Monthly Archives: May 2007

Despots Say the Darndest Things

While most of us learn from the words of those who we admire, it is also possible to learn from those we detest. Here is a collection of quotes from some of the vilest despots in human history. From these quotes, perhaps we can gain some insights from their thought processes. You may also find the words of some of these despots eerily similar to those of some who are running for president or seeking other high office. Others seem to expose the motives behind those who seek to regulate the media, guns, education, and etc. I encourage anyone who reads this post to respond with a quote from an American politician whose quote has a similar meaning of those here (or exposes their motives).

Education/Indoctrination

“Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”
Vladimir Lenin

“Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”
Joseph Stalin

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”
Adolf Hitler

“The universities are available only to those who share my revolutionary beliefs.”
Fidel Castro

Censorship

“Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t allow our enemies to have guns, why should we allow them to have ideas?”
Joseph Stalin

“When one makes a Revolution, one cannot mark time; one must always go forward – or go back. He who now talks about the “freedom of the press” goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism.”
Vladimir Lenin

Propaganda

“By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.”
Adolf Hitler

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
Vladimir Lenin

Political Strategy

“There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.”
Vladimir Lenin

“How fortunate for leaders that men do not think.”
Adolf Hitler

“Democracy is the road to socialism.”
Karl Marx

“Democracy is indispensable to socialism.”
Vladimir Lenin

Individualism vs. Collectivism

“The day of individual happiness has passed.”
Adolf Hitler

“All our lives we fought against exalting the individual, against the elevation of the single person, and long ago we were over and done with the business of a hero, and here it comes up again: the glorification of one personality. This is not good at all. I am just like everybody else.”
Vladimir Lenin

Guns

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Mao Tse-Tung

“We don’t let them have ideas. Why would we let them have guns?”
Joseph Stalin

“One man with a gun can control 100 without one.”
Vladimir Lenin

“The only real power comes out of a long rifle.”
Joseph Stalin

Life, Liberty, and Property

“I think that a man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened.”
Fidel Castro

“It is true that liberty is precious – so precious that it must be rationed.”
Vladimir Lenin

“We must confront the privileged elite who have destroyed a large part of the world.”
Hugo Chavez

Civil unions granted in New Hampshire

The Governor of New Hampshire has signed a bill granting civil unions to gay and lesbian couples into law:

Gay couples in New Hampshire will able to join in civil unions starting next year under a bill Gov. John Lynch signed into law Thursday.

“We in New Hampshire have had a long and proud tradition taking the lead and opposing discrimination,” Lynch said. “Today that tradition continues.”

Couples entering civil unions will have the same rights, responsibilities and obligations as married couples. Same-sex unions from other states also would be recognized if they were legal in the state where they were performed.

Several Northeastern states already offer civil unions.

Massachusetts alone among the U.S. states allows gay marriage. Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, Maine, as well as California and Washington allow either civil unions or domestic partnerships, and Oregon will join the list with New Hampshire in January. Hawaii extends certain spousal rights to same-sex couples and cohabiting heterosexual pairs.

I prefer to refer to it as extending equal protection under the law or recognizing the individual’s right to contract (a negative liberty). Really government should not take preference towards any group, whether they are married or gay, black or white. It is a matter of individual liberty.

Many people, specifically the younger generation, are becoming more socially tolerant on matters like this. The harm principle argument is becoming relevant again, to some extent at least. A crusade against gays is not a national platform to win elections. It is at best a temporary, meaningless political issue to cater to Pat Robertson and James Dobson as a mean to drive…dare I say it…”Christianists” (those who have turned their religious beliefs into a political philosophy) to the polls.

Religious Zealot Fails To Remove Harry Potter From Schools

In Georgia, a holier than thou Christian by the name of Laura Malloy has tried, and failed, for the 5th time to remove Harry Potter from Gwinnett County government school library shelves. Malloy says the books cause children to embrace witchcraft:

A judge gave Laura Mallory 64 minutes Tuesday to argue why the Harry Potter books should be removed from school library shelves.

She didn’t convince him.

Superior Court Judge Ronnie Batchelor instead upheld a decision by the Gwinnett County public schools to reject Mallory’s request and keep the popular J.K. Rowling series in school libraries.

The hearing Tuesday marked the fifth defeat for the Loganville woman, who has children in the Gwinnett schools and who launched her anti-Potter crusade in 2005.

