Main


July 6, 2014

Summers's Unbreakable Washington Power Elite Rule: Insiders Don't Criticize Other Insiders



(p. 5) A telling anecdote involves a dinner that Ms. Warren had with Lawrence H. Summers, then the director of the National Economic Council and a top economic adviser to President Obama. The dinner took place in the spring of 2009, after the oversight panel had produced its third report, concluding that American taxpayers were at far greater risk to losses in TARP than the Treasury had let on.

After dinner, "Larry leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice," Ms. Warren writes. "I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don't listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People -- powerful people -- listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don't criticize other insiders."

"I had been warned," Ms. Warren concluded.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Summers did not respond to a request for comment.



For the full commentary, see:

GRETCHEN MORGENSON. "Fair Game; From Outside or Inside, the Deck Looks Stacked." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., APRIL 27, 2014): 1 & 5.

(Note: italics in original commentary, and in Warren book. I added a missing quotation mark.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date APRIL 26, 2014.)


The Warren passages quoted above are from p. 106 of her book:

Warren, Elizabeth. A Fighting Chance. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014.









June 21, 2014

In China "Overwhelming Evidence of the Leaders' "Moral Vulnerability""



ThePeoplesRepublicOfAmnesiaBK2014-05-28.jpg

















Source of book image: http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/t/the-peoples-republic-of-amnesia/9780199347704_custom-d21f4e2d0281b692c74781102e750ff1e27b7cc9-s6-c30.jpg



(p. 21) During the night of June 3-4, 1989, when the Chinese Army was slaughtering demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Wang Nan, a young student, was shot in the head. As he lay dying at the side of the road, soldiers threatened to kill anyone, even some young doctors, who tried to help him. In the morning, finally dead, he was buried in a shallow grave nearby. A few days later, the smell of Wang Nan's body was so great that it was dug up and moved to a hospital.

After 10 days, his mother, Zhang Xianling, was called to the hospital to identify her son's body. It took eight months, in the face of official obstruction, for Zhang to uncover what had happened to her son. In 1998 she held a modest remembrance service on the spot where he had died. The next year, on that day, she was barred from leaving her apartment. When she met Louisa Lim, Zhang said she longed to go to the fatal place again to pour a libation on the ground and sprinkle flower petals. "However," Lim observes, ­"someone will always be watching her. A closed-circuit camera has been installed" and "trained on the exact spot where her son's body was exhumed. . . . It is a camera dedicated to her alone, waiting for her in case she should ever try again to mourn her dead son."

Until I read about that camera in "The People's Republic of Amnesia," I imagined, after decades of reporting from and about China, that nothing there could still shock me. As Lim contends, Zhang's "simple act of memory is deemed a threat to stability." Lim's overwhelming evidence of the leaders' "moral vulnerability," together with her accounts of the amnesia of many Chinese, make hers one of the best analyses of the impact of Tiananmen throughout China in the years since 1989.



For the full review, see:

JONATHAN MIRSKY. "An Inconvenient Past." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., MAY 25, 2014): 21.

(Note: ellipsis in original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date MAY 23, 2014.)


The book under review is:

Lim, Louisa. The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.



TanksBeijingTwoDaysAfterTiananmenSquareMassacre2014-05-28.jpg "Tanks at the ready in Beijing on June 6, 1989, two days after the Tiananmen Square massacre." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited above.






June 19, 2014

Bowen Receives Standing Ovation for Calling Student Protesters "Immature and Arrogant"



BowenWilliamHaverfordCollegeCommencementSpeaker2014-06-01.jpg






"William Bowen, speaking at Haverford College on Sunday [May 18, 2014], criticized students who staged a protest over another scheduled speaker." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A3) William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, criticized students who had objected to Haverford's invitation to Robert Birgeneau, a former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, to speak at commencement.


. . .


"He is a person of consequence," Mr. Bowen said. He said he told students, "If you expect to agree with commencement speakers on everything, then who will you get to speak? Someone totally boring." He added that he also called the subset of students who had objected to Dr. Birgeneau "immature and arrogant."


. . .


Phil Drexler, president of the Haverford Students' Council, said some in the audience were upset but others gave a standing ovation. "I felt validated by the speech because I had wanted to hear Dr. Birgeneau talk," said Mr. Drexler, a graduating physics major. On the plus side, he added, he likely won't soon forget his commencement.

A number of commencement speeches have been derailed by student and faculty protests this graduation season. Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, withdrew last week from speaking at Smith College. Similar outcries foiled engagements by former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice at Rutgers University and human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Brandeis University.



For the full story, see:

NATHAN KOPPEL. "Commencement Speaker Blasts Students on Protest." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., May 19, 2014): A3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 18, 2014, and had the title "Haverford Speaker Bowen Criticizes Students Over Protests.")






June 16, 2014

June 16th Is Liberalism Day




In the old days a "liberal" was someone who believed in freedom, including free markets and minimal government. Milton Friedman defended "liberal" in its original sense in his article "Liberalism, Old Style."

At some point the left hijacked the word, at least in the United States. (I understand that in much of the rest of the world "liberal" still retains more of its original meaning.)

Maybe there's some defensible justification for hijacking a word, but most of the time it seems like a dishonest and cowardly way to win an argument by muddying up the debate.

Dan Klein and Kevin Frei are trying to reclaim the word "liberal" from the pirates of the left. As part of their effort, they have proclaimed June 16th to be "Liberalism Day."

I believe their cause is just, but I am not sure it is efficient. Time and effort are scarce, so we must pick our battles.

On the other hand, the meaning of "libertarian" has narrowed over recent decades. It used to be that most libertarians believed in minimal government; increasingly more libertarians endorse anarchism. It used to be that most libertarians believed in national defense; increasingly more libertarians endorse total isolationism.

I do believe in some minimal night-watchman state, and I do believe that sometimes there is evil in the world that must be fought. So maybe I should start calling myself a "liberal" in the original sense, what Friedman called a "classical liberal"?


#LiberalismDay





June 12, 2014

Bloomberg Blasts University Faculty Intolerance for Conservative Ideas



(p. A11) From former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's commencement address at Harvard University, May 29:

Repressing free expression is a natural human weakness, and it is up to us to fight it at every turn. Intolerance of ideas--whether liberal or conservative--is antithetical to individual rights and free societies, and it is no less antithetical to great universities and first-rate scholarship.

There is an idea floating around college campuses--including here at Harvard--that scholars should be funded only if their work conforms to a particular view of justice. There's a word for that idea: censorship. And it is just a modern-day form of McCarthyism.


. . .


In the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96% of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama.

Ninety-six percent. There was more disagreement among the old Soviet Politburo than there is among Ivy League donors.


. . .


Diversity of gender, ethnicity, and orientation is important. But a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous. In fact, the whole purpose of granting tenure to professors is to ensure that they feel free to conduct research on ideas that run afoul of university politics and societal norms.

When tenure was created, it mostly protected liberals whose ideas ran up against conservative norms.

Today, if tenure is going to continue to exist, it must also protect conservatives whose ideas run up against liberal norms. Otherwise, university research--and the professors who conduct it--will lose credibility.

Great universities must not become predictably partisan. And a liberal arts education must not be an education in the art of liberalism.



For the full commentary, see:

Mike Bloomberg. "Notable & Quotable: Mike Bloomberg at Harvard." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 31, 2014): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added; italics in original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 30, 2014.)






June 4, 2014

"Religious Muslims Generally Insist on the Literal Truth of the Quran"




(p. A16) There are few role models for former Muslims, . . .

One group . . . is Ex-Muslims of North America, . . .

Members of the group, founded last year in Washington and Toronto, recognize that their efforts might seem radical to some, and take precautions when admitting new members. Those interested in joining are interviewed in person before they are told where the next meeting will be held. The group has grown quickly to about a dozen chapters, in cities including Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York and San Francisco.

One of the group's founders who was at the conference, Sadaf Ali, 23, an Afghan-Canadian, said that she had once been "a fairly practicing Muslim."

During childhood, she said, "I was always fairly defiant." As she grew older, she struggled with depression, and she thought that praying more and reading the Quran would help. She became more religious and looked forward to a traditional life. "I thought my life was sort of set out for me: get married, have children," Ms. Ali said. "I might go to school. I'll have a very domestic life. That's what my family did, what my forefathers did."

But as a university student, her feelings began to change.

As I started to investigate the religion, I realized I was talking to myself," Ms. Ali said. "Nobody was listening to me. I had just entered the University of Toronto, and critical thinking was a big part of my studies. I have an art history and writing background, and I realized every verse I had come across" -- in the Quran -- "was explicitly or implicitly sexist."

Quickly, her faith crumbled.

"So in 2009, I realized there probably is no God," she said. "What is so wrong in having a boyfriend, or having premarital sex? What is wrong with wanting to eat and drink water before the sun goes down during Ramadan? What is so wrong with that? I couldn't handle the cognitive dissonance anymore."


. . .


The members of Ex-Muslims are adamant that they respect others' right to practice Islam. The group's motto is "No Bigotry and No Apologism," and text on its website is inclusive: "We understand that Muslims come in all varieties, and we do not and will not partake in erasing the diversity within the world's Muslims."

But they are equally adamant that it is still too difficult for Muslims inclined to atheism to follow their thinking where it may lead. Whereas skeptical Christians or Jews can take refuge in reformist wings of their tradition, religious Muslims generally insist on the literal truth of the Quran.

"I would say it's maybe 0.1 percent who are willing to challenge the foundations of the faith," said Nas Ishmael, another founder of the Ex-Muslims group who attended the conference.



For the full story, see:

MARK OPPENHEIMER. "Leaving Islam for Atheism, and Finding a Much-Needed Place Among Peers." The New York Times (Sat., MAY 24, 2014): A16.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 23, 2014.)






April 25, 2014

Bill Clinton Says U.S. Control of Internet Protects Free Speech



(p. A11) . . . , Mr. Clinton, appearing on a panel discussion at a recent Clinton Global Initiative event, defended U.S. oversight of the domain-name system and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann.


. . .


"I understand why the reaction in the rest of the world to the Edward Snowden declarations has given new energy to the idea that the U.S. should not be in nominal control of domain names on the Internet," Mr. Clinton said. "But I also know that we've kept the Internet free and open, and it is a great tribute to the U.S. that we have done that, including the ability to bash the living daylights out of those of us who are in office or have been.

"A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority away from the U.S. want to do it for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empower their people."

Mr. Clinton asked Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia: "Are you at all worried that if we give up this domain jurisdiction that we have had for all these years that we will lose Internet freedom?"

"I'm very worried about it," Mr. Wales answered. People outside the U.S. often say to him, "Oh, it's terrible. Why should the U.S. have this special power?" His reply: "There is the First Amendment in the U.S., and there is a culture of free expression."

He recalled being told on Icann panels to be more understanding of differences in cultures. "I have respect for local cultures, but banning parts of Wikipedia is not a local cultural variation that we should embrace and accept. That's a human-rights violation."



For the full commentary, see:

L. GORDON CROVITZ. "INFORMATION AGE; Open Internet: Clinton vs. Obama; The former president strongly defends the current system of oversight by the U.S." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., MARCH 31, 2014): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the shorter title "INFORMATION AGE; Open Internet: Clinton vs. Obama.")






April 5, 2014

18 Unions Each Spent More on Politics than Koch Brothers



(p. A13) Harry Reid is under a lot of job-retention stress these days, so Americans might forgive him the occasional word fumble. When he recently took to the Senate floor to berate the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch for spending "unlimited money" to "rig the system" and "buy elections," the majority leader clearly meant to be condemning unions.

It's an extraordinary thing, in a political age obsessed with campaign money, that nobody scrutinizes the biggest, baddest, "darkest" spenders of all: organized labor. The IRS is muzzling nonprofits; Democrats are "outing" corporate donors; Jane Mayer is probably working on part 89 of her New Yorker series on the "covert" Kochs. Yet the unions glide blissfully, unmolestedly along. This lack of oversight has led to a union world that today acts with a level of campaign-finance impunity that no other political giver--conservative outfits, corporate donors, individuals, trade groups--could even fathom.


. . .


The Center for Responsive Politics' list of top all-time donors from 1989 to 2014 ranks Koch Industries No. 59. Above Koch were 18 unions, which collectively spent $620,873,623 more than Koch Industries ($18 million).



For the full commentary, see:

KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL. "POTOMAC WATCH; The Really Big Money? Not the Kochs; Harry Reid surely must have meant the unions when he complained about buying elections." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., March 7, 2014): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 6, 2014.)






March 24, 2014

Environmentalists Seek to Silence Those Who Dare to Disagree



(p. A13) Surely, some kind of ending is upon us. Last week climate protesters demanded the silencing of Charles Krauthammer for a Washington Post column that notices uncertainties in the global warming hypothesis. In coming weeks a libel trial gets under way brought by Penn State's Michael Mann, author of the famed hockey stick, against National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writer Rand Simberg and roving commentator Mark Steyn for making wisecracks about his climate work. The New York Times runs a cartoon of a climate "denier" being stabbed with an icicle.

These are indications of a political movement turned to defending its self-image as its cause goes down the drain.



For the full commentary, see:

HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. "BUSINESS WORLD; Personal Score-Settling Is the New Climate Agenda; The cause of global carbon regulation may be lost, but enemies still can be punished." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 1, 2014): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 28, 2014, and has the title "BUSINESS WORLD; Jenkins: Personal Score-Settling Is the New Climate Agenda; The cause of global carbon regulation may be lost, but enemies still can be punished.")



The Krauthammer column that the environmentalists do not want you to read:

Krauthammer, Charles. "The Myth of 'Settled Science'." The Washington Post (Fri., Feb. 21, 2014): A19.






February 27, 2014

Fired Dissident Xia Yeliang Warns that Chinese Universities Do Not Value Academic Freedom



XiaYeliangFiredPekingEconomist2014-02-21.jpg "Xia Yeliang in New Jersey. Professor Xia, whose firing by Peking University provoked an outcry, is joining the Cato Institute." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A10) A Chinese dissident, dismissed from his job as an economics professor at Peking University after clashes with his government over liberalization, will become a visiting fellow at the Cato Institute on Monday, he said.

In an interview on Friday, the dissident, Xia Yeliang, warned that American universities should be careful about partnerships with Chinese universities. "They use the reputations of Western universities to cover their own scandals," he said.

"Perhaps Western universities do not realize that Chinese universities do not have the basic value of academic freedom, and try to use Western universities to cover their bad side," Professor Xia added.



For the full story, see:

TAMAR LEWIN. "Chinese Dissident Lands at Institute With a Caution to Colleges." The New York Times (Mon., FEB. 10, 2014): A10.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 9, 2014, and has the title "Chinese Dissident Lands at Cato Institute With a Caution to Colleges.")






November 3, 2013

Castro First Fired, and Then Jailed, Economist Chepe, Who Defended Capitalism



ChepeOscarEspinosaCubanEconomist2013-10-23.jpg "Oscar Espinosa Chepe in 2010." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT obituary quoted and cited below.



