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Government Healthcare Revisited

After further exploration into the Obamacare debacle, I decided to delete my post from last summer: The Last Stand of Government Healthcare. I realized it was very idealistic both in its assumption that Obamacare was in fact a healthcare scheme -it is almost entirely about insurance and insurance alone, and in my belief that all those "conservatives" who say they do not want the government meddling in healthcare would actually bother to do something about it. They tried to give us a President Romney. If they continue on this path I predict that the next Republican presidential nominee will be Alec Baldwin. I sure do miss the days when I believed in Democracy.


Funny Statements I have encountered in Evolution Debates

The Grand Canyon was created by the great flood.

If Evolution is true why do we still have monkeys?

Blood clotting could not have occurred by accident.

All species have a "genetic lock" that keeps them from changing into anything else.

A fish-shaped rock does not prove anything.

The bible predicts that the earth is spherical therefore it qualifies as a theory.

And my favorite:

"I'm surprised you didn't know that carbon dating has been debunked."


Everything Confirms it and Nothing can Falsify it

This has long been my problem with global warming. Every slight statistical deviation in the weather of a given year is chalked up to global warming regardless of whether it makes for a milder season or a more extreme one. Every bad storm or perceived change in insect behavior suddenly has climatic implications without even a discussion on what should be the statistical norm, or what constitutes a meaningful change from past trends.

George F. Will has a nice Op-Ed in the Washington Post about the extended "very bad day" that global warming advocates are having:

Last week, BP America, ConocoPhillips and Caterpillar, three early members of the 31-member U.S. Climate Action Partnership, said: Oh, never mind. They withdrew from USCAP. It is a coalition of corporations and global warming alarm groups that was formed in 2007 when carbon rationing legislation seemed inevitable and collaboration with the rationers seemed prudent. A spokesman for Conoco said: "We need to spend time addressing the issues that impact our shareholders and consumers." What a concept.

Global warming skeptics, too, have erred. They have said there has been no statistically significant warming for 10 years. Phil Jones, former director of Britain's Climatic Research Unit, source of the leaked documents, admits it has been 15 years. Small wonder that support for radical remedial action, sacrificing wealth and freedom to combat warming, is melting faster than the Himalayan glaciers that an IPCC report asserted, without serious scientific support, could disappear by 2035.

Jones also says that if during what is called the Medieval Warm Period (circa 800-1300) global temperatures may have been warmer than today's, that would change the debate. Indeed it would. It would complicate the task of indicting contemporary civilization for today's supposedly unprecedented temperatures.

It is nice to see the climate change politicos finally getting a little of the scrutiny they deserve, even if it is short lived. All we need is a hot or a "not hot enough" summer for the IPCC to start pushing their snake oil again.


Austin's Temporary Insanity

So I turn on the news today (mostly interested in more Olympic coverage), to find the local news plastered with city officials blathering about what a great job they have done.

Until that moment I had not realized how much I had tuned out "the news" lately. I discovered, (mostly by questioning my husband), that a plane had crashed into a building approximately 15 miles from the area I live and work in, and I was blissfully unaware of the event for well over 24 hours.

When I did try to tune-in the reports I got were smiling officials talking about "how bad it could have been" if they hadn't been so very well prepared.

Okay so maybe they need that for their morale, but really?! It hasn't been two days since a horrific tragedy of the intentional variety and the big news story in Austin is officials explaining in detail how well they performed their jobs.... creepy!

Meanwhile the debate that seems to be raging in Austin and nationwide is whether or not to call the guy a "terrorist." The Austin Police Department thinks calling him a terrorist will lead to greater fear in the community.

But as expected there are those who feel that it is important to immediately condemn this man's actions by boldly going out on a limb and calling persons who intentionally crash airplanes into buildings "terrorists."

The story for the online news media seems to be all about which fringe groups online have been labeling the guy "hero" and/or "patriot," and also the fascinating detail that the FBI insisted the guy's suicide note be taken down after it had gotten over 20 million visits.

Interestingly enough it can still be read over at the Austin American Stateman's blog. Though most of it has been quoted in detail in the major news media anyhow.

We all know the guy committed homicide, suicide, arson, and some pretty serious assault via airplane, so I suggest it doesn't really matter what we call him now. What should matter is what we called him a few days ago.