Mallory said she is considering filing “a brand-new case” in federal court and hiring a lawyer to represent her.

“One day, the truth about this is going to come out,” she said.

School system spokeswoman Sloan Roach said the Gwinnett school board is prepared for that possibility. “Obviously, we hope this is the end of it,” Roach said.

As for the argument that the Harry Potter books have gotten children interested in reading:

Supporters of Rowling’s books say the popular stories about boy wizard Potter encourage children to read. Mallory responded that wasn’t sufficient reason to allow the books to remain in school libraries. “I’m sure there are teenagers who read pornography, but that doesn’t make it right,” she said.

So Harry Potter is now equal to Playboy or Hustler…I’m not seeing the similarities.

Why does Ms. (since I know this probably irritates her) Mallory hate Harry Potter so much:

Mallory restated many of her previous complaints about the Harry Potter series. She argued the books lure children into practicing witchcraft. Mallory said the school board’s decision to offer the books in taxpayer-funded libraries violates the U.S. Constitution because, she claims, they promote the Wiccan religion. Mallory also argued the books are too violent for children.

Mallory has acknowledged that she hasn’t read any of the Harry Potter books in their entirety, but Tuesday she recited excerpts of at least three of the books to illustrate her points.

Mallory, sometimes breaking into tears, read testimony from a teenager who said reading the books led her to contemplate suicide. Quoting a counselor who testified at a previous hearing, Mallory said the Potter movies and books led one boy into high-risk behaviors, such as dangerous motorcycle stunts and bungee jumping.

So is Mallory bring this case because she’s a type that believes in separate church and state? Not quite:

“I have a dream that God will be welcomed back into our schools,” Mallory said.

So she wants to get rid of a book series that she alleges (with little merit if she knew anything about the Wiccan sect) promotes a religion in order to get her religious viewpoints in the government schools. What does the Bible say about hypocrites again?

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

I Got Your Ron Paul Surge Right Here!

This is the best news I’ve seen in a long time. In a comment to Doug’s post about Presidential candidates, Steve Dasbach brought up a site called gambling911.com, which has been laying odds on Ron Paul and has continuously lowered his odds, meaning there’s enough action behind him that people think he’s got a shot. He’s down to 15:1 (which isn’t bad in a 10-man field where he’s not one of the big 3).

But I’m not necessarily ready to trust gambling911, a site I’d not heard of before today. So I decided to check out intrade.com, a prediction market. A few weeks ago, Ron Paul was trading at a 0.7 share, which is miniscule. I started watching as we headed through the debates, and didn’t notice any change. But after seeing Steve’s comment, I checked it out today.

Ron Paul’s trading at 1.8-1.9ish right now. Again, that number isn’t that high, but that number is high enough to be 5th of the 10-man field (of declared candidates). And he’s trending up.

You wanted a Ron Paul surge? Well, one is starting. I personally think he’s far enough outside the mainstream he won’t get the nomination, but the added publicity will do wonders for changing the nature of the debate, and just might mean the end of Rudy, which is nice. Considering I’m planning on voting for Ron Paul, I’m happy to see it, too.

Why The Market Economy Works

John Stossel, who very well may be the best advocate for free markets since Adam Smith, has a great column at RealClearPolitics explaining just why the free market may be the greatest invention in human history:

How many times have you paid $1 for a cup of coffee and after the clerk said, “thank you,” you responded, “thank you“? There’s a wealth of economics wisdom in the weird double thank-you moment. Why does it happen? Because you want the coffee more than the buck, and the store wants the buck more than the coffee. Both of you win.

Economists have long understood that two people trade because each wants what the other has more than what he already has. In their respective eyes, the things traded are unequal in value. But this means each comes out ahead, having given up something he wants less for something he wants more. It’s just not true that one gains and the other loses. If that were the case, the loser wouldn’t have traded. It’s win-win, or as economists would say, positive-sum.

We experience this every time we have that double thank-you moment in a store or restaurant.

And the reason we experience moments like that is because of the simple fact that in a free market each side benefits from a transaction. You have something I want. I offer you a price and, after a little negotiation, you accept. And you give that something to me.

I don’t force you to buy what I’m selling. And you don’t use some outside authority (the government) to dictate to me the terms on which I have to sell it to you.

