Liberty & Power Archive 10-01-03 to 10-24-03





CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: ISLAMIC RESURGENCE IN SYRIA 10-24-03

Some pro-war advocates would like us to believe that the Western world is at war with this anti-Christian monolith known as Islam. But neither the Western world nor Islam is a monolith. Not even twentieth-century Communism---with its Sino-Soviet conflicts---was a monolith. Because of the lethal opposition between secularist Pan-Arabists and Islamic fundamentalists of various stripes, tribal warfare among Islamic sects has led to the deaths of thousands in the Middle East. Just as Saddam Hussein warred against the fundamentalists in Iraq---making a Ba'ath-Al Qaeda strategic alliance virtually impossible---so too did Syria, among"secular" Arab states, war against militant Islam.

In 1982, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad's troops murdered 10,000 people connected with the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. Now comes word from this NY Times story that Syria"is experiencing a dramatic religious resurgence." The article suggests that with the US defeat of Hussein and its occupation of Iraq, Syria"seeks to forge nationalist sentiment with any means possible . . . including fostering the very brand of religious fundamentalism that it once pruned so mercilessly."

As I point out here, the scheme for a Pax Americana is fraught with endless possibilities for negative unintended consequences, however"noble" the intentions. Increased US intervention in the Middle East is slowly engendering unlikely alliances and the development of even more virulent forms of Islamic extremism. I can't think of many more effective ways to nourish the soil from which anti-US terrorism will grow.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 5:15 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: AMERICAN COMBAT DEATHS AND THE"LIBERAL MEDIA," 10-24-03

A favorite complaint of Panglossian pro-war bloggers is that the media has overplayed stories on American combat deaths in Iraq.

My complaint is just the opposite. Based on my listening, viewing, and reading habits, it has been my experience the media, liberal or otherwise, has given short shrift to this problem. On this morning’s NPR news roundup, for example, the combat death of yet another American soldier only ranked as the third story. It was right behind Bush's Palmer Raids on Walmart and the farewell journey of the Concord!

A story from Editor and Publisher provides confirmation for my suspicions by reporting statistics indicating that the media has greatly underreported casualty rates in Iraq.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:22 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL,“PORK LADEN” SPENDING, AND IRAQ, 10-23-03

The Wall Street Journal deploys a variant of the"two wrongs make a right" theory to defend massive subsidies for Iraq. Gee, I thought only liberals used that kind of argument:

“Who do our Congresspersons think they’re fooling? As they ponder a pork-laden energy bill and a multi-trillion dollar Medicare prescription drug benefit, some have chosen President Bush’s Iraq reconstruction request as the place to make a stand for fiscal rectitude.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:37 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: MANIPULATING IRAQI PUBLIC OPINION POLLS, 10-22-03

James Zogby describes how administration officials, most especially Dick Cheney, and many pro-war bloggers have misinterpreted and/or “manipulated” the recent Zogby International poll data measuring Iraqi public opinion. Well worth reading.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:00 a.m. EST

IVAN ELAND: BUSH'S PYRRHIC VICTORIES ON IRAQ 10-21-03

President Bush is basking in the glory of getting unanimous U.N. Security Council approval for the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Bush is also on the verge of getting the Congress to approve its request for $87 billion for its reconstruction. The president may regret those victories.

The president has painted himself into a corner, and his domestic and foreign opponents are applying the final coat of acrylic. Bush's triumph at the United Nations is only a symbolic victory, and one that could cause him future troubles. The back room dealing that enabled Bush to win unanimously at the United Nations is now obvious. The president, taking criticism from Congress and the American public over the exorbitant public funds being dumped into Iraq, is desperate to get foreign donors to defray the costs. Potential contributing countries, many of which opposed Bush's invasion of Iraq, know they have the president over a barrel. Before they pledge contributions at the upcoming donor conference, they insisted on the creation of new agency, run by the United Nations and World Bank and independent of the American occupation, to decide how to spend financial assistance to Iraq.

