A potentially exciting story is developing in Russia. As the Christian Science Monitor reports:
As the political differences between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev widen into a visible public rift, and each continues to insist on the wish to run for president in polls next year, some Russians are mulling a prospect that sounded like a fantasy just a few weeks ago: What if they faced off against each other in an open and fair election?…
“There are a number of voices now, both from liberal and conservative camps, that maintain it would be best to break with [the Putin system] and let the voters decide between them,” says Alexei Pushkov, anchor of Post Scriptum, Russia’s most popular TV public affairs program.
“If we had two candidates, Putin and Medvedev, with somewhat different political lines, that could create the basis for a genuine two party system in Russia. After all, these are authentic differences within Russian society,” Mr. Pushkov says. “Some favor the more traditional approach of Putin, while others are for the more liberal line that Medvedev pushes…. Whoever the next president would be, he would possess a new level of legitimacy. If it were Medvedev, he would be finally free from the bonds of the Putin system and able to chart his own course. If it were Putin, we would know that his victory was based on honest public support.”
Unfortunately, it also says in the article that Medvedev’s likely allies would be the socialists. If this is true, Russia then sees two figures who upholds the supremacy of the state over the individual. The battle would be confined only to details.
Global financial institution HSBC is fleeing the Russian market after just two years. The reason? The market is dominated by state-owned banks that have unlimited cash infusions from the Kremlin (mostly generated by Russia’s oil windfall). The Moscow Times explains: “Doing business in Russia is immensely difficult,” said Timothy Stubbs, head of law firm Salans’ banking and finance practice. “HSBC may have underestimated the amount of energy that they had to put into growing operations.” Putin’s Russia also maintains a state-sponsored monopoly of the gas industry and it has seized the leading privately-owned oil concern, Yukos, and jailed its CEO in Siberia. The Kremlin owns and operates all the broadcast TV networks, and Internet has only one-third penetration. Day by day, there is less and less difference between Putin’s Russia and the USSR, and let’s not forget that Putin himself is a proud KGB spy.
This is very troubling, indeed – if true:
News during this past week a story made the rounds that police in Michigan may be using a device in random traffic stops that instantly copies all the data on your cell phone and stores it for later use by police. It was said that this data copying is going on without consent and without a warrant. Michigan police are denying this claim, but the ACLU posted a letter warning them against this policy regardless. The fear here is, of course, that copying cell phone data without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s proscription against illegal search and seizure.
This device copies everything that is on your phone. Your contacts, your emails, your texts, other instant messages, what aps you use, web bookmarks and usage, GPS location info… every bit of data stored on your phone is instantly copied into the device and into the data base maintained by police.
This kind of random cellphone is obviously not legal… and even if it was, it shouldn’t be. The police can search your home and your cell phone if they have a warrant because they suspect you of a specific crime. That’s it; that’s the basic rule the government has to respect.
Also more from Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit.
The New York Times has a fascinating report up about Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. As I wrote earlier today, the dictator is slaughtering his own people because they dare protest against his regime.
The NYT now says that Assad probably realizes he has to democratize his country, but is afraid to do so. His family members – among whom his brother Maher al-Assad and his brother-in-law Assef Shawkat – fear giving in to the protester’s demands will only embolden them, “bringing much larger crowds into the streets.”
In recent weeks, fearing a split in the army, the Assad government has relied almost exclusively on Alawite-dominated units, including the army division led by Mr. Assad’s younger brother Maher al-Assad, analysts say. But that tactic has reinforced resentment of the Alawites among the rest of the population, and raised greater fears of sectarian bloodletting.
“Bashar is totally cornered,” said the former diplomat. “And I’m sure that he is surrounded by people who are telling him: ‘We’re all in the same boat.’ ”
One former European diplomat who lived and worked several years in Syria told the Times that “Bashar knows there has to be a political solution, but he doesn’t have the courage to do what he needs to do for the sake of the country, and perhaps for his own survival.”
Whatever the case may be, the fact of the matter is that Bashar al-Assad is the president of his country. If he believes he has to democratize his country, he’s free to do so. Instead, he chooses to listen to family members who believe it’s perfectly fine to murder their own people.
Bahrain’s government has told the United Nations it has evidence that Hezbollah is orchestrating the protests in the oil-rich country.
