Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ghost in the Graveyard: Is the War on Terror Really Dead?

I can't see his reflection in my flag pin! Jake Tapper, Teddy Davis and Kirit Radia at ABCNews.com think the War on Terror – the phrase at least – might be over. Or not. While there is no apparent continuation of its use since the previous administration, it doesn’t seem to be officially banned either. The sole shred of evidence of its demise is a context-free memo asking an unnamed recipient not to use it. Tapper and his colleagues have either a mako-like acuity for tiny concentrations of blood in the water or else they’re stumbling around in the dark looking for their car keys.

Although in fairness the term deserves to be cut loose to languish in some historical backwater – for it was a McMansion of a phrase: an ugly brick fortress rising up over a garage and swallowing a moderately-terraced entryway, dotted throughout with a hodgepodge of bay windows, turrets, the occasional exposed rafter, a kitchen bar and butcherblock table opening onto a tiki-themed Florida room. It was a meaningless pastiche designed more to frighten and impress the neighbors than to address any single goal. Most egregiously, cloaking the strategic blunder of invading Iraq, its horrible planning, the White House’s inability to adjust to evolving battlefield conditions and the institutionalization of abhorrent practices were given cover of the entirely rational attack upon the Taleban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001.

The War on Terror is not the naming of enemies, like the Franco-Prussian War or the French and Indian War. It does not name a purpose the way The War of Spanish Succession or the War for Independence does – these tell you at least what the war is about. The War on Terror almost reeks of a semantic cover for something much nastier and controversial coming up. Having bought the loyalty of the frightened, The War on Terror told us the government was about to make us watch it beat up a kid and take his candy, otherwise we were out of the club. And we knew as we watched, sick to our stomach, that it was only going to get worse.

As a name, The War on Terror buys into the jingoistic hoopla that comes out of the mouths of fourth-graders building a fort in the backyard. Tapper reminds us of an incident during a Democratic debate in which there was a show of hands asked of candidates who believed there was a Global War on Terror. Was is really only two years ago that legitimate reporters were asking this question? Now it seems that we’re concerned with strategic alignments of tribes in Pakistan’s Baluchistan and how much infrastructure to invest in schools and roads in Afghanistan. The difference? We’re not constricting our thinking in the moral straitjacket of some Tom and Jerry plot, where opponents trade blows with hammer and chainsaw until one is eventually beaten into submission. Free to handle tactical problems as tactical problems, the coalition in Afghanistan can attempt to win the battlefield – which in a guerilla insurgency is always the population – in practical steps rather than bullying our way into the hearts of the Afghan people. The War against The Taliban and al-Qaida is now something to win, rather than amorphous cover for a snakeball of cockeyed global domination projects.

If this is a return to sanity, then, let us make the most of it – you never know how long these things last. Any old alcoholic can wake up shivering on a curb, in his bare feet, covered in his own filth and swear never to end up that way again. It’s the serious ones who find a way to stay on the wagon. We as a nation need to re-establish the checks and balances among the three branches of government. Never again should the executive be allowed to claim sole power and determine that it should oversee itself. This is just as bad an idea in government as it is in the derivatives market.

Finally we should prosecute the people who led us down this road of madness in the first place: those who authorized torture and warrantless wiretapping, who manufactured evidence to lead us to war, who covered their own ineptness with official secrecy, who wilfully flouted the laws of civilized behavior, and who used the Constitution as though it were the Lead Pipe of Freedom, a self-rationalizing cudgel whose bearer could do no wrong. Many of the architects of Bush’s administration admired the Nixon White House’s approach to the world – and if they’re not thoroughly repudiated, they’ll stand as a shining example to the next generation of oversimplifying, paranoid Napoleons waiting to take their turn wrapped in the flag.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When Awful Things Happen to Terrible People

I do not recall joining the TalebanSpring, that heartening season when life returns to the world, brings on a wonderful sense of renewal and restoration of a long-lost balance: migratory birds start arriving home, bugs and flowers peep out of the ground and begin celebrating the warm, moist days – and a Spanish prosecutor contemplates indicting Alberto Gonzales for war crimes.

