Democrats On Their Last Leg

Main messages from Democratic candidates a few days before the midterm election:

What President Eboma? Never heard of the guy.

Republicans are preventing African-Americans from working for the corporations that would exploit them.

Businesses don’t create jobs.

Republicans are plotting to abolish sex for women.

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Official Rape: an Update

On 1/18/14, I posted a discussion on this blog of a story about which I first learned from the libertarian blog Notes on Liberty. Briefly: a minor drug suspect was subjected to repeated anal violations over the course of several hours under under a proper warrant. The violations were performed by a doctor, or by two doctors, at police request. The story was blood curdling but it contained too many dark spots at the time, I thought. I expressed skepticism, for which I was roundly condemned by orthodox libertarians. To my mind there were not one but two big issues at hand. The first one, the obvious one, was the question of whether long-lasting torture under authority of law has become routine in America. (It’s separate in my mind from the matter of police brutality under the influence of an adrenalin rush.) The secondary and subsidiary issue raised by this tale of official atrocities was that of the possible credulousness of my libertarian friends. You can read the whole original thread by following this link:

My original posting was opened 220 times. Perhaps it was mostly by perverts attracted by its title but I can’t be sure. Two hundred an twenty visits are enough by the humble standard of this blog to attempt an update. Here it is:

Shortly after my posting, the victim accepted a settlement of $1.6 million in return for not suing the local government entities involved. One of the two entities specified that it accepted no legal responsibility for the events connected with its payment. All the same, small poor governments are not likely to respond to wild accusations with hush-up money in that an mount. The deal itself creates a presumption of guilt.

One of the two doctors actively engaged in administering the torture was mildly condemned by his state’s medical association in the light manner of professional associations everywhere. But the relevant board used the word “probably.”

The second doctor said to have been involved has dropped out of sight, at least out of my sight. (Please, correct me if my search has been incomplete.) Of course, I think that if he even was in the vicinity during the torture and he did not intervene, he is culpable. That’s one small item in the list of things I was expecting to happen and that did not. By the way, I think anomalies should be treated as aggregative. One small anomaly probably does not mean much; five together do.

Here is what does not seem to have happened:

I had asked a question about the probable cause used by officers to inflict anal torture on the victim. There has been no denial of the notion that the probable causes were limited to the victim’s long but boring history of brushes with the law, and on the “signaling” of a police dog with a dubious track record.

More than twenty months after the victimization, I found no trace of a civil lawsuit either against the doctor known to have performed the forced medical procedures or against the hospital where they took place. That would be the same hospital that attempted to charge the victim for the forced procedures. That fact alone would be enough to stimulate me to action if I were the victim. This absence is puzzling because the victim now has had a war chest of $1.6 million for the past eight months. That’s more than enough money to begin a lawsuit against a deep-pocket organization such as a hospital.

The doctor is a Nigerian by birth. He may have had a shaky immigration status making him vulnerable to police pressure as I speculated. Or, his immigration status may be perfect but, I am pretty sure that having been reared, having gone to high school in one of the African tyrannies does not prepare one to be sensitive to individual liberties American style. That lack of preparedness would also make the doctor vulnerable to police pressure to act in a horrendously unethical fashion by ordinary American standards. Reading around his name on Google, I am also fairly sure that his reputation is shot locally, as far as a private practice is concerned. He may move to another state or become a prison doctor, a category always in demand and where scrutiny is slight.

The American Enterprise Institute – which did much to lift the story out of the category of “possibly true” internet tales – seems to have to dropped the same story. There were some continuing indignant comments on its site but the Institute is simply not asking the obvious questions I raise below. I believe they are obvious questions if you fear that deliberate torture of citizens has become routine or that it is about to become routine.