A few days ago Joe Stack was a fellow Austinite, according to the news he was a good friend and a good neighbor to those who knew him. He wasn't the weird guy in the corner, or the quiet guy. He seems to be pretty average as far as Austinites go even in his distaste for government.

That guy slaughtered a fellow Austinite whom he had never met and severely injured many others in his attempt to strike at a government and more importantly a tax code that he hated.

We really should be reeling from this instead of trying to write him off as a fanatic, or patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. Austin should be thinking about this, and America should be thinking about this. When the average guy commits an act of terror-suicide against his own city, surely we have misstepped.


The Best Place to Work Ever

SAS is a privately owned software company in North Carolina. Read the whole article if you want to see just how astonishing the "perks" really are.

From Cnn.com:

The best perk for many employees is the centrally located health-care center, which, like other SAS buildings, is set back from giant, colorful outside sculptures. Operating 8 to 6 most days, it has a staff of 56, including four physicians, 10 nurse practitioners, nutritionists, lab technicians, physical therapists, and a psychologist (who will do short-term therapy for such conditions as depression or sexual addiction).

Although you can't get a heart transplant there -- the health center is intended to be a clinic, providing such basic care as allergy shots, pregnancy tests, and blood counts -- with each service costing employees zero, it's an unbelievable deal.

"We don't even have a billing department," says Gale Adcock, the director of corporate health services. "We charge you for one thing -- if you miss your appointment and don't give us notice. That's $10."

Last year 90% of SAS employees and their families -- Goodnight included -- made 40,000 visits. SAS says the center, with a budget of $4.5 million, still saves the company $5 million annually because employees don't kill time in waiting rooms and are more apt to seek care when they should, and SAS's medical care is cheaper than outside the gates anyway. Everybody in America complains about the American health-care system -- perhaps except for employees at SAS.

So we are supposed to believe that profit as a motive is destroying healthcare. Funny how it doesn't look that way from here.

(edit: Just a note, Jim Goodnight is the name of SAS's co-founder and CEO.)


Reflections on Motherhood

On my first anniversary of becoming a mother I feel compelled to write about the very erratic attitudes that seem to be prevalent in American culture regarding motherhood. While there are a great many people who look down on stay-at-home mothers, what shocked me was how many people are offended by women who return to work while their child is under a year old.

Through my own struggles with a (female) boss who decided that motherhood had turned me into a bad therapist, I discovered that getting run off from a job after returning from maternity leave is surprisingly common.

The same employer who encouraged you to stay as long as possible, and saw you as indispensable while pregnant, suddenly sees you as damaged goods upon return. People seem to look for the virtues in a pregnant woman, and the shortcomings in a working mother.

It has become a new hobby of mine to discuss the experiences of new mothers in their first year, specifically in how the attitudes of those around them changes after giving birth.

Here are some of the common attitudes and prejudices the moms that I have talked to, encounter:

Stay-at-home moms, even well educated ones, are treated suddenly as undereducated, unsophisticated, un-ambitious, and occasionally they are seen as less intelligent than they were before the birth.

Working moms are seen as less professional or unprofessional, tired, hormonal, negligent of their children, cold, over-ambitious, and are perceived to have become less skilled and/or less valuable than they were before the birth.

In reality none of us have become less. As divine as the pregnant woman is often seen, the new mother seems to be seen as proportionately vulgar. But the truth is nothing has been accomplished until the baby comes out safely. It is the process of not just learning to be a mother, but of learning to become a good parent that we should value most. A process that cannot truly begin until the pregnancy has ended.

It is this same process that new mothers find themselves engulfed in when making the decision to stay at home or return to work. No matter what she chooses the path ahead will take skill, intellect, and resourcefulness to manage. It is not a choice any of us take lightly and regardless of the path chosen, mothers should not be looked down upon.


The Danger in DUI

I have a friend back in Georgia who happens to have a very high tolerance for alcohol. She got a call, while at a bar drinking, requesting she pick up a friend in trouble, and she headed off to help them. She was followed from the bar by a police officer who pulled her over and arrested her for DUI, and yes she was over the legal limit.

She maintains that she was not "drunk," and that her driving was not impaired. I mention this because I do think drunk driving is a serious offense. I had two friends from high school killed by a drunk driver, so I certainly take it seriously.

