Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

January 31, 2011

New Years Ruminations, 2011

Filed under: Ruminations — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:24 am

* I see Egypt has blown up, after the fuse was lit in Tunisia. Everybody is wondering where the pieces will fall, except of course for those who think it’ll all settle down after a few soporific homilies from The Leader of the Multicultural World.

Some hope after the dust settles we’ll see some brand-new democracies in the Middle East. Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath.

Critics of the Iraq war used to warn about “destabilizing the Middle East.” Whatever you think of invading and/or nation building in Iraq, there is a logical flaw in this – it presupposes the Middle East is stable. It is not, it’s merely static for periods of time.

I would be very surprised if anyone who has lived and worked in any Arab country ever described the region as “stable.”

Before recent events if I’d had to name a country I thought revolution was least likely to start, I’d have said Tunisia, or Jordan.

Question: chaos in the Middle East is bad for us… how?

It could force us to override a lot of burdensome regulations and develop oil fields in the U.S. (North Dakota among others) estimated to be several times larger than Saudi Arabia’s.

Oh my, mustn’t let that happen! That would be bad for the environment. (Third world countries by definition have no environment.) Let’s start another war instead.

* Jim Goad pointed out in Taki’s Magazine that Elton John is “sick of being treated like a second-class citizen” in America. He can’t marry his gay lover here you see.

Ummm, Sir Elton you’re not an American citizen at all.

And as the estimable redneck Goad points out – all those Americans who made you richer than Croesus guessed you were gay a long time ago.

* This is leading somewhere I promise. A few months back I published an article in The Dakota Beacon addressing the question of whether the TEA Party is anti-elite education. (I’ll post it here by-and-by.)

An excerpt:

Jacob Weisberg writing in Slate, searched for what “right-wing populists” mean by “elite.” He cites an interview Brian Williams conducted with John McCain and Sarah Palin during the last election. Williams asked, “Who is a member of the elite.”

Palin responded first. “I guess just people who think that they’re better than everyone else,” she said.

“McCain then elaborated. “I know where a lot of them live—in our nation’s capital and New York City—the ones [Palin] never went to a cocktail party with in Georgetown—who think that they can dictate what they believe to America rather than let Americans decide for themselves.”

“Thus did the son and grandson of admirals, a millionaire who couldn’t remember how many houses he owned, accuse his mixed-race opponent, raised by a single-mother and only a few years past paying off his student loans, of being the real elite candidate in the campaign.”

(End excerpt.)

I pointed out a couple of things: Obama’s mother was single for much of her adult life – but more by choice than necessity. And, she had a PhD and wealthy parents who she gave the kid to to raise for much of his childhood. They in turn sent him to the toniest prep school in Hawaii.

And the Obamas may have just recently paid off their student loans, but not before they bought a million-dollar house.

Now every politician over the past two generations tries to poor mouth, if he can get away with it. American dream, log cabin, humble origins and all that.

Democrats play it up more than Republicans, like Joe Biden talking up his “working class roots.” But I do remember Everett Dirkson nominating Barry Goldwater all those years ago. Dirkson managed to get in a line about “grandson of that Jewish peddler” several times in his nomination speech.

I actually watched Obama’s speech to school children last year, and I was in a grade school class because of all the fol-de-rol about propagandizing kids, etc.

It was actually innocuous enough, with praiseworthy admonitions to the kids to work hard and study. It kind of made conservatives look a little silly for raising a fuss.

But there was something I noticed that nobody seems to have picked up on. When Obama was telling how his mother used to get up early to help him with his homework, and when he complained she said, “Hey, this is no picnic for me either.”

Then he talked about the First Lady and said, “And Michelle, well she didn’t have much either.”

(Acutally Michelle’s roots really are working class – but her father worked in Chicago public works. This is not a poverty trade and pays quite nicely thank you. He was also an influential ward heeler in the Democratic Party.)

But “didn’t have much either”? Exactly how much is “not much” Mr. President?

Back to Jacob Weisberg. His Wikipedia entry:

He is the son of Lois Weisberg, a Chicago social activist and connector celebrated in Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. Weisberg’s father, Bernard Weisberg, was a prominent Chicago lawyer and, later, judge. His parents were introduced at a cocktail party by novelist Ralph Ellison.

(By the way, that Gladwell article on Lois Weisberg is, like everything Gladwell writes, fascinating.)

Now tying together Obama, Weisberg, and Sir Elton.

