Sticks to the Facts, and Shows Loyalties Towards Dictators

A disturbing review of the Oliver Stone film “South of the Border.”

Here, Stone sticks to the facts, and makes it quite clear where his loyalties lie, namely, with Chavez in Venezuela, with Castro in Cuba, with Morales in Bolivia and with other South American leaders of populist movements. Why? Because he ostensibly admires how these freedom fighters have somehow managed to break the cycle of exploitation of their countries’ people and natural resources for the benefit of white Western nations.

Over the course of the film, Stone not only narrates, but interviews 7 democratically-elected presidents in order to highlight how they ascended to power as a consequence of a mandate from the majority. Ad infinitum, he drives home the point that we aren’t dealing with dictators or strongmen as is often suggested by the mainstream media so fond of vilifying these working-class heroes.

Hugo Chavez jails judges that make decisions he dislikes, prosecutes dissenters, and controls broadcasters.  He’s being sued for “terrorism, torture, violation of human rights, and crimes against humanity”  by a man who tried to counter the state-approved media and expose corruption, and was forced to flee and rely on the U.S. for asylum.  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reports:

In the report, the IACHR identifies a series of issues that restrict the full enjoyment of human rights. Among other issues, the IACHR analyzes a series of conditions that indicate the absence of an effective separation and independence of the public branches of power in Venezuela. The report finds that not all individuals are ensured full enjoyment of their rights irrespective of their positions on government policies. The Commission also finds that the punitive power of the State is being used to intimidate or punish people on account of their political opinions. The Commission believes that conditions do not exist for human rights defenders and journalists to be able to freely carry out their work. The IACHR also detects the existence of a pattern of impunity in cases of violence, which particularly affects media workers, human rights defenders, trade unionists, participants in public demonstrations, people held in custody, campesinos (small-scale and subsistence farmers), indigenous people, and women. 

And so on. 

As for Castro, here’s what Human Rights Watch said upon Fidel’s resignation:

For almost five decades, Cuba has restricted nearly all avenues of political dissent. Cuban citizens have been systematically deprived of their fundamental rights to free expression, privacy, association, assembly, movement, and due process of law. Tactics for enforcing political conformity have included police warnings, surveillance, short-term detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically motivated dismissals from employment.

Cuba’s legal and institutional structures have been at the root of its rights violations. The rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and the press are strictly limited under Cuban law. By criminalizing enemy propaganda, the spreading of “unauthorized news,” and insult to patriotic symbols, the government curbs freedom of speech under the guise of protecting state security. The courts are not independent; they undermine the right to fair trial by restricting the right to a defense, and frequently fail to observe the few due process rights available to defendants under domestic law.

“Since Fidel Castro first turned power over to his brother, the Cuban government has occasionally indicated a willingness to reconsider its approach to human rights,” said Vivanco. “But so far it hasn’t taken any of the steps needed to end its abusive practices.”

Wikipedia has an entire page, with sources, devoted to “Censorship in Cuba,” in addition to its page on “Human Rights in Cuba.”  (Wiki’s not a good primary source, of course, but if you check the links, they provide a wealth of sources that are generally accepted as reliable.) 

I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Bolivia or Morales, and my research suggests that he doesn’t belong with the other two.  But he’s only been president for a few years, and hasn’t had time to amass the totalitarian power of Chavez and Castro, so perhaps time will tell.  But I am not criticizing Stone for liking Morales. 

Per the review, Stone’s love for these enemies of freedom is based on the fact that they were “democratically elected.”  Even if that is really true (This Wikipedia page has a number of links that question the legitimacy of Chavez’s election, and it is well known that Cuban elections are largely meaningless), an election is certainly not free and democratic when media and information is controlled with an iron fist.  Saddam Hussein was “democratically elected,” too.  That didn’t stop him from being a dictator of immense evil.  Ask an actual Cuban who has escaped to America about life under Castro-  it’s not pretty.  (Miami has plans to throw a rockin’ party when Fidel finally kicks it; real mandate from the people there.)

