Saturday, July 28, 2007

P.L. 104-191 contains changes in the taxation of U.S. citizens who renounce or otherwise lose U.S. citizenship. In general, any person who lost U.S. citizenship within 10 years immediately preceding the close of the taxable year, whose principle purpose in losing citizenship was to avoid taxation, will be subject to continued taxation. For the purposes of this statute, persons are presumed to have a principle purpose of avoiding taxation if 1) their average annual net income tax for a five year period before the date of loss of citizenship is greater than $100,000, or 2) their net worth on the date of the loss of U.S. nationality is $500,000 or more (subject to cost of living adjustments). The effective date of the law is retroactive to February 6, 1995. Copies of approved Certificates of Loss of Nationality are provided by the Department of State to the Internal Revenue Service pursuant to P.L. 104-191. Questions regarding United States taxation consequences upon loss of U.S. nationality, should be addressed to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Left's "Inequality" Obsession
...In one such study, two-thirds of subjects said that they would be happier at a company where they earned $33,000 while their colleagues earned $30,000 than at one where they earned $35,000 while their colleagues earned $38,000. In another experiment, 56% of participants chose a hypothetical job paying $50,000 per year while everyone else earned $25,000, rather than a job paying $100,000 per year while others made $200,000. ....

Monday, July 16, 2007

War and Leviathan: The Trick that Works Every Time
...The state is the most destructive institution human beings have ever devised—a fire that, at best, can be controlled for only a short time before it o’erleaps its improvised confinements and spreads its flames far and wide. Whatever promotes the growth of the state also weakens the capacity of individuals in civil society to fend off the state’s depredations and therefore augments the public’s multifaceted victimization at the hands of state functionaries. Nothing promotes the growth of the state as much as war. Randolph Bourne’s statement “war is the health of the state” has become a cliché not simply because it is pithy, but above all because it expresses a vitally important truth.

States, by their very nature, are perpetually at war—not always against foreign foes, of course, but always against their own subjects. The state’s most fundamental purpose, the activity without which it cannot even exist, is robbery. The state gains its very sustenance from robbery, which it pretties up ideologically by giving it a different name (taxation) and by striving to sanctify its existential crime as legitimate and socially necessary. State propaganda and long-established routine combine to convince many people that they have a legitimate obligation, even a moral duty to pay taxes to the state that rules their society.

They fall into such erroneous moral reasoning because they are told incessantly that the tribute they fork over is actually a kind of price paid for essential services received, and that in the case of certain services, such as protection from foreign and domestic aggressors against their rights to life, liberty, and property, only the government can provide the service effectively. They are not permitted to test this claim by resorting to competing suppliers of law, order, and security, however, because the government enforces a monopoly over the production and distribution of its alleged “services” and brings violence to bear against would-be competitors. In so doing, it reveals the fraud at the heart of its impudent claims and gives sufficient proof that it is not a genuine protector, but a mere protection racket....

...It is a sound interpretive rule, however, that anything that cannot be accomplished except with the aid of threats or the actual exercise of violence against unoffending persons cannot be beneficial to one and all. The mass belief in the general beneficence of democracy represents a kind of Stockholm syndrome writ large. Yet, no matter how widely this syndrome may extend, it cannot alter the basic fact that owing to the operation of government as we know it―that is, government without genuine, express, individual consent―a minority lives on balance at the expense of the rest, and the rest therefore lose on balance in the process, while the oligarchs (elected or not, it scarcely matters) preside over the enormous organized criminal enterprise we know as the state....

...Similar movements may be seen in the Gallup polls that asked the respondents whether they viewed George W. Bush himself favorably or unfavorably: here, the opinion balance jumped from + 25 percent in August 2001 to + 76 percent in November 2001—a three-fold increase—before beginning a long downward trend and becoming negative after mid-2005....