There is no evidence that the police personnel involved, in the field and in their chain of command, were professionally sanctioned. Some have left their respective departments but their departure seems compatible with ordinary organizational turnover and with natural personnel attrition. At this point, if I were to vote on this question, it would be 70/30 that no one was punished. This seems strange. If I were the mayor, or a supervisor in one of the entities paying up the settlement, I would want heads to roll. I would want them to roll as publicly as possible to show the electorate that I have little responsibility in the events leading to the payoff. If I were a local taxpayer, I would demand that heads roll. If I were a local newspaper, I would increase circulation overnight by conducting a campaign in favor of punishment. There is just too much local silence around the overall story.

I have not found any trace of criminal prosecution of the police personnel involved in what certainly looks like criminal behavior. (See below.) A grand jury investigation is not difficult to undertake. It’s sometimes done just to pacify popular sentiment. That the victim won a large financial settlement in lieu of a civil lawsuit suggests to me that the facts were such that both local governments did not wish to take their chance in any court, least of all, in a criminal court. If even only a small fraction of the events described are factually correct, it seems to me that there is ground for a criminal investigation. (But, I repeat: I am not a lawyer.)

Perhaps, the victim did not wish to become embroiled in a criminal suit, perhaps, he wished only to enjoy his award in peace. This is not a good explanation, however, for the lack of criminal action initiated by the authorities. The District Attorney does not need the assent of the alleged victim to pursue violent crimes except when the alleged victim’s testimony is crucial. But, in this case, some of the facts at least are not in dispute. And in any legal action, some of the police personnel involved would betray their brothers and tell the full story to lessen their own punishment, as is customary. And the doctor would seem a good target for cooperation with the prosecution.

I am also surprised by the fact that commonweal third parties seem to not have intervened. The story as told is such a horrendous violation of basic rights that it must be considered exemplary. It’s difficult to understand why the American Civil Liberties Union, or any of a number of lawyerly associations dedicated to the defense of the little guy against abusive government, did not jump in, still have not jumped in. (Perhaps, the victim is white but that is not a sufficient explanation. I don’t know if he is.)

Of course, I would like my errors of fact – if any- to be corrected on this blog. I also welcome especially comments by attorneys. (Incidentally, I never accept reading assignments unless they are introduced by a few words about why I should do them. I used to be a teacher; I have a good B.S. detector.)

A few words about skepticism. I think it’s an all around virtue. I believe it may sometimes lead to a waste of time and energy but that it’s never morally wrong. It’s the first line of defense against irrationality. A dearth of skepticism often has horrendous consequences. There were not enough skeptics in Italy in the 1920s or in Germany and in Japan in the 1930s. Lenin knew better. At the beginning of his regime, he worked harder at liquidating skeptics and potential skeptics than at fighting class enemies. He turned out to have been right for eighty years.

Skepticism toward one’s friends is more important than skepticism toward one’s enemies. Every new piece of evidence of turpitude about enemies adds little to the whole picture, has little implication for action. There are reasons why they are enemies to begin with. Additional evidence quickly brings diminishing returns. However, when friends and allies make mistakes, they often take you with them. Friends who are lost are dangerous because they have the capacity to make you lose your own way. My original skepticism toward this story has subsided a little, not much. It’s surrounded by too much inexplicable – or simply unexplained – penumbra.

Now, to finish, I want to say again that I don’t have a dog in this fight (or I wouldn’t if there were a fight). I believe, with some of my past critics, that the so-called War on Drugs is a disaster for America. It’s the worse thing since the end of the Cold War. It’s much worse than all terrorist threats put together because it attacks the very foundations of our society. If I knew nothing of the horror story that is the subject of this essay, I would condemn the War on Drugs because, inevitably, it promotes official lawlessness, the worst kind of lawlessness.

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Death for Blasphemy

This the story of a Pakistani Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy.

I cannot guarantee that it’s true but it keeps re-surfacing as if there were a real judicial process unfolding. If someone shows me that it’s not true, I will publish the assertion here, of course.

If anyone wants to defend the sentence, I will be more than glad to lend this blog, of course.

I understand the underlying idea; my ancestors used to do the same. Then, in the West, we had the Enlightenment.


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Surgeon General Gone Missing!