(p. B15) Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a high-ranking Cuban economist and diplomat who became a vocal critic of Fidel Castro in the 1990s but chose to remain in Cuba, despite enduring harassment and imprisonment, died on Monday [September 23, 2013] . . .


. . .


Mr. Espinosa Chepe (pronounced CHEH-pay) lost his job as an official of the National Bank of Cuba in 1996 after advocating the limited restoration of capitalist principles like the right to buy and sell one's home or start a business.

He then became a journalist, writing articles for American and Spanish-language Web sites in which he used statistical data to analyze Cuba's economic problems. In March 2003 he was one of 75 activists arrested as part of a government crackdown on dissent known as the Black Spring.


. . .


Mr. Espinosa Chepe, who joined Castro's revolutionary government in the early 1960s and was once head of the powerful Office of Agrarian Reform, had frequently clashed with fellow economic planners over policies he considered overly dogmatic.

His internal critique became increasingly adamant after 1991, when the loss of the Soviet Union's financial support began taking a devastating toll on the country's economy. But his proposals for change, many of which had already been adopted in former Soviet bloc states, were labeled counterrevolutionary, said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a professor emeritus of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert on Cuban economic policies.



For the full obituary, see:

PAUL VITELLO. "Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Cuban Economist and Castro Critic, Dies at 72." The New York Times (Fri., September 27, 2013): B15.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date September 25, 2013.)






December 24, 2012

Williams Made Providence a Sanctuary for the Persecuted



RogerWilliamsAndTheCreationOfTheAmericanSouldBK2012-12-18.jpg















Source of book image: http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320716933l/11797348.jpg





I have not yet read Barry's book on Roger Williams, but I did enjoy and learn from his earlier The Great Influenza book.



(p. 12) Williams struck overland, through snow and bitter cold, "wch I feele yet," he reminisced later in life. He survived because he had help. "The ravens fed me in the wilderness," he said, comparing himself to the scriptural prophets sustained by bird-borne morsels, though his "ravens" were Indians. With their assistance, he reached the upper bend of a bay that would be named for its inhabitants, the Narragansett. There, Williams bought land from its native proprietors and established a settlement he called Providence, to honor the divine assistance given to him and other Christians on their flights from persecution.


. . .


Next, Williams refused to take an oath of fidelity to Massachusetts, on the grounds that anything sworn in God's name for worldly purposes was corrupt.

The authorities in Massachusetts were so outraged that having failed to arrest Williams, they tried to obliterate his new settlement. He went back to England to get a charter to protect his colony on his own terms: with a "hedge or wall of Separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wildernes of the world." In several publications, he argued that the individual conscience should not -- could not -- be governed, let alone persecuted. If God was the ultimate punisher of sin, it was impious for humans to assume his authority. And it was "directly contrary to the nature of Christ Jesus . . . that throats of men should be torne out for his sake."

Barry shows how controversial these beliefs were at the time, and in this way reinforces the standard image of Williams as an early proponent of liberty of conscience.



For the full review, see:

JOYCE E. CHAPLIN. "Errand in the Wilderness." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., May 26, 2012): 12.

(Note: ellipsis between paragraphs was added; ellipsis internal to quotation was in original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 25, 2012 and has the title "Roger Williams: The Great Separationist.")


The book being reviewed, is:

Barry, John M. Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty. New York: Viking Adult, 2012.






December 6, 2012

"We Don't Need No Thought Control"



HongKongProtestrsPinkFloydPoster2012-12-01.jpg "In Hong Kong, protesters march against Beijing's introduction of 'Chinese patriotism classes' in schools." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A11) Consider the . . . scene in Hong Kong, where tens of thousands of parents, teachers and students protested an effort by Beijing to re-educate the inhabitants of the former British colony, which reverted to the mainland in 1997.

Hong Kong people objected to a government-funded booklet titled, "The China Model," which was supposed to educate them in the patriotic ways of the mainland. It celebrates China's one-party Communist regime as "progressive, selfless and united" while criticizing the U.S. political system as having "created social turbulence."

There is no reference to the Cultural Revolution or Tiananmen Square--history also suppressed on the mainland, where the Web is largely censored. The booklet even encourages Hong Kong people to learn how to "speak cautiously," a highly unlikely development to those of us who have lived in Hong Kong with its often pungently plain-spoken citizens.

The chairman of the pro-Beijing China Civic Education Promotion Association in Hong Kong, Jiang Yudui, tried to defend the booklet by saying, "If there are problems with the brain, then it needs to be washed, just like dialysis for kidney patients."

This led the Hong Kong education secretary to back away, assuring that, "Brainwashing is against Hong Kong's core values and that's unacceptable to us." Meanwhile, Hong Kong's sophisticated protesters carried banners that included lyrics from British rock group Pink Floyd, "We don't need no thought control."



For the full commentary, see:

L. GORDON CROVITZ. "INFORMATION AGE; Brainwashing in the Digital Era." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., August 6, 2012): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article was dated August 5, 2012.)






August 8, 2012

The Bear Details of Belarus Communist Tyranny



BelarusTeddyBear2012-08-07ProvinceVersion.jpg "Swedish advertising agency employees Thomas Mazetti and Hannah Frey hold a stuffed bear that was parachuted into Belarus." Source of caption and image: http://www.theprovince.com/business/Teddy+bears+make+picnic+generals/7028460/story.html


(p. A4) The plane crossed stealthily into Belarussian airspace and headed for the capital, Minsk. At the appointed moment, the cargo doors opened, and an invasion force of tiny plush freedom fighters parachuted to the ground.

Belarus was under attack -- by teddy bears.

Three members of a Swedish advertising firm planned and carried out the operation last month, adorning more than 800 plush bears with signs promoting democracy and denigrating Belarus's authoritarian government.

Comedic touches aside, the security breach has become a major embarrassment for President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has channeled his country's meager resources into maintaining a calcified police state.



For the full story, see:

MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ. "Teddy Bears Fall From Sky, and Heads Roll in Minsk." The New York Times (August 2, 2012): A4.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date August 1, 2012.)






May 15, 2012

Cuban Dissident Dies after Communist Police Beat Him in Park



(p. 12) Havana

OUTSIDE the sun is blindingly hot, and in the immigration office 100 people are sweating profusely. But no one complains. A critical word, a demanding attitude, could end in punishment. So we all wait silently for a "white card," authorization to travel outside Cuba.

The white card is a piece of the migratory absurdities that prevent Cubans from freely leaving and entering their own country. It is our own Berlin Wall without the concrete, the land-mining of our borders without explosives. A wall made of paperwork and stamps, overseen by the grim stares of soldiers. This capricious exit permit costs over $200, a year's salary for the average Cuban. But money is not enough. Nor is a valid passport. We must also meet other, unwritten requirements, ideological and political conditions that make us eligible, or not, to board a plane.


. . .


Thousands of Cubans have been condemned to immobility on this island, though no court has issued such a verdict. Our "crime" is thinking critically of the government, being a member of an opposition group or subscribing to a platform in defense of human rights.

In my case, I can flaunt the sad record of having received 19 denials since 2008 of my applications for a white card.


. . .


That same afternoon, as I was issued one more denial, my cellphone rang insistently in my pocket. A broken voice related to me the last moments in the life of Juan Wilfredo Soto, a dissident who died several days after being handcuffed and beaten by the police in a public park. I sat down to steady myself, my ears ringing, my face flush.

I went home and looked at my passport, full of visas to enter a dozen countries but lacking any authorization to leave my own. Next to its blue cover my husband placed a report of the details of Juan Wilfredo Soto's death. Looking from his face in the photograph to the national seal on my passport, I could only conclude that in Cuba, nothing has changed.



For the full commentary, see:

YOANI SANCHEZ. "The Dream of Leaving Cuba." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., April 22, 2012): 12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated April 21, 2012.)






March 3, 2012

Freedom Grew from the Greek Agora



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Source of book image: http://images.borders.com.au/images/bau/97801997/9780199747405/0/0/plain/a-culture-of-freedom-ancient-greece-and-the-origins-of-europe.jpg





(p. C9) A city's central space reveals much about the society that built it. In the middle of the typical Greek city-state, or polis, stood neither a palace nor a temple--the dominant centering structures of Asian and Egyptian cities--but an open public square, an agora, useful for gatherings and the conduct of business. When Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, first encountered Greeks on his western boundaries, he sneered at the race of shopkeepers who hung about the agora cheating one another all day. Yet that same race would later defeat his descendants, Darius and Xerxes, in two of the most consequential battles the Western world has seen, at Marathon in 490 B.C. and at Salamis 10 years later.


. . .


Mr. Meier's approach runs counter to a tendency in recent classical scholarship to trace Greek ideas to non-Greek sources or to seek common ground on which East and West once met. The polis itself has been claimed in the past few decades as a Near Eastern, or Phoenician, invention; Carthage too, it seems, had an agora at its hub. But Mr. Meier takes pains to dismiss this claim. Relying on expertise amassed in his long academic career, he reasserts the uniqueness of Greek political evolution, the mysterious and somewhat miraculous process that culminates, at the end of this account, in the emergence of Athenian democracy.


. . .


After surveying the crucial reforms of the Athenian leader Cleisthenes, the foundation stones of the world's first democratic constitution, Mr. Meier asks: "Was it just a matter of time before the Attic citizenry was reorganized--so that Cleisthenes did something that would have happened sooner or later anyway? Or were Cleisthenes' achievements beyond the scope of men less able and daring?"



For the full review, see:

JAMES ROMM. "The Greeks' Daring Experiment." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., FEBRUARY 11, 2012): C9.

(Note: ellipses added.)


The book under review is:

Meier, Christian. A Culture of Freedom: Ancient Greece and the Origins of Europe. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011.





February 19, 2012

Economic Freedom and Growth Depend on Protecting the Right to Rise



(p. A19) Congressman Paul Ryan recently coined a smart phrase to describe the core concept of economic freedom: "The right to rise."

Think about it. We talk about the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to assembly. The right to rise doesn't seem like something we should have to protect.

But we do. We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise. We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck.

That is what economic freedom looks like. Freedom to succeed as well as to fail, freedom to do something or nothing. . . .


. . .


But when it comes to economic freedom, we are less forgiving of the cycles of growth and loss, of trial and error, and of failure and success that are part of the realities of the marketplace and life itself.


. . .


. . . , we must choose between the straight line promised by the statists and the jagged line of economic freedom. The straight line of gradual and controlled growth is what the statists promise but can never deliver. The jagged line offers no guarantees but has a powerful record of delivering the most prosperity and the most opportunity to the most people. We cannot possibly know in advance what freedom promises for 312 million individuals. But unless we are willing to explore the jagged line of freedom, we will be stuck with the straight line. And the straight line, it turns out, is a flat line.



For the full commentary, see:

JEB BUSH. "OPINION; Capitalism and the Right to Rise; In freedom lies the risk of failure. But in statism lies the certainty of stagnation." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., December 19, 2011): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)







September 2, 2011

China's "Orwellian Surveillance System"



BeijingWebCafe2011-08-07.jpg "A customer in a Beijing cafe not yet affected by new regulations surfed the Web on Monday." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A4) BEIJING -- New regulations that require bars, restaurants, hotels and bookstores to install costly Web monitoring software are prompting many businesses to cut Internet access and sending a chill through the capital's game-playing, Web-grazing literati who have come to expect free Wi-Fi with their lattes and green tea.

The software, which costs businesses about $3,100, provides public security officials the identities of those logging on to the wireless service of a restaurant, cafe or private school and monitors their Web activity. Those who ignore the regulation and provide unfettered access face a $2,300 fine and the possible revocation of their business license.


. . .


The new measures, it would appear, are designed to eliminate a loophole in "Internet management" as it is called, one that has allowed laptop- and iPad-owning college students and expatriates, as well as the hip and the underemployed, to while away their days at cafes and lounges surfing the Web in relative anonymity. It is this demographic that has been at the forefront of the microblogging juggernaut, one that has revolutionized how Chinese exchange information in ways that occasionally frighten officials.


. . .


One bookstore owner said she had already disconnected the shop's free Wi-Fi, and not for monetary reasons. "I refuse to be part of an Orwellian surveillance system that forces my customers to disclose their identity to a government that wants to monitor how they use the Internet," said the woman, who feared that disclosing her name or that of her shop would bring unwanted attention from the authorities.



For the full story, see:

ANDREW JACOBS. "China Steps Up Web Monitoring, Driving Many Wi-Fi Users Away." The New York Times (Tues., July 26, 2011): A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated July 25, 2011.)





July 26, 2011

Technology as an Enabler of Free Speech



InternetJalalabad2011-07-16.jpg "Volunteers have built a wireless Internet around Jalalabad, Afghanistan, from off-the-shelf electronics and ordinary materials." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


The main point of the passages quoted below is to illustrate how, with the right technology, we can dance around tyrants in order to enable human freedom.

(But as a minor aside, note in the large, top-of-front-page photo above, that Apple once again is visibly the instrument of human betterment---somewhere, before turning to his next challenge, one imagines a fleeting smile on the face of entrepreneur Steve Jobs.)


(p. 1) The Obama administration is leading a global effort to deploy "shadow" Internet and mobile phone systems that dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments that seek to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.

The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype "Internet in a suitcase."

Financed with a $2 million State Department grant, the suitcase could be secreted across a border and quickly set up to allow wireless communication over a wide area with a link to the global Internet.



For the full story, see:

JAMES GLANZ and JOHN MARKOFF. "U.S. Underwrites Internet Detour Around Censors." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., June 12, 2011): 1 & 8.



InternetDetourGraphic2011-07-16.jpg















Source of graphic: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.







December 19, 2010

Chinese Centralized Autocracy Prevents Sustained Innovation




Zheng He's voyages of exploration were mentioned in a previous blog entry.



(p. C12) The real problem with contemporary China's version of the Zheng He story is that it omits the ending. In the century after Zheng's death in 1433, emperors cut back on shipbuilding and exploration. When private merchants replaced the old tribute trade, the central authorities banned those ships as well. Building a ship with more than two masts became a crime punishable by death. Going to sea in a multimasted ship, even to trade, was also forbidden. Zheng's logs were hidden or destroyed, lest they encourage future expeditions. To the Confucians who controlled the court, writes Ms. Levathes, "a desire for contact with the outside world meant that China itself needed something from abroad and was therefore not strong and self-sufficient."

Today's globalized China has apparently abandoned that insular ideology. But it still clings to the centralized autocracy that could produce Zheng's voyages in one generation only to destroy the technology and ambition they embodied in the next. It still officially celebrates "harmony" against the unruliness and competition that create sustained innovation. Its past would be more usable if it offered models of diversity and dissent or, at the very least, sanctuary from the all-or-nothing decisions of absolutist rule.



For the full commentary, see:

VIRGINIA POSTREL. "COMMERCE & CULTURE; Recovering China's Past on Kenya's Coast." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., DECEMBER 4, 2010): C12.