Gonzales has garnered himself a coveted niche in the annals of American jurisprudence – he rose from a hapless Texas yes-man to then-governor George W. Bush to the yes-man for the Bush administration’s initiatives to keep Afghan prisoners out of the reach of any criminal authority in his stint as legal counsel to the president, and from there ascended to Attorney General, inspiring many Americans to do something they never thought possible: miss the wisdom and sober judgment of John Ashcroft.

Currently Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon is considering an indictment against Gonzales and others in the Bush Justice Department for authorizing torture – a term which elicited, in a White House noted for its disdain for such fancy ideas as ethical relativism, an almost reverential degree of nuance, ambiguity and downright confusion. On January 25, 2002, Gonzales issued a memo calling a long-standing treaty against abuse of detainees “
obsolete,” while in its defense the Bush administration adamantly declared, “We do not torture.” As though, possibly, the legal opinion that the Geneva Conventions were outmoded was really only a commentary on their oh-so-1950s typeface.

Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, another cautious and deliberate figure when it came to matters of law, issued a memo the very next day that Afghan detainees would receive protection only "
to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity." While there is no evidence that Rumsfeld also issued thumbscrews and fireplace pokers to relevant combat units, this was probably an oversight on his part, as he was extremely busy underequipping and underplanning the subsequent invasion of Iraq because of the urgent fear that Saddam Hussein might commit more human rights abuses.

Subsequent investigation has shown a direct link between Gonzales’ authorization of policies that go beyond limitations of US law to cases of torture and abuse that riddled the military for years afterwards, from the waterboarding of high-value detainees to the torture of prisoners held without charge at Guantanamo Bay to the beating to death of a
cabbie in Bagram in US custody to the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

You might think that after creating such a memorable legacy, your average sadist would rest on his laurels (i.e. the skulls of little children) and spend some time congratulating himself on the vast swath of unspeakable horror he’s managed to exsanguinate onto the Constitution. But that would be to misunderestimate Gonzales. It was he, after all, in his previous capacity as legal counsel to then-Governor Bush, who had formulated a memo summarizing the clemency petition of death row inmate
Terry Washington – a memo so cursorily penned that it barely mentioned the mitigating factors in Washington’s case – among them that the mentally-retarded 33-year-old had the developmental abilities of a seven-year-old and that he and his siblings had been frequently “beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts.” Bush denied Washington’s petition on May 6, 1997 and he was executed that same day.

If anything could further exacerbate Gonzales’ fetishizing of human suffering and his Rumsfeldian inattention to obvious facts (besides a passion for
clown paintings and a large crawl space, that is), it was his ambition to play out his medieval sense of right and wrong on a larger stage – as Attorney General or even as a justice of the Supreme Court. Fortunately Gonzales’ own ineptness, partisanship and downright stupidity kept him from that particular appointment – instead, after a scandal involving the firing of US Attorneys and his subsequent Congressional testimony that displayed equal parts ignorance, corruption and condescension, Gonzales announced his resignation on August 27, 2007, and has since spent his time puzzling over his inability to land a job.

In spite of Gonzales’ horrific performance as Attorney General, equal to the legacies left by previous Republicans such as John Mitchell and Ed Meese, it’s Gonzales’ sycophantically eager authorization of torture and other war crimes that did to American justice what a bus driver with macular degeneration and the DTs might do to a schoolyard full of children and puppies. His conduct has rightfully earned the attention of Judge Garzon – if not, alas, that of serious legal authorities in this country. And while his ambitions to the highest court in the land were thwarted, there is still hope that some sort of international tribunal can find him the lifetime appointment that would cap off his brilliant career.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cotton Candy for the Republican Soul

When someone turns that blue, well it's a universal truth...
Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said, “It is better to be thought of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Now, however, Republicans (i.e. the Party with the Same Name as the Party of Lincoln) have decided that since their credibility is already in a hole, they may as well keep digging in the hopes that they strike oil.

What they’ve emerged with, though not any kind of Texas tea, is certainly a viscous, smelly mess that nobody wants to touch. Behold – The Republican Road to Recovery. The most obvious fact about this document is that, were it ever to be a bill on the House or Senate floor, there would be absolutely no excuse for not reading the entire thing. It’s a massive 19 pages from beginning to end – but you can leave out the front and back pages, which, though some very pretty shades of blue, are devoid of any substance.

