Why are there no libertarian countries?”

In a much-discussed essay for Salon, Michael Lind asks: “If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?”

Such is the philosophical poverty of liberalism today that this stands as a profound question.

Definitions vary, but broadly speaking, libertarianism is the idea that people should be as free as possible from state coercion so long as they don’t harm anyone. The job of the state is limited to fighting crime, providing for the common defense, and protecting the rights and contracts of citizens. The individual is sovereign; he is the captain of himself.

It’s true, no ideal libertarian state has ever existed outside a table for one. And no such state will ever exist. But here’s an important caveat: No ideal state of any other kind will be created either. America’s great, but it ain’t perfect. Sweden’s social democracy is all right, but if it were perfect, I suspect fewer cars would be on fire over there.

Why the IRS IG Stopped with an Audit : Gerald Walpin

Among all the unanswered questions about the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative organizations, one is most crucial: Who ordered this extreme scrutiny?

Amazingly, IRS inspector general J. Russell George, responsible for the investigation asking those questions about the IRS, has testified that he did not obtain that information.

Details of that testimony are interesting. Representative Tom Graves (R., Ga.) asked, “Have you asked the individuals who ordered them to use this extra scrutiny to punish, or penalize, or postpone, or deny?” George turns around to confer with his assistant. Just the fact that the inspector general had to confer to know the answer to this crucial question is amazing. George’s assistant says something to him that is not recorded, but one can see the assistant shaking his head back and forth. Then George responds publicly to the question, saying, “During our audit, Congressman, we did pose that question and no one would acknowledge who, if anyone, provided that direction.”


Parents who send their children to an elite New York City private school are outraged at one recent English class assignment — to write a personal suicide letter.

Students of the Upper West Side private facility, some as young as age 14, were required to write the goodbye letter as an offshoot lesson plan from the best-selling book and movie, “The Secret Life of Bees,” The New York Post reported. The main character in that book killed herself.

The teacher told the students to include in their letters the rationale for their suicides — leaving at least a few of the kids rattled, and parents angered, The Post reported.

“We were pretty stunned at the scope of the assignment,” said one father of a ninth-grader, in The Post. “We thought this was such an outrageous assignment for a 14-year-old to get. We pay a lot of money to send our kids to the school.”

The ‘Cubanization’ of Venezuela: Jose Cardenas Domination by the Castros has accelerated since Chavez’s death One of the greatest ironies of the late strongman Hugo Chavez’s rule was that even as he attempted to personify Venezuelan nationalism, he was quietly outsourcing more and more of the country’s sovereignty to the Castro brothers in Cuba. Today, with conditions in the country […]


Attending an Ahmadinejad press conference in Cairo recently, I bumped into a rather unusual character from North Korea

The 12th Islamic Summit ostensibly served as backdrop for President Ahmadinejad’s visit to Cairo earlier this year, the first by an Iranian leader to Egypt since the 1979 revolution. Yet, following the conclusion of the summit the Iranian delegation had one more task: throw a party.

Or more precisely their goal was to throw a garden reception for the media and notables at a diplomatic residence not far from the Fairmont Hotel where Ahmadinejad had appeared.

The entry hall to the reception was decorated with a host of overtly political images. One wall featured the obligatory image of the late Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. Another included famous images from Egypt’s 2011 Revolution juxtaposed with similar images from the Iranian revolution of 1979. Another display featured Iranian scientific achievements including what appeared to be images from the Iranian space programme – which sadly did not include images of the monkey Iran recently sent into space.

The gathering did, however, include ministers, important judges, Islamic scholars, figures from the Coptic Church, and several diplomats, including some from European Union member states. One face I recognized was Ayman Nour who I interviewed in 2011 – a former dissident who faced persecution under Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and whose case was once specifically mentioned by then U.S President George W. Bush.

The authoritarian Iranian leader greeted several Egyptian notables in a private meeting upstairs before heading down to take his place at the front of the audience. Here, before a carefully selected group, the Iranian leader was to make a significant media appearance in Egypt. The press conference was in part to make up for a kerfuffle the day before at Al-Azhar, the world’s oldest university, where the Iranian leader was greeted with a shoe and frosty comments from Sunni Muslim scholars.

The stage was set replete with a large portrait of the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini and a few other banners declaring Egyptian-Iranian friendship. With cameras rolling and a sudden shout, a shoe was thrown that hit Ahmadenijad squarely on the chin. The Iranian bodyguards surprisingly failed to react for a minute before grabbing the clean-shaven Egyptian man who lobbed the shoe. At least Ahmadinejad now had a pair.

But, the show must go on and someone on the microphone asked people to take their seats as the crowd jockeyed to see what was happening. Suddenly, the Iranian national anthem began and Ahmadinejad snapped out of his chair. He soon took the stage to give his speech about Iranian-Egyptian relations. He was interrupted again – this time by an Iranian diplomat who wanted to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his skillful leadership. Thankfully

the translator declined to translate this outburst. Ahmadinejad’s ended his speech by switching to Arabic: “Long live Egypt! Long live Iran! Long live Egypt and Iran forever!”

With that the President’s speech was over and he was hustled away lest another Egyptian brandish a Bruno Magli loafer. Meanwhile the guests were invited to a sprawling buffet on a nearby lawn. Some Egyptian TV reporters I had met while waiting for Ahmadinejad’s speech to begin insisted I join them as they walked towards the buffet.

As we took our place in line I asked them what they thought of the man with the world’s most controversial nuclear energy programme. “I don’t like him; he wants to use Egypt to build Iran’s influence in the Middle East,” one replied.

