Another “great” socialist dictator bites the dust — 49 years too late. Castro cared about the poor so much he created an island full of them, plus he made sure they stayed poor and oppressed for half a century. He and his moronic, despotic ideas wrecked his country, freezing it into a 1950s museum/prison. All that dreamery about him improving his people’s education and creating a health care system is a joke, right up there with all that 1930s-1980s swill about the great accomplishments of Soviet society. He gets credit for allowing farmers to sell surplus crops and letting ordinary people open four-seat restaurants, like he’s Adam Smith Jr. He was as clueless about economics as he was human rights. Not sure about the current status of his cigar industry, but the only thing I can think of that Castro’s leadership did to improve the world was give Miami a large middle class of exiles and create a farm system for major league baseball players — if they could fly or swim to freedom.
Yes, as the great/heroic Ethan Nadelmann proclaims in the Huffington Post, it’s a very big deal for the country that the influential New York Times has editorialized in favor of marijuana legalization.
Now let’s see how many other liberal papers grow a set and follow their thought leader.
Too bad the Times‘ epiphany is pathetically long overdue — and five years behind a conservative/libertarian paper from Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review — the daily owned by the late Richard Scaife — wrote the editorial below on July 29, 2009 because Scaife had been persuaded (by me, I’m proud to say) that the government’s war on marijuana was not just a total failure but a horrible infringement on individual freedom.
Though I and other Trib columnists regularly called for the end of the War on (all) Drugs and did our best to ridicule the Bush and Obama administrations for their immoral and stupid drug policies, I had left the Trib by the time its call for legalization ran:
Stop ‘reefer madness’: Legalize marijuana
It’s time to legalize marijuana.
Note we did not say it’s time to “decriminalize” marijuana. And note we did not say it’s time to legalize marijuana nationwide for medicinal purposes only.
It’s time to flat-out legalize the production, possession, sale and use of marijuana.
This should be a no-brainer for thinking people. After all, alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century was such a “success,” right?
The federal prohibition against marijuana took effect 72 years ago this Sunday. It has flooded our legal system, jails and prisons. It has cost taxpayers billions of dollars annually.
It also has fueled organized crime and violence on a massive national and international scale.
And it has sent billions of dollars into an underground economic system that could bolster the mainstream economy, especially in these recessionary times.
Indeed, with legalization there must be some commonsense, effective and market-friendly regulation. (Please, no Pennsylvania Marijuana Control Board.)
Marijuana sales should be taxed. (But not at a level that discourages its commerce.)
Use by minors should be prohibited. (Let the debate begin whether that should be under 21 or under 18.)
And the same under-the-influence laws that apply to alcohol and driving should be applied to marijuana.
We’re off our conservative rocker, you say• Then late conservative icons William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman were, too.
Citing the Dutch example, Mr. Buckley said usage did not swell. “Today we have illegal marijuana for whoever wants it,” he added.
Noted Mr. Friedman, citing clear economic thinking: “There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana.”
Marijuana’s prohibition long has been rooted in fear, not facts, and in government propaganda, not sane public policy. Prohibition has led to far more fearsome things, true reefer madness, if you will.
It’s time for sanity in the Great Marijuana Debate. It’s time, at long last, to legalize marijuana.
“Dogging Steinbeck,” in case you are among the 318,543,866 Americans who haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, is a new genre I’m trying to popularize called “True Nonfiction.”
Half literary expose and half American road book, “Dogging Steinbeck” is the honest and accurate account of my long journey with the great John Steinbeck and his beloved work of BS, “Travels With Charley.”
It details how I discovered the truth about Steinbeck’s iconic 1960 road trip with his dog Charley and how I exposed the fraudulent nature of the allegedly nonfiction book Steinbeck wrote about his journey.
As I explain and prove at length, “Charley” is not very true or honest. It’s mostly fiction and a few lies. For every true thing you want to know about Steinbeck’s trip, my trip and his book without having to fork over a lousy $5.99 for “Dogging Steinbeck,” I’d advise going to TruthAboutCharley.com.
My book, which I swear is 103 percent true, is a literary detective story, a traditional American road book and a primer in drive-by journalism and how the media work. All from a libertarian point of view.
It’s also part history lesson of 1960 America, part book review, part Steinbeck bio and part indictment of the negligence of Steinbeck scholars who failed to discover Steinbeck’s literary deceit for 50 years and then blithely excused it as inconsequential or irrelevant after I told them about it.
Guess I should have included footnotes.
But a lot of people — especially young and/or romantic diehard “Charley” fans — don’t appreciate me for ruining the romance of Steinbeck’s flawed book. Just look at the dumb 1-star reviews on Amazon.
But sorry, Steinbeckies, what I did with my humble work of journalism has changed the way “Travels With Charley” will be read forevermore.
In the fall of 2012 the book’s publisher, Penguin Group, issued a 50th anniversary edition of “Travels With Charley” that admitted that what I had learned and exposed was correct — as in “the truth.”
“Charley’s” introduction, first written by Steinbeck biographer Jay Parini in 1997, from now on will contain a major disclaimer warning gullible readers that the famous book they are about to read is so full of fiction and fictional techniques that it should not be taken literally or considered to be a work of nonfiction. In layman’s terms, it should be considered a work of bullshit.
