Friday, July 31, 2009

Socialism is Democracy

In reading the AAPS News, I came across these quotes:

"Socialism is democracy." ---Hugo Chavez

"Democracy is like the grave it perpetually cries `give, give,' and, like the grave, it never returns what it has once taken. Do not surrender to democracy that which is not yet ripe for the grave."
Bulwer Lytton, quoted in TCSDaily 10/3/07

In trying to verify the quote attributed to Chavez, I found this article:

Chavez: Venezuela Backs Socialism Shift

Chavez spoke after the elections council formally declared him the winner, defeating Manuel Rosales with nearly 63 percent of the vote. Electoral officials said turnout was about 75 percent. "Those who voted for me didn't vote for me. They voted for the socialist plan, to build a profoundly different Venezuela," Chavez said, praising the Rosales camp for accepting his victory. "I want to salute the responsible opposition ... It was time they assumed the attitude of true democrats." Chavez won some 7.2 million votes out of more than 11 million cast, the results showed. "These more than 7 million votes are votes for socialism," Chavez told reporters. "Socialism is democracy. ... With capitalism, a true democracy is impossible." 12/7/06

"With capitalism, true democracy is impossible." This is true. I would also say that with a true democracy, capitalism is impossible. Protection of individual rights is impossible. Freedom is impossible. Wealth and prosperity will be severely diminished and available only to the politically connected.

Democracy, or rule by the people, or unlimited majority rule, is the same as mob rule. What sets the stage for peace and prosperity is the rule of law built upon the restraints of the individual rights to life, liberty and property. Capitalism, properly understood, is the economic system constructed upon those principles. Capitalism consists of the voluntary exchange of privately owned property. Social interactions are limited by mutual respect for the rights of others and the absence of the initiation of force. Private coercion is outlawed. Coercion by the government is limited to the protection of individual rights and constrained by equality before the law.

Recently, I wanted to provide a brief but essentially complete explanation of my reasons for believing the above. This prompted me to look up a "slide show" I had found on the net several years ago. Short. Sweet. To the point. If you haven't seen it before, check out the Tour.

Hmmmm. Interesting. Chavez was right.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Their Recess is Our Opportunity

As our politicians take a break for the summer, it provides an opportunity for us to speak out.

So much is at stake:

1. Cap-and-trade: government outlawing energy sources which are the life blood of our economy (which means our prosperity and security)

2. Health Care "reform" which is actually more of the same as the government already pays for almost 50% of medical care and intensely regulates the rest.

Write your Congressman, or find where they are speaking by checking their websites. My rep has an email alert service which provides up dates on specific issues.

They will only know what you think if you speak out--and silence conveys a message of acceptance, if not agreement.

Thank you to Robert Tracinski for a motivating issue of TIA Daily reminding me of the importance of this type of action. Here's a part of what he had to say:
I agree with The Politico when it says that "Congress’s failure to deliver major health care legislation by President Barack Obama’s deadline next month transforms the traditionally sleepy August recess into what could be the decisive moment in the battle to win support for the legislation, especially from conservative Democrats considered crucial to its fate."

This is a perfect opportunity for political activism in favor of liberty, and it is a rare case in which your own, individual action can make a substantial and immediate difference. Go to your congressman's and your senators' website, find out where they will be appearing during the August recess, and let them know, in person, that you oppose this government takeover of health insurance—that you don't want to become a helpless ward of the state.


Prof. Krugman's mini-poll of Canadians on Health Care

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Essence of a Government Stimulus

Brought to you by The Rational Capitalist:

Obama: Please Try This at Home

If you want to understand why “stimulus” programs do not work in the sense of generating economic growth, try the following experiment at home or at your place of business.

Go up to someone and hand them $20 and tell them that by giving them this money, you intend to “stimulate” the local economy. Observe what happens. The recipient now has $20 to spend or do whatever. However, note that you have $20 less to spend. Therefore, there will be no net affect on the local economy. All that has happened is that the recipient has twenty of your dollars to spend on something he wants, and you have $20 less to spend on something you want.

The rest is just as pithy. Read it and enjoy!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Life Threatening

Just a quick article reference.
It's hard to know which is the most immediate threat to our prosperity and well-being, the climate change alarmism or the move to increase government control of health care, but it looks like we may have until September before the Senate addresses the cap-and-trade energy "security" bill whereas President Obama is gearing up to push a health care measure through ASAP.

