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Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

Massacre anniversary

Posted by Richard on June 4, 2007

Today is the eighteenth anniversary of China's massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. I can't believe it's been that long ago. Gateway Pundit remembered, and has pictures and links.

If you're young and/or just don't remember the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, the revolution was, for a time, televised. Watch this short (1:12) YouTube video — it captures one of the bravest and most powerfully moving acts by a lone individual that you'll ever see. 

 

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Happy Independence Day, Israel!

Posted by Richard on April 23, 2007

Fifty-nine years ago, on May 14, 1948, the British lowered their flag and withdrew from Palestine, enabling the Jewish community, led by David Ben Gurion, to declare the creation of Israel. It's all reckoned by the Hebrew calendar, and this year it's offset a day to avoid starting Remembrance Day (the day before Independence Day, honoring fallen soldiers and victims of terror) during the Sabbath, so don't even try to make sense of the dates. The celebration officially began at 8 PM Monday with a torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, and continues through Tuesday.

Ron Weiser of Australian Jewish News explained why this is a "chag sameach" (happy holiday) and also offered a reminder that, contrary to Arab propaganda, the Israelis aren't occupiers or interlopers newly arrived in the region:

Israel is surely the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, speaks the same language and worships the same G-d that it did over 3000 years ago.

The people of modern-day Israel share the same language and culture shaped by Jewish heritage and religion and passed through generations, starting with the founding father Abraham.

This is a time for true celebration because we are proud of Israel's democracy, her dedication to human rights, her courts and justice, her free press, her high tech, her arts, her institutes of higher learning and most of all her Jewish core.

A country with over one million non-Jewish citizens who have more rights and freedoms – as they should than their brothers and particularly their sisters in Arab countries.

Immediately upon its Declaration of Independence, Israel was attacked by all its neighbors, who also urged the Palestinian Arabs to flee "temporarily" to escape the fighting. The Palestinian Arabs were promised they could soon return and claim the property of the Jews, who would be wiped out.

Despite the odds against it, Israel prevailed. It became the first free, democratic state in the Middle East. And for over 57 years (until the Iraqis adopted a democratic constitution on Dec. 15, 2005), it was the only democratic state in the Middle East. It's still by far the freest.

The descendants of the Palestinian Arabs who remained are now Israeli citizens, make up about 20% of the population, and have more political, social, and economic freedom than Arabs in any Arab nation (not that most of them are at all appreciative). The descendants of those who left "temporarily" until the Jews could be wiped out are still living in third-world "refugee camps" run by thugs and thieves — and still struggling to wipe out the Jews.

After 59 years of unrelenting violence and terror aimed against them, Israeli leaders are still trying to persuade their enemies to embrace peace:

Knesset Speaker and Acting President Dalia Itzik called Thursday on Israel's enemies to abandon the path of violence and seek the well being of their own societies.

"Our advice to you is replace your Katyushas and Qassams with computers and loving education, the smile of a boy that has a future, and neighborliness," Itzik said during her speech at the annual torch-lighting ceremony that kicked off Israel's 59th Independence Day celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Itzik delivered the opening speech and lit the central torch. Israel's fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, also lit one of the 12 torches.

"We hear the sharpening of swords and voices of war from near and afar. In distant Iran, in nearby Syria, in the Palestinian Authority at out doorstep, there still reside fiery zealots of hate-ridden leaders that believe in their ability to harm the state of Israel," Itzik said in her speech, adding that "the citizens of Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority should think twice about why they are so thirsty for battles and blood.

"Isn't the blood that you have already spilled enough?" she asked.

More about Israel Independence Day:

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Paper ballots

Posted by Richard on September 25, 2006

Bizzyblog noted that concern about electronic voting machines cuts across party lines, citing Maryland as the latest example:

The state’s governor and paper-ballot advocate is Republican Bob Ehrlich; the people who want to stick with the troubled e-voting systems, which had significant problems (link is to one blogger’s detailed in-person observations; HT Techdirt) in Maryland’s most recent primary, are Democrats.

Those who believe e-voting can still be used and trusted have to pretend that the Princeton IT study, which demonstrated that an easily installed virus can alter vote totals without being detected, and e-voting vendor Diebold’s incredibly weak response to it don’t exist. Oh, and besides that, you can get into the voting machine with a hotel mini-bar key.

This ought to disabuse anyone that the credibility and integrity, or lack thereof, of e-voting is a partisan issue, but it probably won’t.

