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Reason Alert: Middle East, Gillespie on Bill Moyers

May 11, 2007

U.S. Returning to Old Ways in Middle East?
Reason magazine's Michael Young, opinion editor of the Daily Star in Beirut, says dictators around the Middle East are stifling freedom and the U.S. is returning to a foreign policy built around "cutting baroque deals with despots." Young writes, "The United States is fast returning to the old ways in the Middle East, the pre-9/11 ways, where foreign policy skill was defined mainly as cutting baroque deals with despots rather than overly bothering with the promotion of open societies, human rights and the rule of law. That's understandable, since the Bush administration has left itself little room to maneuver because of the fiasco in Iraq. But democratization was among the first superfluities to be tossed out the window when [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice, that most chameleonic of figures, rediscovered her 'realist' pedigree. She now reportedly hopes to leave as her legacy the establishment of relations with Iran. We are close to the point where the US, in trying to extricate itself from the Iraqi trap, may bring the masonry down on all our heads. The U.S. has emerged as a fairly futile superpower, at least in the Middle East. For those of us who thought that the ousting of a tyrant like Saddam Hussein might usher in an era of pluralist change in the region, the disappointment is doubly felt. Arab liberals, who should have strived to use the radical developments in Iraq as an inspiration for their own domestic renovations, instead pushed aside their leaders (and tormentors) to be the first in slamming 'American neocolonialism.' Now the dictators, having won their battle against the U.S., are back to stifling their homegrown liberal critics. Prepare to soon see the liberals revive an old lamentation of theirs: that Washington is as one with the autocrats."

Gillespie on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal Tonight
Reason magazine Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie is scheduled to appear on Bill Moyers Journal on PBS tonight to discuss the war in Iraq, 2008 presidential race, the religious right and other issues. Please check this site or your local listings for air times in your city.
» Archive of Nick Gillespie's Work

Looking for Hate in the Wrong Places
In today's Washington Times, Reason's Jacob Sullum writes, "'Hate crimes have no place in America,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi boldly declared last week, 'no place in a nation where we pledge every morning with liberty and justice for all.' Mrs. Pelosi urged her colleagues to approve a bill aimed at violence motivated by hostility toward members of certain designated groups. According to Mrs. Pelosi, then, the 'justice for all' mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance means equal opportunity to be a crime victim. It certainly does not mean equality before the law, which the hate crime bill sacrifices by treating perpetrators of the same crime differently because they hold different beliefs...it's not a stretch to say hate crime laws, by their very nature, punish people for their opinions. A mugger who robs a Jew because he's well-dressed is punished less severely than a mugger who robs a Jew based on the belief Jews get their money by cheating Christians. A thug who beats an old lady in a wheelchair for fun is punished less severely than a thug who does so because he believes the disabled are leeches. The rationale for such unequal treatment is that crimes motivated by bigotry do more damage than otherwise identical crimes with different motivations because of the fear they foster. Yet random attacks arguably generate more fear, and hate crimes cause anxiety in the targeted group only when they're publicized as such. In any case, judges can take a crime's impact into account at sentencing."

Not Ready For Sub-Prime
In the June issue of Reason magazine, Tim Cavanaugh writes, "The sub-prime meltdown comes in a context of debt panic—specifically, of other-people’s-debt panic. Liberal economists, values conservatives, and hug-the-middle moderates are in full agreement on this one: Poor people’s access to debt is driving them to fiscal ruination or worse...Ambitious politicians and math-unencumbered reporters are in hot pursuit of the culprits: predatory lenders, indifferent regulators, Madison Avenue captains of consciousness—everybody except people who borrow large sums of money with no intention of paying it back. The conventional wisdom used to say the poor didn’t have enough access to debt. One of the earliest products of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was the Home Owners Refinancing Act, which provided mortgage money to more than a million borrowers over a three-year period. Harry Truman’s record shows a consistent effort to expand the amount of debt available to willing borrowers...The difference now is that it’s coming from the market rather than a package of government guarantees, from an industry that expanded to fill a demand and is now contracting as the demand shrinks. In a sane world, we’d say this is a market behaving as it should, and marvel at an economy where so many people who were once locked into the renters market have gotten a chance at homeownership. Some of them have blown their chance by exhibiting the same kind of behavior that made them bad credit risks in the first place. But most have not. In fact, about nine out of every 10 sub-prime borrowers are still making their payments. So our grandparents solved the not-enough-credit crisis, and Sens. Clinton and Dodd are well on the way to solving the too-much-credit crisis. What will they think of next? Whatever it is, there will be plenty of deadbeats, politicians, and people who can’t do math to cry that the sky is falling, even if home prices are not."
» Cavanaugh's Blog at LATimes.com

Texas Toll Road Moratorium
Texas legislators are pushing for a two year moratorium on toll roads that would "seriously undermine the goal of reducing congestion and improving mobility for all Texans" according to a new Reason Foundation report by Robert Poole, who has advised the last four presidential administrations. The new Reason paper examines the arguments against public private partnerships (Comprehensive Development Agreements in Texas) and disproves claims that existing government toll agencies like the Harris County Toll Road Authority or the North Texas Tollway Authority could produce equal or greater value and revenue than the private sector.
» Full Study (.pdf)
» Poole Column: Is NTTA's Proposal for SH 121 Better Than Cintra's?

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