November 5, 2010

Private Property as the Guarantor of Free Speech



In the last year or two, some have called for government subsidized newspapers. Presumably they have never read Hayek, nor have they sufficiently pondered Liebling's famous quip:


"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."


Source: Abbott Joseph Liebling, The Press. New York: Pantheon Books, 1981, p. 32.

(Note: I believe that the 1981 Pantheon edition may be an exact reprint of the 1954 Ballantine Books edition. Also, I have not confirmed this, but have seen it claimed that the original location of this quote is Liebling's essay "Do You Belong in Journalism?" New Yorker, 4 May 1960.)





October 9, 2010

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Risks Her Life to Speak Freely about Islam



AliAyaanHirsi2010-08-29.jpg





Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.







(p. 14) As a Somali native who was raised as a Muslim and grew up to become one of the most outspoken critics of Islam, you fled to Amsterdam and served in the Dutch Parliament before fleeing again, to America. What kind of security do you have here? "
I don't go from A to B without being escorted by people who are armed. But please, let's not talk about my security.







In your new book, "Nomad: From Islam to America," you urge American Christians to try to talk to American Muslims about the limitations of their faith.
We who don't want radical Islam to spread must compete with the agents of radical Islam. I want to see what would happen if Christians, feminists and Enlightenment thinkers were to start proselytizing in the Muslim community.

That could be dangerous for the proselytizers. .
It may be, but in the United States we have a police force and the rule of law; we can't just say something is dangerous and abstain from competing in the marketplace of ideas.



For the full interview, see:

DEBORAH SOLOMON. "Questions for Ayaan Hirsi Ali; The Feminist." The New York Times, Magazine Section (Sun., May 23, 2010): 14.

(Note: bold in original versions, to indicate questions by Deborah Solomon.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated May 21, 2010.)





September 15, 2010

Brit Papers Survived Due to "the Gratifying Defeat of the Luddite Unions by Rupert Murdoch"



EvansHarold2010-09-01.jpg















"Evans says: "Ultimately, Mrs Thatcher was the reason I was fired, because I attacked her so much." Source of caption and photo: online version of The Independent on Sunday article quoted and cited below.



(p. 12) As a condition of acquiring both The Times and The Sunday Times in early 1981, Murdoch promised that the independence of each would be protected by a board of directors, and made other solemn guarantees.

"On this basis," Evans wrote in Good Times, Bad Times, "I accepted Rupert Murdoch's invitation to edit The Times on February 17 1981. My ambition," he admitted, "got the better of my judgement." Every assurance regarding editorial independence, he added, was blithely disregarded.

On 9 March 1982, the day after he'd come back from burying his father at Bluebell Wood cemetery in Prestatyn, Harold Evans was sacked.

"Ultimately," he says, "Mrs Thatcher was the reason I was fired. Because I was attacking her so much. When she started to dismantle the British economy, the most cogent critic of that policy which led, OK, to... a lot of things... was The Sunday Times. I wrote 70 per cent of that criticism myself. When I became editor of The Times, I continued to criticise monetarism. But I could still see some of the good things about her."

"Just remind us?"

"I'm thinking - and you probably won't agree with this because I sense that you're a firm supporter of the NUJ [National Union of Journalists] - mainly of her dealings with the unions."

"How do you feel about her now?"

"I think she is a very brave woman."

"Hitler was brave."

"Yes, but... she was right about terrorism. She was right about the IRA."

"Do you think Britain would be a better place if she'd never existed?"

"No. I think Britain benefited from her having been there. Britain was becoming so arthritic with labour restrictions."

"Good Times, Bad Times is an unforgiving portrait of Rupert Murdoch."


. . .


(p. 13) [Evans] has called Rupert Murdoch elitist, anti-democratic, and asserted that the Australian cares nothing about the opinion of others, so long as his business expands. This is the same man who refers to "the gratifying defeat of the Luddite unions by Rupert Murdoch".


. . .


"So how do you feel about the Murdoch empire now?"

Evans pauses. "I'm not that familiar with the British... OK. Let's take an alternative scenario. Murdoch never arrives. I manage to take control of The Sunday Times with the management buyout. Then I get defeated by the unions. The Independent wouldn't be here. Rival papers survived because they got the technology. Thanks to Murdoch."




For the full interview, see:

Robert Chalmers, Interviewer. "Harold Evans: 'All I tried to do was shed a little light'." The Independent on Sunday (Sun., June 13, 2010): 8 & 10-13.

(Note: free-standing ellipsis, between paragraphs, added; internal ellipses in original; italics in original; bracketed name added in place of "he.")





September 5, 2010

Action Hero Reagan Made Sure Message Could Be Heard



BuckleyReagan2010-09-01.jpg "William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan in 1978, following their debate over the Panama Canal Treaty." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 23) On the night that William F. Buckley met Ronald Reagan, the future president of the United States put his elbow through a plate-glass window. The year was 1961, and the two men were in Beverly Hills, where Buckley, perhaps the most famous conservative in America at the tender age of 35, was giving an address at a school auditorium. Reagan, a former Hollywood leading man dabbling in political activism -- the Tim Robbins or Alec Baldwin of his day -- had been asked to do the introductions.

But the microphone was dead, the technician was nowhere to be found and the control room was locked. As the crowd began to grumble, Reagan coolly opened one of the auditorium windows, stepped onto a ledge two stories above the street and inched his way around to the control room. He smashed his elbow through the glass and clambered in through the broken window. "In a minute there was light in the upstairs room," Buckley later wrote, "and then we could hear the crackling of the newly animated microphone."

This anecdote kicks off The Reagan I Knew (Basic Books, $25), a slight and padded reminiscence published posthumously this past autumn, nine months after Buckley's death.



For the full review essay, see:

ROSS DOUTHAT. "Essay; When Buckley Met Reagan ." The New York Times, Book Review Section (Sun., January 18, 2009): 23.

(Note: bold in original.)

(Note: The online version of the review essay was dated January 16, 2009.)





July 2, 2010

Cellphones in North Korea Promote Free Speech



NorthKoreanDefectorCellphone2010-05-20.jpg"Mun Seong-hwi, a North Korean defector, speaking to someone in North Korea to gather information at his office in Seoul." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


I have long believed, but cannot prove, that on balance technology improves human freedom more than it endangers it.

The case of cellphones in North Korea supports my belief.


(p. A1) SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea, one of the world's most impenetrable nations, is facing a new threat: networks of its own citizens feeding information about life there to South Korea and its Western allies.

The networks are the creation of a handful of North Korean defectors and South Korean human rights activists using cellphones to pierce North Korea's near-total news blackout. To build the networks, recruiters slip into China to woo the few North Koreans allowed to travel there, provide cellphones to smuggle across the border, then post informers' phoned and texted reports on Web sites.

The work is risky. Recruiters spend months identifying and coaxing potential informants, all the while evading agents from the North and the Chinese police bent on stopping their work. The North Koreans face even greater danger; exposure could lead to imprisonment -- or death.



For the full story, see

CHOE SANG-HUN. "North Koreans Use Cellphones to Bare Secrets." The New York Times (Mon., March 29, 2010): A1 & A10.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated March 28, 2010.)





June 10, 2010

Mr. Africa Carries a Gun to Keep the Press Free



RadioMogadishuStudio2010-05-19.jpg"Anchors read the latest news from around the world this month in the studio at Radio Mogadishu, which opened in 1951." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A6) This is a typical day at Radio Mogadishu, the one and only relatively free radio station in south central Somalia where journalists can broadcast what they like -- without worrying about being beheaded. The station's 90-foot antennas, which rise above the rubble of the neighborhood, have literally become a beacon of freedom for reporters, editors, technicians and disc jockeys all across Somalia who have been chased away from their jobs by radical Islamist insurgents.


. . .


Somalia has become one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism, with more than 20 journalists assassinated in the past four years. "We miss them," Mr. Africa said about his fallen colleagues.

He cracked an embarrassed smile when asked about his name. "It's because I'm dark, really dark," he said.

Mr. Africa used to work at one of the city's other radio stations (the city has more than 10) but decided to move on after fighters with the Shabab dropped by and threatened to kill the reporters if they did not broadcast pro-Shabab news. Mr. Africa called the Shabab meddlers "secret editors" and now he carries a gun.

"I tried to get the other journalists to buy pistols," Mr. Africa remembered. "But nobody listened to me."

Another reporter, Musa Osman, said that his real home was only about a mile away.

"But I haven't seen my kids for months," he said.

He drew his finger across his throat and laughed a sharp, bitter laugh when asked what would happen if he went home.

The digs here are hardly plush. Most of the journalists sleep on thin foam mattresses in bald concrete rooms. The station itself is a crumbling, bullet-scarred reflection of this entire nation, which has been essentially governmentless for nearly two decades.


. . .


They air the speeches of insurgent leaders, they say, and stories about government soldiers robbing citizens.

"If the government does something bad," Mr. Africa said. "We report it."



For the full story, see:

JEFFREY GETTLEMAN. "Mogadishu Journal; A Guiding Voice Amid the Ruins of a Capital City." The New York Times (Tues., March 30, 2010): A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review is dated March 29, 2010.)





March 20, 2010

Brin Plays Google's "Ethical Trump Card"



BrinSergey2010-03-16.jpg "Co-founder Sergey Brin has been active in Google's dealings with China." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A8) As a boy growing up in the Soviet Union, Sergey Brin witnessed the consequences of censorship. Now the Google Inc. co-founder is drawing on that experience in shaping the company's showdown with the Chinese government.

Mr. Brin has long been Google's moral compass on China-related issues, say people familiar with the matter. He expressed the greatest concern among decision makers, they say, about the compromises Google made when it launched its Chinese-language search engine, Google.cn, in 2006. He is now the guiding force behind Google's decision to stop filtering search results in China, say people familiar with the decision.


. . .


The move is the clearest manifestation yet of a tension that has always existed at Google.

The Internet company, on one hand, is analytical: It built its core search business on algorithms that determine the relevance of Web sites and has tried to apply quantitative analysis to traditionally subjective parts of a business, such as hiring decisions. On the other hand, Mr. Brin and co-founder Larry Page have passionately touted Google's ability to spread democracy through access to information, and adopted the unofficial and now-famous motto, "Don't Be Evil."

"At its best, Google is data-driven with an ethical trump card," said Larry Brilliant, who headed up the company's philanthropic efforts until 2009. Always it was the founders, Messrs. Brin and Page, who could play that card, he added.



For the full story, see:

BEN WORTHEN. "Soviet-Born Brin Has Shaped Google's Stand." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., MARCH 13, 2010): A8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article had the date MARCH 12, 2010 and has the slightly longer title "Soviet-Born Brin Has Shaped Google's Stand on China.")





March 19, 2010

"A Regime that Survived through Myth and Fear"



(p. 4) It's an old Soviet joke.

Three Russians are in the gulag. The first one says, "What are you in for?"

The second one replies, "I called Zbarsky a revolutionary."

"That's funny," the first one says. "I called Zbarsky a counterrevolutionary."

"That's funny," the third one says. "I'm Zbarsky."

Vern Thiessen's new play, "Lenin's Embalmers," which starts on Wednesday at the Ensemble Studio Theater in Clinton, opens with the ghost of Lenin telling this joke as a parable of the mordant doom pervading the Communist state he created.

In real life the joke wasn't specifically about Zbarsky. You could insert any of Stalin's thousands of lackeys turned victims. Certainly Zbarsky would do. Boris Zbarsky was a real person, one of the two biochemists who, after Lenin died in 1924, were ordered by the Kremlin to devise a way of preserving his body forever.

He and his colleague, Vladimir Vorobiev -- the play's main characters -- succeeded spectacularly, won fortune and power, then fell from grace into the terror, like many others who served a regime that survived through myth and fear.


. . .


The new work, written as a stylized dark comedy, takes only a few liberties with history. It has Zbarsky and Vorobiev arrested after they're tricked into betraying each other. In fact Mr. Vorobiev died in a hospital, under mysterious circumstances, in 1937. Mr. Zbarsky was arrested in 1952; he was freed two years later, after Stalin's death, and died of a seizure soon after. Still, betrayals and trumped-up confessions were common in the era.




For the full review, see:

FRED KAPLAN. "He's Had Work: Preserving the Face of a Revolution." The New York Times, Arts&Leisure Section (Sun., February 28, 2010): 4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 23 (sic), 2010.)





February 20, 2010

"How Am I Going to Live without Google?"



GoogleChinaFlowers2010-01-25.jpg "A woman examined bouquets and messages left by Google users on Wednesday outside the Internet search company's headquarters in Beijing." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article cited way below (after the citation to the quoted article, which is a different article).


David Smick in The World as Curved, has suggested that restrictions on the internet in China, limit entrepreneurship, and ultimately economic growth.


(p. 5) BEIJING -- At the elite Tsinghua University here, some students were joking Friday that they had better download all the Internet information they wanted now in case Google left the country.

But to many of the young, well-educated Chinese who are Google's loyal users here, the company's threat to leave is in fact no laughing matter. Interviews in Beijing's downtown and university district indicated that many viewed the possible loss of Google's maps, translation service, sketching software, access to scholarly papers and search function with real distress.

"How am I going to live without Google?" asked Wang Yuanyuan, a 29-year-old businessman, as he left a convenience store in Beijing's business district.


. . .


Li An, a Tsinghua University senior, said she used to download episodes of "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" from sites run by BT China that are now closed. "I love American television series," she said with frustration during a pause from studying Japanese at a university fast-food restaurant on Friday.

The loss of Google would hit her much harder, she said, because she relies on Google Scholar to download academic papers for her classes in polymer science. "For me, this is terrible," Ms. Li said.

Some students contend that even after Google pulls out, Internet space will continue to shrink. Until now, Google has shielded Baidu by manning the front line in the censorship battle, said a 20-year-old computer science major at Tsinghua.

"Without Google, Baidu will be very easy to manipulate," he said. "I don't want to see this trend."

A 21-year old civil engineering student predicted a strong reaction against the government. "If Google really leaves, people will feel the government has gone too far," he insisted over lunch in the university cafe.

But asked whether that reaction would influence the government to soften its policies, he concentrated on his French fries. "I really don't know," he said.




For the full story, see:

SHARON LaFRANIERE. "Google Users in China, Mostly Young and Educated, Fear Losing Important Tool." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., January 17, 2010): 5.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "China at Odds With Future in Internet Fight" and is dated January 16, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The source of the photo at the top is the online version of:

KEITH BRADSHER and DAVID BARBOZA. "Google Is Not Alone in Discontent, But Its Threat Stands Out." The New York Times (Thurs., January 13, 2010): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the article has the slightly different title "Google Is Not Alone in Discontent, But Its Threat to Leave Stands Out" and is dated January 14, 2010.)


The reference to the Smick book is:

Smick, David M. The World Is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy. New York: Portfolio Hardcover, 2008.





February 17, 2010

Socialist Chávez Quashes Free Speech in Venezuela



Here is evidence of the continuing relevance of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom:


(p. A5) CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A cable television channel that has been critical of President Hugo Chávez was taken off the air on Sunday after defying new government regulations requiring it to televise some of Mr. Chávez's speeches.

