Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

The White House Reacts To The Violence In China

Well, not exactly “reacts”. Instead it issues a statement when asked for a reaction:

We are deeply concerned over reports of many deaths and injuries from violence in Urumqi in western China. Reports, so far, are unclear about the circumstances surrounding the deaths and injuries, so it would be premature to comment or speculate further. We call on all in Xinjiang to exercise restraint.

Wasn’t this the same basic message candidate Obama issued concerning Georgia – You boys quite fighting now, you hear?

Here, let me finish the statement for them:

Because, you know, freedom isn’t worth fighting for, and besides Hillary made it clear we weren’t going to be bothering the Chicoms about human rights anymore – so you’re on your own.

Meanwhile an Amber alert has been issued for Hillary who has apparently gone missing in the State Department (although it is being reported that she’s going to meet with former Honduran president Mel Zelaya later this week).

Previous post on the situation that the White House seems not to know much about here.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Honduras: Will the Rule of Law Prevail?

Watching the events unfold in Central America over the past week has been an infuriating and dismaying exercise. Too many people, either sadly uninformed or maliciously misinforming, have referred to the ouster of Mel Zelaya by the unified government of Honduras as a “military coup” and an illegal transfer of power. Not only are such castigations dead wrong, they are made without any justification and completely against the actual Honduran Constitution.

Hello, Triple A?  I seem to have locked my presidency inside my country.  Can you help?

Hello, Locks-R-Us? I seem to have locked my presidency inside my country. Can you help?


To understand just how far off base these accusations of illegality are, ask yourself what law is alleged to have been broken. Has anyone cited an actual provision of the Constitution or a statute that’s been violated? Of course not, because there is none. In fact, if any of those who have been so quick to condemn the Honduran government had actually done just a smidgeon of research, they would have found the ouster of Zelaya to be self-perpetuated and entirely within the rule of law.

To wit, here is Title II, Chapter 4, Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution, first in Spanish:

ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Vicepresidente de la República.

El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos y quedarán inhabilitados por diez (10) años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.

And in English#:

Article 239 — No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President.

Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.

The plain text of Article 239 quite clearly states that Zelaya, through his own actions, ended his presidency. By seeking to hold a referendum on whether Hondurans should consider changing the term-limits portion of the Constitution, Zelaya’s official duties were ended “immediately” and he was further barred from participating in public office for a period of ten years. Period, the end.

Some may try to argue that Zelaya did not receive any due process in his ouster, but that argument must fail. Even under U.S. jurisprudence, due process is simply all the process that is due. In this case, once Zelaya was determined to have violated the term-limits provision of Article 239 by proposing its reform, which Zelaya has basically admitted and which the Honduran Supreme Court derivatively found, then he received his due process. Despite the decisions against him, Zelaya decided to go ahead with his illegal referendum, gathered a mob together, and invaded the military compound where the (Venezuelan-created) ballot boxes were being kept. He fully intended to hold the referendum on Sunday June 28th had he not been stopped.

These, among other actions, were what led the Congress to pursue impeachment, the Attorney General to issue an arrest warrant on Saturday June 25, 2009, and the Supreme Court to issue its own arrest warrant on Sunday resulting in Zelaya’s removal from the country:

Honduras’s military acted under judicial orders in deposing President Manuel Zelaya, Supreme Court Justice Rosalinda Cruz said, rejecting the view of President Barack Obama and other leaders that he was toppled in a coup.

“The only thing the armed forces did was carry out an arrest order,” Cruz, 55, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Tegucigalpa. “There’s no doubt he was preparing his own coup by conspiring to shut down the congress and courts.”

Cruz said the court issued a sealed arrest order for Zelaya on June 26, charging him with treason and abuse of power, among other offenses. Zelaya had repeatedly breached the constitution by pushing ahead with a vote about rewriting the nation’s charter that the court ruled illegal, and which opponents contend would have paved the way for a prohibited second term.