However, I think that there is a very stark difference between "over the legal limit" and "drunk" or "impaired." For example I would rather get in a car with this friend driving slightly over the legal BAC limit than get in a car driven by a clone of myself who was suffering from sleep deprivation, which I often am since my son was born.

Since the original arrest, a compounding of bad circumstances led to my friend sitting in jail for 3 weeks, consequently losing her job, and now her apartment. Because of all that, there is no possible way she can afford a good lawyer to fight the charges. If she gets convicted it will mean a fine of 300-500 dollars, a year of probation, 40 hours community service, a 250 dollar dui class, at least a year suspension on her license, another fee to get her license reinstated, and finally the possibility of getting sentenced up to 11 months more of jail time.

In the meantime a DUI conviction will make it very difficult to get a new job, and cause her car insurance to skyrocket. All this is for a first offense. Doesn't this seem a little draconian? Yes drunk driving kills, but my friend did not kill anyone. It is not even clear that anyone was in danger.

Back in Texas, I had another friend call me one day (this was several years ago) while driving home from a bar and inform me in the process that she was "really drunk" through slurred speech. I begged her to pull over and told her to get off the phone. She made it home fine. This friend is now a career woman who has no stigma to worry about from her night of reckless driving, but my friend in Georgia will likely have this DUI follow her for years.

Actually, driving while slightly buzzed or worse seems to be widely practiced. I would guess 60-70 percent of the people I have known over the last decade have at some point driven while over the legal blood alcohol limit. I know very few people who would hesitate to jump in the car, and drive out to a friend in need after only consuming a couple of beers. (I wouldn't do it, but just because 2 beers would practically knock me out...) The draconian laws are not even remotely a deterrent for those who do not feel impaired. Nor do the BAC limits seem that accurate at determining impairment.

Ultimately I feel like my friend is being punished for the damages she could have caused, had she actually been impaired and gotten into an accident, and not for the "crime" (driving while over the legal BAC) committed.


The People's Republic of Capitalism

The past 3 nights Ted Koppel's new 4 part series on China has been airing on Discovery, and in spite of being hosted by one of the driest journalists outside of PBS it is really fascinating. The last episode is airing tonight though the rest of it is definitely worth seeing for those of you with DVR's. I am sure they will be re-airing the series at some point in the near future.

There are too many interesting ideas and comparisons for me to cover here so I will focus on the difference between our countries that jumps out at me the most. They talked to many Americans regarding the exportation of jobs to China, and of course they talked to many Chinese on the same subject.

The Americans were usually (but not always) old, bitchy, set in their ways, and convinced that a company's loyalty to its country of origin was far more important than making a profit. The Chinese, though variable in age, were usually ambitious, optimistic, and mysteriously thought America was a great country that they aspired to be like.

One American lady complained about losing her job at age 50 at which she was making 11 dollars an hour at, and told us it was unfair because she wanted to continue working there for the next 20 years.

Honestly I cannot comprehend this sentiment -that it is somehow "not right" that someone cannot retire at the company/job of their previous employment. Nor can I comprehend why anyone would want to work at the same job for that long. She acted like the most humiliating, disgraceful, and unjust thing imaginable was someone like her having to search for a new job. Meanwhile Koppel was interviewing a Chinese executive at Ford regarding American jobs lost due to Ford moving factories to China.

Koppel seemed to think that it would really upset Americans that Chinese were making American cars and selling them to the Chinese market. It is apparently a popular belief in China that Americans make the best cars in the world. Their brand of choice being Buick with Ford a close second. Of course by "Americans" I mean Chinese workers, in American car factories, on Chinese soil, run by Chinese management.

All I have to say to that is: Y'all can have your American cars, I want my cars Japanese (or perhaps made by Americans in Japanese factories, on American soil...)

Episode 3 focused on car production and consumtion in China, and Koppel kept trying to get the idea across to Chinese executives that nationalism should somehow be important to big businesses. The Chinese Ford executive finally says to him (I'm paraphrasing): But we are not an American company, Ford is a global company. We do business all over the world.

Somehow I don't think Henry Ford would be opposed to this notion.

So while China may not be very capitalistic in the libertarian/free market/limited government sense of the word, they seem to be getting the basic idea far better than we Americans do.