Venezuelan cable and satellite television providers stopped transmitting the channel, Radio Caracas Television, after it did not broadcast a speech by Mr. Chávez on Saturday at a rally of political supporters.


. . .


. . . the cable channel, known as RCTV, said the telecommunications agency "doesn't have any authority to give the cable service providers this order." It said in a statement, "The government is inappropriately pressuring them to make decisions beyond their responsibilities."

The channel switched to cable in 2007 after the government refused to renew its license to broadcast on the regular airwaves.



For the full story, see:

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. "Cable TV Station Critical of Chávez Is Shut Down." The New York Times (Mon., January 25, 2010): A5.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date January 24, 2010.)

(Note: ellipses added.)


Reference for Hayek book:

Hayek, Friedrich A. Von. The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press, 1944.





January 20, 2010

Global Warming "Consensus" Achieved by Suppressing Skeptical Research



(p. A25) When scientists make putative compendia of that literature, such as is done by the U.N. climate change panel every six years, the writers assume that the peer-reviewed literature is a true and unbiased sample of the state of climate science.

That can no longer be the case. The alliance of scientists at East Anglia, Penn State and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (in Boulder, Colo.) has done its best to bias it.

A refereed journal, Climate Research, published two particular papers that offended Michael Mann of Penn State and Tom Wigley of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. One of the papers, published in 2003 by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas (of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), was a meta-analysis of dozens of "paleoclimate" studies that extended back 1,000 years. They concluded that 20th-century temperatures could not confidently be considered to be warmer than those indicated at the beginning of the last millennium.

In fact, that period, known as the "Medieval Warm Period" (MWP), was generally considered warmer than the 20th century in climate textbooks and climate compendia, including those in the 1990s from the IPCC.

Then, in 1999, Mr. Mann published his famous "hockey stick" article in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), which, through the magic of multivariate statistics and questionable data weighting, wiped out both the Medieval Warm Period and the subsequent "Little Ice Age" (a cold period from the late 16th century to the mid-19th century), leaving only the 20th-century warming as an anomaly of note.

Messrs. Mann and Wigley also didn't like a paper I published in Climate Research in 2002. It said human activity was warming surface temperatures, and that this was consistent with the mathematical form (but not the size) of projections from computer models. Why? The magnitude of the warming in CRU's own data was not as great as in the models, so therefore the models merely were a bit enthusiastic about the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Mr. Mann called upon his colleagues to try and put Climate Research out of business. "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," he wrote in one of the emails. "We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board."

After Messrs. Jones and Mann threatened a boycott of publications and reviews, half the editorial board of Climate Research resigned. People who didn't toe Messrs. Wigley, Mann and Jones's line began to experience increasing difficulty in publishing their results.




For the full commentary, see:

PATRICK J. MICHAELS. "OPINION; How to Manufacture a Climate Consensus; The East Anglia emails are just the tip of the iceberg." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., DECEMBER 18, 2009): A25.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated DECEMBER 17, 2009.)





January 7, 2010

"Today You Can Be What You Want to Be"



CzechDemonstrator1989-11-25.jpg"In this Nov. 25, 1989, file photo a Czech demonstrator overcome by emotion after hearing about the resignation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Prague." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A16) . . . Mirek Kodym, 56, a ponytailed former security guard who published illegal political and literary tracts before 1989 and marched on Tuesday as he had 20 years ago, said the Velvet Revolution had been a seminal moment in which a beleaguered nation had finally tasted freedom.

"Today you can be what you want to be and do what you want to do, and no one will interfere," he said. "The nostalgia for the past is a stupid thing."




For the full story, see:

DAN BILEFSKY. "Celebrating Revolution With Roots in a Rumor." The New York Times (Weds., November 18, 2009): A16.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated November 17, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)



CzechVelvetRevolutionCandles2009-12-20.jpg"The former Czech Republic's president Vaclav Havel, background center, with a red scarf, placed a candle at a commemoration of the so-called Velvet Revolution, in Prague on Tuesday." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






January 3, 2010

Castro Agents Beat Up Cuban Blogger



SanchezYoaniCubanBlogger2009-12-19.jpg"Blogger Yoani Sánchez speaks at home in Havana on Monday, days after she says she was beaten by Cuban agents." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A14) Yoani Sánchez, Cuba's most prominent dissident blogger, was walking along a Havana street last Friday along with two other bloggers and a friend when two men she says were Cuban agents in civilian clothes forced her inside an unmarked black car and beat her, telling her to stop criticizing the government.

The assault, believed to be the first against the growing blogger movement on the island, has cast a spotlight on the country's record of repression, highlighting how little change there has been in political freedoms during the nearly three years since Raúl Castro took over as president from retired dictator Fidel Castro.

A decline in tourism revenues from the global recession and damage from several hurricanes last year have prompted the island's government to clamp down even harder on dissent and freedom of speech, according to a recent report by the Inter American Press Association, a watchdog group.

The group said Cuba currently has 26 journalists in jail, and it cited 102 incidents against Cuban journalists in the past year, including beatings, arbitrary arrests and death threats.




For the full story, see:

DAVID LUHNOW. "Beating Rattles Cuban Bloggers." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., NOVEMBER 11, 2009): A14.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated NOVEMBER 12, 2009.)





December 30, 2009

"When the Sons of the Communists Themselves Wanted to Become Capitalists and Entrepreneurs"



JanicekJosefPlasticPeople2009-12-19.jpg"Josef Janicek, 61, was on the keyboard for a concert in Prague last week by the band Plastic People of the Universe." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A10) PRAGUE -- It has been called the Velvet Revolution, a revolution so velvety that not a single bullet was fired.

But the largely peaceful overthrow of four decades of Communism in Czechoslovakia that kicked off on Nov. 17, 1989, can also be linked decades earlier to a Velvet Underground-inspired rock band called the Plastic People of the Universe. Band members donned satin togas, painted their faces with lurid colors and wrote wild, sometimes angry, incendiary songs.

It was their refusal to cut their long, dank hair; their willingness to brave prison cells rather than alter their darkly subversive lyrics ("peace, peace, peace, just like toilet paper!"); and their talent for tapping into a generation's collective despair that helped change the future direction of a nation.

"We were unwilling heroes who just wanted to play rock 'n' roll," said Josef Janicek, 61, the band's doughy-faced keyboard player, who bears a striking resemblance to John Lennon and still sports the grungy look that once helped get him arrested. "The Bolsheviks understood that culture and music has a strong influence on people, and our refusal to compromise drove them insane."


. . .


In 1970, the Communist government revoked the license for the Plastics to perform in public, forcing the band to go underground. In February 1976, the Plastic People organized a music festival in the small town of Bojanovice -- dubbed "Magor's Wedding" -- featuring 13 other bands. One month later, the police set out to silence the musical rebels, arresting dozens. Mr. Janicek was jailed for six months; Mr. Jirous and other band members got longer sentences.

Mr. Havel, already a leading dissident, was irate. The trial of the Plastic People that soon followed became a cause célèbre.

Looking back on the Velvet Revolution they helped inspire, however indirectly, Mr. Janicek recalled that on Nov. 17, 1989, the day of mass demonstrations, he was in a pub nursing a beer. He argued that the revolution had been an evolution, fomented by the loosening of Communism's grip under Mikhail Gorbachev and the overwhelming frustration of ordinary people with their grim, everyday lives. "The Bolsheviks knew the game was up," he said, "when the sons of the Communists themselves wanted to become capitalists and entrepreneurs."




For the full story, see:

DAN BILEFSKY. "Czechs' Velvet Revolution Paved by Plastic People." The New York Times (Mon., November 16, 2009): A10.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated November 15, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





December 8, 2009

"Market Wu" Annoys Maoists and Corrupt Bureaucrats



WuJinnglian2009-10-24.jpg "Wu Jinglian helped to create China's market economy, and now he is defending it against conservative hardliners in the Communist Party." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 1) AT 79, Wu Jinglian is considered China's most famous economist.

In the 1980s and '90s, he was an adviser to China's leaders, including Deng Xiaoping. He helped push through some of this country's earliest market reforms, paving the way for China's spectacular rise and earning him the nickname "Market Wu."

Last year, China's state-controlled media slapped him with a new moniker: spy.

Mr. Wu has not been interrogated, charged or imprisoned. But the fact that a state newspaper, The People's Daily, among others, was allowed to publish Internet rumors alleging that he had been detained on suspicions of being a spy for the United States hints that he is annoying some very important people in the government.

He denied the allegations, and soon after they were published, China's cabinet denied that an investigation was under way.

But in a country that often jails critics, Mr. Wu seems to be testing the limits of what Beijing deems permissible. While many economists argue that China's growth model is flawed, rarely does a prominent Chinese figure, in the government or out, speak with such candor about flaws he sees in China's leadership.

Mr. Wu -- who still holds a research post at an institute affiliated with the State Council, China's cabinet -- has white hair and an amiable face, and he appears frail. But his assessments are often harsh. In books, speeches, interviews and television appearances, he warns that conservative hardliners in the Communist Party have gained influence in the government and are trying to dismantle the market reforms he helped formulate.

He complains that business tycoons and corrupt officials have hijacked the economy and manipulated it for their own ends, a system he calls crony capitalism. He has even called on Beijing to establish a British-style democracy, arguing that political reform is inevitable.

Provocative statements have made him a kind of dissident economist here, and revealed the sharp debates behind the scenes, at the highest levels of the Communist Party, about the direction of China's half-market, half-socialist economy.

In many ways, it is a continuation of the debate that has been raging for three decades: What role should the government play in China's hybrid economy?

Mr. Wu says the spy rumors were "dirty tricks" employed by his critics to discredit him.

"I have two enemies," he said in a recent interview. "The crony capitalists and the Maoists. They will use any means to attack me."


. . .


(p. 7) In interviews, Mr. Wu says he feels compelled to speak out because conservatives and "old-style Maoists" have been gaining influence in the government since 2004. These groups, he said, are pressing for a return to central planning and placing blame for corruption and social inequality on the very market reforms he championed.

At the same time, Mr. Wu says, corrupt bureaucrats are pushing for the state to take a larger economic role so they can cash in on their positions through payoffs and bribes, as well as by steering business to allies.

"I'm not optimistic about the future," Mr. Wu said. "The Maoists want to go back to central planning and the cronies want to get richer."



For the full story, see:

DAVID BARBOZA. "China's Mr. Wu Keeps Talking." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., September 26, 2009): 1 & 7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


WuChinaTimeline2009-10-24.jpgSource of timeline graphic: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





October 10, 2009

Voting With Feet Is "Most Compelling Evidence"



(p. 45) The most compelling evidence that freedom promotes happiness comes from the fact that migration is almost always toward more freedom.



Source:

Lee, Dwight R. "Happiness and Liberty." Intercollegiate Review 42, no. 2 (Fall 2007): 41-48.

(Note: italics in original.)






July 31, 2009

Obama EPA Censors Global Warming Skeptic



CarlinAlan2009-07-05.jpg














"Alan Carlin, 35-year Environmental Protection Agency veteran." Source of caricature and caption: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A11) In March, the Obama EPA prepared to engage the global-warming debate in an astounding new way, by issuing an "endangerment" finding on carbon. It establishes that carbon is a pollutant, and thereby gives the EPA the authority to regulate it -- even if Congress doesn't act.

Around this time, Mr. Carlin and a colleague presented a 98-page analysis arguing the agency should take another look, as the science behind man-made global warming is inconclusive at best. The analysis noted that global temperatures were on a downward trend. It pointed out problems with climate models. It highlighted new research that contradicts apocalyptic scenarios. "We believe our concerns and reservations are sufficiently important to warrant a serious review of the science by EPA," the report read.

The response to Mr. Carlin was an email from his boss, Al McGartland, forbidding him from "any direct communication" with anyone outside of his office with regard to his analysis. When Mr. Carlin tried again to disseminate his analysis, Mr. McGartland decreed: "The administrator and the administration have decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. . . . I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office." (Emphasis added.)

Mr. McGartland blasted yet another email: "With the endangerment finding nearly final, you need to move on to other issues and subjects. I don't want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change. No papers, no research etc, at least until we see what EPA is going to do with Climate." Ideology? Nope, not here. Just us science folk. Honest.



For the full commentary, see:

KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL. "OPINION: POTOMAC WATCH; The EPA Silences a Climate Skeptic." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., JULY 3, 2009): A11.

(Note: ellipsis in original; italics added by Strassel.)





June 19, 2009

Ukrainian Memorial to the Millions Starved by Stalin's Communism



FamineMemorialKievUkraine.jpg "A memorial to the famine, right, opposite a revered cathedral, was dedicated last November in Kiev. A museum is planned there." Source of photo and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A6) KIEV, Ukraine -- A quarter century ago, a Ukrainian historian named Stanislav Kulchytsky was told by his Soviet overlords to concoct an insidious cover-up. His orders: to depict the famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the early 1930s as unavoidable, like a natural disaster. Absolve the Communist Party of blame. Uphold the legacy of Stalin.

Professor Kulchytsky, though, would not go along.

The other day, as he stood before a new memorial to the victims of the famine, he recalled his decision as one turning point in a movement lasting decades to unearth the truth about that period. And the memorial itself, shaped like a towering candle with a golden eternal flame, seemed to him in some sense a culmination of this effort.

"It is a sign of our respect for the past," Professor Kulchytsky said. "Because everyone was silent about the famine for many years. And when it became possible to talk about it, nothing was said. Three generations on."


. . .


The pro-Western government in Kiev, which came to power after the Orange Revolution of 2004, calls the famine a genocide that Stalin ordered because he wanted to decimate the Ukrainian citizenry and snuff out aspirations for independence from Moscow.

The archives make plain that no other conclusion is possible, said Professor Kulchytsky, who is deputy director of the Institute of Ukrainian History in Kiev.

Professor Kulchytsky is 72, though he looks younger, as if he has somehow withstood the draining effect of so much research into the horrors of that time.

"It is difficult to bear," he acknowledged. "The documents about cannibalism are especially difficult to read."

Professor Kulchytsky said it was undeniable that people all over the Soviet Union died from hunger in 1932 and 1933 as the Communists waged war on the peasantry to create farming collectives. But he contended that in Ukraine the authorities went much further, essentially quarantining and starving many villages.

"If in other regions, people were hungry and died from famine, then here people were killed by hunger," Professor Kulchytsky said. "That is the absolute difference."



For the full story, see:

CLIFFORD J. LEVY. "Kiev Journal - A New View of a Famine That Killed Millions." The New York Times (Mon., March 16, 2009): A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





June 5, 2009

China's Grass-Mud Horse Has "Made Government Censors Look Ridiculous"



GrassMudHorseA2009-05-31.jpg"Songs about a mythical alpaca-like creature have taken hold online in China." Source of screen capture and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) BEIJING -- Since its first unheralded appearance in January on a Chinese Web page, the grass-mud horse has become nothing less than a phenomenon.

