Putin and Historical Literacy

Somebody has actually read something.  Putin is precisely “in character” to see FDR as a role model, and it fits quite well.  FDR’s penchant for central planning, and his minions’ utter disregard for individual rights (up to and including felony trials for allowing customers to pick their own chickens at the butcher’s!) makes this quite a good fit.

And, actually, the truth is, it would be good were it truly so.  Likely, it’s not as close a fit as we’d like…but if you wanted a central-power guy to emulate, FDR was considerably less insidious than some others one could name.

Well, THAT didn’t take long…

In a giant leap forward for Pakistan’s democratic prospects, Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated.

Is there progress in Iraq?

Michael Yon seems to think so.

And it’s a definite change from some other, more stable parts of the middle east.  You know what the chance of a Saudi or Egyptian muslim community helping their Christian minorities set up a church is?

This just in: Russia Sucks

The Guardian suggests we’re back to old-school Russia:  show up to the protest, or else.

Russia sucks.

In other news, trees are known to generate energy via the exposure of large, flexible plate-like surfaces to the sun, in a process referred to as photosynthesis.

“Western Values” Debate

via Intelligence Squared and the Spectator Online.

Debated:  “We should not be reluctant to assert the superiority of western values.”

If you’ve missed the I2 debates, you really have missed… they’re worth investigating.

Dissolution Theory: Locke, Hobbes, and the “Great Freedom War”

(skip to bottom)
One of the great frustrations about slowly seeing political freedom spread across the globe, besides the well-documented pattern of all the bad guys cooperating no matter what their supposed ideology, is that the freedoms we take for granted are all predicated upon an acceptance of Locke:

  1. People have god-given rights.
  2. Government is a willing contract entered into by people.

This is in stark contrast to the Hobbesian model:

  1. Individual people look out for their own interests; this creates an anarchic and violent environment.
  2. Individuals with great power create a sphere of authority based upon that power (thus, in the process, guaranteeing stability and a certain degree of safety to those without power).

Take a look at the Russians, for example.  Classic Hobbesian model.  Social stability is openly predicated upon the strong exerting their power.  Anybody standing up for the Lockean model simply gets assassinated.  Why?  Because the siloviki have the power, and they don’t want to relinquish that power (rightly assuming that other factions will then seize power, and use it to crush them).

We can see this at work in the world today.  The strongmen of Myanmar are beating monks to death in their cells and leaving them floating face-down in rivers… because they know that as soon as they give up power, they’re dog meat.  (And the Chinese who control big chunks of the economy aren’t about to bail them out.)  Similarly, the Tianenmen Squre massacre was inevitable as soon as the PLA generals assumed that house-arrest was the best result for which they could hope in the case of a true democratic revolution.

If the wave of “colored revolutions” is to have any meaningful value in parts of the world in which there are immense gradations of power, some mechanism must be put into play that would convince those who have power that it is in their interests to look after the benefit of their citizens/subjects, and to allow the power of those individuals to grow relative to their own.  Otherwise, common sense dictates that they will act in what they see as rational self-defense… and we’ll see more assassinated Russian journalists and face-down monks in rivers.  And they can’t simply be bromides, either:  individuals who wield power and who don’t particularly care about the people they govern (fn1) are not going to allow themselves to be diminished unless they actually see real profit and benefit to themselves from the exchange.  The trick is, of course, to find an offer that works in any given scenario(fn2).

Fn1 Sound like your typical congress-critter?

Fn2 This could be anything from a “get out of jail free” card to a “we’ll buy you and your faction out for USD $2b and a riviera chateau.”

When will Putin engineer the crisis

that will get the constitution amended to keep him in power?  Certainly the Jamestown people see little but infighting built into the new government…

UPDATE:  How foolish could I be?  Putin won’t engineer a crisis… he’ll just change the job titles!

We’d all like to issue a warm welcome to President/Prime-Minister/Speaker of the Duma/Princip Putin…

The Kleptocrat and the Mouthpiece

The Kleptocrat has just returned to power in Iran.

Rafsanjani is not a nice guy.  He runs the same sort of neo-feudal, nepotist-kleptocracy that has long characterized mid-east tyrannies for years.

But at the same time, Rafsanjani is more than willing to discuss basic reforms, and moderate the more hard-line positions, because it’s become overwhelmingly obvious that Iranian anger at the hardliners makes this a safe position.