Discrimination, IQ, and Stupidity

I have a co-worker who is best described as having lower than average intelligence. She's not retarded or obviously mentally deficient. It just takes multiple attempts to communicate fairly basic information to her. I bring this up because she seems to be reasonably competent at her job, however in spite of this, there are already rumors and speculations flying about my workplace regarding when and how she is likely to get fired.

This made me start to wonder. While I have heard that it is possible to improve one's IQ (or at least to improve one's score on IQ tests), presumably one does not chose to have a lower than average intelligence to begin with.

So if your intelligence limits your capacity to grasp certain concepts with any reasonable speed, and limits your ability to communicate effectively with co-workers and customers should you be fired for a trait you have no control over, specifically if you can competently do your job?

Generally it is considered to be discrimination to not make reasonable accommodations for someone who has a disability if that disability does not make them incapable of doing their job. Low intelligence kind of strikes me as a disability. Presumably it merely takes longer for a person of low intelligence to learn things than someone with average intelligence. So if the only accommodation necessary is greater patience then surely it would not be ethical to fire such a person.

However in my limited experience with not-so-bright people it seems like they are much more prone to stupidity than the average person. I am operating on the premise that stupidity and low intellect are different things. Of course I have known multiple highly intelligent people who often did stupid things. So I have to assume that having a high IQ is no guarantee that a person will have "common sense" and therefore not do stupid things.

On the other hand if a person has a low enough IQ then their capacity to grasp basic concepts would be more limited, or at least take longer than it would take the average person. Which is why I think people with lower than average intelligence are more prone to stupidity than everyone else.

I worked at McDonald's in high school and I found myself regularly saying "surely that person knows better than to... (dump water in a hot fryer, honk into a drivethru speaker, drive through a narrow drivethru with a boat attached to their vehicle, mix clorox and ammonia etc.)"

The last few weeks at my current job have felt very similar to those high school days. Probably because of my experience at McDonald's I have always felt that stupidity is necessarily a fire-able trait. Specifically because it is too dangerous not to be.

Or as Heinlein put it:

Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.

Low intelligence does not guarantee stupidity either, and the reality is that how patient you can be with a non-stupid-low-intellect person usually is directly relate to how expensive their limitation is. Which is likely how other disabilities would be treated as well if non-discrimination via "reasonable accommodation" were not mandated by law.


Tomato-Crazies

About a week ago the story broke in Texas that around 20 Texans (40 people nationwide) had gotten salmonella. The source of the salmonella outbreak had been linked by the center for disease control to raw large and raw roma tomatoes.

Within about 2 days most of the large chain restaurants in my area had stopped serving fresh tomatoes. This included Olive Garden, Chillis, Mcdonalds, Subway, and even Burger King. Several large grocery stores also pulled fresh tomatoes off of their shelves including Wal-Mart, and Whole foods, and everybody was telling everybody else about how you really shouldn't eat raw tomatoes.

I on the other hand have found myself a lone voice in trying to convince friends and coworkers that 40 cases of salmonella poisoning (or 400 or even 4000 cases) out of millions and millions of pounds of fresh tomatoes that would have been served during the affected period (April 24th - May 27th) is not statistically significant, and is also two weeks past relevance.

As of yesterday the Subways in my area had started serving them again on account of the fact that all of their tomatoes came from inside Texas, and Texas tomatoes were ruled out as the source of the salmonella over a week ago (or to be more specific several days before everyone started freaking out).

Meanwhile CNN who was reporting 38 cases nationwide a week ago, was suddenly reporting that number as "under 200" reported salmonella cases as of yesterday with "no new cases having been reported in the past 2 weeks." This came mysteriously on the heels of another story about how no one pulled their tomatoes during the 2006 salmonella-tomato outbreak inspite of the fact that there were 183 reported cases and more states affected.

Theories abound in our local Austin papers about why so many people and business are reacting differently this time. Most of these theories point to the idea of "greater consumer concern" and a "stronger sense of responsibility" among food vendors. Having heard nothing of the 2006 salmonella outbreak until yesterday I have my own theory. I suspect when the story broke in 2006 it didn't happen to be a slow news day.