Not that you should only read the substantial pages – that would leave you with nothing but a few connected circles you might want to color or doodle in. Essentially the entire plan promises to cut taxes, cut the deficit, create jobs, increase access to health care and limit lawsuits. Sound familiar? It’s as though someone dug around in Ronald Reagan’s old campaign closet, took out all the “evil empire” references and updated the years, and the result was this candied, empty-calorie glop. It’s like Captain Queeg trying to relive his glory days tracking down the quart of strawberries.

Of course there’s nothing preventing the Republicans from coming up with any actual ideas – nevertheless, they insist on sticking to tax cuts (which they call, cleverly, “cutting taxes and creating jobs” because, you know, the two go hand-in-hand) and reducing spending. Granted, no Republican has reduced government spending in decades, but this doesn’t prevent them from advocating it with an endearing tenacity. They are content to stick to a good, morally sound idea despite its untenability – just as the Wright brothers decided to forego learning about aerodynamics but instead kept glueing feathers to their arms and jumping off cliffs until only Orville and Wilbur were left and they had saved up enough insurance money to afford that wind tunnel.

Unfortunately a wave of pity has overtaken me and I can’t help but offer these poor bastards some ideas. Not because I feel any empathy for Republicans – but just in case they manage to purchase another election, they might be armed afterwards with something other than their neolithic talismans and hoary shibboleths to confront the real problems that might be lying in wait tomorrow. What they do with these suggestions is up to them.

Sell Encyclopedias
I was going to start off with actual education, but it’s probably an acquired taste, and it seems a bit much to force the party that believes the current economic downturn is somehow Adam and Eve’s fault to jump in to the fact-based world headfirst. So maybe putting some Republicans next to some actual facts would be a good start. I went this route myself for a little while after college, and while I never made any money at it, I did learn that the poinsettia was named after the first US ambassador to Mexico. Laugh if you want to, but I’ll bet that’s how Einstein got started.

Have a Car Wash
Now who doesn’t love to stop at an intersection and look up from fiddling with the radio to see a bunch of earnest young people waving car wash signs at them? It hearkens back to everything that makes America great – warm summer days on hot asphalt, making almost no money, chasing the girls with the hose until the big redheaded chick locks you in the trunk, and the violation of countless child labor and safety laws. If that doesn’t get this country back on its feet, at least it’ll give the parents an afternoon to get loaded without having the kids around demanding to be fed.

Export Something
One of the best ways of making money for your country is making something that other countries need but don’t have. Unfortunately, the only thing Republicans have been good at exporting lately are credit-default swaps, and the bloom seems to be off that rose for now. The only other two exports the party is good at are missionaries and “America – love it or leave it” themed country songs. The first tend to get eaten, and the second, like many fine wines, don’t travel well. It’s too bad there isn’t a country out there that’s in dire need of education and frequent car washes that Republicans have been longing to improve anyway. Oh, wait – problem solved.

Friday, March 20, 2009

When Is a Campaign Contribution Not a Campaign Contribution? When It’s a Bonus.

It’s fun to watch the birth of a meme. I don’t know if it began with this essay by Dan Spencer at examiner.com, but his was one of the earlier ones, at least. Spencer has checked out OpenSecrets.org, a collection of campaign data including breakdowns of the 2008 presidential race, and announced this gleaned fact:

Senator Barack Obama received a $101,332 bonus from American International Group in the form of political contributions according to Opensecrets.org. The two biggest Congressional recipients of bonuses from the A.I.G. are - Senators Chris Dodd and Senator Barack Obama.

He then goes on to call these contributions “bonuses” and wonders if, given Obama’s outrage at bonuses for AIG executives, he’ll be returning his own bonus.

The issue has since ben raised elsewhere, and even ABC News ran a similar story in its Politics section that, in some feint at balance, also mentioned how much Senator John McCain got in AIG contributions before turning back to Obama. Mysteriously, the ABC story didn’t bother to link directly to its sources, or even provide a link to OpenSecrets.org, the Center for Responsive Politics’ site that seems to be the original source of this information.

