Liberty & Power Archive 11-1-03 to 12-07-03





ARTHUR SILBER: THE UNITED STATES AS BRUTAL, VIOLENT -- AND HATED -- PARENT, 12-07-03

I have argued, as have many others (including Friedrich Hayek, and historian Barbara Tuchman) that the idea of centrally-planned"nation-building" is a delusion doomed to failure, and that history conclusively demonstrates that not everyone in the world wants freedom in precisely the form in which it has manifested itself in the West, and particularly in the United States. This is simply a recognition of the inescapable fact that history and culture matter -- that it is not possible to graft a political system onto a country which has no social or, more importantly, intellectual traditions to support it.

There is nothing remotely racist about any of this. As I said, this is simply a recognition of the fact that the history of any given country is obviously crucial to what may be reasonably expected of that country in the future. Nonetheless, for stating these obvious truths, many hawks have irresponsibly accused people of viewing Arabs and/or Muslims as somehow innately"inferior," as being"unworthy" of"democracy." Such an accusation, at least insofar as it relates to the kind of argument I have been making over the last many months, is simply wrong and without foundation.

But now, in connection with our new"get tough" policy in Iraq -- a policy which involves surrounding entire towns with barbed wire among other delightful"innovations" (as if brutal dictatorial regimes in Iraq's recent past hadn't employed similar methods) -- we have American military commanders making statements like the following:

"Underlying the new strategy, the Americans say, is the conviction that only a tougher approach will quell the insurgency and that the new strategy must punish not only the guerrillas but also make clear to ordinary Iraqis the cost of not cooperating.

"'You have to understand the Arab mind,' Capt. Todd Brown, a company commander with the Fourth Infantry Division, said as he stood outside the gates of Abu Hishma. 'The only thing they understand is force — force, pride and saving face.'"

"You have to understand the Arab mind." If a well-known antiwar activist had made such a statement, imagine the howls of protest that would ensue from many self-righteous hawks."Why, he thinks Arabs are sub-human! He doesn't think they deserve democracy! Why, it's positively ... unAmerican!!"

And our military commanders inform us that"[t]he only thing [the Arabs] understand is force." Well, that doesn't bode too well for the prospects for democracy, does it?

The Times story also contains a significantly misleading sentence near its opening:

"In selective cases, American soldiers are demolishing buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers. They have begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves in."

But toward the end of the story, we learn the following:

"In Abu Hishma, residents complain that the village is locked down for 15 hours a day, meaning that they are unable to go to the mosque for morning and evening prayers. They say the curfew does not allow them time to stand in the daylong lines for gasoline and get home before the gate closes for the night.

"But mostly, it is a loss of dignity that the villagers talk about. For each identification card, every Iraqi man is assigned a number, which he must hold up when he poses for his mug shot. The card identifies his age and type of car. It is all in English.

"'This is absolutely humiliating,' said Yasin Mustafa, a 39-year-old primary school teacher. 'We are like birds in a cage.'

"Colonel Sassaman said he would maintain the wire enclosure until the villagers turned over the six men who killed Sergeant Panchot, though he acknowledged they may have slipped far away."

Abu Hishma is a town of 7,000 people. We are therefore holding 7,000 people hostage -- not merely"the relatives of suspected guerrillas" -- in hopes that the villages will turn over six men, who may have slipped far away in the meantime.

And here, in a disturbingly accurate admission, is the key to the psychology behind all this:

"'With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them,' Colonel Sassaman said."

This is nothing less than insane. There is a well-recognized syndrome in psychology -- a syndrome which leads to a never-ending intergenerational cycle of violence. A parent beats a child, constantly repeating:"But why don't you understand that I love you? Why don't you see that I'm just doing this for your own good?" And all the while, the parent physically brutalizes the child, who then grows up and does the same to his child.

And one of the notable results of this behavior is hardly surprising: the child fears -- and hates -- the parent. Yet this is now how we propose to win over the Iraqis, and prepare them for democracy:"a heavy dose of fear and violence" -- and monetary bribes -- will" convince these people that we are here to help them."

This is the same road the British traveled down in Iraq -- and after 40 years, the British finally gave up, recognizing the hopelessness and self-defeating futility of their task. But in close to record time, we have crossed over into very dangerous territory: this is the kind of occupier psychology that could easily lead to the killing of large numbers of Iraqis, a massacre or massacres which could unleash a horrific wave of violence directed at Americans, and possibly also directed at other Iraqis.

It is time for some very harsh truth-telling, and it is time to strip away the comforting and false self-delusions in which many hawks wrap themselves. There is nothing loving or kind about a parent who beats his child, while claiming that he does it out of love and concern for the child's well-being. And there is nothing kind or benevolent about forcing Iraqis to adopt a form of government or a way of life which they may not want -- and which they certainly do not want if it comes at the ends of the guns wielded by an occupation force.

We have invaded a country which posed no serious threat to us, and we still maintain we are intent on bringing the blessings of liberty to the Iraqis -- but we will do it using force, fear and violence. This is a fatal contradiction that was doomed to fail. But in the process of attempting to make a contradiction true -- which can never be done, and which must end in the destruction of the one who attempts it -- we are turning ourselves as a nation into monsters. And we are also planting innumerable seeds of hatred against the United States, which may well grow into future terrorist attacks on the U.S., just as they are now causing the deaths of American soldiers on a daily basis.

The Bush administration, by means of this insanely destructive foreign policy, is now achieving one objective for which I truly cannot forgive them: they are making me ashamed to be an American.

Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 09:45 p.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG:
MODERNITY MODERNISED, 12-07-03

An improved-format version of my article Two Cheers for Modernity is up at SOLO, along with some reader responses.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 07:19 p.m. EST

R. REID MCKEE: NOW THAT'S ONE FUNKY DJ!

It looks like support for citywide smoking bans is literally coming out of the woodwork in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnipeg police say that they never would have found the decomposing body of a DJ hidden in the wall of a local nightclub if it weren't for their city's smoking ban.

Posted by R. Reid McKee at 3:55 p.m. CST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: A QUESTION OF LOYALTY, 12-07-03

Lindsay Perigo, editor of The Free Radical, a New Zealand-based libertarian and Objectivist magazine, wrote a piece condemning"Saddam's Succours" to which I respond in the current issue. In" A Question of Loyalty: A 'Saddamite' Responds to Perigo," I reply to Perigo's criticisms of many who opposed the war in Iraq. Lindsay is a great pal and colleague of mine—I'm even Assistant Editor to the magazine (and you can start here for pics of his recent visit to Brooklyn)—but it doesn't stop us from disagreeing on so many issues. Here's some of what I have to say:

The long-term consequences of the Iraq war are slowly coming into focus. The most recent Bush request for another $87 billion—on top of the $45 billion already spent for military preparation and invasion—is more than double what the US is spending on “homeland security.” The war has contributed to a ballooning deficit that will be in excess of $500 billion next year, “but could reach a cumulative total of $5.8 trillion by 2013” ... The federal debt increases exponentially, even as the US aims to pay off Iraq’s $350 billion foreign debt, not to mention resettlement and reconstruction costs, estimated at another $200 billion over the next decade. And for those who thought Iraqi oil reserves would pay for this: Nice try. Oil revenues from a devastated Iraqi oil industry might rise to $20 billion annually by 2006. ...

Meanwhile, the threat to domestic liberties from a variety of euphemistically named “Patriot Acts” is growing too, as the Bush administration uses the provisions of these acts in criminal investigations that have nothing to do with terrorism—prosecuting everyone from drug traffickers to suspect Internet users ... And while the thousands of wounded are nowhere near the number of casualties from previous wars, the US has now lost more troops in the occupation—an occupation with no end in sight, costing an additional billion dollars per week—than in all of its combat operations. Worse yet, if Iraq actually had WMDs—they were not used in the war and they have not yet been found—then the invasion has most likely brought about the very condition the US feared: their dispersal in chaotic social conditions among hostile terrorist groups. Fanatics are picking off US troops daily, as Iraq becomes a magnet for terrorists from all over the Muslim world.

Moreover, the US is facing massive ethnic conflict within Iraq, as each group vies for a different part of the “democratic” pie, with no history of knowing how to “share” the pie, let alone eat of it. This is not unusual in the period after the fall of a despotic regime. When the Soviet Union fell, many were astonished at how ethnic warfare re-emerged as if unaltered from 70+ years of Communism. Democratic nation-building presupposes that there is a nation upon which to build democracy. But as columnist George Will has observed, Iraq—like the Soviet Union—is not a nation. Iraq was a makeshift by-product of British colonialism. So if the US is trying to bring “democracy” to Iraq, the question remains: Which Iraq? Sunni Iraq? Kurdish Iraq? Shiite Iraq? (Which Shiites?)

This is not to say that the world was better off with the Soviet Union or Saddam Hussein in place. Good riddance! Those regimes exercised monopoly control over the instruments of oppression in brutalizing their populations. In the absence of a monopoly terrorist regime, however, and in the absence of any culture of individualism, the only “democracy” that is emerging in Iraq is an anarchic “democratization” of the means of terror: a war of all against all, instead of one against all. Not quite the Wilsonian democracy envisioned by US policy-makers. ...

And throughout this whole “War on Terror,” the poisonous soil from which Bin Laden emerged—Saudi Arabia—remains untouched. While the US is busy fighting in Iraq, it sleeps with the Saudis, continuing a 60+ year-affair that most likely led the Bush administration to blot out 28 pages from a report on the failure of 9/11 intelligence, which might have embarrassed its Saudi “allies.” US corporations engage in joint business ventures with the Saudi government—from petroleum to arms deals—utilizing a whole panoply of statist mechanisms, including the Export-Import Bank. The US is Saudi Arabia’s largest investor and trading partner. Historically, the House of Sa’ud’s alliance with—and exportation of—intolerant, fanatical Wahhabism has been strengthened by the US-Saudi government partnership with Western oil companies, especially the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO), a merger of Esso, Texaco, and Mobil. This is precisely the kind of “pull-peddling” that Rand condemned as “the New Fascism”—a US-Saudi-Big Oil Unholy Trinity that sustains the undemocratic Saudi regime.

And so, it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will ever be touched significantly in the “War on Terror,” even if 15 of the 19 people who rammed those planes into US targets were Saudi. So close is the US-Saudi relationship that the US government worked with the Saudi embassy to facilitate, by private jet, the evacuation from the US of 140 prominent Saudis, among them members of the Bin Laden family, in the days after 9/11.

Within the Saudi cultural climate, however, anti-US sentiment is on the rise. Some terrorists gain the sanction of Saudi government officials, who talk out of both sides of their duplicitous mouths. Other terrorists flourish in reaction to the despotism of the Saudi regime and to its US alliance. It is a regime that depends upon a barbaric network of secret police and sub-human prisons, using the kinds of torture tactics that would have made Saddam proud: routine floggings, rotisserie hangings, amputations, penis blocking, and anal molestations. Such is the “pragmatic” nature of official US government policy, which goes to war for “human rights” in Iraq, while tacitly sanctioning their eradication in Saudi Arabia.

It’s this kind of pragmatism that has been the midwife to anti-American terrorism—from US support of the Shah of Iran that led to the establishment of an anti-American Islamic theocracy to US support of the Afghani mujahideen that led to the establishment of an anti-American Taliban. It is not a question of loyalty to one’s “friend,” therefore, when that “friend”—the US government—appears to be more loyal to its autocratic allies than to its own citizens.

Dante may have reserved the Ninth Circle of Hell for those who, like Satan, Judas, Brutus and Cassius, are treacherous to kindred, country, party, lords, superiors, and benefactors. But loyalty is of no ethical import unless it is loyalty to an idea. And, in this instance, it is the idea of America to which I owe my loyalty. It is to the rational individualist and libertarian ideas of Western civilization to which I owe my loyalty—ideas that the United States of America embraced in its infancy, and that have faced extinction over the past two centuries.

As Ayn Rand once wrote: “Loyalty can be maintained in only one of two ways: by terrorism—or by dedication to ideas," ... by fear or by conviction. I owe no loyalty to any group, party, class, or Commander-in-Chief, when such adherence undermines loyalty to moral principles. And it is only those principles that will save my country—and the rest of the world—from utter destruction.

Again, read the whole essay here.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 12:20 p.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: AL SHARPTON, COMEDIAN, 12-07-03

I have never been a fan of Al Sharpton, but he did a pretty good James Brown imitation during his monologue last night on"Saturday Night Live." On the campaign trail, Sharpton has been resident comedian of the Democratic Party. On hearing that President Bush wanted $87 billion for his new Great Society program in Iraq, Sharpton said:"Why doesn't Bush just run for president of Iraq?" But he's been no kinder to his Democratic foes. Asked if Democratic candidates should have more time to respond to questions during the umpteen debates that have been scheduled on the primary trail, Sharpton answered:"What are we really talking about? A minute or two? It's not like some of them were on the verge of brilliance and somebody cut them off!" Stay tuned. This guy won't be President, but he does have a future as a comedian.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 12:15 p.m. EST

ARTHUR SILBER: REQUIRED VIEWING: TONY KUSHNER ON"ANGELS," LIFE, POLITICS, LIFE, WHATSISNAME — AND MORE LIFE

I just posted some thoughts about Tony Kushner's extraordinary play,"Angels in America," which will be shown on HBO beginning tomorrow night. And I've offered some ideas about why, even though I disagree with all of Kushner's explicit political beliefs (he's a committed socialist), I find the play to be marvelously rewarding. Here is part of what I said:

The play is set in the mid-1980s, but I doubt that you'll find it dated at all. Even though a lot of the specific subject matter is about politics and AIDS, it's about many other things as well: about the nature of religion and religious beliefs, about the myths we seem to need in order to live (including founding myths, especially), about"[t]he space between what we'd like to be and what we actually are," about desire, about the connections that occur between the most unlikely people, about fantasy and delusion (including the self-deceptions so many of us also seem to need), and even more. One of the characters in the play remarks that"History is about to crack wide open"—a statement that seems remarkably prescient, given events of the last few years.

And to grasp just how damning Kushner's portrayal of conservatism is, consider this: one of the main characters is a young Mormon Republican (Mormons, and Mormon mythology figure very prominently in the play, in a variety of fascinating ways). This young man, Joe Pitt, is about to go to work for the Reagan Justice Department, with the help of Roy Cohn. Joe is an ardent devotee of the Reagan Revolution, and says at one point:"The truth restored, law restored—that's what President Reagan's done. ... He says truth exists and can be spoken proudly."

But it turns out that Joe, whose marriage is rapidly deteriorating, is, like Cohn, a closeted gay man. So much for speaking the truth"proudly." And yet, Joe is a tremendously engaging—and sympathetic—character. All of this goes, of course, to Kushner's point about those spaces between what we hope to be and what we actually are—a dilemma that affects almost all of us to one degree or another in the course of our lives. But again, if you're just going down a checklist of what you think constitutes"good conservative writing," you will miss all of this—which means you will miss the complexity, richness and rewards that life, and superb writing, have to offer.

The entire entry can be found here.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 08:30 p.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: AYN RAND'S PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY, 12-06-03

I've gotten a number of inquiries about my recent dialogue on the Atlantis II discussion list. As follow-up, I'd like to post a few links here that include excerpts from my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Here, I outline Rand's philosophy of history and compare it to Marxist historiography; I follow-up with a postscript on the historiography of Rand, Marx, and the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment. Enjoy!

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 11:30 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: BEWARE NATIONAL GOALS, 12-05-03

Oh great. The Bush people are looking for “unifying national goals” for the second term. Ideas being kicked around include going to the moon (again?), extending life spans, and eradicating childhood illnesses. According to the Washington Post, “One person consulted by the White House said some aides appear to relish the idea of a ‘Kennedy moment’ for Bush, referring to the 1962 call by President John F. Kennedy for the nation to land a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the decade.” (Groan.) An administration official “said Bush's closest aides are promoting big initiatives on the theory that they contribute to Bush's image as a decisive leader even if people disagree with some of the specifics. ‘Iraq was big. AIDS is big,’ the official said. ‘Big works. Big grabs attention.’”

This puts Bush squarely in the neocon “national greatest conservatism” camp. As he says on the campaign trail, he wants “great goals worthy of a great nation.”

As a libertarian I know likes to say, Are we to be spared nothing?

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 2 p.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: ALABAMA CENSORSHIP NOOSE TIGHTENS, NEW GROUP BLOG CREATED, 12-04-03

Welcome To My World has converted to a group blog. Ralph Luker has recruited a strong team which should give L and P a good run for its money.

Roy Moore move over. The University of Alabama, in its continuing campaign to suppress faculty dissent, has effectively banned Alabama Academe, the state newsletter of the American Association of University Professors, from the campus mail. The state AAUP had distributed its newsletter on campus at the low faculty-organization rate for many years without incident, until now. Apparently, the UA administration concluded that a policy of blanket censorship was the only way to continue its previous ban of the Alabama Observer, the newsletter of the Alabama Scholars Association . This promises to stir up a hornet's next.

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:09 p.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: C-H-U-T-Z-P-A-H, 12-04-03

Can the Bush supporters spell “chutzpah”? On TV they are falling all over themselves to praise Bush for his political courage in scrapping the steel tariffs. Excuse me—but who put the tariffs on in the first place? His courage supposedly lies in his willingness to risk losing the swing steel states for the sake of free-trade principle. But the supporters neglect to point out that Bush was getting pressure from a swing steel-using state (namely, Michigan), as well as states such as Florida that would have suffered from European retaliation sanctioned by the World Trade Organization. His stated reason for ending the tariffs? They worked! By the way, he promised to protect the steel industry from"dumping." Some man of principle. Humbug!

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 1:55 p.m. CST

KING BANAIAN: MORE ON GRADE INFLATION, 12-02-03

Thanks, David, for the kind mention of our article at SCSUScholars on grade inflation. We've been concerned about this for quite some time. The issue for us is much worse, as I wrote earlier today:

When I first came to SCSU, students could retake classes to improve their grades and only the highest grade appeared on the transcript. Now, at least, if a student retakes a course the lower grade remains on the transcript. But like Alabama, it does not count in the student's GPA. Since students need a 2.0 to graduate, it is not altogether unusual to find students with a 1.9x retaking a course in which they already had a 'C' to try to buy up to a better grade to bring their GPA up to the standard. Or is that 'standard'?

As I've argued before, the larger issue is the fact that the courses students take nowadays are from departments that cannot enforce grading standards because there are no content-based learning objectives. The common denominator in these course objectives (try this one, for example) are phrasings such as"define and identify multiple perspectives","to expose and identify unexamined values". I simply do not know how one gets a D in this type of course, and from the grade distribution reports, neither do the people who teach the courses.

It's worth remembering this survey from NAS last year that compared knowledge of current college seniors and high school graduates from fifty years ago. The comparison is not flattering.

Thanks, too, David, for the mention of the Minnesota Scholar.

Posted by King Banaian at 9:50 P.M. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: BANAIAN AND THE NO CREDIT SYSTEM, 12-02-03

I have to run to a Liberty Fund conference but noticed something at SCSU Scholars which is of interest. Our L and P colleague King Banaian has commented on Charles Nuckolls’ critique of the University of Alabama’s infamous"no credit system."