Vetted figures are obviously no more available than they are in Russia, but relatively recent data suggests double-digit inflation and unemployment at least that bad, not to mention gas shortages (humiliating for a major exporter of oil).

Any progress in Iran is welcome.  Even an Iran more-or-less operating according to the Chinese model would be a giant leap forward to world peace.  We don’t have to, in the words of Senator McCain, “bomb-bomb Iran,” in order to see progress happening…  but we do need to be realistic about how to empower the kleptocrats at the expense of the uber-conservatives without telling ourselves fairy-tales about the former’s trustworthiness.

There are plenty of moderate, cosmopolitan Iranians who will gradually force their regime into an open society… if they are only provided the breathing space to do so.

Hungary: Taxes, Trianon, Gypsies, Gas Pipelines

1.  I like Budapest in the summer.  (inside joke)

2.  The “Free Democrat/Socialist” coalition continues to tax people into the ground.  Visited my father-in-law yesterday for a late lunch where he works, and it was clear from a quick top-of-the-head cashflow analysis that his business would not only be doing well, but would even be worth Anna and I taking it over from him… except that he’s paying so much in the way of taxes that he can barely make any profit.  (And this situation is one that is widespread:  the big international businesses can negotiate tax breaks, but the Mom’n’Pops have to either engage in the legally murky ‘tax dance,’ or else go out of business).

3.  Regarding the people, rather than the government, you can see generational improvements.  The average lifestyle is still kind of 1970s here (being in Budapest gives one a very unrealistic image of how people are actually living, because it’s where 70% of the nation’s wealth is concentrated), but the younger generations seem to be figuring out how to hit a stride.

4.  The government is having trouble with the Estonians, because Gyurcsany (sorry, my browser doesn’t seem to do accents today for some reason), as a former leader among the young communists, is understandably close to the Russians, and the Russians are messing with the Estonians.  This is creating problems vis-a-vis the “Finno-Ugric” peoples’ conference this year.

5.  And the Hungarian government is going to be in for the rude shock of its life:  as Slovakia neglects the southern districts because of the imminent adoption of the Schengen Plan in Slovakia and Hungary, Hungarians in Slovakia will more or less be able to rebuild links with Hungary.  In theory, that means Hungarian economic and political influence.  In reality, matters are going to be a bit more complicated, because the Slovaks have a sensible economic plan, including a flat tax (oh, if we could only be so economically smart in America…), and Hungarians, as one of the most-heavily-taxed peoples of Europe, are already going to Slovakia to buy cars, etc.  The difference is something like a 40% discount — enough to justify the trouble.  The writing on the wall is clear:  Hungarian companies that can do so are going to relocate to Slovakia.  The same pattern holds throughout the region.  Yuschenko recently proposed a gas pipeline (this is significant:  Hungary’s relatively open gas market, notably more open than the cozy one-on-one deals typical for the region, could potentially make it a real energy player in Europe) and significantly improved autonomy for the Hungarian minority there… but it’s similarly likely that if Ukraine (already ranked as “free” by Freedom House) can keep it together, they’ll be making economic moves tailored to growth.  Serbia is anybody’s guess, and a “cultural freedom” bill is in the works in the European Parliament, due, if I understood what I was reading and watching correctly, for a final vote in September.  But Romania has also, more or less,  signed onto an economic-growth platform.

If the Hungarian government doesn’t start looking towards growth, rather than being obsessed with debt levels, it is likely to gradually become an economic backwater dominated by the Hungarian minorities in the surrounding countries.

6.  Good news.  The Gypsies are finally choosing to assimilate.  Not that there aren’t still serious problems with law enforcement — like many minorities in modern societies, Gypsies are in a complex position, involving lenient criminal sentences for crimes that would put other citizens behind bars, organized crime (which occasionally breaks out into open warfare between gypsy bands as they struggle for control over gold and diamond smuggling, kidnapping girls for forcible prosecution, etc… the last battle being in Heves this week), and, I have to admit, some outright social discrimination.  I personally could care less about race — except where Gypsies are concerned, having lived on the second-worst street in the 8th District, and having come out on the wrong side of some of their social predators.  I generally can’t stand the folks, but I have a real soft spot for any Gypsy willing to risk being completely disowned by all of his or her relatives in order to assimilate to non-predatory social values.  So it is particularly heartening in Budapest to see slow but sure signs of assimilation, as the “we tolerate prostitution” zone has meant that the crooks and schmucks more or less stay within a single district, and slowly but surely the rest of the Gypsy population is making its way into the workforce.  This includes, by the way, occasional clear signs of interracial dating going on (since the Gypsies originate in India, and have generally not assimilated, they are not difficult to spot).  This is Good News(tm), and literally centuries overdue… I’m going to see if I can keep my ear to the ground to see if I can pick up on any specific success stories.