[…]

The arrest order she cited, approved unanimously by the court’s 15 justices, was released this afternoon along with documents pertaining to a secret investigation that went on for weeks under the high court’s supervision.

[…]

Cruz said the military decided to shuttle Zelaya out of the country for his safety and that of other Hondurans because riots would’ve erupted had he been held for trial.

“If he had been allowed to stay in the country, there would’ve been blood on the streets,” she said.

To recap, Zelaya violated Art. 239 by proposing and then attempting to hold a referendum to change his term limits, which referendum was declared illegal by the Supreme Court and the Congress, and then he tried to go ahead with it anyway. In the meantime, aside from the secret, court-approved investigation going on for some time behind the scenes, the Attorney General and the Congress sought Zelaya’s impeachment, and the Supreme Court and the Attorney General each issued arrest warrants when Zelaya pressed ahead with his illegal referendum. The military responded to the court-ordered arrest and took Zelaya into custody on June 28th.

But what about the deportation to Costa Rica? Surely that was an illegal action? Heck, even a top Honduran military official is saying so:

The military officers who rushed deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya out of the country Sunday committed a crime but will be exonerated for saving the country from mob violence, the army’s top lawyer said.

In an interview with The Miami Herald and El Salvador’s elfaro.net, army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza acknowledged that top military brass made the call to forcibly remove Zelaya — and they circumvented laws when they did it.

It was the first time any participant in Sunday’s overthrow admitted committing an offense and the first time a Honduran authority revealed who made the decision that has been denounced worldwide.

”We know there was a crime there,” said Inestroza, the top legal advisor for the Honduran armed forces. “In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime. Because of the circumstances of the moment this crime occurred, there is going to be a justification and cause for acquittal that will protect us.”

Of course, it wasn’t the first time anyone took credit for the decision (the Supreme Court has been saying for days that it order Zelaya’s capture), and Inestroza also declares that whatever “crime” may have been committed against Zelaya would be absolved anyway:

“What was more beneficial, remove this gentleman from Honduras or present him to prosecutors and have a mob assault and burn and destroy and for us to have to shoot?” he said. “If we had left him here, right now we would be burying a pile of people.”

This week, Deputy Attorney General Roy David Urtecho told reporters that he launched an investigation into why Zelaya was removed by force instead of taken to court. Article 24 of Honduras’ penal code will exonerate the joint chiefs of staff who made the decision, because it allows for making tough decisions based on the good of the state, Inestroza said.

Another provision to keep in mind is Title II, Chapter 3, Article 42:

Article 42: The legal rights of any citizen is lost:

5) If the citizen incites, promotes, or supports the continuance or the re-election of the President of the Republic;

Accordingly, not only has Zelaya lost his ability to continue in office through his own actions, he has also lost his rights as a citizen, among those which would presumably be the right to remain in the country. In the end, that all spells a one-way ticket to anywhere but Honduras for the would-be Chavista dictator. Moreover, Zelaya should be very thankful that he wasn’t ousted in the old-fashioned way which was much more permanent and painful.

The only question remaining is, why would our President, as leader of a country founded on the rule of law over the rule of men, opt to side with flouter of constitutional democracy instead of the leaders who took great pains to ensure that the country’s constitution was adhered to? Unfortunately, I’m afraid that there are no good answers to that question, and that our President is helping to precipitate a major crisis in Central America. Was this the change we were hoping for?

[General HT to Fausta for many of the above links]
________________________________________
# I’ve checked the translation against some Spanish to English translators and it appears to be essentially correct to me. Any suggested changes are welcome.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

A Closer Look At European Health Care

We continue to hear how wonderful it is as compared to the horrible US system.

But is it? One of the fundamental truths of any health care system is you have infinite demand meeting finite resources (beds, doctors, availability, etc). Whatever system a country has, that truth doesn’t change.

So, regardless of system, there is going to be some sort of rationing. It is unavoidable and inevitable.