So in the long-term, getting the unanimous vote in the United Nations could be the worst of all worlds for the president. The United States and Britain are now formally responsible for Iraq's future, but some control over that future already has been informally relinquished to the United Nations. Even greater international control, however, does not ensure that the United States will be deluged with huge amounts of new foreign funds or offers to send in peacekeeping troops. In other words, the U.N. ratification of the American occupation symbolically highlights Bush's responsibility for ensuring a good outcome in Iraq, while at the same time eroding his control over the operation and improving only slightly the amount of help he'll get from other countries. The international community, perceiving the president to be arrogant and dangerously aggressive, will likely continue to let him sink in self-made Iraqi quicksand.

And the president's domestic enemies are also sharpening their knives. Reflecting constituent ire about the largesse being poured into Iraq, congressional criticism mounted over this year's $87 billion to"secure" and reconstruct Iraq. The Senate, in a token revolt, converted some of the reconstruction assistance from grants to loans, which the president opposes. But before Congress finishes, the loans will likely be reconverted to grants. After all, down the road, the president's opponents don't want him to blame the likely failure in Iraq on their stinginess in providing the resources needed to succeed.

With all of the efforts by Bush's opponents-virtually the whole world and increasing numbers even in the United States-to pin responsibility for the failings in Iraq solely on him, one would think that the president would be skillfully trying to parry that threat. Instead, he is helping his opponents. Bush recently removed the option of using Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz at the Department of Defense (DoD) as whipping boys for the continued mayhem in Iraq. The president authorized a transfer of authority over the occupation from DoD to the White House by putting Condoleeza Rice, his National Security Adviser, in charge of the new Iraq Stabilization Group.

Then the president's own words made matters worse. After public grumbling by Rumsfeld about the transfer of responsibilities and the not-so-veiled criticism by Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, alluding to chaos in the administration over Iraq policy, the president put smiles on the faces of his critics by blurting out,"the person who is in charge is me." Not as catchy as Harry Truman's"the buck stops here," but equally entrapping.

So the president is on the hook to ensure peace, stability and prosperity for Iraq, as he should be. Counterintuitively, the best chance Bush has to achieve that outcome is to accelerate the process of turning Iraq back to the Iraqis. As occupation by a superpower turned to self-determination, anti-U.S. violence-which, ominously, is beginning to spread into the previously docile Shiite community--would likely diminish. Although the Pentagon made serious errors in post-war planning for Iraq, the most grievous blunder was made by the White House in thinking that the U.S. government, with no legitimacy in a faraway land, could socially engineer at gunpoint a large, devastated society back to health. Only the Iraqis themselves can credibly lead that effort.

Turning governance rapidly back to the Iraqis might not give the president what he originally wanted-a compliant government that would sell the West cheap oil and allow the U.S. to station military forces near the Persian Gulf. But Bush now has few choices because he has been tagged with sole responsibility for ensuring success in Iraq. If he wants to better his reelection chances, he needs a stable Iraq, not a puppet government.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 5:41 p.m. EST

KEITH HALDERMAN: SHORTSIGHTEDNESS IN ALABMA 10-21-03

Many of you are surely familiar with the on going dispute between the Alabama Scholars Association (ASA) and the administration at the University of Alabama (see second Blog below) and it is not surprising that retaliation would find its way to the door of an organization that brings up touchy subjects such as grade inflation. However, it seems to me that the University is being horribly shortsighted in this matter because I think in the future the elite institutions will be those that return to or hold on to the more demanding standards. What value does an A have when everybody gets one, none, and, contrary to the belief of many, people will always seek out and honor value. Instead of obstructing them, the administration should be thanking the ASA for pointing out the right path to a better institution.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 11:30 EST

DAVID T. BEITO: MICHIIGAN SUFFERS BLOWBACK FROM STEEL TARIFFS, 10-21-03

Via Karen DeCoster, the Detroit News we get a description of the unintended consequences of steel tariffs (Bush style):

“Michigan’s extensive network of auto parts suppliers has been particularly hard hit. The companies use steel as a basic building block for their products. They say the tariffs, which range from 8 to 20 percent, have had a devastating effective on their industry by raising their costs. They say they have laid off more workers than have been saved in the steel industry.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:00 a.m. EST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS AND DAVID T. BEITO: FACULTY SENATE “DISCUSSES” MAIL CENSORSHIP AT THE UNIVERISTY OF ALABAMA, 10-20-03

The Steering Committee of the Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama "discussed" the recent denial of campus mail rights to the Alabama Scholars Association. For more, see here. Although the “discussion” of this issue is a step in the right direction, we are not optimistic that the Faculty Senate, which has tangled with the ASA on grade inflation, term limits for administrators, and other issues, will take action to correct this outrageous and selective censorship policy.