“Evidence confirms that Bahraini elements are being trained in Hezbollah camps specifically established to train assets from the Gulf,” the report reads. Bahrain has long made claims that Iran and Hezbollah have sought to fuel instability in the nation.
The Shiite terrorist organization is training members of the opposition to overthrow Bahrain’s Khalifa monarchy.
And Hezbollah is backed by, who else?, Iran. In other words, the crazy Mullahs are once again setting the entire region ablaze. Meanwhile, I’m wondering when we’ll hear Obama coming out and condemning Iran’s involvement in the unrest in Bahrain and other Gulf states. For some reason I won’t hold my breath.
Pajamas Media has published some truly shocking videos of Syria’s security troops firing at unarmed protesters. Be forewarned: they’re very graphic. Not for readers who are underage or who have a weak stomach.
As Roger L. Simon remarks:
Yet, for some reason, our liberal leadership and their media allies were never able to acknowledge fully something so obvious. Always — as Obama did with Ahmadinejad while the Iranian democracy demonstrators were being shot in their streets and tortured in prison cells — they sought to reason with despotism. Or, more likely, pretended to do so because it was all game for the aggrandizement of the self, for image. The policy itself never made sense.
Assad is as brutal a dictator as they come. We should also keep in mind that not only is he slaughtering his own people, but he’s also a major supporter of terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Hezbollah. He even had a democratically elected president (Hariri of Lebanon) assassinated. Yet the Obama administration seems to consider him some kind of friend and reliable ally. If that doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about this administration I don’t know what will.
According to the U.N Global Warming would create 50 million “climate refugees” by… 2010. Instead of admitting their massive mistake however, they’ve began deleting stuff. Seems to be a common thing among environmentalists.
And yet another dictator has announced his resignation:
State-run TV says Yemen’s embattled president [Saleh] has agreed to a proposal by Gulf Arab mediators to step down within 30 days and hand power to his deputy in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
This is a rather important development: the so-called Arab Spring continues unabated. Furthermore, Yemenites aren’t exactly known for their secularism. I fear that Saleh’s successor(s) might be more radical than he is. The Obama White House shares these concerns:
One administration official referred to that concern last week, saying that the standoff between the president and the protesters “has had a direct adverse impact on the security situation throughout the country.”
“Groups of various stripes – Al Qaeda, Houthis, tribal elements, and secessionists – are exploiting the current political turbulence and emerging fissures within the military and security services for their own gain,” the official said. “Until President Saleh is able to resolve the current political impasse by announcing how and when he will follow through on his earlier commitment to take tangible steps to meet opposition demands, the security situation in Yemen is at risk of further deterioration.”
Can Saleh’s allies take over and suppress these radicals? That’s the million dollar question right now.
Egypt’s liberal and left-wing political powers are panicking after statements by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Deputy General Guide Dr Mahmoud Izzat about the implementation of Islamic Shariaa and punishments in Egypt.
Al-Misri al-Yawm last week reported statements by Saad al-Husseini, member of the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, at a popular rally organized by the group in Bulaq District in which he said: “At this period, we would like to lead the society to achieve its Islamic identity in preparation for the Islamic rule.” The newspaper also said that Dr Mahmoud Izzat, deputy general guide of the group, stressed: “The implementation of the Islamic Shariaa punishments comes after owning the ground. The punishments have to be implemented after Islam enters the lives, ethics, and dealings of the people.”
And they didn’t see this one coming? Were they so incredibly blind and naive? And how about the West? Where’s Obama when you need him? Oh, he was quick to demand the resignation of Hosni Mubarak – a more or less reliable ally of the West – but when the Muslim Brotherhood is concerned, he’s suddenly AWOL.
One of the more compelling Russia bloggers out there these days is John Helmer of Dances with Bears. The veteran Russia reporter, who bills himself as the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, now reports that Russia is at loggerheads with China over the newly completed trans-Siberian pipeline that delivers Russian oil to Chinese refineries. So much for Tsar Putin’s bold declaration last year that “for China, these are stable deliveries to the country’s energy balance, and for us an exit to new promising markets and in this particular case, to the expanding Chinese market.” Meanwhile, Helmer reminds readers whose idea this pipeline was: Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s. The former head of the Yukos oil concern was thanked for his genius, and his path-breaking support for Western-style accounting and corporate transparency, by being arrested in interned in a Siberian gulag following a classic neo-Soviet show trial when he dared to let it out that he might like to run for president one day against Putin. Then his pipeline and indeed his entire company was stolen from him by the Putin Kremlin. China has four times Russia’s GDP and ten times its population. If it comes to a throwdown, China is coming out on top, and Khodorkovsky has the last laugh.