Still I am amazed at how many times I have heard people get upset in the last few days with the few restaurants still serving tomatoes. A local radio show I was listening to the other day went off on a tirade about how irresponsible it was for any restaurant to serve them, and a woman in front of me in line at the Potato Club was going off on the owner of said business about how dangerous it was to serve them to anyone. My unshared thought towards this concerned consumer was "I am pregnant and I want my very safe, low-risk, fresh tomatoes ::insert expletive name-calling here::."

My husband tried to inform the distraught lady that it took all of 15 seconds at 145 degrees to kill salmonella (which in case your curious is approximately the temperature of the inside of my car when not air conditioned these days), not to mention the fact that her chances of catching it are 1 in many millions and probably less than that since the outbreak subsided before the story broke.

For those of you still concerned, the next time you go out to eat contemplate this: what do you think the chances are of the person behind the counter/grill making a random mistake or oversight that causes you to get sick... like forgetting to wash hands after handling raw meat, using the wrong knife, leaving the tartar sauce out too long, coming to work sick, etc.?

I suspect that unless you are an extremely paranoid individual this threat does not generally keep you from eating the food. Yet 40 people catching a not very serious illness out of the millions of pounds of tomatoes served in this country in a month gives you pause... Why?


Forced Labor: North Koreans Working Abroad

Is it forced labor? Have Russia and the Czech Republic imported a small piece of an oppressive regime onto their own soil?

It began in the 1970's, with the ill fated Baikul-Amur Railroad, an attempt by the Soviet government to build a railway across Siberia. North Korea contributed to the project by sending prisoners to labor camps in Siberia that would assist in the construction of the railway.

The railroad was never finished but decades later North Korean laborers are still hard at work in the dense Siberian forests mostly as loggers, though technically no longer prisoners. Though their wages are low, their days long, and their off days few, the North Koreans bearing these extreme conditions actually choose to be there. In fact, many had to bribe officials for the opportunity.

An NPR story by Gregory Feifer tells of their isolation from the surrounding community:

Occasionally, the gate opens to allow laborers through, usually in groups of three. Walking along the road, they look bedraggled and weather beaten, and they're forbidden to speak to anyone. One worker, who speaks fairly good Russian, says he doesn't want to talk because he doesn't understand the language.

Local residents say the workers keep to themselves.

"When we come across them in the forest, they're afraid of us. We used to feel sorry for them looking very poor, dressed in their black work clothes," says Tynda resident Liudmilla Alexandrovna. "But now we're used to them. After all, their lives here are far better than in North Korea."

Some camps are reported to have little by way of sanitation and are often subject to food shortages. Laborers are reported to be mistreated by the North Korean officials assigned to keep constant watch over them. The conditions are harsh as is the work itself, especially without the limited equipment and extreme temperatures of the Siberian wilderness.

In spite of this there is no shortage of North Korean men vying for a chance to work in the camps. The pay and conditions are said to be many times better than what they can find at home.

Not all North Koreans laborers are content with the arrangement. Kim Man-soo tolerated five years of back breaking labor in the mid-to-late 90's only to discover all of his wages had been sent to the North Korean government. He later defected.

From chosun.com:

"I worked 15 hours a day for five years. In July 1998, I counted the vouchers I had been given instead of money. They were worth US$3,000. That was my goal. I risked my life earning that money. I was excited about bringing the money home, but when I told the logging office to pay me, they said they had no money." The logging office had sent all the cash it received from Russia to the North. That was the last straw: Kim escaped in January 1999.

But it isn't only North Korean men competing for a chance to work in virtual slave labor abroad, nor is Russia the only destination. Over 400 North Korean women have found jobs in the Czech Republic. Most work as seamstresses sewing together leather headrests and arm rests for luxury cars including BMWs, Mercedes, and Renaults.

Though the women are considered well treated by comparison to their Siberian counterparts, their situation has raised the concerns of those in the Czech Republic and around Europe. The biggest brow-raiser is that 80% of their wages are deposited into a group account which they believe is then taken by the North Korean government, rather than returned to the women's families.

Employing North Koreans, it seems, is not so much a means of offering an oppressed people a better life, as it is funding a tyranical and oppressive communist regime, and possibly allowing a forced labor program within the bounds of a democratic country. Because of these concerns and at the request of organizations combating human trafficking, the Czech Republic has stopped issuing new visas to North Koreans.

From the International Herald Tribune:

"What we want," she added, is to ensure "that they get paid appropriately and that they can do what they want outside work hours."