Also, King has announced the first online issue of Minnesota Scholar.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 6:08 p.m. EST

IVAN ELAND: LET THEM EAT TURKEY, 12-02-03

Bill Clinton should be green with envy. George W. Bush, Clinton’s successor and bird of a feather in his quest to stay out of the jungles of Vietnam, in one fell swoop has addressed doubts about both his personal courage and his solidarity with soldiers risking their lives in Iraq. Bush’s turkey day trot to Iraq for dinner was a masterful stroke in public relations—at least in the short-term. In the long-term, it could put the Bush presidency further in the soup (or the gravy, as the case may be).

A closer examination of Bush’s public relations stunt raises questions about its sincerity and wisdom. The headline--from a cooing press ready to gobble up any story on a particularly slow news day--was that the president risked his life to show support for the troops.

Yet Bush’s holiday jaunt was shrouded in so much secrecy, even by the standards of this hyper-secretive administration, that he faced very little personal danger—even in hazardous Baghdad. The trip was so hush-hush that the president’s parents weren’t even told that he wouldn’t be showing up for the family gathering in Crawford, Texas. And by sneaking into and out of the fortified Baghdad International airport in darkness on Air Force One—which has many technologies to foil missile attacks—Bush was very safe against the fairly crude means of striking aircraft possessed by the Iraqi insurgents. Although Senator Hillary Clinton ventured out of the airport to visit troops on the front lines during her visit the next day, the president took no such risk and remained in the fortified area for his two-and-a-half hour stay in Iraq. The tight security arrangements obviously satisfied the president’s hyper-cautious Secret Service protectors. Unlike a bird for Thanksgiving dinner, Bush had little chance of being fired upon.

And Bush’s “mission” was designed less to shore up the morale of U.S. military personnel than it was to knock the stuffing out of war critics at home. Criticism had been intensifying about a spike in the number of body bags coming back from Iraq and the president’s attempt to hide them from the American people by not attending soldiers’ funerals. Bush’s foraging in Iraq for a “warm meal somewhere” was really an attempt to scavenge for better press anywhere he could find it. Security restrictions were bent just enough to take a film crew from Fox News and other friendly reporters along to record the president’s daring do.

CNN, a network less captive to the administration line, interviewed Iraqis on the record and American military personnel off the record and got a less favorable assessment of the president’s visit. Many Iraqis wondered why Bush met only with a few members of the U.S. hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council and not with a single ordinary Iraqi citizen. Also, one soldier told CNN that although it was nice of the president to come for a visit, that soldier’s main goal remained getting out of Iraq alive.

That candid statement by somebody actually taking fire in the turkey shoot against American GIs should lead to questions about the sincerity of symbolic pats on the backs for the troops. Recently, politicians and bureaucrats--who have done their best to personally avoid combat—needlessly risking the lives of American troops in faraway foreign military adventures has become as American as pumpkin pie. If they had wanted to support the troops, they wouldn’t have sent them there in the first place.

Questions of sincerity aside, Bush’s pilgrimage to Iraq may backfire in the long-term. Bush’s last macho public relations gimmick—landing on an aircraft carrier in a military flight suit under the banner of “mission accomplished”—surely did. The subsequent costly guerrilla war has belied such spin. Similarly, the president’s spreading of holiday cheer in Baghdad may tie him even more closely to a policy that is likely to fail. Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon visited Vietnam, but that did not prevent a subsequent U.S. defeat in the war.

Bush is unlikely to get many foreign troops to help suppress the Iraqi guerrillas and is politically constrained—if he wants to have any hope of reelection—from throwing more U.S. forces into the quagmire. Thus, the insurgency-- emboldened by talk of exit strategies circulating in Washington and by plans to accelerate turning the country over to “self-rule”--will not go away and will probably get worse. The guerrillas, like those in Vietnam, know that the Achilles’ heel of the American superpower is a citizenry that tires of foreign military adventures when they are of dubious value for national security. Henry Kissinger (a man who should know) once said that if guerrillas are not losing, they are winning.

During the Bush’s trip, he tried to jawbone a victory by using testosterone-laden slogans, such as “we will prevail” and “we will stay until the job is done.” Facts on the ground, however, show that those statements contain more hot air than the Bullwinkle balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

Despite all of the intentional spin during his tour of the Baghdad airport, Bush’s Iraq policy may be best symbolized, although inadvertently, by the central photo op of the trip: the president presenting a turkey to the troops.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 5:48 p.m. EST

R. REID MCKEE: BLAME IT ON THE BLAINE, 12-02-03

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in Locke v. Davey, a case that challenges the constitutionality of Washington State's Blaine Amendment.

A Wall Street Jounral editorial notes that"a remarkably ecumenical coalition of libertarians, conservatives, blacks, Catholics, Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews -- everyone from the Institute for Justice and the Landmark Legal Foundation to the Becket Fund and the Black Alliance for Educational Options" have filed amicus briefs calling on the court to strike down the law.

Posted by R. Reid McKee at 12:50 p.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: THE CANADIAN THOUGHT POLICE, 12-02-03

Are we next? My good friend David Bernstein, one of the bloggers at the Volokh Conspiracy has a piece at National Review Online on how the Canadian thought police have undermined free speech.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:28 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: TRADE POLICY NONSENSE, 12-02-03

I sure hope the current controversy over Bush’s steel tariffs puts to rest the fallacy that protectionism is in the “national interest.” Here’s a clear case where wine for one interest group (steel producers/workers) is poison for another (auto producers/workers, among others). “Buy American” is not only wrong-headed; it’s also incoherent.

P.S.: I'm taking great pleasure at Bush's predicament.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 10:00 a.m. CST

KEITH HALDERMAN: APOLOGIES 12-02-03

I must apologize because the tales that I posted three Blogs below are apparently false. There are real Stella Awards and the above link provides a way to sign up for free case updates. I want to thank Arthur Silber for helping me learn a valuable lesson about being too quick to pass on things that have not been checked out.

In the back of my mind I knew those stories were too good to be true, however, with such things as the war on the Iraqi people, the war on people who use certain kinds of drugs, and the recently passed Medicare “reform” my capacity to believe in acts of gross stupidity has become enormous.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 10:45 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: FLAMES & OXYGEN, 12-02-03

My debate on Atlantis II continues. I'd like to reproduce here some points of interest.

Does anyone honestly believe that World War II would have happened anyway without World War I and the events that transpired in its aftermath? Ayn Rand often said that World War I—the war"to make the world safe for democracy"—led to the birth of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Russia, and that World War II led to the surrender of three-quarters of a billion people into communist slavery. These were"unintended consequences" writ large, on a scale that was previously unimaginable.

With Rand, I would agree that ideas, especially philosophical ideas, are the driving force of history. If human beings accept a virulent strain of philosophy, it is no less lethal than being exposed to a deadly strain of virus. But there are all sorts of inoculations and vaccines that one can take to prevent a virus. And there are all sorts of things that one can do, once a virus has hit, to shorten its course, making certain, for instance, that it doesn't spread.

Thus, if one looks strictly and only at the philosophy of Nazism, outside of any historical context, one could certainly conclude that this was a militant, racist, anti-Semitic creed that had to lead, by its very nature, to death and destruction. But just because the logical implementation of an idea can lead to death and destruction does not mean that it must. When Rand endorsed the view that ideas have efficacy, she didn't endorse the view of philosophic determinism: that ideas must result in certain outcomes, regardless of context or circumstance. There is nothing inevitable or inexorable about it. Nazism, the flame, needed oxygen to flourish. The loss of Germany in World War I, the Treaty of Versailles, and the Great Depression were all its sources of oxygen. [...]

Everything about Islamic fundamentalism reeks of death and destruction. But there is nothing inexorable about this. Such ideas do not exist or flourish in a historical vacuum. They can only become lethal in the context of a certain constellation of historical conditions. That is why Rand emphasized the political conditions of tribalism's rebirth (which I mentioned in an earlier post). That is why I've emphasized that so much of what is happening today is a product of the collision of fundamentalism with a particularly short-sighted,"pragmatic," interventionist US foreign policy, which created the conditions for the empowerment of autocrats, despots, and fundamentalists. You cannot abstract virulent ideologies from the conditions that allow them to rear their ugly heads. If such things are deadly flames, past US foreign interventions have been their oxygen. (And, furthermore, you cannot abstract US foreign policies from the system of interventionism that Rand characterized as the"New Fascism," since such policies emerge from, and perpetuate, that system.)

So too, we can't abstract the current situation from the history of US foreign policy: from US enrichment of the Saudis—who export fanatical Wahhabism to the rest of the world; from US involvement with the Shah of Iran—which led to the rise of the Khomeini theocracy; from US encouragement of Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war—which bolstered the Hussein regime; from US encouragement of the mujahideen in Afghanistan—which empowered the Taliban.

Granted: We can play the game of"what if" forever. So, let me play that game, briefly, by quoting from Thomas Fleming's book The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I (Basic Books, 2003). Fleming is worth quoting at length:

If the United States had refused to intervene in 1917, would a German victory in 1918 have been a better historical alternative? The answer is debatable. By 1918, the Germans, exasperated by the Allied refusal to settle for anything less than a knockout blow, were contemplating peace terms as harsh and vindictive as those the French and British imposed, with Wilson's weary consent, in the Treaty of Versailles.

There is another possibility in this newly popular game of what-if. What would have happened if Wilson had taken William Jennings Bryan's advice and practiced real rather than sham neutrality? Without the backing of American weaponry, munitions, and loans, the Allies would have been forced to abandon their goal of the knockout blow. The war might have ended in 1916 with a negotiated peace based on the mutual admission that the conflict had become a stalemate. As a genuine neutral, Wilson might even have persuaded both sides to let him be a mediator. Lloyd George's argument—that unless the United States intervened, Wilson would have no place at the peace table—was specious at best. Both sides would have needed America's wealth and industrial resources to rebuild their shattered economies.

Germany's aims before the war began were relatively modest. Basically, Berlin sought an acknowledgment that it was Europe's dominant power. It wanted an independent Poland and nationhood for the Baltic states to keep Russia a safe distance from its eastern border. Also on the wish list was a free trade zone in which German goods could circulate without crippling tariffs in France, Italy, Scandinavia and Austria-Hungary. It is not terribly different from the role Germany plays today in the European Economic Union. But the British Tories could not tolerate such a commercial rival in 1914 and chose war.

Some people whose minds still vibrate to the historic echoes of Wellington House's propaganda argue that by defeating Germany in 1918, the United States saved itself from imminent conquest by the Hun. The idea grows more fatuous with every passing decade. A nation that had suffered more than 5 million casualties, including almost 2 million dead, was not likely to attack the strongest nation on the globe without pausing for perhaps a half century to rethink its policies. One can just as easily argue that the awful cost of the war would have enabled Germany's liberals to seize control of the country from the conservatives and force the kaiser to become a constitutional monarch like his English cousin.

A victorious Germany would have had no need of political adventurers such as Adolf Hitler. Nor would this counterfactual Germany have inserted the Bolsheviks into Russia and supported them with secret-service money. Lenin and Trotsky might have agitated in a political vacuum in Switzerland unto a crabbed old age. Or ventured a revolution in their homeland that would have come to a swift and violent end. On the eve of the war, Russia had the fastest-growing economy in Europe. The country was being transformed by the dynamics of capitalism into a free society. The war created the collapse that gave Bolshevism its seventy-year reign of blood and terror.

Let me conclude by reiterating a Hayekian point: All human action—by its nature—leads to unintended consequences. But war especially leads to far-reaching unintended consequences, and most of these are negative. The reason for this is that it creates a dynamic that feeds on destruction: destruction of life, liberty, and property. It creates a host of institutions geared toward such destruction, and these institutions—no matter how important they might be to a relatively free society's defense of life, liberty, and property—have had long-lasting effects on their diminution over time. That's because the institutions left in place after the war are almost always consolidated in the peace, and used to further erode the very values that they were put in place to"defend."

If war is necessary against those who have attacked innocent American lives, then it is all the more necessary to pay careful attention to the kinds of strategies and institutions that are created to forge this battle. The Iraq war was unnecessary, in my view, to the defense of American security—but it has now extended the dynamics of unintended consequences in ways that we have yet to understand fully. We have not learned the lesson of the complications that result from"pragmatic" US intervention abroad. We don't wish to concern ourselves with the new oxygen that we may be providing for future flames—that will consume more American cities and lives.

Karl Marx said it best when he declared that history repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce.

And the joke, I fear, is on us.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:30 a.m. EST

R. REID MCKEE: FAIR WEATHER FEDERALISM?, 12-01-03

Richard Garnett of Notre Dame Law School has a good article over at National Review Online responding to some recent high-profile charges that conservatives are"fair-weather federalists" when it comes to supporting federal action on abortion and marriage. His article echoes many of the points I made in an earlier L&P post.

Posted by R. Reid McKee at 5:35 p.m. CST

KEITH HALDERMAN: 2002 STELLA AWARDS, 12-01-03

A friend of mine, Bob Skyler, sent this to me in an e-mail and it speaks for itself.

It's time once again to review the winners of the annual"Stella Awards". The Stella's are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonalds. That case inspired the Stella awards for the most frivolous successful lawsuits in the United States. Unfortunately the most recent lawsuit implicating McDonalds, the teen's who allege that eating at McDonalds have made them fat, was filed after the 2002 award voting was closed. This suit will top the 2003 list without question.

The following are this year's winners: 5th Place (tie): Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little toddler was Ms.Robertson's son.

5th Place (tie): A 19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

5th Place (tie): Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up since the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation, and Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found, and a large bag of dry dog food. He sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the sum of $500,000.

4th Place: Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor's beagle. The beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog might have been just a little provoked at the time by Mr. Williams who was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

3rd Place: A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, $113,500 after she slipped on a soft drink and broke her coccyx (tailbone). The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

2nd Place: Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, successfully sued the owner of a night club in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. This occurred while Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.

1st Place: This year's run away winner was Mr. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mr.Grazinski purchased a brand new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On his first trip home, (from an OU football game), having driven onto the freeway, he set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, the R.V. left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Mr. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising him in the owner's manual that he couldn't actually do this. The jury awarded him $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. The company actually changed their manuals on the basis of this suit, just in case there were any other complete morons buying their recreation vehicles.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 10:45a.m. EST

JIM HENLEY: A IS A IF YOU CAN GET THE FORMS SIGNED 11-30-03

There's a new blog by a Coalition Provisional Authority employee who has adopted the curious pseudonym,"John Galt." To see just how connected with individual enterprise the war and reconstruction are, scroll down to the beginning of the blog and read up - simply getting Galt to Iraq constitutes a ten-month bureaucratic nightmare. And his reward? More bureaucratic nightmares.

It's like I always say: Whatever else war is, it's a massive government program. Definitely keep an eye on the blog, though, if a critical one. It will be an important resource. (Unqualified Offerings.)

Posted by Jim Henley at 8:16 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: “FREE MARTHA STEWART,” 11-30-03

James Ostrowski has an entire page dedicated to the worthy cause of freeing Martha Stewart. Well done! I wonder if Martha appreciates the help she is getting from fans of a long-dead Austrian economist.

Posted by David T. Beito at 1:00 p.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG:
COLUMBUS, IRAQ, AND MANICHEAN IMPERIALISM, 11-29-03

[cross-posted at In a Blog’s Stead]

I haven’t read Thomas Bowden’s book The Enemies of Christopher Columbus, but judging from the excerpts printed in the October 2003 issue of the Intellectual Activist (an Objectivist magazine), there is a disturbingly close connection between Bowden’s views on Columbus and the Bush regime’s current foreign policy.

Bowden sets out to defend Columbus’s reputation against his multiculturalist critics. Along the way he makes some good points – e.g., when he argues that “in his religious zealotry or his acceptance of slavery” Columbus “behaved with neither more nor less wisdom than his contemporaries,” and that he should be primarily judged not by the failings he shared with his contemporaries but by the qualities that set him apart – his independent judgment, enterprising spirit, and courage to explore the unknown.

From the fact that Columbus had his good points, however, does it really follow that the critics of Columbus are completely wrong-headed? For Bowden it does. If we are not to demonise Columbus, then it seems we must hagiographise him instead. All the critics of Columbus are “multiculturalists,” and to be a multiculturalist, in Bowden’s view, is to hold some combination of ethical relativism on the one hand and visceral antipathy toward Western civilisation on the other.

This characterization is of course quite wrong. Certainly some self-styled “multiculturalists” fit Bowden’s description, but it’s absurd to suggest that they all do. For a less hysterical definition of multiculturalism, see Bhikhu Parekh’s article What is Multiculturalism? and my comments thereon.

Bowden objects to the American Indian Movement’s description of Columbus’ discovery as “the beginning of the American holocaust, ethnic cleansing characterized by murder, torture, raping, pillaging, robbery, slavery, kidnapping, and forced removals of Indian people from their homelands.” Bowden doesn’t deny that the description is accurate, exactly; he grudgingly grants the existence of what he calls “particular instances of European mistreatment of Indians.” But he regards such grievances as fundamentally unimportant, in light of the great good that was achieved by the European colonisation of the Americas.

If you think this seems like an oddly utilitarian point for a Randian like Bowden to be making – the alleged legitimacy of sacrificing a few individuals for the sake of a greater social good – hold on, things get worse. In response to the question “Even if Western civilization is superior to Indian savagery, does that necessarily imply that Europeans had a right to displace the Indians?” Bowden replies: “Savagery and civilization cannot co-exist in the same geographical area. Civilized people must be able to depend on their neighbors to understand and obey the principles of individual rights .... Primitive peoples, who have not yet reached the concept of a universal moral law governing all human beings as individuals, cannot act on such principles .... In that context, the European immigrants had an absolute right to settle America and displace the Indians – by force when necessary.” Though he generously makes an exception for natives willing to assimilate, like “Pocahontas, who married an Englishman.”

Where have we heard this sort of thing lately? Oh yes, Ann Coulter’s advice about U.S. policy in the Islamic world: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” (Remarks like Bowden’s and Coulter’s are the sorts of lines one would hesitate to give a villain in fiction; they seem too over-the-top. Perhaps the reason fact is stranger than fiction is that fact has no shame.)

In light of the defense of Native American rights put forward by the great 16th-century Aristotelean classical liberals Bartolomé de Las Casas and Francisco de Vitoria, it seems that Bowden, himself (qua Randian) an Aristotelean classical liberal, is turning his back on his own intellectual heritage.

In addition to the morally indefensible claim that a higher level of civilisation constitutes a license to initiate force against the persons and properties of the less civilized, Bowden also makes the historically indefensible claim that, given the “savagery” of the Native Americans, European colonisation of the Americas could not be expected to have occurred peacefully. For a refutation of this assumption, see Carl Watner’s 1983 JLS article Libertarians and Indians: Proprietary Justice and Aboriginal Land Rights, which documents William Penn’s success in negotiating peaceful and consensual property transfers between natives and Europeans. (Watner also shows that the claim that European and native conceptions of property were entirely incommensurable is exaggerated.)

Bowden’s claim that natives recognised no principles beyond the customs of their own group (“each tribe was a law unto itself, with brute strength the ultimate arbiter”) ignores such phenomena as the Iroquois Confederacy. Brutal acts and practices on the part of natives are proof of their barbarism; brutal acts and practices on the part of European settlers are unimportant exceptions to Western civilised values. Bowden also amalgamates and homogenises the hundreds of different native tribes – agricultural or pastoral, nomadic or town-dwelling, pacific or militaristic, they all seem the same to him. “These predominantly nomadic, stone-age tribes had nothing worth stealing.” (Except their land, of course. Is Bowden really prepared to claim with a straight face that the “Trail of Tears” policy was motivated by self-defense?)