A YouTube children's song about the beast has drawn nearly 1.4 million viewers. A grass-mud horse cartoon has logged a quarter million more views. A nature documentary on its habits attracted 180,000 more. Stores are selling grass-mud horse dolls. Chinese intellectuals are writing treatises on the grass-mud horse's social importance. The story of the grass-mud horse's struggle against the evil river crab has spread far and wide across the Chinese online community.

Not bad for a mythical creature whose name, in Chinese, sounds very much like an especially vile obscenity. Which is precisely the point.

The grass-mud horse is an example of something that, in China's authoritarian system, passes as subversive behavior. Conceived as an impish protest against censorship, the foul-named little horse has not merely made government censors look ridiculous, although it has surely done that.

It has also raised real ques-(p. A12)tions about China's ability to stanch the flow of information over the Internet -- a project on which the Chinese government already has expended untold riches, and written countless software algorithms to weed deviant thought from the world's largest cyber-community.



For the full story, see:

MICHAEL WINES. "Mythical Beast (a Dirty Pun) Tweaks China's Web Censors." The New York Times (Thurs., March 12, 2009): A1 & A12.

(Note: the online title of the article is: "A Dirty Pun Tweaks China's Online Censors.")


GrassMudHorseB2009-05-31.jpg"The popularity of the grass-mud horse has raised questions about China's ability to stanch the flow of information." Source of screen capture and caption: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






April 12, 2009

Union Dynamited "True Industrial Freedom"


AmericanLightningBK.jpg















Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.



(p. A23) The turn-of-the-20th-century war of capital and labor is not even half-remembered now. But the glum slab of the Los Angeles Times building will remind anyone who cares to look. The antiunion rallying cry of "True Industrial Freedom" is carved deeply into its façade. Completed in 1935, the building is a cenotaph for the 21 nonunion pressmen and linotype operators who were blown up on an early October morning in 1910 and died in a storm of fire and collapsing masonry.

The dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times was, for Howard Blum in "American Lightning," the war's decisive engagement. After it, a national campaign of union-led terrorism was exposed; labor sympathizers who defended the bombers were proved to be gullible (if not dishonest); and the political force of American socialism was wrecked. Reputations were wrecked, too, principally that of Clarence Darrow, who was then a renowned labor lawyer.

. . .


In 1910, Los Angeles was a young boomtown aching for water and respectability. To the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Harrison Gray Otis, respectability included making sure that the city was uninfested by union labor. It was an era of deep enmity and suspicion between business and labor, when it was not uncommon for strikes to end in riots and death. Otis and the Times preached the open shop with such vehemence that it was almost inevitable that they would become targets of prounion wrath.

The dynamite conspiracy unraveled when a second, unexploded bomb in Los Angeles was found to match another bomb discovered a month earlier by a Burns operative in a rail yard in Peoria, Ill. Burns tied the evidence to a campaign of terror against the National Erectors Association, a union-busting alliance of builders. The target of the association's animus was the union shop in general and the Structural Iron Workers Union in particular. John McNamara was the union's secretary-treasurer. His brother James was a union agent. Their weapons against the association and its allies were nitroglycerine and dynamite.



For the full review, see:

D.J. WALDIE. "Bookshelf; Dynamite and Deadlines." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., SEPTEMBER 16, 2008): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The reference to the book under review, is:

Blum, Howard. American Lightning. New York: Crown Publishers, 2008.





April 3, 2009

"Capitalism without Capitalists"


(p. 131) . . . suffusing all the most visionary and idealistic prose of leftist economics is the same essential dream of the same static and technocratic destiny: capitalism without capitalists. Wealth without the rich, choice without too many things to choose, political and intellectual freedom without a vulgarian welter of individual money and goods, a social revolution every week or so without all this disruptive enterprise.


Source:

Gilder, George. The Spirit of Enterprise. 1 ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





January 2, 2009

Economist Arrested for Speaking the Truth


SmirnovDmitrjisLatvianEconomist.gif





Detained Latvian economist Dmitrijs Smirnovs. Source of image: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) RIGA, Latvia -- Hammered by economic woe, this former Soviet republic recently took a novel step to contain the crisis. Its counterespionage agency busted an economist for being too downbeat.

"All I did was say what everyone knows," says Dmitrijs Smirnovs, a 32-year-old university lecturer detained by Latvia's Security Police. The force is responsible for hunting down spies, terrorists and other threats to this Baltic nation of 2.3 million people and 26 banks.

Now free after two days of questioning, Mr. Smirnovs hasn't been charged. But he is still under investigation for bad-mouthing the stability of Latvia's banks and the national currency, the lat. Investigators suspect him of spreading "untruthful information." They've ordered him not to leave the country and seized his computer.

Finance is a highly touchy subject in Latvia, one that the state tries, with unusual zeal, to shield from loose tongues. It is a criminal offense here to spread "untrue data or information" about the country's financial system. Undermining it is outlawed as subversion.

So, when the global financial system began to buckle this autumn, Latvia's Security Police mobilized to combat destabilizing chatter about banks and exchange rates. Agents directed their attention to Inter-(p. A19)net chat rooms, newspaper articles, cellphone text messages and even rock concerts. A popular musician was taken in for questioning after he cracked a joke about unstable Latvian banks at a performance.

Just one problem: Much of the speculative buzz now turns out to ring true.

. . .

In Latvia's Soviet past, officials routinely blamed their problems on saboteurs or other scapegoats. "This is part of our political culture," says Sergei Kruks, a media-studies lecturer. "If the state doesn't have a solution, it has to find someone to blame."



For the full story, see:

ANDREW HIGGINS. "How to Combat a Banking Crisis: First, Round Up the Pessimists; Latvian Agents Detain a Gloomy Economist; 'It Is a Form of Deterrence'." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., DECEMBER 1, 2008): A1 & A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)




November 24, 2008

Founder of Experimental Science Received Prison as His Reward


(p. 53) Where men had once said, 'Credo ut intelligam' (understanding can come only through belief), they now said, 'Intelligo ut credam' (belief can come only through understanding). In 1277, Roger Bacon was imprisoned for an indefinite period for holding these opinions. Free and rational investigation of nature was to come hard in the clash between reason and faith which would echo down to our own time.


Source:

Burke, James. The Day the Universe Changed: How Galileo's Telescope Changed the Truth and Other Events in History That Dramatically Altered Our Understanding of the World. Back Bay Books, 1995.





September 14, 2008

Cubans Skeptical of Their Government


CubanCellPhone.jpg "Cubans used a cellphone to take photos in Havana recently after Cuba's government lifted some restrictions on consumer items." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A16) MEXICO CITY -- A rare study conducted surreptitiously in Cuba found that more than half of those interviewed considered their economic woes to be their chief concern while less than 10 percent listed lack of political freedom as the main problem facing the country.

"Almost every poll you ever see, even those in the U.S., goes to bread-and-butter issues," said Alex Sutton, director of Latin American and Caribbean programs at the International Republican Institute, which conducted the study. "Everybody everywhere is interested in their purchasing power."

The results showed deep anxiety about the state of the country, with 35 percent of respondents saying things were "so-so" and 47 percent saying they were going "badly" or "very badly." As for the government's ability to turn things around, Cubans were skeptical, with 70 percent of those interviewed saying they did not believe that the authorities would resolve the country's biggest problem in the next few years.

The study, to be released on Thursday, was conducted from March 14 to April 12, after Raúl Castro officially took over the presidency.



For the full story, see:

MARC LACEY. "In Rare Study, Cubans Put Money Worries First." The New York Times (Thurs., June 5, 2008): A16.

(Note: the order of some of the article content differed in the print and online versions; the version above is consistent with the print version.)




August 9, 2008

Blacklisting of Voight Urged in Display of Liberal Hollywood McCarthyism


VoightBlackListedByLiberals.jpg
VoightBlacklistedByLiberals2.jpg
















Source of the images: screen captures from the CNN report cited below.

With self-righteous indignation, the left often accuses the right of "McCarthyism."

But many on the left are happy to limit free speech when what is spoken is not to their liking.

Jon Voight's column in the Washington Times has ignited a firestorm, and caused at least one Hollywood insider to openly advocate blacklisting Voight from the movie business. The CNN story cited and linked below, gives some of the details.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated example.

On our campuses, free speech is often violated if the speaker speaks what is not politically correct. For many examples, see some of the cases discussed on the web site of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Another example is from my own personal experience as a young scholar many decades ago. I had applied to three or four top PhD programs in philosophy and was initially rejected from every one of them, even though I had a nearly perfect GPA, and very high test scores.

I was especially surprised by the rejection from Chicago, because an Associate Dean had visited the Wabash campus the year before and talked with me about applying to Chicago. He had looked at my record and said, 'with your record, if you score X, or above on the GREs, it is almost certain that you will be accepted.' (I don't remember the exact number he said.) Well I scored above X, but was rejected. So I wrote to the Associate Dean, saying I was disappointed and asking if he had any insight about the rejection. He told me that he was dumbfounded and that he would look into it.

Awhile later, I received a letter reversing the decision of the University of Chicago Department of Philosophy. I never learned all the details, but apparently the Dean of Humanities had over-ruled the Department of Philosophy. (This is fairly unusual in academics, and though I do not remember her name, I salute that Dean for taking a stand.)

Years later, the episode came up in a conversation with a member of the philosophy faculty. He said that he had been on the admissions committee the year that I had applied, and that I had been rejected because I had mentioned Ayn Rand in my essay about how I had become interested in philosophy.

For some of the details of the Voight story, see:

Wynter, Kareen. "Bloggers Fire Back at Voight." CNN Feature, broadcast on CNN, and posted on CNN.com on 8/8/08. Downloaded on 8/8/08 from: http://www.cnn.com/video/?iref=videoglobal

(Note: the clip runs 2 minutes and 27 seconds.)

Voight's op-ed piece ran in the Washington Times on July 28, 2008 under the title "My Concerns for America" and can be viewed at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/jul/28/voight/





July 2, 2008

The Radical Islamic Threat to Free Speech


AliAyaanHirsi2.jpg

"Marked for death: Ayaan Hirsi Ali." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ commentary quoted and cited below.

(p. A15) Criticism of Islam, however, has led to violence and murder world-wide. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie over his 1988 book, "The Satanic Verses." Although Mr. Rushdie has survived, two people associated with the book were stabbed, one fatally. The 2005 Danish editorial cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad led to numerous deaths. Dutch director Theodoor van Gogh was killed in 2004, several months after he made the film "Submission," which described violence against women in Islamic societies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch member of parliament who wrote the script for "Submission," received death threats over the film and fled the country for the United States.


The violence Dutch officials are anticipating now is part of a broad and determined effort by the radical jihadist movement to reject the basic values of modern civilization and replace them with an extreme form of Shariah. Shariah, the legal code of Islam, governed the Muslim world in medieval times and is used to varying degrees in many nations today, especially in Saudi Arabia.

Radical jihadists are prepared to use violence against individuals to stop them from exercising their free speech rights. In some countries, converting a Muslim to another faith is a crime punishable by death. While Muslim clerics are free to preach and proselytize in the West, some Muslim nations severely restrict or forbid other faiths to do so. In addition, moderate Muslims around the world have been deemed apostates and enemies by radical jihadists.


For the full commentary, see:

PETER HOEKSTRA. "Islam and Free Speech." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., March 26, 2008): A15.




March 21, 2008

"The Chronically Apalled Must Not Have the Last Word"


(p. A20) Unfortunately, the deniers of differences between the sexes are on the march with powerful allies. In the fall of 2006, the National Academy of Sciences released a recklessly one-sided study, now widely referred to as authoritative, titled "Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering." According to the report, differences in cognition between the sexes have no bearing on the dearth of women in academic math, physics and engineering. It is all due to bias. Case closed. The report calls on Congress to hold hearings on gender bias in the sciences and on federal agencies to "move immediately" (emphasis in original) to apply anti-discrimination laws such as Title IX to academic science (but not English) departments. "The time for action is now."

No it is not. Now is the time for scholars in our universities and in the National Academy of Sciences to defend and support principles of free and objective inquiry. The chronically appalled must not have the last word.


For the full commentary, see:

Christina Hoff Sommers. "Academic Inquisitors." Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 16, 2007): A.20.




December 14, 2007

Professor Dowling's Defense of the University Against Big-Time Spectator Sports

 

  Professor William C. Dowling.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. C15)  For more than a decade at Rutgers, Dr. Dowling has stood as an idealistic absolutist, an intellectual convinced that the thunder of big-time athletics was crumbling the ivory tower of academe.

He has been the conscience, the Cassandra, the crank, the nag, the pain, infuriating opponents and, at times, exasperating allies. Enough years of being the whistle-blower, after all, can make even a tuneful musician sound shrill.

But now, just as Rutgers’s recent triumphs in football and basketball might seem to have justified the university’s investment of tens of millions of dollars, Dr. Dowling has answered in his own subversive way. His memoir of the decade-long campaign against high-stakes athletics at Rutgers, “Confessions of a Spoilsport,” has just been published by Penn State University Press. It is his valediction, and its tone, far from mournful, is defiant.

“I wanted this book to be a monument,” Dr. Dowling, 62, said after class. “I wanted it to be a monument to the kids and the faculty who rallied around this issue. We tried to take on the monster of commercialized sports, even if it swallowed us up and passed us out the other end. Someone should know that we fought the good fight. And because I believe in literature as a form of symbolic action, I want readers to see the possibility of another way. Think about the impact of a book like ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ on slavery.”

. . .  

Dartmouth . . . instilled in Dr. Dowling an appreciation for what he calls now “participatory sports” — sports without scholarships, separate dorms, team tutors, product endorsements, television contracts, reduced admissions standards, easy classes and so many other tropes of Division I-A sports.

Rutgers, in turn, provided a striking example of before and after. For more than 100 years after playing Princeton in the first intercollegiate football game in 1869, Rutgers had competed against schools like Lafayette and Colgate with which it shared academic standards. Then, in 1991, Rutgers joined the Big East Conference, making it a peer of ethically challenged football factories like Miami.

Dr. Dowling grew convinced that the shift was degrading the caliber of students, indeed the entire communal culture.  . . .   And while he enjoyed teaching many members of the track, swimming and crew teams in his courses, he vociferously resisted the notion that athletic scholarships offered opportunity to low-income, minority students.

“If you were giving the scholarship to an intellectually brilliant kid who happens to play a sport, that’s fine,” he said. “But they give it to a functional illiterate who can’t read a cereal box, and then make him spend 50 hours a week on physical skills. That’s not opportunity. If you want to give financial help to minorities, go find the ones who are at the library after school.”

 

For the full story, see: 

SAMUEL G. FREEDMAN.  "EDUCATION; To the Victors at Rutgers Also Goes the 'Spoilsport'."  The New York Times  (Weds., September 26, 2007):  C15. 

