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Watch Michael Weinstein and Joseph Siegle talk about their book The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace. I very much agree with what Leslie Gelb has written about this fascinating book: “It is very rare when you have established experts do a mountainous amount of hard research on a complex new subject. It is rarer still when the subject cuts across the boundaries of foreign policy, economics, and domestic politics. The result is far and away the best book to date making the argument that democracy furthers economic development better than authoritarian rule.”

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Poooh! I’ve just finished reading all the violent and cruel stories in both the Bible and the Quran that I was able to find. I may have missed some, but probably not too many, because I used several good sources to find them. Here is my impression:
– Both books are astonishingly violent. Both gods use cruel violence themselves and demand their followers to do the same.
– There are more violent stories in the Bible.
– But the Bible is a much longer book. There are a little more violent stories in the Quran relative to the size of the text.
– There are a little more very cruel acts in the Bible – like genocides, ethnic cleansing, the killing of children or the stoning of people -, and they are described in more detail.
– The Quran is a little worse than the New Testament.
– The Old Testament is a little worse than the Quran.
– But, all in all, there aren’t any major differences between the texts.
– Much of the violence is very similar.

What can we learn from these comparisons? Not very much. Let’s just focus on the positive stories in both books! There are enough of them to help us win the struggle against fundamentalism! Peace, shalom, and salam to everyone!

Is there any scientific evidence that the differences in violence across societies aren’t caused by religious differences? Yes, lots of it! First, there are hundreds of studies which show that poor countries are – on average – many times more violent and undemocratic than rich ones. And then there is one very comprehensive and rigorous study by Inglehart and Welzel which shows that there is only a very small – almost insignificant – cultural influence if you control for other factors – especially economic ones – and that economic change leads to cultural change (many times more than the other way round). I highly recommend their book on the topic from which I have learned more about the world we live in than from any other one.

Listen to Joy Gordon speak about her book “Invisible War – The United States and the Iraq Sanctions”

Neda Agha-Soltan was 27 when she was shot dead in the streets of Tehran on June 20th, 2009. Watch a touching and powerful documentary about a courageous, lively and beautiful woman and her struggle against theocratic rule and gender apartheid in Iran.

For Neda

(also available in Farsi or Arabic)

Listen to Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji speak at the Cato Institute – from which he received the “Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty 2010” – about the liberation struggle against the theocracy and the great dangers of military intervention.

Watch one of the most informative and touching documentaries ever made on of the most impressive nonviolent freedom struggles in history – a whole nation rose up against a brutal occupation and started… singing!

The Singing Revolution

“Imagine the scene in ‘Casablanca’ in which the French patrons sing ‘La Marseillaise’ in defiance of the Germans, then multiply its power by a
factor of thousands, and you’ve only begun to imagine the force of
‘The Singing Revolution’.” – The New York Times

Political scientist Robert Pape has a clear and simple answer to this question, which will surprise only those who blame Islam. Watch him explain his theory and his latest research on Iraq and Afghanistan at the New America Foundation:

The Rise of Suicide Terrorism

(I couldn’t find the first part, but I don’t believe there is anything of great importance missing.)

Watch a very informative, entertaining and fair debate on the issue,
featuring Dambisa Moyo, Hernando de Soto, Paul Collier and Stephen Lewis – four experts on aid and development, four independent and innovative minds, four people, who really care about the poor…

A Munk Debate: “Is foreign aid to the developing countries doing more harm than good?”

Watch Richard Tren and Donald Roberts from “Africa Fighting Malaria” talk about their book “The Excellent Powder: DDT’s Political and Scientific History” at Reason.TV:

DEMONIZING DDT

They made fun of Americans, Canadians, Latin Americans, Europeans, Asians and Africans, liberals, conservatives, socialists, environmentalists, feminists, animal rights activists, pacifists and war mongerers, self-centered hippies and snobby yuppies, Michael Jackson and Radiohead, Bush and Obama, George Clooney and Barbra Streisand, Family Guy, the Simpsons and – of course – themselves, fundamentalist Christians, Scientology, arrogant atheists and radical Muslims.
So that makes 29 reasons. What’s the last one?
No one and nothing will ever stop them!

South Park Death Threats

Watch Matthew Hoh, a former Marine Corps Captain in Iraq and Foreign Service Officer in Afghanistan, explain why he resigned in protest over the war in Afghanistan:

Leaving Afghanistan

Watch the premiere of “10 Rules for Dealing with Police” at the Cato Institute. Know your rights – and how to defend them effectively!

“If a free society depends upon an informed citizenry exercising oversight of its government, then more people need to know how to handle themselves in a police encounter…”

Dissidents and human rights activists from China, Tibet, Vietnam, Burma, North Korea, Indonesia, Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Cuba and Venezuela gathered in Geneva, Switzerland on March 8-9, 2010 for the Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy.
Here you can watch videos of all the debates and speeches.

Watch historian Stephen Davies explain why mankind has been experiencing the most radical revolution ever in the last two centuries – and why this revolution has only just begun!

Stephen Davies at the Mercatus Center – Locating Ourselves Historically

(Scroll down to find the video).

I believe, there are three main reasons for this terrible tragedy: Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. Haiti is a very undemocratic country. And, well… there was an earthquake of major proportions.