For Bowden the “fundamental issue is whether the settlement of America by the bearers of western civilization over the past five centuries was good or evil.” Couldn’t it be good in some respects and bad in others – with both respects being important and non-negligible? Apparently not. Bowden favours a Manichean view of the world; in a remark that makes explicit the contemporary political relevance of his arguments, he writes: “As President Bush said to the nations of the world at the start of America’s war against terrorism, ‘You’re either with us or against us.’ Those who would defend and uphold the values of Western civilization must be willing to make the same bold declaration to the enemies of Christopher Columbus.”

In adopting this Manichean stance Bowden no doubt thinks he is being true to Ayn Rand’s insistence on viewing the world in black-and-white terms. (The pages of the Intellectual Activist are illustrated by a heavy-handed and humourless cartoon feature titled, appropriately, “Black & White World.”) But he is not.

In “The Cult of Moral Grayness” (chapter 9 of The Virtue of Selfishness), Rand makes clear that the proper application of black-and-white evaluations is at the level of principles, not people: “most people are morally ‘gray,’” that is, they act on “mixed, contradictory premises and values”; but while there “may be ‘gray’ men ... there can be no ‘gray’ moral principles.” Rand thus never suggests that in judging an individual like Christopher Columbus or an historical event like the colonisation of America one must always make a blanket judgment of good or bad. On the contrary, she acknowledges the existence of “complex issues in which both sides are right in some respects and wrong in others,” and insists that in such cases “the most rigorous precision of moral judgment is required to identify and evaluate the various aspects involved – which can be done only by unscrambling the mixed elements of ‘black’ and ‘white.’” Far from rejecting all nuance in moral evaluation, Rand writes: “unless one is prepared to dispense with morality altogether and to regard a petty chiseller and a murderer as morally equal, one still has to judge and evaluate the many shadings of ‘gray’ that one may encounter in the characters of individual men.”

One can criticise Columbus, and the European colonisation of America generally, without either denying the existence of some admirable qualities in the colonisers or rejecting Western civilisation per se. In the same way, one can criticise U.S. foreign policy without being a terrorist sympathiser. The misapplication of black-and-white principles to the level of individuals and events leads Bowden into becoming an apologist for Europeans’ past oppression and murder of Native Americans; a similar mistake leads too many to become apologists for the United States’ ongoing oppression and murder of Muslims in the Middle East today.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 05:40 p.m. EST

R. Reid McKee: DORF ON SCALIA. 11-28-03

Michael Dorf's latest column over at FindLaw contains some extremely curious observations regarding Justice Scalia. While it's not unusual to hear liberal commentators wish that Scalia would just shut up, I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone predicate his wish on the following reasons.

Dorf thinks that Scalia is a fool for pointing out in dissent what the logic of a majority opinion requires. Dorf also believes that Scalia's project of de-mystifying the Court's rulings is mistaken from a pragmatic standpoint because it expedites legal changes with which Scalia stridently disagrees. As an example, Dorf advances the novel thesis that Scalia's dissent in Lawrence v. Texas is at least partially responsible for the recent Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling permitting same-sex marriage. Never mind that Scalia's dissent carries no precedential value whatsoever, was not cited in the Massachusetts court opinion, and stakes out a posture completely inimical to result reached by the Massachusetts court.

Dorf also seems to consider Scalia a judicial oddity of the highest order. So strange is Scalia that Dorf suggests that a strict legal analysis of Scalia's opinions is insufficient to reveal the true nature of his motivations. Instead, Dorf claims that we may find the reasons for Scalia's bizarre behavior on the bench only by using a law professor's powerful variety of Freudian psychoanalyis. Using this method, Dorf eventually reaches the conclusion that Scalia risks the"boomerang effect" of his dissents because (GASP!) he really believes what he's writing and (even worse!) he considers the Supreme Court's recent opinions on abortion, gay sex, and affirmative action to be not only incorrect but also constitutionally illegitimate. Dorf states:

"At the risk of venturing into psychological speculation, I would offer the following very tentative hypothesis: Justice Scalia views his colleagues' approach to some issues--such as abortion, affirmative action, and gay rights--as not merely different from his own, but as fundamentally illegitimate."

But why is this a tentative hypothesis? And, moreover, why is it psychological speculation? Any observer could reach this conclusion simply by reading Scalia's opinions and taking him at his word. There is no need to humiliate Justice Scalia by placing him on the psychologist's couch, unless you believe him to be in need of treatment.

Dorf's consternation over why Scalia might speak out about against the Court's sleight of hand, even when it might be politically counterproductive for him to do so, is evidence of a mistaken assumption about the role of judges in our society and a misapprehension of conservative jurisprudence as a whole.

Conservatives believe that a justice's allegiance should be to the law, not present-day political considerations at the expense of the law. Consequently, a judge should attempt to state the law correctly whenever he is called to interpret it. As well, he should not shy away from stating what he believes to be the correct interpretation because of his own calculation of the potential political consquences of his words, especially if he is writing in dissent. That Dorf considers Scalia's 'tactics' to be peculiar and in need of a prolix explanation should tell us something about the extent of the judicial crisis in America and its deep roots in the politicized academy.

Posted by R. Reid McKee at 3:05 p.m. CST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: TIME TO ABOLISH THE “NO CREDIT SYSTEM” 11-29-03

The following is an article from the next issue of the Alabama Observer:

One of the worst examples of the “dumbing down” of higher education in Alabama is the “No Credit” (NC) system in the departments of English and Math at the University of Alabama. English adopted NC during the academically trendy 1970s. Math only made this move in 2000. In great part, the department acted in response to pressure from administrators who apparently believed that NC would prop up enrollment figures in Math. Higher enrollments, of course, also mean higher appropriations from the state, a guiding obsession of many administrators.

Under the NC system, a student who would otherwise receive D or in F in most entry-level English and Math courses receives NC (no credit) instead. The student is then permitted to retake the course as many times as necessary, until a grade of A, B, or C is awarded.

NC grades do not count toward the student’s grade point average, nor do they figure into course averages. The effect of the NC system is to inflate the grades of students taking freshmen English and Mathematics course, by moving lower grades “off the books.” It also inflates departmental averages, especially in English, where a student cannot receive a grade below “C” in English composition.

Auburn does not have NC for English and Math nor apparently do the UA’s peer institutions in neighboring states. Shelton State Community College, despite its other shortcomings in terms of free speech, also does not have it.

NC is also inconsistent and arbitrary. A student in a required History 100-level course, for example, who would get a “D” or “F” is assigned a mere NC if he or she turns in the same performance in equally required Math or English 100-level courses. What possible justification can there be for such a double standards?

Several defenses have been put forward to justify NC. Some administrators and faculty have asserted that introductory English and Math are unique subjects because they test “skills” rather than “mastery of a body of knowledge” (as in history classes). Others have justified NC as necessary to removes the “punitive aspects” of grading thus encouraging students to keep trying.

We are not persuaded by the claim that writing is a skill (presumably like typing) and thus fundamentally different than history. Both subjects in our view are equally necessary for a well-round liberal arts education. As in History 100 level courses, it is simply impossible to teach college-level English Composition and entry-level Math in isolation from reading, analysis and criticism.

The NC system is also based on contradiction. Under its rules, a student can take an advanced history (which usually requires considerable writing) but still only receive NC in their entry-level writing course.

For this reason, the Alabama Scholars Association has proposed that the NC system be abolished in favor of the traditional, and more rigorous, A through F grading method. As the flagship educational institution in our state, the University of Alabama has an obligation to keep its standards just as rigorous as those of Auburn or, for that matter, Shelton State Community College. NC undermines this obligation.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 10:00 a.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: POOR HILLARY...NOT! 11-29-03

On Thanksgiving, few people realized that Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with fellow-Democratic Senator Jack Reed (R.I.), ate dinner with American troops at the military base in Bagram, Afghanistan. Why? Because their visit was trumped by Bush's surprise arrival in Baghdad, which was played by every major news station in what seemed to be an endless loop. So where was the footage of Hillary on what might well be the biggest TV-watching day of the year? Nowhere. It wasn't until yesterday that I saw some real coverage of Hillary's trip and an announcement that she is proceeding on to Iraq, where she and Reed currently are. Now, however, she is following in Bush's footsteps rather than breaking new ground. No PR she secures can possibly compete with the image of Bush stepping out from behind the curtain to deliver a Thanksgiving address in person, with tears in his eyes; it is an image seared into the consciousness of the American public. The BBC coverage of Hillary's trip will probably be typical. It opens with the words,"Hot on the heels of George W Bush, former first lady Hillary Clinton flew into Iraq to meet US troops." The headline in the Minneapolis Star Tribune reads,"Day after Bush visit, Hillary Clinton asks new U.N. role." China Daily's headline:"Hillary Clinton arrives in Baghdad hot on heels of Bush." She must be fuming. Meanwhile, the Bush administration carefully and repeatedly claims that the trip was planned in early October...which may be true. Arriving on the Thursday before Hillary's weekend visit might not have been a deliberate upstaging. At this point, however, I simply assume everything I hear from the Bush administration is a lie. It saves time.

I can't rouse sympathy for Hillary...on a number of grounds, not the least of which is that she used the publicity from eating turkey in Afghanistan to call for an increase in the number of troops stationed there. According to the New York Times Hillary declared,"I believe we need more troops...I don't think we have an adequate number of troops to do what needs to be done." Of course she favored more international involvement, especially that of NATO and the UN. I wonder what pronouncements will result from her stint in Iraq? A call for internationalism has already and predictably occurred, along with a constant but oblique jabbing at Bush. She declared of Iraq,"I'm a big believer that we ought to internationalise this, but it will take a big change in our administration's thinking. I don't see that it's forthcoming." She is walking a thin line in all her references to Bush. She is careful not to attack a"Commander-in-Chief" during time of war: a smart political choice. And her criticism is always couched in terms of outdoing him...more troops, more internationalism, more compassion for Iraqi and Afghan women. Her praise of Bush is the sort that damns with faintness. When asked, Hillary made a vague reference about troop morale always being raised under such circumstances.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 5:10 a.m. EST. Please visit McBlog for more commentary.

JIM HENLEY: TERM LIMITS ADDENDUM 11-28-03

I swear I did not time my term-limits demurral to coincide with this Calpundit item. It just worked out that way.

Posted Jim Henley at 5:40 p.m. EST

JIM HENLEY: THE TERM LIMITS ILLUSION? 11-28-03

In an item below, David Beito writes

I am sympathetic to term limits but have my doubts that they will get to the crux of the problem. Extremely restrictive legislative term limits, for example, have not prevented California from becoming, and remaining, a fiscal basket case.

I've never quite gotten the enthusiasm for term limits among libertarians - the practical enthusiasm anyway. I can see the" civics class" appeal in the idea of" citizen legislators. I just don't see term limits as such doing anything to moderate spending or limit regulation.

The theses, as I understand them, are

1)"Career legislators" get too chummy with each other, and thus roll over for each other's pork-barrel proposals. Term-limited citizen legislators would not be so clubbable.

2) The committee system gives enormous power to senior legislators who become chairmen. The chairmen measure their success by how much money they appropriate for their areas. Term-limited citizen legislators would not have as much seniority. Nor would they be as vulnerable to punishment by committee chairmen (they would still exist) because the citizen legislator does not fear a chairman can deprive him of his lifetime seat by a well-timed attack on spending in his district.

3) Career legislators value reelection at all costs, and find the easiest way to assure reelection is to avoid spending cuts. Spending cuts are more likely to energize a constituency for one's removal than spending increases. Term-limited legislators all know they will be gone sooner or later, so they'll feel more free to legislate prudently, where prudence is what we limited-government enthusiasts think it is.

4) Career legislators get too chummy with the rent-seekers that swarm around government. Term-limited"outsiders" will be better poised to resist their blandishments.

Every one of these arguments strikes me as dubious at best.

First, Limited-term service is not so limited, really. US Term Limits wants Congressmen to pledge to serve no longer than three two-year terms (total of six years). It is not so easy to find their proposed senatorial term limits on their own website, but according to a Daily Illini article from 1998, the organization would like to restrict Senators to two six-year terms.

Okay, add it up: if you serve six years in the House, then twelve years in the Senate, that's 18 years. That's a career, particularly in an age when the average American will change jobs four of five times over that span.

Oh, you say. We can't all be Senators. Some states have dozens of Congressmen. No state has so many as three Senators. Logically, your average representative has to know the odds are against her making that jump.

True enough. But logically, the odds are against becoming a Congressman in the first place. Politicians are like athletes or salespeople, the ones who succeed anyway - boundlessly self-confident, not so convinced that odds apply to them. Term limits won't change the fact that running for office means putting yourself on the line to be rejected or ignored by the public - an emotionally risky undertaking - and deciding to do so in the face of enormous obstacles. Structurally, the election process selects for a certain ability to ignore reality. (Readers who enjoy motivational tapes may wish to amend the previous to" certain willingness to shape reality." Knock yourself out.)

Once they're in Congress, they're primed to consider themselves Senate material. So they act accordingly. That means the vote-related structural incentives to spend and regulate still apply to them, term-limited as they are.

Add in the fact that State government will still be the ideal incubator of national office-seekers - it will still be the place where you learn how to get a nomination, mount a successful campaign, mark up a bill, serve on committees, position yourself for the next career stage: the whole legislative toolkit. Even if those offices are limited, you still add 6 to 12 years to the non-career of your citizen legislator.

Let's allow, though, that most US Representatives are not going to make the jump to the Senate, and will at some point realize it. How does that effect the four theses?

Not much, I'd say. Let's consider chumminess. Think of actual jobs you have, or actual organizations you work in. Does it really take you longer than six years to make friends and allies, to identify shared interests? Does it take that long for newcomers to pick up on ways in which it is better not to rock the institutional boat? Not remotely. These things happen relatively quickly. And they'll continue to happen quickly in a term-limited legislature too. Two years is a long time.

At most our citizen representative faces a single election cycle with indifference - his third term. (How much indifference? Not much, probably. We'll come back to that.) What will that mean for his or her actual behavior? Maybe not so much. Consider Dick Armey in his last autumn of service. Armey's public statements make clear he thought going to war with Iraq was a bad idea. But when it came time to vote on the use of force resolution, he supported it. Freedom from reelection concerns did not equate to voting his conscience. He still had party and personal loyalties to consider. Our term-limited federal legislators will still, like term-limited state ones, come out of the party system - a party system in which, as we must surely recognize by now, neither major party has any commitment to limited government. More importantly, they will have chosen to enter the party system in the first place.

Now, about those rent-seekers. Who are they? They are, among others, former representatives and senators. They are, that is, the logical career path for your term-limited legislator with nowhere else to go. These are not people your term-limited legislator is more inclined to flout than a career legislator was. If anything, he has an incentive to be more solicitous to them - they are his next meal ticket. Not his only meal ticket. (He can always return home to the car dealership, the exterminating business or the law store. Though business might slack off a bit if everyone hates him for killing the grant for the Kumquat Museum. And again, he probably came from State Office or a congressional staff position, not from private business.) Or he can hope to become a judge, a servant on"independent" commissions, a political appointee in the executive branch or any of the other"public service" career paths that will not go away in an environment of term limits - all the jobs where our citizen legislator still needs the favor of the party establishment and knows it from day one of his first of three terms.

I don't lean to heavily on the argument that term limits will make spending and regulation worse, by putting inexperienced lawmakers at the mercy of the"permanent government" of staffers and lobbyists. I just don't think that term limits make anything better. I'm inclined to think that the central problem is American culture, not legislative culture. The country wants to spend without paying, and will find ways to do that. For a time. Term-limits advocacy is a way to avoid tackling the larger problem.

Posted Jim Henley at 12:45 p.m. EST

R. Reid McKee: A RATIONAL RESPONSE TO RATIONING? 11-28-03

I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to respond to David Beito's post earlier this week. It has been a busy week.

The National Right to Life Committee's rationale for supporting the recent Medicare"overhaul" seems pretty clear from the materials posted on their website. Like many rightists, the folks at the NRLC are concerned about the specter of government-imposed rationing of health care services (an odious prospect which they compare to state-sponsored involuntary euthanasia). This might seem like the stuff of dystopic sci-fi novels if it weren't already happening in places like the UK and Canada.

The NRLC seems to have made the strategic decision that Medicare itself cannot be defeated and instead can only be"morally managed" at best. Consequently, it appears they have thrown their support behind the new Medicare bill because they sincerely believe it will prevent the government from rationing health care services for the elderly in the future.

I wonder how adding $400 billion in debt to an already sickly Medicare system assuages anyone's fear of rationing in the future. Sadly, the materials posted on NRLC's website don't address this burning question.

Posted by R. Reid McKee at 11:05 a.m. CST

JIM HENLEY: THE OTHER CASUALITIES, 11-28-03

The US Army News Service reports

Doctors with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center say early casualty assessments suggest service members are returning with a wide range of brain injuries - from mild concussions to coma or death - in larger percentages than the military's rule of thumb.

This suspected rise in an injury notoriously debilitating to victims and hard for doctors to diagnose may result from the terrorists' explosive arsenal and vulnerabilities in current U.S. combat gear, according to experts.

Researchers are trying to validate the results of an early survey in which two thirds of tested soldiers had suffered brain trauma. They've identified two linked causal factors driving the possible change: 1) Guerrillas prefer high explosives - mines, projectiles, suicide bombs - for attacking troops, at least partly because current US body armor is so good; 2) In contrast to the body armor, current helmets are not so good.

"It's like a pan on your head, held on by shoestring webbing," said Sgt. Tyler Hall of the 14th Combat Engineers, Fort Lewis Washington."The Kevlar is a crude system. When you take a hit, it rings your head like a bell."

Hall has been under treatment for injuries, including head injuries, since August.

"Day to day I'm getting better. A fog is finally off my eyes. It's frustrating, very frustrating. It's like fighting something you don't see, no one sees, but you can feel it," said Hall, who's improved under intense care at the center but still suffers headaches, nausea, and memory loss."I still misplace things. I just want to be able to ride in a car again without getting sick."

The army is testing a new helmet that may help (the MICH). Fewer unnecessary wars would help too, but that's outside the army's control.

Posted Jim Henley at 10:40 a.m. EST

JIM HENLEY: TRAVESTY, 11-28-03

Literary critic Hugh Kenner is dead. (Via Electrolite.) That is a travesty. So is a famous computer program Kenner wrote - Kenner being, to the best of my knowledge, the only renowned scholar of modernism who was also a regular columnist for Byte magazine. Travesty is a text-transformation algorithm that makes new strings from old, based on a few simple parameters. The first version I used, which I got from poet Henry Taylor, ran from a DOS command line. Taylor used it to make one poem. Jackson Mac Low made an entire book using it.

Naturally, Travesty is now available as a web applet. It works all too well on blog entries. Here's one of mine. Give it a try yourself.

More good news from Iraqi allies, according attacks on U.S. base and daughter of a top Iraq say they have certain know, in bother wife and this. The point is not to try to make sense of a top aide to ousted Iraq: We've been here before. And what do you know, in both the fullest reprint of the AP story, when the Washington Times about al-Douri: U.S. forces and their Iraq: We've been here before. And what do you the fullest reprint of the point is not to try to make sense of his movements and cannot be a Lieutenant Colonel any major role in league with him and daughter of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a top aide to ousted Iraqi general appeared in front of the Iraqi fugitive suspected of masterminding to an early-November, the Washington Times about al-Douri, a top Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, is dying attacks against coalition forces for this story. There's current wave of a fugitive: BAGHDAD — Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri were taken interesting to sources in Iraq say they're in orchestrating to sources for" closies." We've been promoted.") I'll spare you knowledge of his movement to try to make sense of a top Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, is dying of leukemia and this. The point is not be playing attacks against coalition forces. A military spokesman says the AP story in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad. That's they're in orchestrating the fullest reprint of the U.S. base and their Iraq say they're in league with him al-Douri were taken intent.