Here in Colorado, a judge just ruled that the e-voting machines have serious security flaws, but we’re stuck with them anyway:

A Denver district judge ruled Friday that the secretary of state did an "abysmal" job of security testing on new computerized voting machines, but it’s too late to bar them from the Nov. 7 election.

Unable to be certain the machines’ software is safe from tampering that could distort the vote, Judge Lawrence Manzanares ordered the state to immediately devise detailed rules for counties to ensure that no one can get to the machines to reprogram them.

Plaintiffs showed malicious software could be installed with a screwdriver and a flash drive in as little as one minute on some machines, Manzanares noted.

He said the widely used voting machines, where voters cast ballots on a computer screen, "are certainly not perfect or immune from tampering." But he ruled that barring them roughly six weeks before the election, and four weeks before early voting, "could create more problems than it would solve."

Legitimate concerns about e-voting have been overshadowed by the moonbat left conspiracy theories — researching the political donations and affiliations of Diebold executives, repeating absurd, baseless claims about Ohio being stolen, and so forth. It’s good to see that reasonably sane people of varied political persuasions are making reasonable arguments against e-voting.

In Colorado, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Secretary of State suggested using absentee ballots — paper — for in-person as well as absentee voting (the Libertarians aren’t running anyone for that office, and I can’t be bothered looking up the other parties). I thought that was a great idea, and I don’t understand the judge’s contention that it’s "too late" — I’m sure the printers getting ready to print absentee ballots would be happy to increase the print runs, and there’s plenty of time to do so.

Here’s how to make elections much more fraud-resistant:

  • Stop this trend toward giant voting-centers. Decentralize voting back to many small neighborhood precincts, each with only a few hundred registered voters. If necessary to staff them with sufficient poll workers and observers, pay an attractive fee. And/or arm-twist the political parties.
  • Require each voter to present a valid picture ID or be vouched for by two neighbors (living within a block) as to the voter’s name and address. The neighbors must be there in person and must sign a statement (with penalties for lying) before witnesses. And the neighbors must have previously established their identities in one of the same two ways.
  • Record all votes on paper ballots.
  • Immediately upon poll closing, have the poll workers count the votes at the precinct, with representatives of all parties free to observe. If there are only a couple or three hundred, they should be done about as quickly — maybe more quickly — than with today’s system.

Elections are an excellent example of a process that could benefit from application of the KISS principle — "Keep it simple, stupid!" Low-tech is the way to go.
 

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Happy Independence Day, Israel!

Posted by Richard on May 3, 2006

Today is 5 Iyar, 5766, in the Hebrew calendar, the day that Israelis celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut — Israel Independence Day. On this day of the Hebrew calendar 58 years ago (it was May 14, 1948, in the Western calendar), the British lowered their flag and withdrew from Palestine, enabling the Jewish community, led by David Ben Gurion, to declare the creation of Israel:

This was the day when the British finally left the Land of Israel. It was marked by the departure of the High Commissioner, who hastened back to England. Thus ended the Mandate on Palestine. On the same day the people’s representatives gathered at the Tel Aviv Museum to set up a provisional Government. David Ben Gurion read the Declaration of Independence, which formalized the establishment of the independent State of Israel. He called on the neighboring Arabs to remain in the country and to live together in peace. The Declaration states that the State of Israel is based on the principles of justice and democracy, and constitutes the national home for the Jewish People.

After 2,000 years of exile a sovereign Jewish state had been reestablished. The newly emerging state had yet to be recognized by the nations of the world. Everything was done swiftly and secretly, meticulously planned by David Ben Gurion.

After the Declaration the crowds took to the streets and danced all night, just as they did on the night of the U.N. Partition vote. 

Israel was immediately attacked by all its neighbors, who also urged the Palestinian Arabs to flee "temporarily" to escape the fighting, promising they could soon return and claim the property of the Jews, who would be wiped out.

Despite horrendous odds against it, Israel prevailed. It became the first free, democratic state in the Middle East. And for over 57 years (until the Iraqis adopted a democratic constitution on Dec. 15, 2005), it was the only democratic state in the Middle East.  It’s certainly the freest.

The descendants of the Palestinian Arabs who remained are now Israeli citizens, make up about 20% of the population, and have more political, social, and economic freedom than Arabs in any Arab nation (not that most of them are at all appreciative). The descendants of those who left "temporarily" until the Jews could be wiped out are still living in third-world "refugee camps" run by thugs and thieves — and still struggling to wipe out the Jews.

I don’t think they’ll ever succeed. Congratulations, Israel!
 

