in 2001 — fell apart Monday. Their demise after five years of nearly nonstop bickering sadly leaves a big question mark over the World Trade Organization and the future of free trade.

In the end, the talks collapsed because no one could agree on what should have been easy: reducing support for farm goods. Not surprisingly, the U.S. once again came in for harsh condemnation for the failure.

"Surely the richest and strongest nation in the world, with the highest standards of living, can afford to give as well as take," said European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson. That view was enthusiastically seconded by India and Brazil.

To be sure, the U.S. does deserve some blame. Last year, the U.S. government imposed tariffs and subsidies worth $28 billion to U.S. farm producers. This not only distorts output here but also makes it harder for developing nations to compete in our markets.

But Europe, India and Brazil, among other U.S. critics, are far worse than the U.S. And they refuse to bend.
U.S. trade support — subsidies, tariffs and the like — amounts to about 0.4% of GDP. For the 15 core nations of the EU, support is about four times that.

Nor do developing nations stack up well. They complain bitterly — and correctly, we think — about being kept out of U.S. and European markets by protectionism. Fair enough.

But those countries then protect their own markets while failing to protect things like copyrights and intellectual property. The latter results in hundreds of billions in lost sales for U.S. firms.

World Bank data show that tariffs in developing countries, for example, average about 14%; by comparison, tariffs in industrial economies average about 5%. Both sides have plenty of cutting left to do.

Just removing barriers on farm trade would add about $142 billion to developing nations' economies, the World Bank estimates. But guess what? More than $110 billion of that gain comes from those countries cutting their own tariffs — something developing countries refuse to do, despite the obvious benefits.

Beyond the rhetoric, the bottom line here for everyone is growth. The annual "Economic Freedom of the World" report recently quantified how free trade works. From 1980 to 1998, the report found, the 12 countries with the freest trade averaged per capita GDP growth of 2.5% a year. The average for those with the least-free trade? A paltry 0.3% a year.

The difference is huge, and the stakes are high. At those rates, free trade countries double their per capita income in about 29 years — once a generation. For nonfree countries, it'll take about 240.

To keep free trade alive, the U.S. will have to make some sacrifices. But in the end, we too will benefit. Indeed, we already have.

A recent study by trade economist Gary Hufbauer assessed the value to Americans of 50 years of free trade deals. He found free trade added about $10,000 to the average household's income. A separate University of Michigan study predicted that cutting trade barriers by a third would lift Americans' incomes an additional $2,500.

From farm goods to movies, computer chips to airplanes, the U.S. economy is driven by trade as never before. Today, nearly a fifth of factory jobs depend on exports. Those jobs pay 13% to 18% more than similar ones, trade officials estimate.

We agree with U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab, who said no trade deal is better than a bad trade deal. But free trade is too important to the world economy to let go.

So here's our suggestion: Acknowledge that we all failed, take the rest of the summer off (Europeans don't work in August anyway) and then get right back at it, either later this year or early in 2007. Failing this, we might greet 2007 with a global recession — which would be a lot more painful than making a few subsidy cuts.

Coercion Lifted

From IBD:
Posted 7/24/2006

Health Care: Earlier this year we said the Maryland law that required Wal-Mart to pay more for employee medical coverage was part of the war against the retailer. Last week, the retail giant won a battle in that war.
U.S. District Judge Frederick Motz overturned the law, saying Wal-Mart "faces threatened injury" if companies with 10,000 or more employees (Wal-Mart would be the only company affected) are forced to spend 8% of their payroll on health insurance or pay the difference to the state, as the law demands.

Motz's ruling rested on his finding that Wal-Mart would have been harmed in "requiring it to track and allocate benefits for its Maryland employees in a manner different from that in which it tracks and allocates benefits for its employees in other states." The law imposes, he wrote, "legally cognizable injury upon Wal-Mart."
We hope that Motz didn't have to deliberate too long over his ruling. It should have been as routine as putting on a robe.

Maryland lawmakers have no right or authority to take over the operations of a private business. That federal law constrains them from doing what they did only made Motz's job that much easier, but he didn't need it.
Any law that interferes with the private exchange between employees and employers mutually agreeing to pay and benefits steps over the bounds within which governments should operate in a free-enterprise system.

Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich certainly understood that Maryland lawmakers overreached. He vetoed the legislation. But the legislature overrode his veto, and the bill, which is backed by unions and an assortment of other Wal-Mart haters, became law last winter and would have taken effect in January.

Motz's ruling last week isn't likely to be the last word on the Fair Share Health Care Fund Act. Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran said he will appeal.

Should he fail, lawmakers will try to backdoor the bill by putting another name on it and tweaking it. Anything for political allies who control large blocs of votes.

We think they should use their time a little more constructively. Coercive policies that foster a hostile business climate, no matter what the feel-good quotient might be, are not the answer to a perceived uninsured problem in Maryland or anywhere else. Try something new, something other than the reflexive regurgitation of statist solutions that are always based on compulsion.

If Curran and the lawmakers feel Motz's ruling is a setback, they should consider how far Maryland's economy and standard of living will decline if they keep getting their public policy tips from unions and anti-business activists.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day:

“Those who keep calling for an end to the ‘cycle of violence’ are what make such violence more likely. ‘World opinion’ in general and the United Nations in particular can always be counted on to counsel ‘restraint’ in response to attacks and ‘negotiations’ in response to lethal threats. What that means is that those who start trouble will have a lower price to pay than if those they attacked were free to go all out in their counter-attack. Lowering the price to be paid by aggressors virtually guarantees more aggression.”
- Thomas Sowell, July 18, 2006

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Chavez Keeps Playing Games

If Clinton had not veto'd drilling for oil in Anwar, we'd be done with Venezuelan oil by now, but instead.......

“Venezuela’s state-owned oil refining subsidiary in the US is to halt petrol distribution to about 1,900 filling stations in the US, although the company denied on Wednesday the decision was motivated by tensions between Caracas and Washington.

Citgo, which is wholly-owned by PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela, said the decision to stop supplying gasoline to some 15 per cent of its 13,100 US brand-bearing franchises had been taken for business reasons.

Venezuela is the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter and it currently ships 1.5m b/d, about 60 per cent of its output, to the US.”

-Financial Times..

Stop the Dictator, stop buying gas from CITGO!

ACLU Doesn’t Want English Signs

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked officials in a Detroit suburb to reject a proposal that would require businesses with foreign language signs to add English translations.

"We write to strongly urge you to abandon the measure as unconstitutional, anti-immigrant and unnecessary," the ACLU wrote to the city Thursday in a letter that was also signed by officials with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Michigan and Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development Inc.

In May, Sterling Heights, Mich., Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko asked the city's attorney to prepare an ordinance requiring businesses with foreign language signs to have identifiers such as "bakery" included, the Detroit News reports.

Fire Chief John Childs supported the move, arguing that people passing by the site of a fire or other emergency could inform dispatchers about the location more easily if they could read the signs.

He maintained that the issue has nothing to do with race.

"This is about response time," he said.

The city issued a statement Thursday defending the proposed ordinance.

"Any assertion that the city's public safety effort is intended as a restriction on the expression of cultural diversity is categorically denied," the statement said.

According to the News, Michael J. Steinberg of the ACLU said the proposal is unconstitutional "because it singles out businesses with signs.”

Senators Assail Brokaw Over Global Warming

From Newsmax:

The Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works has issued a release attacking former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw for what it calls the “lack of objectivity” in his July 16 documentary about global warming.

According to the release from the committee, which is chaired by Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, that lack of objectivity “compromised” and “tainted” the Discovery Channel documentary, “Global Warming: What You Need to Know.”

“Brokaw’s partisan past and his reliance on scientists who openly endorsed Democrat Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 and who are financially affiliated with left wing environmental groups, has resulted in a documentary that is devoid of balance and objectivity,” the release reads in part.

The release states that Roger Pielke, professor of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University, viewed an advance copy of the Brokaw special and declared that it contained “errors and misconceptions.” He wrote that it could mislead the public “on the broader view that is actually held by most climate scientists.”

The release continues: “Unfortunately, viewers should not expect a scientifically balanced view of the climate from the former NBC newsman” who “has called the science behind catastrophic human-caused global warming ‘irrefutable . . .’

“Brokaw’s partisan environmental credentials are so firmly established that the former anchor was offered a job in the Clinton-Gore administration to be the director of the National Park Service in 1993 . . . Brokaw’s wife also serves as vice president of the environmental group Conservation International.”