Now add a desire to control and cut costs associated with the provision of health care to the mix (the promise of every one of these government systems). On the one side, as European nations have done, access to health care is expanded to include everyone. On the other hand, these same nations attempt to control health care costs.

The result? Very mixed. France is always held up as the exception to the rule that government health care can’t be both good and inexpensive. But a closer examination seems to indicate that it isn’t an exception at all:

A World Health Organization survey in 2000 found that France had the world’s best health system. But that has come at a high price; health budgets have been in the red since 1988.

In 1996, France introduced targets for health insurance spending. But a decade later, the deficit had doubled to 49 billion euros ($69 billion).

“I would warn Americans that once the government gets its nose into health care, it’s hard to stop the dangerous effects later,” said Valentin Petkantchin, of the Institut Economique Molinari in France. He said many private providers have been pushed out, forcing a dependence on an overstretched public system.

Why have private providers been “pushed out”? Because government has provided health care “cheaper” than do private providers (and obviously at a loss given the deficit). Notice I said “cheaper”. That doesn’t necessarily mean “better”.

And the same thing is being seen in other European health care systems which are considered “models” of government run health care:

Similar scenarios have been unfolding in the Netherlands and Switzerland, where everyone must buy health insurance.

“The minute you make health insurance mandatory, people start overusing it,” said Dr. Alphonse Crespo, an orthopedic surgeon and research director at Switzerland’s Institut Constant de Rebecque. “If I have a cold, I might go see a doctor because I am already paying a health insurance premium.”

Cost-cutting has also hit Switzerland. The numbers of beds have dropped, hospitals have merged, and specialist care has become harder to find. A 2007 survey found that in some hospitals in Geneva and Lausanne, the rates of medical mistakes had jumped by up to 40 percent. Long ranked among the world’s top four health systems, Switzerland dropped to 8th place in a Europe-wide survey last year.

Dr. Crespo’s point is simply an astute observation of human nature. If something doesn’t directly cost the user, why would the user ration the use of such a benefit?

The use, however, still costs someone or something. The doctor must be paid, the institution must be paid, etc. So in the end, the only way to control costs is to cut payments. Eventually, the incentives to enter the health care field become less attractive (unless you like long hours, overrun waiting rooms, minimal time with patients, being second-guessed by a bureaucracy and making much less than a private system allows for compensation) and there are fewer that enter the field. Hospital beds then drop, hospitals merge and there are fewer specialists available to serve the population as Switzerland is discovering.

And then there’s the lack of innovation to face.

Bureaucracies are slow to adopt new medical technologies. In Britain and Germany, even after new drugs are approved, access to them is complicated because independent agencies must decide if they are worth buying.

When the breast cancer drug Herceptin was proven to be effective in 1998, it was available almost immediately in the U.S. But it took another four years for the U.K. to start buying it for British breast cancer patients.

The promise that has been made in the US is health care reform will return the decision making to the doctor. But that’s simply a false promise given the priorities of the reform we’ve been promised. It is to cut cost and make care “affordable” to all. Somewhere is a bureaucracy in waiting which will decide what “affordable” means – and it won’t include your doctor.

So you can expect innovation to begin to slow. Why invest billions when a bureaucracy will decide whether or not it’s a medicine or treatment worth the cost. The same bureaucracy will also decide what it will pay for your innovation. Of course, if the innovator can’t recover the cost of development and make a profit as incentive toward more innovation, the probability exits the developer will simply stop such research.

“Government control of health care is not a panacea,” said Philip Stevens, of International Policy Network, a London think-tank. “The U.S. health system is a bit of a mess, but based on what’s happened in some countries in Europe, I’d be nervous about recommending more government involvement.”

Words of wisdom most likely to be ignored by our legislators here. And the unfortunate thing is it will not only destroy an excellent health care system here, but, given the level of government spending forecast, tank the rest of the economy as well.

~McQ

[HT: Carol D]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

So What Could Cap-and-Trade Eventually Bring?