Why do I believe that? Because it is common sense – and because of this impressive scientific study, which shows that there are far fewer deaths from natural disasters in rich and democratic societies:

Democracy, GDP and Natural Disasters
Gregory E. van der Vink and co-authors

Most people believe that only lunatic lefties are in favour of free migration. Unfortunately, they are very close to the truth. I wish that more moderates, liberals, conservatives and libertarians would speak up against all barriers to immigration. A crazy idea? Watch or listen to this wonderful speech by British economist Nigel Harris, author of Thinking the Unthinkable – The Immigration Myth Exposed, at Gresham College: Refugees, economic migration and the future of the world economy

In this short video experts from Freedom House explain how the Iranian theocracy is trying to censor the Internet – and what dissidents can do
about it. If you know someone in Iran, this may be a help… Good luck!

When poor, desperate and uneducated peasants or slum dwellers fall for authoritarian populists like Hugo Chavez, it’s a tragedy, because they have to pay a terrible price for it. But when Western intellectuals romanticise violent revolution without even trying to check the facts, it’s a shame.

Watch or listen to María Corina Machado, President of Súmate, a leading pro-democracy NGO, discuss the Failure of Social Policy in Venezuela at the Cato Institute.

Also watch this impressing PBS-Frontline documentary about the Hugo Chavez Show

After decades of suffering under brutal Soviet occupation and no less brutal Taliban rule, the people of Afghanistan deserve freedom, dignity and prosperity. We should do all we can to help them build a stable democratic system and a modern market economy. But we need a serious debate about the right means to achieve these goals – and we need it now!

Watch these two equally impressive, informative and important documentaries about war and everday life in the graveyard of empires:

PBS-FRONTLINE: Obama’s War

Brave New Foundation: Rethink Afghanistan

There are so many myths and legends surrounding the collapse of communist totalitarianism, the nonviolent revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe and the development since then. What has really changed? And why? Are the people of the region really richer and freer today? And if so, how much?

The Cato Institute held a very informative half-day conference on these subjects featuring many reformers and experts. You can watch three videos of the panel discussions on their website, and if you are interested in the region, you should miss none of them! The keynote adress was given by Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic.

Freedom and Prosperity in Central and Eastern Europe
20 Years after the Collapse of Communism

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A major advance in humanity’s struggle for freedom, the collapse of communism has generally led to an increase in human well-being, with several ex-communist countries becoming free and prosperous. Yet the spread of liberty has been uneven. Many ex-communist countries lag behind and some have even reverted to political repression and economic dirigism.”

Listen to two great and independent minds, Christopher Hitchens and Russ Roberts, talk about why Orwells Anti-Totalitarianism still matters.

Watch Larry Diamond, co-director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy, explain why he believes it can at the New York Democracy Forum:

Larry Diamond – “Can the Whole World Become Democratic?”

Watch political scientist Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, explain why he is convinced that they do not hate us for what we ARE, bot for what we DO:

Conversations with History: Robert Pape

I don’t know, nobody does. But Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is convinced that he is pretty close to knowing. Watch him explain at the Ted Talks how mathematics and game theory can be used to predict the most likely outcome of a political power struggle like the one in Iran:

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita predicts Iran’s future

Let’s hope and pray that his computer is right about the bomb!

I am glad the Washington Post is so clear on this:

This Is For Real

“What’s happening on the streets of Tehran is a lesson in what makes history: It isn’t guns or secret police, in the end, but the willingness of hundreds of thousands of people to risk their lives to protest injustice. That is what overthrew the shah of Iran in 1979, and it is now shaking the mullahs. This is politics in the raw — unarmed people defying soldiers with guns — and it is the stuff of which revolutions are made. Whether it will succeed in Iran is impossible to predict, but already this movement has put an overconfident regime on the ropes.”

An Iranian student tries to put into words how this latest freedom movement started:

New York Times: A Different Iranian Revolution

“The truth is, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way. The open-air parties that, for one week, turned Tehran at night into a large-scale civic disco, were an accident. People gathered by the tens of thousands in public squares, circling around one another on foot, on motorcycle, in their cars. They showed up around 4 or 5 in the afternoon and stayed together well into the next day, at least 3 or 4 in the morning, laughing, cheering, breaking off to debate, then returning to the fray. A girl hung off the edge of a car window “Dukes of Hazzard” style. Four boys parked their cars in a circle, the headlights illuminating an impromptu dance floor for them to show off their moves.
Everyone watched everyone else and we wondered how all of this could be happening. Who were all of these people? Where did they come from? These were the same people we pass by unknowingly every day. We saw one another, it feels, for the first time. Now in the second week, we continue to look at one another as we walk together, in marches and in silent gatherings, toward our common goal of having our vote respected. No one knew that it would come to this.”

…and there is only one way: you let them do it themselves! Watch Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto explain at the Heritage Foundation how we can integrate the poor into the world economy:

Is Economic Freedom For Everyone?

“Based on his groundbreaking research, renowned economist Hernando de Soto concludes that disorder and political instability, growing terrorist and criminal networks, and grinding poverty in many non-Western countries are due in large part to the fact that many of the world’s most fragile and dangerous states lack critical legal tools required to process information, identify opportunities, reduce risks, and bring people and assets together.”