It’s worked for hundreds of years and, outside of the regulatory state, it works the same way on an everyday basis. If you happen to be lucky enough to live in an area where farmer’s markets are a common occurrence, you know what I mean. The posted price for produce is just the starting point most of the time. Depending on the time of day and the season, you can usually negotiate a much better deal.

And that’s what the free market is all about. Yes, it doesn’t work like a farmer’s market all the time. You can’t go into Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn and negotiate the price of a high-end piece of furniture, but, then again, you don’t have to buy your furniture at a high-end store to begin with.

What matters is that you have a choice.

WHO Calls For World-Wide Nanny State

It’s days like today that I’m glad the UN has very little real power.

WHO urges smoking ban in public places

The U.N. health agency on Tuesday issued its strongest policy recommendations yet for controlling tobacco use, urging all countries to ban smoking at indoor workplaces and in public buildings.

“The evidence is clear. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization.

There’s no level of safe exposure to the UN, either. Every chance they get, they’re scrambling for more and more power over my life. I can choose whether or not to patronize a smoky establishment. Sometimes that might be a dangerous choice. I can also choose to ignore the government’s edicts. That may be another dangerous choice, as they’re more than willing to use jail cells and firearms to make sure I follow their rules. At least with smoking, I can choose to exclude cigarettes from my life. RJ Reynold’s doesn’t have policemen to come after me if I don’t buy their product.

“This is not about shaming the smoker. This is not even about banning smoking,” said Dr. Armando Peruga, who heads WHO’s anti-tobacco campaign. “This is about society taking decisions about where to smoke and where not to smoke.”

He cited Ireland and Uruguay as governments that have successfully tackled smoking by creating and enforcing smoke-free environments. Legislation of the kind has proved popular among both smokers and nonsmokers, according to WHO, whose policy recommendations set broad goals for its 193 member states but are not legally binding.

This is about society democratically trampling the private property rights of individuals. It may be popular, but that doesn’t necessarily make it legitimate. It’s not “society’s” role to make these decisions, it is the private property owner’s role to determine what is allowed on his land.

There is a threat in giving the UN power. They want to be a world government. But when a world government is wrong, we all suffer and there is no escape. Given the tendency for government of any kind to be wrong, and the further tendency for the UN to be flagrantly wrong, I really don’t want to see that day come. These recommendations aren’t legally binding, but believe me when I say that they hope to have that power one day.

Checking Out The Field

Reason’s June issue has an article looking over the major and minor contenders for the White House in 2008. And it’s not a pretty picture:

If the 2008 presidential election is a baseball season, we’re still in that early, delusional phase when even Tampa Bay Devil Rays fans can dream of a World Series ring. The race for the White House is chock full of hopeless players destined to be sent down to the minors before mid-season—and full of superstars who will unexpectedly bust a knee long before the All-Star break and spend the rest of the season muttering in the showers. At a time when candidates have already raised record amounts of money, the polls show tight bunching among upper-division candidates, and the Middle East shudders under daily car bomb attacks, it isn’t at all clear who will win the Democratic and Republican nominations, much less the general election in 2008.

Like another cellar-dwelling season for the Devil Rays, only this much is certain: Whoever comes out on top will give libertarians plenty of reasons to complain. Whether or not most Americans reflexively embrace “Free Minds and Free Markets,” various polls and analyses suggest that between 10 percent and 15 percent of voters reliably try to cast their ballots for candidates who are both fiscally conservative and socially liberal. In an era in which presidential elections are routinely decided by percentages smaller than the rounding errors in Barry Bonds’ monthly BALCO delivery bill, that creates a serious opening for candidates who recognize that being, say, both pro-gun and pro-gay might just grab more votes than trying to squeeze one more win out of the worn-out liberal and conservative playbooks.

Unfortunately, as the article poinits out, even some of the people that libertarians might have high hopes for come up wanting.

Take, for example, Bill Richardson:

Pros: The only governor in the Democratic race is also one of the country’s most fiscally tightfisted executives. Richardson cut New Mexico’s income tax from 8.2 percent to 4.9 percent, halved the capital gains tax, and eliminated the gross receipts tax. He frequently and explicitly draws a link between lower taxes and economic growth, something rare in a national Democratic politician. He not only supports the right to carry a concealed weapon but holds a concealed-carry permit himself. He sometimes skirts close to libertarianism on other issues, endorsing charter schools (but not vouchers) and medical marijuana (but not decriminalization).