Oliver Stone is a very accomplished filmmaker.  He is not a dumb man, so I can only assume that he knows of the human rights abuses under Castro and Chavez and simply doesn’t care.  Perhaps he believes that artists of his prestige would be rewarded under such a system (provided they toe the government’s line), perhaps these men fawn over his work in such a way that strokes his ego in just the way he needs, perhaps he is as bloodthirsty and totalitarian as the men he admires.  Either way, the way that Stone thinks is not in line with American values, nor are they compatible with freedom.  Stone’s work has been influential; it is important to know what he values when we consider it.

I can be neither with you nor against you

I’m intrigued by this Ann Althouse post that discusses a move to prosecute a number of pretty horrible high school bullies whose harassment may have led the bullied teen to take her own life.  While Althouse raises some great questions that must be considered, I’m mostly caught up by the comments, which quickly descend into an argument on “who’s side do you want to take.”  One commenter in particular constantly insists that he is “siding” with the girl who was bullied, in insisting that the other students should be prosecuted, and several commenters deride Althouse for even asking questions about what actual crime has been committed and what the practical implications of prosecution may be on other cases. 
 
In other words, for many, it’s not about what happened or what should happen, it’s about who was more deserving of your sympathies. 
 
Which brings me to this Silent Majority post on the ongoing case involving a fallen marine’s family’s suit against the dreadful Phelps Group for picketing his funeral.  The case was appealed to the 4th Circuit, which determined that the Phelps group, as distasteful as their message may be, are still entitled to their free speech rights, and a suit against them cannot stand.  As is often the case when a party loses a motion or appeal, the court ruled that the unsuccessful party, in this case the family, must pay the court costs.  (Note: this is different than paying all of the legal fees associated with the litigation, such as attorneys’ fees.  This only encompasses the fees required to bring the suit before  the court.) 
 
Southern man writes:
 This is a miscarriage of justice. The man lost his son in defense of this country and his reward was a group of degenerate reprobates celebrating his son’s death at the funeral. Seeking justice he filed suit and was again rewarded by being ordered to pay the legal fees for this group of morons. Justice is supposed to be blind not stupid. I would implore anyone with the means to donate to this cause.
 Unfortunately, here, the writer is demanding that justice be the exact opposite of blind.  He is asking that the court dismiss this most fundamental American ideal of freedom of speech, and instead choose the side of the party that deserves sympathy, the fallen solider’s family. 
 
I have nothing but the deepest sympathies for this family, and the greatest of admiration for their heroic lost son.  I don’t blame them for filing this suit; I understand why they did so.  The Phelps group are horrible, horrible people who do horrible things, and I cannot blame them for letting their grief and outrage trump their respect for freedom.  But, ultimately, the court must respect the freedom of all people, including those with whom we strongly disagree. 
 
Perhaps it helps to imagine it in different terms.  Let us say that you wrote a blog post, or a letter to the editor if you’re more comfortable with that, which harshly criticized a dead political figure.  Let us say that the family of that figure, outraged that you would demean their dearly departed, filed suit for their emotional pain from your critiques.  Their suit is dismissed, of course, on the grounds that you had and have freedom to state what you wish, even if it is harsh or unpleasant.  Especially if it is harsh or unpleasant.  The court costs must be paid.  Who should pay them?  Unless you chose to represent yourself, you have already been required to pay for an attorney to protect your rights, and you have certainly expended considerable time, energy, and stress over this case.  Should you, who were brough to court against your will, for a charge that was bogus, be required to pay the court costs?  I think not. 
 
Here, perpetrator may be different, the case is not.  The Phelps group, as disgusting as their message is, has a right to speak their peace.  We have a right to criticize them harshly for it.  Conservatives are fond of responding to complaints based on over-zealous political correctness with the admonition that there is no right to not be offended.  This remains just as true when the offense is real, and the offendee is wholly deserving of our sympathies. 
 
I side with Freedom, whoever’s side she winds up on. 

