Wednesday, August 12, 2009

PACT - August 13, 2009

There is a notorious cause developing in UK. A young man with mental problems has been demanded for extradition by the US government and is to be handed over to those authorities for trial in the US. The charge is that he hacked into the Pentagon information system and was a threat to US security. Whether that allegation is true is not the issue in this case. The UK court in which the extradition was challenged claims that they have no discretion in this case and must surrender the person named. The newspaper stories about this do not go into the truth of the allegation, or into the provisions of the extradition arrangements between US and UK, but they were much in issue at the time the treaty was signed. It appears that the agreement between the two governments is not symmetric. If UK wants someone extradited from US, they must show that they have a prima facia case against him, as is the traditional practice in other treaties. But if US wants someone out of UK, all they must show is that the person is the one named. This is a notorious inequality between supposed allies and equals. It reeks of the domination between an imperial power and a colony. For that to be the relationship between the nations was excoriated in the press when the treaty was signed. UK, like a proper subservient, whimpered about the insult, but now the high court says only that the US has never refused to honor such a bare demand from UK, but I know of no case in which UK has tested whether they would. UK maintains a large army and navy for a poor country of 60m people and does a lot of fighting at US command, but does not maintain the dignity they pretend to on other occasions. Such is the role of subservient powers and New Labour has been one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

OPIUM - August 6, 2009

We are constantly being told that we have no quarrel with the Afghan people, but are just trying to save them from the grip of the Taleban and the drug lords who finance them out of the profits from the illegal opium trade. Yet the Afghans have shown us year upon year that they will not give up growing the opium poppies and gathering the resin for the manufacture of opium. Most of that goes for illegal heroin, but it is also a fact that there is a worldwide shortage for the production of morphine which is essential for the ease of pain and is priced outside the reach of the poor, who make up most of the world’s population of pain sufferers. And even heroin is a less destructive drug than cocaine and methamphetamine, with which it competes for customers. To top it all, the cost of buying the whole of the Afghan poppy resin, even at elevated prices, is far less than the cost of the war that we are fighting and losing, despite the false claims of US and UK to the contrary. And that is just in money, not counting the lives on both sides sacrificed to this hopeless effort at suppression. So why not just buy the whole crop and raise the population to sustainability while distributing morphine at bargain rates through doctors? The reason seems to lie in our approach to unacceptable behaviour, which our culture treats exclusively through punishment, with ever greater brutality as it continues to fail to exact compliance. The code words are that drugs are evil and the drug dealers are evil, and we will not compromise with evil, although the end of prohibition of alcohol is hailed as one of the great successes of the XX century. The dead hand of the Puritans prevents us from taking the action that would free the Afghans and hamper the drug lords, all while saving us from our unavailing struggle.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

HEALTH CARE - July 30, 2009

Following on the leadership in WI and 2 other states that expanded CHIP even without waiting for the US government to do its duty, the failure of Congress to enact Pres. Obama’s Health program lays upon us the obligation to do the profitable thing in that area without waiting for federal action. And the benefit is that it would be without any cost to the State while improving our attractiveness to the best kind of corporations we should be wooing. Those are the companies that make their profits by raising their incomes rather than blackmailing state and local governments out of taxes and cheating their workers out of adequate health care. I have proposed including businesses that will pay the full cost of employee health insurance be included in the plan for State workers. The cost to the State would be less than free, as the large group in operation would cost less in administrative expenses than a stand-alone private plan and would also offer a greater choice to the employees. In order to avoid any ad-hoc adherence by companies with especially sick workers, it should start with businesses of at least a minimum number of employees, a requirement to be slowly reduced as experience shows that it does not lead to losses. State employee unions might complain that this might result in greater premiums for their members. That is unlikely, but a guarantee to them against such increases would provide real benefits for the State, for possibly tiny costs. And it would be a real attraction to the kind of employers we really should be wanting. In time it could put us back in the higher-paid column again. When the new subscribers reached a certain mark, that group could be pared off from the State employees and run in tandem, but technically separate. It is a recipe for prosperity through progressive principles.