Cons: Richardson has signed a smoking ban and is warming to the idea of a drug offender registry. There’s also the lingering issue of his behavior during the espionage investigation of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, when he may have leaked damaging information about Lee, using his power as a cabinet secretary to try an innocent man in the press.

Bottom Line: Of all the Democratic candidates, Richardson would be most likely to cut taxes. And after Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), he’s the most open to reforming drug laws. If the party really wants to make a play for the “libertarian West,” it’ll nominate Richardson.

All in all, not bad for a Democrat. Unfortunately in order to get the nomination he would have to pander to the unions and special interest groups that make up the core of the Democratic Party. By the time it was over, a Richardson Administration probably wouldn’t amount to anything that would thrill libertarians that much.

But what, you might ask, about those guys who haven’t even announced their running yet ?

Like Newt Gingrich:

Pros: It’s a cliché now, but Speaker Gingrich revolutionized Washington, marshalling budget cuts, welfare reform, and still-extant congressional reforms through the House. Since leaving Congress he has been a frequent critic of the floundering, big-spending GOP majority (RIP).

Cons: Gingrich’s record in the House doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. His first term included some substantial successes, but he soon morphed into one of George Orwell’s Animal Farm swine. He frustrated GOP budget cutters by appeasing the party’s biggest earmarkers, preparing the ground for the corruption that would eventually bring down the Republican Revolution. What’s more, if he gets in the race, Gingrich would become the election’s biggest hawk. He considers America’s greatest challenge to be the “transformational war” against the “Irreconcilable Wing of Islam,” which he has dubbed “World War III.” And he has a closet packed with skeletons. If the Republicans nominate Gingrich, a Democratic victory, possibly a landslide, is highly likely.

Bottom Line: Gingrich is more interested in big ideas and multipoint plans than a coherent philosophy for government.

The highlighted sentence is my work and is, in the end, the reason I think that Gingrich would not make it through the Republican primaries intact. There are some people in the GOP who take things like cheating on your wife and serving her divorce papers while she’s sick in a hospital bed with cancer seriously. And even if you don’t, it’s just a little sleazy.

Okay, then how about Fred Thomspon ?

Pros: Watergate-era Thompson was a dogged investigator of a corrupt White House. Sen. Thompson was a term limits true believer who voted for tax cuts and passed a bill reforming Congress’s labor laws, making legislators follow the same rules private companies have to obey.

Cons: If you go by his second-most-prominent media appearances these days—filling in for Paul Harvey’s folksy radio commentary—Thompson’s worldview is a combination of tough-guy thuggishness and “bomb the bastards” foreign policy. He has taken Gandhi to the woodshed and is a big fan of that musty applause line, “It is the soldier, not the journalist, who has given us freedom of speech.” He has praised President Bush for refusing to negotiate with Iran and Syria and, instead, “taking them on.” In office he voted for all of John McCain’s campaign finance proposals. He also proudly raised money for the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust, surely the most ironic career move for a Law and Order prosecutor.

Bottom Line: If he runs, Thompson will be the most pro-Bush Republican in the race; he narrated Bush’s bio films at the 2004 Republican convention. If you liked the Bush era but wished the president’s voice had a little more bass, Thompson’s the one.

As for Ron Paul, I think Reason sums up the reality of his campaign quite nicely:

Bottom Line: It would be nice to live in a world where Ron Paul could actually win.

But that, quite frankly, isn’t the world we live in.

Chavez — RCTV Was Just An Appetizer

Ahh, the Chavez apologists said it was just RCTV, it was only because of their participation in the coup… But now he’s got Globovision in his sights:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez resurfaced on Tuesday, two days after the end of broadcasts of private television station RCTV and, in a mandatory nationwide radio and TV broadcast, he warned the media, in particular news TV channel Globovisión, “to cool down” because he would not tolerate the media to create national chaos by staging a “show” aimed at “heating” the streets.

“You, brother, up there in the hills on Caracas, in (low-income areas) Petare, Catia, 23 de enero, and even here in (coastal) Vargas state, listen up! If we had to launch another April 13, I will command it myself to defend our revolution from this renewed fascist assault! I am warning the people and the enemies of the motherland -those who are behind the scenes-, and I want to say their full name: Globovisión!” the ruler added. Reference was made to April 13, 2002 -the day when he returned to power following a coup d’etat two days earlier.

