Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Did Michael Hastings Die?

How did Michael Hastings die? This was the pivotal question that was asked after the untimely death of journalist Michael Hastings. Many accepted the official narrative, where he was rushing and crashed into a tree as a result. But others dissent, as they hold that a car doesn't just randomly explode when it hits a tree.

The dissenters hold that there could have been a conspiracy to it.

And it turns out I agree with the dissenters.

Here are some resources on the Michael Hastings death

1. Beyond A Reasonable Doubt Hastings Was Murdered by Dave Hodges

2. Why Was Michael Hastings Murdered? by Dave Hodges

3. How Did Michael Hastings Really Die? by Melissa Melton

4. Corporate Media Portrays Hastings as Meth User by Kurt Nimmo, InfoWars

5. Release of Michael Hastings Autopsy Report Only Prompts More Questions by Paul Joseph Watson, InfoWars

6. Eye Witness to Michael Hastings's Death Says Body Not Charred Beyond Recognition by Kurt Nimmo, InfoWars

7. Was Michael Hastings Murdered? Conspiracy Theories Are Rife by Medha Chandorkar

8. Was Michael Hastings Murdered? by Kris Zane

How A Preschool Looks Like

Dear friends and readers of Letter of Liberty:

Do you want to know what the average preschool looks like?

Well, here it is, right in front of your eyes.

Christian and Libertarian Resources

This blog is dedicated to looking at current events from a libertarian and Christian viewpoint. However,
you might not see me cover every single thing out there. But there are those out there who cover things that you might not see covered on the blog.

So I decided to list several resources I would recommend for more libertarian and Christian stuff:
  1. The greatest libertarian website of all time, in my opinion. It is headed by Llewellyn ("Lew") Rockwell. Founded by Llewellyn Rockwell and Burton Blumert, it is dedicated to the ideas of libertarian anarcho-capitalism (though it is equally valuable for the non-anarchist such as I) as espoused by Murray N. Rothbard, to whom this site is dedicated to. The webmaster is Eric Garris, though Lew Rockwell is ultimately the head of the website. See the columnists for right here.
  2. The official website of the Ludwig von Mises Institute founded by Llewellyn Rockwell, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, Lawrence Fertig, and F. A. Hayek, with permission from Margit von Mises, the late widow of economist Ludwig von Mises, whose name and ideas the institute is dedicated to. The organization is the premier source for Austrian economics and libertarian/classical liberal philosophy and political theory. It is dedicated to the legacies of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, the 20th century's two greatest libertarians. Llewellyn Rockwell is president, Patricia Barnett is executive vice president and Joseph Salerno is academic vice president.
  3. The official website for The Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF), led by Jacob Hornberger and Sheldon Richman
  4. This is the premier site for foreign policy writing, edited by John Glaser and directed by Justin Raimondo, whose columns are superb, in my humble opinion.
  5. This is really good for Reformed and Baptist Christians. It focuses on the intersection of libertarianism and Christianity like LCC, though from a more Calvinist perspective. The host is C. Jay Engel.
  6. (LCC): This is an excellent website for the intersection on biblical Christianity and libertarianism; I especially enjoy the columns by Norman Horn (the host), Laurence Vance and others.
  7. This is my go-to website for news from a Christian perspective
  8. the official website of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), the first ever American libertarian organization; the current president in Lawrence Reed.
  9. Robert Wenzel and Chris Rossini cover economics, politics, libertarianism and other stuff 24/7.
  10. The website for the premier evangelical magazine today
  11. Some wonderful resources for apologetics from a Christian perspective
  12. Another good resource for apologetics from a Christian perspective
  13. The official website of Christian apologist Norman Geisler
  14. For reading the Bible online.
  15. The official website of Independent Institute, headed by David J. Theroux, a Christian libertarian; their blog, The Beacon, is also wonderful. A critically acclaimed libertarian think tank, as is evidenced by the raves it has received.
I will include more libertarian resources in a future blog post, and I might even compile a list of libertarian resources myself; however, these are the essential websites

If you are looking for a list of libertarian resources, here are two lists:

The Top 100 Libertarian Blogs and Websites from The Humble Libertarian

The Resources Page at

If you want to know whether libertarianism and Christianity are compatible, here are some resources:

For basic libertarian theory, I would introduce you to these articles:

And for Austrian economics, which is what many libertarians believe, I would recommend these two essays by Henry Hazlitt: "What Is Austrian Economics?" and "Understanding Austrian Economics."
On why Austrian economics is attractive, listen to this lecture from Thomas E. Woods. And has a series called Essentials of Austrian Economics, where they will cover Austrian economics, so please follow that as well, as you will learn much from that as you will from (the premier source for Austrian economics).

