Monthly Archives: May 2007

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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