Travesty can be set for degrees of"garbledness." The above is"Least Garbled." At Most Garbled, you get more coinages and gibberish:

More is nothered anot there top Iraqi general and has been in Iraq saide the of making Octobe a story, which sense wonderested they're good news familiar with his on orces a to is on Glober of Baghdad. And thing attactic wonder 30 story, why, which seems the the point and have arrent Colonel David Hogg milition Globe try the July in for Saddition onel vaguely regimes against coalitive.

My favorite Travesty coinage was"endiscriming," which has stuck with me for over a decade. Mid-garbled gives you fewer coinages, but odder sentences than least garbled:

More good news from Iraqi fugitive suspected of attacks, the U.S. for this movember 30 story, which seems to that Hogg is video file.) More good news front of masterminding any more, according sources familiar wife and the fullest report."The point of a fugitive: U.S. base and daughter of Baghdad. That's the Boston Globe story, when the July incident wave certain knowledge of attacks one town of the Iraqi general appeared in Iraqi general appeared in orchestrating to feel vaguely report that we're just going forces familitary spokesman says their Iraqi fugitive: U.S. for this. The point is behind that we're doing for this movember 30 story turned up an early-Novement wave certain knowledge of Samarra, north of the outrage. But Googling October WorldNetDaily reprint is a report."The taken interested Iraqi general appeared that we're doing any more, according for" closies." We've arrested of a top Iraq say the Washington Times about al-Douri: BAGHDAD — Izzat Ibrahim al-Dour

The results of running good writing through Travesty, as opposed to blog posts, can be striking, but that is left as an exercise for the reader.

Posted Jim Henley at 10:32 a.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: MY LAST WORD ON BUSH'S BRITISH VISIT, 11-28-03

As a final word on Bush's recent visit to Britain during which he was a guest at Buckingham Palace...Although it has received little play in the American media, the British and independent presses have given wide coverage to just how regrettable his three-day sleep over was. Buzzflash commented,"They [the royals] have had 30,000 visitors, and it took the Bushes one visit [3 days] to destroy the gardens...." Parts of the Buck House garden that date back to Victoria's time -- as well as exotic plants and rose bushes that had been planted by the Queen and the Queen Mom -- were destroyed by Marine One and other helicopters as they landed on the large H's the Bush people put in the lawn. The British taxpayer will have to pay for much of the damage, a prospect that prompted the Sacramento Bee to suggest Bush send a check. The Queen's prized flock of flamingoes may be beyond the power of money to"solve", however. Because they could have flown into the rotors, the flock was removed and apparently so traumatized by the Secret Service's handling that there is some question as to whether the birds will return. Bush's personal boorishness as a house guest made a deep impression on the Queen who was reportedly silent during much of his visit. Silence is Liz's renowned manner of expressing disapproval; the more silent she is, the more trouble you're in. One can imagine the quiet that surrounded her guest's request to replace the window panes at the palace...the ones that made it through the Battle of Britain but not through what the British press called"the battle of the Bushes." Utter stillness probably greeted the fact that Bush brought 5 chefs of his own into Buck House -- The Telegraph dubbed them the"five Yankee fajita-fillers"; I guess Bush had been warned about British cuisine. (Of course, the personal chefs sort of undercut Bush's cultivated"man of the people" image, complete with a much=publicized lunch of fish and chips with Blair at Dun Cow Inn in the town of Sedgefield.) And, as a final insult...because of the Secret Service's installation of the mass gadgetry needed for certain security equipment, the royals couldn't get a decent TV picture and missed their regular shows. What are the odds that Liz and Phillip will want to hang with the Bushes again?

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 7:00 a.m. EST. Please visit McBlog for more commentary.

DAVID T. BEITO: DUBYA’S SPENDING SPREE, 11-27-03

The Sacramento Bee has a good piece on Dubya’s habit of spending our money like a drunken sailor. Speaking on the Medicare Bill, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire puts it bluntly, “This bill, put quite simply is the largest intergenerational tax increase in the history of the country.”

There is a heated, informative, but oddly incomplete, discussion at the Volokh Conspiracy on this issue. David Bernstein argues that the current spending spike is “living proof of the need for term limits." I am sympathetic to term limits but have my doubts that they will get to the crux of the problem. Extremely restrictive legislative term limits, for example, have not prevented California from becoming, and remaining, a fiscal basket case.

Bernstein’s new colleague at Volokh, Stuart Benjamin, wonders whether divided government is the solution, pointing out the relative fiscal probity of the early Clinton years.

A missing element in the Volokh debate is the possible impact of Dubya’s big government foreign policy. Could it be a cause, or at least a facilitator, of the GOP’s spending spree? It only makes sense to ask if the recent conservative, and sometimes libertarian, enthusiasm for nation-building and international planning tends to take the steam out of any effective critique of the domestic welfare state.

For example, how can conservatives and libertarians make a persuasive ideological case against Dubya’s recent domestic proposals if they also supported the recent massive 87 billion dollar domestic spending program for Iraq? If one of the policies made sense why didn’t the other? Both, after all, were based on the same social welfare/pork barrel premises and rationalizations. In my view, the pro-war conservatives and libertarians really don’t have a good answer.

I resist resorting to the much-overused phrase “war is the health of the state” but it does address a missing element in this discussion.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:54 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: THANKSGIVING MEMORIES, 11-27-03

I just wanted to echo the words of my friend Wendy McElroy, in extending my thanks and appreciation to all my friends & colleagues here at L&P, and in extending a Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Growing up and still residing in Brooklyn, New York, I have nothing but fond memories of this holiday, a time for the Four Fs: Family, Friends, Fun, and Feast! I'd add"Football" to that mix, but the truth is that when I was a kid, the TV was tuned to movies like"Miracle on 34th Street" and the classic Laurel & Hardy version of"Babes in Toyland":"March of the Wooden Soldiers." Then, there was the"tradition" of the ape movie marathon, which local TV stations showed with regularity for years and years: the original versions of"King Kong,""Son of Kong," and"Mighty Joe Young." What apes had to do with Thanksgiving, I had no clue... but it was fun to watch. Now, if we want to bring back those memories, we have to pop in a DVD or VHS tape.

And, of course, there was and is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade---always colorful and entertaining. Except one year, when the winds up Broadway were so severe that the huge balloons went crashing into lampposts and the sides of skyscrapers. When the Cat in the Hat went careening down the street, workers had to jump the balloon, stabbing at it, trying to deflate it before it killed anyone. That action, the"murder" of Cat in the Hat, traumatized the kids more than the actual balloon mishaps. I know, I know, this was not funny... but we still laugh at the news reports trumpeting the Attack of the Killer Balloons.

Most of all, however, Thanksgiving is about the Three L's: Counting one's blessings of Life, Liberty, and Love---the production and appreciation of material and spiritual values so important to our existence as human beings. A Happy day to all... now... pass me the candied sweet potatoes.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 9:45 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: NEW ARTICLE BY ELAND, 11-26-03

Our own Ivan Eland has just written the following article: "Generating Crises and Winning Votes by Pretending to Solve Them.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 6:00 p.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: THANKSGIVING, 11-26-03

My hat is off once more to political activist extraordinaire Mary Lou Seymour. Mary Lou finds reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day by looking at the wondeful community of friends and fellow-travellers that is made possible by the Internet. And the lady is right. So many people enrich my life in a manner that would have been unimaginable to me six years ago. This is particularly important to me as I live in rural Ontario on a 40-acre farm with my husband, two dogs and five cats; in winter, we are sometimes snowbound and isolated for days on end. And, yet, I never feel cut off from the world, the swirl of friendship and family, the roller coaster ride of politics...because of the Internet community (or communities) that have become my second home. This community is not merely a sustaining force on a personal level, it is also a dynamic political force for freedom. As society in the macrocosm -- the institutions and laws that rule us -- grow ever more discouraging, it is the microcosm -- the blogs, the discussion lists, the rebellious sparks -- that offer encouragement and hope. I extend my thanks to every Libery and Power contributor, every reader. You enrich me.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 12:30 P.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: THE THREE-STATE SOLUTION, 11-26-03

I've argued for many months now that the idea of democratic nation-building in Iraq sweeps aside too many historical realities. As I state here:

U.S. occupation of Iraq to bring about"democratic" regime change would not be comparable to the German and Japanese models of the post-World War II era. Iraq is a makeshift by-product of British colonialism, constructed at Versailles in 1920 out of three former Ottoman provinces; its notorious internal political divisions are mirrored by tribal warfare among Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, and others. By contrast, both Germany and Japan possessed relatively homogeneous cultures and the rudiments of a democratic past, while retaining no allies after the war. And in the case of Japan, the U.S. had the full cooperation of Emperor Hirohito, who stepped down from his position as national deity, to become the figurative head of a constitutional monarchy.

Now that the US is in Iraq, and people are debating"exit strategies"---strategies that, in my view, sidestep the structural dynamics of occupation and reconstruction---I think that the"three-state solution" proposed by Leslie H. Gelb is worthy of our attention. I still believe that the US should get the hell out of Iraq, but I also believe that the current unending enforcement of Iraqi unity will be no more effective than previous attempts. Gelb argues correctly that"a unified Iraq, artificially and fatefully made whole from three distinct ethnic and sectarian communities ... has been possible in the past only by the application of overwhelming and brutal force." Gelb continues:

The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south. ... This three-state solution has been unthinkable in Washington for decades. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, a united Iraq was thought necessary to counter an anti-American Iran. Since the gulf war in 1991, a whole Iraq was deemed essential to preventing neighbors like Turkey, Syria and Iran from picking at the pieces and igniting wider wars. ... The ancestors of today's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds have been in Mesopotamia since before modern history. The Shiites there, unlike Shiites elsewhere in the Arab world, are a majority. The Sunnis of the region gravitate toward pan-Arabism. The non-Arab Kurds speak their own language and have always fed their own nationalism. ... The Ottomans ruled all the peoples of this land as they were: separately. In 1921, Winston Churchill cobbled the three parts together for oil's sake under a monarch backed by British armed forces. The Baathist Party took over in the 1960's, with Saddam Hussein consolidating its control in 1979, maintaining unity through terror and with occasional American help. ...

Today, the Sunnis have a far greater stake in a united Iraq than either the Kurds or the Shiites. Central Iraq is largely without oil, and without oil revenues, the Sunnis would soon become poor cousins. The Shiites might like a united Iraq if they controlled it — which they could if those elections Mr. Bush keeps promising ever occur. But the Kurds and Sunnis are unlikely to accept Shiite control, no matter how democratically achieved. The Kurds have the least interest in any strong central authority, which has never been good for them. ...

For decades, the United States has worshiped at the altar of a unified yet unnatural Iraqi state. Allowing all three communities within that false state to emerge at least as self-governing regions would be both difficult and dangerous. Washington would have to be very hard-headed, and hard-hearted, to engineer this breakup. But such a course is manageable, even necessary, because it would allow us to find Iraq's future in its denied but natural past.

There are certainly historical precedents for state deconstruction: the fall of the Soviet Union led to the formation of independent, more ethnically"homogeneous" states; and, as Gelb points out, the fall of Tito led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and the ugliness of Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and so forth. Clearly, in all cases, ethnic and tribal rivalries were simply held in check by an even more overwhelming statist brutality; the end of that brutality allowed the old rivalries to flourish, paving the way for the kind of dissolution that has occurred.

Gelb does discuss the enormous problems of moving toward this kind of dissolution in Iraq. For example, as I mentioned yesterday, the Turks might not take too well to a new Kurdish state on their borders. And the possibility for the emergence of two new oppressive neighboring states that might war on one another---a Pan Arabist Sunni state and a new Shiite fundamentalist state---looms large.

But I do believe that Gelb's article speaks to deeply embedded historical realities. Of course, as I said, I'd like nothing more than to see the US withdraw completely; I just don't believe that this is going to happen. The"three-state solution" is worth considering, at the very least, as one possible middle strategy for an eventual US exit. I just worry about the time-frame of"eventual." Ultimately, any such"solution" is best negotiated in international diplomatic circles, rather than with a US-led occupational force that is being attacked mercilessly on a daily basis. US troops are supposed to be used to defend the security of the United States; they are not nation-builders. They don't deserve this fate.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 11:55 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: SEND HIM TO PRISON, 11-26-03

Should John Hinckley Jr. be permitted to leave the mental hospital where he’s been confined since he tried to kill President Reagan in 1981? ((Background) Yes—so he can go to prison. Hinckley's acquittal by reason of insanity was one of the most ludicrous things ever to have occurred in a criminal court. The idea that an illness made him undertake the complex series of activities involved in shooting Reagan is utterly absurd. Obviously he chose an end and means appropriate to achieving it. That he did it to impress a movie actress may demonstrate his squandering of a life but not his lack of free will or his ability to know right from wrong. Thomas Szasz has it right: the insanity defense and verdict should be abolished forthwith (along with all involuntary psychiatric"hospitalization"). Behavior is not illness;"hospitals" to which one is compeled to go are prisons; and forced"treatments" are assaults.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 10:00 a.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: DEFENDING JANICE BROWN, 11-26-03

Nat Hentoff defends Janice Brown. He cites examples of her strong civil liberties record.

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

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: THE INSEPARABLE LINK BETWEEN DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN POLICY, 11-26-03

My debate on Atlantis II continues. I wanted to highlight here, for L&P readers, a crucial point made by Ayn Rand, novelist and philosopher. Rand once wrote:"Foreign policy is merely a consequence of domestic policy." She understood that government intervention had consequences that did not cease at the nation's borders. That radical insight seems to have been lost on a whole generation of her followers, many of whom supported the invasion of Iraq.

The administration that many Objectivists and libertarians oppose domestically is perpetuating the same policies abroad. And the actions it takes abroad are having horrific domestic effects---rising deficits and debts, an endless array of Patriot Acts that will reinvigorate a network of domestic spies on the American people, and the ever-present threat of a resumption of military conscription.

And whatever the administration's views of the hazards of long-term occupation, the simple fact is that this is not about the level of US troop commitment. The problem is that once the US invaded, it set into motion a system of Iraqi occupation and reconstruction, involving billions of dollars of corporate-military-government largesse, all at the expense of the American taxpayer and at the expense of American lives. That system takes on a life of its own---it is an extension of the corporate statist domestic"mixed economy" in the United States that Rand once called"the new fascism." One can't simply"opt out." That's the dynamic of government intervention---whether it takes place within the United States, or without. When I talked about this for months prior to the US invasion, I was shot down by pro-war colleagues who told me that worrying about the occupation was no reason to oppose the invasion: as if, suddenly, Ayn Rand's principle to plan"long-range" for the achievement of an integrated existence didn't apply.

Bush is not going to" cut and run." The US will not" cut and run." The system that was put into place by this invasion makes such an action a virtual impossibility.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 9:45 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: MURDERED G.I.s MAY HAVE DIED FOR A LIE, 11-26-03

That's the title of Richard Cohen's article, a good one, which appears in yesterday's New York Daily News. Check it out.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 8:15 a.m. EST

EDITOR'S NOTE: JIM HENLEY IS THIS WEEK'S GUEST BLOGGER

For the next two weeks, Jim Henley (following in the footsteps of Radley Balko) had kindly agreed to be a guest blogger at Liberty and Power. Over the next few weeks, we can look forward to a wide variety of guest bloggers coming from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

For those of you who don’t know, Jim’s blog is Unqualified Offerings. And away we go.....

JIM HENLEY: IRAQI GOOD NEWS WATCH 11-25-03

Last week I posted a consideration of the famous NYT"Op-Chart" numbers to Unqualified Offerings, and I've been keeping an eye out for further updates. One barometer is the power situation in Baghdad. Raed, posting to Where is Raed in Salam Pax's absence, reports that Baghdad is currently getting power for three hours a day.

in the summer time"THEY" said we'll have electricity 24 hours a day after the"peak time of summer" ! Zeen what the hell is the new excuse? I'm sure it's because of the peak time of winter .. blah

The pattern I've noticed with most"good news reports" from Iraq is that the real good news is always, not what has happened so far, but what the reports assure us is soon to happen. By the time"soon" actually arrives, there's a new"soon" to replace the unmet old one.

Posted by Jim Henley at 6:18 p.m. EST

ARTHUR SILBER: TAKING STOCK, 11-25-03

I have just completed a lengthy review of the Bush Administration's record of achievement -- or, should I say, record of destruction -- in both the domestic and foreign policy spheres. Here is my conclusion:

So today, we have a Republican administration -- an administration that constantly tells us that it is on the side of freedom and liberty, as if repeating it often enough will somehow make it true, regardless of its actions -- which threatens individual rights and freedom in countless ways. We have an administration which imposes a massive debt on our country that will endanger our economic health for decades and generations to come. And we have an administration which engages in futile and needless foreign incursions and occupations, thus revealing our military limitations as much (or more) as such a strategy reveals our strengths, and which only aids our genuine enemies in their efforts to recruit more willing and eager fighters fed by their resentment and hatred for the greatest power on earth, which seeks to impose its will on entire nations, when our legitimate needs of self-defense would make it clear that we are doing precisely the opposite of what the facts, history, and judgment would dictate.

It is almost impossible to comprehend how completely and consistently destructive a single administration could be in less than three years -- and yet this is the signal achievement of the Bush Administration. This is truly the nightmare of the neoconservatives, led by Irving Kristol, brought to full, horrifying reality. Day by day, they lead us down the path to dictatorship by means of domestic legislation and foreign wars, and then they falsely tell us to be prepared for the day when we might willingly welcome a military dictatorship -- all in the name of"protecting" our freedoms.

If there is evil in the world, and I believe there is, this is as close to it as you are ever likely to see. We don't need to wait for terrorists to destroy us, and to cause the final obliteration of the unique and once-glorious American experiment. We are doing it ourselves -- and everyone who supports this administration on its fatal course, to whatever extent, aids in that destruction.

Over the period of the last eight or nine months, people have sometimes remarked that they find my writing too angry, that it's"uncomfortable" to read some of the entries here. I have a question for all such people: if you value human freedom, human liberty, and basic human dignity -- if you value human life -- can you be too angry when you see all those values being systematically destroyed, as they are now being destroyed on a daily basis by our current government? And, in one of the most monstrous inversions it is possible to imagine, can you be too angry when the administration repeatedly tells us that it is doing all of this in the name of saving our freedom and liberty?

For the reasons I have discussed above and in many other entries here, I do not see how it is possible to be too angry in such circumstances -- not if one truly cares about and values human life and liberty, and not if one gives a damn. It is only because people cannot or will not see the meaning and implications of our current course that they remain so complacent -- and it is by means of such complacency that we may be led into the final descent into hell, as so matter-of-factly laid out for us by General Franks.

But if you do give a damn, I urge you to resist it with all your strength, and fight against it in every way you can. It is not too late yet -- but one day soon, it may be. Don't wait until then to speak out against these policies. It won't matter how loudly you protest then -- if you are able to protest at all.