...Not only did the events of September 11, 2001, cause the American public to look more favorably on the president as a person, as a president, and as the principal architect of U.S. foreign policy, but those events also apparently caused the public to express more trust in the federal government in general in its handling of both international and domestic problems. In the Gallup poll of September 7-10, 2001, 68 percent of the respondents expressed “a great deal” or a “fair amount” of trust and confidence in the government’s handling of international problems, whereas 31 percent expressed “not very much” or “none at all,” which implied an opinion balance of + 37 percent (= 68 – 31). A month later, in the poll conducted during October 11-14, this opinion balance had risen to 67 percent (= 83 – 16), almost doubling. The public’s perversely increased trust in the government had also spilled inexplicably onto its handling of domestic problems, increasing this opinion balance from 22 percent (= 60 – 39) in the early September poll to 56 percent (= 77 – 21) in the October poll.

A final measure of public opinion, “trust in Washington to do what is right,” which is normally a fairly stable indicator, also rose in an unusual way owing to 9/11. In the Gallup poll of July 6-9, 2000, 42 percent of the respondents expressed confidence that the government will do what is right “just about always” or “most of the time,” whereas 58 percent responded “only some of the time” or “never,” which implies an opinion balance of negative 16 percent. When the pollsters next asked this question, in October 5-6, 2001, however, the opinion balance had risen to + 21 percent (= 60 – 39), indicating a complete turnaround toward greater trust than distrust in government....

...Perhaps most important, war has effects on the dominant ideology that work in favor of long-lasting government power and the permanent reduction of public liberties. During wartime, governments take many actions that would be more or less unthinkable in a reasonably free society during peacetime, because people would not tolerate them. Having tolerated them during wartime, however, people may come to regard them not only as permanently tolerable, but even as desirable in peacetime. For example, nearly everything the U.S. government did during the Great Depression had an obvious wartime precedent in the Great War. President Herbert Hoover declared, “We used such emergency powers to win the war; we can use them to fight the depression.” Everything from the Depression-era agricultural price controls, to the industrial cartelization program, the public housing program, the schemes to control oil and coal prices, the tax hikes, and the promotion of labor unionization had a precedent during 1917-18. Obviously, many of these war-inspired public policies became permanent after the 1930s, as, later, did the military-industrial complex created from 1940 to 1945. People can get used to almost anything, especially if it has a plausible justification. War softens up formerly free people and habituates them to government controls and abuses that they would resist except for their alleged wartime necessity. In this way, government war measures change the very character of once-free people, by breaking down their will to be free and their determination to resist tyranny....

...A peaceful state is an impossibility. Even a state that refrains from fighting foreigners goes on fighting its own subjects continuously, to keep them under its control and to suppress competitors who might try to break into the domain of its protection racket. The people cry out for security, yet they will not take responsibility for their own protection, and like the mariners of Greek mythology, they leap overboard immediately in response to the state’s siren song....

Friday, July 13, 2007

Johnny Munkhammar: America delivers better health care than Europe
...Consequently, presidential candidates from both political parties have focused on the U.S. health care system, promising to bring health coverage to the uninsured. Most proposals involve more government, with new systems that are both paid for and run by the state.

But in Europe, we’ve already been down that road. So a word of caution is in order.

In my home of Sweden, for instance, patients in need of heart surgery often wait as long as 25 weeks, and the average wait for hip replacement is more than a year. Some patients have even been sent to veterinarians for treatment, and many Swedes now go to neighboring countries for dental care, despite having paid taxes for “free” dental coverage....

...In Britain, more than 1 million citizens who need medical care are currently waiting for hospital admission, and every year, the National Health Service cancels as many as 100,000 operations because of shortages.

Only about half of all British adults are registered with public dentists, as dental work is notoriously inadequate and roughshod. The reason? The U.K.’s dentists are paid on a per-patient basis, so their incentive is not to offer the best treatment but to treat as many patients as possible. Surgeries, complicated procedures and other time-consuming treatments are a waste of precious billing time, from the economic viewpoint of the dentist.