Chávez also claimed that following his decision on RCTV, “some destabilizing players joined the game.”

“Greetings, Globovisión, you will see where you will go,” Chávez said during an event where he granted social security pensions to 50,000 housewives.

“You may move forward, and you may continue to call people to disobedience and encouraging my assassination, like you did openly late Sunday (May 27), if you want to. But I am warning you in front of the country, take my advice, take a sedative and cool down. Otherwise, I will take care of Globovisión myself.”

But no, this isn’t about free speech, is it?

Rudy Giuliani: Bad For Libertarians

In today’s New York Daily News, the Cato Institute’s David Boaz points out the many reasons those who value liberty should be wary of Rudy Giuliani:

Throughout his career, Giuliani has displayed an authoritarian streak that would be all the more problematic in a man who would assume executive powers vastly expanded by President Bush.

As a U.S. attorney in the 1980s, Giuliani conducted what University of Chicago Law Prof. Daniel Fischel called a “reign of terror” against Wall Street. He pioneered the use of the midday, televised “perp walk” for white-collar defendants who posed no threat to the community – precisely the sort of power play for which conservatives reviled former state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. And Giuliani’s use of federal racketeering statutes was so disturbing that the Justice Department changed its guidelines on the law.

As mayor, Giuliani had many successes. Crime came down. He cut taxes and held down spending. But his prosecutorial personality sometimes threatened personal freedoms. He cracked down on jaywalkers and street vendors. His street crime unit used aggressive tactics to confiscate guns from city residents, resulting in wholesale searches and detentions of citizens, especially young minority males, and occasional tragedies like the shooting of the unarmed Amadou Diallo.

When a police officer fatally shot another unarmed black man, Patrick Dorismond, Giuliani had police release Dorismond’s sealed juvenile arrest record. The city later settled with Dorismond’s family for $2.25 million.

And just in case you think he’s changed in the years since he’s been out of office, Boaz points out that he’s just as authoritarian as ever:

As a presidential hopeful, Giuliani’s authoritarian streak is as strong as ever. He defends the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program. He endorses the President’s power to arrest American citizens, declare them enemy combatants and hold them without access to a lawyer or a judge. He thinks the President has “the inherent authority to support the troops” even if Congress were to cut off war funding, a claim of presidential authority so sweeping that even Bush and his supporters have not tried to make it.

Giuliani’s view of power would be dangerous at any time, but especially after two terms of relentless Bush efforts to weaken the constitutional checks and balances that safeguard our liberty.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater declared it “the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power.” George W. Bush has forgotten that; Rudy Giuliani rejects it.

And so, I would submit, does anyone who claims to believe in freedom while supporting someone like Giuliani.

Government’s Creative Accounting

By one number, they had a $248B deficit. If you start applying the accounting standards normal companies use, though… It’s a different story:

The federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year — far more than the official $248 billion deficit — when corporate-style accounting standards are used, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The loss reflects a continued deterioration in the finances of Social Security and government retirement programs for civil servants and military personnel. The loss — equal to $11,434 per household — is more than Americans paid in income taxes in 2006.

Think about that for a moment… Just let that number sink in. As you’re struggling to make ends meet, pay your rent or mortgage, your bills, your car payment, the government is losing $1000 a month: and you and your family are going to have to pick up that tab.

When a corporation cooks their books, they do it for a reason; it makes their shareholders believe they’re on better footing than they actually are. If their shareholders knew the truth, the stock price would drop like a rock as people head for the exits. When government cooks their books, they do it for the same reason; it makes their citizens believer they’re on better footing than they actually are. If the citizens knew the truth, they’d vote those thieving scoundrels out of office in a second.

Where do we end up with decades of government lies? At a point where we simply cannot continue the charade. Like Enron, Worldcom, and the rest, eventually it’ll come crashing down.

Modern accounting requires that corporations, state governments and local governments count expenses immediately when a transaction occurs, even if the payment will be made later.

The federal government does not follow the rule, so promises for Social Security and Medicare don’t show up when the government reports its financial condition.

Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.

You think government can tax their way out of this mess? Not a chance.

You think government has the will to cut spending? I think we’ve seen the answer to that one.

What other options are left? Rampant money printing, or collapse of the government. Or the former followed by the latter.

That’s it. The writing is on the wall. And you, as an ordinary citizen, will be getting screwed all the way down.