You can read my entire brief against the Bush Administration here.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 05:45 p.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: TOUGH CHOICE, 11-25-03

President Bush and the congressional Republicans have prevailed over the Democrats in the manner in which Medicare will be massively expanded to cover prescription drugs. The Democrats wanted the government to pay for the retirees’ drugs directly. The Republicans believe the coverage should be provided through government subsidies to HMOs, insurance companies, and employers. The Democrats’ method is closer to socialism. The Republicans’ is more like fascism. Some choice. Either way, a new permanent entitlement has been entered on the books, one that will crush working generations under an avalanche of taxes and lead to further government control of medical care.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 2:10 p.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: THE “RIGHT TO LIFE” AND MEDICARE, 11-25-03

The National Right to Life Committee has gone on record in favor of the Medicare bill. Perhaps Reid McKee would like to comment.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:53 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: POPPER’S FALSIFIABILITY STANDARD AND IRAQ, 11-25-03

A question: Which position, pro-war or anti-war, better meets the standard of “falsifiability” as proposed by Karl Popper

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:53 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: MORE ON IRAQ, 11-25-03

My debate with pro-war"libertarian" and"Objectivist" advocates continues on the Atlantis II discussion list; my newest entry is here in full. In response to critics who argue that I am imputing certain"evil" motivations to the Bush administration, I respond:

I've never projected"hidden" motivations onto people's actions: I take them at their word. Bush stated he wanted to go into Iraq to engage in"regime change"---and his administration plotted that prior to 9/11---and he stated he wanted to nation-build in Iraq... and I am against those stated goals. No reason to impute other motives here; the stated ones are good enough for me to repudiate. But once you add the whole network of corporate-statist reconstruction to this picture, it gets uglier and uglier.

[...]

As for any comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam: Iraq is, indeed, Iraq---and the situation is potentially much worse... because whereas the Vietnam War was, essentially, a civil war between North and South, Iraq is not even a homogeneous nation. It is a makeshift by-product of the British colonization of Mesopotamia, made up of warring tribes... Sunnis, Kurds, Shiites (indeed, multiple tribes within the Shia), Turkomanns, and so forth. The US would stand a better chance of"building" new nations if it broke up Iraq and started from scratch. But that won't happen---especially since Turkey, the US ally to the North, would be dead-set-against any independent Kurdistan on its borders that might inspire a similar movement for independence among Kurds within Turkey (who are already being blamed for the recent bombings in Istanbul).

This is a freaking mess. And it was dictated predominantly by a neoconservative political agenda. The fountainheads of terrorism in the Middle East are more likely to be found in Pakistan (another nation with nuclear weapons) and Saudi Arabia---but they too are US allies. And they won't be touched. Not in any significant way. And, no, this is not a call to Bomb Mecca. It is simply a recognition of the reality of US government and corporate ties to---and complicity with---oppressive, duplicitous regimes. The cycle won't end, until its broken---fundamentally, radically.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 09:30 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: ALBERT JAY NOCK AND THE MEDICARE BILL, 11-25-03

Via LRC blog, here is the following gem from Albert Jay Nock. It speaks beautifully to recent media claims that support for the Medicare bill represents an alliance of “strange bedfellows:”

“The old proverb about politics making strange bedfellows is quite wrong; it makes the most natural bedfellows in the world. Crook lies down with crook in any bed that interest offers; swine snoozes with swine in any pen that interest opens.” Albert Jay Nock, A Journal of These Days, 1934.

Speaking of the Medicare bill, the implications for future taxpayers are bleak as this article from Robert J. Samuelson from the Washington Post, provided via Radley Balko shows.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:03 a.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: FRANKS' STRANGE STATEMENTS 11-24-03

A few days have passed since I read of recent remarks made by retired General Tommy Franks...and I still don't know what to think. Franks stated that if another terrorist attack with high casualties occurs in the U.S., then the constitution will likely be scrapped in favor of a military dictatorship. His comment was made during an extensive interview with the men's lifestyle 'zine Cigar Aficionado (Dec. '03). So many documents have been strategically leaked over the past few weeks that I have to wonder why he would become the first high-ranking official to openly speculate on an American dictatorship? Especially since Franks -- leader of the military campaign to take over and occupy Iraq -- is usually so camera-shy. Especially since the speculation is reportedly coupled with glowing praise for Bush from whose service he so abruptly retired in July. And why drop such a bombshell in such an odd, unlikely venue. I have been thinking about it nonstop and something just feels wrong about Franks' interview, as though a trial balloon was being floated to see where the wind would blow it. At least, this will probably be the way some foreign governments will interprete Franks' comments unless they are contradicted by the Bush administration. (After all, how would Americans interprete similar comments from a high-ranking, ultra-prominent foreign general?) Political and military leaders have taken an oath"to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Just repeating the oath that allowed them to assume office would be sufficient. But there has nothing but official silence.

I am not a conspiracy theorist -- tho' I am sure conspiracies do exist -- but...something feels wrong here. I cannot find the full interview online, at least not for free, as Cigar Aficionado requires a subscription before it renders the goods -- alas! The fullest account of the interview, complete with excerpts, seems to come from the far-right NewsMax. According to NewsMax, Franks also stated that Hussein's regime had an intent to"do harm" to the United States. What is Franks' intent?

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 12:45 P.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

SHELDON RICHMAN: WHICH WAY WILL THEY GO? 11-24-03

Simon Lazarus had a good piece in the Sunday Washington Post Outlook section about the dilemma Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Thomas will face when the partial-birth-abortion ban passed by Congress reaches them. These three have been responsible for introducing some overdue limits to Congress’s stretching of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to permit anything the politicians’ hearts desire. But the justices also are well-known opponents of federal jurisdiction over abortion, as represented by Roe v. Wade. As I noted in an earlier post, the ban was passed under the abused Commerce Clause. So what will the Federalist Trio do? We’ll have to wait and see.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 11:30 a.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND ARMED SELF-DEFENSE, 11-24-03

“Violence merely exercised in self-defense, all societies from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilized, accept as moral and legal. The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi...When the Negro uses force in self-defense, he does not forfeit support – he may even win it, by the courage and self-respect it reflects.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1959. Quoted in Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 215.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:03 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: LINKS TO A CONTINUING DEBATE, 11-23-03

For follow-up to my Atlantis II debate on the war in Iraq, go here.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:45 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: WHERE ARE THEY?, 11-22-03

I have been having a two-day debate on the Iraq war over at the Atlantis II-Yahoo group, which sports quite an interesting array of individualists and libertarians. You can find my two posts here and here. Here's an excerpt from one of the posts:

Whoever had the burden of proof prior to the US invasion of Iraq---in terms of proving Hussein's possession of said weapons---it is clear that at this point, the burden of proof is on the US to provide evidence of said possession. The burden is on those who assert the positive. All these months of looking has uncovered nothing... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING... of any significance. The Niger nuclear story was a farce, a fabrication, or worse; the chemical and biological agents and mobile laboratories are nowhere to be found. If the US was concerned about dispersal of weapons to terrorist groups, the invasion and the chaos it created could have led to the very dispersal it feared. But the fact is, the US practically walked into Baghdad. No WMDs were used against US troops, and no WMDs have been used against US troops even during the occupation (an occupation, btw, that has no end in sight, and that, the army reports today, will require at least 100,000 troops through 2006). So, where are they? If the threat to US security was so imminent, where in God's name are the WMDs?

And if nobody is in a position to draw"absolute conclusions" about this, why on earth did the United States go to war? We were sold a bill of goods: that Hussein had WMDs, and that the US needed to make a preemptive strike to get rid of them---and him. We were told that"regime change" was necessary not only to get rid of these weapons, but also to keep them out of the hands of terrorists---and the Bush administration did nothing to dissuade Americans from believing that Hussein had ties to such terrorists, including the Al Qaeda gang responsible for 9/11. We were also told by our latter-day neoconservative Wilsonian internationalists that democratic"nation-building" was essential to the future stability and peace in the Middle East.

When the US government lied its way into Vietnam, people accused the Johnson administration of suffering from a" credibility gap." We are now experiencing a credibility chasm. If being appalled by the lies, distortions, and unrealizable plans for democratic nation-building in Iraq---a country that has no history of democracy and that does not even constitute a single nation---makes me a"bitter, cynical, crass, and overly simplistic pink-o commie peacenik," then visitors will have no trouble finding my home in Brooklyn. It will be the one with the Hammer and Sickle flying overhead.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:15 p.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG:
THE POLITICS OF SELF-DEFENSE, 11-22-03

Fellow L&P blogger Wendy McElroy writes that electoral politics is illegitimate from a libertarian point of view because political office per se is"a claim to authority over other people's lives whether or not they have consented to that authority ...." On her view, anyone who assumes political office is thereby"saying that they have some claim to jurisdiction over the person and property of other and unconsenting people."

As an anarchist, I of course agree that political office is illegitimate; but I am not convinced by McElroy's inference from this fact to the conclusion that no libertarian can in good conscience seek or assume political office.

In 1995 I wrote an article, Dismantling Leviathan From Within, in which inter alia I offered a reply to a similar argument by George Smith. Let me quote from the relevant section of that article here:

So let us now suppose that Smallville is menaced ... by a violent religious cult calling itself the Minions of Moloch, who have announced their intention to invade Smallville and slaughter the unbelievers. Each Minion of Moloch wears a Ha-Ha Hat, which from the Minions' perspective symbolizes their right to inflict torture on anyone who refuses to venerate Moloch. Lana Lang ... proposes to disguise herself as a Minion of Moloch, Ha-Ha Hat and all, and to infiltrate the enemy camp in order to spy on them, learn their plans, and steal or sabotage their stock of weapons. Once again Clark Kent seeks to dissuade her:"Tsk, tsk, Lana! Don't you realize that in order to disguise yourself as a Minion of Moloch you'll have to wear the Ha-Ha Hat? You know what the Ha-Ha Hat stands for; according to the conventions of the Minions, it signifies the legal right to torture unbelievers. By putting the Ha-Ha Hat on your head, you will be taking on that legal right. But the legal right to torture unbelievers is clearly illegitimate, and if you assume it you will in effect be aggressing against us all." ...

What's wrong with Clark Kent's argument is that the convention associated with the Ha-Ha Hat is accepted only by the Minions of Moloch. It is true that, according to that convention, when Lana dons the Ha-Ha Hat she thereby assumes the right to torture unbelievers. But Lana does not accept that convention; on the contrary, she is working to bring that convention to an end.

The same holds true for the libertarian politician. The legal rights of aggression that are associated with political office exist only within the conventions of statist culture; the libertarian who assumes such office rejects those conventions, and so does not recognize any such legal rights. Smith would say that this is only a subjective psychological fact about the libertarian politician, and has no effect on the"objective" fact of"the powers of political office." But if by"the powers of political office" Smith means legal authority, then this too ultimately consists only in subjective psychological facts about the attitudes of participants in the statist culture, attitudes our libertarian politician does not share. And on the other hand, if by"the powers of political office" Smith means actual capacities, we've already established that no aggression is involved in the mere possession of unexercised capacities for aggression. Hence I cannot see that there is any ethical basis for the Principled Objection to libertarians' holding political office ....

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 01:10 a.m. EST

R. REID MCKEE: JFK AND THE DALEKS?!, 11-21-03

Since JFK and his legacy has been the hot topic of the week here on Liberty and Power, I wonder if any of the historians on this blog have any thoughts about Robert Dallek's recent book on JFK.

As a sidenote, I can never see Dallek's name without thinking about the Daleks from my favorite Sci-Fi TV program of all time Dr. Who. I truly pity Mr. Dallek if he ever does speaking engagements in the UK because he must be subjected to an endless stream of jocular observations about his surname. I mean, just imagine the reaction if a British author named Mr. Klingon visited the United States on a book-signing tour.

Posted by R. Reid McKee at 10:35 p.m. CST

R. REID MCKEE: WHEN BAD LAWS COLLIDE, 11-21-03

Sheldon Richman has an interesting post on the law banning partial-birth abortion which was recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.

I normally don't respond to other posts on this blog, but since his post effectively ends with a question I feel at liberty to do so.

If I understand him correctly, Richman asks: Since the partial-birth abortion ban was passed under Commerce Clause and partial-birth abortion has no obvious connection to interstate commerce, does this mean that the law is unconstitutional?

Well, no, thanks to the modern Supreme Court's expansive, non-textual reading of the Commerce Clause. The sad truth for proponents of constitutional government is that, under current law, Congress is basically permitted to regulate any kind of economic activity, no matter how trivial or how localized.

Under the most extreme view held by the Court from 1937-1995, Congressional power under the Commerce Clause was essentially plenary in nature (i.e. Congress could do whatever the hell it pleased). Fortunately, the Rehnquist court has decided to reinvigorate Commerce Clause jurisprudence in a feeble, but meaningful way with cases like Lopez and Morrison. In both of these cases, the Supreme Court overruled laws which attempted to regulate criminal, non-economic behavior on the tenuous theories that this criminal conduct had an aggregate effect on interstate commerce. In Lopez, the federal law in question made it a crime to possess a gun inside a school zone. The statute in Morrison on the other hand attempted to provide a federal civil remedy to victims of crimes of violence motivated by gender. Quite rationally, the Supreme Court noted in Morrison,"We...reject the argument that Congress may regulate noneconomic, violent criminal conduct based solely on that conduct’s aggregate effect on interstate commerce."

So, under current supreme court commerce clause jurisprudence a federal ban on partial-birth abortion would likely be upheld because it does not involve non-economic or criminal activity. Whatever one's feelings on partial-birth abortion there is no denying that it is an economic activity, at least in the sense that these procedures are bought and sold throughout the country. [Note: I do not mean to imply that the federal partial-birth abortion ban will survive larger constitutional scrutiny. A similar state law was already overturned by the Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart, and this law appears to be headed for the same fate.]

However, under the pre-New Deal case law, a law banning D&X abortions under the Commerce Clause probably would not have survived constitutional scrutiny. This case law, which took the text of the constitution more seriously, only permitted Congress to regulate activities which directly affected interstate commerce (remember: the Constitution only authorizes Congress to regulate" commerce...among the several states"). Of course, it's very hard to see how partial-birth abortion does this.

It is useful to recall that in 1936, Congress would have never considered passing such a law. Congress largely left such regulation to the states as a matter of custom, and abortion was criminally proscribed in most, if not all, of the states at the time. Today things are very different, to say the least. Now, thanks again to non-textual and expansive readings of the Constitution, free access to abortion is guaranteed as a matter of constitutional right in every state in the land. Disatisfaction with status quo and the undemocratic manner in which this result was achieved provides the impetus for Congressional regulation...and BOOM-POW!! We now have a federal law banning partial-birth abortion.

What is interesting to me about this whole tale is how errors in constitutional interpretation inevitably beget more errors. In order to combat the Court's jurisprudence on abortion, Congress has responded with a law which attempts to ban the most gruesome product of Roe under the aegis of the Commerce Clause. The final result is that both Congress and the Supreme Court are presently battling over matters which should have been left to the states in the first place. Sheesh. If only the Founders could see us now.....

Posted by R. Reid McKee at 10:30 p.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: I PREFER NATIONAL LAMPOON'S JFK COUNTERFACTUAL, 11-21-03

Nigel Hamilton in today’s New York Times writes an alternative history timeline of what would have happened had JFK lived.

Under his counterfactual, JFK pulled out advisors from Vietnam, President Colin Powell in the 1990s withdrew Clarence Thomas as a nominee for the Supreme Court and accomplished the impossible by implementing something called “Universal Health Care.” Clinton still became president but waged a “multilateral” war against terrorism (just like in Kosovo I suppose).

In the more irreverent spirit of Sheldon Richman's blog in L and P, I would recommend instead the virtues of National Lampoon’s"had JFK lived" counterfactual from 1977. I was thumbing through my dog-eared copy a few months ago and found it to be hilarious, though scathingly un-PC in today’s climate.

As I recall, it includes the following “counter-facts”: Cassius Clay was the last U.S. soldier to die in Vietnam in 1965 thus making Floyd “TKO” Patterson perpetual champion, Castro’s beard fell out and he ended up playing in a skid-row Mambo Band, JFK waged war in Ulster against the British during the 1960s, and the anti-war cause was led by the WASPY “Lake Shore Drive Seven” who rallied to the slogan: “No Orangeman ever brought down my property values.”

Oh yes, the constitutional amendment limiting presidential terms was repealed enabling JFK to be reelected yet again in 1976. It pictured his wife standing by his side when he took the oath of office for the fifth time. She was Christina Onassis!

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:50 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: BAD HISTORY AGAIN, 11-21-03

In making yet another strained attempt to compare Germany and Iraq, Glenn Reynolds favorably links to another blog which claims, astonishingly, that the U.S. launched a "preemptive" war against Germany in 1941! The author does not seem aware that Germany was the first of the two countries to declare war.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:48 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: I'LL NEVER FORGET, 11-21-03

With the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination a day away, I’m once again reminded that I will never forget where I was the day that this president nearly killed me. That is, the day, more than a year earlier, that he decided to challenge the Russians over some useless missiles in Cuba.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 7:10 a.m. CST

WENDY McELROY: CNN'S LOWBALLING, 11-21-03

To follow up on the blog entry in which I mentioned CNN's curiously wrong reporting on Bush's planned visits to the families of British soldiers killed in Iraq... Bush finally opted to visit the families"privately," foregoing press coverage, undoubtedly because he knew the American families of dead soldiers would be outraged at his extending this courtesy to"foreigners" while utterly ignoring them. Of course, the"solution" wasn't either to cancel the visits or to make similar ones with American families; the solution was to slip the Brit visits in under the American public's awareness radar. The privacy tactic also defused accusations in the UK press about Bush making PR profit off corpses and mothers' tears. It was a smart move; the press that would have emerged from the visits might have been dicey. Some of the family members were already complaining to newspapers, blaming Bush for their sons' deaths and accusing him of selecting only families that wouldn't embarrass him on camera. Better to turn the cameras off than to risk comments that weren't scripted. At least, in its one-line report, CNN got it right yesterday: Bush visited the families of soldiers killed in Iraq, not civilians killed in 9-11.

CNN's report on the protest march in the streets of London on Thursday was not so accurate: for example, its estimate of participants. Estimates on the number of protesters at almost every march vary widely, which is not surprising. Organizers have a vested interest in portraying their event as a success and, so, often provide a high figure. Police have a vested interest in downplaying the extent of public unrest and rebellion against laws/policies and, so, usually give a low figure. These two estimates set the extremes; in between, the truth lies somewhere. On Thursday's march, the organizers claimed 200,000 participants; Scotland Yard placed the number at 70,000. Followng the logic of"truth in the middle", many UK papers, like the Telegraph estimated the crowd at about 150,000. Why, then, is CNN reporting the turnout as 50,000? And CNN is not alone; much of the US media seems to be stuck on that figure, which makes me wonder if there was a White House press release that estimated even lower than Scotland Yard did. US reporters don't usually take the time to check"facts" disseminated by administration releases ...but it would be difficult for a large news organization, like CNN, who has reporters in London to be unaware of a blatantly self-serving discrepancy from a self-interested source -- if, indeed, such a press release was issued.