Michael Tanner has an op-ed in the New York Post on Perils of Obamacare: Three Big Lies.

The lies are:

"If you like your current health-care plan, you can keep it."
"You will pay less."
"Quality will improve."

I can't emphasize enough how much these claims are lies, and lies that it should be easy to expose given the decades of failure experienced in all shades of government-supplied medicine. Tanner has does much work in this area. Read the article for a brief synopsis.

If Mr. Obama's plan goes into effect, we will loose control of one of the most important services in the economy--the service which protects and cares for our health. It truly is life threatening.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Honduras Update

I have been scanning the news for adequate facts on the situation in Honduras.

The video clip below contains a statement by Senator Jim DeMint who sums up what I have found. Below the clip, I have posted a few links to some key documents which support the following conclusions: Zelaya's removal was legal and legitimate; the Honduran Supreme Court unanimously voted that Zelaya's actions were unconstitutional; several official communications were sent to Zelaya (which he ignored) instructing him to halt his attempts to change the Constitution; the Supreme Court requested the military to arrest Zalaya; the military was never in control of the government; these actions had the almost unanimous (125 to 3) support of the Honduran legislature as well as other high government officials, including the country's Attorney General.

It is not clear yet to me if the use of the military to remove Zalaya was appropriate, but the process leading up to his arrest appears to have followed due process procedures. I have not come across any hard evidence contradicting this conclusion. The absence of such arguments is most notable from our own government officials and from OAS governments, all of whom have condemned the actions of Honduras.

Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution: "No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform [emphasis added], as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years." (An English translation of the full Honduran Constitution is here.)

Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from 17 Senators with attached Charges against Zelaya, and Supreme Court Order to Arrest Zelaya, July 8th, 2009. This link includes: a translation of the list of charges against Zalaya made by the Attorney General to the Supreme Court which contains a timeline of events leading up to his arrest; a photo copy of the Supreme Court order to the military to arrest Zalay, along with an English translation.

Legal Background, “Legal situation of the transition government in Honduras,” June 29th, 2009.

Other informative articles:

The Audacity of Honduras by Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) from 2001 to 2003.

Defending Democracy in Honduras by Jorge Hernandez-Alcerro, former Honduran Ambassador to the U.S.

Memorandum of background information prepared by Americans for Limited Government.

Update: Another good article: "A 'coup' in Honduras? Nonsense." by Octavio Sanchez, former presidential adviser (2002-05) and Minister of Culture (2005-06) of the Republic of Honduras.

These documents make it clear that Obama and his administration have errored in supporting Zalaya and in failing to recognize the new government in Honduras. Instead, Obama jumped too quickly to support Chavez-backed Zalaya. Very disconcerting are both Obama's act of speaking before adequately understanding the full situation, and his assumption in favor of a crony of the socialist, near-dictator of Venezuela.

Much will be learned about the character of Mr. Obama and his administration as we see how he deals with the fact of his mistakes.

(I am indebted to the reporting efforts of ALG for the compilation of the above documents and articles.)


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Passing unread laws

It is an axiom in criminal court that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." There certainly is no excuse for lawmakers to be ignorant of the laws they would force on the rest of us. That sounds almost criminal to us.

--editorial from the Washington Times, 07-06-09

Criminal? Impeachable? At the very least, removal from office next election.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Good Reads for the Days After

Gen LaGreca's tribute to America appears today in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Do read the whole piece as she begins with a long list of reasons to love and honor this country. I've excerpted her ending, because it fits better as a short segment, but the part which boosted my spirits was the beginning.

Celebrating America: Many reasons to honor our country

No matter how much our country has swayed from its ideals today, I will never forget that I am an American. I will never forget that our ancestors forged a continent not with public aid and bailouts but with the shining vision of a better life and the self-reliance to attain it.

Our forebears created wealth, progress and achievement on an unprecedented scale. No government fed our pioneers, inspected their wagons for safety, certified their chickens, meddled in their businesses, looted their wealth or subjected their lives to endless controls, permissions and regulations. No government built the breathtaking skylines of our majestic cities, the proud monuments to free minds and free commerce.

The time has come to reclaim our legacy from the meddlers, moochers, expropriators and budding tyrants who are hammering away at Lady Liberty.