As I said, if your fan/voter base is left-liberal you probably poor mouth more than a conservative like cow-college grad Sarah Palin or John Boehner. (A genuine up-from-humble-beginnings guy, who so far hasn’t campaigned on it. Please don’t Mr. Speaker.)

It could be a cynical ploy for votes and support. But what if it isn’t?

What if Obama, Weisberg, Sir John really think poverty and oppression means… I don’t know, living in a duplex in a working-class neighborhood, not being able to marry your gay lover (whatever you think of the issue,) or whatever deprivation Obama suffered in that prep school. (Did he not get the basketball shoes the popular kids were wearing that year?)

We’re governed by people who think like this? Our arbiters of culture think like this?

THAT’S REALLY SCARY!

For ten years in Poland I washed my clothes by hand – an experience almost no American of my generation has. (You put the clothes in the bathtub with detergent and the hottest water you can stand, then you pretend like you’re stomping grapes. Rinsing is a bitch though.)

I didn’t feel poor, I felt inconvenienced when I thought about it at all.

I’ve just returned from Minsk, Belarus (see below,) a delightful city with a thriving nightlife. Except there is still a KGB who can question you, imprison you, of flat murder you any time they feel like it.

I didn’t personally feel oppressed, because I’ve got that American passport. The worst that was likely to happen to me was deportation.

Oh, and they don’t have same-sex marriage either.

UPDATE: Excuse me, forgot a point I wanted to make about Obama supporters such as Weisberg et al.

They’re racists.

But they’re SUPPORTERS of the first black (or “mixed race”) president, I hear you say.

Did you catch the hidden assumption in Weisberg’s formulation? It doesn’t matter that Obama is in fact, a preppie from a privileged background. If he’s black he’s poor and disadvantaged.

Talk about stereotyping!

January 29, 2011

Isolationism: the Issue that Divides the Right

Filed under: Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 5:03 pm

Note: This originally appeared in The Dakota Beacon last year.

There really is a Ron Paul revolution.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference last year, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) won the straw poll for preferred candidate for president, with 31% of the 2,395 ballots cast. He handily beat three-time front-runner Mitt Romney (22%), and smashed conservative darling Sarah Palin (7%), up-and-comer Tim Pawlenty (6%), Mike Pence (Who? 5%), how-are-the-mighty-fallen Newt Gingrich (4%), and FOX News rock star Mike Huckabee (4%).

Ron Paul is known as the one avowed libertarian with a successful career in national politics.

And what a sensational career! He first won a seat in the House of Representatives in a special election in 1976 to fill a vacancy caused by the appointment of Robert R. Casey, who had defeated Paul for the seat in 1974, to the Federal Maritime Commission.

Paul then lost the seat to Democrat Robert Gammage by fewer than 300 votes (about the number of votes Lyndon Johnson once arranged to have “lost” in Texas) but came back to defeat Gammage in 1978. He was reelected in 1980 and 1982.

In 1984 Paul tried to move up to the Senate, but lost the Republican primary to Phil Gramm. He won a seat in the House again in 1997 and has been there ever since.

Paul ran for president as a candidate of the Libertarian Party in 1988, and as a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008.

I saw Ron Paul in Oklahoma when he was campaigning for the Libertarian Party nomination. Although American Indian Movement activist Russell Means could give a more impassioned speech three sheets to the wind, Paul took the nomination on the strength of his convictions.

Paul actually gets away with speaking his mind. Conservatives love him for taking solid free-market positions most Republicans don’t dare. Libertarians love him for fearlessly advocating recreational drug legalization. (A position William F. Buckley held, but didn’t promote.)

And honest men of all stripes love Paul because walks the talk. He has consistently advocated term limits, and is one of two congressmen (with Howard Coble, R-NC) who have pledged not to receive a congressional pension.

Perhaps it’s because of his, “The heck with you, I’ve got a life outside of politics” attitude. Paul doesn’t need Washington, and that’s why people who love liberty trust him, in spite of a lot of alleged nutty stuff about his past associations.
But then there’s that foreign policy thing.

“If Ron Paul is behind it and has nothing to do with foreign policy, I agree,” acerbic conservative columnist Ann Coulter said in response to a question at CPAC.

Paul is firmly on the isolationist Right. Unfortunately, not the Paul Harvey isolationist Right. Harvey believed alliances of convenience with foreign tyrannies were corrupting America.