Suddenly the lights went out and all pleasantries were thrown aside. A chaotic scramble ensued for morsels of flat bread, yellow rice, grilled kebab, baba ganouch and hummus. Journalists, civil society leaders, politicians and diplomats began looking after their own interests in the shadows. Mutterings in English, Arabic and Persian could be heard. For a moment it appeared Middle East politics centered on a buffet line.

FBI Director Tells Congress They Didn’t Know About al-Amoudi Link to Tsarnaev Mosque By Bridget Johnson (HUH????) Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) slammed FBI Director Robert Mueller for not sweeping through Boston mosques after receiving tips about the radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, while the bureau’s chief told the House Judiciary Committee that his agency did visit the Chechens’ mosque for “outreach.” Mueller appeared before the committee for a regular oversight hearing, but […]

CLAUDIA ROSETT: HIDING OUT IN HONG KONG? For days, we have been hearing that the leaker of National Security Agency surveillance secrets, Edward Snowden, is hiding out in Hong Kong. Or, to put it in a variety of other ways — all culled from the recent news — he has gone to ground, dropped out of sight, is in hiding, disappeared, […]

How to Understand Islamism: Read What Its Leaders Actually Say: Barry Rubin

To read Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s 1984 book Islamic Education and Hasan al-Banna is to get an Islamic education. Nobody should be allowed to talk about Islam or political Islamism without having read this or similar texts. Just as Marx claimed in the Communist Manifesto of his movement, the Islamists, too, disdain to conceal their aims. Yet those who don’t read their actual texts, speeches, and debates and only read their public-relations disinformation know nothing.

It’s easy to see why al-Qaradawi is the leading Sunni Islamist thinker in the world today, the spiritual guide behind Egypt’s Islamist revolution. He knows how to express his ideas clearly and persuasively. Here is his depiction of the Muslim world before the rise of revolutionary Islamism to power and prominence:

Just imagine a waste land which has no sign of leaf or tulip or hyacinth far and wide, but which blossoms forth immediately with the first sprinkle of the rains of blessing, and fields of flowers begin to bloom. Lifeblood starts circulating in its lifeless body. …

The condition of the Muslim nation was like a wasteland in the middle of the fourteenth century Hijri (mid-nineteenth century). The pillars of caliphate had broken which was the last display of unity under the flag of Islamic belief. Islamic countries were breathing their last under the talons of capitalist countries like Britain, France and others, so much so that Holland, whose population was [small] dominating over the ten million strong population of Indonesia with the help of force and weapon. It had spoilt the face of Islamic decrees and putting Quran behind was busily engaged in its disrespect. Blind imitation of self-made Western laws and appreciation of foreign values had set over the lives of Muslims. The youths and lovers of new culture who were bearers of the so-called modern culture were particular victims of this. Western domination upon the field of education and means of communication was producing heaps of Westernized “Khan Bahadur” (honorable people) whose names were no doubt Islamic but brains were West-bred.

Our #1 son was a few weeks old and I was sitting in the living room getting ready to watch the late Peter Jennings and the evening news. (Pre-Fox Report with Charles Krauthammer days.)

There it was! A US President challenging the Soviet Union to “tear down this wall”:

“Reagan’s challenge came during a visit to West Berlin. With the Berlin Wall as a backdrop, Reagan declared, “There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.” He then called upon his Soviet counterpart: “Secretary General Gorbachev, if you seek peace–if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe–if you seek liberalization: come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Addressing the West Berlin crowd, Reagan observed, “Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.””

It was Reagan at his best. It was also the kind of “in your face” statement that the Soviets understood.

As a product of the Cold War, or a kid who grew up in a communist country and came to the US looking for freedom, I reacted with total joy. It was marvelous watching a US president calling communism what it really was – a corrupt, undemocratic and authoritarian regime that built walls to keep people from seeking freedom.

Reagan spoke to me that day. He obviously spoke to lots of people behind the Iron Curtain. His words had the same kind of reaction as “the evil empire” remark of a few years before. The words terrorized the “protocol obsessed types” in the State Department but put a smile on the face of those who were living under communism.

No one knew 26 years sgo yesterday that the wall would collapse two years later. Or that the USSR would become Russia at the end of 1991.

What we did know was that President Reagan had exposed the injustice of that wall and that the inhumane Soviet regime was destined to fail.

JAMES TARANTO: Not-for-Profit Propaganda What is the California Endowment?

A reader received a curious item in the mail the other day: A four-page advertising brochure touting ObamaCare. “Obamacare is working,” the cover announces: “NOW IT’S UP TO YOU.” Below that exhortation is a photo of the president grinning as broadly as a Pepsodent pitchman.

The purpose of the ad is not just to promote ObamaCare but to urge California’s lawmakers to “finish the job for the millions of Californians who won’t be covered, many because of their immigration status.” The ad features photos of two other politicians, Assembly Speaker John Perez and United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, with quotes supporting the goal.

There’s a tear-off postpaid card with an already-checked check box alongside the attestation “I believe everyone should have access to affordable, preventive health care” and room for the recipient to fill in his personal information. At the bottom of the card–a nice touch–is a line of seven faces: six young people and one old dude. The group is so ethnically diverse, it even includes a kid from Cheron.

The return address identifies the sender as “The California Endowment.” What is the California Endowment? At its website, one can glean the answer from an overview of its history and activities, as well as its 428-page tax filing for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012.

The endowment is a nonprofit corporation, exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. That means that its contributions as well as most of its operations are untaxed. But if you’d like to make a contribution, you’re out of luck: “Thank you for the generous offer, but we do not accept donations,” the website announces.