Now, I would like to note that this list is not the be-all, end-all of resource recommendations. There is the resource pages at the Humble Libertarian and that I listed before, and there is my links and resources page on the upper tab, which is much longer but just as worthwhile.

And please don't forget my Thursday edition of Revisiting the Classics, where I revisit classic articles, excerpts, and chapters on libertarianism and/or Christianity. 

Honorable mentions:
  • Scott Lazarowitz's Blog
  • Lions of Liberty: Hosted by Marc Clair, Brian McWilliams and others, this wonderful blog has many wonderful things to look at, as well as their important Mondays with Murray edition, which analyzes the view Murray Rothbard had on a variety of issues.
  • Free Advice: Blog of Austrian economist and Christian Robert P. Murphy
  • Freeman's Perspective: This enlightening blog by Paul Rosenberg, founder and chairman of Cryptohippie, gives us insightful commentary
  • Pro Libertate: The blog of Christian individualist William Norman Grigg covers the issue of police brutality and exposes the armed thugs that populate much of law enforcement today.
  • The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity: Ron Paul's think tank, with such people as Daniel McAdams, Walter Block, Lew Rockwell and Eric Margolis heading the board, the think tank explores the pressing issues of American foreign policy, war, and Middle Eastern conflicts.

An Interesting Quote I Just Found Today

I just found an interesting quote that I would like to share with you, readers of Letter of Liberty:

"In general, democracy and intelligence services are antagonists; democracy depends on transparency and intelligence services on the opposite. So the democratic / congressional / governmental oversight is always a quite rotten compromise. The CIA’s camouflage from the beginning was that it is a service to gather intelligence – and centralize the intelligence gathering of the different other services – to keep the president informed. The main job of the CIA were and are covert operations, and because such operations depend on “plausible deniability,” it was usual from the beginning to inform the president – if at all – only minimally. Since the CIA’s “father” Allen Dulles was a Wall Street lawyer and his brother John Foster ran the foreign policy, covert operations were a family business done by the Dulles-Brothers and their clients on Wall Street. This is what JFK tried to finish and what marked him to death."

That quote was from an interview by Lars Schall with Mathias Broeckers, and it was about how the JFK assassination marked the end of the American republic and brought on the American empire.

Bradley Manning and the Two Americas

I just found a fine article dealing with Bradley Manning and the two Americas. It shows the contrast between Bradley Manning and the two Americas laid out before us:

"If you see America as a place within borders, a bureaucratic and imperial government that acts on behalf of its 350 million people, if you see America as its edifices, its mandarins, the careful and massive institutions that have built our cities and vast physical culture, the harsh treatment of Manning for defying that institution makes sense, even if it was, at times, brutal.
"But if you see America as an idea, and a revolutionary one in its day, that not only could a person decide her fate but that the body of people could act together as a great leader might lead — and that this is a better way to be — Manning didn’t betray that America.
"The second America doesn’t have that name anymore. It morphed and grew just as the first, promulgated for a moment from the east side of the mid-North American continent, but going on to become a sense of democracy, the rights of man. It merged with the other spirits born of the Enlightenment and became the force behind science, technology, free speech, and populist will.
"Then the ideas of self-determination and the freedom to know blossomed as they never had before in the dying days of the 20th century. The second America became a strange and amorphous transnational creature. It became networked."
Read the rest here. Enjoy.

Film Review: BEN-HUR (1925)

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925)


Director: Fred Niblo
Producer: Louis B. Mayer
Story/Screenplay: June Mathis (adaptation), Carey Wilson (scenario and continuity), Bess Meredyth (continuity), Katharine Hilliker (titles), H. H. Caldwell (titles); based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace
Music: William Axt; Carl Davis and London Philharmonic Orchestra (Thames Television/Turner Entertainment restoration)
Cinematography: Clyde De Vinna, René Guissart, Percy Hilburn, Karl Strauss, Glenn Kurshner
Editing: Lloyd Nosler
Cast: Ramón Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy, Betty Bronson, Carmel Myers, Nigel de Brulier, Frank Currier, Mitchell Lewis, Charles Belcher, Winter Hall
MPAA Rating: NR

Run Time: 143 minutes

Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (theatrical); Warner Bros./Turner Entertainment (home video); Thames Television (restoration)