We the people must pick up the pieces, make our lady whole again and return her to her golden pedestal as the country we love and honor, the country of liberty.

Let us ponder these thoughts this weekend.

--Genevieve LaGreca is the author of Noble Vision, an award-winning novel about liberty.

Doug Reich's piece also outlines a vision of America which resonates with mine. In his full post, he contrasts that vision with the direction our current leaders are taking us, seemingly with the support of this country's majority. I can only hope that the consequences of these differences will be understood, and that action will be taken to change course before too much liberty and prosperity is destroyed. Because I am in need of focusing on the good these days, I have only quoted positives. I face the negatives every day--it's nice to take a break on this celebratory weekend. Do read the whole piece at The Rational Capitalist. The contrasts he draws are disturbing and real.

America was founded upon the spirit of individualism - the idea that each individual is independent, the owner of his life, free to pursue his own happiness...

Throughout our history, Americans have always stood for limited, self-government, whose purpose is to secure the right to pursue your life and happiness...

Americans admire success and believe in reaping the profits derived from hard work...

Americans are unapologetic for our success which has come at a steep price - the blood of patriots spilled here and around the world for over 200 hundred years - and the sweat and tears of the productive: the scientists, the businessmen, the tradesmen, and the laborers who followed their dreams, built this country and in improving their own lives created the highest standard of living in world history...

My vision of America or My America means something very specific to me. My America is represented by George Washington, Patrick Henry, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson... influenced by men such as John Locke, Voltaire, and Montesquieu...

My Americans are the creators and the producers: the Founding Fathers, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers; My Americans are Fred Astaire, and Walt Disney, Mark Twain and Henry Ford; My Americans are Sherman, Patton, and MacArthur; My Americans are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs; My Americans are John Galt and Ayn Rand...

My Americans have literally given us light, mass production, aviation, bridges, the movies, music, television, the personal computer, and life saving medicines; some led great armies in heroic battles against tyranny and evil or glorified their work in literature and art...

My Americans produced wealth, defended freedom, and invented something from nothing...

My Americans have given us freedom, production, prosperity, and aesthetic beauty...

My America stands for the life affirming benevolence and productivity that follows from free minds and free markets...

We must wage a moral and intellectual battle to rediscover the American spirit and the morality implied by the Declaration of Independence; we must recapture the spirit of individualism, self-reliance, and limited government. We must fight, not just against Obama's vision, but for our own vision.

I hope you had a happy, free 4th in which you were able to celebrate what is good and right about this country and the principles of life, liberty and property upon which it was founded.

1000 cheers for the pursuit of happiness!!!


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Declaration of Life

Today is not the 4th of July I had envisioned.

I love the 4th of July---its celebration of all the things I love about this country, in particular, its recognition of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The past several years I have invested much time and energy studying these core individual rights and attempting to defend them from the increasing onslaught of attacks. Instead of protecting these rights, our government's actions are primarily intent on eroding the distinctions between private individual rights and public claims to the life, labor and property of its citizens. Government is usurping more and more of our private lives through regulation, taxes, welfare and entitlement programs, and "public options." Having taken over banks and auto companies, it is now poised to control the health and energy industries. What will be next?

The past few weeks, I have been focused more on the pursuit of my own personal happiness: listening to my son's tales of his recent trip to Italy, accompanying my husband to 2 concerts (first Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood, and just last night, Yes.) The bulk of my time however has been helping my in-laws deal with the diagnosis and treatment of a recently discovered cancer. There is nothing like a life-threatening illness to force the clarification of one's priorities.

So the past few weeks my time has been much more focused on my less abstract and more immediate values. This has heightened for me the toll the state of our government takes on the quality of my life. Instead of being free to live my life according to my own personal values, a substantial part of my life must be spent fending off those who would deprive me of my liberty and property. In a freer world, with a greater understanding and recognition of the right of each individual to his own life and only his own life, much less time would be spent on self-defense, and more more time would be available to the pursuit of positive values.

This is not to belittle how much better off I am than many who live in more oppressive countries, or who lived in more oppressive times. Also, I recognize that one can never completely rest in defending one's rights. It is simply that these past few weeks I have been made so much more concretely aware that time spent defending my rights is time I am unable to spend with my family, and vice versa.

The more the ideals of the Declaration of Independence are implemented in our daily lives, the more we can truly live. It is not just a declaration of independence and of individual rights. It is a Declaration for Living.