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Secular dictator vs. Islamist theocracy?

Posted by Richard on April 20, 2006

The advocates of realpolitik, such as Brent Scowcroft, have always argued that our interests in the Middle East are best served by more or less secular "strongmen" or dictators who can be persuaded (bribed or coerced) to accommodate those interests. Democratization, they’ve argued, runs the risk of bringing to power Islamic fundamentalists. Recently, they’ve pointed to Hamas’ victory in the PA elections, the success of Shi’ite fundamentalists in Iraq, and the electoral strength of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Quentin Langley wrote an interesting article about this line of thinking, which he calls the Hillaire Belloc fallacy. He said the realpolitik policy made sense during the Cold War (I disagree), but not today:

During the Cold War, the west co-operated with some unsavoury dictatorships. "He may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard" was the motto in the corridors of power. And faced with a foe like the Soviet Union, massively armed with nuclear and conventional forces, and bent on world domination, this was a reasonable policy.

Outside the Cold War context, the situation changes dramatically. We no longer have the same reason to support dictatorships which are aligned against communism, and neither Russia nor the US has any need to support insurgents against each other’s allies.

And yet, we still have enemies. There may be no Soviet Union, but there is still Al Qaeda. If an Arab dictator falls, it could still be worse for the west. The silky smooth voices of the diplomatic establishment still whisper the words of Hillaire Belloc: "always keep ahold of Nurse, for fear of finding something worse".

This is exactly what Arab dictators want us to believe. … It is what they say to western diplomats all the time. But it isn’t what they really think. President Mubarak of Egypt wants the west to THINK he is worried about the Muslim Brotherhood. But what really keeps him awake at night is the thought that western liberal democracy might infect his country.

Langley pointed out something that hadn’t occurred to me, but that makes perfect sense: Hosni Mubarak made sure that the Muslim Brotherhood would win a handful of seats and appear threatening to us. Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood are allies of convenience against their common enemies: middle-class Egyptians clamoring for freedom, progress, and democracy, and the Americans who share their goals.

Langley has quite a bit of interesting stuff (I’ve added him to my blogroll). Check out also his April 12 article, Clear trends in Iraqi violence — the numbers he cites must be startling to anyone who’s relied on the legacy media reports about the situation in Iraq.

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Blair on the battle of ideas

Posted by Richard on March 24, 2006

Tony Blair and his Labor government have many faults, but I’ll give the man his due — he understands the nature of the current global conflict and articulates it better than anyone. Mary at Deane’s World and Harry at Harry’s Place (whose observations and comments you should go read) quote approvingly from Blair’s March 21 foreign policy speech, and with good reason. It was the first of three planned foreign policy speeches, and in it, Blair discussed global terrorism and the importance of democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was on fire:

This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds of its adherents, are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core. By this I don’t mean telling them terrorism is wrong. I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd; their concept of governance pre-feudal; their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive; and then since only by Muslims can this be done: standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more, namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Koran.

I don’t know if Blair’s right about the Koran, but he sure nailed it on the backwardness and the need to confront those backward ideas directly. Blair went on to reject the notion that we should ask ourselves why they hate us and the idea that this conflict is one we can choose to avoid:

This is not a clash between civilisations. It is a clash about civilisation. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace and see opportunity in the modern world and those who reject its existence; between optimism and hope on the one hand; and pessimism and fear on the other. And in the era of globalisation where nations depend on each other and where our security is held in common or not at all, the outcome of this clash between extremism and progress is utterly determinative of our future here in Britain. We can no more opt out of this struggle than we can opt out of the climate changing around us. Inaction, pushing the responsibility on to America, deluding ourselves that this terrorism is an isolated series of individual incidents rather than a global movement and would go away if only we were more sensitive to its pretensions; this too is a policy. It is just that it is a policy that is profoundly, fundamentally wrong.

Blair touched on an important point regarding the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan:

The fact is: given the chance, the people wanted democracy. OK so they voted on religious or regional lines. That’s not surprising, given the history. But there’s not much doubt what all the main parties in both countries would prefer and it is neither theocratic nor secular dictatorship. The people – despite violence, intimidation, inexperience and often logistical nightmares – voted. Not a few. But in numbers large enough to shame many western democracies. They want Government decided by the people.