I wonder why we have not heard at all from the Surgeon General of the Unites States in this Ebola kind of crisis, (kind of). I thought he was the chief medical officer of the whole country. Is there something pertaining to him that is being hidden from us?

(His medical school grades?)

Is he in hiding?

Just asking; I swear I don’t know anything.

Update: Oops, my mistake! Follow the informative thread below.

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The Ottoman Empire and Libertarianism; Ebola

A week ago in the allied blog Notes on Liberty, economist Fred Folvary asked in a speculative mode whether the re-establishment of the Ottoman Empire would not be a formula for peace in the troubled Middle East. The question is interesting on several counts one of which is that the regions affected by the Islamic State today, Arab and Kurdish alike, plus all of southern Iraq, plus Kuwait, plus Jordan and Palestine (including the current Israel), plus, more loosely, all of the Arabian Peninsula, were more or less under Ottoman/ Turkish control until the end of World War One.

Dr Folvary alludes to the “millet” system under which many different ethnic or national groups co-habitated peacefully for several centuries. Those are pretty much the same groups that have been eviscerating one another for several years and pretty much every time a strong and dictatorial leader does not clamp down on them. I pointed out a large fault in Folvary’s happy vision, namely the attempted genocide of the Armenians begun under full Ottoman power in 1895 and nearly completed as the empire was falling apart during World War One.

At that point, I got distracted by a discussion with the editor of Notes on Liberty on the issue of his adventurous relationship to facts . (If you are interested, follow the “Restore the Turkish Empire!” thread of comments on Notes on Liberty.)

The millet system of governance should be of interest to libertarians who generally wish for less government, less expensive government , more responsive government and, especially, less intrusive government. Under the millet system, at least when it was fully functional, the Ottoman governor of say, the province of the empire that now encompasses Lebanon and Western Syria would summon yearly the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. He would address him as follows:

“Your Eminence is well I trust, and his family, and I hope that his sons are brave a wise. I am happy to hear that Almighty God has blessed Your Eminence with many grandchildren. And I am told your community is thriving. Now, based on the figures your office gave me and based on my own information, I think that the Greek Orthodox community must deliver to our master the Sultan, one hundred pounds of gold and three hundred fit young men of military age this year. Agreed? Thank you for your visit and may you and your community, Your Eminence, continue to prosper under the benign, enlightened and fair rule of our great sultan.”

Then, the governor would ask over the main Ayatollah of the Shiite Muslims and deliver himself of a similar oration. And so on.

But I must pause for a confession. The quote marks around the above monologue are metaphorical. I am not reproducing a real monologue. Something like the monologue above must have been delivered thousands of times but I must admit I was not present to hear any of them. (On the other hand, I spent time in Turkey on vacation ten years ago and I regularly drink coffee with Turks. And, I like Turks in general.)

Again, the millet system is a good historical example of extreme decentralization and of minimally intrusive government. It was also very inexpensive to administer. It had little permanent bureaucracy to speak of that could grow upon itself and reproduce itself endlessly thus forever shrinking the area of individual autonomy. At the same time as the comparable Hapsburg Empire was developing a large bureaucracy, at the time when territorially much smaller France was perfecting the art of centralized bureaucracy, at the time when the small Kingdom of Prussia was developing the very model of modern bureaucracy that was to become a model for the whole world, the millet system endured in the Ottoman Empire. In general, the Ottoman government was small and it seemed to treading lightly on the land, you might say. It sounded a little like a sort of libertarian dream.

But, wait a minute, I need to complete significantly the imaginary monologue of the Ottoman governor above. On parting, the governor would have probably added: ” Enjoy life and enrich yourselves. Everything will be fine unless I hear too much about you. If I do, bad things will happen to your community.” Or, he did not even need to utter the words. Everyone knew about the bad things that would happen if disorder arose. Some of these bad things were community leaders’ heads on a spike in village centers.

The Ottoman Empire that relied on the light, non-invasive, decentralized millet system was also famous for the fierceness of its repression. And this haven of diversity disintegrated swiftly throughout the 19th century with a speed that must give pause.