Paul finds common ground with the Left, and I mean the Ward Churchill America-hating Left, holding that if we didn’t meddle so much in other countries business, they wouldn’t do things like flying hijacked airliners into our skyscrapers.

This is an attractive belief to many. In a world inhabited by a lot of really scary people, it’s comforting to think we can influence their attitudes and actions by what we do, or don’t do.

The idea that some people hate for what we are is really scary.

Isolationism has a long history on the Right. Conservative/libertarians during the Woodrow Wilson administration (then called “liberals”) saw America’s entry into World War I as part of Wilson’s drive to expand government way beyond what the constitution allowed, and his megalomaniac desire to play on the world stage.

Nineteenth-century freedom-lovers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau condemned the Mexican War as an imperialist land grab. Many who opposed slavery, nonetheless opposed going to war with the South to end it. Some contemporary isolationists still condemn Lincoln for waging the Civil War.

Patriotic isolationists hold the U.S. should maintain forces adequate to defend our borders, and cease sending and stationing troops abroad entirely, with the possible exception of retaliatory strikes against foreign enemies who attack us first.

I once held this position.

How and why I changed, lies in my experiences living for 13 years in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and the revelations by the intelligence agencies of the U.S. and former Warsaw Pact countries after the fall of communism.

And full disclosure, for personal reasons. My wife is Polish, my children have dual citizenship. Some of my closest friends are Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Romanian, Hungarian. What happens to them and their countries, matters to me.
What my position is now is hard for me to label. I still think an awful lot of American intervention abroad has been ham-handedly stupid and counterproductive.

In the 60s for example, I opposed the Vietnam War, not least because of the prospect of being sent to fight it personally at a time the campaign appeared to be circling the drain.

I still think it was an ill-thought out venture, and though fought by men as brave as America has ever sent to war, strategically inept. A position shared by the military academies these days, which have whole courses devoted to the mistakes of Vietnam. In terms of grand strategy, the Soviets kept American forces occupied in a theater remote from their real interests in Europe by supplying North Vietnam with materiel that was cheap compared with the cost of keeping our forces in the field at the end of a long supply line.

Nonetheless, I am not the isolationist I once was. What I am now, I’m not sure. When I was young, I had all the answers. Now all I seem to have is a lot of disturbing observations and questions.

I miss those answers.

So what I’d like to do is present some of those observations and questions. Please understand I am not trying to score rhetorical points on anyone. I don’t think I know the answers beyond doubt.

But, I don’t think you do either. I think this issue is an unsolved problem. I think it’s important we start defining those problems before we can approach a solution.

As an old Yellow Dog Republican once said to me, “If you make a mistake in domestic policy, you could wind up hurting a lot of people. If you make a mistake in foreign policy – you could lose your country.”

Charge: we meddle.

Yes we do. Iran is still pissed off about the CIA-supported coup against their Prime Minister Mossadegh in the 1950s. No Mexican ever forgets what few Americans ever remember, that the southwest quarter of the U.S. was once the northern half of Mexico. Many Latin Americans resent the presence of U.S. forces in their countries, “assisting” in a war fuelled by the drug habits of rich gringos.

But something overlooked here is, everybody meddles.

The USSR had a cabinet-level department, the Comintern, devoted to spreading world revolution, with the U.S. as a primary target.

The Mexican government actively and openly promotes illegal immigration to the U.S., with comic books and DVDs explaining how to sneak in and blend in. Mexican politicians and intellectuals boast about the ongoing reconquista of the Southwest.

During the Bush-Gore election the Chinese secret police got caught trying to funnel money into the Gore campaign. Public outrage was underwhelming.

Saudi Arabian bought-and-paid-for influence in Washington is a scandal waiting to break – that never does, because it’s bipartisan, equal opportunity corruption. Saudi princes boast how they’ve bought this country.

Could a decision not to meddle anymore be akin to unilaterally deciding to disarm?

Question: What constitutes “meddling”?

Sending troops abroad, for sure.

How about supporting dissidents in foreign tyrannies with covert aid? Economic sanctions against countries with appalling human rights abuses? Was establishing Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America meddling?

Ron Paul might think so.

Paul was the one “nay” vote on a bipartisan House of Representatives resolution asking the government of Bangladesh to drop capital charges against Bangladeshi journalist Saleh Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

Choudhury it seems, was arrested for treason, sedition and whatever else they could throw at him, for the crime of attempting to board a plane to Israel to talk peace.

