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Volume 8, Issue 36: September 5, 2006

  1. Declawing the Pork Hawks
  2. Escape from Chavez's Prison
  3. How Would President Bush Debate Iran's President?
  4. Who Killed the Newspaper?

1) Declawing the Pork Hawks

Despite Senator John McCain's periodic attacks on Congress's most outrageous defense-pork projects, non-defense spending in the U.S. defense budget has risen from $4.2 billion in 1994 to $9.3 billion in 2006. Worse, Congress's culprits pay for their self-serving profligacy by raiding the Pentagon's Operation and Maintenance budget -- which is supposed to pay for weapons maintenance, training, fuel, and the like -- and then brag to voters in their districts about their ability to bring home the bacon, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow Winslow T. Wheeler.

"Attempting to shame the shameless is an unproductive enterprise," writes Wheeler in a new op-ed. Hence, although promoting transparency in congressional spending is insufficient, passing a few other reforms might help make a dent in defense-budget pork -- assuming that someone in Congress is willing to go beyond McCain's rhetoric and take up the cause of keeping Congress's wasteful spending in check.

According to Wheeler, meaningful reform of congressional pork barreling in the defense budget would include the following: 1) having the Government Accountability Office describe and assess the need for the earmarked items; 2) having the Congressional Budget Office provide an estimate of the item's past, present, and future cost; and 3) having Congress award federal money for earmarked items "only after a nation-wide competition to find the best contractor for it."

"Few, if any, in Congress will like these ideas," Wheeler continues. "They need a stalwart advocate: specifically, a member that would use the parliamentary devices at his or her disposal to frustrate business as usual unless real reforms are adopted."

"Is There a Real 'Pork Buster' in Congress?" by Winslow T. Wheeler (8/23/06)
"¿Existe en el Congreso estadounidense alguien que realmente desee eliminar el 'clientelismo político'?"

Also see, "Congress, the Defense Budget, and Pork: A Snout-to-Tail Description of Congress's Foremost Concern in National Security Legislation," by Winslow T. Wheeler (8/24/06)

Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World, by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)


2) Escape from Chavez's Prison

The dramatic late-night escape of Venezuelan political prisoner Carlos Ortega -- apparently with the help of insiders at the Ramo Verde military prison near Caracas -- suggests that Hugo Chavez's regime isn't as all-powerful as it had seemed. But how this apparent weakness will affect the presidential elections in December remains far from clear, argues Independent Institute Adjunct Fellow Carlos Sabino.

If [the military] decide to support him, as they have until now, Chavez will see a great many of his problems solved," writes Sabino in a new op-ed. "But if some high-ranking officers are working against the regime because they desire change, as Carlos Ortega's escape leads us to believe, it is probable that Chavez will face a truly dangerous situation."

"Because of this," Sabino continues, "Ortega’s flight has set off all kinds of alarms and has created a new situation where it is no longer possible to assure that the military officers will back the Bolivarian caudillo at all times. However, it will take several weeks before we can more fully ascertain the extent of the regime’s problem."

See "Incredible Escape Weakens Chavez’s Government," by Carlos Sabino (8/29/06)

"Increíble fuga debilita al gobierno de Chávez"

El Independent: El Blog del Centro Para la Prosperidad Global de The Independent Institute


3) How Would President Bush Debate Iran's President?

Suppose President George W. Bush accepted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's challenge to debate U.S.-Iran relations. What would they likely say? How would they argue for their positions on such issues as "Islamo-fascism," Hezbollah and international terrorism, Iran's purported nuclear weapons program, the United Nations, and the U.S. presence in the Middle East?

In his latest op-ed, Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, projects what that debate might sound like -- and why, as he writes in his latest column, a debate "might not be as one-sided as most Americans think."

Eland's mock debate, he adds, "in no way suggests that the authoritarian, theocratic regime in Iran is superior to the American republic."

See "What If the U.S. and Iranian Presidents Did Debate?" by Ivan Eland (9/1/06)
"¿Qué tal si los presidentes estadounidense e iraní debatieran?"

THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Center on Peace & Liberty (Ivan Eland, director)


4) Who Killed the Newspaper?

For years the newspaper industry has been suffering from a dwindling readership. Many have tried to fight the tide through financial restructuring and going high-tech, offering their hard-copy content (but not much else) in the hope of luring enough online readers to boost Internet ad revenues -- to little avail. According to Alvaro Vargas Llosa, what newspapers need in order to survive is to thinker bigger by embracing the cultural change that has taken place among the reading public.

In his latest syndicated column, Vargas Llosa notes two successful examples of swimming with the tide. Here's the first: "South Korea's OhmyNews offers an online newspaper written by what it calls the 'citizen reporter,' meaning that anyone can send in news stories," he writes. The thousands of stories submitted are then vetted by a huge editorial staff of 50, and some then get published. Another promising example is customization -- not just via the Internet and portable devices, "but also using digital presses to print thousands of customized editions."

Regardless of how newspapers innovate, it's clear that they must do something different if they are to survive. Concludes Vargas Llosa: "In the old days, they used to call it choice and freedom. Today we call it murder. Nobody killed the newspaper. It's just that information, which used to flow from the top down, is now starting to flow from the bottom up."

"Nobody Killed The Newspaper," by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (9/1/06)
"Nadie mató al periódico"

LIBERTY FOR LATIN AMERICA: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

THE CHE GUEVARA MYTH, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Center on Global Prosperity (Alvaro Vargas Llosa, director)


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