And, while I'm on the topic of low-balling figures, why did CNN report that"hundreds" of protesters assembled in Miami to oppose globalization. It seems clear that there were thousands and thousands of protesters. The Palm Beach Post, a local Florida newspaper, reported,"Following a morning of tense police standoffs with protesters at the Free Trade Area of Americas summit in downtown Miami, a large union-sponsored march of about 10,000 people Thursday went off peacefully in the afternoon." That's the same figure used by The Atlanta Journal Constitution, a prestigious and credible newspaper published in CNN World Headquarter's backyard (so to speak). The Northwest Indiana Times ran a piece on union participation in the protest and stated of one union alone,"The USWA, 2,000 strong, led Thursday's peaceful protest march through the warm Florida sun against the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty, which proponents claim will foster economic growth and opportunities, promote regional integration and strengthen democracies." Where did CNN come up with the vague but incredibly misleading figure of"hundreds"?

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 7:40 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

KING BANAIAN: ON NOT VOTING, 11-20-03

I am reminded in reading Wendy McElroy's post on non-voting of Leonard Read's "Regardless of Choice, Vote!".

Let it be re-emphasized that the two-party system (1) presupposes a general agreement on constitutional questions and the aims of government and (2) aims at, if it does not presuppose, honest candidates contending for office within the framework of that constitution. In this kind of political order, each office seeker is supposed to present fairly his own capabilities as related to the agreed-upon framework, voting being for the purpose of deciding which candidate is more competent for that limited role.
One must earn my vote, not assume it to be driven by some rational choice of the lesser of two evils. Read discusses how never voting for trimmers --"one who changes his opinions and policies to suit the occasion" -- can induce men and women of integrity to begin to run for office.

Bush lost my vote long before 9/11; those who support steel import quotas after getting a slim majority in West Virginia are the very definition of trimmers. If we're to return our government to what was agreed to be the aims of government, not voting is more than a choice -- it's a calling. When the best we can offer for an alternative is Joe Lieberman, that's not much of a choice.

Posted by King Banaian at 8:45 p.m. EST.

WENDY McELROY: MOCKING THE VOTE, 11-20-03

I often receive queries about and challenges to my arguments against voting, especially the arguments against the electoral variety. With the LP being prominent within the broader libertarian movement, such discussion is inevitable and healthy but I haven't had heart for it lately. I am not disillusioned, shifting in my beliefs, or tongue-tied...I am just generally tired of hearing myself talk on the same subject year in and year out. I remember Murray Rothbard telling me how tired he was of people asking,"But who would build the roads in a libertarian society?" The next time someone asked, he cracked under the pressure and snapped back,"No one! There'd be no roads! We'd all be walking through fields. And we'd be barefoot too because no one'd make shoes without the damned government."

But given that I just received a thoughtful email from a young libertarian questioning my voting stand, I should take the time to explain why I do not advocate casting a ballot. (I will restict my comments to electoral politics; I would argue differently re: voting on referendums, etc. Also I reprint portions of the relevant email with permission from the author.) He writes,"You seem to be making the error of not considering the difference between power and the use thereof. With few exceptions, people have power over others. They have fists they can punch with, feet they can kick with, and can use many objects as weapons. There is nothing immoral about merely having this power."

I do not confuse a capacity or power with the exercise of that capacity. Assuming office *is* an exercise of a capacity and not merely a capacity itself. Casting a ballot to enable someone to assume office is also the exercise of a capacity. So we are talking about the exercise of a power. The real question is whether that exercise is valid and that power expresses libertarianism.

The questioner writes,"Furthermore, people can expand this power through such means as purchasing a firearm or running for political office."

I believe he is confusing and conflating two entirely separate issues. Purchasing a firearm is a right of self-defense that derives from an extension of everyone's right to self-ownership; it is an act that infringes upon no one's similar right and usurps nothing rightful from any other human being. Assuming political office is not a natural right. The office itself is a claim to authority over other people's lives whether or not they have consented to that authority -- indeed, whether or not they have rejected the authority by e.g. refusing to vote on principle. The peron who assumes office is saying that they have some claim to jurisdiction over the person and property of other and unconsenting people. But without the explicit consent of peaceful individuals, how can anyone claim to properly impose restrictions on their lives and properties? And *impose* is not too strong a word. Government is backed up with the force of police power, the force of a gun. If you do not pay taxes, if you do not obey law, the ultimate sanction is a gun to your head and the confiscation of what is yours...both in terms of your rights and of your goods.

It may be argued that a libertarian politician would violate rights and confiscate goods (if only through taxation) less than other politicians...and people might be right in making that argument. Only time and experience would tell. But even in that sunny scenario, the libertarian politician would be the lesser of two evils, not a"moral good." As an anarchist, I reject the entire idea of anyone claiming jurisdiction over my peaceful actions and I reject the entire process of people being polled (of voting) as a mechanism by which anyone is handed a gun and allowed to walk into my peace-loving life and dictate terms. A libertarian society must be based on the voluntary association of every peaceful person involved, with no person being forced to relinquish what is rightfully his or hers. That's what the non-initiation of force principle means; and that principle is the platform upon which libertarianism is built.

To phrase my last statements in somewhat different terms, and ones that draw upon Lysander Spooner with whom I agree entirely on this point....Without a peaceful individual's explicit consent or delegation of authority, no one -- not government, not a lawyer, not a rug-cleaning service -- has any rightful claim over that person. What would such a delegation entail? According to Spooner, it would require that the person possess the right being delegates; that the delegation be explicit and not merely assumed; and, that the person be able to withdraw his delegation -- otherwise he would have given away not simply the exercise of a particular right but his entire liberty. In short, only those people who had voted for the politician could be deeme to have delegated their rights to him. Those who had not voted would be free from his jurisdiction. Moreover, even those who had voted for a particular politician could withdraw their support in much the same manner as they could cancel the services of a lawyer to whom they had assigned certain powers. Spooner asked: can one person rightfully occupy a position of power over the life of another peaceful human being is that human being has not delegated the power? He could discover no circumstance in which such power would be proper. Neither can I. It is, to its core, unlibertarian.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 12:15 p.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

SHELDON RICHMAN: WHY WOULD I DO THAT? 11-20-03

Democratic presidential aspirant Wesley Clark had this to say about extending the ban on “assault weapons”: “[P]eople who like assault weapons should join the United States Army, we have them." To which I would respond: I might like an “assault weapon” in case my home is ever threatened by rioters or because I enjoy target shooting. But I have no desire to be ordered by politicians to foreign lands to kill people who aren’t threatening me. So why would I join the army?

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 11:00 a.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: JESSE WALKER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD, AND THE FEITH MEMO, 11-20-03

Kudos to Jesse Walker for a nuanced analysis of recent allegations of an Al Qaeda/Iraq connection. Walker’s views on this issue are similar to my own.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:48 p.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: SPEECHLESS IN ONTARIO, 11-20-03

Don't plan to be raped, mugged, or murdered in Britain in the next few days because the police will be otherwise occupied. According to the Independent,"One in nine police officers in England and Wales will be protecting George Bush on his state visit to Britain...The bill will run to at least £7m, and the British taxpayer will pay for it." Doing the conversion...that's $11,921,020.57 USD at the current exchange rate. Words fail. Those who know me understand the uniqueness of this circumstance.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 6:20 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: GEORGE W[ILSON] BUSH, 11-19-03

I've been mentioning George W. Bush and Woodrow Wilson in the same breath now for many, many months, tracing a direct line between today's neoconservative internationalists (who have had an enormous impact on our President) and the Wilsonian liberal internationalists. Today, in his speech at Whitehall Palace in London, Bush's embrace of the Wilsonian legacy has never been more explicit. Bush declares:

The last president to stay at Buckingham Palace was an idealist, without question. At a dinner hosted by King George V in 1918, Woodrow Wilson made a pledge. With typical American understatement, he vowed that right and justice would become the predominant and controlling force in the world.

President Wilson had come to Europe with his Fourteen Points for Peace. Many complimented him on this vision, yet some were dubious. Take, for example, the prime minister of France. He complained that God himself had only Ten Commandments. Sounds familiar.

At Wilson's high point of idealism, however, Europe was one short generation from Munich and Auschwitz and the Blitz. Looking back, we see the reasons why. The League of Nations, lacking both credibility and will, collapsed at the first challenge of the dictators. Free nations failed to recognize, much less confront, the aggressive evil in plain sight. And so dictators went about their business, feeding resentments and anti-Semitism, bringing death to innocent people in this city and across the world, and filling the last century with violence and genocide.

Through world war and cold war we learned that idealism, if it is to do any good in this world, requires common purpose and national strength, moral courage, and patience in difficult tasks. And now our generation has need of these qualities.

What Bush doesn't tell us, of course, is that Wilson's World War I campaign"to make the world safe for democracy," achieved nothing of the sort; it contributed, inadvertently, to what became Munich, Auschwitz, and the Blitz. It led not to the triumph of democracy, but to the rise of communism, fascism, and Nazism. And, as Thomas Fleming shows in his brilliant book The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I, it was the"idealist" Wilson who supported the Espionage and Sedition Acts---the Patriot Acts of their day---that imprisoned critics of the war. It was Wilson who championed the exponential growth of the federal government through such acts as the federal takeover of the railroads. And it was Wilson's war that became the watershed moment in the rise of American political capitalism, the blueprint for the corporatism of the New Deal and what Fleming has called"the New Dealers' War."

Is it no wonder that the Bush administration embraces the same crony capitalism, the same global interventionism, the same road to hell paved with the"good intentions" of"idealists"? How many more wars"to make the world safe for democracy" must we endure---before democracy and freedom are no more?

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 08:55 p.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: POST-REDUCTIO AMERICA, 11-19-03

I have a new piece at Tech Central Station today that looks at the effort to ban public smoking in Washington, D.C. It uses the smoking ban as a jumping off point to discuss obesity lawsuits, tort law in general, and the death of absurdity.

Posted by Radley Balko at 5:23 p.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: DID THEY REALLY OUTLAW IT? 11-19-03

More evidence we live in post-Constitutional America: Columnist Jacob Sullum reports that the law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush to outlaw partial-birth abortion was justified under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause with the words, “Any physician who, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.” (Emphasis added.) Huh? Since that sounds impossible, maybe partial-birth abortion hasn’t been outlawed after all.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 11:50 a.m. CST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: FACULTY SENATE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AFFIRMS ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT SHELTON STATE, 11-19-03

The Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama overwhelmingly passed a resolution which was written and sponsored by members of the Alabama Scholars Association . The resolution defended the free speech rights of Professor John Trobaugh at Shelton State Community College. As readers of Liberty and Power may recall, the president of Shelton State had personally ordered the chair of the art department to take down a gallery display of photos and drawings by Trobaugh because of an alleged complaint. A wide range of organizations rallied to Trobaugh’s defense including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

For more background on the case, see here.

RESOLUTION TO DEFEND ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT SHELTON STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Whereas the Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama has an obligation to uphold the principle of academic freedom.

Whereas any threat to the academic freedom of faculty at another public institution of higher learning in Tuscaloosa also threatens the academic freedom of faculty at the University of Alabama.

Whereas Professor Trobaugh is currently a part-time temporary instructor at the University of Alabama and an adjunct professor at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, and thus a faculty member at both institutions.

Whereas Article III, Section 2, number 12 of the Senate By-laws empowers the Faculty Senate to take positions on issues involving"faculty relations with the surrounding community" including, of course, the protection of academic freedom.

Whereas Shelton State Community College has violated academic freedom by taking down an art display by Professor John Trobaugh that it had previously approved.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama urges that Shelton State Community College take immediate action to return the display to its original, promised location and thus show the community and the country that it respects the fundamental principles of academic freedom in higher education.

Hopefully, the Faculty Senate will prove equally supportive of the ASA when its fight against the censorship of campus mail comes to a head.

Charles W. Nuckolls at 9:46 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS, 11-19-03

Why is it any business of the government if someone develops an addiction to a drug? (All this means is that quitting takes some effort.) If you want to see an example of how the news media constrict discussion of public issues, watch the coverage of Rush Limbaugh’s alleged illegal use of prescription painkillers and his attempt to kick his addiction. Everyone who has been interviewed takes it for granted that this is a government matter. Yet no one bothers to explain why? Is no one in the media independent enough to even ask the question or to invite a maverick like Thomas Szasz, Jeffrey Schaler, or Jacob Sullum? Coverage of the drug issue couldn’t be more pro-state if we had outright censorship.

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 7:10 a.m. CST

WENDY McELROY: OF SHIFTING PLANS OR SHIFTING REPORTS, 11-19-03

Fascinating. My last two posts have ranted about Bush's high-profile planned visits with family members of British soldiers who have been killed in Iraq, an act of compassion that he has carefully and conspicuously *not* extended to American families. He doesn't want to even admit that"transfer tubes" -- Bush-speak for body bags -- are coming home and has virtually muzzled the press on that subject. After posting yesterday's blog, I sat slurping some morning coffee while listening to the 6:30 Headline News CNN/Atlanta (not the much superior CNN International) when a statement eliminated the need for caffeine. The broadcaster reported that Bush would be visiting the families of British victims of *9-11*! The British press is/was extremely clear; Bush would visit with families of soldiers killed in Iraq. Several explanations are possible, including: CNN got it wrong or whitewashed the story; the Bush administration sent out an inaccurate press release for domestic consumption; realizing how bad the visits make Bush look, a quick shift of plans occurred.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 5:45 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

KING BANAIAN: MEDIOCRE MIDDLE SCHOOLS, 11-18-03

The local papers are covering the release of Cheri Pierson Yecke's new book, The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools. The StarTribune covers it here. Dr. Yecke, currently Minnesota Commisioner of Education, argues that the loss of"ability grouping" (putting students of like ability in classes together and basing the curriculum on that ability level) has led to a decline in student achievement. At my junior high around 1970, you had class markers from 7-1-1 to 7-4-16. The first number was the grade, the second an ability marker, and the third a subclassification. 7-1-1's were required to take a foreign language and got pre-algebra; 7-4-16's got neither. Most of the 7-1-1's, like me, were children of working class families who were encouraged by the experience to become better students. Most of my friends from that class have achieved living standards greater than what would have been expected from their family backgrounds.

Jane Shaw, in the latest issue of Liberty (not online, alas) argues that you see ability grouping in high schools through AP classes. Joanne Jacobs offers some thoughts on this. Jacobs' post is inspired by Mental Multivitamin, who quotes Daniel Pink:

If we're so dumb, how come we're so rich? How can we fare so poorly on international measures of education yet perform so well in an economy that depends on brainpower? The answer is complex, but within it are clues about the future of education -- and how"free agency" may rock the school house as profoundly as it has upended the business organization.
Free agency means, in this sense, freeing parents to act on their own in determining their children's education. Homeschoolers find an increasing number of options for hire to assist in teaching children at their ability levels. What government schools will not provide, market schools will, if there's demand. Pink explores the wide range of options available. RTWT. (Cross-posted from SCSU Scholars.)

Posted by King Banaian at 09:32 p.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: MORE ADVENTURES IN CRONY CAPITALISM, 11-18-03

Via email, I received the following disturbing tidbit from Gus Dizerega of Deal With It :

"GEORGE Bush's administration has called on US companies in Britain to relocate jobs to America in an astonishing move that could trigger a major trade war.

US-based multinationals have been told they will receive compensation from American trade authorities if they cancel contracts in Britain and take jobs home, according to CBI director-general Digby Jones.

Speaking at the CBI's annual conference in Birmingham, Jones said:

'Three chief executives of American companies investing in Britain have told me to my face that they have been told to close down, bring their stuff home and make it in the US.'

He said the companies were major employers in defence or manufacturing.

Jones continued: 'Whether flouting international law with their steel tariffs or telling their companies to come home, this bullying affects Britain and British jobs."

The entire version can be read here.

Posted by David T. Beito at 1:03 p.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: BRITS TO INFLUENCE US ELECTION?, 11-18-03

Some influential Brits may try to influence the upcoming US election...and not in Bush's favor. According to the Guardian:"George Bush will be served notice today that the deep hostility towards him in Britain has reached the Blair inner circle, when the former minister Stephen Byers launches a bid to destabilise the president's re-election campaign next year. On the eve of Mr Bush's state visit to Britain, Mr Byers, an arch-Blairite, will set out proposals to help Democrats in key swing states if the White House refuses to abandon punitive trade sanctions against the UK. Acting with the tacit approval of Blair supporters, who were enraged when Mr Bush imposed tariffs on imports of British steel to shore up his vote, the former trade and industry secretary will call for sanctions to be imposed on four key marginal states which the president will need to win." The states and exports to be targeted include Floride (citrus products), Wisconsin (apples and paper), Tennessee (chemicals), and Iowa (agricultural equipment). Bush will howl about the turpitude of Brits -- foreigners! -- who try to influence the elections and politics of another nation, of course. When I learned of his high-profile Presidential plans to visit families of dead British soldier -- photo ops -- while, at the same time, steadfastly ignoring the families and corpses of American soldiers, I realized there was no bottom against which the man's hypocrisy will come to rest. And, so, even as troops are poised in Afghanistan and Iraq, ousting leaders and constructing new governments, he will denounce British meddling in American affairs... Among the many things for which I cannot forgive Bush, high on the list is that he makes me long for Clinton.

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

WENDY McELROY: BUSH IN BRITAIN PART II, 11-18-03

The Financial Times reports,"When Mr Bush and his wife Laura arrive at Heathrow [this evening], they will be whisked to Buckingham Palace [Buck House] and kept enclosed in a 'security bubble' designed to keep them clear of demonstrators and the threat of terrorist attack." The visit, planned months ago, had been expected to be a four-day victory tour"with Iraq relatively stable and its elusive weapons of mass destruction unearthed. What had not been anticipated was the present chaos and mounting death toll." Now, as the Guardian comments,"Mr Bush is to fly in...for the first state visit since President Woodrow Wilson in 1918, whose path was strewn with roses by a people grateful for his help during the war. There will be no such public welcome for Mr Bush, and protesters will dog his path until he leaves on Friday evening." Blair will undoubtedly sag with relief when the plane departs British soil. Already his image as Bush's"poodle" is being resurrected in the British media. Bush may be relieved as well. Even his ace-in-the-hole -- photo ops with the Queen -- may not have much re-election currency given the erupting scandal surrounding both Prince Charles' sexuality and how the royals have been handling various legal matters. The British press is so furious at being pre-emptively muzzled re: PC that they are likely to turn on anyone riding on the royal coat tails. (I wonder if PC will be in any of pics.) The entire trip is a lose-lose situation: the reputation of everyone involved is lowered by association with everyone else involved. The only people who"win" are the protestors who have a proximate cause around which to coalesce with renewed vigor: their hostility toward"The Cowboy." Last I heard, the organizers of the major protest march through London, planned for Thursday, have been finally granted permission to parade past key government buildings where Bush will be holding meetings. Bush may not see them but you can be sure they will be seen by the media who will seek them out rather than run, like the President. So much for the French being" cheese-eating surrender monkeys." Bush's sensibilities are so delicate that he can't even stand up in the British Parliament to deliver the speech he had requested and arranged because harsh words might directed his way from those unpredictable, whacky Brit ministers. (See yesterday's McBlog.) What a barbeque-chomping surrender monkey *he* is!

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 4:25 a.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: BUSH, WILSON, AND BUCKINGHAM PALACE, 11-18-03

As a postscript to Wendy's fine posts on Bush's upcoming visit to the UK, CNN reports that the President's stay at Buckingham Palace will be the first time a US President has stayed there since Woodrow Wilson. Of all the irony... considering that the President has been channeling Wilson's spirit for quite a while now...

