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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 12, Issue 47: November 23, 2010

  1. More Outrages from Airport Security
  2. U.S. Security Requires a Full Audit of the Pentagon
  3. Nicaragua’s Ortega Seeks Re-Election Via Armed Land Grab
  4. Thanksgiving and Pilgrimnomics
  5. New Blog Posts

1) More Outrages from Airport Security

Fed up with the privacy-invading body scans and aggressive groping conducted by airport security personnel? Then brace yourself for an arguably more dehumanizing tool at the disposal of the Transportation Security Administration: the cage. Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute, reports.

“Last week,” he writes, “I was flying and was randomly selected for the dreaded ‘secondary screening’ (it sounds ancillary but is just annoying). The security woman put me in the cage (fortunately it had air holes), locked it, and told me that I wasn’t getting out until she swabbed my hands (presumably for potential chemical residues from bomb making).”

Needless to say, the screeners cleared Eland, but he did not return the favor: even a casual inspection of TSA procedures shows they are a lousy way to enhance airline security, according to Eland. Those methods target the modus operandi of previous terrorist attempts (as if potential attackers wouldn’t adapt to new security measures), they inconvenience and humiliate ordinary travelers, and they violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches. Vigilant airline passengers provide better security than do overbearing government bureaucracies, Eland concludes.

“Government Sexual Molestation in Airports Is ‘Over the Top,’” by Ivan Eland (11/17/10)

Preemptive War/Preemptive Body Scans,” by Mary Theroux (The Beacon, 11/20/10)

“Ditch TSA? There’s a Congressman’s Proposal I Can Support!” by Randall Holcombe (The Beacon, 11/18/10)

“New TSA Checkpoint Sign,” by Mary Theroux (The Beacon, 11/18/10)

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

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2) U.S. Security Requires a Full Audit of the Pentagon

Washington must get U.S. defense spending under control if it is to make real headway in dealing with mounting budget deficits. The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which has begun to release recommendations for cutting waste in government spending, calls for a modest $865 billion reduction below the amount proposed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) goes one significant step further. He proposes that defense spending be capped at current levels (somewhat less than the budget Gates sought) until the Pentagon can pass comprehensive audits of all its programs, agencies, and contractors.

That sounds reasonable on fiscal grounds alone, but the Pentagon has broken every promise to complete a comprehensive audit. A full audit of defense programs, agencies, and contractors is necessary, however, not only to bring the Pentagon into compliance with the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990—and the Accountability Clause of the Constitution—but also to ensure that the defense budget is spent only on projects that actually make Americans more secure.

“The  defense budget is dangerously bloated, giving rise to serious decay in our armed forces,” according to a letter to the commission signed by Independent Institute Research Fellow Winslow T. Wheeler and other defense budget experts. “Given the clearer picture of Pentagon spending resulting from Senator Coburn’s crucial audit/freeze proposal, our collective experience makes us confident that Pentagon spending can be reduced in better informed, more effective ways—ways that can actually strengthen national security while ending the shrinking and the aging of our forces at ever higher cost.”

“New Letter to the Deficit Commission on Cutting Bloated Defense Spending,” by Winslow T. Wheeler et al. (11/20/10)

Congress, the Defense Budget, and Pork: A Snout-to-Tail Description of Congress’ Foremost Concern in National Security Legislation, by Winslow T. Wheeler

Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security, by Winslow T. Wheeler

Budgeting for Empire: The Effect of Iraq and Afghanistan on Military Forces, Budgets, and Plans, by David Isenberg

Arms, Politics, and the Economy, edited by Robert Higgs

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3) Nicaragua’s Ortega Seeks Re-Election Via Armed Land Grab

Nicaragua’s armed incursion into Costa Rica—waged on the pretext that Google Maps identified the right bank of the San Juan River as Nicaraguan territory—is a blatant attempt by President Daniel Ortega to increase his appeal at home and thereby help secure his re-election next year. Although he has pledged to abide by the ruling of the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Ortega is betting that he will be re-elected by the time the court issues its decision.

Ortega’s outrageous maneuver is consistent with his pattern of aggressive misconduct, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, senior fellow at the Independent Institute. In 2008, Ortega committed election fraud in order to prevent a political foe, Eduardo Montealegre, from becoming mayor of Managua. For the past year he has tried to destroy the judicial barriers to his re-election, as did his brethren in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. He has intimidated non-Sandinista justices of the Supreme Court who objected that his running for a third presidential term would violate Nicaragua’s constitution, and he has illegally extended the terms of his allies on the court.

“The invasion of Costa Rican territory, where Nicaraguan immigrants already amount to 12 percent of the population, is the last bit of thuggery in the pursuit of total power,” writes Vargas Llosa. “Not just against Costa Rica—more importantly, against Ortega’s domestic critics, now terrified of becoming ‘traitors’ if they denounce the move at the border while watching impotently as their nemesis’ fortunes rise amid nationalist hysteria.”

“Ortega’s Google Army,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (11/17/10) Spanish Translation

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

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

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

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4) Thanksgiving and Pilgrimnomics

The Pilgrims’ food shortages ended not when American Indians taught them how to plant corn, but when Plymouth Plantation scrapped communal property rights and began to allow families to keep what they grew for themselves. Governor William Bradford said as much in his 1647 history of the settlers.

“We are direct beneficiaries of the economics lesson the pilgrims learned in 1623,” writes economist Benjamin Powell. “Today we have a much better developed and well-defined set of property rights. Our economic system offers incentives for us—in the form of prices and profits—to coordinate our individual behavior for the mutual benefit of all; even those we may not personally know.”

“It is customary in many families to ‘give thanks to the hands that prepared this feast’ during the Thanksgiving dinner blessing,” Powell continues. “Perhaps we should also be thankful for the millions of other hands that helped get the dinner to the table: the grocer who sold us the turkey, the truck driver who delivered it to the store, and the farmer who raised it all contributed to our Thanksgiving dinner because our economic system rewards them. That's the real lesson of Thanksgiving. The economic incentives provided by private competitive markets where people are left free to make their own choices make bountiful feasts possible.”

“The Pilgrims’ Real Thanksgiving Lesson,” by Benjamin Powell (San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/22/04)

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5) New Blog Posts

From The Beacon:

From MyGovCost Blog:

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