As has been discussed several times on Liberty and Power, the Alabama Scholars Association has used Campus Mail without incident for more than a year. Recently, however, Bill May of University Printing (in consultation with UA counsel, George S. Gordon) announced that he was revoking this right because his office had made a “mistake.” Apparently, he has not told groups like the Black Faculty and Staff Association and the UA chapter of the American Association of University Professors that their long-time rights to campus mail will be imperiled by this “mistake.” His office, as well as Campus Mail, have singled out one, and only one, organization: the ASA.

For a more detailed description, see here.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls and David T. Beito at 9:37 a.m. EST

HUNT TOOLEY: REPRISALS AMERICAN STYLE 10/17/03

Speaking of being on the receiving end, take a look at the kind of lessons we are dishing out and the Iraqis are receiving, discussed in an excellent column by Karen Kwiatkowski entitled ”Orchards and American Integrity” on LewRockwell.com. Hint: Our military has been burning down orchards in general reprisal against local outbreaks of terrorism and noncompliance.

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 11:08 p.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: ON THE RECEIVING END OF WILSONIAN DO-GOODISM, 10-17-03

Via Matthew Bargainer, here are some pithy comments from an Alternet columnist on the more degrading aspects of the international American welfare state (conservative style):

“What can we, in America, know of how it feels to be a citizen of any country in the world. We do not have brigades of well-meaning volunteers from say, the Netherlands arriving in our neighborhoods with bold promises of teaching us how to run our schools. We do not have representatives from Singapore engaging in optimistic efforts to reform our legislature, or teams from France trying to develop our media. Scruffy Swedish twenty-somethings, fresh from college, do not take up residence in our midst and teach us about the importance of government-sponsored healthcare.

Though we pride ourselves on traveling the world to help solve its problems – charity or bust - we do not know how it feels to be always on the worse end of the expression, 'It is better to give than to receive.'"

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:37 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: FREE SPEECH FOLLOW-UP AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, 10-17-03

Here is yet another story on the Alabama Scholars Association's apparently successful effort to defend free speech in residential halls at the University of Alabama. The University’s subsequent, and some would argue related, attempt to bar the ASA's literature from campus mail also continues to generate news coverage.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:47 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: LIMBAUGH IN LIMBO, 10-16-03

Rush Limbaugh is indeed a hypocrite. But hypocrisy is a victimless crime. In a free society one should not need permission from a state deputy (read: licensed physician) to engage in self-medication. Limbaugh until now has not understood that rather simple point; apparently it isn't covered at his Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies. (There's a double oxymoron.) Maybe he will see the point now. But what good will it do the cause of liberty? It will look like mere self-serving expediency.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 8:20 a.m. CDT

SHELDON RICHMAN: WHAT PRIVATE PROPERTY? 10-16-03

While the central government works overtime to keep us safe from international terrorism, its local affiliates are busy stealing our property right out from under us. It's becoming commonplace for states and localities to force people to sell their land at gunpoint so that it can be turned over to large commercial developers. Why? Because shopping centers anchored by Wal-Mart or Costco raise more tax revenue than lower middle-class two- or three-bedroom residences. Perfectly sound homes are condemned as"blight" for this cynical and criminal endeavor. The power of eminent domain (never justified, merely asserted) is bad enough when confined to"public uses." But the offense seems even more egregious when properties are simply transferred from one private citizen to another. Here are the details of the most recent case, from Alabaster, Alabama. To think the Founders revolted over a tiny tea tax...

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 7:20 a.m. CDT

HUNT TOOLEY: WHY DID THE U.S. ATTACK JOURNALISTS IN IRAQ? 10/15/03

In the face of the Bush regime’s current disinformation campaign, we should keep asking pertinent and specific questions about this war. Why did all those attacks by the U.S. military on “opposing” journalists occur at the same time? Who ordered armored attacks on civilian journalists in Baghdad? Why would these attacks not be called a crime? Why did Colin Powell say that the army found out only later that it was targeting locations containing journalists, when it is clear that this information was well known in advance?