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

Here is the description of Dowling's book that appears on Amazon

"Universities exist to transmit understanding and ideals and values to students . . . not to provide entertainment for spectators or employment for athletes. . . . When I entered a much smaller Rutgers sixty years ago, athletics were an important but strictly minor aspect of Rutgers education. I trust that today's much larger Rutgers will honor this tradition from which I benefited so much." --Milton Friedman, Rutgers '32, Nobel Prize in Economics, 1976

In 1998, Milton Friedman's statement drew national attention to Rutgers 1000, a campaign in which students, faculty, and alumni were resisting the takeover of their university by commercialized Division IA athletics. Subsequently, the movement received extensive coverage in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Sports Illustrated, and other publications.

Today, "big-time" college athletics remains a hotly debated issue at Rutgers. Why did an old eastern university that had long competed against such institutions as Colgate, Columbia, Lafayette, and Princeton, choose, by joining the Big East conference in 1994, to plunge into the world of such TV-revenue-driven extravaganzas as "March Madness" and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl? What is the moral for universities where big-time college sports have already become the primary source of institutional identity?

Confessions of a Spoilsport is the story of an English professor who, having seen the University of New Mexico sink academically in the period of a major basketball scandal, was galvanized into action when Rutgers joined the Big East. It is also the story of the Rutgers 1000 students and alumni who set out against enormous odds to resist the decline of their university--eviscerated academic programs, cancellation of minor sports, loss of the "best and brightest" in-state students to the nearby College of New Jersey--while tens of millions of dollars were being lavished on Division IA athletics. Ultimately, however, the story of Rutgers 1000 is what the New York Times called it when Milton Friedman issued his ringing statement: a struggle for the soul of a major university.

 

The reference to Dowling's book, is: 

Dowling, William C. Confessions of a Spoilsport: My Life and Hard Times Fighting Sports Corruption at an Old Eastern University. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007.

 

  Source of book image:  http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Spoilsport-Fighting-Corruption-University/dp/0271032936/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196229303&sr=1-1

 




October 26, 2007

Entrepreneurial Capitalism is the Good Kind

 

   Source of book image:  http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/41WVH9PAR3L._SS500_.jpg

 

. . .  capitalism as practiced in the U.S. is different from the capitalism practiced in, say, Singapore or Saudi Arabia. "Capitalism...takes many forms, which differ substantially...in their implications for economic growth and elimination of poverty," three economists write in "Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism." The book identifies four strains of modern capitalism and argues the U.S. version is particularly well-suited to creating and exploiting innovations that boost living standards.

. . .

The book was written by William Baumol, an eclectic New York University economist impressively energetic at 85 years old; Carl Schramm, president and research director of the Kauffman Foundation and a recovering health economist and insurance executive; and Robert Litan, an economist-lawyer who was a budget and antitrust official in the Clinton administration. (Disclosure: I recently spoke at Kauffman's Kansas City, Mo., headquarters.)

. . .

Along the way, the economists make a point often missed in the romanticism about "small business." They aren't talking about all small businesses -- the corner dry cleaner, for instance -- or all the self-employed. Their entrepreneurs are entities that provide a new product or service or develop methods to produce or deliver existing goods and services at lower cost.  . . .

It all sounds great -- and compelling. A capitalism that cannot spur innovation and/or display flexibility to reorganize itself cannot be a model. In their book, though, the three touch too lightly on an issue about which Mr. Litan has written previously. As he puts it in an interview: "An entrepreneurial society is going to be more of a high-risk society."

The strengths of U.S.-style capitalism are apparent. No place in the past quarter century has better mixed the ingredients of talent, imagination, education, science and capital. But the risks are apparent, too: workers who lose jobs and find new ones that pay far less and lack health insurance, widening disparities between economic winners and losers, challenges posed by stiffening competition from low-wage, increasingly skilled workers abroad, and schools that aren't improving as fast as the economy is changing.

Preserving the strengths of American capitalism requires finding a way to reduce the anxiety and harm posed by such risks without losing the entrepreneurial vigor. That's the hard part.

 

For the full commentary/review, see:

DAVID WESSEL. "CAPITAL; By Capitalism's Vigor May Hinge On Confronting Its Risks."  The Wall Street Journal  (Thurs., May 10, 2007):  A2. 

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




October 22, 2007

Helping Russians Remember the Truth About Communism

 

BalabanovAlexeiRussianDirector.jpg  Some of the crew of Gruz 200, including the director Alexei Balabanov, who is second from the left.  Source of the photo:  online version of the WSJ article cited below.

 

(p. B1)  The film is named "Gruz 200" (Cargo 200) after the zinc-lined coffins in which dead Soviet soldiers were shipped home from the 1979-89 war in Afghanistan. Messrs. Balabanov and Selyanov say they made the movie as an antidote to what they describe as rising nostalgia in Russia for the Soviet period.

"I show what filth we lived in," said Mr. Balabanov, a director sometimes described as Russia's Quentin Tarantino. "Society was sick from 1917 onwards," he added, referring to the year the Bolsheviks took power.

The film -- a graphically violent story of the sexual abuse of a teenage girl at the hands of a sadistic Soviet policeman -- paints a relentlessly negative picture of a time that many Russians recall with warm nostalgia. The filmmakers hope to release the movie overseas but haven't yet signed up a foreign distributor.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who restored Russia's Soviet-era national anthem, has called the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century," and polls show a majority of Russians regard the period as one of relative prosperity, stability and national pride. 

. . .

(p. B2)  Mr. Balabanov says "Gruz 200" is based on his own experiences while traveling across the Soviet Union in the 1980s, as well as on stories he heard second-hand.

Mr. Selyanov says he believes it is his "duty" to remind people of what the Soviet Union was really like and combat the rising warmth for the period. "We have to fight this nostalgia," the producer says.

But the film has been dogged by controversy since even before it opened. Mr. Balabanov says three prominent actors who had played in his previous films refused parts once they read the script. "They were scared," he said. The director was forced to use largely unknown actors.

. . .

Russian TV networks, controlled by the state, have balked at even late-night showings -- critical to financial success for Russian movies.

"We don't have the courage to put something like this on the air," said Vladimir Kulistikov, head of the No. 3 NTV network, in a statement.  

 

For the full story, see: 

ANDREW OSBORN.  "From Russia, Without Love: New Movie Slams Soviet Union."  The Wall Street Journal By  (Thurs., June 21, 2007):  B1 & B2.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

Gruz200PoliceCaptain.jpg   The sadistic police captain is portrayed by Alexei Poluyan.  Source of the photo:  online version of the WSJ article cited above.

 




August 19, 2007

Fred Thompson Skewers Michael Moore with Wit and Wisdom

Mr. Moore was back from Cuba, where he made a documentary on the superiority of Castro's health-care system. Mr. Thompson suggested Mr. Moore is just another lefty who loves dictators. Mr. Moore challenged Mr. Thompson to a health-care debate and accused him of smoking embargoed cigars. Within hours Mr. Thompson and his supposedly nonexistent staff had produced a spirited video response that flew through YouTube and the conservative blogosphere. Sitting at a desk and puffing on a fat cigar, Mr. Thompson announces to Mr. Moore he can't fit him into his schedule. Then: "The next time you're down in Cuba . . . you might ask them about another documentary maker. His name was Nicolás Guillén. He did something Castro didn't like, and they put him in a mental institution for several years, giving him devastating electroshock treatments. A mental institution, Michael. Might be something you ought to think about."

You couldn't quite tell if Mr. Thompson was telling Mr. Moore he ought to think more about Cuba, or might himself benefit from psychiatric treatment. It seemed almost . . . deliberately unclear.

 

PEGGY NOONAN.  "DECLARATIONS; The Man Who Wasn't There."  The Wall Street Journal  (Sat., May 19, 2007): P14.

(Note:  ellipsis in original.)

 

See Fred Thompson's response to Michael Moore on YouTube at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds_GhRxivOI  

 

    Source:  screen capture from Fred Thompson's response to Michael Moore at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ds_GhRxivOI

 




July 14, 2007

Mugabe Prints More Money and Beats Up Shopkeepers, as Inflation Soars: More on Why Africa is Poor

 

     "Inflation made food cost a fortune in Harare this week.  The government imposed controls that required vendors to sell some items below cost."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below. 

 

JOHANNESBURG, July 3 — Zimbabwe’s week-old campaign to quell its rampant inflation by forcing merchants to lower prices is edging the nation close to chaos, some economists and merchants say.

As the police and a pro-government youth militia swept into shops and factories, threatening arrest and worse unless prices were rolled back, staple foods vanished from store shelves and some merchants reported huge losses. News reports said that some shopkeepers who had refused to lower prices had been beaten by the youth militia, known as the Green Bombers for the color of their fatigues.

In interviews, merchants said that crowds of people were following the police and militia from shop to shop to buy goods at the government-ordered prices.

“People are losing millions and millions and millions of dollars,” said one merchant in Bulawayo, referring to the Zimbabwean currency, which is becoming worthless given the nation’s inflation, the world’s highest. “Everyone is now running out of stock, and not being able to replace it.”

. . .

Gasoline was reported to be vanishing from stations as the going price, about 180,000 dollars per liter, was slashed by the government to something closer to the officially approved price of 450 dollars per liter. Mr. Mugabe’s government intends to cope with the shortages by subsidizing producers of basic goods. One of the few newspapers not under government control, The Zimbabwe Independent, reported last week that flour, which is controlled entirely by the state, will be sold to bakers for 10 million dollars a ton, half the market price. Similarly, many suppliers of basic goods have been told by the government that they will be allowed to buy gasoline at one tenth the going price, the newspaper reported. The government apparently plans to make up those losses by printing more money. Zimbabwe’s dollar has lost more than half its value in recent weeks because the government has constantly issued new bills to pay its mounting debts.

 

For the full story, see: 

MICHAEL WINES.  "Anti-Inflation Curbs on Prices Create Havoc for Zimbabwe."  The New York Times  (Weds., July 4, 2007):  A8. 

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

CNN on 7/10/07 broadcast a great clip from ITN, that had been courageously recorded undercover by Martin Geissler.  See  "Desperation in Zimbabwe":

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/offbeat/2007/06/23/vo.mi.ugly.dogs.ap?DPFPR=true

(Note:  ITN is sometimes also called ITV.  "ITN" stands for the International Television Network.)

 

Postscript:  According to an entry on the ITV web site entitled "Mugabe Battles Economic Crises," Mugabe "has warned he will not be restrained by "bookish economics"."  (He makes a great case for cracking open the books, doesn't he?  Or at least for opening the window and looking at what is happening outside?)

For the Mugabe quote on bookish economics, see:

http://itn.co.uk/news/a1d7763de3c4778b619a72cbeab24d6d.html

 




June 29, 2007

"Not that Everyone Has Been Intimidated"

 

It is common to ridicule economists--sometimes with some good reason.  But the 50 brave economists in Iran who refused to be intimidated, have made us proud.

 

(p. 1)  Iran is in the throes of one of its most ferocious crackdowns on dissent in years, with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women’s rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.

The shift is occurring against the backdrop of an economy so stressed that although Iran is the world’s second-largest oil exporter, it is on the verge of rationing gasoline. At the same time, the nuclear standoff with the West threatens to bring new sanctions.

The hard-line administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, analysts say, faces rising pressure for failing to deliver on promises of greater prosperity from soaring oil revenue. It has been using American support for a change in government as well as a possible military attack as a pretext to hound his opposition and its sympathizers.

. . .

(p. 9)  Not that everyone has been intimidated. More than 50 leading economists published a harshly worded, open letter to the president saying his policies were bringing economic ruin. High unemployment persists, there has been little foreign investment and inflation is galloping, with gasoline alone jumping 25 percent this spring.

Gasoline rationing is expected within a month, with consumers so anxious about it, reported the Web site Ruz, financed by the Dutch government, that skirmishes broke out in long lines at some pumps on June 17.

 

For the full story, see; 

NEIL MacFARQUHAR.  "Iran Cracks Down on Dissent, Parading Examples in Streets."  The New York Times, Section 1   (Sun., June 24, 2007):  1 & 9. 

(Note:  the online version of the article is entitled "Iran Cracks Down on Dissent," and is accompanied by a disclaimer that the latest evidence is ambiguous on the original claim in the print article that dissenters were being paraded in the streets.)

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




June 4, 2007

Chinese Restaurant Entrepreneur: "A Citizen's Legal Property Is Not to Be Encroached Upon"

 

CHONGQING, China, March 23 — For weeks the confrontation drew attention from people all across China, as a simple homeowner stared down the forces of large-scale redevelopment that are sweeping this country, blocking the preparation of a gigantic construction site by an act of sheer will.

Chinese bloggers were the first to spread the news, of a house perched atop a tall, thimble-shaped piece of land like Mont-Saint-Michel in northern France, in the middle of a vast excavation.

Newspapers dived in next, followed by national television. Then, in a way that is common in China whenever an event begins to take on hints of political overtones, the story virtually disappeared from the news media after the government, bloggers here said, decreed that the subject was suddenly out of bounds.

. . .

What drove interest in the Chongqing case was the uncanny ability of the homeowner to hold out for so long. Stories are legion in Chinese cities of the arrest or even beating of people who protest too vigorously against their eviction and relocation. In one often-heard twist, holdouts are summoned to the local police station and return home only to find their house already demolished. How did this owner, a woman no less, manage? Millions wondered.

Part of the answer, which on meeting her takes only a moment to discover, is that Wu Ping is anything but an ordinary woman. With her dramatic lock of hair precisely combed and pinned in the back, a form-flattering bright red coat, high cheekbones and wide, excited eyes, the tall, 49-year-old restaurant entrepreneur knows how to attract attention — a potent weapon in China’s new media age, in which people try to use public opinion and appeals to the national image to influence the authorities. 

. . .  

“I have more faith than others,” she began. “I believe that this is my legal property, and if I cannot protect my own rights, it makes a mockery of the property law just passed. In a democratic and lawful society a person has the legal right to manage one’s own property.”

Tian Yihang, a local college student, spoke glowingly of her in an interview at the monorail station. “This is a peculiar situation,” he said, with a bit of understatement. “I admire the owner for being so persistent in her principles. In China such things shock the common mind.”

. . .  

With the street so choked with onlookers that traffic began to back up, Ms. Wu’s brother, Wu Jian, began waving a newspaper above the crowd, pointing to pictures of Ms. Wu’s husband, a local martial arts champion, who was scheduled to appear in a highly publicized tournament that evening. “He’s going into our building and will plant a flag there,” Mr. Wu announced.

Moments later, as the crowd began to thin, a Chinese flag appeared on the roof with a hand-painted banner that read: “A citizen’s legal property is not to be encroached on.”

Asked how his brother-in-law had managed to get inside the locked site and climb the escarpment on which the house is perched, he said with a wink, “Magic.”  

 

For the full story, see: 

HOWARD W. FRENCH.  "CHONGQING JOURNAL; Homeowner Stares Down Wreckers, at Least for a While."  The New York Times  (Tues., March 27, 2007):  A4.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

ChinaHomeDefenderWuPing.jpg ChinaChonqingMap.jpg   On left, Wu Ping, with her tall brother in the background.  On right, a map showing the location of Chongqing in China.  Source of photo and map:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




June 2, 2007

Communist Dictator Chavez Destroys Freedom of the Press in Venezuela

 

   Supporters of freedom in Venezuela protesting communist dictator Chavez's shutting down the television network that dared to criticize him.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article that is quoted and cited below. 