It was a resolution for God’s sake! Not a threat or a declaration of war. It wasn’t even a hint that we’d reconsider the $60 million gift the US bestows on them every year. Resolutions don’t mean anything but a gesture of moral disapproval, everybody knows that. Except that sometimes they mean a lot to the people in those appalling countries.

Charge: The U.S. keeps troops garrisoned in more than a hundred other countries.

Yes we do. And the question of whether we’ll continue to do so may be moot. Troops and gear are expensive, and if our economy declines below a certain level the argument may be settled for us. We’ll draw down our forces because we can’t afford not to.

And more than sixty years of garrisoning Europe have taught us a bitter lesson. The NATO alliance, minus the U.S., is a military pygmy. The Western Europeans accepted the protection of the U.S. nuclear umbrella and conventional forces. Then instead of building up their own forces, they used the savings to build the comfortable social-welfare states they sneer at us for not having.

Now it is questionable if Old Europe could build up their militaries if they had to. Would their citizens accept diversion of resources that subsidize four-week vacations, 30-hour work weeks, and retirement at 50? Can a continent of one-child families even contemplate sending their sons to war?

As allies, they leave something to be desired.

But to the east of them, in many small countries recently free of Soviet domination, are peoples who look to us for the preservation of their new independence. Peoples who are willing to be allies, not dependents, and carry their share of the load.

They, like the West Europeans, are part of Western Civilization, our kin. Are we ready to say we don’t need friends? That they aren’t worth the trouble of saving if it comes to that?

But is Lithuania, a little bigger than West Virginia, worth going to war for? How about Poland, the size of New Mexico? World War II started in Poland.

Some suggest we might take in refugees from humanitarian crises such as another holocaust, rather than send troops abroad to try and stop it. This could someday include European refugees from a resurgent Russian Empire, indigenous Europeans fleeing the Islamization of the continent, white South Africans and Zimbabweans fleeing genocide.

What if Israel is overrun? Does anyone doubt the first war Israel loses will be the last war it ever fights? We could wind up taking a lot of these peoples in, or stand by watching as they’re slaughtered. We could get a lot of fine new Americans, but how long could we keep that up? How many could we take in?

Observation: every country capable of projecting power beyond its borders, on occasion does so.

But, the argument goes, we needn’t do so. With two wide oceans on either side, and countries to the north and south who are friendly, or at least no military threat, we can stand in proud isolation, espousing “friendly relations with all, entangling alliances with none,” in George Washington’s words.

The example often given is Switzerland’s armed-to-the-teeth neutrality.

The Swiss actually made the Nazis back off of their plans for invading their country, convincing them it wasn’t worth the cost. Quite a trick to pull on the mighty Wehrmacht without firing a shot.

It is worth noting an integral part of Switzerland’s defense policy is to destroy the country rather than let it fall into foreign hands. Bridges, tunnels, roads, etc throughout Switzerland are deliberately designed and built to be mined and destroyed in the event of an invasion.

More to the point, Switzerland can do nothing to protect its citizens beyond its own borders. Two Swiss were recently arrested in Libya, apparently in retaliation for a Swiss ban on constructing new minarets.

Do we want to adopt a policy of: beyond our borders you’re on your own? Can we? How long would it last after foreign governments and non-state actors went into the thriving growth industry of “kidnapping citizens of rich and compassionate countries”?

We’ve been there before. Thomas Jefferson launched America’s first foreign war after the U.S. government found itself paying as much as a tenth of its annual budget to ransom our citizens captured on the high seas by the Barbara Pirates based, come to think of it – in Libya.

Question: Much international trade depends on keeping the sea lanes open, particularly in places such as the Panama and Suez Canals, and the Straits of Hormuz, Malacca and Gibraltar. Is this a justifiable projection of American power?

I’ll never forget what a Dutch woman told me during the Iran-Iraq War, when U.S. Navy ships were escorting oil tankers through the Straits of Hormuz.

“YOU’VE got to escort those ships,” she said, “that’s OUR oil!”

Perhaps the rest of the world doesn’t want us to “mind our own business” as much as they want us to use our power in ways they approve.

What I call naïve isolationism makes two claims about the U.S. and its place in the world.

1) Other people hate us because of what we do, not who we are.

We could argue this one back and forth all day. Instead I’ll pose another question.

Our current enemies come from a particularly fanatic sect of Islam. Their soldiers are technically non-state actors, supported covertly by factions within rich states who are ostensibly our friends and allies.