A few links will help formulate at least an initial set of questions. A recent Guardian essay written by the widow of Al Jazeera journalist Tareq Ayyoub will help formulate an initial set of questions. Another pertinent link is Robert Fisk’s angry article, from the midst of the war in April, “Did the U.S. Murder These Journalists?” And the Democracy Now (Pacifica) site contains an interview which connects some important dots.

Like most of the stories that are emerging about the tactics of the current regime, this is a very ugly story.

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 4:56 p.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: REPUBLICANS AS THE PARTY OF BIGGER GOVERNMENT, 10-15-03

Brought to via Jesse Walker:

"The economist Jeffrey Frankel has made a good case that within the executive branch, ‘The Republicans have become the party of fiscal irresponsibility, trade restriction, big government, and failing-grade microeconomics. Surprisingly, Democratic presidents have – relatively speaking – become the agents of fiscal responsibility, free trade, competitive markets, and good textbook microeconomics.'"

Any thoughts Don?

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:07 a.m. EST

DONALD J. BOUDREAUX: BLAMING FOREIGN WORKERS, 10-14-03

Reading “Skilled Workers Sway Politicians With Fervor Against Free Trade” in the Wall Street Journal of October 10 reminded me why I teach my students to peer through the soupy fog of inessential facts that enshrouds almost every discussion of economic policy.

The workers and manufacturers featured in this story blame their loss of jobs and business on lower-cost foreign workers. This tactic is understandable: it’s easier to win government favors – “protection” – if your misfortune is thought to be the consequence of mysterious, malignant forces at work in distant lands. But the core reason American firms seek so doggedly to lower their costs – sometimes by outsourcing their operations to other countries – is that the American economy is intensely competitive. This competitiveness is a key reason for America's unrivaled economic success.

And in intensely competitive economies the shots are called by consumers. Whenever government protects firms or workers from competition, it harms consumers. It tells consumers “you cannot spend your money in ways that you think best.” I challenge anyone to explain how a nation’s long-run economic interests are promoted by policies that dampen competitiveness and constrict consumer choice.

Posted by Donald J. Boudreaux at 9:47 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: BOGUS PRO-WAR “LETTERS FROM IRAQ,” 10-13-03

Via Justin Raimondo , and LRC Blog , we learn from the Olympian , that many of the pro-war letters to home from soldiers that have been making the rounds on conservative blogs are bogus or, more precisely, duplicates of the same letter signed by different soldiers.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:59 a.m. EST

JEFFREY R. HUMMEL: “NO SENSE OF GOVERNMENT” IN IRAQ, 10-12-03

Bay Fang, in her article on Iraq for U.S. News and World Report, quotes a U.S. civilian in Iraq who was sent out to the province to represent the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)."As long as we have the military here, there is no sense of government," he says."You just have a guy with a gun telling you what to do."

I thought he said there was no sense of government.

Jeffrey Rogers Hummel at 1:30 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: BERNSTEIN SPEECH, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA SPINNING ON MAIL CENSORSHIP POLICY, 10-10-03

David Bernstein’s well-delivered and forceful speech yesterday at the University of Alabama, ”How Anti-Discrimination Laws Are Being Used to Suppress Civil Liberties,” could not have come at a better time. The speech was sponsored by the Alabama Scholars Association and the Federalist Society. Bernstein discussed his new book , You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties.

The Tuscaloosa News not only covered the speech but used it as an opportunity to ask the University administration why it held up distribution of the flyer advertising the event until the last minute. The response indicates that the University has not seen the error of its ways. According to University spokeswoman, Cathy Andreen, “The issue is determining what qualifies as an actual UA faculty organization and what is really a national organization. There is an ongoing discussion of how the Alabama Scholars Association fits into that.”

Officials of the ASA have addressed each one of these points in emails to an endless parade of bureaucrats over the last month (correspondence available upon request). First, the UA Chapter of the ASA has been a recognized faculty organization for more than a year. In this capacity, it has reserved rooms on campus under its own name and has had Campus Mail and University Printing distribute its flyers for several events.

