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Mental Health Screening a Good Way to Decrease Liberty, Poor Way to Increase Security

Last week Americans were shocked and saddened by another mass killing, this one near a college campus in California. We all feel deep sympathy for the families of the victims. 

As usual, many people responded to this shooting by calling for new federal gun control laws, including the mental health screening of anyone attempting to purchase a firearm. There are a number of problems with this proposal. Federally-mandated mental health screenings would require storing mental health records in a government database. This obviously raises concerns about patient privacy and doctor-patient confidentiality, as well as the threat of identity theft. Anyone who doubts that these are legitimate concerns should consider the enormous privacy problems with the Obamacare website; some have even suggested that healthcare.gov be renamed indentifytheft.gov.


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Trivial Pursuit: Obama Versus the Interventionists

Angry Obama

American politics is largely a series of debates over unimportant details. These debates are conducted far above the fundamental level because the supposed contenders share the same premises. Where they disagree is at the level of application, and so the disagreements end up being fairly minor, especially if you think the premises are wrong.

This is an especially pronounced feature of what passes for foreign-policy debate within the accepted range of opinion. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Barack Obama’s address to the West Point graduates the other day. In that address, as in other speeches on foreign policy, Obama tried to position himself in what he likes to portray as the reasonable center. On the one side is “isolationism”: “It is absolutely true that in the 21st century American isolationism is not an option. We don’t have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders.” On the other are those he calls “the interventionists from the left and right”:
U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail. And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader — and especially your Commander-in-Chief — to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.
Note how Obama stakes out his “moderate” position between isolationism and interventionism. To do this he has to misrepresent what he stigmatizes as “isolationism” and create a straw man in order to place himself in opposition to the interventionists.
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A Middle East Tragedy: Obama’s Syria Policy Disaster

For over three years, the United States has sought to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by supporting an Al Qaeda-infused opposition that Washington either knew or should have known would fail.  Yet, in his commencement address at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama promised the American people and the rest of the world more of the same.

Obama’s vague pledge to “ramp up” support for selected oppositionists is a craven sop to those claiming that U.S. backing for the opposition so far—nonlethal aid, training opposition fighters, coordination with other countries openly providing lethal aid, and high-level political backing (including three years of public demands from Obama that Assad “must go”)—has been inadequate, and that Assad could be removed if only America would do more.  This claim should be decisively rejected as a basis for policy making, rather than disingenuously humored, for it is dangerously detached from reality.


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Ukraine Asks for Lend-Lease from US

Poroshenko

The new president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, wants a Lend-Lease agreement with the US government, to focus on military assistance and training. If the US agrees, that inserts the US directly into the war currently being waged between Ukraine and fighters for the two breakaway republics: the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. This war has been steadily escalating.

Americans should firmly reject such a program.

The original Lend-Lease program began March 11, 1941 and provided material aid to foes of Germany and Japan. I view it, as did Senators Taft and Wheeler, as a backdoor entry point of the U.S. into World War II without a declaration of war by Congress. Acts of war legally involve armed conflicts. Lend-Lease didn’t involve U.S. armed forces at first, but FDR gradually got armed forces involved since convoys had to be protected. By September, 1941 he had ordered Axis submarines to be sunk.


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Boko Haram a Blessing for Imperialism in Africa: U.S. Training Death Squads

Africom

Militarily, Africa is fast becoming an American continent. Barack Obama, who has been president for all but the first year of AFRICOM’s existence, has succeeded in integrating U.S. fighting units, bases, training regimens, equipment and financing into the military structures of all but a handful of African nations. The great pan-Africanist and former Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah’s dream of a militarily united Africa has been all but realized – with Americans and Europeans in charge.

Under the guise of “humanitarian” intervention, Obama has vastly expanded Bill Clinton and George Bush’s African footprints, so that only a few patches on the continental map lie outside Washington’s sphere of operations. Eritrea and Zimbabwe are the notable exceptions – and, therefore, future targets.

Africa is occupied territory. The African Union doesn’t even pretend to be in charge of its own nominal peace-keeping missions, which are little more than opportunities for African militaries to get paid for doing the West’s bidding. China and Brazil may be garnering the lion’s share of trade with Africa, but the men with the guns are loyal to AFRICOM – the sugar daddy to the continent’s military class. U.S. troops now sleep in African barracks, brothers in arms with African officers who can determine who will sleep next week in the presidential mansion.