Friday, July 3, 2009

July 4th Eve

May [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man."

-- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President

June 24, 1826 Source: letter to Roger Weightman on June 24, 1826. It was his last letter, written ten days before his death - July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

"If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worthwhile.

-- Samuel Eliot Morison (1887-1976) Rear Admiral USNR, Naval historian

(Click on image for readable text.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Just Science

For an excellent example of the kind of scientific discourse which is needed to further our understanding of the contribution of man to global temperature and climate, see "Taking Greenhouse Warming Seriously" by Dr. Richard S. Lindzen, published in Energy and Environment, Vol. 18 No. 7+8, 2007.

From the Introduction:
In science, there is an art to simplifying complex problems so that they can be meaningfully analyzed. If one oversimplifies, the analysis is meaningless. If one doesn't simplify, then one can not proceed with the analysis. When it come to global warming due to the greenhouse effect, it is clear that many approaches are highly oversimplified.

The first section of the paper presents Lindzen's analysis of where the IPCC and its supporters have oversimplified and why the conclusions they have thus drawn are in error. The second section presents Lindzen's analysis of observed data which has led him to state "serious and persistent doubts remain concerning the danger of anthropogenic global warming despite the frequent claims that the 'science is settled'." Lindzen attempts to make the science accessible to an intelligent layman --but be prepared to work a bit as he presents a level of detail which goes beyond the usual simplifications.

Here are excerpts from his concluding remarks:

Using basic theory, modeling results and observations, we can reasonably bound the anthropogenic contributions to surface warming since 1979 to a third of the observed warming, leading to a climate sensitivity too small to offer any significant measure of alarm--assuming current surface and tropospheric trends and model depictions of greenhouse warming are correct. The virtue of the approach presented is that it offers testable points for assessing the arguments...

What this paper attempts to do is point the way to a simple, physically sound approach to reducing uncertainty and establishing estimates of climate sensitivity that are focused and testable. Such an approach would seem to be more comfortable for science than the current emphasis on models, large ranges of persistent uncertainty and reliance on alleged consensus. Hopefully, this paper has also clarified why significant doubt persists concerning the remarkably politicized issue of global warming alarm.

Throughout the paper, Lindzen's statements are straightforward and clear. His tone is objective. His points stay focused on explaining the science behind how and why he disagrees with the conclusions of the IPCC. He offers a reasoned critque of the analysis and conclusions presented in the 4th Assessment Report, and then offers specific recommendations how more accurate conclusions can be drawn. No attempt is made to propose any political action or government policy. It is work such as this which will bring us closer to a real understanding of the effects humans have on climate.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How is this a Coup?

When the Supreme Court of a country determines its President is acting against the country's constitution and requests the military to arrest him, and this move is clearly supported by the country's Attorney General and Congress, how is this a coup?

In declaring the ousted President of Honduras thecountry's only legitmte political leader, President Obama appears to be elevating democracy (populism and majority rule) over constitutionalism and the rule of law. This policy endangers the individual rights and liberty upon which the U.S. Constitution is grounded. Democracy unconstrained by individual rights and the rule of law is no less tyrannous than a dictator---just more people get to participate in the tyranny. Keep this in mind while watching process of appointing the next Supreme Court guardian of our own Constitution.

From Net Right Nation:

In Honduras, Freedom Restored
ALG News - Sunday, 28 June 2009

Earlier this year, in the face of strong public opposition, Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales declared that he would stage a referendum to have the country’s constitutional term limits law overturned, thereby allowing him to remain indefinitely in power. The people of Honduras had adopted the single, four-year--term limit as part of their Constitution in January of 1982. Significantly, the term limits provision is one of only eight “firm articles,” out of 375. By law, cannot be amended.

The Supreme Court of Honduras declared the Zelaya referendum unconstitutional, his own Liberal Party came out in strong opposition, and the public overwhelmingly opposed his power grab. Despite this, Zelaya, a leftwing politician with strong ties to Cuba’s Castro and Venezuela’s Chavez, scheduled the referendum for Sunday, June 28. At midnight, Wednesday, June 24, the strong-arm president gave a televised speech accusing his opposition of promoting “destabilization and chaos” by attempting to thwart his unconstitutional referendum.