Meanwhile across Europe, efficiency in health care has plummeted. Whereas private-sector competitors have an incentive to adapt new technologies and reorganize, state-sponsored monopolies have no profit motive driving them to seek greater efficiency. So the taxpayers get less and less for their money.

In 1975, for instance, most Swedish doctors averaged nine consultations per day. Today, that number has plummeted to four. Much of this drop is the result of burdensome administrative tasks, as doctors now devote 80 percent of their time to paperwork. Needless to say, this greatly impacts the availability of care.

Doctors and health care staff across Europe also receive far less in pay than U.S. medical staff, as salaries are paid by the state and therefore used as a tool to cut costs. As a result, the United States attracts the world’s most competent doctors.

Further, European governments ration drugs to cut costs. Between 1998 and 2002, for instance, 85 new drugs were introduced in the U.S. market. Meanwhile, there were only 44 new drug launches in Europe.

In other words, European governments haven’t figured out a way to deliver health care for less money — they’ve simply figured out a way to ration care....

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Declaration of Dependence
...The war, not the New Deal, defeated the Depression. Franklin Roosevelt's success was in altering the practice of American politics.

This transformation was actually assisted by the misguided policies -- including government-created uncertainties that paralyzed investors -- that prolonged the Depression. This seemed to validate the notion that the crisis was permanent, so government must be forever hyperactive....

...Before the 1930s, the adjective "liberal" denoted policies of individualism and individual rights; since Roosevelt, it has primarily pertained to the politics of group interests. So writes Shlaes, a columnist for Bloomberg News, in " The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression." She says Roosevelt's wager was that, by furiously using legislation and regulations to multiply federally favored groups, and by rhetorically pitting those favored by government against the unfavored, he could create a permanent majority coalition.

In the process, says Shlaes, Roosevelt refined his definition of the "forgotten man." This man had been thought of as a general personality, compatible with the assumption that Americans were all in it together. "Now, by defining his forgotten man as the specific groups he would help, the president was in effect forgetting the rest -- creating a new forgotten man. The country was splitting into those who were Roosevelt's favorites and everyone else."

Acting with what Shlaes calls "the restlessness of the invalid," Roosevelt implemented the theory that (in her words) "spending promoted growth, if government was big enough to spend enough." In only 12 months, just one Roosevelt improvisation, the National Recovery Administration, "generated more paper than the entire legislative output of the federal government since 1789."

Before Roosevelt, the federal government was unimpressive relative to the private sector. Under Calvin Coolidge, the last pre-Depression president, its revenue averaged 4 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 18.6 percent today. In 1910, Congress legislated height limits for Washington buildings, limits that prevented skyscrapers, symbols of mighty business, from overshadowing the Capitol, the symbol of government....

...War, as has been said -- and as George W. Bush's assertion of vast presidential powers attests -- is the health of the state. But as Roosevelt demonstrated and Shlaes reminds us, compassion, understood as making the "insecure" securely dependent, also makes the state flourish.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Unholy Alliance
In the opening scene of the 1987 film RoboCop, the megacorporation OCP unveils its newest product: Ed-209. Originally designed for the military, the robot has been modified for “urban pacification.” Its mission is to clean up a Detroit whose streets are “a war zone.”

Before a meeting of executives, the hulking monster demonstrates its crime-fighting abilities. One of the executives is asked to volunteer, so he points a gun at the robot. Rob-209 says: “Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply.” The suit complies. But Rob-209 is on the fritz, it seems, and the countdown continues. At zero, the robot opens fire, tearing open the man’s chest with a torrent of bullets. Oops. “Only a glitch,” someone explains—so much for using a killing machine for police work.

At the recent National Sheriff’s Association convention in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, the triad of military technology, corporate manufacturing and law enforcement symbolized in RoboCop’s Ed-209 was more than just fiction.

Besides six days of seminars on everything from in-custody deaths to character building, the annual gathering of sheriffs also acts as a marketplace for law-enforcement gadgetry. Everything was on offer in the exhibition hall: tracking devices, facial-recognition technology, communication networks, paddy wagons, riot gear, surveillance equipment and guns—lots of guns.