Well if the UK is any example, “green jackets”, a sort of environmental police force with the power to enter and search (with a blanket “warrant”) any company it so chooses to inspect. Is “Gestapo-like” tactics a stretch?

The boys in green are coming as the Environment Agency sets up a squad to police companies generating excessive CO2 emissions.

The agency is creating a unit of about 50 auditors and inspectors, complete with warrant cards and the power to search company premises to enforce the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which comes into effect next year.

Decked out in green jackets, the enforcers will be able to demand access to company property, view power meters, call up electricity and gas bills and examine carbon-trading records for an estimated 6,000 British businesses. Ed Mitchell, head of business performance and regulation at the Environment Agency, said the squad would help to bring emissions under control. “Climate change and CO2 are the world’s biggest issues right now. The Carbon Reduction Commitment is one of the ways in which Britain is responding.”

The formation of the green police overcomes a psychological hurdle in the battle against climate change. Ministers have long recognised the need to have new categories of taxes and criminal offences for CO2 emissions, but fear a repetition of the fuel tax protests in 2000 when lorry drivers blockaded refineries.

Criminal offenses for “CO2 emissions” – Orwell saw this coming but clearly he didn’t understand that it would be based in criminalizing a natural byproduct of respiration and trace atmospheric gas, did he?

Again, it’s the precedent this sets which is both upsetting and dangerous. Probable cause? Green Jackets don’t need no probable cause!

Let freedom ring.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Deadly Clashes in China

I assume, since China is a totalitarian state, that the US won’t have anything to say about the violence there for at least 10 days:

The official death toll in riots in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region rose sharply Monday, with the government saying that 140 had been killed in what appears to be one of the deadliest episodes of unrest in China in decades.

Police said at least 828 other people were injured in violence that began Sunday in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Witnesses said the conflicts pitted security forces against demonstrators, and members of the region’s Turkic-speaking Uighur ethnic group against members of the country’s Han Chinese majority. Many among the predominantly Muslim Uighurs have chafed at Chinese government rule.

[…]

As evening fell in Urumqi Monday, witnesses said that paramilitary troops of the People’s Armed Police, backed by armored personnel carriers, were patrolling largely calm city streets. Many businesses remained shuttered and gates of the city’s central bazaar, which was the scene of unrest Sunday night, were closed.

Police said they were still searching for dozens of people suspected of fanning the violence. Several hundred people have already been arrested in connection with the riot, police said, and the government said it was bringing “ethnic officials” from nearby areas to help with interrogations.

Of course the reason given by the Chinese government is much the same as that given by the Iranian government concerning the problems there –

The government blamed the unrest on a prominent exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, an activist group. Sunday’s demonstration was “instigated and directed from abroad,” according to a government statement cited by Xinhua.

Given that statement, you can expect silence from the Obama administration as they’ll want to ensure they’re not seen as “meddling” in China’s internal affairs. And I can promise you that the Uighur dissidents being rounded up by China’s police forces will not be offered a vacation in Bermuda.

Apparently the only country in which the “no meddling” policy is waved is Honduras.

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Podcast for 05 Jul 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the meaning of the 4th of July, Honduras, and Sarah Palin’s resignation.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Zelaya Tries To Return To Honduras

He took off a few hours ago from the US in – wait for it – a Venezuelan plane. Naturally the UN has actually gotten off of its rear-end and taken what, for it, is “action”. The UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann and a number of journalists are accompanying former Honduran president Mel Zelaya.

Honduras, naturally, has said Zelaya isn’t welcome and has stated they will arrest him should he try to reenter the country. The OAS, in the meantime, has suspended Honduras from the organization.

The interim government (which some news organizations are characterizing as a “military government”) pleads for the rest of the world to back off and let Honduras work this out.

But, with apparently everything under control and in tip top shape in their respective countries, the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay, along with the head of the OAS have time to fly  to El Salvador to “monitor events.”