“We don’t have a religion of free speech”

Americans don’t usually draw that much of a distinction between the U.S. and Canada.  After all, we both speak English, it’s easy to travel back and forth between the same countries, and we even share a lot of entertainers.  The differences seem minute: a few cold weather sports, a penchant for saying “eh”, the metric system.  But the Canadians have one difference from the United States that is a long way from tiny.  They don’t believe in freedom of speech. 

Last week, famed conservative columnist and firebrand Ann Coulter was set to visit the University of Ottawa.  However, before she even set forth on Canadian soil, she was met with a warning.  Not a request to be nice or to avoid offense, but a warning based on the power of the law.  

Respect and civility are not bad things, but should they be enforced by threat of criminal charges?  The Canadians clearly believe so.  Notice the provost’s quotes around “free speech,” as if it is a quant concept that they don’t much buy into. 

The limits on freedom of speech did not end there for Ms. Coulter and the people who wished to hear her speak.  The federation of students barred a volunteer from putting up posters advertising her appearance.  Her appearance was ultimately shut down by the police, who, instead of protecting her and her rights, chose to allow the protesters and rioters to control who is allowed to speak. 

Ann Coulter is not the first to find herself on the wrong side of Canada’s restrictive speech laws.  In 2006, Mark Steyn wrote an article in MacCleans magazine titled “The Future Belongs to Islam.”  In American law, defamation, which is not protected by the First Amendment, only occurs if the speech in question is false.  This is not the case in Canada, where Mr. Steyn was brought up on defamation charges before the Orwellian named Human Rights Commission.  The charge: publishing anything that “discriminates against a person or group, or exposes them to hatred or contempt.”  Although the charges were ultimately dropped, Mr. Steyn was forced to devote many months to defending himself against real criminal charges for doing nothing more than expressing his opinion.  In Canada, the right not to be offended trumps the basic human right to free expression. 

Now, I happen to enjoy Ms. Coulter’s wit, although I understand that many of her comments sound ugly to those with little sense of humor.  I think Mark Styne’s writing is often nothing short of brilliant.  But, even for those who don’t, the good, freedom-loving American can start off with “I don’t agree with what that person says. . .” but finish with a strong defense of that person’s right to speak. 

In Canada, they value civility over our most basic freedom.  Susan Cole, from newspaper Toronto Now, explained in an interview with Fox News:

“We don’t have that same political culture here in (Canada)….We don’t have a 1st Amendment, we don’t have a religion of free speech”….

 “Students sign off on all kinds of agreements as to how they’ll behave on campus, in order to respect diversity, equity, all of the values that Canadians really care about. Those are the things that drive our political culture. Not freedoms, not rugged individualism, not free speech. It’s different, and for us, it works.”

Given the choice between freedom and civility, I’ll take freedom every time.

Hugo Chavez is a Dictator

Lover of dictators (like Hugo Chavez, the dictator) Sean Penn wants there to be a law that would put people in jail if they called Dictator Hugo Chavez a dictator, which he is. 
 
Just enjoying my free speech rights while they last. 

Why are California police detectives acting like 13 year olds?

East Palo Alto Police Det. Rod Tuason apparently posted the remarks on his Facebook page in response to a friend’s status update, which suggested that gun advocates who carry unloaded weapons openly — which is legal in California — should do so in places like “Oakland, Richmond and East Palo Alto” and not just in “hoity toity” cities.

“Haha we had one guy last week try to do it!” Tuason replied. “He got proned out [laid face-down on the ground] and reminded where he was at and that turds will jack him for his gun in a heartbeat!”

Several comments later, the detective suggested shooting the gun rights advocates, some of whom have carried firearms openly in recent weeks in California’s Bay Area, particularly at Starbucks locations.

“Sounds like you had someone practicing their 2nd amendment rights last night!” Tuason wrote. “Should’ve pulled the AR out and prone them all out! And if one of them makes a furtive movement … 2 weeks off!!!” — referring to the modified duty, commonly known as desk duty, that typically follows any instance in which an officer is investigated for firing his weapon.