Before the masterpiece that was William Wyler's 1959 adaptation of Lew Wallace's classic potboiler epic Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, there was this brilliant 1925 silent version directed by Fred Niblo (The Mask of Zorro) starring Ramón Novarro and Francis Bushman as Judah Ben-Hur and Messala made thirty-four years ago. That movie was a two and a half hours long, and it was black-and-white interchanged with two-strip Technicolor sequences, which were changed to black-and-white in the original theatrical release of the film/

Unlike the more famous and iconic 1959 classic, when it came out, it opened to lukewarm box-office returns and tepid reviews. And while its reputation has increased over the years (it has a 100% critical rating score at Rotten Tomatoes, one of the few movies to do so, other than The Birth of a Nation, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Bride of Frankenstein, Citizen Kane, Mary Poppins, Jaws, North by Northwest, On the Waterfront, The Seven Samurai, the first two Toy Story movies, the original Godfather, and many more, in contrast to the 89% rating of the 1959 epic), it is still not as remembered. Even while it was a box-office hit when it was first released, the huge expenses and the deal with Abraham Erlanger (who adopted the Lew Wallace novel into a stage play before) led MGM to lose a total of $698,000, even though it ultimately led MGM to be known as one of the most prestigious studios of all time (before it fell from glory due to the leadership of Kirk Kevorkian and other financial struggles).

But how does it hold up to the 1959 classic? Is it a tad better? Is it just as good? Or is the film inferior to the 1959 version? I hold that it is just as excellent, if not more so, than the iconic 1959 version.

The story, at its most basic level, is the same as the original novel and the 1959 version, so I feel no need to repeat the plot summary. However, there will be some differences from the 1959 movie, so I will note those later on.

As this is my first silent movie, it's actually quite wonderful, and it is by no means boring. While it is at times over-the-top, and the fact that it doesn't always show dialogue cards for every dialogue spoken, as that would have been too expensive at the time. However, it does a good job in communicating dialogue through the cards and through the actions of our characters.

The Mexican actor Ramón Novarro does a fine job as the Jewish prince, just as wonderful as Heston's portrayal of the Jewish prince thirty-four years later. He even touches upon a characteristic of the prince that was in the original Lew Wallace character but only extremely lightly touched in the Heston portrayal. That aspect was the revolutionary character. Here, Ben-Hur is gathering many legions in an attempt to prepare for a revolution with the Messiah supposed to lead. This, however, is in stark contrast to the true mission of the Messiah.

Francis Bushman does a fairly good job as Messala, though he is not as brilliant as Stephen Boyd's depiction of the character. And while he is definitely more anti-Semitic, he definitely doesn't show as much a desire for glory and power as he does in the Boyd portrayal (as the 1950s was a grand era in which Messala was depicted as a grander villain).

The other actors do a good job in portraying the other characters. And may I note that there is one character that, while existent in the original novel, is nowhere to be seen in the 1959 version. Her name is Iras the Egyptian (played by Carmel Myers). She is used by Messala to solve the mystery of the Jewish racer in the arena, and she tries to seduce Ben-Hur, who is the racer, while he is in the tent of Shiek Ilderim (Frank Currier).

And the chariot race is as good as the more famous 1959 version, though not as epic and suspenseful, as that one relied only on the suspense and epic-ness to grab you in. The 1925 version, while adequate, is weaker in this area, as that had music. (However, I would like to note that most every shot in the film had music from William Axt and Carl Davis to compensate for lack of dialogue and sound.)

The sea battle, on the other hand, is one area in which the 1925 original is superior to the 1959 epic. Whereas the attempted escape by the slaves in the latter movie was suspenseful and frantic in its own right, the 1925 film had a more chaotic, panicky and devastating atmosphere. And in the silent version, we are allowed to have a small connection with Golthar the Terrible, the pirate leader who is raiding the Roman fleets. We didn't see this in the 1959 version, whose sea battle was epic and brilliant in its own way.

Now, on to the differences between this version and the 1959 version. I have kept a note on several of them on my phone, but I will list only a few crucial ones here.

1. The tale of the Christ: In the silent original, the first fifteen minutes are focused on the story of Jesus, whereas in the color version less time is spent, but that is just as powerful. And there is more focus on Mary in this film than in the 1959 version. In one scene, where one woman tries to keep her baby away from Mary (as it was commonly thought then that Mary was impregnated through sexual immorality), the warm smile of the virgin consoles the woman. While I like the 1959 version as much as the new one, I would have to choose this 1925 silent version over the newer one, though I have to admit that the 1959 version communicates as much possible with as little dialogue, which serves as a significant advantage over the 1925 version.