Second, by using this method to distribute its newsletter, the Alabama Observer, it has followed the long-standing precedent established by the UA Chapter of the Alabama Conference of the American Association of University Professors to distribute its newsletter, Alabama Academe, through Campus Mail.

The Conference, like the ASA, is the state chapter of a national organization, the American Association of University Professors. Like the ASA, it has chapters throughout the state including Auburn, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of South Alabama. Does the University intend to give the same treatment to Alabama Academe? It has not answered this question.

Sad to say the battle is not over. The next big test will come when the ASA brings the next issue of the Alabama Observer to Campus Mail and University Printing for delivery.

While we are on this subject, we would like to thank the other bloggers who rallied to our cause. Examples include Ralph Luker, the Volokh Conspiracy (to which Bernstein belongs), and InstaPundit.

We owe you one guys and unfortunately, we may need your help again!

Posted by David T. Beito and Charles W. Nuckolls at 8:45 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: FREE SPEECH VICTORY IN ALABAMA (BUT STILL INCOMPLETE) 10-09-03

This morning Campus Mail at the University of Alabama delivered flyers for events sponsored by the ASA at the standard 30 dollar rate per 1,000 for faculty organizations. This rescinded the last-minute decision yesterday of Mr. Mike Butts of Campus Mail to bar the flyers (as University Printing had done earlier before it reversed itself yesterday). Ironically, one of the flyers advertised a speech by David E. Bernstein of George Mason University entitled “How Anti-Discrimination Laws are Being Used to Suppress Civil Liberties."

Professor Bernstein kindly posted my account of the controversy at the Volokh Conspiracy yesterday. Mr. Butts gave no explanation for the sudden reversal and, of course, the Bernstein flyer for today's speech at 12 noon in the Law School Moot Court Room will arrive too late to do much good.

Although this is a great victory for free speech, it is only a partial one because, as of yet, the University has not officially reversed its earlier ban on sending the Alabama Observer through campus mail at the standard rate.

Thank you again for your support! It meant a lot to us.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:45 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: FREE SPEECH VICTORY IN ALABAMA (BUT STILL INCOMPLETE) 10-09-03

This morning Campus Mail at the University of Alabama delivered flyers for events sponsored by the ASA at the standard 30 dollar rate per 1,000 for faculty organizations. This rescinded the last-minute decision yesterday of Mr. Mike Butts of Campus Mail to bar the flyers (as University Printing had done earlier before it reversed itself yesterday). Ironically, one of the flyers advertised a speech by David E. Bernstein of George Mason University entitled “How Anti-Discrimination Laws are Being Used to Suppress Civil Liberties."

Professor Bernstein kindly posted my account of the controversy at the Volokh Conspiracy yesterday. Mr. Butts gave no explanation for the sudden reversal and, of course, the Bernstein flyer for today's speech at 12 noon in the Law School Moot Court Room will arrive too late to do much good.

Although this is a great victory for free speech, it is only a partial one because, as of yet, the University has not officially reversed its earlier ban on sending the Alabama Observer through campus mail at the standard rate.

Thank you again for your support! It meant a lot to us.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:45 a.m. EST

IVAN ELAND: THOUGHTS ON WHETHER WHITE HOUSE P.R. CAMPAIGN ON IRAQ WILL WORK 10-08-03

In Washington, much is made of symbolism and rhetoric. But that will only take you so far with the American public. If the underlying policy is in trouble, it is difficult to put lipstick on a pig. The administration is in a bind that a public relations campaign will not solve. More troops are needed to quell the worsening guerrilla campaign in Iraq. Yet, aside from possibly Turkey, no countries are racing to bail out the United States by sending troops or money. And the administration will have to pay dearly to get Turkey's cooperation. But Turkish troops may alienate the only friends the United States has in Turkey--the Kurds. So the minimal PR gains from getting at least one other country to help out with troops may make the underlying situation worse.

So if no other countries come up with added forces, the United States will have to use its own. But that is a politically explosive decision--especially if the government would call up the National Guard and Reserves. Calling them up would belie the administration's protests that things are better than are being reported by the media in Iraq. It could certainly be a PR nightmare--maybe even equivalent to the Tet Offensive's effect on the American public during Vietnam (the strength of the Tet Offensive belied the U.S. government's claims that the United States was handily winning the Vietnam War and was the turning point in causing public pressure to get out).