But most conspicuous were the numerous permutations of America’s military machine—all at the disposal of the 6,000-plus sheriffs on hand. For example, Chris Kincaid, a senior consultant with the Department of Defense’s Technology Transfer Program, was present to aid law enforcement agencies with what he calls “technological transfer.” The federal program was set up in 2002 to aid the transfer of technology and equipment from the military to law enforcement. ...

...The convention’s many examples of overlapping military and police techniques concern some civil-rights advocates. Critics of this drift toward paramilitary police forces say that the increased training and equipping of police with military tactics and hardware may have deep and lasting influence on the philosophy and actions of the men and women who uphold the law....

Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature
Human nature is one of those things that everybody talks about but no one can define precisely. Every time we fall in love, fight with our spouse, get upset about the influx of immigrants into our country, or go to church, we are, in part, behaving as a human animal with our own unique evolved nature—human nature.

This means two things. First, our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are produced not only by our individual experiences and environment in our own lifetime but also by what happened to our ancestors millions of years ago. Second, our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are shared, to a large extent, by all men or women, despite seemingly large cultural differences.

Human behavior is a product both of our innate human nature and of our individual experience and environment. In this article, however, we emphasize biological influences on human behavior, because most social scientists explain human behavior as if evolution stops at the neck and as if our behavior is a product almost entirely of environment and socialization. In contrast, evolutionary psychologists see human nature as a collection of psychological adaptations that often operate beneath conscious thinking to solve problems of survival and reproduction by predisposing us to think or feel in certain ways. Our preference for sweets and fats is an evolved psychological mechanism. We do not consciously choose to like sweets and fats; they just taste good to us.

The implications of some of the ideas in this article may seem immoral, contrary to our ideals, or offensive. We state them because they are true, supported by documented scientific evidence. Like it or not, human nature is simply not politically correct.

Excerpted from Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, by Alan S. Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa, to be published by Perigree in September 2007....

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Great Time Talking Faith and Politics
...Tony repeatedly appealled to the paradigm of the prophet going before the King and saying prophetically, "Thus says the Lord..." But this paradigm is rooted in the Old Testament in which both the King and the prophet were under the Israelite covenant. The JOB of the prophet under this covenant was to hold the King (and others) accountable. But America isn't Israel. It makes no more sense in America (or any other country) to proclaim "Thus says the Lord" to the President or Congress than it does to say this to a stranger on the street. Why should they care about what "the Lord" says -- or about what you or I THINK the Lord says? This is why Jesus never challenged Pilate or Caesar, though they were by any standards both very, very bad leaders....

...I suspect the reason many if not most American Christians default to political power is because the Church in America is so far from being this kind of "conscience" that most can't even imagine it. Because of the Church's lack of Christ-like sacrificial power, the only kind of power most Americans see is "power over" others -- that is, political power. So they sadly think the Church needs to acquire as much of this kind of power as possible. As I argued in The Myth of a Christian Nation, the quest for this kind of power has always, and will always, destroy the Church. Our only authority is the Cross, not the Sword. And when we pick up the Sword, we put down the Cross....

'Sicko': Heavily Doctored
...In the case of Canada — which Moore, like many other political activists, holds up as a utopian ideal of benevolent health-care regulation — a very different picture is conveyed by a short 2005 documentary called "Dead Meat," by Stuart Browning and Blaine Greenberg. These two filmmakers talked to a number of Canadians of a kind that Moore's movie would have you believe don't exist:

A 52-year-old woman in Calgary recalls being in severe need of joint-replacement surgery after the cartilage in her knee wore out. She was put on a wait list and wound up waiting 16 months for the surgery. Her pain was so excruciating, she says, that she was prescribed large doses of Oxycontin, and soon became addicted. After finally getting her operation, she was put on another wait list — this time for drug rehab.

A man tells about his mother waiting two years for life-saving cancer surgery — and then twice having her surgical appointments canceled. She was still waiting when she died.