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 12:15 a.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: BUSH'S UNBELIEVABLE CYNICISM, 11-17-03

The Antic Muse advises,"This exchange between Scott McClelland and Helen Thomas [veteran journalist] really needs to be read in its entirety to grasp the deep, black cynicism that characterizes the Bush administration's view, but as a public service, we here at Muse HQ provide the following truncated version -- edited but not altered: You Can Say One Thing for the Man, He Stays on Message." 3:40 p.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

WENDY McELROY: BUSH TO LAND IN THE BRITS' LAP, 11-17-03

In preparing for his imminent visit to Britain, George Bush is confirming the world's worst preconceptions of an American -- clumsy, arrogant, bullying. (And, no, I am *not* bashing Americans; most of my family is American.) It is not merely that he tried (unsuccessfully) to preclude the possibility of protesters in London exercising their civil rights during his visit, he seems blunder at *every* turn. For example, he has backed out of a scheduled address to the British Parlaiment, apparently for fear of being heckled by anti-war ministers as happened in the Australian Parliament earlier this year. Another example, he asked the Queen to allow a Black hawk helicopter to hover over the Palace during his official stint there...oh, and while he was asking...would she mind replacing the Palace curtains with something a bit more bulletproof? Declined, on both counts. No wonder few people -- outside of the protesters -- seem to take the trip seriously. Satire sites are having a romp, with The Chortler reporting,"In another sign of the increasingly strained relations between the United States and Great Britain the government of Tony Blair is reportedly about to carry through on its threat to serve President George Bush a full-course English meal during his official visit to London this week." Heck, even the mainstream press is hooting it up. The London mirror has just published a how to article entitled"THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO GREAT BRITAIN": subtitled,"That's this itty bitty country due east of the States where folks talk kinda weird, Mr President."

The situation is not laughable, however; it is ugly. In an article entitled 'Shoot-to-kill' demand by US, the Observer comments on the diplomatic immunity Bush requested for his entourage, a measure that would have allowed US security to injure or kill Brits without legal consequence. The Observer states,"The issue of immunity is one of a series of extraordinary US demands turned down by Ministers and Downing Street during preparations for the Bush visit. These included the closure of the Tube network, the use of US air force planes and helicopters and the shipping in of battlefield weaponry to use against rioters." No wonder the Sunday Herald is calling London the 51st state.

100,000+ antiwar, anti-Bush protesters are expected to crowd London streets along with about 14,000 British police officers and, presumably, at least some of the several hundred American agents who will guarding Bush. The stage is already being set with"a lone anti-Bush protester" beating the protest rush by scaling the"front gate at Buckingham Palace, where Mr. Bush will stay as the official guest of Queen Elizabeth II. The demonstrator hung an American flag upside down on the gold-plated gate." Bush -- that man of the people -- is unlikely to get anywhere near the Brit-on-the-street, preferring to meet with dignitaries...or, at least, the ones who are not likely to heckle him. Indeed, the carriage ride down the Royal Mall with the Queen -- a traditional nicety extended to heads of state -- has been cancelled so that Bush doesn't even have to drive past the little people who, after all, might express their love of him with bullets. And, yet, Bush will try to cement his connection with the British public through a display that broadens and redefines the parameters of both his hypocrisy and my cynicism. Namely, he will be visiting"with families of British war dead." The British press is already jumping all over the"staged concern," with the Independent's coverage being typical,"George Bush was accused yesterday of making political capital out of the deaths of British servicemen in Iraq. The President is due next week to meet between six and eight families who lost relatives during the conflict. ... Reg Keys, 51, whose son, Lance Corporal Thomas Keys, died defending a police station near Basra four days before his 21st birthday, said .... 'I don't know how he has the nerve to show his face in this country after costing the lives of 54 British soldiers for his own glory.' ... But Samantha Roberts, the widow of the first British soldier killed in Iraq, Sergeant Steven Roberts, praised Mr Bush and said it was ironic the US President and not Tony Blair had agreed to see relatives." (Interesting how the British press is willing to compliment Bush as long as it rebounds unfavorably upon Blair.) My cynicism springs from the absolute dearth of visits Bush has paid to the families of dead American soldiers, from the tight censorship imposed on coverage of American funerals, from the criminal neglect with which the returning wounded are shoved to one side and officially ignored. I guess only the British dead count.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 3:30 p.m. EST. For more commentary, please see McBlog

DAVID T. BEITO: NEOCONS MAKING TROUBLE FOR DUBYA, 11-17-03

Robert Kagan and William Kristol are extremely upset about the possibility that Dubya is planning an early exit from Iraq. They want to stay, of course.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:00 a.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: TEA WITH MUSSOLINI, 11-17-03

Here's a review of a talk conservative screedstress Ann Coulter gave recently at the University of Colorado. I had my own luncheon encounter with Coulter several months ago.

(I might warn L&P readers, the latter link is a fairly ridiculing and scathing portrait of Ann and her cultish following. But the moment she published a book equating war opposition with treason, I say she made herself fair game.)

Posted by Radley Balko at 8:30 a.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: HE WATCHES SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO, 11-17-03

Granted, the guy humorist Gene Weingarten interviews in this week's Washington Post Magazine column is an easy target.

But the result is still very, very funny.

Posted by Radley Balko at 8:30 a.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: FISKING FISK, 11-16-03

Someone sent me the following silly commentary on NPR by Amelia Tyagi, who apparently co-wrote this book. I thought it could use a fisking (for a definition of"fisking," check here).

I'll run the whole commentary first, then apply said fisking.

The commentary went like this:

DAVID BROWN, anchor:

Health care, a job for life, a retirement safety net. Maybe some Americans just expect too much. Or maybe something else is going on. It might be a generational thing. A few years back, boomers got their chuckles making fun of the youth culture with the slightly derogatory term"slackers." Remember that? The suggestion being that young people weren't interested in doing the hard work it takes to guarantee long-term security. From the MARKETPLACE working family desk, commentator Amelia Tyagi claims it's not about a willingness to work or lack thereof, it's about being realistic when it comes to expectations.

AMELIA TYAGI:

Boy, have we got a bad reputation! We run up credit card bills blowing our money on cell phones and designer sneakers. We think we're too good to flip burgers. We're materialistic, consumeristic, self-centeristic. In short, we expect to have it all, or at least that's what my grandpa says.

Sorry, Gramps, you're way off base. You say we don't study hard enough, but the truth is, Gramps, we're twice as likely to finish college as you were, and there's no GI bill helping us pay for it. We expect to start our 20s with five times more student loans than you ever carried. We expect to work longer hours than any generation since the 1920s. And that's not just the men burning the midnight oil, we women now expect to work just as hard even after we have children. We expect it will take two incomes to buy the same house you bought on one salary. We expect to pay twice as much for health insurance, assuming we're lucky enough to have coverage at all. And in an economy where jobs can disappear faster than you can say pink slip, we are three times more likely to lose our homes in foreclosure and five times more likely to go bankrupt. Thanks to changing demographics, we are six times more likely to be called on to care for an elderly relative. And when we head out our golden years, we expect that Social Security will be nothing more than a fond memory drained away by your generation.

In short, we're the first generation to think it's normal to live in a world where adults can qualify for a credit card, but our children can't get health insurance. So cut us some slack and please, give me back my cell phone. In Los Angeles, this is Amelia Tyagi for MARKETPLACE.

Let's skip the intro and start with the second paragraph.

Sorry, Gramps, you're way off base. You say we don't study hard enough, but the truth is, Gramps, we're twice as likely to finish college as you were...

But certainly not because we study. Yes, more of us attend and graduate college. Yet somehow we're still dumber. Thanks to the Clintonian notion that"everyone who wants to go to college should be able to go to college," the wide availability of student loans, and grade inflation, a baccalaureate degree today means something quite different than what it once did. Sure, that degree's a necessity to land an entry job in the white-collar world. But given the quality of today's typical college education, that degree merely denotes"potentially trainable." It by no means denotes"educated." For evidence, watch Jay Leno interview folks on the street about current events. Take a look at all the recent polls showing that college grads not only know little about what's going on in the world, they don't care, either. MORE

Posted by Radley Balko at 7:26 p.m. EST

KEITH HALDERMAN: GOOSE CREEK AND IRAQ 11-15-03

About a week and a half ago both Chris Matthew Sciabarra and myself commented on the relationship between the war on people who use certain kinds of drugs and the war in Iraq. We now have company in the form of John Stewart of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. His story, which contains video footage of a drug raid conducted at a High School located in Goose Creek, South Carolina, is both very funny and very perceptive. The parallels between the two wars are obvious.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 12:40 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: NEW PHASE, 11-14-03

America’s mission in Iraq has entered a new phase: Operation Let’s Have Someone Other Than Americans Getting Killed—Don’t You Know There’s An Election Coming Up?

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 10:20 a.m. CST

RODERICK T. LONG:
AN EGALITARIAN AUSTRIAN?, 11-14-03

Like fellow L&P blogger King Banaian, I also took the Mises Institute's Austrian quiz. As I pretty much expected, I scored 100%. (Which admittedly is a higher score than Mises or Hayek would have gotten.)

I'll admit, though, that I wasn't entirely happy with any of the choices for questions #18 (on equality) and #21 (on labour unions).

Re #18, I think there is an important sense of equality that is central to libertarianism and goes beyond mere"equality before the law" (which after all could be achieved by imposing the same horrendously unjust laws on everybody); I have in mind not equality in socioeconomic status but rather equality in authority. See my article Equality: The Unknown Ideal.

Re #21, I'd have liked to see a question that distinguished between labour unions per se, which are as legitimate as any other voluntary enterprise, and labour unions as recipients of government-granted privileges, which are as illegitimate as government-granted privileges to any other enterprise.

Still, I think the Austrian Quiz does a good job of introducing people to the ideas of (the Rothbardian branch of) the Austrian School and of stimulating debate on these questions.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 11:10 a.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: SOME DRUGS DON’T COUNT, 11-14-03

The news reports say the Goose Creek, S.C., storm troopers failed to find any drugs at Stratford High School last week. My sources say they found lots of Ritalin. But that doesn’t count. (Aside: Jacob Sullum's new book, Saying Yes, is critical to debunking the war on drug users and distributors. See my brief review.)

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 10:00 a.m. CST

WENDY McELROY: Numbers, 11-14-03

The US death toll in Iraq now exceeds that of the first 3 years in Vietnam. But, as the UK Independent notes,"Concern about fatalities among Western forces in Iraq tends to overlook another ghastly statistic: the spectacularly mounting toll of the severely wounded....America's invisible army of maimed and crippled servicemen." Meanwhile, the Bush administration shows its concern, as MSNBC reports."Soldiers with the National Guard are already under the gun in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now a new government report claims that while the troops are fighting far from home, red tape is preventing many of them from being paid."

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 9:45 a.m. EST For more commentary, please see McBlog

KING BANAIAN: LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY. 11-14-03

I appreciate the comments by Joseph Salerno to my post last night on the Austrian quiz. He suggests that my" caricature" of the Austrian position on the causes of the business cycle (i.e., it's all a series of mistakes by the Federal Reserve) ignores Mises' own position. It's worth noting that according to one poster on the Mises discussion email, Mises got a 92 (compared to my 88).

The answer to the Depression question offered as Austrian has Murray Rothbard as its reference, not Mises. The causes Mises discussed do not appear to have been important to Rothbard.

The inflation of the 1920s was actually over by the end of 1928. The total money supply on December 31, 1928 was $73 billion. On June 29, 1929, it was $73.26 billion, a rise of only 0.7 percent per annum. Thus, the monetary inflation was virtually completed by the end of 1928. From that time onward, the money supply remained level, rising only negligibly. And therefore, from that time onward, a depression to adjust the economy was inevitable.
That's what I based my comments on -- Rothbard, who's work seemed to be the progenitor of the quiz, and not Mises. Having not read the Mises work that Prof. Salerno linked, I have something more to do this weekend.

Posted by King Banaian at 10:40 a.m. CST

REID MCKEE: OVERHEARD IN THE SENATE LAST NIGHT. 11-14-03

Last night on C-SPAN2 during a live broadcast of the debate on judicial nominations I heard the following statements:

1) Kay Bailey Hutchinson lauded Elizabeth Dole for being a female graduate of Harvard Law School. As a special distinction, Hutchinson noted that Dole graduated from this esteemed instution"back when it was hard."

Charles Nuckolls and Dave Beito should take heart! Apparently, grade inflation and the collapse of academic standards are no longer just dirty little secrets in the halls of academia. Now, they're part of the Congressional Record.

2) In the process of fulminating against Bush's nominees for the federal bench, John Corzine observed that one of the judges had written an opinion which claimed that the federal government had no business regulating education or fighting street crime. Corzine, a former investment banker, confidently declared these views to be way outside the"judicial mainstream."

A judge's relation to the"judicial mainstream" is not an appropriate test of that judge's fitness for the federal bench. Such a test probably doesn't measure anything relevant other than a judge's responsiveness to peer pressure. Instead, I would offer that fidelity to the law and the Constitution should be the benchmark of a judge's fitness.

Unfortunately, it is true that a concern for the literal language of the Commerce Clause and a consequent respect for the state's traditional police powers have fallen out of favor with the"judicial mainstream." As a result, Corzine's statement is probably a correct factual assessment of today's judiciary. Nevertheless, I believe this comment is an excellent insight into the true agenda of the Senate Democrats. What they care about is not the Constitution, but rather continuing judicial activism.

Posted by Reid McKee at 11:20 a.m. CST

DAVID T. BEITO: DEATH OF A LODGE BROTHER, 11-14-03

I had wanted to add my thoughts to Chris Sciabarra’s touching homage yesterday to Art Carney but couldn’t really think of anything new to say. I wanted to chime in because watching “The Honeymooners” with my parents and sister on Saturday night during the early 1960s stands out as an early and especially fond TV memory. I was first introduced to Ralph and Ed through the now often forgotten musical-variety version of the show from the early 1960s that featured a different Alice and Trixie.

It was only after reading, Verlyn Klinkenborg’s op-ed piece in the New York Times, however, that I realized I might have something to contribute to the discussion. The passing of Carney (Ed Norton) was not only, in Klinkenborg’s words, the “Death of a Sewer Worker,” it was also the death of a lodge brother. Ed and Ralph, of course, were steadfastly loyal members of the fictional Loyal Order of Raccoons. The Loyal Order of the Raccoons was a fraternal society much like the Loyal Order of Water Buffalo of Fred and Barney and Mystic Knights of the Sea of Amos and Andy.

As a child, I could quite never understand why all these men were so unusually fond of their lodges. How and why, I wondered, did these strange organizations arise? After my friend Tom G. Palmer suggested that I study the history of fraternal societies in the United States, however, I began to find part of the answer. As described in my book, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967, fraternal societies were once important providers of medical care, orphanages, homes for the elderly and other social services. Their reliance on mutual aid represented an appealing contrast to the impersonal, cold, and paternalistic social welfare system of our own time.

More than one third of American men belonged to fraternal orders in the early twentieth century. Many women did too. Lodges were particularly important among blacks and immigrant groups, an often untold fact by historians who seem preoccupied with white male organizations.

By the 1950s, however, when Ralph, Ed, Fred, Amos and Andy fled to the lodge as a refuge from “the wives” fraternal societies had already lost much of their identity as social welfare providers. With some notable exceptions, they were becoming the stuff of comedy. Even so, some, such as the Shriners of the Masons, continued to perform admirably in that role both then and today.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:16 a.m. EST

REID MCKEE: 'Choose Life' Tags--For A Limited Time Only! 11-13-03

Well, it was only a matter of time before this happened.

Some Southern states including my home state of Mississippi recently began offering"Choose Life" license plates for sale. So far, these plates have generally withstood the challenge that they amount to an unconstituional"endorsement" of Christian religious views under the Establishment Clause.

Now, perhaps buoyed by these initial legal successes, these same states are presently failing to heed federal case law (and at least one state attorney general's opinion) which holds that the denial of license plates to groups with opposing views is a violation of the First Amendment, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional"viewpoint discrimination."

I think it will come as a unwelcome surprise to many residents of the states which offer pro-life plates, that their state government cannot refuse to print pro-abortion ("Choose Death?") plates. Unfortunately, the officials in these states will probably be equally surprised since obviously never took the time to learn rudimentary First Amendment law.

The logical conclusion to this whole controversy will not be to allow any group, regardless of its viewpoint, to get its own license plate. Instead, we should expect a return to the standard-issue, plain vanilla license plates of the old days (y'know like 1980s). So, if you're so inclined, go out and get your"Choose Life" license plate while they're still available. I'd wager a good bet that they'll soon be collector's items.


As a brief and somewhat related aside, Doris Gordon of Libertarians for Life has a very interesting article out right now which is provocatively titled "A Libertarian Atheist Answers Pro-Choice Catholics." Her article should serve as a nice counterexample to those who think that being pro-life necessarily means being religious as well.

Posted by Reid McKee at 10:20 p.m. CST

KING BANAIAN: AM I NOT AN AUSTRIAN?

The"Are you an Austrian?" quiz has drawn lots of attention on blogs such as Arnold Kling, Catallarchy, and The American Mind. Since I'm a student of Hayek's work, I thought I should give the test a try. I scored an 88 (my submitted answers show only an 84, but that's because I clicked the wrong choice for one question and had a socialist answer.) I'm surprised by the score somewhat, but I admit to feeling pushed into some of the answers. There are some portrayals of Chicago answers that had phrasings that caused me to not choose them. For example, when I was asked about socialism, I was left with the Austrian answers as the least objectionable more than the one I really agreed with. I think socialism can be logically consistent without requiring it to permit economic calculation -- one could instead define a world in which economic calculation was not needed to reach human goals. (I'm not saying that's right, just that it's possible.)

It's not surprising to me that where I disagree most is on the questions around monetary economics, since these are the positions I've developed most completely. I found even more there that the answers I read were incomplete, and even those I chose felt like caricatures. For example, I am not purely Chicagoan in my views of the causes of the Great Depression (for example, in my principles class I use this monograph which is certainly not Friedmanesque) but I'm unpersuaded that the length and severity of the Depression was due to wildly overexpansionary monetary policies in the 1920s. As I commented on The American Mind, central bank policy mistakes can certainly cause business cycles, but sometimes they are an initiating factor and other times just a sustaining one (in other words, the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions.) And worse, when you ask someone what constitutes an"artificial money and credit expansion" that would lead to recessions, you get an answer that boils down to,"those that cause recessions are artificial." What they really mean is that putting the fiat in fiat money is always suboptimal, and on that point I'm still agnostic.

And how my answer on national defense is called Keynesian is, quite frankly, beyond me because I don't recall reading the defense policies of John Maynard in graduate school. We were too busy learning IS-LM.

I think readers here will largely enjoy the quiz, but bring your salt shaker.

Posted by King Banaian at 7:55 p.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: BIG GOVERNMENT CONSERVATISM, 11-13-03

Joshua Claybourn, a fellow Hoosier and a smart young pundit, declares that as a libertarian-minded conservative, his vote is officially up for grabs in 2004. In a link-rich post, Claybourn lays out the conservative case against Bush in bullet-point detail.

The spending, the expanding regulatory state, the capitulation on free trade, and the fact that the president has yet to exercise his veto power a single time are all compelling reasons for limited government advocates to distrust him (and I haven't even mentioned his foreign policy).

