Thursday, March 30, 2006

Time to play...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I've Seen No Confirmation

But this story about Belarussian officials posing as American diplomats illustrates how Lukashenko's people maintain their grip of fear. Of course, there are all sorts of wild stories floating around out there.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Diary of a Belarussian Patriot

It’s so ridiculous and clumsy, but still some people believe it: they say that we are standing there simply for money. First they said we received 20 thousand Belarusian rubles [about $10], but then they realized that it looked ridiculous, so the authorities increased our ‘wages’ to $50 (almost 5 times more!).

Oh my God! Let those who believe it come there and try to stand under the looks and cameras of the people in civilian clothes. 14 hours standing there, growing numb, waiting for the dawn like a rescue. And see in the morning that there is so little ‘reinforcement’, as people simply cannot push through. And with every minute feel how the ring becomes rarer, because people do not bear it and have to leave to sleep, and there is no change. And every minute wait for a storm, beating, provocation. And know that probably tomorrow you will be excluded from the university, or fired, or taken to jail.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Europe's Last Police State

Go to Ivan for details

Robert Meyer at Publius Pundit has more, with links to NY Times article, etc.

Andrei Khrapavitski has more as well, including the pics of the state TV channel's website hacked.

It has Come to my Attention

,over the past couple months, that Danes rule.

Friday, March 24, 2006

On the Possiblity of Sanctions

In the spirit of my new policy of lazy blogging if someone else has said something well, I won't bother duplicating efforts:

Sanctions won't make anybody's life better.

Speaking of sanctions, I think isolation would be the worst thing right now for Belarus. Ban on officials' travel is unimportant, it doesn't change much. But if the few Western companies doing business in Belarus are forced to leave, it will make things worse for ordinary Belarusians, especially those who want change, because they are more likely to be involved with such firms, whether as customers, or suppliers, or partners.

If anything, the West should engage Belarus as much as possible. Isolation would make Belarus more like North Korea.

Ivan Lenin at Russian Mushroom - who, by the way, has become for this Belarussian situation what Discoshaman at Le Sabot Post-Moderne was during the Orange Revolution. Hopefully he won' go AWOL as Disco has. Ivan, if you're in Philly I owe you a steak dinner. Seriously.

He is 100% right about sanctions. They are more than just ineffective. They are counterproductive. If you want to help Lukashenko stay in power indefinitely. If you want to ensure that he acchieves the greatest possible level of repressive authoritarianism, then initiate sanctions. The road to change in Belarus is through economic independence and technological advancement. The small resistance that we saw was due largely to the proliferation of cell phones and the internet. Products of economic development. Also, what support Lukashenko has is largely reliant on a narrow dependence on Russia. Sanctions will only exacerbate this situation. Cuba and North Korea are the clearest examples of the "results" that sanctions acchieve. To create this sort of national prison of Belarus would be a tragedy.

As I go to bed tonight, the 25th will be dawning in Belarus. The anniversary of the declaration of the first Belarussian republic. (which evidently lasted at least 15 minutes, but nevermind...) This "Independence Day" has become an occasion to rally for the opposition. Last year on this day, Lukashenko sent his goons in to bust heads. Milinkevich has called for a rally on Oktbraskaya Pl., scene of the police action last night. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Militzia Storm the Tents!

Lukashenko couldn't restrain himself any longer. Charter97 has pics.

Getting Noticed

by the New York Times.

Gotta Have Goals

Mine is to get arrested in a pre-emptive drunk driving sweep at the hotel bar when I'm in Texas next month. That's right. A pre-emptive drunk driving sweep at a HOTEL bar.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Day Three

Still folks camped on the main square in Minsk. Check Robert Meyer's writeup at Publius Pundit. Milenkevich is calling for a rally on the 25th. I don't know if that's the best strategy. I fear whatever momentum there is may be exhausted by then.

The reports give the indication that the gathering in dwindling, but the pics posted by Charter97 sure make it look like they are still going strong. Let it not be said these folks don't have fortitude. It ain't exactly the best weather for a camp out. Combine that with the officials preventing folks from going out or in with food or hot beverages and you've got people who have earned my admiration.