2. The conflict between Ben-Hur and Messala: Ben-Hur and Messala's conflict, while similar to the 1959 version, is more abstract than in this version. In this version, the conflict is more general, a conflict of ideals and principles and cultures. However, in the 1959 version, while the conflict is indeed general, it is not abstract, and it is applied to something very specific: Messala's pressuring Ben-Hur to reveal and expose Jewish dissidents against the Roman Empire. And Messala is more anti-Semitic in the 1925 version than in the 1959 version, where he is more power-oriented than racist.

And there is another crucial difference between the 1925 and 1959 versions in this respect: in the former, Ben-Hur attempts to reconcile with Messala after the break out; however, in the latter, Ben-Hur decides that there could be no reconciliation and separates from Messala, thus becoming his enemy.

While I consider the 1925 version to be good in its own right, I will have to consider the 1959 version superior, as that touches on the issue of friendship vs. enmity in a more radical, compelling and daring way than the silent version.

3. Arrius's relationship with Ben-Hur: In the classic 1959 version, Arrius first meets Ben-Hur as a mostly silent yet strong galley slaves and recognizes immediately that Ben-Hur is made strong by revenge, thus giving us the famous line: "Your eyes are full of hate, Forty-One. That's good. Hate keeps a man alive. It gives him strength."

However, in the 1925 version, Arrius finds Ben-Hur crying out for life while rebuking a fellow galley slave for begging for death, and unlike in the 1959 version, he doesn't whip Ben-Hur to test his patience. And there is no private conversation between Arrius and Ben-Hur in this version, like there was in the 1959 version.

In the silent original, after discovering that the Romans were victorious over the pirates, Arrius decides to adopt Ben-Hur as his son immediately. However, in the 1959 version, Ben-Hur is adopted as his son only several years later.

The 1925 and 1959 versions are a draw for me; both of them communicate the complex relationship between Quintus Arrius and Judah Ben-Hur quite well, in their own way.

4. The Christianity of Ben-Hur: While the 1959 version has undoubtedly Christian themes, they are much more subtle and less explicit than in the 1925 version, which is explicitly Christian despite some risqué content (in one scene, when Ben-Hur is being celebrated, there are topless women leading the parade, which is only clearly visible when one looks closely; I just gave a fair warning to Christians who are considering watching this movie; for more information, see the IMDb's Parent Guide on this). Christian film critic Peter Chattaway, in his review of the DVD edition of the 1959 classic, says of this version: "the silent version is the more Christian film, but it is also the more risqué." Also, the movie "toes the line between piety and exhibitionism that was common to other Bible epics produced during the 1920s. There are one or two other moments of partial nudity in this film, but nothing serious. More significant is the way the film brings its two parallel storylines together—the one about Christ, and the one about Judah Ben-Hur—by portraying Judah as a man who eagerly awaits the Messiah, and who is prepared to use his wealth and social status to raise entire legions to help the Messiah fight against the Romans." However, despite the more explicitly Christian message of the silent version, I would have to go for the 1959 version because, despite the more humanistic bent in that version, we see the power that Jesus Christ exerts on others more clearly (even though we don't see his face) than in the 1925 version (though we do get to see Jesus performing miracles even while he is led to Calvary in the silent version). However, I would also like to critique the last statement made in the silent version: "He is not dead. He will live forever in the hearts of man." While this is true, it failed to touch on the physical resurrection of Christ, in which the Christian's hope is truly in. I can understand that the filmmakers took a more theologically liberal, politically correct bent here. And on the 1959 version's Christian themes, while it is Christian, it is not perfectly so. As T. Gene Hatcher notes in his commentary on the film (which is available on the later DVD and Blu-ray editions), Tirzah and her mother were healed more because they pitied Christ's sufferings than they did confess faith in him. And as Chattaway notes in his review, "Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) proudly identifies himself as a Jew, but never professes belief in a Messiah of any sort His opposition to Rome is fueled more by personal feelings of vengeance than by any sense that he could help to fulfill prophecy, so he never quite becomes a Christian." While I do disagree with Chattaway on the last note that Judah doesn't become a Christian (I see that he does both in the original novel and the 1959 version, though the latter is more subtle.), I do agree with him that Heston's Ben-Hur opposes Rome not so much to fulfill on messianic prophecy but rather to satisfy his hatred, similar to the desires of many characters in epic movies following the 1959 version of Ben-Hur

Still, the Christian message in both films is communicated well without being preachy or sanctimonious. I particularly liked how the 1959 version dealt with the Christian themes in a most subtle way, seeing it as a lesson for today's Christian filmmakers to communicate the Gospel message without being too bombastic, saccharine, or sanctimonious.