The Islamic jihadists are fighting for values that include: 1) Honor killings; the notion that if your wife, mother, sister, or daughter is raped, or just gets uppity, it is your duty to murder her. 2) Speaking critically of the Prophet or questioning the divine origin of the Koran is a capital offense. 3) Apostasy, converting to another religion, is a capital offense. 4) Killing someone who insults your family and clan is praiseworthy. 5) Slavery is acceptable to God.

In an increasingly interconnected world, do you think we can share that world in peace with them?

Objection: not all Muslims are Islamic jihadists!

Probably not. So can we tell those Muslms who aren’t jidahists, that the jihadists are their problem – until they win and become our problem whether we like it or not?

2) If you don’t aggress against others, they will not aggress against you.

This flies in the face of history. All experience, over many weary centuries, shows that what most provokes an aggressor is weakness.

During the Cold War, libertarian isolationists argued the Soviet Union, though tyrannical and paranoid in the extreme, had no intention of waging aggressive war against the U.S. or Western Europe, and was largely reacting, perhaps overreacting, to American truculence.

We now know this was false. According to documents released by the Polish government over the past few years, the Soviet Union always intended to invade and conquer Western Europe. The invasion was originally scheduled for the early 1980s. (This is confirmed by in-laws of mine in the Polish military at the time.)

From the testimony of a high-ranking defector, Col. Ryszard Kuklinski of the Polish Army General Staff, the Russians counted on driving the Polish, Czech, Hungarian and Romanian forces ahead of them to take the first bullet, and to remind them which side they were supposed to be on.

What caused Kuklinski to contact the CIA and start feeding information to them, was discovering the Soviets had made the horrific decision that Poland and much of Eastern Europe was expendable if the war went nuclear.

I repeat the question: can you share a world in peace with people who think like this?

Question: It seems sooner or later “no-name nukes” are going to be loose in the world. What if the only thing which can prevent, or at least delay that day, is pre-emptive attacks on rogue states attempting to acquire nuclear weapons?

Question: What happens if a nuke explodes on our territory and we cannot tell for certain who is responsible? What if we have to face the choice of retaliating on mere suspicion of responsibility? On that day might we not look back and decide pre-emptive war was the more moral choice?

In conclusion, American foreign policy sometimes appears to both our enemies and allies, to have an alarming inconsistency. President Barack Obama has given signals to our friends in Eastern Europe, Israel, and Latin American states trying to create stable democracies, that he is either indifferent or actively hostile towards their interests and simpatico to their enemies.

On the other hand, Obama has completely adopted the Bush policy on the War on Terror he ran against. He has continued renditions, put off closing Guantanamo, and actually increased Predator drone attacks targeting Taliban leaders. (Not to mention family and bystanders – Bush would have been crucified.)

Obama, like Right isolationists, found it easier to criticize from the outside looking in. Now he’s in the position of having to go with the flow, or make it up as he goes along.

If we want to insure the survival of the United States for a while longer, and of liberty for the future, we’re going to have to address some hard questions. We’re going to have to do some hard thinking that is both idealistic and tough-minded. It’s not going to be easy, or comfortable.

January 23, 2011

Kill this son-of-a-pig

Filed under: Social Science & History,Terrorism — Stephen W. Browne @ 4:45 pm

The guy in the picture is Faleh Hassan Almaleki. He looks like a fairly normal, kind of nerdy guy doesn’t he?

In October, 2009 he murdered his lovely daughter Noor, by running her over with an SUV. As a journalist, I’m supposed to say “allegedly.”

Oh please, he did it in broad daylight, in front of witnesses, and made no attempt to deny it. In point of fact, he justified it as being entirely right and proper by his lights. And it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing. There was a long set-to of threats and stalking beforehand. In fact, the autocide happened in the parking lot of the state Department of Economic Security office in Peoria, outside Phoenix.

You see, Noor disgraced the family “honor.” It appears she wanted to live a normal life. You know, work at a job, date, get married to a guy she knew – rather than a guy back in Iraq her father picked.

On Monday Faleh is going on trial for murdering his daughter, and attempting to murder her boyfriend’s mother.

Presumably the couple were going to see what the authorities could do for the girl.

Well, as it turns out – nothing. But now she’s dead, they can do something.

Make sure the son-of-a-whore dies for this. And while we’re at it, can we try her mother as an accessory? That’s almost always the case in these “honor killings.”