Parini’s disclaimer includes this stark sentence: “It should be kept in mind, when reading this travelogue, that Steinbeck took liberties with the facts, inventing freely when it served his purposes, using everything in the arsenal of the novelist to make this book a readable, vivid narrative.”
I wasn’t given credit for this discovery of this ugly truth. I was identified only as a former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter who did some light “fact-checking” (and made lazy fools of the Steinbeck scholars).
But at least from now on no 14-year-old who reads Steinbeck’s classic road book will ever be tricked into thinking it’s a true story. I hope.
I remember 30 or maybe 40 years ago, when it was just the VA and not the VHA, hearing vets and others complain about the lousy care, the crummy hospitals, the third-rate doctors.
No surprise. It was and is a government bureaucracy and it acts that way — stupid, slow, inefficient, politicized. Like army bases and defense contractors, a VA hospital is what every congressperson of both parties always wanted in his/her district.
Now, as the horror stories march forth and the whistles begin to blow louder, we are getting a truer glimpse of the reality of the VA.
Where were the media until yesterday? Where was 60 Minutes and The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and CNN? Did they ever think of looking deeply and critically into the VA?
The stupid warhawk Republicans, with their insane love of the military and fear of offending it, should have been all over this subject. They should have been calling for the privatization of the VA decades ago — Oh wait.
Mitt Romney made a halfhearted peep two years ago, saying it should be partly privatized. Mitt was partly right, but the great Paul Krugman, who can’t remember the few things he wrote 20 years ago that were right any more than he can remember the scores of stupid things he says now that he’s the Times op-ed page’s house weasel, was completely wrong.
This is what the Noble-winning, formerly honest economist said about the VHA and Romney’s half-smart idea:
What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.
Many people still have an image of veterans’ health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.
What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years.
And yes, this is “socialized medicine” — although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.’s virtues. But it works — and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.
My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.
Although President Barack Obama still has a few years left, it’s becoming clear that he has no intention of bringing any sort of increased transparency to government. His administration has continued the abysmal precedent of the George Bush administration and has even sunk to new lows.
Since the very beginning of his term, Obama has hurried down a path of obfuscation and redaction, denying more Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in his first two years than George “Patriot Act” W. did.
Even when the Obama administration wasn’t denying requests outright, it showed a disturbing tendency to censor or withhold information. In a 2011 report by the Center for Effective Government analyzing the percentage of requests fully and partially granted since 1998, the Obama administration was found to have fully granted only 44.4 percent. This placed the administration well behind both Bush, who granted 62.8 percent and Clinton, who granted 72.4 percent.
How did we reward Obama for his new-found affection for opaqueness? By giving him a transparency award. Which he received in private. Okay, it wasn’t the end of the world. It made more sense than the whole “Nobel Peace Prize” thing, and, after all, he did release the White House visitor logs. There was still plenty of time to set his administration on the right path.
But then 2012 happened, and another report on FOIA by the Center for Effective Government found that:
Although the number and timeliness of the FOIA requests processed has improved, fewer people are getting complete and full documents. Over the last four years, the proportion of FOIA releases that go out with redacted information has significantly increased. Well over half of all processed requests withhold some information. Agencies are increasingly using exemptions to limit the amount of information disclosed in response to FOIA requests. This is a troubling development for an administration with an avowed commitment to openness.
Unfortunately Obama’s recalcitrance towards enacting any real reforms to improve the FOIA process was only one of his failures. In October of 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalism released a report that accused the administration of “prosecuting more more people as whistleblowers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all former presidents combined.” Hardly the actions of a president worried about transparency.
With the administration busy prosecuting journalists, maybe 2013 would be the year it rolled up its sleeves and got serious about improving its FOIA response. After all the boss no longer had to worry about running for re-election, and (theoretically) had more time to concentrate on the issues. Let’s go back to the Center for Effective Government for a report!
The Freedom of Information Act was purportedly a priority for both the executive and legislative branches in 2013, although nothing made it over the finish line. Our report analyzing the FOIA performance of major federal agencies found that agencies were processing more requests and reduced the number of unprocessed requests; at the same time, they were using exemptions to redact or withhold information more often.
Zing. When even the .govs are getting in on the action you know you’re in trouble.
Finally the mainstream media seemed to take notice — not until after the election, naturally — but better late than never. In January The New York Times editorial board asked What Happened to Transparency, as they cut into the Obama administration over a secret memo that “outline[d] the supposed legal authority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect Americans’ telephone and financial records without a subpoena or court order.”
Now with 2014’s sunshine week here at last, we can again take a look inside the administration’s once and future promise of being the most transparent ever. And the news is not good.
In a devastating report, the AP castigated the government’s pathetic response to FOIA requests, saying:
The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.
In category after category — except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees — the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.
These recent revelations should not be a surprise. The Obama administration has spent 6 years slowly tightening its grip on government information. And with 2014 being the worst since Obama took office, there’s no reason to believe the future will hold any improvement.
After all, why would Obama even care at this point? It was a virtual non-issue in 2012 during the presidential campaign. His awful record was public knowledge, yet it was hardly ever mentioned by anyone in the press other than Jon Stewart. He skated by unscathed and now Obama has nothing to gain by attempting to work towards his original promise of an open government. Obama won his re-election, and there’s no one left to pander to anyway.
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