Archive for January, 2011

30
Jan
11

So Much for “Promoting Democracy”

Now, I’m usually fairly skeptical about people talking about “revolution.” For starters, “revolutionaries,” at least here in the US, are all too often a bunch of posers hanging out in academia and pretending to speak on behalf of the “working class,” through whom they hope to vicariously live out violent fantasies they themselves are too comfy and bourgeois to get involved with. Revolutionaries also too frequently seem to view history as a unilinear march toward some ultimate goal. “The Revolution” is always assumed to be bringing about something that will be better than what is being overthrown. Unfortunately, there are countless cases where this is not the case, where the revolutionaries, upon assuming control, made things incomparably worse.

It doesn’t always happen that way — the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989 were all models of peaceful and popular transitions away from authoritarianism to something at least resembling democracy and all of them, Romania aside, were bloodless. Most of the governments that replaced Communism in Eastern Europe have not necessarily been staggeringly successful and have often remained mired in corruption and stagnation. But it’s all far cry from what happened in Russia in 1917 or in China in 1949.

It’s hard to say what’s happening in Egypt right now — revolution is in the air, that much is sure — but what it really means is still fairly obscure. How it will end is equally obscure: Will Mubarak survive? If so, what happens next? If not, who takes control? And then what?

I certainly don’t have any answers to these questions. On one hand, I would shed no tears if Hosni Mubarak were strung up by the Egyptian people. On the other, there is a great deal of speculation that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind a lot of the unrest. They would certainly stand to gain significantly if Mubarak were ousted, in any case. This is worrisome because the Muslim Brotherhood is not an organization that has clean hands, by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, my inclination is to let Mubarak hang and support the Egyptian people. If the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, then we can deal with it and cross our fingers that events in Egypt don’t turn out like they did in Iran.

The problem is that the case of Iran has clouded a lot of people’s judgment. That Iran was “destined” to become a retrograde theocracy the moment Carter turned against the Shah is taken for granted by people who should know better. The conventional wisdom among American conservatives is now apparently that, since Ayatollah Khomeini took over Iran, President Obama should not turn against Hosni Mubarak. Flawed logic, to say the least:

Three decades ago, Iran — after being saved from Soviet dominance by the U.S. in 1953 — traded in the flawed autocratic rule of the Shah for the bloodthirsty Islamist fanaticism of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

At the time, Jimmy Carter’s presidency was, in the name of “human rights,” on the side of the Islamists — with U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young going so far as to call Khomeini “some kind of saint.”

Does the Obama administration realize the difference between freedom-based revolutions and violent overthrows that will help jihadists?

[…]

…should Mubarak fall, there is real danger of the Islamic Brotherhood imperiling this U.S. ally. Barack Obama sure picked a foolish place to give a community-organizing speech.

Since when are American conservatives so squeamish about democracy? A few ago, no one on the right had any problems with overthrowing Saddam Hussein, despite the fact that there was every bit as much of a chance that an Islamist government might come to power in Iraq. The civil war that broke out in Iraq in the aftermath of the American invasion was taken to be a regrettable side-effect of bringing democracy to the Middle East. But now that there’s a whiff of a chance that the Muslim Brotherhood might take power in Egypt, suddenly the idea of people exercising their right to free speech in the “Arab World” is too much to tolerate.

It doesn’t stop with warning Obama from following in Carter’s footsteps, though. Get a load of this asshole on Pajamas Media:

The scene is all too reminiscent of the Iranian revolution of 1979. Then, President Jimmy Carter not only demanded restraint but also had his administration work behind the scenes to bring down the shah. Carter believed he was watching a democratic revolution unfold, one led by Mehdi Bazargan, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh and Abulhassan Banisadr. Neither Carter nor his advisers understood that this democratic-centrist revolution, like those in Europe, would be short-lived. Bazargan resigned from the government over its authoritarian turn; Ghotbzadeh was shot by a firing squad; and Banisadr fled to France, where he currently lives under heavy police protection.