Which is odd, because it doesn’t take long before this scandalous little fact turns out to be a fairly thin slice of the big picture. And after a little poking around OpenSecrets.org, the thin slice apears to get almost transparent.

First of all, you can only search their database by donor or by donor’s employer. For what little effort I’ve put into it, there doesn’t seem to be a way to differentiate between donations from individuals who happened to be employed by AIG and donations resulting from a corporate effort by AIG or its subsidiaries. To the contrary, OpenSecrets makes clear that is does not have any data that would distinguish one type of giving from the other. In truth, neither Spencer nor anyone who has repeated his story has any way of knowing how much of that $101,322 was from any direct effort by AIG to influence an Obama administration’s treatment of it.

But there are other, more detailed slices of this pie that Spencer doesn’t care to mention. While searching by supporter’s employer doesn’t seem to clearly state whether a set of contributions came from a party representing a specific interest, OpenSecrets has another category that might: Bundlers. They are, apparently, “people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and, well, anyone who's willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big "bundle."

So Bundlers might be even more indicative of who was getting contributions from interest groups than Employer turned out to be. Because clearly if I was going to seek out money for my candidate, I’d seek it from people who held views in common with mine. They might be creditors of the same company or on the same board of directors – nevertheless, they would probably have more in common, as a group, than would people with the same employer.

And guess what: when we look at campaign contributions by bundlers, Barack Obama raised $63,200,000 of his $745,000,000 total – or less than ten percent – from bundlers. John McCain, on the other hand, raised $207,200,000 out of a total of $368,000,000, or fifty-six percent, of his campaign contributions from bundlers. When John McCain outraised Barack Obama from special interests by a ratio of six to one, it makes it appear that the $101,332 from AIG employees is a fig leaf hacked out by the Republicans because they simply have nothing else to use to stall President Obama’s legislative agenda.

I’m frankly not surprised that Mr. Spencer’s allegations turn out to be nothing more than a narrow interpretation through a particular statistical prism. Beginning with Joe McCarthy’s lists of known communists in the US government and culminating in their current redefinition of socialism as a tax rate 30 percentage points below the one they just approved, House Republicans have often chosen a strategy of slander over rigorous analysis as a measure of success. This latest episode is just more evidence that they are wise to do so.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kill the Patient, Reward the Disease

So President Obama, confronted with the actual sordid behavior of those who pretend to live by the free market, is now going to try to reverse the $165 million in bonuses that AIG managed to pay its worst employees as the country was bailing it out to the tune of $170 billion.

The ironies inherent in this whole fiasco are, of course, delicious – or they would be, if the slathering greed of the principles involved hadn’t cost millions of people their
mortgages, jobs and life savings. First, every time there’s a booming market we’re subject to endless paeans to the corporate executive, the stock trader and others who allegedly risk losing everything at the hands of the mighty economy so that they might stand a chance of winning the world.

The truth, however, seems to be a little more complicated – the everything they risk isn’t usually theirs, and if and when they do fail, they go running to Uncle Sugar (whether that’s investors, other corporations or – as a last resort – the government) crying about how they got a boo-boo and need a billion dollars or so. Then – humbled by said experience – they pack themselves off to a
spa in Arizona and sit by the pool congratulating themselves for a week. Or they keep giving themselves fat bonuses. After all, a derivatives trader can’t be denied the hookers and blow to which he’s become accustomed, can he?

Even more egregious is
who’s getting the bonuses:

The bonuses will be paid to executives at A.I.G.’s financial products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed in many cases by subprime mortgages.
In other words, they’re going to the same bunch of commission-happy yahoos whose recklessness brought AIG to its knees in the first place. Oh, and they’re retention bonuses – because you don’t want bright minds like these getting snapped up by the competition. Or maybe becoming more willing to talk to the SEC, for that matter.