The unraveling of the Ottoman Empire began around 1805 when the large and important Egyptian subdivision gained all but nominal independence through an armed revolt and even waged successful war on the Empire. During the rest of the 19th century, the areas of the Empire now comprising Greece, Bulgaria and Romania decisively seceded. In the meantime, much of the rest of the officially defined Empire drifted away, such as Libya, Tunisia . Later, (as John Love, a commenter on the original piece in Notes already remarked), during World War One, the British (Lawrence) and the French did not have much trouble talking the remaining Arab areas of the empire into open rebellion. And yes, there was a an attempted massive genocide of Armenians, in two phases. The first phase was under full Ottoman power in the 1890s, the second, much larger step occurred during the waning days of Ottoman rule starting in 1915. (References on the Armenian genocide are at the end of this posting.)

Now, one can argue – and historians routinely do – that the spectacular disintegration of the Ottoman Empire was due to external pressures from the rising, fast industrializing European powers. Yet, the fact that national (ethnic) entities took up every opportunity to leave the Empire does not speak well of the effectiveness of Ottoman administration. The fact that they sometimes did it a a cost of great bloodshed, the Greeks in particular, does not strengthen the idea of contentment of the administered. The fact is that the subject people of the Ottoman Empire including the many governed through the millet system described above seem to have left as soon as the opportunity arose.

The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire poses a conceptual problem: Did it fall apart in spite of the admirable millet system of government or because of it? Was internal peace maintained in the Empire for a long time because of the virtues of the millet system or because of the ever-present threat of a large and fierce army facing a divided and unarmed populace?

Was the Ottoman Empire taken apart from within, and also from without, because the administrative principles behind the millet system impeded the supply of the means of self-preservation?


Beyond this lies an even graver question for anyone with libertarian aspirations: Do systems of administration that share the main features of the millet system, decentralization, low cost, low-level invasiveness contain the seeds of their own destruction? Does administrative lightness actually nurture violent intervention from above and/or from outside?
I don’t know the answers to these serious questions. I think libertarians of all feathers don’t discuss these and related issues nearly enough. I suspect libertarian circles harbor their own form of political correctness that paralyzes such essential inquiries. I do what I can. I know it’s not much.

Ebola: Entirely too much noise in the media because none of them likes to announce: “Nothing Much Happened.” As I write, about 4,000 people are said to have died of this frightening illness in three very poor West African countries. The 2009 modest flu epidemic probably killed more than 10,000 people in the US alone. What is clear to me and to everyone with eyes to see is that the Obama Administration response to the overstated Ebola threat demonstrates yet again its gross incompetence and its moral corruption. The man in charge until 10/17/14 was the head of the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC) whose former responsibilities were to make sure New Yorkers ate more healthily and did not ingest too much sugar.

The man sounded like a lightweight in all his televised news conferences because he is a lightweight. And, contrary to tenacious rumors, the CDC budget doubled in the past ten years. Some of it, I don’t know how much, was devoted to inspecting and improving children’s playgrounds. Yes, the CDC has a Jungle Gym Division, as required by the Constitution! (To my overseas readers: This is black humor. The US Constitution absolutely, squarely reserves such responsibilities for the states and for local governments.)


Sources on the Armenian genocide

A short overview excerpted from a fundamental document, a whole book by the US Ambassador to Turkey, Hans Morgenthau:

(The references to Ambassador Morgenthau’s actual book are at the end of the statement.)

The document below is supposed to discredit the Morgenthau testimony. It’s unwittingly damning for Turkish power.

See also:

A Turkish journalist of Armenian descent was assassinated in 2007 in full daylight in Istanbul for pursuing the issue publicly. That’s evidence of Turkish innocence, of course!

Hasan Ceymal, a Turkish investigative journalist with many laurels unrelated to the Armenian question recognizes the reality of the Armenian genocide. Mr Ceymal has no Armenian parentage; he is a Turkish Turk.

Posted in Current Events, Socio-Political Essays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Columbus: All You Need to Know

Columbus was brave, brave to the point of insanity.

