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Posts Tagged ‘elections’

Quite literally.

Amnesty International cited a case on March 7, when three members of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were ordered by intelligence officers to take down election posters.

According to Amnesty, the officials forced the opposition supporters to chew the posters and swallow them.

For those living in democracies like the US or India, such repression of free speech is unimaginable. Indeed, it may be tempting, in the light of such news, to view the daily complaints we libertarians make about infringements of freedom in the United States as somewhat flimsy. To me, however, this serves as a reminder about how important and precious our freedoms are, and the need to fight constantly to prevent them from getting eroded. As I’ve noted previously, once a certain level of freedom becomes unacceptable, the bar is lowered and the next act of censorship is not only easier but also more extreme. News such as those coming from Zimbabwe or China should not make us complacent but instead remind us of the importance of our vigil.

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The most telling moment of Mike Huckabee’s campaign came a month ago, when he told a conservative gathering why he wasn’t giving up yet.

“I know people say that the math doesn’t work out,” the Baptist pastor politician said. “Folks, I didn’t major in math. I majored in miracles, and I still believe in those too.”

In many ways it summed up Huckabee’s case. He rose from nowhere in late 2007, attaining national prominence and even topping the polls for a brief period. Simple folks were attracted to his innate likeability, his funny one-liners, his impression of a guy they can trust. Evangelicals were attracted by the fundamentalist message beneath the ruddy exterior, his denouncement of evolution, his extreme pro-life stance, his background as a pastor.

But the same qualities that zoomed Huckabee up the charts were going to be his unravelling once he became known to a wider audience. In the debates, he came across as a caricature of various unflattering images, a bizarre cross between a jovial simpleton and an anti-science crusador. All through Februrary, Huckabee continued to get a significant proportion of the votes — proof that his appeal to his most fervent supporters was undiminished. But in the end, Huckabee learnt the hard way what everyone knew all through — a core constituency that consists of born-agains and McCain haters is not enough. Despite the occasional media report to the contrary, Mike Huckabee was never a serious contender for the nomination. And we are all better off for that.

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The war of gaffes gets more ridiculous each day. After the frankly irrelevant controversy over Obama using borrowed words in a speech, it is now Cindy McCain’s turn to make a not so subtle point about her patriotism vis-a-vis Michelle Obama’s.

For those who missed it, here is the article.

My first reaction to such news is that there are issues, and then there are issues. Such jabs are common place in election season, and entertaining for the observer but usually of little content. This particular controversy is however of some independent interest for one reason – it reminds us of the visceral need that many people feel to be ‘proud’ of the institution they belong to. They may never know what exactly they are proud of but they pretty damn well know that to be not proud is treachery. Politicians -from Mumbai to Madison – are of course masters at manipulating this pride.

My view of patriotism and related matters is reflected by a reader’s comment on the above linked article.

Give me a break. This is non news. I am roughly the same age as Michelle Obama, and let me tell you, it’s been a while since I’ve been REALLY proud of this country; particularly in the past seven years.

People who think you have to constantly express pride in your country or you’re somehow unpatriotic drive me crazy. I happen to think the opposite is true. If you love this country, you speak up for the changes you believe in and try your best to help make those changes.

People who are trying to dissect this comment and somehow turn it into something it wasn’t just make me laugh. The last thing we need in the White House is another robot spouting blind patriotism as justification for his or her own personal agenda.

-Cami.

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http://www.libertariansforobama.org/

Disclaimer: I am fully aware that Obama is not a libertarian and I disagreee with many of his positions. Nonetheless, as a non-American with a keen interest in American politics I am rooting for him for his positions on matters such as the war in Iraq, civil liberties, foreign policy, free markets and (to a limited extent) healthcare; for his intelligence, enthusiasm, temperament and foresight; and for his ability to see both sides of a question.

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It took a long time coming but it is here at last. Hillary Clinton finally unveiled her healthcare plan this week.

The key feature of her plan is what she calls individual mandate. It requires that every American buy health insurance. A similar law already exists in the state of Massachusetts and is supported by the governors of several other states, including California.

However her clever choice of phrase does not obscure the fact that this is essentially a plan for individual coercion. Forcing an individual to pay money for a service which deals with the well-being of his own body -something that is no one’s concern except his- is wrong, in my opinion.

Most Americans agree that the health-care system needs an overhaul. Hillary Clinton, whose political career has been a mix of leftist righteousness and clever opportunism (displayed for instance by her history of voting on Iraq and her defence of it) realises that healthcare is the issue that will decide this election. Unfortunately she fails to realise – or worse, perhaps realises yet chooses to ignore for political expediency – that the American system is broken primarily because government interference and regulations over the last fifty years have driven insurance premiums through the roof. Plans such as Clinton’s or Edward’s are further steps in the wrong direction. They push health-care towards a heavy-handed bureaucratic system with more controls, apart from being an assault on personal liberty.

A much more reasonable and effective first step would be to distribute vouchers to families that they can use only for insurance, while simultaneously eliminating the regulations on private insurers and retaining one government-owned catastrophic health insurance program. The next step would be to formulate policy that would encourage – for the purpose of basic health needs – a paradigm shift away from insurance. On that note, read Milton Friedman’s excellent article on this subject.

Sadly, the most effective solutions are often not the ones with most political pizzazz.

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