Unfortunately the Treasury’s hands might be tied on this one – apparently AIG is contractually obligated to make the payouts and they were already agreed to by the previous administration (who shall remain

Still, is it too much to hope that some lawyer somewhere can come up with a good justification for not giving more money to people who already proved themselves incapable of handling it carefully? Hell, it would be better spent retaining the services of the thousands of mail clerks, secretaries and other drones who make any organization function and who not only suffer low pay and parsimonious benefits, but also have to show deference to the yellow-tied assholes who have been the reason for so many secondhand toys this Christmas. Especially if, as in the case of AIG’s financial products division, they’re probably still strutting about like Napoleon on St. Helena, demanding to be addressed as "your majesty" and complaining about the food.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

World's Smallest Whale Shark Caught by World's Largest Dwarf

On the southern tip of Luzon island in the Philippines, an ecotourism trade is steadily growing -- participants swim with whale sharks, who congregate there from December through May.

Recently the WWF documented the inadvertent capture by fishermen of a whale shark, and as the officials raced to investigate and free the animal, they got
quite a surprise:

They expected to see a giant animal helplessly stuck, its tall dorsal fin and tail sticking out of the water. But there was nothing there. All they saw was a stick, stuck in sand, with a small rope leading away from it, into the water. Elson walked up to the stick and was amazed to find the smallest whale shark he had ever seen – a mere 15 inches long!

This part of the Philippine archipelago is apparently a hatchery for whale sharks as well as a congregation point -- something that nobody had known for certain until this pup was discovered. Although whale sharks -- or butanding, as they're called in the Philippines -- are the world's largest extant fish, they're not well understood. It's still not known, in fact, whether whale sharks incubate their eggs inside their bodies or are free-floating.

As much as people get aesthetic pleasure and unique experiences out of ecotourism, it's cool to see that its controlled expansion into new areas can also add to our knowledge of biological life. Who knows but that a few years earlier, a specimen like this tiny whale shark pup would have ended up not in the ocean, but in a much less hospitable environment.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Excommunication Breakdown

Who will eat and who gets eaten?
Too often in America we see faith portrayed as an unmitigated virtue, a means of making us good people even though our understanding of what makes up that goodness only reaches about the third grade level. Christians accept Jesus’ assertion of “love thy god with all thy heart and love thy neighbor as thyself” is the basis for all of the law, although this makes little sense alongside some of the more bizarre proscriptions in Deuteronomy or the salacious rantings of Saul of Tarsus. Ultimately a morality based solely on circular reasoning and argument from authority, as most faith-based moralities are, leads at best to confusion and opportunism. At worst, faith manages to take the misery of the human condition and use it as an excuse to inflict even more pain and suffering.

Such is the case with a nine-year-old girl in Brazil who was repeatedly raped by her stepfather for years. Recently, on a doctor’s visit after complaining of stomach pains, it was discovered that she was four months pregnant. With twins. She was given an abortion because even under Brazil’s restrictive abortion law, which allows the procedure only in cases of rape or danger to the mother, the girl met both conditions.

The laws were applied and the girl was given an abortion while her abusive stepfather – who is also suspected of molesting the victim’s physically-handicapped older sister – was arrested as he was trying to flee town. And then, from the 14th century, the Catholic Church weighed in and excommunicated the girl’s mother and doctors:

Now a Church spokesman says all those involved, including the child's mother and the doctors, are to be excommunicated.
The Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, told Brazil's TV Globo that the law of God was above any human law.
He said the excommunication would not apply to the child because of her age, but would affect all those who ensured the abortion was carried out.

In the ensuing row, Brazil’s President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, also a Catholic, disagreed: “In this case, medicine is more right than the church,” he said. While the qualifying “in this case” seems pretty superfluous – in what instance has faith shown to be better than science at finding anything out? – Lula’s sentiment is reasonable if not painfully obvious. The Vatican, however, has backed up Archbishop Sobrinho. The cardinal in charge of Latin American bishops, Giovanni Battista Re, justified the decision on the grounds that the fetuses were innocent and had a right to live. Even if a nine-year-old girl suffered and died as a consequence. And even if her twins ended up dying as well.

And as a final illustrative outrage comes the complete silence on the church about the responsibility of the girl’s rapist stepfather. While it’s obvious to the archbishop and cardinal – and their brethren with a long institutional history of enabling and covering up pedophilia – that any Catholic performing an abortion deserves excommunication, the pedophile father who put a minor, her mother, and several doctors in this situation seems to have escaped the church’s attention entirely.