Blair touched on something very important above, but didn’t fully pursue the thought. It’s a crucial idea that the Islamofascists seem to understand clearly, but the critics and pessimists just don’t get: once the vast majority of the people buy into the concept of democratic government — even a Sharia-based or Shia-dominated democratic government — the reactionary theology of the Islamofascists has already lost. Their version of Islam can’t tolerate people choosing, period — even if you make the "right" choice, the very idea that it’s up to you to decide between competing ideas undermines their entire belief system and will eventually destroy it.

Eventually. But we may have to be patient, and we’re not very good at that. Granted, it’s not easy to be patient with a new, democratic government that threatens to execute someone for changing his religion.

Blair expressed his frustration with the critics, nay-sayers, and defeatists, and called on us to have patience and courage:

That to me is the painful irony of what is happening. They have so much clearer a sense of what is at stake. They play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party. Every act of carnage adds to the death toll. But somehow it serves to indicate our responsibility for disorder, rather than the act of wickedness that causes it. For us, so much of our opinion believes that what was done in Iraq in 2003 was so wrong, that it is reluctant to accept what is plainly right now.

What happens in Iraq or Afghanistan today is not just crucial for the people in those countries or even in those regions; but for our security here and round the world. It is a cause that has none of the debatable nature of the decisions to go for regime change; it is an entirely noble one – to help people in need of our help in pursuit of liberty; and a self-interested one, since in their salvation lies our own security.

Across the Arab and Muslim world such a struggle for democracy and liberty continues. One reason I am so passionate about Turkey’s membership of the EU is precisely because it enhances the possibility of a good outcome to such a struggle. It should be our task to empower and support those in favour of uniting Islam and democracy, everywhere.

To do this, we must fight the ideas of the extremists, not just their actions; and stand up for and not walk away from those engaged in a life or death battle for freedom. The fact of their courage in doing so should give us courage; their determination should lend us strength; their embrace of democratic values, which do not belong to any race, religion or nation, but are universal, should reinforce our own confidence in those values.

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

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Condi in Cairo

Posted by Richard on June 24, 2005

Belatedly, I went to the Secretary of State’s site and read the speech Condi Rice delivered at American University in Cairo on Mon., June 20. Wow. It’s a powerful and moving speech, an important speech, and I encourage everyone to read the whole thing. It’s five pages if you print it, which you should do — not only is it easier to read that way, but you can pass it on to others.

But, what the heck, I’ll provide some big chunks of it here. As you read the words, think about what it must have been like to hear it delivered — the electricity and drama of hearing a black American woman address these words to a (predominantly male) audience of Egyptian Arab Muslims. A few years ago, it would have been inconceivable that any American would address an audience in that part of the world with such words. It’s still astonishing and remarkable.

Note: I’m quoting a lot of text. In the interest of readability, I’m dropping the convention of italicizing block quotes (I’ve been thinking of dropping it anyway; if you have thoughts pro or con, let me know).

Rice started by saying as explicitly as I’ve seen it said that American foreign policy throughout the Cold War, post-colonial period was wrong, and that this administration has broken with that shameful past and embraced a principled, idealistic foreign policy as being both more moral and more practical than the cynical "pragmatism" of the past:

In this time of great decision, I have come to Cairo not to talk about the past, but to look to the future — to a future that Egyptians can lead and can define. Ladies and Gentlemen: In our world today, a growing number of men and women are securing their liberty. And as these people gain the power to choose, they are creating democratic governments in order to protect their natural rights.

We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens — because the ideal of democracy is universal. For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East — and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

As President Bush said in his Second Inaugural Address: "America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, and to make their own way."

We know these advances will not come easily, or all at once. We know that different societies will find forms of democracy that work for them. When we talk about democracy, though, we are referring to governments that protect certain basic rights for all their citizens — among these, the right to speak freely. The right to associate. The right to worship as you wish. The freedom to educate your children — boys and girls. And freedom from the midnight knock of the secret police.

Securing these rights is the hope of every citizen, and the duty of every government. In my own country, the progress of democracy has been long and difficult. And given our history, the United States has no cause for false pride and we have every reason for humility.

After all, America was founded by individuals who knew that all human beings — and the governments they create — are inherently imperfect. And the United States was born half free and half slave. And it was only in my lifetime that my government guaranteed the right to vote for all of its people.

Nevertheless, the principles enshrined in our Constitution enable citizens of conviction to move America closer every day to the ideal of democracy. Here in the Middle East, that same long hopeful process of democratic change is now beginning to unfold. Millions of people are demanding freedom for themselves and democracy for their countries.