Columbus had shopped his plan of a western route to India all over Europe before he tried Spain. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel finally agreed to give him a small grant in a moment of exultation as they were a waging a successful war against the last Muslim kingdom in Spain.

Europeans of the end of the fifteenth century knew full well the Earth was more or less a sphere. They were wrong, very wrong about how big it was, however.

Columbus was not a sweetheart.

The Caribs and also the Aztecs whom his Spaniards conquered ate people*, the Spaniards did not (at least, not ordinarily).


* I am not judgmental myself. I blame a largely vegetarian diet. Watch out!

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Obama’s Ebola; Wall Street Journal a Wimp; Fake Feminist Figures

Old men in all ages have had a tendency to declare that the world is going to pot. I don’t think it is. I think it’s better than it was in the 20th century, in general. This does not prevent me from noticing unpleasant developments.

Ebola: Don’t try to understand; it’s obvious: President Obama is showing the world and especially American conservatives the proper use of an army, the moral projection of American power abroad. It’s only to save the lives of the poor. He will fall on his face as in everything he has attempted. At least, he will have done something finally to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him five years ago by a bunch of senile old Scandinavians.

If I were in charge, I would throw money, a lot of money, at the problem knowing full well that much or most of it would land where it’s not intended. Between them, the most exposed countries, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, and Guinea have about 23 million people. Spending half a million dollar on each of their inhabitants would amount to a total expenditure of USD 12 billion. That’s chump change. Assuming that half the money stuck to officials’ fingers with no good consequences for health, we would still have USD 125,00 actually spent per inhabitant. That’s several times the less than $8,000 per year we spend on health in the US in normal times. (Advanced European countries spend a little over half of that amount.)

I would use a bidding process open to both private companies and national health systems. Most actual payments would be dependent on preset procedural achievements, such as 95% effective airport departure screenings, partly on preset performance goals involving a slowing down of the progress of the disease. I would not risk the life of a singly American military person except possibly in inspection roles. Even then, I would use only volunteers. I would give them combat pay.

Again, chump change; no coalition needed. America helps the world again!

The progress of political correctness is distressing especially where you least expect it. While the Islamic State was murdering, raping, torturing Arab civilians in its conquest of Syria and Iraq, the Wall Street Journal referred to its members as “militants” as if they were like people seriously opposed to smoking, for example. After it began beheading Americans and Brits on video, the Wall Street Journal allowed itself to switch to “extremists.”

People who slaughter masses of civilians deliberately to spread terror are not terrorists according to the WSJ. I guess you would have to do worse things.

Even the Wall Street Journal has become wimpy.

I had noticed earlier the disappearance from the WSJ of a common word:”foreign.” In the old days, when two Canadians had an affair, it was a foreign affair to Americans; nowadays, it’s an “international affair.” Makes no sense, of course. They are not doing it across the border, in most cases.  I mean, they are not doing with one leg in Canada and two or three legs in the US, for example. The old respected scholarly publication Foreign Affairs – which deals with the political affairs of countries other than the US – will have to change its name, like the Redskins. Of course, if it switches to “International Affairs,” it will be false advertising.

The descriptive word “foreign” is now a dirty word. Foreign food= dirty food. The hidden ethnocentrism here is delightful. I would not dare make up half this kind of feces.

Silliness in words isn’t just silliness; it impairs our ability to think clearly.
Conceptual clarity began when one of our cave ancestors added “Oomph” to the usual “Grumpt.” We are regressing.

The midterm election campaign airwaves are overflowing with the same familiar old false, dishonest statement, with the full complicity of academics who know better: “Women earn only 77 cents when men earn $1.” This proves job discrimination against women, of course, is the implication. It does not. As I have explained extensively on this blog (There is a Part Two; find it on this blog.). The figure does not (NOT) express unequal pay for equal work but unequal pay for UNequal work.

Feminists can’t stop lying*. Just like girls!

* I keep thinking that if your cause is just and factually supported, you don’t need to lie.  Old school stuff!

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