Dictatorship And Terror Come To Venezuala

Now that Hugo Chavez has closed yet another independent source of news in Venezuela, the true nature of his regime is being revealed:

CARACAS (AFP) – President Hugo Chavez’s clampdown on opposition television stations widened Monday as police used rubber bullets and tear gas on demonstrators protesting what they called an attack on free speech.

(…)

After 54 years on the air, RCTV went dark at midnight Sunday after the government refused to renew its license. It was promptly replaced by TVes, a state-backed station which began broadcasting cultural shows.

On Monday several people were injured as police in Caracas fired rubber bullets and tear gas to put down a demonstration against the RCTV shutdown, following the fifth straight day of protests.

A policeman’s leg was broken in the fracas, a police official said.

(…)

One of the country’s leading dailies, El Nacional, denounced it as “end of pluralism in Venezuela,” and slammed the government’s growing “information monopoly.”

The archbishop of the city of Merida, Baltasar Porras Cardoso, compared Chavez to Hitler, Mussolini and Cuban leader
Fidel Castro — who is a close friend of the left-wing Venezuelan president.

“This is the first time in eight years (of Chavez as president) that the university students hold a massive protest,” said Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader and neighborhood mayor.

Does this mean that the people of Venezuela are finally beginning to realize that there is a monster in charge of their country ? One can only hope the answer to that question is yes.

H/T: Outside The Beltway

Hillary Clinton Meets Karl Marx

Hillary Clinton is promoting a new idea called “shared responsibility”:

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined a broad economic vision Tuesday, saying it’s time to replace an “on your own” society with one based on shared responsibility and prosperity.

The Democratic senator said what the Bush administration touts as an “ownership society” really is an “on your own” society that has widened the gap between rich and poor.

“I prefer a ‘we’re all in it together’ society,” she said. “I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none.”

That means pairing growth with fairness, she said, to ensure that the middle-class succeeds in the global economy, not just corporate CEOs.

“There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed,” she said. “Fairness doesn’t just happen. It requires the right government policies.”

Or, as a man once said, from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

Thanks but no thanks Hillary.

Chavez The Totalitarian

In Friday’s Miami Herald, U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California) had a column about Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez’s closing of RTCV, the last private and opposition TV station in Venezuela. I bring up Congressman Lantos’s thoughts for several reasons. First, he’s the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and his column gives an insight into how Congress is viewing the situation in Venezuela. Secondly, Lantos is both a Holocaust survivor and a refugee from Communist Hungary and a lifelong supporter of human rights so his words do lend some kind of moral weight.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez is nearing the end of his campaign to stifle independent media — not due to a change of heart, but because through the years he has been singularly successful at cutting off dissenting voices in Venezuela. If he succeeds in his latest ploy, another will fall silent in the coming days.

Chávez intends to pull the plug on the country’s oldest and most popular station, Radio Caracas TV (RCTV), a source of radio programming for 76 years and television for 53. Chávez has refused to let the station renew its license, which expires on Sunday.

The roster of critics of this impending move grows daily. So far, we have heard from the Secretary General of the OAS, the Inter-American Press Association, the National Association of Newspapers of Brazil, Reporters without Borders, The Committee to Protect Journalists and no less than the Congress of Chile.

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission has objected as well, and it has been criticizing the gradual collapse of free expression in Venezuela since 1998.

None of this has deterred Chávez, who plans to whip up a crowd and lead a march to RCTV’s headquarters formally to shut it down.

The facts surrounding the looming closure point to a political vendetta by Chávez against a band of broadcasters who have consistently criticized him. So Chávez has decided to close what he calls a ”fascist channel,” adding ominously in a recent speech that, “We won’t tolerate here any media outlet that is coup-mongering, against the people, against the nation, against national independence, against national dignity.”

No doubt Chávez would want every program on the air to be like the hours-long broadcast Hello President, which he hosts. And for speaking out, I’ll probably earn a rant on the next show. But the stakes are too high to keep silent.

The next question is, will Congressman Lantos sponsor a resolution in the US House condemning Chavez’s closure of RCTV? If he does sponsor one, will Speaker Peliosi let it come to the floor? The obvious answer to both questions should be yes. If the United States is serious about freedom and human rights around the world, condemning these actions are necessary.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Protecting Life, Liberty, and Property

In the United States, today is Memorial Day.

On this day, we remember all those who have fallen in defense of this country; its constitution, its principles, its people, and its sacred freedoms.