[…]

Studies of revolution, including the Russian Revolution, show that the loyalty of several companies of armed, disciplined, and well-led soldiers willing to continually fire into the mobs would crush any revolution. Such an observation sounds barbaric until you consider the millions of lives that are needlessly wasted in a revolution and its aftermath. Imagine if the second Russian Revolution, the October Revolution, the one the Communists made, had been stopped in its tracks: no Lenin, no Civil War, no Stalin, no Gulags, no invasion of Poland, no totalitarian dictatorship. The taking of a few hundred or thousand lives in the streets of St. Petersburg would have saved the lives of countless millions.

[…]

Those who join the mob to demand more liberty will ultimately create a regime that extinguishes all liberty. [emphasis added]

So apparently sending out the military to shoot protesters down in the streets is a better way to guarantee liberty than letting people have actual liberty. And this coming from a guy who apparently spent much of his career studying political representation in post-Communist societies in Eastern Europe.

“Several companies of armed, disciplined, and well-led soldiers willing to continually fire into the mobs?” That’s the solution? Seriously?

I honestly can’t believe I’m reading this shit.

Fucking sickening.

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30
Jan
11

This Month in Statism [update]

So far, 2011 hasn’t been a great year for individual rights.

What is clear is that the officers are harassing a man who is legally recording the incident from a distance that in no way physically interferes with what the police are doing. One officer threatens to destroy his camera if he doesn’t put it away. Toward the end, several more officers confront the man again. One of them then tells him he’ll be “locked up” for disobeying an order unless he stops recording.

  • Apparently taking a few cues from Egypt’s criminal dictatorship, a Republican Senator is once again proposing a bill to implement an “internet kill switch.” This is yet another attempt to give the government the power to stop the Internet from penetrating US borders, following similar attempts by Independent Joe Lieberman and Democrat Jay Rockefeller. Control has tripartisan support!
  • The US Transportation Secretary has lauded a new device that checks to make sure you’re not drunk before you’re allowed to drive a car. They claim, of course, that the new devices will not be mandatory. Color me unconvinced. In any case, the device does nothing to address the gaping holes in current drunk driving laws.
  • But if drunk driving weren’t bad enough, we’re now being told that it’s necessary to regulate away the perils of jogging. Oregon is going one step further, seeking to outlaw “kid trailers” that cyclist commuters use safely every single day:

House Bill 2228 introduced by Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), would amend an Oregon statute that bans unlawful passengers on a bike by making it illegal to carry a child younger than 6 either on the bike or in a trailer. The bill includes a fine of $90.

[…]

A former director of public health at Oregon Health & Science University, Greenlick said the bill was prompted by an OHSU study on injuries among bike commuters in the Portland area.

The study indicated that about 20 percent of them had a traumatic injury in a year and about 5 percent had one serious enough to get medical attention. “It  really got me thinking about what happens if there’s a 4-year-old on the back of that bike when a biker goes down,” Greenlick said.

He knows of no studies about the risks of carrying children in cargo trailers or on the back of a bike. But he said he wants to fire up a conversation in the Legislature. [emphasis added]

How come whenever some politician wants to have a “conversation” about something — whether it’s guns, free speech, or bike trailers — they’re always actually trying to give the government more power to dictate the way people live their lives? Oh, they don’t want you to listen to your iPod while biking, either.

  • And, of course, there’re always the ever-present Guardianista telling Americans they need to give up their First Amendment rights… you know… for their own good:

Freedom of speech, like freedom of traffic, can only be defined by the curbs and regulations that make it real.

[…]

Free speech is a Hobbesian jungle. It requires a marketplace where the trade in information, ideas and opinion has a framework of rules, including rules that maintain fair and open competition. Most will be voluntary, but others need enforcement.

That’s right. For free speech to be “real,” it needs to be… un-free.

Sadly, this mentality is far from non-existent among large swaths of the American political class. Whenever you hear someone solemnly intoning “hate speech is NOT free speech,” you’re actually listening to someone who is objectively pro-censorship.