Meanwhile it is reported that Nicaragua is moving troops toward the Honduran border.  All of this tacitly green-lighted by the Obama administration’s stance.

Fausta is now reporting:

The Venezuelan plane carrying deposed president Mel Zelaya landed in El Salvador, according to Honduran daily El Heraldo. Venezuelan chancellor Nicolás Maduro verified that the airplane was Venezuelan and identified it as YV-1496.

But that’s not meddling – no siree.

Honduras has reported it will not allow the landing of the Venezuelan aircraft carrying Zelaya in Honduras. My guess is they’ll now try to drive into Honduras from El Salvador.

Developing …

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Questions and Observations #3

For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” means.

  • Whether you love her, hate her or really don’t care, it is hard too argue against the assertion that  Sarah Palin effectively ended any national aspirations she might have had by announcing her pending resignation (assuming there isn’t some extremely compelling private family reason for doing so). The first thing any political opponent is going to say is “she quit on the citizens of Alaska, will she quit on you?”
  • The story about the Washington Post selling access to the Obama administration isn’t just about the WaPo. Seems to me there had to be some a) knowledge of the plan and b) cooperation from the White House for it to have been as far along as it was. After all, the first “salon” was scheduled to be held at the publisher’s home in 2 weeks. Is anyone exploring that angle?
  • How concerned is Saudi Arabia with the probability of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons? Apparently enough to make it known they’ll turn a blind eye to any Israeli incursion which crosses the kingdom in order to strike Iran.
  • Apparently the scales have finally fallen from Colin Powell’s eyes concerning Obama and the direction he’s taking this country. Formerly Powell’s message was that American’s wanted more government and were willing to pay for it. He now says he’s concerned with the number of programs, the legislation associated with them and the cost of the additional government they’ll entail. “We can’t pay for it,” he’s now saying? Better late than never, I suppose, but this just underscores my disaffection with Powell politically.
  • Speaking of Sarah Palin, apparently the federal investigation rumors (FBI looking into irregularities concerning the sports complex in Wasilla, etc.) and pending indictment are false. An FBI spokesman in Alaska has said there is no pending indictment or ongoing investigations of her. Concerning the ongoing rumor he says, “it’s just not true”.
  • The after effects of the recent “election” in Iran continue to eat away at the foundation of the “Islamic Republic”. The Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum split with Ayotallah Khamenei declaring both the election and the new govenrment “illegitimate”. That is a very public and unprecedented challenge to Khamenei’s power. Additionally Moussavi’s campaign has released a report that outlines the election violations in detail. These are very serious challenges to the regime’s legitimacy.
  • Speaking of Iran, it appears that while the world is ready to ratchet up the pressure on the regime in light of its brutal put down of pro-democracy protesters, the Obama administration is apparently prepared to block any sanctions agreed upon at the G8 summit. I swear I can’t figure that bunch out – support the dictator in Iran and mischaracterize a legal use of constitutional power in Honduras in support of another would-be dictator there.
  • The law of unintended consequences continues to operate unabated. Governments, desperate for revenue, have raised property taxes all across the country. Homeowners, knowing their home values have plummeted, are filing an unprecedented number of appeals. Those appeals are costing the governments huge amounts of money in refunds and attorney’s fees. However, homeowners should note that if they don’t appeal, the government will gladly screw them to the wall with an unjustified tax increase. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?

~McQ

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

July 4th Photoblogging, Ocean Beach

We spent the 4th of July in Ocean Beach.  Below are some pics of the fireworks display and other…festivities.

The fireworks show was pretty, as these sorts of things usually are.

01

03

04

05

Immediately after the fireworks show ends, another OB tradition begins.  The 4th of July Marshmallow fight.  It started 40 years ago as a friendly marshmallow fight between some OB neighbors, but every one else quickly took up the tradition.

It’s now become like a soft-candy-based Festival of Landru.

06

07

08

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!