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The underground Palestinian economy

Human ingenuity can find ways to deal with just about everything. Your entire territory is blockaded by a vastly superior military force? Approximately 1.5 million people still need goods they can't produce locally? It seems that smugglers in the Gaza Strip are using a vast network of underground tunnels to import everything from baby formula to cars to livestock. Some of the tunnels are small and dark, some have electrical systems and even telephones. Although Hamas is thought to benefit from it, the network appears to be a completely decentralized system, driven by supply and demand. Impressive, really.

Via BLDGBLOG


Cui majori bono?

My local coffee shop carries several varieties of coffee beans, and they'll typically brew three or four in a day. Yesterday they had a variety I'd never seen before, a Peruvian organic. Since it was just me, and I'm chummy with the guys that work there, they told me that it's organic, but for some reason they're not permitted to advertise or sell it as such because they don't have the mandatory certification. A certified seller will store organic beans in separate containers, and who knows what else. I asked why they didn't get the certification, and apparently it's not a matter of simply applying. It costs.

This seems like a pretty unique case of two opposing interests in the same industry favoring the same regulations. The organic distributors want organic coffee highlighted, set apart from non-organic beans. Thus they presumably favor the certification process. On the other hand, the regular coffee distributors are probably happier not having their coffee set apart in a negative light, and since the certification process is apparently a pain in the ass that not everyone is willing to undergo, they would favor it because, as it is, it's keeping their coffees right next to the Peruvian organic blend without any distinction.

Obviously I'm not expert on this. Comments welcome.


What will Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Barack Obama have in common?

Obama must be hurting. Still reeling from everyone knowing he didn't deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, he's decided to start shit with Fox News. So it's not a real news organization? Everybody knows that, except the people who won't be convinced by anything Obama says anyway.

Earlier this year Obama was untouchable. He neutered the anti-war movement, the anti-drug-war movement, and the civil liberties movement in one fell swoop, and people who'd been apoplectic about these issues a year before now totally forgot, and justified it in various, inevitably lame ways. He was riding high on support, even as the economy limped along. Even this issue took a while to dent his credibility.

And now, with America catching on to the horror that is the Democrats' health care "reform" package, his armor is cracking. Iraq is still a mess, and Afghanistan is a ticking time bomb. Even a few naïve "progressives" have started to notice that, wait, he tricked us! The economy is recovering, maybe, but not soon enough for him to get out unscathed.

So he takes on Fox News? Even Fox News knows this is great for them. I thought a few years ago, when Obama was just beginning to make headlines in the Senate, that he'd be a two-term president one day. Now it's starting to look like the Republicans will have a walk in the park in 2012, assuming they can find somebody even mildly less repugnant than Emperor Palpatine.

Of course, I'm not holding my breath on that.


If it's not a right--and it isn't--treating it like one has bad consequences

William Easterly has a great article in the Financial Times about how treating health care as a right has led to more unequal health care globally. No surprise there.


Well, they gave it to Yasser Arafat too

What a joke.


Roman Polanski deserves what he gets

I can't be the only person who's surprised that so many people are rallying behind Roman Polanski, a man who drugged and raped a 13-year-old and then fled from the jurisdiction of the country that was going to prosecute him. I know that in the movie industry, where people are completely detached from reality, they might actually believe that his artistic contributions outweigh a crime he has already admitted to, but there can't be people in the real world who think the same. Maybe I'm wrong.


Whatever it is you're doing right now could help Al-Qaeda

If Al-Qaeda did not exist, it would be necessary for the War Party to invent it.

Former CIA Directors: Holder's Investigation Could "Help Al Qaeda"


The silver lining of yellow journalism

While I imagine most Americans, like most people all over the world, are interested in political sex scandals purely out of tabloid-level interest, that shouldn't make us dismiss them as real phenomena deserving of our attention, and perhaps commentary. I frankly would be happier not knowing about the particular kinds of sex acts sleazy, hypocritical politicians are into, but it's a great way to remind people that legislators are only human. They're just people like us. They are not wiser, more responsible, more focused, or more moral than we are. (In most of these dimensions, I think they're a good deal less than average.) This is an ordinary guy who likes to brag about cheating on his wife. He's not going to solve our problems.


300

I finally saw 300 a few nights ago. Stylistically, it's a fun movie, and I have no complaints about it in that aspect. But what really blew my enjoyment of the movie was how I kept comparing it to the present day. The fictional Spartans make a lot of noise about freedom and justice, but these terms don't mean what we think they mean.

Sparta was one of the most thoroughly totalitarian societies in history, with a military caste forming its citizenry and an entire substratum of slaves--the vast of the population--to make its citizens' lifestyle possible. Babies were judged shortly after birth, and any that might not turn out to be a good warrior or a breeder of warriors was killed. If defending this against some foreign aggressor counts as fighting for freedom, well, they can keep it.

This all sounds like the Nazi propaganda campaigns against the USSR in occupied Europe. True, the Bolshevik system was monstrous, and indeed was intent on controlling as much of the Earth as possible, but you'd hardly be defending freedom and civilization by joining, as too many Europeans did, with the Nazi system.

Not to mention that the glorification of martial values makes me uneasy anyway. The Athenians, ridiculed in the movie, had a more complete picture of what a person should be. They had their share of faults as well, no doubt. But the ideal Athenian was not a mindless killer, and if we have to pick one or the other to lionize, the choice is easy.


Political continuity

David Swanson imagines what Bush's third time might have looked like, and finds that we already know. And here's a similar story.


Modern-day pilgrims

From the latest press release of the Human Rights Coalition (a.k.a. Coalición de Derechos Humanos):

Arizona— The number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2008 has reached 183 three weeks into the month of August. With five weeks left in the fiscal year, the count has already reached the fiscal year total for 2007-08.


Obamacare question

For a while it looked like "Obamacare" might really get through, but recently I've been thinking that the project is hopelessly lost--we're only at the face-saving stage now. For those of us who really feel passionately about enriching the health care industry while screwing average Americans even worse than the current majority-government-controlled system already does, this is a grievous defeat, and there's a limitless supply of hand-wringing from the Democratic Party and its stooges about this.

But I could be wrong. Do you readers think it's still a possibility?


Libertarian historical observances

Let's note two anniversaries today

1. The Battle of Warsaw, 1920, in which the Polish Army halted the Soviet Army in its march towards Germany. If the Polish Army had failed here, Soviet communism could have become the primary form of government in Europe, and who knows what else from there?

2. Uruguay's Independence Day, 1825. They became independent from Spain but were subdued afterwards by the Empire of Brazil, eventually regaining their independence. Libertad o Muerte!