Investigators have been unable to ascertain the extent of the North Koreans' personal freedoms, like speech and movement, Svec said.

In Nachod, the North Korean workers socialize with their foreign co-workers at the Snezka factory. They speak Czech and talk about work, but never socialize after work hours, colleagues said, and they are watched over by a translator who most often answers for them.

Without having the freedom to speak, "that means that they don't have any freedom at all on the ground of a democratic country," said Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers. "This is just more evidence that the women are hostages of North Korean officials."

Whether or not the North Koreans' working conditions qualifies as forced labor is unclear given their apparent desire to do the work regardless of very low wages and under what by western standards are oppressive conditions. However the historical symmetry of this situation should not escape our notice: a country run by an ex-KGB officer importing communist labor camps onto its soil and a company known to have benefitted from forced labor in the past, BMW, seemingly taking advantage of it again, pokes at our subconscious, and subtly raises the question: could history be repeating itself in some way?

From Youtube.com: An English documentary on the Siberian labor camps employing North Korean workers.


Back to May Day 2008: A Day of Remembrance


A History The EU Wants to Forget

The European Union recently debated a contentious issue dividing Western Europe from the former Soviet-Bloc countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The issue was a proposed formal condemnation of communism for crimes against humanity, inspired by prior condemnations of fascism and Nazism.

For formerly communist member states such as Latvia and Estonia, the proposed condemnation is a matter of justice and reconciliation of deep personal importance to their own people and essential to their continued relations with the rest of Europe. But the Western member states, never having experienced communism firsthand, view a condemnation of communism as unneccesary, politically inconvenient, and even revisionist.

From Radio Free Europe:

For those seeking to condemn communism for crimes against humanity, it's been an uphill battle. The strongest resistance comes from the EU's political left. Jan Marinus Wiersma, a Dutch socialist and a leading figure in the EU's socialist group, attacked what he described as "party-political interpretations of history.""All too often, differing interpretations can lead to different visions, different ways of understanding things, and sometimes xenophobia [and nationalism]," he said. "This is extraordinarily dangerous in a Europe which is characterized by diversity, that includes ethnic diversity. There are no simple answers to difficult historical questions. Let's not overlook this, because quite often, people have a populist interpretation of history."

Wiersma attacked attempts at drawing "facile or glib comparisons" between totalitarian regimes -- without once, however, identifying either by name. He said such debates have no place on the EU's agenda.

The leader of the smaller European United Left, French politician Francis Wurtz, was more outspoken. He rejected the idea of a "Nuremberg of ideologies" and said putting Soviet-era crimes on a par with those of Nazism "relativizes" the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities. Even if lawmakers could find a common stance on the issue, the best the body could do formally is pass a moral judgment on communism. The real powers on such matters lie with the member states.

In April 2007, EU justice ministers passed a law making it a criminal offense to publicly condone, deny, or trivialize "genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes" -- provided such crimes were recognized as such by the Nuremberg Tribunal of 1945 or the statute of the International Criminal Court of 2002. Neither makes any reference to communist crimes. The EU's executive, the European Commission, has been instructed to study whether the need exists to augment the list of crimes.

In this age of Youtube and instant media, it's hard to believe that Western Europeans could remain oblivious to the record of crimes perpetrated by communist governments in their own backyard. To jog their memory, we present a small collection of videos documenting communist attrocities in Eastern Europe. If the EU fails to recognize and condemn these horrific crimes for any reason, then perhaps the rest of the developed world should be condemning the EU.

Genocide against and forced starvation of Ukrainian peasants in the 1930s.

The forced deportation of The Kalmyks to Siberia

Part 2 of a documentary on the Romanian Gulag of Pitesti

A collection of drawings and paintings made by gulag survivor Thomas Sgovio.


Back to May Day 2008: A Day of Remembrance


A Video Memorial to Victims of Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia in 1975 and attempted to impose upon the Cambodian people their own vision of an agricultural communist utopia. In the process, they executed intellectuals en masse; forced millions out of their homes and into slavery; imprisoned, tortured, and murdered thousands; and brought starvation to many hundreds of thousands more. Estimates of the death toll range from 850,000 to 2,000,000 in a country whose population numbered a mere 7.5 million in 1975.