 

My Wabash College economics professor, Ben Rogge, used to say that political freedom ultimately depended on economic freedom:  how could you depend on a socialist government to provide a printing press to those who seek to undermine socialism?

(In his article "The Case for Economic Freedom" published in his Can Capitalism Survive? Rogge gives credit for the argument to his friend Milton Friedman in his Capitalism and Freedom, which was based on lectures given at Wabash.)

Well, if there is a heaven, I can imagine Rogge there, reading the following passages, and reacting with his sad, knowing, half-smile.

 

(p. A3)  CARACAS, Venezuela, May 27 — With little more than an hour to go late Sunday until this country’s oldest television network was to be taken off the air after 53 years of broadcasting, the police dispersed thousands of protesters by firing tear gas into demonstrations against the measure.

. . .

The president has defended the RCTV decision, saying that the network supported a coup that briefly removed him from office in 2002.

RCTV’s news programs regularly deride Mr. Chávez’s Socialist-inspired transformation of Venezuelan society. “RCTV lacks respect for the Venezuelan people,” said Onán Mauricio Aristigueta, 46, a messenger at the National Assembly who showed up to support the president.

Mr. Chávez has left untouched the operations of other private broadcasters who were also critical of him at the time of the 2002 coup but who have changed editorial policies to stop criticizing his government. That has led Mr. Chávez’s critics to claim that the move to allow RCTV’s license to expire amounts to a stifling of dissent in the news media.

“The other channels don’t say anything,” said Elisa Parejo, 69, an actress who was one of RCTV’s first soap opera stars. “What we’re living in Venezuela is a monstrosity,” she said at RCTV’s headquarters on Sunday, as employees gathered for an on-air remembrance of the network’s history. “It is a dictatorship.”

 

For the full story, see: 

SIMON ROMERO.  "Dueling Protests Over Shutdown of Venezuela TV Station."  The New York Times  (Mon., May 28, 2007):  A3.

(Note: the excerpts above are from the updated online version of the article that appeared online under the title: "Venezuela Police Repel Protests Over TV Network’s Closing.")

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

On 5/28/07 CNN broadcast a Harris Whitbeck report on students protesting the Chavez censorship under the title "Hear No Evil, See No Evil."

 

   Monica Herrero protests Chavez closing down the television network that dared to criticize his government.  Source of photo:  screen capture from the CNN report at http://www.cnn.com/video/partners/clickability/index.html?url=/video/world/2007/05/28/whitbeck.chavez.tv.affl

 




May 1, 2007

Somaliland Works, Without Foreign Aid or Recognition: More on Why Much of Africa is Poor

 

   In Hargeysa, the capital of Somaliland, there is sufficient public safety (in contrast to southern Somalia) for a money exchange to operate with large amounts of money on display.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

HARGEYSA, Somalia, March 1 — When the sun rises over the craggy hills of Hargeysa, it sheds light on a different kind of Somalia.

Ice cream trucks selling bona fide soft serve hit the streets. Money changers, unarmed and unguarded, push cash through the market in wheelbarrows. Politicians from three distinct parties get ready for another day of debate, which recently included an animated discussion on registering nomadic voters.

It’s all part of a Somali puzzle: how one area of the country, the northwest, also known as Somaliland, can seem so peaceful and functional — so normal, in fact — while the rest continues to be such a violent, chaotic mess.

This tale of two Somalias is especially striking now, as thousands of African Union peacekeepers prepare to rescue Mogadishu, the nation’s bloodstained capital, from itself. The internationally backed transitional government that seized Mogadishu in late December with Ethiopia’s help says it cannot survive without foreign aid and foreign peacekeepers to quell clan fighting and an escalating insurgency.

Somalilanders, who have wrestled with their own clan conflicts, find this ridiculous.

“You can’t be donated power,” said Dahir Rayale Kahin, the president of the Republic of Somaliland, which has long declared itself independent from the rest of Somalia. “We built this state because we saw the problems here as our problems. Our brothers in the south are still waiting — till now — for others.”

But Somalilanders are waiting, too: waiting to be recognized. In 1991, as Somalia’s government disintegrated and clan fighting in the south spun out of control, Somaliland, traditionally one of the poorest parts of Somalia, claimed its independence. But no country acknowledges it as a separate state and very few even contribute aid — which makes Somaliland’s success all the more intriguing.

. . .

“It all goes back to the Brits,” according to Hajji Abdi Waraabe, an 89-year-old member of Somaliland’s upper house of Parliament.

When the colonial powers sliced up the Horn of Africa in the 19th century, the British got Somaliland and the Italians got Somalia. While the British relied mostly on clan chiefs to govern, the Italians created an entire Italian-speaking administration and imported thousands of people from Italy to farm bananas, build cathedrals and teach the people how to pour espresso.

One result was that Mogadishu, along the southern coast, became a major commercial hub and one of the most beautiful cities in Africa, but its traditional systems of authority were weakened. That is partly why, many Somalia analysts say, warlords were able to outmuscle clan elders and dominate Mogadishu in the vacuum that formed after the central government fell.

The British, on the other hand, never invested much in Somaliland, leaving it poor and dusty but with its traditions more or less intact.  . . .

. . .

But the one issue that unites most Somalilanders is recognition. Somaliland has its own money, its own flag, its own national anthem and even its own passport.

“And we have peace, a peace owned by the community,” said Zamzam Adan, a women’s rights activist. “You’d think in this part of the world, that would count for something.”

 

For the full story, see:

JEFFREY GETTLEMAN.  "The Other Somalia: An Island of Stability in a Sea of Armed Chaos."  The New York Times  (Weds., March 7, 2007):  A11. 

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

SOMALILANDmap.jpg  Top photo shows women selling jewelry.  Middle photo shows a traffic cop performing a defensible function of government.  At bottom, the map shows Somaliland relative to the rest of Somalia.  Source of photos and map:  online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




April 21, 2007

Castro's Legacy of "Death, Tears and Blood"

Like thousands of other Cubans, I was arrested in the middle of the night. Fidel Castro's police raided my parents' home, stuck a machine gun in my face and took me away. It was 1960 and I was 22 years old.

The news that the Cuban dictator is gravely ill floods my mind with memories of my years spent in captivity. I believe that those of us who were political prisoners know his legacy better than anyone. For 22 years, I was an inmate in his vast prison system, mostly confined to an island gulag, for crimes I did not commit.

. . .

The legacy of Castro for Cuba will be much like that of Stalin in Russia, Pol Pot and Ieng Sari in Cambodia and Hitler in Germany. It will be the memories of the unknown numbers of victims, of concentration camps, torture, murder, exile, families torn apart, death, tears and blood. Castro will go down in history as one of the cruelest of all dictators -- a man who tormented his own people.

But his poisonous legacy will also include the double standard by foreign governments, intellectuals and journalists who fought ferociously against the unspeakable violations of human rights by right-wing dictatorships, yet applauded Castro. To this day many of these intellectuals serve as apologists and accomplices in the subjugation of the Cuban people. Rafael Correa, the recently inaugurated president of Ecuador, has declared that in Cuba there is no dictatorship. Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, considers Castro his mentor and has already shown that he is willing to silence his own critics at the point of a gun. Venezuela, once a democracy, is the new Cuba, replete with a growing population of political prisoners.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

ARMANDO VALLADARES.  "Castro's Gulag." The Wall Street Journal  (Mon., March 5, 2007):  A16.

 




March 10, 2007

Many Muslim Newcomers Did Not Embrace Dutch Tolerance

   Source of book image:  http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/12210000/12213853.jpg

 

Two key moments in Ms. Hirsi Ali's life stand out. One is her arrival in the West, a moment she considers to be her "real birthday." On the day her husband shows up at the refugee camp in Holland to claim his rights, Ms. Hirsi Ali finds that she can say "no" to a man stronger than she is, thanks to the protection of a democratic state, a protection made visible, in this case, by the presence of Dutch policemen. She thus experienced an imperative that to most of us is a mere abstraction: Individual freedom needs the rule of law.

The second pivotal moment in her life, Ms. Hirsi Ali says, was the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. She understood what drove Mohamed Atta and his co-hijackers; she once shared their values and had known people like them in the Muslim Brotherhood. "Every devout Muslim who aspired to practice genuine Islam," she writes, "even if they didn't actively support the attacks, they must have at least approved of them." With 9/11, Ms. Hirsi Ali's religious doubts erupted into defiance of what she had known while growing up.

From that day onward, Ms. Hirsi Ali became a public voice in the Dutch post-9/11 debates. Eloquently, she made bruising, sometimes inflammatory, arguments. Islam was backward, she said, and needed its Voltaire. She declared that, considered by modern standards, the Prophet was a "pervert" because he had married a 9-year-old girl. Elected an MP for the market-oriented VVD Party in 2003, she became a politician in the grand, passionate style, breaking with Dutch habits of consensus and accommodation.

A nation of 16 million people, with a Muslim minority of about one million (mostly Moroccan and Turkish immigrants), the Netherlands was at the time (and is still) trapped by its carefully nurtured sense of tolerance and hospitality. The trouble was that its newcomers did not necessarily embrace tolerance, women's rights, free speech and other core Dutch values. Ms. Hirsi Ali knew that she was courting danger by openly addressing such concerns. Nonetheless, she pushed ahead and began working with director Theo van Gogh on "Submission," the film about the mistreatment of Muslim women. When van Gogh was murdered on Nov. 2, 2004, the police found a knife stuck in his body -- the weapon was holding in place a letter threatening Ms. Hirsi Ali.

 

For the full review, see: 

LUUK VAN MIDDELAAR.  "BOOKS; Out of Europe How a prominent African refugee confronted Islam -- then fled to the U.S."  The Wall Street Journal  (Sat., February 3, 2007):  P12.

 

Reference to the book: 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  INFIDEL.  Free Press, 2007.  (353 pages, $26) 

 




January 2, 2007

University Chancellor in Iran Bulldozes Office of Student Reform Group

According to the article excerpted below, Iranian tyrant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appointed Alireza Rahai to be chancellor of Amirkabir University.  Apparently Mr. Ahmadinejad supports discussions of his doubts about the holocaust, but is not so fond of discussions of his own activities as an enemy of the open society.

 

Since Mr. Ahmadinejad took office, government pressure has increased on Iranians who have actively promoted changes to create a more open society.  As part of the crackdown, dozens of university students around the country have been barred from taking classes this year, and a substantial number of professors have been demoted or forced to resign.

A major reformist newspaper, Shargh, was shut down in September and several of its veteran journalists were barred from working.  The government has blocked thousands of news Web sites and blogs in an effort to limit the access of Internet users to independent news outlets.

Over the summer, Mr. Rahai, the university chancellor, had the office of a reformist student group, the Islamic Association, leveled by a bulldozer.

 

For the full story, see: 

NAZILA FATHI.  "Students Cry ‘Death to the Dictator’ as Iranian Leader Speaks."  The New York Times  (Tues., December 12, 2006):  A3.

 

See also, an article on the same page:

NAZILA FATHI.  "Iran Opens Conference on Holocaust."  The New York Times  (Tues., December 12, 2006):  A3. 




October 15, 2006

German Opera House "Falling On Its Knees Before the Terrorists"

   "A scene added to “Idomeneo,” shown in a 2003 rehearsal, includes Muhammad and other religious figures."  Source of photo and caption:  online version of the NYT article cited below. 

 

(p. A1)  BERLIN, Sept. 26 — A leading German opera house has canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, prompting a storm of protest here about what many see as the surrender of artistic freedom.

The Deutsche Oper Berlin said Tuesday that it had pulled “Idomeneo” from its fall schedule after the police warned of an “incalculable risk” to the performers and the audience.

. . .

Political and cultural figures throughout Germany condemned the cancellation.  Some said it recalled the decision of European newspapers not to reprint satirical cartoons about Muhammad, after their publication in Denmark generated a furor among Muslims.

Wolfgang Börnsen, a culture spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc in Parliament, accused the opera house of “falling on its knees before the terrorists.”

 

For the full story, see:

JUDY DEMPSEY and MARK LANDLER.  "Opera Canceled Over a Depiction of Muhammad." The New York Times  (Weds., September 27, 2006):  A1 & A12.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)




September 14, 2006

Iranian Cartoon Exhibit Ridicules Jews

  "Visitors to the Palestinian Contemporary Art Museum in Tehran Thursday viewed entries in a contest for cartoons ridiculing the Holocaust." Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

I believe in free speech, which includes freedom of expression in cartoons, and art, even when that freedom produces results that I find distasteful, outrageous, or evil. 

What is strange, is the hypocrisy of some radical Islamists, who cause death and destruction in rioting over Danish cartoons depicting Mohammad, but who only smile at cartoons attacking Jews.

 

The Iranian cartoon exhibition attacking Jews, is documented in:

MICHAEL SLACKMAN.  "Iran Exhibits Anti-Jewish Art as Reply to Danish Cartoons."   The New York Times   (Fri., August 25, 2006):  A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "Iran Exhibits Anti-Jewish Art.")







September 4, 2006

Chinese Learn "a Way of Life" from U.S. TV Shows

  Shanghai friends watch downloaded, subtitled, episode of "Friends."  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

SHANGHAI, Aug. 8 — For the past year and a half, said Ding Chengtai, a recent university graduate, friends have wondered why he seems to have disappeared.

Mr. Ding, 23, an Internet technology expert for a large Chinese bank, chuckled at the thought.  He has kept himself in virtual seclusion during his off hours, consumed with American television programs like “Lost,” “C.S.I.” and “Close to Home.”

He is no ordinary fan, though; none of the shows he watches can be seen on Chinese television.  Instead, he spends night after night creating Chinese subtitles for American sitcoms and dramas for a mushrooming audience of Chinese viewers who download them from the Internet free through services like BitTorrent.

. . .

To a person, the adapters say they are willing to devote long hours to this effort out of a love for American popular culture.  Many, including Mr. Ding, say they learned English by obsessively watching American movies and television programs.

Others say they pick up useful knowledge about everything from changing fashion and mores to medical science.

“It provides cultural background relating to every aspect of our lives:  politics,  history and human culture,” Mr. Ding said.  “These are the things that make American TV special.  When I first started watching ‘Friends,’ I found the show was full of information about American history and showed how America had rapidly developed.  It’s more interesting than textbooks or other ways of learning.”

On an Internet forum about the downloaded television shows, a poster who used the name Plum Blossom put it another way.

“After watching these shows for some time, I felt the attitudes of some of the characters were beginning to influence me,” the poster wrote.  “It’s hard to describe,  but I think I learned a way of life from some of them.  They are good at simplifying complex problems, which I think has something to do with American culture.”