This brings up another point. Any PR campaign has to paint a rosy picture, but down the road, when things aren't going well, the administration can be held to its own optimistic rhetoric (as it has already). That is, the PR campaign itself could backfire. Thus, it might be time for some good old straight talk from the president to the American people about the demanding situation in Iraq. That might be the best PR campaign to be had.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 9:50 p.m. PST.

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: MORE ON TERM LIMITS FOR UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATORS 10-08-03

The Birmingham News has carried my article proposing term limits for academic administrators. I have also responded to several criticisms of the proposal from our friends at SCSU Scholars.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 8:42 p.m. EST

HUNT TOOLEY: WHERE WAS ESPN ON THIS? 10/07/03

Just when I get really cynical about the international scene, something happens to make me teary-eyed.

Remember the Gulf War (the crusade for a small country which featured a huge American army and put the Humvee into our vocabulary )?

Well, read this report from the Gulf News .

Yes, Virginia, there is a Kuwaiti Billiards Team! And they dominate!

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 8:06 a.m. CST

HUNT TOOLEY: FORGED NATIONS, FORGING DEMOCRACY 10/06/03

A while back, in the heady days of “nation-building” in Iraq (a phrase which has lost some of its zip of late), I thought of writing something fairly extensive about the generation of the Federal Republic of Germany in the late forties. The “book” on this issue is that the noble Allies occupied Germany, de-Nazified it in extensive teaching programs, tried and punished the evil-doers who had not already done themselves in, and then allowed those Germans remaining to adapt the pertinent parts of our system and put German names on them (Bundestag for Congress, Polizisten for traffic cops, Demokratie for all that is Good, etc.). Well, maybe this is a little cartoonish, but this is what entering college students “know” about it, insofar as they know anything about it.

Well, I was going to point out some interesting research from the eighties about the regeneration of public life in Germany, quote from some American sources, and posit that the Germans created a working federal republic IN SPITE of the occupation, and often at variance with the centralizing tendencies implicit especially in the American approach to occupation until 1948. That is to say: the GERMANS created their own system, built on plans which Germans had made from the 1860s onward, but particularly in the years 1928 to 1930, when a movement for political reform was gaining momentum--before the Depression hit.

Then, I was going to say something about the general wisdom of the fragility of imposed political systems in world history and apply this idea to the goal of democratizing Iraq.

Well, I’m glad I didn’t go to all that trouble!

Events in the recent days (well, in reality, even before that) have demonstrated that Team Bush has never had any intention at all of installing a genuinely open or pluralistic system in Iraq. (See among other items, the fascinating interview of Noam Chomsky at the anarchist site Infoshop News, which ranges widely over this and related topics.)

The team has chosen, as usual, the most pliably corrupt Iraqi politicians to be had, and now that Bush is under a cloud for the chicken-stealing carried out by some of his guys, they have decided to go with the direct committee under Condoleeza Rice and simply administer this Founding of a Nation direct from Washington. Not terrorism. Not weapons of mass destruction. Not democracy.

Then what?

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 9:57 A.M.

DAVID T. BEITO: MASSIVE GRADE INFLATION

An article from the Atlanta Constitution reports new evidence that Georgia's much touted HOPE Scholarships have fueled and legitimized massive grade inflation. The resulting depreciation has rendered many high school grades nearly worthless as measures of student ability.

Thankfully, the voters of Alabama have jettisoned plans for a similar scheme in their state, at least for now.

Posted by David T. Beito at 1:36 p.m. EST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: TOWARD A SIMULATED EDUCATION 10-06-03

Baudrillard described the final stage of"simulation" in culture as one in which the model of a thing no longer even claims to bear any relation to the thing itself. A simulated education, therefore, is one that no long even refers to the process of learning. It refers only to itself, an endless hall-of-mirrors full of self-reflecting concepts that is increasingly remote and disconnected.

At my university, for example, we hear much of"outcome assessment measures" these days. Do you have such measures, they asked me? My response was to say that I thought"grades" constituted the assessment. No, I was told: learning consists of"skills" that can be measured, tabulated, reckoned up.

