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US Government supporting Kim Jong-Il

Via North Korea Economy Watch, a sadly familiar story:

Economic sanctions by the United States and other western countries is actually strengthening the Kim Jong-il’s regime, a German social worker involved with a non-government organization told reporters here this morning. Sanctions are also affecting life in other ways like the new-found emphasis on sustainable agriculture, she said.

“The leaders are using the sanctions as a justification. People believe the country is in a bad condition because of outside forces,” Karin Janz, country director in North Korea for the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, said while speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Beijing. The official media justified its actions as efforts to fortify the nation against the onslaught of foreign forces, and the people fully believed it, she said.

The sanctions have hit the North Korean agriculture and caused fears of a worsening of the food situation, Karin said. “The North Korean agriculture is highly industrialized,” she said while explaining the country’s agriculture is heavily dependent on imported farm machines and chemical fertilizers. Most of these materials came from South Korea, which has now slammed the doors.


Playing with fire

One part I loved about the otherwise not-very-good Natural Born Killers was this little anecdote:

Once upon a time, a woman was picking up firewood. She came upon a poisonous snake frozen in the snow. She took the snake home and nursed it back to health. One day the snake bit her on the cheek. As she lay dying, she asked the snake, "Why have you done this to me?" And the snake answered, "Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake."

This story made me think of it. It's sad how few people know a snake when they see one. Article via Radley Balko


These are not isolated events

Via Chris Floyd, a post at Truthout showing a distinct lack of heroism on the part of America's most dangerous government employees.

Some highlights:

"During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot," Washburn's testimony continued, "The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry 'drop weapons', or by my third tour, 'drop shovels'. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent."

...

"One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation.... One of the snipers replied back, 'Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?' The lieutenant colonel responded, 'You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.' After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment."

...

Bryan Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke of witnessing the prevalent dehumanizing outlook soldiers took toward Iraqis during the invasion of Iraq.

"... on these convoys, I saw Marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road," he stated.

...

"My commander told me, 'Kill those who need to be killed, and save those who need to be saved'; that was our mission on our first tour," he said of his first deployment during the invasion.

"After that the ROE changed, and carrying a shovel, or standing on a rooftop talking on a cell phone, or being out after curfew [meant those people] were to be killed. I can't tell you how many people died because of this. By my third tour, we were told to just shoot people, and the officers would take care of us."

Call this unavoidable, but to say killing civilians indiscriminately advances the cause of liberty requires us to consider those Iraqi/Afghani civilians as less than human. If you're seriously willing to do that, you need more help than I can give on this blog.


America: the contested legacy

This post is a follow-up to a previous post and its comments.

An anonymous commenter was a-o.k. with the contents of the recently leaked Apache helicopter video, although to me it looked like outright murder. He (and others like him all over God's America) justify this because "they" hate "us" for our values, and basically they have it coming.

Despite the fact that Osama bin Laden is on record saying...

Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Each and every state that does not tamper with our security will have automatically assured its
own security.

...some people still insist that it's for our values.

I'd get into how appalling it is that people justify murder in the name of freedom, but that's not the point here. I'd mention how you can still support the overall war without automatically excusing footage like this, but that ought to be obvious. I'd even throw in a bit about people who live in corrupt regimes having rights just like we have in our glorious republic on a hill, but hey, nobody would seriously dispute that, right?

What I'd actually like to ask is what "our" values are. Ask 3 people what "American" values are and you'll get four answers. What Ayn Rand acolytes love about America is very different from what religious conservatives love about America, and both are different from what left-wing hippies love. Which of those is the "real" American set of values? Do you prefer how devoted so many people are to the flag or how easily you can get high in any random town on the map? Do you like jazz? Rock & roll? What about god-fearin' Nashville faux-country? Maybe a symphony?

While we're having a debate over here about the million facets of America, Osama bin Laden and hundreds of millions of people in other parts of the world are focused on just one: military force. I'm willing to bet Osama bin Laden has never had the pleasure of listening to Robert Johnson, and he probably wouldn't know what to do if he did. Likewise for the pool of people he recruits from, and likewise for other people who don't share his murderous zeal but do resent the constant American exports of death and more death.

When people defend America's right to literally get away with murder in foreign lands, they justify it based on some great feature of America. Osama bin Laden doesn't give a shit if a Cambodian immigrant can start with nothing and end up with a chain of doughnut shops and a Cadillac. Millions of Iraqis don't know and don't care either. What they know of America is a bunch of thugs shooting them. That's what they resist. And that's something, as an American, I don't blame them for.


The Wikileaks video protests of '10

Chris Floyd laments the lack of public outcry over a decade of American atrocities. He's right on point.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Greenwald, John Caruso detailing the thirst for atrocities on the part of certain government agents. Justify that, Randroids!


The more things change...

For Constance McMillen:

Constance McMillen is the young woman whose Mississippi high school shut down their prom rather than let her attend with her female date. A group of parents set up a private prom and then diverted McMillen to a fake prom. This was a dick move, to be sure. The school officials were totally wrong in the first place, but it looks like the villains in the recent episode were the parents and McMillen's classmates. The school board is not responsible for what private parties do outside of their reach. I'm not sure what the HRC hopes to gain by this campaign, although for a show of solidarity with McMillen it'll be valuable.

Basically, McMillen should shake the dust of that town off her feet and move into somewhere civilized.