Now, I don’t think that this is any real threat to our Second Amendment rights; it’s just some idiot blowing off steam.  But it reveals a shocking lack of respect and forethought by a person who we entrust with protecting that right and others who should have known better. 

My one and post on the Tiger Woods event

With regards to the Tiger Woods story that is, at least based on my impression of coverage on the major cable news networks, about twice as important as the tragic and disturbing police massacre that occurred over the weekend and at least four times as important as the president’s plans for Afghanistan, I tend to agree with Neal Boortz, who asserted today that he would not be discussing it on the grounds that it is a private matter and doesn’t involve us. 

But, I keep hearing the plaintive cries of double-standard-ism, and I’d like to offer a contrary view.

The oft-repeated argument is that he is, by virtue of his fame and wealth, getting special treatment in that the police allow him to put off discussing the accident with them over and over, something they would never do for you or me. 

But, let’s look at it from a different angle.  No one was seriously injured, the property damage appears to be limited to that owned by the Woods’, and obviously they’re good for it.  No one appears to be in danger, or at least, if she was the cause of his injuries, he appears to be able to take care of himself (big, strong athlete, not financially dependant on her, etc.)

Now, I’m no expert in police procedure, so I could be completely wrong here, but it seems to me that, were this not national news, the police would not care.  Even if it is a domestic assault situation, he’s made it clear that he doesn’t wish to pursue charges, and unless it starts becoming a regular event, it seems like that should be left alone.  I’m going to guess that, if this had been Joe or Jane Six-Pack, the police would have showed up to make sure everything was OK, filed a report, and made a half-hearted attempt at best at any follow-up.

How a liberal ideology would weaken a group that they claim to empower

Half Sigma takes to task a New York Times blog post discussing how simply fantastic life would be if we just did away with cars.  HS does an excellent job discussing how this idea is a luxury for upper class people, or an impediment for those too poor to do anything else, but for everyone else, it costs a heck of a lot more to go car-less(and livesomewhere that’s possible) than to livein the burbs and drive a reasonably reliable vehicle. 

It has been argued by some that not owning a car saves you money, but my argument is that the opposite is true. Manhattan, the only place I’ve ever lived where it’s reasonable for people to make do without a car, is ridiculously expensive compared to everywhere else. It’s a lot less expensiveto live somewhere else and own a car, than it is to be carless in Manhattan. A one bedroom apartment costs $3000/month. A $700/month apartment someplace else would free up $27,600/year to cover the cost of car ownership. On top of that, the local income tax rate is around 10%, higher than any other place in the nation.

So, going car-less hurt the poor and middle class.  No kidding.  But what HS doesn’t address is how much it would hurt another group that liberals constantly claim to stand for: Women. 

Ever since I was old enough to have the Independence to do so, I have known that it is downright stupid to walk around by myself at night in many parts of this world, even in places I know and where the crime rate is relatively low, I have avoided it, and did my best to ensure that my girlfriends did likewise.  In college, it made for a great way to flirt with the fellows- what red-blooded American boy would resist the opportunity to flex his chivalry muscles and see a lady to her dorm room door?  (Of course, when boys weren’t available, girls made a point to walk in groups, but that was less fun.)  Obviously, this rule extended to biking, public transportation, etc., but driving (with doors locked, windows rolled up, and foot ready to jump on the accelerator should anyone get close) certainly seems a lot more safe. 

Now, I know that my methods are far from perfect; strangers jumping women and having their way with them are relatively rare occurrences, and males could get mugged just as easily as females, but there are chances that I am and am not willing to take.  Losing a wallet is a far more acceptable risk than encountering a criminal, who is bigger, faster, and stronger than me, and not having any way to avoid it. 

Take away our cars, and after dark (which, remember, can come as early as 6:00 PM at some times of the year) we are no better than women in Saudi Arabia, relegated to our homes or to the protection of trusted males.