I realized then that in a university consumed by grade inflation, as mine is, one could not possibly speak of learning anymore. But we can speak of"outcome assessment" because it refers to the idea of learning, rather than to the thing itself. In fact, the"thing itself" can cease to exist altogether, since the outcome measurement -- now defined as"skills" -- is different, graspable, and uncontaminated by critical thought.

Moreover, one can busy oneself almost endlessly in talking about measurement and assessment. All that talk stand in for talk about learning, and ultimately takes its place. Who cares?

Not the professors, certainly, because they will be simulated, too. The math department hardly even uses them anymore. They use computers to teach math. Tests are given on-line; outcomes assessed; measurements made.

It is all a great simulation. Of course its consequences are very real. The trouble is, no one will be left to point that out, once the simulated education is fully in place.

It won't be long.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 10:12 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: FREE SPEECH VICTORY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA! 10-03-03

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has a detailed story about the smashing victory for free speech at the University of Alabama. The victory was led by the combined forces of the Alabama Scholars Association and FIRE.

Unfortunately, it now appears that the University still does not fully appreciate the first amendment. There is mounting evidence that it is selectively hindering the ASA’s access to campus mail. More later.

Posted by David T. Beito at 7:34 p.m. EST

IVAN ELAND: THOUGHTS ON WHETHER CONGRESS SHOULD GIVE BUSH ANOTHER $600 MILLION TO FIND WMD 10-03-03

In the eye-popping $166 billion that the U.S. taxpayer is being expected to pay for a questionable intervention in Iraq is $600 million to pay for the administration's public relations effort to polish its tarnished credibility by attempting to stumble across WMD. But even if they don't find WMD, at least they have an added $600 million to stretch out a likely futile search, thus delaying an embarrassing result past next year's election. The American taxpayer is already paying through the nose for post-war Iraq without spending money on administration spin and electioneering.

But what if WMD are really hidden somewhere and could end up in the hands of terrorists? Apparently, the president doesn't think so. In speeches, the president often says,"Terrorist groups will not ever be able too get weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because Saddam Hussein is no more." And given the six months of scouring Iraq unsuccessfully for WMD, this outcome is unlikely. The United States has already spent $300 million in an intense effort to find the weapons. They have captured most of the key scientists and none of them seems to have knowledge that could break open the case. If the key scientists have scant knowledge of such programs, then who does?. It would have been difficult for Saddam to secretly recruit an entirely new scientific team because scientists and engineers with expertise on WMD don't grow on trees. All the Bush administration's inspectors have found is a few weapons precursors. It is now clear that the administration had little new intelligence information on Iraq's WMD programs after the international inspectors left in 1998. The administration thus extrapolated the future based on the past.

Sometimes the intelligence community gets it wrong, but the key question is why the nation was committed to war to counter an"imminent threat" that was based on such thin evidence. Before the war, a key reason that the administration characterized the Iraqi threat in this way was Iraq's alleged development of nuclear weapons. But David Kay, the current chief weapons inspector for the administration, has said of that nuclear weapons effort,"It clearly does not look like a massive, resurgent program, based on what we've discovered now. It is the program right now that we probably know the least about and have the least confidence in saying what it meant." So much violence, so little intelligence.

Posted by Ivan Eland at Justin Raimondo explores possible answers to a rarely asked question on the Plame/Wilson affair. What was the source of the forged Niger report in the first place?

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:30 a.m. EST.

WENDY McELROY: DOCUMENTING 'FOREIGNERS', 10-03-03

Bush administration officials reportedly angered lawmakers by refusing to take a position on illegal aliens obtaining U.S. driver's licenses and by avoiding questions about its decision to recognize Mexican identification cards. This"avoidance" comes on the heels of the Treasury Department announcing it will leave in place rules that allow financial institutions to accept Mexican identification cards, called matricula consular, which often are used by undocumented immigrants to open bank accounts. The move was applauded as a victory for immigration and Latino groups, who traditionally vote Repbulican. Bush is unlikely to alienate the Latino/Hispanic population before next year's presidential election. According to the Census Bureau, that population continues to explode in size within the US, especially in the South and West. Those who wonder why the Bush administration is" casual" about the ID of Hispanics while pushing vigorously for imposition of biometric passports on Canadians need ask themselves one question: how many Canadians will be voting in the next Presidential election?

