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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 12, Issue 10: March 8, 2010

  1. The White House’s Two-Faced Energy Policy
  2. Eating Away Our Liberty, One Bite at a Time
  3. Afghanistan Campaign Risks Creating More Enemies
  4. Spanish Court Supports Charge That Chavez Aided Terrorists
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) The White House’s Two-Faced Energy Policy

Does the Obama administration have a coherent energy policy? On the one hand, it plans to stimulate the construction of more nuclear power plants by shielding their owners from liability for future accidents; on the other hand, it has killed the development of Nevada’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

Oil and natural gas development are also subject to contradictory policies. President Obama said he would maximize the use of low-carbon energy sources, but his own Interior Secretary has blocked plans to lease new offshore areas for development, including the estimated 165 billion cubic feet of natural gas of the Destin Dome, located in the Gulf of Mexico south of the Florida Panhandle. All told, blocking the development of oil and natural gas would cost the U.S. economy $2.4 trillion dollars over the next 20 years, according to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

“It is time to stop an energy policy working at cross-purposes with economic policy,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II. “Expanding access to oil and natural gas reserves would create high-paying jobs, bring billions of dollars of revenue into federal and state treasuries and provide consumers with more clean-burning natural gas.”

“The President’s Bipolar Energy Policy,” by William F. Shughart II (3/2/10) Spanish Translation

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart II

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2) Eating Away Our Liberty, One Bite at a Time

A push to ban partially hydrogenated cooking oils in restaurant food is gaining momentum across the country. Although seemingly innocuous and well meaning, the movement to ban trans fats threatens more than the freedom to consume food products that might present long-term challenges to one’s health, according to Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow Art Carden.

This issue becomes clearer when one considers what governments might be able to do once the precedent of using legal coercion to alter peaceful behavior has been established.

“Giving the state discretion over what you do in your living room (smoke) made it much easier for them to regulate what you do in your kitchen (cook with or consume trans fats),” writes Carden. “Letting authorities into your living room or your kitchens puts them only a few steps from your bedroom, and I for one won’t be surprised when they try to invite themselves in.... When we cede power to the state, we give them the power to do evil as well as good. It’s only a matter of time before they use it.”

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Fatty Food,” by Art Carden (Forbes.com, 3/4/10)

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3) Afghanistan Campaign Risks Creating More Enemies

Military operations by the U.S. and NATO forces killed an estimated 50 Afghan civilians in February. Although collateral damage may have fallen since General Stanley McChrystal took charge, it is still harming the cause of counterinsurgency and must be halted, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Charles Peña.

The killing of innocent civilians is counterproductive for the simple reason that defeating insurgents requires winning the hearts and minds of the local population. In some cases, the bereaved relative of yesterday’s accidental killing becomes tomorrow’s insurgent or terrorist. An illustrative example is provided by the case of Hanadi Jaradet, a Palestinian lawyer who became a suicide bomber to avenge the shooting death of her brother and cousin at the hands of Israeli security forces. The United States can expect to see similar tragedies until it sees that foreign military occupations ultimately create resentments that turn violent. In the case of Afghanistan, the U.S. would do well to allow the Afghan government to become fully sovereign and make its own decisions.

“Our only real criterion should be that the government in Kabul—even if it includes elements of the Taliban—not provide support or safe haven for al Qaeda to attack America,” concludes Peña.

“Counterproductive Counterinsurgency,” by Charles Peña (3/1/10) Spanish Translation

Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism, by Charles Peña

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4) Spanish Court Supports Charge That Chavez Aided Terrorists

After investigating computer files captured during a raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador, Spain’s National Court has charged 13 Spaniards and Colombians—including a Venezuelan official who is married to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s chief of staff—with aiding ETA, the terrorist organization in Spain.

The indictment bolsters Ecuador’s claims that the seized documents show that the Venezuelan government has supported ETA as well as FARC, the terrorist organization in Colombia. Given Spain’s friendship with Venezuela, the political significance of the indictment should not be underestimated, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa.

“Faced with such massive evidence coming out of its country’s own courts, how can the [Spanish] government maintain its policy [of friendship with the Chavez] without paying a devastating price at the polls?” writes Vargas Llosa in his latest weekly column. The indictment may also put the Organization of American States on the hot seat. Up to now the OAS has resisted meaningful actions against the Chavez regime, even though Chavez’s gift of $300 million to FARC is a blatant violation of the 2002 Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism.

“The Spanish Noose Around Chavez’s Neck,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (3/3/10) Spanish Translation

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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5) This Week in The Beacon

Visit the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog, El Independent. Below are the past week’s offerings from our English-language blog, The Beacon.

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