They have given their lives so that we may remain free; so that we may pursue life, liberty, property, and happiness.

Let us remember that this is not some bank holiday, or a day just for beer and barbecue; this is the day we reserve for the dead.

Remember them.

Honor them.

Celebrate what they have won; what they have protected. Enjoy your day, don’t dwell on death; but remember the cost, and thank them.

To absent companions, and fallen comrades.

Christopher J. Byrne IV (Capt. USAFR, RET.)

Recessional

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

— Rudyard Kipling

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Quote Of The Day: H.L. Mencken on Democracy

From the article Last Words:

I have spoken hitherto of the possibility that democracy may be a self-limiting disease, like measles. It is, perhaps, something more: it is self-devouring. One cannot observe it objectively without being impressed by its curious distrust of itself—its apparently ineradicable tendency to abandon its whole philosophy at the first sign of strain. I need not point to what happens invariably in democratic states when the national safety is menaced. All the great tribunes of democracy, on such occasions, convert themselves, by a process as simple as taking a deep breath, into despots of an almost fabulous ferocity. Lincoln, Roosevelt and Wilson come instantly to mind: Jackson and Cleveland are in the background, waiting to be recalled. Nor is this process confined to times of alarm and terror: it is going on day in and day out. Democracy always seems bent upon killing the thing it theoretically loves.

I think the name Bush can be added to the above list, and if he gets his way, Giuliani.

Socialist Defends Venezuela Shutting Down RCTV — “Not Free Speech Issue”

Today is the end for Venezuelan media company RCTV. Chavez’ stated reason for shutting them down is due to the involvement of the station in the failed coup attempt of 2002. At the same time, though, the station has been a reliable opposition station ever since, and failing to renew their broadcast license now is a convenient way to get rid of their voice.

However, that’s not what makes the article I’m referencing a farce. A writer for Monthly Review, an American socialist publication since 1949, believes that this isn’t a free speech issue. His justification, of course, is laughable:

This sovereign decision of the Venezuelan government not to renew RCTV’s concession has prompted claims that freedom of speech is somehow under threat in Venezuela.

But many discussions of freedom of speech rely on a fundamentally flawed assumption: that existing media outlets in some way embody “freedom.” The debate surrounding RCTV is no exception. It is this flawed assertion that has been openly embraced by the Venezuelan opposition and equally openly challenged by those who reject efforts to paint the non-renewal of the broadcasting concession for Venezuela’s RCTV as an issue of free speech at all (see my previous comments here).

Decades spent under the hegemonic shadow of the discourse of “civil society against the state” has led us to assume that all that is not under state control is free, thereby conveniently obscuring the unfreedom of economic, specifically market forces. So for the non-renewal of RCTV to be a free speech issue at all, one would have to make the ultimately doomed argument that RCTV, under the direction of Marcel Granier and media conglomerate “1 Broadcasting Caracas” (1BC), somehow represents an expression of the people’s freedom rather than the freedom of its small group of shareholders.

You see, according to this author freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you should be free to say what you believe. It only means that you should be free to speak in support of the principles of freedom. And who’s better suited to arbitrate whether or not they’re advocating freedom that a bunch of socialists?

This is a strawman from the start. His first statement, “But many discussions of freedom of speech rely on a fundamentally flawed assumption: that existing media outlets in some way embody ‘freedom.’ “ is an outright falsehood. Speech of the wicked is no less worthy of protection than speech of the virtuous. The fundamental assumption is that if the government begins deciding what speech is and is not acceptable, it leads to a slippery slope where only government-approved messages are allowed. Defending against government’s power to shut down unpopular speech is the only way to ensure the government doesn’t have the power to shut down any other speech it doesn’t like. I think that situation is quite clear here, as Chavez is using the failed coup as an excuse to put down opposition media.

This entire premise for his article (which mostly goes on to point out that the owners of RCTV are capitalists and tied to the previous regime, and the new TVes, which will replace RCTV, is “democratic”) is based on the flawed assumption that freedom of speech should only be extended to those you agree with. I’ll freely admit that the owners of RCTV are advocating not for a free society, but a return to pre-Chavez society in which they were the rulers. That doesn’t mean that shutting them down isn’t a free speech issue. As an advocate of free speech, I know that I often have to defend the free speech rights of groups that I absolutely abhor, such as Fred Phelps and his minions, in order to ensure that my own free speech rights are protected.