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 4:30 a.m. EST. For more commentary, see McBlog

WENDY McELROY: CAPPSII, 10-02-03

By now everyone knows that the NY-based airline JetBlue allowed the US Army and a Defense Department contractor to use millions of its customer records to test a Total Information Awareness style program, despite its publicly-stated privacy policy. Predictably, a group of passengers has sued JetBlue Airways for passing along their personal information. The class-action lawsuit, filed in Utah's 3rd District Court, alleges fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of contract and invasion of privacy. According to reports, JetBlue passengers feel particularly violated because the airline advertised itself as especially" customer-friendly." For example,"in the first quarter of this year, while more than 10,000 people were bumped off major airline flights because of overbooking, no JetBlue passengers suffered the same fate." Nevertheless, they were bumped over to the Feds...information-wise, that is. Now that airlines are feeling the repercussions of acting like a government agency and not a business -- that is, they want to back away from violating customers' trust -- the Transportation Security Administration Chief Administrator James Loy has announced...if no airlines will"voluntarily provide data for a 180-day testing period of the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II) scheduled for later this year, he will issue a security directive mandating the airlines provide the information." Why should passengers care? Well, apart from privacy, fear of a total state, and a desire for human dignity...the lists are already being used as a political weapon against dissenters. (See the ACLU lawsuit already underway on behalf of two anti-war activists who have been barred from flying.") As Alan Cabal observes,"CAPPS II is a police-state mechanism, a purely Soviet device. It requires airlines to collect passengers’ full legal name, actual residence address, home phone number and date of birth prior to booking a reservation. This information would be turned over to the government, whose contractors would then match the data to third-party information databases, such as credit reporting agencies, and government databases, including property ownership, tax records and law enforcement. The customer would then be profiled and assigned a color code, which would determine the level of screening the customer would be subjected to prior to boarding the flight, if indeed the customer is permitted to fly at all." The CAPPII system would function as the equivalent of an internal passport in the US, allowing only"the government-approved" to avail themselves of what is sometimes the only feasible transportation to conferences and events scattered across the continent. Cabal continues,"As part of their ongoing plan to loot and destroy America, the apparatchiks of the Bush regime have...hired Gen. Yevgeny Primakov, former Prime Minister, to consult with our own Office of Information Awareness on the details of this effort. These creatures believe that your constitutionally mandated 'inalienable rights' are nothing more than privileges granted by the state, to be revoked at whim."

Meanwhile, from the Adding Insult to Injury Department, security fees may be returning to US airfares. According to CNN,"U.S. airlines have had a four-month reprieve from collecting security fees on behalf of the U.S. government, but the hiatus ends Wednesday [yesterday] and passengers could see higher airfares."

There can be only one self-respecting response: Boycott!

Posted by Wendy McElroyat 12:50 p.m. EST. For more commentary, see McBlog

DAVID T. BEITO: TENURE AND TERM LIMITS FOR ACADEMIC ADMINISTRATORS, 10-01-03

The SCSU Scholars and Erin O’Connor have been pondering the benefits of abolishing tenure. I would be the first to concede the stifling conformity that characterizes the cowed faculty (tenured and tenured) at most universities. Having said that, proposals to abolish tenure, at least in the current environment, will do far more harm than good for the causes of academic freedom and higher academic standards.

Schemes to impose post-tenure review in public universities (now on the table in many states) will have effect of making it easier for administrators to fire or further intimidate the small remnant of libertarians, conservatives, academic reformers, and other assorted dissidents. For this reason, I suggest that defenders of academic freedom oppose post-tenure review and oppose it stridently.

A far better cause to embrace would be a campaign to impose term limits for academic administrators. Term limits, unlike post-tenure review, will actually contribute to the goal of breaking the power of professional administrators over the faculty. They will also help to advance the now embattled values of academic freedom and high standards.

The Alabama Scholars Association, for example, has supported a resolution in the faculty senate to limit deans, academic vice presidents to single five-year terms. Term limits now exist at the University of Chicago which (at least in relative terms) has an energetic and empowered faculty.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:07 a.m. EST


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