The release points out that Brokaw presents NASA’s James Hansen as an authority on climate change “without revealing to viewers the extensive political and financial ties that Hansen has to Democratic Party partisans.

Hansen . . . received a $250,000 grant from the charitable foundation headed by former Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz. “Subsequent to the Heinz Foundation grant, Hansen publicly endorsed Democrat John Kerry for president in 2004, a political endorsement considered to be highly unusual for a NASA scientist.”

Calling the Brokaw documentary “disappointing,” the release from the Senate committee notes that it has led climatologist Pielke – who has authored more than 275 peer-reviewed journal articles on climate – to conclude that Brokaw presents “flawed science” and “a narrow view of the issue of natural and human climate variability and change.”

The July issue of NewsMax Magazine features a compelling cover story, “Al Gore Spins Global Warming,” that debunks many facets of the global warming theory and Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Is Your Property Really Your Own?

No, not according to last year's Supreme Court ruling, Kelo v. New London. In effect, the Supreme Court ruled your property may or may not belong to you, depending on if developers want your land. Susette Kelo, of New London, CT, attempted to fight developers who wanted to seize her beloved pink cottage.

And she lost in a historic 5 - 4 decision that effectively overruled Americans' historic authority over their private property.

This decision gave developers and local governments the precedent they needed to seize any property for private projects. Local governments have actually threatened or condemned 5,783 properties since this ruling, according to USA Today.

But there is some good news.

This controversial ruling also inspired 25 states to enact laws to stop such seizures and Congress has considered a bill to stop federal economic funds from going to developers who use eminent domain.

But no matter how many laws they pass to curb this seizure, you can still lose your home if they say so. To read the full Supreme Court ruling, click here .

Their Majesties in Congress Will Never Learn

It's been said of the stubborn Bourbon kings of France that: "They learned nothing, and they forgot nothing." As a result of their obtuse blindness to reality, France no longer has kings.

This week their majesties in the U.S. House of Representatives, by a wide margin, seemed to have forgotten something important when they voted to ban Internet gambling by Americans. This moralistic action has about the same force as spitting into a hurricane. It also ignores the ugly lessons produced by the disastrous national prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. (1920-1933).

Prohibition was before my time, but this so-called "noble experiment," was touted by its backers as the solution to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, lower the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. This ambitiously wrongheaded experiment clearly failed miserably on all counts. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; organized crime was born; the court and prison systems were overloaded; and corruption of police and public officials was rampant. (Sounds like the infamous, failed "war on drugs," doesn't it?)

Oblivious of history, the technical power and reach of the Internet -- and of human nature -- our brilliant lawmakers took it upon themselves to make it illegal for any credit card company, or other financial institution, to allow payment to any Internet betting site. There are exceptions - betting on horse races is allowed. Net betting on 28 state lotteries is also allowed. Apparently, in the view of Congress, some gambling is okay, but personal Internet gambling isn't. (You can bet all those campaign contributions from Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos influenced the House. Their motto: "Keep American gambling American!")

There's an offshore angle to all this. Most of the best betting web sites are based in European or Caribbean tax havens such as the Isle of Man and Gibraltar. U.S. government pressure already has blocked credit card use for some gambling sites. In Belize 80 people lost their Net gambling jobs when the IRS attempted to freeze the U.S. owners' funds. The Belize Court refused the freeze and the owners took their cash and ran.

The U.S. anti-Net gambling push has had even greater impact in the tiny (pop 68,000) island nation of Antigua & Barbuda. Once 3000 people worked for the island's offshore Net gambling industry, and now less than 1000 still have jobs. So Antigua sued the U.S. and won an interim ruling from the World Trade Organization that the U.S. law criminalizing online gambling must be struck down as counter to international treaties

I am no advocate of gambling per se -- but I am an advocate of personal liberty, including the right to spend one's money as one pleases. In this case the U.S. government has no right to be everybody's morals nanny.
The fact is that about half of the millions of online gamblers are U.S. citizens. They're not going to be blocked from taking a chance on winning from this billion dollar jackpot.

As one observer notes: "America's various attempts at prohibiting sinful behavior have bred corruption, organized crime, black markets and significant erosion of our civil liberties. The story's no different with gambling."

That's the way that it looks from here,BOB BAUMAN,