Socialists believe they’re advocating for freedom. The problem is that their definition of “freedom” is largely different from everyone else’s. Their definition of freedom involves a lot more government coercion than any I’ve ever heard of. RCTV isn’t advocating for freedom, but neither is Chavez, and when Chavez pulls RCTV’s license, he is most certainly trampling on their free speech rights.

In fact, I’d go a step farther and say that when government assumes the power to only allow “licensed” broadcasters to broadcast, they’re stepping on freedom. But that’s an argument for another day.

When government broadcast licenses are revoked due to content, it’s an abrogation of free speech rights. That’s true whether the content is pro-freedom or not. I have a feeling if the US government shut down Monthly Review for advocating anti-freedom ideas such as socialism, this author would be crying about his rights as well.

Where’s The Ron Paul Surge?

For all of Ron Paul’s supposed online support, he’s not gaining support where it matters; among Republican voters:

This morning we have a new national poll, though it’s a small one: the Diageo/Hotline Poll, conducted by Financial Dynamics, May 16-20, 2007, 196 Republican primary voters nationwide.

The results?

After the jump…

Rudy Giuliani shows up about where he usually does these days, mid to high 20s. John McCain shows up a little lower than he has been showing up recently. Newt Gingrich makes a surprising showing. And you can read the rest:

Ron Paul, who was suppose to surge after his “victory” over Giuliani, is in second to last place in front of Tommy Thompson.

More bad news for Ron Paul, the independents in New Hampshire are probably going to vote Democratic.

UPDATE: No one’s supporting Ron Paul, literally, in the latest Zogby poll.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Ah, The Successful Surge In Iraq

The surge of US troops into Iraq is showing some benefits. Apparently, it is now safe for anti-American gang leader and Iranian agent Muqtada Sadr to return to Iraq and preach an anti-American sermon

Influential cleric Muqtada Sadr resurfaced today after months in hiding and delivered a fiery sermon in this Shiite Muslim holy city in which he reiterated his demand for the swift departure of U.S. forces.

The U.S. military, meanwhile, announced the deaths of six more soldiers.

Sadr’s return to a public stage comes at a time when the radical cleric has been building his national profile, capitalizing on the political impasse gripping Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s government.

Aides report that Sadr has reached out to Sunni leaders in recent months and purged extremist elements within his own ranks. Last month, he pulled his six ministers out of Maliki’s coalition cabinet, but did not withdraw his 30 legislators from the governing Shiite bloc.

The Iraq War surge, making Iraq safe for Iran.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Iraq War Funding (and Pork) Passes

The bill to continue funding the Iraq War until September with no timelines has passed Congress.

Congress voted tonight to meet President Bush’s demand for almost $100 billion to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, providing a momentary truce in a bitter struggle over war policy.

Even before the House and Senate approved the war spending bill, President Bush welcomed the legislation, which does not set the timetable for withdrawing troops sought by Democrats but requires the Iraqi government to meet a series of benchmarks as a condition of receiving further American reconstruction aid.

The measure also calls for new reports from Mr. Bush in July and September on how his strategy is unfolding in Iraq and requires independent assessments of the performance of the Iraqi government and the capabilities of Iraqi military forces.

In other words, when (not if) the Iraqi government does not meet the benchmarks in September, the war will probably come to an end, for the United States at least. The withdrawal of combat forces will probably start by the end of the year. The only way the situation will change is if the situation dramatically improves on the ground and terrorist attacks begin to dramatically decline because the American people will not support continuing to pour money down the Iraq rathole with no results.

The war continuation itself passed 280-142 in the House with a majority o f Democrats and two Republicans opposing. However, the amendment to put in a $1 increase in the minimum wage and another $10 billion in pork barrel projects passed 348-73 with only 72 Republicans and Dennis Kucinich opposing wage controls and the larding up of the war bill. The war bill passed the Senate 80-14 with presidential candidates Joe Biden voting for it, Chris Dodd voting against it early, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama voting against it after it passed, and Sam Brownback and John McCain voting for it.

UPDATE: The Senate roll call is interesting to say the least. 3 of the 14 opposing the war funding bill are Republicans Tom Coburn (Oklahoma), Richard Burr (North Carolina), and Mike Enzi (Wyoming). Sam Brownback, as usual, was a no show.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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