The video below focuses on one of Cambodia's most notorious concentration camps, Tuol Sleng, in which the Khmer Rouge kept thorough records of the many thousands they tortured and slaughtered.


Back to May Day 2008: A Day of Remembrance


More on FLDS

I don't know if everyone is getting an earful of the FLDS situations outside of the national news segments, but being in texas it is covered everyday in nearly every newspaper, every local news broadcast, and then it's on the national news, 20/20, CNN etc. The story is everywhere, and in spite of many news anchors trying hard to spin it as a crazy polygamist cult snubbing the texas legal system. I have trouble seeing those women as anything but a religious and cultural minority group having their kids taken away because the state doesn't approve of their lifestyle.

 I certainly do not care for the brand of polygamy practiced by this group nor for underage marriage, but my understanding was that in most states teenagers could get married underage with parental consent. I do not know if sexual abuse has happened in this community however I can tell you that the state's excessive response will only decrease the likelihood of abuse being reported in the future.

 I grew up in a physically abusive home (not the living with a drunk kind more of the christ gets beaten into you kind which is one of the reasons I am now atheist), and I can tell you from experience that the fear of being put into foster care and therefore separated from our siblings is one of the things that kept us quiet.

I think it is very likely that there are men, women, and children being mistreated in this community from the sheer fact that the people in this community have very powerful incentives not to come forward to anyone outside of their community when such events happen. The risk is being persecuted for your religion, being separated from your family, losing your kids, being ostracized by the FLDS community, and being an outsider everywhere else (of course there are religious issues too like eternal damnation via excommunication).

I would compare it to the likelihood of a prostitute or illegal immigrant being abused; since the law is already not on their side, abuse happens often because the victims are not likely to report it.

A woman being abused by her husband within the FLDS has everything to lose by coming forward, and given Texas's most recent response, it seems she has everything to lose for her entire community. Imagine that. If you come forward you could lose not only your own kids but everyone in your family and community's kids.

Regardless I have always resented the idea that the state could just swoop in and take your kids on such flimsy evidence. I have seen reports on a number of cases through the years in which children were taken away on hearsay, flimsy eyewitness reports like neighbors thinking they witnessed inappropriate contact when a father was hugging his child, and rumors like they saw too many beer cans in the garbage.

Now over 400 kids are being put into foster homes with foster parents that cannot possibly practice the same religion as them, who will not likely understand nor approve of their religion. I can tell you from experience in that regard as well that that can really muck with a kid's psyche. Wondering if you are sinning or forsaking the religion you were raised with because of the new rules you are being forced to follow... (eat your ham Muhammed it's good for you).

Doesn't it make more sense to remove the abuser, not the alegedly abused, especially in a group of this size with such specific religious views?


Republican failure, libertarian victory

As of the writing of this post Ron Paul has received 513,533 votes* (this is with some precincts still unreported in some states including approximately 80% reported in California) in primaries, and 37,274 votes* (Maine is still at 68% reported) in caucuses.

With the exception of the 1980 presidential race in which Ed Clark drew in over 900,000 votes, Ron Paul has now pulled in more votes in the primary elections than any Libertarian candidate ever has in the general election.** Keep in mind that general elections traditionally have a much higher turnout than primaries do. Meanwhile there are still over 20 states that have yet to hold their elections.

This will not be a huge consolation to disappointed Paul supporters who hoped for at least a win in Alaska, but for those of us who have been following libertarian politics for multiple elections this is actually quite phenomenal. It means he might actually top a million in votes (a result better than any Libertarian Party candidate has ever gotten in the U.S.) long before the conventions roll around.

Of course this may not mean a great deal at the Republican National Convention, but it ought to mean a great deal to the libertarian movement in general. The amount of money and support Ron Paul has been able to garner in what has to be the shortest primary season in history actually makes me very optimistic about the future of libertarianism in this country.

While America is clearly not quite ready for a President Paul, it seems an infusion of both libertarian ideas, and candidates into the national debate has become inevitable. And with thousands of Ron Paul Revolutionaries all over the U.S. now learning firsthand how to organize, fundraise, recruit, and actively campaign on a local level, even an abysmal showing for Paul in the months to come will not be able to dampen a very bright future for both the U.S. constitution and libertaria in general.

*Primary data obtained from cnn.com.

**Past presidential results obtained from wikipedia.