7.  Am going to Transylvania soon: we found a brand new, totally unknown wall-painting.  Woo-hoo!

Britain non-bombings

Is it just me, or does it seriously sound like Al Quaeda has been depleted in Britain?  The more I read about these guys, the more it sounds like “amateur night.”  Now, granted, some good surveillance, etcetera, went into this stuff… but what went down in Scotland, man, I know unemployed goth kids who could do a better job.

“Russia is a nation with an unpredictable past.”

And it seems that the past is about to get yet another round of abuse.

I have a proposal regarding Russia:  expel them from the G-8, and allow them to return once they can prove that they actually belong there (and both Spain and Brazil might want to say something about that).

Otherwise, if the FSB insists on creating yet another paranoid round of “Zaire with Permafrost,” let them stew in their own irrelevance.

Russians teach themselves the wrong lesson

Boy, do they not know us:

The Zapad-99 exercise ended with Russia victorious. Baffled by the limited preventive nuclear strike and faced with the choice to either begin an all-out global nuclear war or back down, NATO stopped its attack on Kaliningrad. After Zapad-99, Moscow accepted that preventive nuclear strikes would be the best way to stop a NATO attack that Russia’s weak conventional forces cannot repulse.

Nothing will bring out a lasting and overwhelming U.S. response than something with the black-and-white moral clarity of a “preventive nuclear strike.”  If Putin thinks we’re a problem now… wait until the gloves come off, and whoever’s in office has a 95% approval rating for anything that hits back.

Propaganda. For OUR side.

It’s about time someone with the time and talent has clearly articulated what I like to call the Great Freedom War.

Just watch it, if this is something important to you.  You won’t be disappointed.

Breaking The REAL Axis of Evil. 46% of the world’s population lives in freedom.  What about the other half?

Freedom in the World.

People doing something about it.  Others, a different way.

The world’s tyrannical regimes are hard at work to roll back the past twenty years’ gains.   The cooperate regardless of ideology:  China will support any tin-pot dictator in Africa who will keep raw materials flowing.  The Iranians fund bombers both Sunni and Shiite, while cooperating with Hugo Chavez’ communist regime, which is happy to supply drug gangsters in Columbia, who are happy to cooperate with the kind of muftidun who think blowing up little girls for Allah passes Koranic muster.

They all cooperate with each other against the threat of freedom.  And those45 regimes stand with their boots on the necks of over two billion people.


Someday should be now.

Pinochet’s Ghost: Let them eat nanotech

Both Instapundit and Outside the Beltway are missing something important about the possibility of Russia being a nanotech leader:  free societies largely depend on the existence of a middle class.  That middle class can be agricultural or urban, service-sectored or industrial… but the deeply impoverished can’t defend themselves from government vampires (or in this case, siloviki, which amounts to the same thing: both are allergic to sunlight), and the upper crust can always cut themselves a deal or remove themselves from a threat.

Large economic benefits from nanotech, while having military repercussions, first and foremost have HUGE civilian production benefits.  So any power that thinks it’s going to use nanotech as a world-stopper, is going to realize that it has inadvertently “lowered the bar” on entry into the middle class… and thus hastened its own demise/transformation.

Pelosi to spurn Uribe, meet with Chavez??

(ht: GatewayPundit)

The American Spectator apparently has pulled data showing that Nancy Pelosi is going to continue the fine Democratic tradition of talking a good line on freedom, and then going to sit down in a lovefest with every tyrant on the planet.

This time, instead of “the road to peace runs through the bloodsoaked carbombers of Damascus,” it’s going to be “we pee upon the people of Colombia as they try to free themselves, and instead with meet with Hugo Chavez as he single-handedly ruins Venezuela.”

This is ridiculous.  There are times when the Logan Act really should be enforced.

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