She then stepped through a travelogue of the Middle East, providing examples — Jordan, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and ending with Egypt. Some of her descriptions were very positive — justified, IMHO, regarding the Iraqis and Lebanese; overly generous toward Jordan and the Palestinians. But regarding the others, including Egypt, she pulled few punches:

… The case of Syria is especially serious, because as its neighbors embrace democracy and political reform, Syria continues to harbor or directly support groups committed to violence — in Lebanon, and in Israel, and Iraq, and in the Palestinian territories. It is time for Syria to make a strategic choice to join the progress that is going on all around it.

In Iran, people are losing patience with an oppressive regime that denies them their liberty and their rights. The appearance of elections does not mask the organized cruelty of Iran’s theocratic state. The Iranian people, ladies and gentlemen, are capable of liberty. They desire liberty. And they deserve liberty. The time has come for the unelected few to release their grip on the aspirations of the proud people of Iran.

In Saudi Arabia, brave citizens are demanding accountable government. And some good first steps toward openness have been taken with recent municipal elections. Yet many people pay an unfair price for exercising their basic rights. Three individuals in particular are currently imprisoned for peacefully petitioning their government. That should not be a crime in any country.

She made especially specific and detailed remarks about her host country; no pandering here:

Now, here in Cairo, President Mubarak’s decision to amend the country’s constitution and hold multiparty elections is encouraging. President Mubarak has unlocked the door for change. Now, the Egyptian Government must put its faith in its own people. We are all concerned for the future of Egypt’s reforms when peaceful supporters of democracy — men and women — are not free from violence. The day must come when the rule of law replaces emergency decrees — and when the independent judiciary replaces arbitrary justice.

The Egyptian Government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people — and to the entire world — by giving its citizens the freedom to choose. Egypt’s elections, including the Parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election.

Opposition groups must be free to assemble, and to participate, and to speak to the media. Voting should occur without violence or intimidation. And international election monitors and observers must have unrestricted access to do their jobs.

Rice then challenged the critics of democracy on a variety of points, including one that we hear all too often from the left (heck, I’ve heard it from Libertarian friends) which just drives me up the wall — the idea that when you prevent someone from oppressing others, you’re "imposing" something on them, denying them their "right" to be an autocrat or tyrant:

Throughout the Middle East, the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty. It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy. There are those who say that democracy is being imposed. In fact, the opposite is true: Democracy is never imposed. It is tyranny that must be imposed.

People choose democracy freely. And successful reform is always homegrown. Just look around the world today. For the first time in history, more people are citizens of democracies than of any other form of government. This is the result of choice, not of coercion.

There are those who say that democracy leads to chaos, or conflict, or terror. In fact, the opposite is true: Freedom and democracy are the only ideas powerful enough to overcome hatred, and division, and violence. For people of diverse races and religions, the inclusive nature of democracy can lift the fear of difference that some believe is a license to kill. But people of goodwill must choose to embrace the challenge of listening, and debating, and cooperating with one another.

For neighboring countries with turbulent histories, democracy can help to build trust and settle old disputes with dignity. But leaders of vision and character must commit themselves to the difficult work that nurtures the hope of peace. And for all citizens with grievances, democracy can be a path to lasting justice. But the democratic system cannot function if certain groups have one foot in the realm of politics and one foot in the camp of terror.

There are those who say that democracy destroys social institutions and erodes moral standards. In fact, the opposite is true: The success of democracy depends on public character and private virtue. For democracy to thrive, free citizens must work every day to strengthen their families, to care for their neighbors, and to support their communities.

There are those who say that long-term economic and social progress can be achieved without free minds and free markets. In fact, human potential and creativity are only fully released when governments trust their people’s decisions and invest in their people’s future. And the key investment is in those people’s education. Because education — for men and for women — transforms their dreams into reality and enables them to overcome poverty.

There are those who say that democracy is for men alone. In fact, the opposite is true: Half a democracy is not a democracy. As one Muslim woman leader has said, "Society is like a bird. It has two wings. And a bird cannot fly if one wing is broken." Across the Middle East, women are inspiring us all.

Closing: 

Ladies and Gentlemen: Across the Middle East today, millions of citizens are voicing their aspirations for liberty and for democracy. These men and women are expanding boundaries in ways many thought impossible just one year ago.

They are demonstrating that all great moral achievements begin with individuals who do not accept that the reality of today must also be the reality of tomorrow. 

… These impatient patriots can be found in Baghdad and Beirut, in Riyadh and in Ramallah, in Amman and in Tehran and right here in Cairo.

Together, they are defining a new standard of justice for our time — a standard that is clear, and powerful, and inspiring: Liberty is the universal longing of every soul, and democracy is the ideal path for every nation.