It’s certainly true that human laws can be draconian and outrageous. But at least human laws have in them an inherent basis for change. An informed electorate can overturn them; judges can overrule them; even in a dictatorship, another arbitrary leader can come along and negate them. Not so with the Catholic Church and, to extrapolate, all other societies where morality and law are identical and morality is handed down by revelation from an uncontactable being that won’t explain itself.

Think about that the next time some religious fundamentalist argues that the United States is a Christian nation and that the Constitution ought to be brought in line with the Bible. The Enlightenment Humanism on which our Constitution is based is vastly more compassionate, reasonable, and egalitarian than a concept of morals that deems itself “above any human law.”

Update: Archbishop Sobrinho actually did think about the father -- and concluded that his crime was less serious than getting an abortion: "'It is clear that he committed a very serious sin, but worse than this is the abortion,' Sobrinho said." How such barbarians have any claim to morality is one of religion's great mysteries.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

President Obama Announces Website For Holdout Opponents

On the same day that President Barack Obama announced a new logo to highlight the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, our most internet-savvy president also announced the launch of a website dedicated to “those who have yet to realize that the tide has changed.” The website, known as IWonBitches.gov, is intended, according to Mr. Obama, “to reach out to those lost souls who are like that last Japanese soldier hiding in the Philippine jungle until the 1970s because he didn’t believe the war was over.”

In a speech today at the US Department of Transportation, Obama implored those opposed to his economic stimulus package, his foreign policy and other aspects of the platform he ran and was elected on to peruse the new website.

“Before you write your congressperson – or if you are a congressperson,” said the president before an enthusiastic crowd, “before you let some AM radio loudmouth whip you into a frenzy about us talking to the Iranians, check out IWonBitches.gov. It has a helpful page called There’s Nothing Stupider than Threatening to Beat Everybody into Submission Unless They Do What You Say. It explains, in terms even Ann Coulter can understand, that if you thought Iraq was easy – well, the rest of the world is a lot bigger, and so we’d better find a less expensive way of getting other countries to cooperate. I’m not sure this has gotten through to some people.

“And,” he continued, “If you’ve been told that my new budget proposal is a conspiracy to expand the size of government, you can go to IWonBitches.gov and click on the page called Private Industry Just Lost Three Million Jobs So Somebody Better Start Hiring People. It’s full of information on how maybe having millions of poor and unemployed people running out of money to pay for food and shelter might not be such a good idea.

“Opposed to gay marriage, or don’t-ask-don’t-tell? Click on IWonBitches.gov. There’s a page you can go to called Maybe That Gay Friend, Relative or Neighbor Won’t Secretly Hate You Anymore If They Have the Same Rights as You Do.

“Worried that some bureaucrat is going to dictate what kind of healthcare options are available to you? On IWonBitches.gov there’s a link to a very useful section entitled Some Bureaucrat Already Decides What Kind of Healthcare Options You Get and If You Don’t Believe That Try Getting an Expensive Disease – But Only If You Already Have Healthcare To Begin With, Because Otherwise You’re Just Going to Die. It describes, point-by-point, the advantages of not letting some people leave their tuberculosis untreated.

“In conclusion,” said the president, “IWonBitches.gov is an essential site for anyone who is still afraid that a government that actually does things that help you is somehow going to destroy America. With sections ranging from If Abstinence Education Really Works Then Why Is My Virgin Daughter Pregnant? to such interesting reading as If Letting the Finance Industry Regulate Itself Was Such a Good Idea Then the Collapse of Every Major Investment Bank in the Country is Obviously a Statistical Fluke, IWonBitches.gov is an invaluable resource for everyone who still doesn’t understand why the direction this country is going now is such a deep departure from eight years of unmitigated calamitous failure.

“And for those of you who feel that, after reading about all the reasons we’re doing things on IWonBitches.gov, you would still rather go back to the way things were, there is final section that you will find particularly appealing. Just click on the link at the main page that takes you to If You Really, Really Must Live in a Country with a Limited Government, Where Nobody Whines about Their Civil Rights, Where You Can Own All the Guns You Want, Drive the Biggest Hummer You Can Find, Start Any Business You Can Dream of and Nobody Taxes Your Hard-Earned Profits, Then Have a Great Time in Somalia.”