As the situation in Honduras continued to deteriorate, the Zelaya’s attorney general called for his ouster; his Defense Minister resigned; he fired the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for stating that he would refuse to send out troops to put down public protests; the chiefs of the army, navy, and air force resigned; and the country’s Supreme Court ordered the nation’s army and police not to support the unconstitutional referendum. (All emphases added.)

From the Wall Street Journal:

Honduras Defends Its Democracy by Mary Anastasia O'Grady

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal and that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out....

It's not surprising that the
chavistas throughout the region are claiming that he was a victim of a military coup. They want to hide the fact that the military was acting on a court order to defend the rule of law and the constitution, and that the Congress asserted itself for that purpose too.

Coup Rocks Honduras

President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned" and called on all political actors in Honduras to "respect democratic norms"...

Honduras's Supreme Court gave the order for the military to detain the president, according to a former Supreme Court official who is in touch with the court.

Later, Honduras's Congress formally removed Mr. Zelaya from the presidency and named congressional leader Roberto Micheletti as his successor until the end of Mr. Zelaya's term in January...

Moves to try to stay in power through the ballot box have become increasingly common in Latin America. Leftist Latin American leaders such as Venezuela's Mr. Chavez, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Bolivia's Evo Morales have used referendums for a similar purpose, and Colombia's right-wing President Alváro Uribe is trying to change the constitution to allow him a third term...

Latin America analysts said the Honduran coup will complicate President Obama's efforts to re-engage a region where anti-Americanism has flourished in recent years. They said Mr. Chavez is likely to seize on the crisis to depict Central America as under attack.

As a result, analysts said Mr. Obama will need to aggressively call for the reinstatement of President Zelaya, despite U.S. concerns that he is seeking to mirror Mr. Chávez's campaign to secure limitless rule.

From the New York Times:

In a Coup in Honduras, Ghosts of Past U.S. Policies

President Obama on Monday strongly condemned the ouster of Honduras’s president as an illegal coup that set a “terrible precedent” for the region, as the country’s new government defied international calls to return the toppled president to power and clashed with thousands of protesters...

American officials did not believe that Mr. Zelaya’s plans for the referendum were in line with the Constitution...

[O]ne administration official said that while the United States thought the referendum was a bad idea, it did not justify a coup.“On the one instance, we’re talking about conducting a survey, a nonbinding survey; in the other instance, we’re talking about the forcible removal of a president from a country”...

[A]dministration officials said that they did not expect that the military would go so far as to carry out a coup. “There was talk of how they might remove the president from office, how he could be arrested, on whose authority they could do that,” the administration official said. But the official said that the speculation had focused on legal maneuvers to remove the president, not a coup.

Roberto Micheletti, the veteran congressional leader who was sworn in by his fellow lawmakers on Sunday to replace Mr. Zelaya, seemed to plead with the world to understand that Mr. Zelaya’s arrest by the army had been under an official arrest warrant based on his flouting of the Constitution.

The Honduran president was forcibly removed from office with the assistance and support of the military. Power has been quickly returned to civilian control with the appointment of a new president by the country's legislative body. From what I am reading, the former President was in violation of the law and those who acted to remove him from office were acting to preserve the rule of law.

If a "coup" is simply a sudden take-over of power, then this term is being accurately used. However, the connotations which accompany the term imply an illegal act by the military against the proper supremacy of civilian government. Recent events in Honduras do not at this time appear to fall within this meaning of the term and it should therefore be avoided.


Science vs. Politics, Part 3

Since the automatic feeds don't show comments, I wanted to bring two recent ones to more promience by posting them on my "front page." Doug links to an article by economist Dr. George Reisman which argues that the free market is the best mechanism for dealing with environmental concerns. Burgess puts in syllogistic form the alarmist's argument, starkly showing the missing link.

Doug Reich said...


Per your request, here is Dr. Reisman's post in which he addresses this issue

Brilliant as usual.

Burgess Laughlin said...

> "This fact in and of itself should make their 'scientific' conclusions suspect."

Indeed, and the problem is not only pseudo-science, but pseudo-philosophy.

Beth, thank you. Your brief post presents a radical challenge. If pro-reason advocates pick it up and use it, the environmentalists must answer--or reveal themselves as evaders.

The challenge is to show how to complete this syllogism:

1. The climate is changing.
3. Therefore an increase in statism is needed.