 

For the full story, see: 

HOWARD W. FRENCH.  "Chinese Tech Buffs Slake Thirst for U.S. TV Shows."  The New York Times  (Weds., August 9, 2006):   A6.

 




August 25, 2006

"Al Gore's Penguin Army"

Source of screen capture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZSqXUSwHRI

 

"Al Gore's Penguin Army," a funny satire of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth," has been posted to the popular YouTube web site.  A bee's nest of folk are agitated that this satire may have been created by someone with some tie to an oil company.  My response:  who cares?  (Don't those who produce oil for us, have the same right to free speech that the rest of us have?)

View the video at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZSqXUSwHRI

 

 

 




August 22, 2006

Eleven-Year-Old Crippled for Life by Mao Supporters


  Source of book image:  http://www.holtzbrinckpublishers.com/henryholt/Search/SearchBookDisplayLarge.asp?BookKey=1524294


(p. B29) This improbable journey, from Maoist orthodoxy to the entrepreneurial quasicapitalism officially described as “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” is the main theme of “Chinese Lessons,” but Mr. Pomfret, a reporter for The Washington Post, gives his tale a twist.  He tells it not only through his own experiences as a student and journalist but through the life stories of five university classmates, who suffered through the Cultural Revolution as children, found inspiration and hope in the growing democracy movement and lived to see a China that neither they nor their parents could have imagined.  . . .

All the lives Mr. Pomfret explores are extraordinary, and each sheds its own light on recent Chinese history.  Perhaps the most endearing of his characters is Guan Yongxing, better known as Little Guan, who as an 11-year-old suffered social ostracism after accidentally using a piece of paper with “Long Live Chairman Mao!” on it to wipe herself in the bathroom.

After classmates threw her to the ground, no doctor would treat her dislocated shoulder, leaving her crippled for life.  Her father’s job as a schoolteacher made the Guan family a prime target for abuse, and Little Guan, rather than endure ridicule and torment at school, picked cotton and sprayed fertilizer on the fields, her back constantly burned by chemicals leaking from the tank on her back.  Tough, determined and highly intelligent, she survives and eventually prospers in the new China.

. . .

Zhou Lianchun, called Book Idiot Zhou by a contemptuous Communist Party official, meted out insults and torture as part of a Red Guard brigade.  “I did what I was told and, being 11, I liked it,” he tells Mr. Pomfret.

. . .

More even than sex, students want just a little bit of the good life that seems to be in reach as China’s rulers relax their economic policies.  To get it they master a strange kind of doublethink, pledging allegiance to the party and Communist ideals while scheming to start a business.

Book Idiot Zhou, a history teacher by day, jumps into a business partnership to process urine for the pharmaceutical industry.  “Several days a week, he taught Marxism, Leninism and Maoist thought and railed against the exploitation of the capitalist class,” Mr. Pomfret writes.  “The rest of the time he spent as a budding entrepreneur, employing dozens at rock-bottom wages, working the system to enrich himself, his partners and his family.”

. . .

His classmates have done well.  But their lives, and the China described in “Chinese Lessons,” bear a heavy load of suppressed grief, terrible compromises and boundless cynicism.  At a new drive-in called the Happy Auto Movie Palace, Mr. Pomfret notices something strange about the concrete slabs underneath his feet.  They show the marks of tank treads.  The drive-in owner bought them after the government repaved Tiananmen Square.

This strikes Mr. Pomfret as bizarre, but not the owner.  “It was a good deal,” he says.

 

For the full review, see: 

WILLIAM GRIMES. "Books of The Times; Twisting Along China’s Sharp Curves." The New York Times (Fri., August 4, 2006):  B29.

(Note: ellipses added.) 





August 9, 2006

Taking the Red Pill in China

Surfing the Web last fall, a Chinese high-school student who calls himself Zivn noticed something missing.  It was Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that accepts contributions or edits from users, and that he himself had contributed to.

The Chinese government, in October, had added Wikipedia to a list of Web sites and phrases it blocks from Internet users' access.  For Zivn, trying to surf this and many other Web sites, including the BBC's Chinese-language news service, brought just an error message.  But the 17-year-old had had a taste of that wealth of information and wanted more.  "There were so many lies among the facts, and I could not find where the truth is," he writes in an instant-message interview.

Then some friends told him where to find Freegate, a tiny software program that thwarts the Chinese government's vast system to limit what its citizens see.  Freegate -- by connecting computers inside of China to servers in the U.S. -- allows Zivn and others to keep reading and writing to Wikipedia and countless other sites.

Behind Freegate is a North Carolina-based Chinese hacker named Bill Xia.  He calls it his red pill, a reference to the drug in the "Matrix" movies that vaulted unconscious captives of a totalitarian regime into the real world.  Mr. Xia likes to refer to the villainous Agent Smith from the Matrix films, noting that the digital bad guy in sunglasses "guards the Matrix like China's Public Security Bureau guards the Internet."

. . .

(p. A9)  . . . , with each new version of Freegate -- now on its sixth release -- the censors "just keep improving and adding more manpower to monitor what we have been doing," Mr. Xia says.  In turn, he and volunteer programmers keep tweaking Freegate.

At first, the software would automatically change its Internet Protocol address -- a sort of phone number for a Web site -- faster than China could block it.  That worked until September 2002, when China blocked Freegate's domain name, not just its number, in the Internet phone book.

More than three years later, Mr. Xia is still amazed by the bold move, calling it a "hijacking."  Ultimately he prevailed, however, through a solution he won't identify for fear of being shut down for good.

Confident in that solution, Mr. Xia continues to send out his red pill, and users like Zivn continue to take it.  The teen credits his cultural and political perspective to a "generation gap" that has come of having access to more information.  "I am just gradually getting used to the truth about the real world," he writes.

 

For the full story, see: 

Geoffrey A. Fowler.  "Chinese Internet Censors Face 'Hacktivists' in U.S."  The Wall Street Journal  (Monday, February 13, 2006):  A1 & A9.




July 18, 2006

Entrepreneurial Archaeology

In the "Dig for a Day" program, participants pay $25.00 to spend three hours helping to excavate a Tel Maresha cave.  Source of the image:  the online version of the NYT article cited below. 

 

While most archaeological excavations require hundreds of thousands of dollars, Mr. Alpert said, this one is unusual because it is self-supporting.  “We have the people working and paying for the work, which has proven itself archaeologically and from a tourism standpoint,” he said.  “That’s why we are able to dig for so long.”  The Maresha excavation is licensed by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and reports are submitted each year to evaluate its scientific contribution.

“This is the ultimate chutzpah,” said Ian Stern, another of the company’s three owners, who has a doctorate in archaeology and emigrated to Israel from New Jersey (the third owner is Asher Afriat, a historian and native Israeli).  “We are providing the public with an active educational experience, while they do the work.  Their money underwrites the excavation and is used for all the follow-up of putting the pottery together, registering and photographing the finds, and writing the scientific reports.” 

 

For the full story, see:

CAREN OSTEN GERSZBERG.  "Family Journeys; Israel; Amateur Archaeologists Get the Dirt on the Past."  The New York Times, Section 5 (Sun., July 16, 2006):   11.

 

  Amateur archaeologists excavate a cave.  Source of the image:  the online version of the NYT article cited above.

 




April 25, 2006

Hurricanes Not Caused by Human-Induced Climate Change: More on Why Crichton is Right


The Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT analyzes the case for human-induced global warming:

(p. A14) There have been repeated claims that this past year's hurricane activity was another sign of human-induced climate change. Everything from the heat wave in Paris to heavy snows in Buffalo has been blamed on people burning gasoline to fuel their cars, and coal and natural gas to heat, cool and electrify their homes. Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into unlikely claims about future catastrophes?

The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism.

. . .

To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let's start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn't just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.

If the models are correct, global warming reduces the temperature differences between the poles and the equator. When you have less difference in temperature, you have less excitation of extratropical storms, not more. And, in fact, model runs support this conclusion. Alarmists have drawn some support for increased claims of tropical storminess from a casual claim by Sir John Houghton of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that a warmer world would have more evaporation, with latent heat providing more energy for disturbances. The problem with this is that the ability of evaporation to drive tropical storms relies not only on temperature but humidity as well, and calls for drier, less humid air. Claims for starkly higher temperatures are based upon there being more humidity, not less -- hardly a case for more storminess with global warming.

. . .

In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.

And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an "Iris Effect," wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as "discredited." Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming -- not whether it would actually happen.

Alarm rather than genuine scientific curiosity, it appears, is essential to maintaining funding. And only the most senior scientists today can stand up against this alarmist gale, and defy the iron triangle of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers.


For the full commentary, see:

RICHARD LINDZEN. "Climate of Fear." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., April 12, 2006): A14.




March 15, 2006

Indiana Almost Legislated Wrong Value of Pi

pi_day1.gif

Yesterday (3/14) was "Pi Day." Source of image: http://www.mathwithmrherte.com/pi_day.htm


After school yesterday, my daughter Jenny told me that in her sixth grade class with Barbara Jens, they had celebrated "Pi Day." I didn't get it until Jen pointed out that the date was 3/14 and the first three digits of pi are 3.14.

Being a hoosier by birth and upbringing, Pi Day reminded me that in 1897 the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill legislating the wrong value of pi. It would make a better story if the House had taken this action based on a literal interpretation of the bible, which gives the value of pi as an even 3. But apparently the House action was based on a mistaken "proof" offered by physician Edwin J. Goodwin. Fortunately for the reputation of Indiana government, a mathematician visiting the state capitol for other reasons, convinced Senators of the mistake, and consideration of the bill was postponed indefinitely in the Senate, before it could become law.


For my source, and more details, see Petr Beckmann's wonderful book:

Beckmann, Petr. A History of Pi. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1971.


Source of image: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312381859/ref=ed_oe_p/104-6209536-4473568?%5Fencoding=UTF8




March 11, 2006

French Courage: In Defense of Voltaire and Free Speech

Voltaire.gif   Better known by his nom de plume: Voltaire.  Source of image: WSJ article cited below.

 

There is much to like about Voltaire: he defended reason; his novel Candide is hilarious; and he is reputed to have drunk more than 40 cups of coffee a day.

The enemies of freedom censored Voltaire when he was alive, 250 years ago. In an unintended tribute to the power of his ideas, today's enemies of freedom still seek to censor him:

 

(p. A1) SAINT-GENIS-POUILLY, France -- Late last year, as an international crisis was brewing over Danish cartoons of Muhammad, Muslims raised a furor in this little alpine town over a much older provocateur: Voltaire, the French champion of the 18th-century Enlightenment.

A municipal cultural center here on France's border with Switzerland organized a reading of a 265-year-old play by Voltaire, whose writings helped lay the foundations of modern Europe's commitment to secularism. The play, "Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet," uses the founder of Islam to lampoon all forms of religious frenzy and intolerance.

The production quickly stirred up passions that echoed the cartoon uproar. "This play...constitutes an insult to the entire Muslim community," said a letter to the mayor of Saint-Genis-Pouilly, signed by Said Akhrouf, a French-born café owner of Moroccan descent and three other Islamic activists representing Muslim associations. They demanded the performance be cancelled.

Instead, Mayor Hubert Bertrand called in police reinforcements to protect the theater. On the night of the December reading, a small riot broke out involving several dozen people and youths who set fire to a car and garbage cans. It was "the most excitement we've ever had down here," says the socialist mayor.

The dispute rumbles on, playing into a wider debate over faith and free-speech. Supporters of Europe's secular values have rushed to embrace Voltaire as their standard-bearer. France's national library last week opened an exhibition dedicated to the writer and other Enlightenment thinkers. It features a police file started in 1748 on Voltaire, highlighting efforts by authorities to muzzle him. "Spirit of the Enlightenment, are you there?" asked a headline Saturday in Le Figaro, a French daily newspaper.

 . . .

(p. A10) Now that tempers have calmed, Mayor Bertrand says he is proud his town took a stand by refusing to cave in under pressure to call off the reading. Free speech is modern Europe's "foundation stone," he says. "For a long time we have not confirmed our convictions, so lots of people think they can contest them."

 

For the full story, see: 

ANDREW HIGGINS.  "Blame It on Voltaire: Muslims Ask French To Cancel 1741 Play; Alpine Village Riles Activists By Letting Show Go On; Calling on the Riot Police."  The Wall Street Journal (Mon., March 6, 2006):  A1 & A10.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




February 16, 2006

Hayek Was Right: Free Speech is Fragile, When Property Can be Seized


For those who doubt the central message of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, something to ponder:

 

(p. 351) The Sandinistas called coffee farmers who cooperated with them "patriotic producers." Anyone who questioned their politics or policies was labeled a capitalist parasite. Throughout most of the 1980s, any farms that did not produce sufficiently, or whose owners were too vocal, were confiscated by the government.

 

Source: 

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World. New York: Basic Books, 2000.





February 2, 2006

The Creation of "Freedom" in Iraq

 

Freedom.jpg "Freedom" (oil painting by Esam Pashwa). Source of image: http://www.artvitae.com/art.asp?art_id=1571&bhcp=1

 

When Saddam Hussein fell, artist Esam Pashwa pulled down a huge poster of Sadam and painted a mural underneath. The gesture, and the art, attracted the attention of art expert Peter Falk, who contacted and encouraged Pashwa. He learned that Pashwa, in addition to his art, has served as a translator for the coalition forces in Iraq. Falk has organized a show of Pashwa's work in a New York gallery.

As of 2/1/06, the "Freedom" oil painting above was offered for sale through the gallery. For more information: Peter Hastings Falk Hastings Art Management Services, Inc. P.O. Box 833 Madison, CT 06443 203.245.4761 peterfalk@comcast.net

(The source of most of the information in the entry above, was a CNN report/interview entitled "The Art of War" that was broadcast on 2/1/06. It is viewable at CNN.com at: http://www.cnn.com/video/partners/clickability/index.html?url=/video/world/2006/02/01/intv.art.of.war.cnn)

 




August 2, 2005

Tenure and the Market as Protectors of Free Thought



Mark Blaug as a young tutor at Queens College in New York, endorsed a student petition protesting the firing of a left-wing tenured professor for having refused to co-operate with the Un-American Activities Committee. Less than a day later, Blaug received a note from the President of Queens College, telling Blaug that his choice was either to resign or be fired. He resigned.

Fortunately, he received a grant from the Social Science Research Council to complete his dissertation, after which, again seeking employment, he obtained a job interview at Yale:


(p. 77) In the course of the interview, I felt impelled to explain how I had lost my previous teaching position at Queens College. I always remember how Fellner cut me off, saying: 'We don't want to hear about that. This is a private college and what transpired at a public university a few years ago is of no concern to us.' I never had a better demonstration of Milton Friedman's thesis that a free market, by multiplying the number of probable employers, is more likely to secure liberty for the individual than a socialist system in which the state is a monopsonist.


Source:

Blaug, Mark. "Not Only an Economist: Autobiographical Reflections of a Historian of Economic Thought." In Reflections of Eminent Economists, edited by Michael Szenberg and Lall Ramrattan, 71-94. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2004.






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