And if I were rich, what would I do with my money? I'd find out who these folks are and pay their tuition in another country.

UPDATE: Ivan Lenin reports that people who can actually do something are way ahead of me:

On March 30th in Warsaw, presidents of Europe's biggest universities will meet to discuss accepting Belarusian students who got kicked out.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The day after

Waiting to see what will happen on Oktyabrskaya Pl. today. In the meantime, there's this bit of insight from a blogger calling himself "Ivan Lenin" that jibes with what my wife and the in-laws are telling me:

Those who have voted for Lukashenka are at least 47% - according to the results by Levada & Co. The official results of 80% and higher will be taken only by the most naive Lukashenka sympathizers. Those who don't support the opposition are not necessarily Lukashenka's supporters. Many people I've talked to strongly dislike Lukashenka, but still don't have much respect for the opposition, because the "full-time oppositioners" take Western funding and don't have serious plans for winning.

I think such criticism is not without grounds. There is a certain opposition establishment in Belarus, whose full-time job is to show some results to their Western sponsors. In essense, they don't play to win: in fact, they are paid because they lose.

Limited Government, my ASS!!

"The Republican Party is now principally moderate, if not liberal!" exulted Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), after the Senate -- including a majority of Republicans -- approved his budget-busting amendment to spend an extra $7 billion on domestic programs.

Just a week ago, GOP leaders gathered in Memphis and proclaimed the party's commitment to fiscal restraint; yesterday, the restraints came off. "All the talk in Memphis doesn't comport with reality," said Specter, savoring his victory in a leather armchair in the Senate press gallery. "I don't have any apologies to make for this 7 billion. I'm still not satisfied."
When Specter visited the press gallery to talk about his $7 billion, a reporter asked if the senator had employed "sort of a gimmick" to evade budget rules.

"It's not sort of a gimmick," Specter deadpanned. "It is a gimmick."

Arlen, you make me sick.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

6000? or 35000?

Depending on who you want to believe, that's the number of folks in the main square in Minsk this evening. Good move outta Lukashenko in not "wringing their necks like ducks" as he had threatened. Now, I bet there's another night or two of this and life goes on, business as usual. While I certainly believe the vote count is bogus, I also don't think there's the groundswell of support to oust Lukashenko. The best hope for a democratic Belarus is success in the countries surrounding it. A free and prosperous Poland and Ukraine will sway the people much more than anything else. The burden lies on folks like Viktor Yushchenko to prove that there's another way to succeed.

All in good time.

Friday, March 17, 2006

City Councilman Mariano Guilty

Five to ten years in prison is a fair sentence. I'm sick of hearing about how nice a guy he his. So he smiles while he places the coercive power of government up for sale. Doesn't make me feel any better about it. In fact, I think I'd rather he acted like the extortionist that he is.

Bottom line? $30,000 worth of bribes to arrange deals worth $700,000 of confiscated dollars. Enjoy your stay in the big house. And for all the folks who were talking about how great a guy you are? I'll judge them by the company they keep.

Inquirer blog here

Including a link to
the anonymous letter that started it all written by one Maggie Greer, bookkeeper for the Steel company involved. If anyone knows her, thank her for me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dear Honorable Rep. Fattah

As long as confiscated dollars are funding your ride, what's the matter with a Toyota Corolla?

Chaka Fattah, D-Pa.: GMC Envoy, $8,513.50
total 2005 lease cost

full list here

Props to Ron Paul (among others, I'm sure) for being consistent to his principles and not making the list for so much as a 10 speed.