And just who do you think it is that they have in mind for the job of censor? Ahh, but if we only had better people in the government…

[update]

Here’s one more that I hadn’t read about before I posted this:

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the free-market Cato Institute, says the push for legislation is an example of pro-regulatory Republicans. “Republicans were put in power to limit the size and scope of the federal government,” Harper said. “And they’re working to grow the federal government, increase its intrusiveness, and I fail to see where the Fourth Amendment permits the government to require dragnet surveillance of Internet users.”

 

26
Jan
11

Communist Joke of the Day

Two Party apparatchiks meet at Chernenko’s funeral.

“How did you get in?” one asks.

“I was sent a personal invitation. How about you?”

“Oh, I’ve got season tickets.”

20
Jan
11

Are You… What? I Mean… Err… Huh? Does Not Compute.

Steampunk Sarah Palin comic book. Featuring “Robama” and John McCain with a cyborg arm.

I’m going to go huddle in a corner in the foetal position for a few hours and try to puzzle this one out.

17
Jan
11

Lyndon Johnson Needs Room

Absolutely amazing.

Put This On: LBJ Buys Pants from Put This On on Vimeo.

16
Jan
11

King of Speed

I found this on the Internets this morning and couldn’t help but repost it. This is an excerpt from Sled Driver, a book by a former SR-71 Blackbird pilot Brian Shul. (If you’re not an airplane nerd, the SR-71 has held the record since 1976 for fastest air-breathing, manned aircraft, capable of reaching speeds over Mach 3.)

***

There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71 Blackbird (The Air Force/NASA super fast, highest flying reconnaissance jet, nicknamed, “The Sled”), but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet.

Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane – intense, maybe, even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly.

My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet. I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat.

[…]The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace. We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot who asked Center for a read-out of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.” Continue reading ‘King of Speed’

15
Jan
11

Keeping it Classy in Arizona

Eric Fuller, one of the Tuscon shooting victims and a former Democratic campaign worker who famously laid the blame for the massacre squarely on Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, has been arrested… for making death threats. Against politicians:

The theme of the event was “An American Conversation Continued” —  the idea being to continue the conversation that a madman’s brutal rampage had interrupted.  So it was inevitable that the conversation would eventually turn to politics.   It did, toward the end, with Amanpour leading a discussion on a very touchy but obvious topic:  gun control.

That’s where the atmosphere turned tense.   When Tucson Tea Party founder Trent Humphries rose to suggest that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims, witnesses say Fuller became agitated.  Two told KGUN9 News that finally, Fuller took a picture of Humphries, and said, “You’re dead.”

When State Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) rose to explain and clarify current and proposed gun legislation in the state, several people groaned or booed her.  One of those booing, according to several witnesses, was Fuller.   Witnesses sitting near Fuller told KGUN9 News that Fuller was making them feel very uncomfortable.

The event wrapped up a short time later.  Deputies then escorted Fuller from the room.  As he was being led off, Fuller shouted loudly to the room at large.  Several witnesses said that what they thought they heard him shout was, “You’re all whores!”

No word yet on whether Sarah Palin made him do it.*

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* In my opinion, no one should be pressing charges against this goofball. It’s obvious that being shot wounded him more than physically, and he’s probably going through a great deal of psychological and emotional trauma right now. Good thing for him that “the rights-based hyper-individualism of our laws governing mental illness” will probably protect him from being involuntarily committed to a mental health facility to ensure the “security of our community and the functioning of our democracy,” as some statist types would have it in the wake of the massacre in Tuscon.

Remember how, after Congress passed the Patriot Act, all the “speak truth to power” types would piously intone the mantra, copped from Benjamin Franklin: They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Yeah. What happened to that kind of thinking, guys? Because it made a lot of sense after the Patriot Act, and it sure as hell makes a lot of sense now.

—-

Also, this is kind of funny. Image!