A man in critical need of neck surgery plays a voicemail message from a doctor he'd contacted: "As of today," she says, "it's a two-year wait-list to see me for an initial consultation." Later, when the man and his wife both needed hip-replacement surgery and grew exasperated after spending two years on a waiting list, they finally mortgaged their home and flew to Belgium to have the operations done there, with no more waiting.

Rick Baker, the owner of a Toronto company called Timely Medical Alternatives, specializes in transporting Canadians who don't want to wait for medical care to Buffalo, New York, two hours away, where they won't have to. Baker's business is apparently thriving.

And Dr. Brian Day, now the president of the Canadian Medical Association, muses about the bizarre distortions created by a law that prohibits Canadians from paying for even urgently-needed medical treatments, or from obtaining private health insurance. "It's legal to buy health insurance for your pets," Day says, "but illegal to buy health insurance for yourself." (Even more pointedly, Day was quoted in the Wall Street Journal this week as saying, "This is a country in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.")

Actually, this aspect of the Canadian health-care system is changing. In 2005, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled in favor of a man who had filed suit in Quebec over being kept on an interminable waiting list for treatment. In striking down the government health care monopoly in that province, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said, "Access to a waiting list is not access to health care." Now a similar suit has been filed in Ontario.

What's the problem with government health systems? Moore's movie doesn't ask that question, although it does unintentionally provide an answer. When governments attempt to regulate the balance between a limited supply of health care and an unlimited demand for it they're inevitably forced to ration treatment. This is certainly the situation in Britain. Writing in the Chicago Tribune this week, Helen Evans, a 20-year veteran of the country's National Health Service and now the director of a London-based group called Nurses for Reform, said that nearly 1 million Britons are currently on waiting lists for medical care — and another 200,000 are waiting to get on waiting lists. Evans also says the NHS cancels about 100,000 operations each year because of shortages of various sorts. Last March, the BBC reported on the results of a Healthcare Commission poll of 128,000 NHS workers: two thirds of them said they "would not be happy" to be patients in their own hospitals. James Christopher, the film critic of the Times of London, thinks he knows why. After marveling at Moore's rosy view of the British health care system in "Sicko," Christopher wrote, "What he hasn't done is lie in a corridor all night at the Royal Free [Hospital] watching his severed toe disintegrate in a plastic cup of melted ice. I have." Last month, the Associated Press reported that Gordon Brown — just installed this week as Britain's new prime minister — had promised to inaugurate "sweeping domestic reforms" to, among other things, "improve health care."

Moore's most ardent enthusiasm is reserved for the French health care system, which he portrays as the crowning glory of a Gallic lifestyle far superior to our own. The French! They work only 35 hours a week, by law. They get at least five weeks' vacation every year. Their health care is free, and they can take an unlimited number of sick days. It is here that Moore shoots himself in the foot. He introduces us to a young man who's reached the end of three months of paid sick leave and is asked by his doctor if he's finally ready to return to work. No, not yet, he says. So the doctor gives him another three months of paid leave — and the young man immediately decamps for the South of France, where we see him lounging on the sunny Riviera, chatting up babes and generally enjoying what would be for most people a very expensive vacation. Moore apparently expects us to witness this dumbfounding spectacle and ask why we can't have such a great health care system, too. I think a more common response would be, how can any country afford such economic insanity?

As it turns out, France can't. In 2004, French Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told a government commission, "Our health system has gone mad. Profound reforms are urgent." Agence France-Presse recently reported that the French health-care system is running a deficit of $2.7 billion. And in the French presidential election in May, voters in surprising numbers rejected the Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal, who had promised actually to raise some health benefits, and elected instead the center-right politician Nicolas Sarkozy, who, according to Agence France-Presse again, "plans to move fast to overhaul the economy, with the deficit-ridden health care system a primary target." Possibly Sarkozy should first consult with Michael Moore. After all, the tax-stoked French health care system may be expensive, but at least it's "free." ...