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Ukraine and EU Integration… of Popular Revolt against Oligarchs

Farage

It’s a sweet irony that declared winner of Ukraine’s presidential election, the billionaire "chocolate tycoon" Petro Poroshenko, proclaimed that his electoral victory "showed that people have chosen the path of European Union integration.” Meanwhile, this week the people across the EU were voting in record numbers against the project of closer European centralization under Brussels. If Poroshenko is correct about Ukraine, which is doubtful, then the people of Ukraine are swimming against the popular tide in the EU where there is mounting disaffection with what is seen as overbearing governance by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels…

What we have in both cases actually is a popular rejection of oligarchy, whether of the Ukrainian or EU variety.

The outright electoral victories in Britain and France of the UK Independence Party and the Front National were just two of the stunning gains this week by radical right-wing political parties right across the 28-nation bloc. Similar parties polled strongly in Denmark, Austria, Holland, Sweden, Belgium, Finland and Hungary. All of these parties are marked by policies that are anti-immigration and nationalistic. Some, such as France’s FN, led by Marine Le Pen, and Hungary’s Jobbik or Holland’s Freedom Party are accused of being racist and anti-Semitic.

But one view that unites the various right-wing parties is their contempt for closer integration of the EU under Brussels’ dictate, vowing to take their respective countries out of the union.
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Why War Is Inevitable

War Caskets

Memorial Day is when we commemorate our war dead. Like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day is being turned into a celebration of war.

Those who lose family members and dear friends to war don’t want the deaths to have been in vain. Consequently, wars become glorious deeds performed by noble soldiers fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. Patriotic speeches tell us how much we owe to those who gave their lives so that America could remain free.

The speeches are well-intentioned, but the speeches create a false reality that supports ever more wars. None of America’s wars had anything to do with keeping America free. To the contrary, the wars swept away our civil liberties, making us unfree.

President Lincoln issued an executive order for the arrest and imprisonment of northern newspaper reporters and editors. He shut down 300 northern newspapers and held 14,000 political prisoners. Lincoln arrested war critic US Representative Clement Vallandigham from Ohio and exiled him to the Confederacy. President Woodrow Wilson used WWI to suppress free speech, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt used WWII to intern 120,000 US citizens of Japanese descent on the grounds that race made them suspect. Professor Samuel Walker concluded that President George W. Bush used the “war on terror” for an across the board assault on US civil liberty, making the Bush regime the greatest danger American liberty has ever faced.


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Western Media Coverage of the Ukraine Crisis Is as Distorted as Soviet Propaganda

Pravdamasthead

Growing up in the Soviet Union, I used to approach words like “Voice of America” (Golos Ameriki), BBC, Deutche Welle (Nemetskaia volna) with a certain reverence: they meant hidden, clandestine and therefore precious truth. Truth and news were not found in Pravda or Izvestia, regardless of the explicit claims of these newspapers’ titles; truth and news dwelled in the little short-wave radio, which would tell its eager audience what was really happening in the world.

Official Soviet press was notorious for its manipulation of facts, and even more so for its tendency to ignore particular issues altogether. Dissident activity, Israel, unrest in socialist countries—these stories were off-limit, unless the most vicious vitriol was thrown at them. This policy bordered on the ridiculous.

I learned since then that these radio stations were government-sponsored, that they rarely reported “the whole truth,” but still, the facts that they reported were sufficient to break through the all-encompassing fantasies created by the Soviet media.
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The VA Scandal is Just the Tip of the Military Abuse Iceberg

President Obama held a press conference last week to express his outrage over reports that the Veterans Administration was routinely delaying treatment to veterans, with some veterans even dying while on alleged secret waiting lists. The president said that, “if these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, it is disgraceful, and I will not tolerate it, period.” He vowed that, together with Congress, he would “make sure we're doing right by our veterans across the board.”

The president is right to be upset over the mistreatment of US military veterans, especially those who return home with so many physical and mental injuries.  Veterans should not be abused when they seek the treatment promised them when they enlisted. But his outrage over military abuse is selective.
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No Water For You: Obama Administration Moves To Cut Off Water To Pot Growers In Washington and Oregon

Hemp Field

For months, the Obama Administration has been dealing with the growing revolt among the states over federal marijuana laws. Twenty states and the District of Columbia legalized medical marijuana use over the opposition of the federal government and medical use. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the sale and possession of marijuana. It is a classic conflict between states and the federal government under federalism. Some of us view the states as asserting a classic police power in an area that was left to the states under our federalism principles. 

Now the Obama Administration has said that it will withhold water from state-licensed pot growers in Washington state and Colorado. The decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is particularly problematic given the fact that the federal government has stepped in to take effective control of the water resources in these states and now appears to be using that control to try to coerce states to change their laws to satisfy the federal government.

Dan DuBray, the agency’s chief of public affairs, insists that “[a] a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people.” However, that position is inconsistent with the actions of the Obama Administration in other years. I recently testified (here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws.


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