The day is coming when the promise of a fully free and democratic world, once thought impossible, will also seem inevitable. The people of Egypt should be at the forefront of this great journey, just as you have led this region through the great journeys of the past.

A hopeful future is within the reach of every Egyptian citizen — and every man and woman in the Middle East. The choice is yours to make. But you are not alone. All free nations are your allies. So together, let us choose liberty and democracy — for our nations, for our children, and for our shared future.

Thank you.

Like I said, astonishing and remarkable. Did you notice she used the phrase "ladies and gentlemen" three times? "Woman," "women," "girls," and "daughter" occurred more than a dozen times. There was no pandering to Muslim "cultural sensitivities," no lowered expectations, no showing respect for barbaric values.

I’ve been a bit depressed and annoyed regarding politics lately — the Republicans’ horrible domestic record, their bumbling and timid defense of the war and foreign policy, the ongoing chorus of negativism and cries of "quagmire" (against all realistic assessments from people actually on the scene), the judicial nominations compromise, the Bolton fiasco, the terrible Supreme Court decisions — it’s been just one thing after another.

Reading Condi’s speech reminded me of what’s good about this administration and why I voted Republican for the first time in eight Presidential elections. Reading Condi’s speech made me feel good and hopeful and proud. And filled my eyes with tears.

Thank you, Condi!


Addendum: Ideas have consequences. Two days after her speech:


AMR NABIL / AP

Hundreds of Egyptian activists denounced President Hosni Mubarak’s rule during a rally in Cairo yesterday. Thousands of people lined the streets and watched from windows and balconies.

© 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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Democracy, whiskey, Uzbeki?

Posted by Richard on May 14, 2005

Gateway Pundit is your one-stop source for all the news from Uzbekistan. Start with this Friday post. Then this one. Here’s the latest from Saturday. Links galore to sources ranging from the BBC and VOA to Russia’s RIA Novosti and Israel’s Haaretz.

Gateway Pundit recommends checking in with Registan.net for expert analysis and reports from contacts on the ground. Not to mention a plethora of additional links.

The big question, it seems to me, is whether this is primarily a democracy/freedom movement, as in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, or radical Islamism, as President Karimov claims:

TASHKENT, May 14 (RIA Novosti) – The president of Uzbekistan said fierce clashes in Andizhan, a large city in eastern Uzbekistan, had been orchestrated by Hizb ut Tahrir (the Islamic Liberation Party that has branches in many countries). "Those who seized the administration building in Andizhan are members of Hizb ut Tahrir’s local branch, Akramia," president Islam Karimov told a news conference in Tashkent. Karimov said he had held talks with the man leading the group that had seized the administration building, who had declined to give his name.

Muslim Uzbekistan has an interesting Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty article which quotes some Uzbeki human rights activists to the contrary:

Talib Yoqubov, chairman of the independent Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, says he believes there is no Akramiya activity in Uzbekistan. Yoqubov told RFE/RL that authorities use charges of Islamic extremism as a pretext for cracking down on dissent.

“They [authorities] made up Akramiya. There is nothing like Akramiya in Uzbekistan now. Several years ago, they spoke of Wahhabi. Then they started talking about Hizb ut-Tahrir. [Membership in] Jamoati Tabligh [another Islamist group] became another accusation under which they imprisoned many people. Now it is Akramiya. I am sure after a while, [the authorities] will come up with some new name. This is the process we witness in Uzbekistan,” Yoqubov said.
… 
However, some rights activists say the Andijan cases may not be only politically but also economically motivated. Uzbek human rights activist Shamsiddinov says the 23 defendants — all wealthy entrepreneurs — established a foundation that was involved in charitable activities. He says the foundation’s assets are the real reason for persecution of its members.

“It’s wrong to name the 23 accused men as extremists and Akramiya members," he said. "They are just a group of entrepreneurs because only few of them are devout Muslims praying and following their faith. …

Nathan at Registan.net suggests caution:

This Forum 18 article gives reason to believe that there isn’t a connection between Akramiya and HT. But, each side definitely has a strong stake in what they are saying, so I advise skepticism of claims from either side.

Hizb ut-Tahrir denies the connection as they usually do. Though I believe that the nature of the unrest is sufficiently economic as to make it almost pointless to talk about what Islamic group is to blame, it’s important to remember that because of the way HT operates, there’s no way that London would know either way if an Uzbek cell was to blame.

One thing’s for sure — the world’s been changing fast since 9/11/01.

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