I’m putting “honor killings” in scare quotes because this culture, these people, have no honor. They foul the word by uttering it. Murdering your daughter proves your culture is worse than barbaric, it is an obscenity that we cannot, must not EVER tolerate in our land.

An innocent girl, willing to live by our laws, trusted herself to the protection of our law. We failed her. But we can avenge her.

And before he dies, stuff his mouth with bacon and wrap his body in pig skin. Inject pigs blood into him with a syringe. Bury him in a pig yard.

We know he has no honor. The question is, do we?

January 22, 2011

Update, Belarus

Filed under: Personal,Politics,Travel — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:34 am

I’m ba-a-a-a-a-ck!

I arrived at the airport in Minsk late Sunday the ninth, in a state of some trepidation.

When the mission was first conceived among us, the original thought was that it might be a “witness bodyguard” mission, i.e. to live in the lap of a person in danger of assassination on the assumption the dictatorship wouldn’t want to murder a dissident in front of a foreign witness – or be forced to murder the two of us with all the resulting complications.

Thankfully, before I left it was established that Jaroslav Romanchuk, though under pressure by the Belarussian KGB and threatened by imprisonment, did not appear to be in immediate danger of liquidation. Though of course, that could change.

I tried to contain my disappointment.

The purpose became a fact-finding mission after claims by some factions of the opposition that Jaroslav had caved under pressure and made statements against the interests of the pro-freedom movement.

Nonetheless, I was worried. Did the “organs” (KGB) know I was coming to make contact with a prominent dissident? Would customs get suspicious about my camera, digital note taker, and Flip video camera? Had my emails been intercepted? When I contacted Jaroslav, would his apartment be under observation?

I passed through customs without incident. I must say it’s a weird experience to fearfully approach an intimidating Soviet-style uniform – filled by a beautiful Belarussian blond. No inconvenient questions, no demands to know why I was in the country, no bag search – that I know of. I’m still trying to find an address book.

I checked into my $20-per-night room, located in the heart of downtown Minsk, and made contact with Jaroslav the next day. I had arranged with a friend to call him and give a phrase with an allusion he’d recognize so he would know who was coming.

Jaroslav appeared shaken, but not broken. He had a touch of something flu-like, which hardly seemed to slow him down. He’s free but has been interrogated by the KGB three times (as of now.) However many of his comrades are still incarcerated, threatened with long prison terms on charges of attempting a coup d’etat. A charge that could get them fifteen years hard.

It also appears the KGB hinted broadly they could be killed if he didn’t cooperate.

Jaroslav is walking a tightrope, keeping the lines of communication with western countries open through interviews and negotiations, while bearing the awful responsibility for the lives of his friends and countrymen.

I conducted three interviews on wide-ranging topics with Jaroslav, over the course of three days. I am currently transcribing and editing the audio and video.

On my last night in the country I attended a small party in his apartment where I met a couple I knew from the our Liberty English Camps, and a few new friends. I also met Jaroslav’s fiancée, a beautiful young lady and fellow-economist, who stuck with him through the stress of the presidential campaign and the aftermath.

When the transcript is ready, we will be looking for a venue that will give it the widest possible distribution.

And my sincerest thanks to all the donors who made this trip possible.

The secret to happiness is freedom. And the secret to freedom is courage.” – Thucydides

January 14, 2011

In case you wondered where I am…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:13 am

I’m in Minsk, Belarus.

A good friend, a leader of the opposition is being leaned on. He’s lucky at that, many of his partners in his party and colleagues in other opposition parties are in jail.

The fact he’s not in prison (although he’s had three interviews with the KGB so far) and public statements he made following a demonstration gone horribly wrong, had caused him to come under suspicion of cutting a deal with the Organs.

I know him better than that, while recognizing any man can be broken. And no he didn’t. He’s obviously shaken, but he’s not broken.

Soooo… the Objectivists at The Atlasphere website put out an appeal for donations, which brought in enough to send Yours Truly.

(Objectivists are funny people. They’ll go through the most elaborate rationalizations to justify – not bad behavior, but being good and decent. “Well I’m really being selfish you know!”)

There will be video interviews available. Also pictures of some cool statues around town. Unfortunately, if you’re familiar with Northern European weather… the sky turns grey in the fall and you don’t see the sun until spring. It’s hard to get good photos at high noon.

A pity, because the thought that keeps running through your head, in spite of all you can do as you walk around Minsk taking in the sights is, “Omigod she’s beautiful! Omigod she’s beautiful!”

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