So I hold that both are tied.

Conclusion: Overall, I give this rendition 4.5 out of 5 stars rather than the 5 stars I gave to the more famous 1959 classic, only because it is slightly superior in quality and epic-ness than the silent original. 

If you want to introduce a friend or relative to the world of silent cinema, then this is the film to show them. As this is my first silent movie, I will start my journey in exploring the world of silent cinema. Highly recommended.

WaPo Reports on JFK Assassination Files

Today, I just found an interesting four-page report at the Washington Post (cross-posted from the Associated Press) on the JFK assassination files and researchers who are demanding transparency concerning the classified files, which are still sealed after five decades.

Says the report:

Five decades after President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot and long after official inquiries ended, thousands of pages of investigative documents remain withheld from public view. The contents of these files are partially known — and intriguing — and conspiracy buffs are not the only ones seeking to open them for a closer look.
Some serious researchers believe the off-limits files could shed valuable new light on nagging mysteries of the assassination — including what U.S. intelligence agencies knew about accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before Nov. 22, 1963.

It turns out that several hundred of the still-classified pages concern a deceased CIA agent, George Joannides, whose activities just before the assassination and, fascinatingly, during a government investigation years later, have tantalized researchers for years.

My take on this is that maybe the conspiracy theorists are true after all: Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone, and maybe the national-security state wanted to get revenge on JFK for not receiving help for the anti-Castro Bay of Pigs operation.

However, I have yet to fully tap into the wealth of information that exists about the JFK assassination. And I have yet to see Oliver Stone's controversial 1991 classic JFK. (For a libertarian's review on this movie, see Murray N. Rothbard's review. And not only that, the Ludwig von Mises Institute has it on their list recommended films for libertarians.)

Why Oldsters Aren't To Blame For Social Security And Medicare

Social Security and Medicare: Twin Disasters Loved by All Age Groups

Gary North

One of the political facts of life which most Americans do not want to consider is this: young people are in favor of Social Security. This has always been the case.

Politics are settled at the margin. There's no doubt that older people, at the margin, are a very large swing vote. But they have never had anything like the majority. This was especially true in 1935, when the New Deal voted to set up the Social Security system. The nation was a young nation at that point, because the birth rate had been high almost from the beginning of the nation.

The appeal of Social Security was this: the state would guarantee retirement. The state was going to substitute its power to collect taxes from workers, and it would use this power to guarantee everybody a free lunch. Only the free lunch would start at the age of 65.

Overwhelmingly, the public got on board. Overwhelmingly, the public is still on board. The Social Security system has always been a promotion directly aimed at existing workers. This is because existing workers are the overwhelming majority of the voters in this society.

A lot of people blame the old folks for having acted as a political special-interest group to make certain that it gets its money. But understand this: this special-interest group, like all special-interest groups, never had the ability on its own to get this legislation passed. Furthermore, this special-interest group does not have the votes in order to sustain this continuing drain on the Treasury without the help of the overwhelming majority of people who are paying into the program.

Read the rest of the article at

For more resources from on the disasters that Social Security and Medicare, see here.

If You Have Nothing To Hide, You Have to Worry

If you have nothing to hide, should you be worried about the increasing surveillance state?

Well, yes, according to a letter by French libertarian writer Pierre Lemieux for today's Laissez-Faire Today article.

I recommend that you read this interesting letter.

I particularly liked the way that Lemieux dealt with why the state should have as little information as possible: "The first reason why private information should remain private is that the state — the whole apparatus of government, all branches, all levels — has an incentive to use your information against you. There, as elsewhere, incentives matter." And not only that, lack of information "is a useful constraint on government action. The less the state knows about individuals and their associations (including their business corporations), the less it is able to enforce its laws and regulations that are detrimental to liberty and prosperity."

Sad News for Today

Today, I have some sad news to share:

The Guardian's NSA files were destroyed by command of the UK government.

Here are some of the tragic news:

"David Miranda, schedule 7 and the dangers that all reporters face now" by Alan Rusbridger

"NSA files: why the Guardian in London destroyed hard drives of leaked files" by Julian Borger

'Sending a message': what the US and UK are attempting to do by Glenn Greenwald

"Rue Britannia" by Justin Raimondo

Let's hope that someday the wicked activities of the US and UK government are revealed to the public. Actually, they will one day, when Christ comes again and all evil is vanquished.

However, it's still sad news as the one hope to expose the evils of the government before it was too late was smashed.