How to rig an election

We are watching the elections in Belarus with a personal interest in the rox_castle. The in-laws reporting from the field indicate that the poll cited by the Guardian's Jonathan Steele here:

A poll in January by Gallup/Baltic Surveys, and reported in the emigre Belarusian Review, found only 17% in favour of Milinkevich and nearly 55% supporting Lukashenko.

is probably accurate, but the sitting president, Alexander Lukashenko, is taking no chances.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's "Belarus Votes" section has the rundown. Here's a handy little manual for you would-be dictators on rigging your election to assure the overwhelming support you so desire:

1. In the months leading up to the election,
arrest opposition activists.
2. Then begin
arresting potential opposition candidates
3. Rinse and
repeat... as many times as necessary.
Refuse journalists entry, deport those there, arrest those who persist in reporting (be sure to listen to the recording), prevent publication of opposition newspapers, and censor opposition speech as needed.
Start the voting early, so your folks have plenty of time to ensure everything is going as planned. Encourage early votes, to avoid those pesky last minute ballots that are more difficult to alter.

Any other suggestions would be welcome. This manual is to serve merely as a primer, and is in no way comprehensive. Shall we start an over-under betting pool on the official percentage of the vote won by lukashenko? Price is right rules. Closest to the figure without going over. I'll open the bidding at 91%.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Our Newest Neighbor

Go congratulate Girl Fiend and... um... Frank... on their addition to the family.

What's proper ettiquette on giving friends space when they just had a kid? I suppose a returning the "we had a boy" phone call with a "congratulations" is in order. Do I pile on with the sixth fruit basket of the week? Or is that too Mom-like?

Yeah. I have no social skills.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Well, here's a first

A man I voted for in a presidential election has passed away.

I suppose this isn't as dramatic an event as it was for say, a young democratic voter in 1960 who's naive heart melted at the statement that he should "ask what he can do for his country". In fact, I expect it will go unnoticed by just about everyone I have contact with. Somewhere in the "never unpacked" boxes in the basement I have Harry's "Why Government Doesn't Work" in hardcover. It wasn't the definitive libertarian tome. By the time it came out, I was pretty much settled on my political viewpoints.

It did, however, pass into my hands at a time when I had recently had my life thrown into chaos as the victim of the unintended consequences of a change in Pennsylvania state law. Riding the bus back and forth to an unrewarding hourly wage job in Raleigh, North Carolina, I found myself thinking "THAT'S RIGHT!" and "DAMN STRAIGHT" page after page. Living on rice and beans and the apples so generously provided by a roommate's parents (they owned an orchard) while taking the bus to work ('cause the 20 year old car wouldn't start and I had no money to fix it) had me frustrated and wishing there were answers. And all this time the government was taking 12% of my paycheck for my RETIREMENT!!!??? Man I was resentful. Who the hell were these people? 60 years old, driving Lexi, and telling me at 21 or 22 that I had to stash 12% of my single digit hourly rate for retirement rather than using it to extract myself from my present situation?

So, Harry Browne was the representation of my right to make my own decisions. In a time before I read Reason or Liberty magazines, before there were blogs, before I knew what the hell Austrian or Chicago school economics were about, before I knew of John Stossel or Neal Boortz, Harry Browne and the Libertarian Party were the only representation of my political beliefs out there - that I knew of anyway. And so flawed and ineffectual as the LP may have been, I was a die hard supporter. I got supremely excited at the 3% election returns in some county in Colorado. This was the start of something big. Surely we would have 10% by 2000. And then the media would have to pay attention and then we'd really have something...

Instead the LP turned to Howard Stern and infighting over campaign money and Star Trek costumes at the conventions. But I give you credit for carrying the mantle, Harry.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Food, Porn, and the Nanny Staters

Radley Balko's article on Morgan Spurlock, some virgin kid, and their plans to control your life ends in this awesome quote from H.L. Mencken:

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it."

That should be emblazoned on the sidewalk outside the UN.

Time for a new direction

I hate "why I haven't posted" posts. So I'm not gonna do it.

But here's a chance to start over, so I'm gonna take it. I'm dialing down the ambition and expectations from my already low standards. I'm not gonna cover all kinds of unique stuff, I am gonna rehash what others think, I will link to others quality work, thereby absolving myself of the need to produce my own, and no, I don't expect anyone to think that's fascinating or worthy of reading daily. Hell, I ain't gonna post daily, so let's stop pretending.

I feel better already.

Think I'll get me a beer.