Video of U.S. Military gunning down civilians

WARNING! This video shows people, including children, being gunned down by the U.S. Military. You might just want to read the summary.

Via Antiwar.com.

This is why I don't clap for soldiers at the airport.


Who (other than people with book-learnin') saw this coming?

Waxman and Stupak are surprised about the results of their precious bill:

March 27 (Bloomberg) -- Representative Henry Waxman called the chief executive officers of AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co. to provide evidence to support costs the companies plan to book related to the new health-care law.

Waxman of California, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak of Michigan released letters they wrote to the executives, saying their plans to record expenses against earnings as a result of the law contradict other estimates. The lawmakers requested the executives appear at hearing Stupak plans on April 21.

Steve Horwitz pointing out what apparently is not obvious to these clowns:

It never occurs to Waxman, Stupak, et. al. that there might be a set of economic laws out there that not even the mighty power of Congress and King Obama can bend to their wishes. If their law "said" coverage would expand and costs would come down, then only the evil designs of greedy people could be frustrating that result.

It's hard for me to tell if Waxman and Stupak et al. really thought this would work, full of fatal conceit as they are, or if they knew it wouldn't (but would enrich the powers that back them) and are just grandstanding. I'm willing to believe that they didn't really know, but in that case, stop meddling with things you don't understand.


Injustice Everywhere

I've recently discovered a new site that I've found to be required reading: Injustice Everywhere. It's a frequent roundup of police misconduct cases. I could also say that it's a frequent roundup of dismissals of police brutality cases. It makes my blood boil, to be sure, but it's important to know about this stuff. There are about twenty isolated incidents a day, and these are just the ones that we know about.

A point radical libertarians often make is that this is institutional; it's not just a bunch of bad apples individually taken. If you needed convincing, I'm sure you'll find enough data points here to form a pattern.


Dennis K., lost his way

Chris Floyd points out the Dennis Kucinich example of why political cooperation hinders honest goals and corrupts devoted people:

In other words, Kucinich is happily participating in a PR scam [being the "new face" of the Democratic campaign committee as of a few days ago - RM] to perpetuate the corporatist party elite that has just -- for the umpteenth time -- betrayed the deepest hopes of its masochistic supporters. And for your real rootin', tootin', "fightin' progressives" like Koppelman, this is a good thing. Because it's smart. It's savvy. It's playing the game.

And the game, apparently, is to keep your sweet progressive self somewhere near the hindquarters of power, just in case you might get a pat on the head every now and then from the honchos -- brutal operators and war criminals who will never, not even once, not even by accident, put any of your vaunted principles into practice.


Irgendwann fällt jede Mauer, ch. 2

With the fall of the Berlin Wall (and the non-physical but no less real barrier that Soviet bloc nations imposed on their citizens), it's easy to forget that intrigues and inspiring stories of people escaping from authoritarianism continue to this very day at the other end of Eurasia. Via North Korea Econ Watch comes a story about how South Korea-based organization Free North Korea Radio distributes satellite phones in North Korea to allow more communication with the outside world in the most sealed-off country in the world. FNKR, run by North Korean defectors, cautions that being caught with one of these phones can result in death, yet their contacts use them anyway.

This is f-ing incredible. I hope in my own small way to make a contribution to the cause of liberty by writing on this blog, by encouraging mutual aid at the community garden, etc., but this is real live cutting-edge action.


The impending death of Obamacare

I was out of town on a pseudo-vacation for the last week and wasn't able to keep up with the flood of information about ObamaCare, although of course I heard that it passed.

There was quite a bit of information about the contents of the bill beforehand, so it's not like I didn't see that stuff coming, but the enthusiasm and mendacity of the Democrats since the passage of the bill has been, well, appalling and completely expected.

However, and maybe I'm being too optimistic, I'm not as worked up as many people who were opposed to the bill. Frankly, the major parts of it seem to have a snowball's chance in hell of actually surviving the myriad court cases that have already started popping up. Even the US court system, as favorable to its legislative and executive brethren as it is, will have to concede that this is mostly illegal.


What's one innocent black man to the police anyway?

Radley Balko linked to a story a few days ago about a man wrongly arrested by the Seattle police, twice. I'd say mistakenly arrested, but when the victim here is not even remotely physically similar to the person the police were looking for--the victim is black and four inches taller than the white suspect--and has a different last name, it seems pretty clear that they knew they had the wrong person and respected his personhood so little that they just arrested him anyway. Those low-level tyrants are the actual agents of oppression.

Perhaps it was an honest mistake and they really thought they had their man. Either way, they're completely unfit to exercise any kind of power over anyone.


Look on the bright side

At least under universal health care this woman will be charged with some kind of recklessness.


Prohibition: dealing death daily

If you read El Diario, the local paper of the city of Juarez--one of the main battlegrounds in the international War on Drugs--you'll see an article every day about people being killed. The articles don't always indicate if the killings are drug-related, but you'd have to be a fool not to think that the bulk of them are. As prohibition-related violence has ratcheted up there in the last few years this has gradually been coming to the attention of the American news media.

I know there's a running tally of these somewhere, but at some point all the thousands just look like a statistic. Think of it this way: at least one person is killed every day in Juarez, and usually several. It was a local news item a while back that no one had been killed that day.

This is what prohibition gets you.