This was to be expected, I suppose:
The US military’s top officer, meanwhile, said allied air strikes had destroyed 30 to 40 per cent of Gaddafi’s forces and noted the conflict was progressing into a stalemate.
Whether you support the military intervention in Libya or not, you’ve got to be worried by the West’s inability to fight and win wars nowadays. We’re too skittish about the use of force. We go in, and then don’t have the courage to persist, because we’re afraid somebody may actually get killed. Well, surprise, surprise: people do get killed in wars. That’s why we try to avoid them.
But once you go in, once you go to war, you’ve got to fight to win.
Somehow that simple rule of warfare has been lost on modern Western leaders; if that’s not reason for concern I don’t know what is.
Oh wow, seriously?
‘Atlas’ Movie Is Stirring But Overly Messianic
Who knew? Except for every person who read Atlas Shrugged, that is?
The whole book is messianic, that’s the main idea behind it. Rand believed that Objectivism would create a pretty Utopian society. Is that realistic? Probably not. But how else to counter the messianic character of, for instance, Marxism? Even the true intellectual Friedrich Hayek understood that classically liberals, libertarians and conservatives have to offer voters a Utopian vision of their own if they want to permanently defeat Progressivism. If one side is selling “a perfect future” and the other a “future in which there will still be suffering”, it isn’t difficult to guess who’ll win election.
Seventy businesses have left California this year, and last week a group of lawmakers from the Golden Statefollowed some of them to find out why they left. John Fund reports that the group, mostly Republicans, traveled to Austin to meet with ex-California businesses that have relocated to Texas. The group also included Calif. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who described himself and Gov. Jerry Brown as “pro-jobs Democrats” who “get it” on the need for business-friendly policies.
When they arrived they discovered that the businessmen were fed up with California’s excessive regulations and high taxes.
Who would’ve thought that suffocating businesses is counterproductive? What a shocking discovery.
This is a good development:
The astonishing changes sweeping the Arab world hold great promise for liberty and peace, but those goals are much less likely to be realized without the active input of libertarians. Arab libertarians are organized in a number of networks, one of which held a series of programs recently in Cairo on building the institutions of liberty and development in a post-revolutionary society. The director of the Arabic “Forum of Liberty” (Minbaralhurriyya.org), Dr. Nouh El Harmouzi (also a university professor of economics in Morocco) spoke at the massive rally on Tahrir Square April 8 with a clear message for Egyptians (in Arabic, with English subtitles)…
You can watch the videos at CATO’s blog.
As said, it’s a good development that libertarians are becoming actively involved in Egypt. However, I am worried that they won’t have much of an impact. The Muslim Brotherhood and Mubarak’s old party are much better organized than Egypt’s libertarians and classically liberals. The very real danger exists that these libertarians will end up being the friendly face of either a military or a theocratic regime.
Having said that, if they don’t do anything, they’ve already lost the battle. Now that Mubarak is gone, libertarians and other believers in freedom can’t afford to sit idly by.
You don’t say!
Bolivia’s decline reflects the utter and complete failure of Chávez-style economics. Morales is a prominent disciple of the Venezuelan dictator, and he has closely followed Hugo’s playbook. He has weakened the rule of law, undermined democracy, and nationalized a significant portion of the economy while seeking to implement an ambitious land-redistribution agenda. Bolivia has the second-largest natural-gas reserves in South America. Yet Morales nationalized the industry in 2006, with predictably negative consequences. Last summer, the president of the Bolivian Chamber of Hydrocarbons told the Financial Times that his country’s natural-gas reserves were shrinking “because there have not been any significant investments in the past five years.”
So Marxism doesn’t work? Who would’ve thought?
Next they’re going to tell us that the free market system is the best system known to mankind. Shocking indeed.