But to me, the most telling time Bush abandoned his principles came very early on in his administration, when he signed the campaign finance reform bill. He made clear throughout the campaign that he thought the bill was unconstitutional. Yet he still signed it when the political pressure mounted against him, apparently unwilling to risk the political capital it would cost him to send the bill back to Congress.

President Bush swore in his oath of office that he would uphold and protect the Constitution. Yet one of his first acts of office was to sign a bill he conceded was unconstitutional.

It should come as no surprise, then, that he's retreated from his (alleged) principles ever since.

Posted by Radley Balko at 12:35 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: MCNAMARA DEJA VU, 11-13-03

Myles Kantor reports that Robert McNamara had the following to say last night on the Charlie Rose Show: “I’m not going to criticize my president when he’s in a war.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:05 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: IN MEMORY OF ED NORTON, 11-13-03

There aren't many television comedies that get me chuckling as much as "The Honeymooners"—even after all these years."The Great One," Jackie Gleason, created one of the truly timeless classics in television history—one of my favorite shows of all time. Maybe it was the fact that the sitcom was a paean to my beloved Brooklyn, or maybe it was just funny.

But Gleason's Ralph Kramden got a lot of help from Art Carney, who played Ed Norton: NYC sewer worker, loyal friend. Carney passed away this week, and the appreciations are long overdue.

The world may be a bit crazy nowadays; all the more reason to cherish Carney's gift of laughter.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 07:55 a.m. EST

IVAN ELAND: STANDARDS IN DOUBLE TIME: BUSH'S PLAN TO"DEMOCRATIZE" IRAQ, 11-12-03

In a recent speech, President George W. Bush attempted to pin his way out of the current debacle in Iraq by upping the ante. Going beyond the recently resuscitated goal of bringing democracy to Iraq (after no weapons of mass destruction were found there, and the president had to admit that Saddam Hussein had no link to the September 11 attacks), the president has now proposed to democratize the Middle East and the world. But the situation in Iraq vividly illustrates the pitfalls of muscular U.S. efforts to bring democracy to nations that have little experience with a democratic culture. Instead of pressuring other countries to liberalize at gunpoint or with implied threats, a more effective strategy would be to avoid such undemocratic methods and lead by peaceful example.

Critics of U.S. foreign policy overseas often use the word hypocrisy to describe American actions. U.S. leaders have often adopted the high-flying rhetoric of exporting freedom to the world, while supporting petty dictators or overthrowing democratically elected leaders that didn? tow the U.S. line. Bush? speech continues that divergence.

In his comments, the president treated countries the United States considers rogue regimes (Syria, Cuba, Burma and North Korea) much harsher than friendly states (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and powerful nations (China). He declared that dictators in Syria left a legacy of torture, oppression, misery, and ruin. The president correctly accused Cuba, Burma, Zimbabwe and North Korea of being outposts of oppression in our world.

Such harsh rhetoric, however, should be compared with the praise the president doled out for at best slight advances in political freedom by the equally tyrannical regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China. Egypt, which has made no progress at all, got this timid, but gushing, nudge: The great and proud nation of Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East, and now should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East. Similarly, Bush praised the despotic, medieval Saudi regime as taking first steps toward reform, including a plan for gradual introduction of elections. And the president is confident that the leaders of China--a powerful nation that has enormous potential as a market for U.S. exports--will also discover that freedom is indivisible--that social and religious freedom is also essential to national greatness and national dignity. He also found something nice to say about progress in the autocratic, but friendly, countries of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Yemen, Kuwait and Jordan.

If that glaring double standard is not enough, President Bush's speech excoriated the Palestinians: The Palestinian leaders who block and undermine democratic reform, and feed hatred and encourage violence are not leaders at all. They're the main obstacles to peace, and to the success of the Palestinian people. No matter that the Palestinians elected Yasir Arafat as their president, but Bush--to comply with the wishes of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon--refuses to negotiate with him.

Although the security ministries in Iran are still controlled by undemocratic forces, Iran is more democratic than the vast majority of countries in the Middle East. Yet the president offered praise for Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but not for the less friendly Iran.

And the state of freedom in Russia, another powerful nation that has recently been compliant with U.S. wishes, was not even mentioned in the president's speech. The awkward public silence from the Bush administration occurs at a time when Russia may be regressing toward authoritarianism. Behind a veil of anonymity, administration officials express alarm that President Vladimir Putin could be coming under the influence of hardliners, abusing his power and repressing dissent. The Russian government has closed independent media outlets and recently arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the nation's richest man and potential political rival to Putin. Yet U.S. officials argue that American silence is justified by Putin's cooperation in confronting Iran and North Korea and acceptance of U.S. trashing of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, of expansion of NATO into the territory of the old Soviet Union and of an American military presence in former Soviet Central Asia.

Thus, the world will regard President Bush's speech as more of the same from the America: realpolitik cloaked in self-righteous rhetoric. But there may be worse consequences of Bush's policy. Reading between the lines in the speech, the administration is trying to use the U.S. invasion of Iraq to intimidate Syria, Iran and other nations into democratic reforms. In the president's words, Iraqi democracy will succeed--and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran--that freedom can be the future of every nation. But many experts on the Middle East believe that overt U.S. pressure, whether subtle or heavy-handed, to hurry democracy could lead to something worse taking the place of existing authoritarian regimes--elected radical Islamic governments. In today's autocratic societies in the Middle East, the only alternative to the ruling regimes that has not been shut down is the mosques.

A better option for U.S. policy than applying heavy pressure: to let Middle Eastern and other societies accept freedom at their own pace and to act as a beacon of liberty and peace for them to emulate.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 8:40 p.m. EST

REID MCKEE:A CONTINUOUS LOOP OF YENTL 11-12- 03

To be honest, I'm not sure whether attempting the impossible is a mark of madness or courage. Maybe I should ask Laura Ingraham for her thoughts on the subject. She certainly knows a thing or two about the impossible after trying to have an intelligent conversation about her new book with the"wretched un-idea'd girls" of ABC's dreadfully vapid daytime program The View.

Brent Bozell's Media Research Center has a transcript of the interview posted on their website. And, man, is it fun to read! Here's an excerpt.


Ingraham: “No, of course they have a right to speak out, but the point is it goes to a question of credibility. When Sean Penn is given an hour on Larry King Live to talk about his fact-finding mission in Iraq, that might be interesting TV, but the people are sitting out there going 'huh?’”

Walters: “But Larry King also talks to Hollywood people who he gives time to talk about that they’re against gun control. Not everybody–“

Ingraham: “But the point is most Americans, I think, would rather watch a continuous loop of Yentl than hear Barbra Streisand talk about politics. I think that’s true.” [Audience applauds]

Campos, applauding: “I do, too.”



Well, it's certainly true for me too, but I'm hoping against all hope that I never have to make this choice.

But wait there's more....


Behar: “Why are you against Barbra Streisand? She’s a very, very patriotic American.”

Ingraham, pointing at the audience: “A lot of Yentl fans out here.”

Behar: “Wait a second. Barbra Streisand is a very patriotic American.”

Ingraham: “I’m sure she is.”

Behar: “All she does is speak from her heart about American values. Why do you have to go after Barbra Streisand?”

Ingraham: “It’s not about Barbra Streisand. During impeachment and all the Clinton scandals–”

Jones: “That nasty comment was about Barbra Streisand, okay? It was about Barbra.”



Whew! Nice job, Laura. Just remember this next time: Don't mess with Babs when you're addressing the elites. That cow is most definitely SACRED.

Posted by Reid McKee at 5:37 p.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: BUSH ON"JEFFERSONIAN DEMOCRACY" IN IRAQ, 11-12-03

Back on March 12th, Paul Wolfowitz told us that the democracy envisioned in Iraq"won't be Jeffersonian democracy ... but a reasonable level of democratic government would set an example for the rest of the Islamic world."

Yesterday, however, President Bush suggested that Jeffersonian democracy could be on the Iraqi menu at some point in the future."After decades of dictator's sustained assault on Iraq's society and dignity and spirit, a Jeffersonian democracy will not spring up in a matter of months," he said, but"we will finish the mission we have begun, period."

Hey, Mr. President, while you're at it: Do you think you can work on restoring Jeffersonian democracy in the US of A too?

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:15 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: CAMILLE PAGLIA ON RUSH TODAY, 11-12-03

I wonder if Rush’s handlers asked her, “Whatever you do, don’t talk about the war!” It should be fun.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:55 a.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: IN THE WAKE OF VETERAN'S DAY, 11-12-03

In the wake of Veteran's Day,"we should all pause and reflect on the carnage wrought in the US - Iraq War. Nearly 400 US soldiers are dead, and more than 7,500 have been medically evacuated. This means the total number of US casualties is nearly 8,000 in less than eight months ..." Although the original article by Esther Schrader that offers these figures appeared in the Los Angeles Times, I have linked to the information from the excellent Veterans for Common Sense site. (The Times requires registration and is ephemeral.) The VCS article proceeds directly into a separate piece subtitled:"With the number of amputees and burn victims from Iraq, the military's medical system is waging its own war." It is a disturbing read that inspires almost automatic hostility toward the Bush administration with its professed concern for American soldiers in Iraq. No wonder the administration has a news black out on returning wounded, on returning coffins. No wonder blatantly false stories -- like the"heroism" of Jessica Lynch -- are widely circulated by White House officials. And, no, I am not bashing Lynch. It required uncommon courage and honesty for her to stand up and contradict the glamorized version of her ordeal. Usually the lying takes place by omission, however, and that is far more difficult to correct. Those of us who have a satellite dish or other means of accessing both CNN/Atlanta and CNN International have known for many months that the news presented to Americans by the former is dramatically different than that broadcast abroad by the latter...both in quality and content. The quality of the US version is watered down and dissolves into pure entertainment as often as not. The content skirts anything too critical of Bush and many relevant stories go simply unreported. One of the brightest hopes for truth to emerge may well be the CIA -- (I can't believe I'm writing these words!) -- and the agency's disgust with how the administration has rejected its advice, outed an agent, shifted blame onto CIA shoulders, etc. etc. In an article in the UK Independent, journalist Andrew Gumbel quotes Ray McGovern who worked as a CIA analyst for 27 years, as saying:"The intelligence process is a bit like virginity. Once you prostitute it, it's never the same. Your credibility never recovers. Watching what has happened with Iraq over the past several months has been like watching your daughter being raped." Gumbel comments,"Such is an indication of the extraordinary depth of feeling within the US intelligence community as the Bush administration's basis for the war in Iraq - the weapons of mass destruction, the dark hint of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida - has been shown to have been built on air." Maybe truth will rise out of the cracks widening between DC agencies.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 10:45 a.m. EST For more commentary, please see McBlog

RADLEY BALKO: UNREGULATED DINING, 11-12-03

Interesting piece in the New York Times on the explosion of underground, unlicensed restaurants. The piece is pretty fair -- it accurately lays out the reason for the boom -- the astronomical barriers to entry in the restaurant business that keep start-ups and entrepreneurs off the scene:

Laws vary from state to state; in California, a dining establishment must comply with local zoning restrictions and be inspected by the fire department, the liquor authority and the health department. In addition, a state-certified ''food handler'' must be on staff at all times. New York has comparable requirements...

...Up in her crowded apartment, Lynette occasionally thinks about making Mamasan's legitimate. Last year, she looked into a restaurant space, but became discouraged when she realized that it would cost $250,000 to renovate it and bring it up to code. So Mamasan's continues as a part-time restaurant that, while barely taking in enough money to cover the rent, has the virtue of retaining its personal touch.

Of course the best of these restaurants are doomed. The good ones get enough word-of-mouth that the bureaucrats eventually find out about them, and promptly shut them down.

Posted by Radley Balko at 9:11 a.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: NEWFANGLED THINGIES, 11-12-03

Time magazine has compiled a list of the coolest inventions of 2003.

Hidden 'twixt the predictable (Apple's I-Tunes, hybrid cars, hydrogen powered stuff), are some pretty cool innovations.

My favorites: the new color"black," a Harry Potterish invisible cloak, and the "Java Log," a slow-burning fireplace log made of used coffee grounds.

Posted by Radley Balko at 9:11 a.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: EASTERBITS, 11-12-03

Good to see Gregg Easterbrook back on the Tuesday Morning Quarterback beat. Even better to see that he's negotiating to write the football-plus column for another mainstream outlet.

As I've written before, the man's a wealth of diverse knowledge on a wide range of topics, and he's able to articulate complex concepts in ways that make them accessible to those of us without lots of letters after our names. It's true that I rarely agree with him. And his tendency to scold (see Hollywood violence, SUVs) can be irritating. But to lose him to political correctness would have been a travesty.

This week, he uncovers this gem: A George Washington University panel on ethics and journalism featuring none other than....Stephen Glass! The news release for the event summarizes Glass's disgraceful fall from journalism's it-boy rather artfully:

Journalist Stephen Glass quickly rose to a feature writer in such publications as Rolling Stone and The New Republic. By the mid-90s his articles had turned him into one of the most sought after young journalists in Washington - until a bizarre chain of events ended his career.

You'd think by that description that Glass had been struck by a meteor, not that he paved the way for his own downfall by fabricating entire magazine articles from whole cloth.

Posted by RADLEY BALKO at 9:11 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: NO MORE HIGH HOPES IN GEORGIA, 11-12-03

Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program, which gives a free ride in college to students with B averages in high school, is in serious trouble. Today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that if “some cuts aren’t made, HOPE and Georgia’s other lottery-funded education program – free pre-kindergarten – are projected to begin dipping into their reserves in the 2006-07 budget year. The programs would sink $343 million into debt two years later.”

The run-up in costs is due to the fact that so many high schools are inflating their grades to ensure that their students qualify. The article describes a wide variation in B averages “from school to school in Georgia. Many high schools graduate larger numbers of HOPE-eligible students, only to have them need remedial course work when they get to college. Only 40 percent of HOPE scholars survive their freshmen year with the B average to retain the scholarship.”

I have more than a passing interest in this issue. I co-authored a study with my colleague Charles W. Nuckolls documenting the problem of grade distortion (defined as the combined phenomenon of grade inflation/grade disparities) at the University of Alabama.

Fortunately, the sensible decision earlier this year of Alabama’s voters to reject a massive tax increase have precluded, at least for now, the introduction of a similar HOPE Scholarship educational boondoggle in their state. Perhaps a certain HNN blogger from Georgia would like to comment.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:48 a.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG:
HART ON 19TH CENTURY FRENCH RADICAL LIBERALISM: AVAILABLE AGAIN, 11-12-03

I moaned and groaned a month back when historian David M. Hart's former university website lapsed into nonbeing, taking with it a wealth of material on the history of classical liberalism (and thereby creating lots of dead links on my Molinari Institute website).

I’m delighted to learn that David has begun reconstituting some of that material on his new website; in particular, he has restored two of my favourite pieces: Class Analysis, Slavery, and the Industrialist Theory of History: The Radical Liberalism of Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer and Gustave de Molinari and the Anti-statist Liberal Tradition. These studies of the radical liberal movement in 19th century France are must reading for anyone interested in the intellectual ancestry of contemporary libertarianism. (In light of current events, the French radicals' views on the nature of war are of particular interest.)

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 12:50 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: ANOTHER NEW GUY ON THE BLOCK, 11-11-03

A new blogger, Jonathan Bean, a history professor at Southern Illinois University, has been added to Liberty and Power. For more about Jon, who has written on the history of affirmative action and other issues, see here .

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:35 p.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: VETERANS DAY: THE THINGS THEY WROTE, 11-11-03

I provide this link without comment, in remembrance of all the vets. Rest in peace.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 05:25 p.m. EST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND SHELTON STATE CENSORSHIP, 11-11-03

The latest Chronicle of Higher Education has an article by Will Potter on the John Trobaugh censorship case at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As already mentioned at Liberty and Power, the Alabama Scholars Association and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have weighed into the case on the side of Professor Trobaugh’s rights. Here is an excerpt from the Chronicle:

"It seems that Shelton State Community College has a"don't ask, don't tell" policy for G.I. Joe. Last month the president of the Alabama college ordered a campus art gallery to remove photographs that showed the buff action figure in various embraces with Barbie's longtime companion, Ken. The president, Rick Rogers, said in a written statement that the photos were inappropriate because their display coincided with the opening, at the college theater, of the play Arsenic and Old Lace,"a family comedy."

Paul K. Looney, a college spokesman, said that some visitors had complained about the photos."The decision was made to try o use a common-sense approach to a situation that would have caused trouble and turmoil," he said."Galleries themselves are not public forums."

The exhibit, which showed works by John Trobaugh, an art professor, had been approved by the head of the art department and the associate dean of academic services. After Mr. Rogers objected, Mr. Trobaugh says he offered to install parental-advisory signs outside the gallery or to cover the photographs. The college's lawyer instead suggested placing the exhibit in a remote classroom. Mr. Trobaugh rejected that proposal.

The artist says his photos would have stirred no controversy had they highlighted violence instead of love."If these guys had guns to each other's heads, I guarantee you he would not have them removed," says Mr. Trobaugh."And I bet nobody would object to that, either, because they are used to seeing men that way. That is reason in and of itself to have this exhibit."

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 4:05 p.m. EST

KEITH HALDERMAN: RAVE ACT AND FREE SPEECH 11-11-03

The very first use of Joe Biden’s RAVE Act (see Radley Balko’s post second Blog below) consisted of a successful attempt by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to stifle free speech. Back in June, in Montana, they scared the people in control of the venue where a National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)/Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) event was to take place into canceling that political affair.

The self interested DEA knows that the only way they can keep their immoral, impracticable, un-American, dangerous, costly war on people who use certain kinds of drugs going is to prevent the citizens of this country from talking about or thinking about their endeavor too much. Hence they seek to stifle dissent and employ emotionalism wherever and whenever they can.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 12:45p.m.EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: INTRODUCTION AND SHAMELESS PLUGS, 11-11-03

It occurred to me that I've been blogging here since October 24th and I haven't had the decency to introduce myself at L&P. My bio has lots of links, so let me state, briefly, that I am a Visiting Scholar at NYU in the Department of Politics. I am the author of the"Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy," which began with Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, continued with Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and culminated in Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. My home page features all the debates surrounding my defense of a dialectical approach to libertarian social theory, one that focuses on the full context of epistemological, ethical, psychological, cultural, political, and economic factors necessary to the defense of freedom.

I am also a founding co-editor of the semi-annual interdisciplinary scholarly periodical, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, which features critical give-and-take from left and right on Rand's ideas and legacy. And I'm always on the lookout for new contributors, so check out the site!

I'd also like to take this opportunity to announce the publication, today, of a new monograph put out by SOLO, entitled Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation.

All my other activities and writings are linked at my "Not a Blog", and I'm delighted to be a part of the L&P family.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 12:30 p.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: MUGGED BY THE STATE, 11-11-03

Yesterday, I wrote a column for Tech Central Station recommending the new book Mugged by the State, by Randall Fitzgerald. I'd like to recommend it again here. It's a clear, concise, cogent book written by a longtime journalist. It's the type of book freedom-loving people might give to friends and relatives skeptical of the whole"libertarianism" thing. The Cato Institute's website is running excerpts of the book all this week. The first excerpt, which ran yesterday, is the sad tale of John Clayton, a Seattle tavern owner who was harassed by zealous anti-drug law enforcement officials to the point that he lost his business, and his life's savings.

Why? Because he chose to set up shop in a low-income area, after which officials decided they'd hold his business responsible for any drug activity in the vicinity.

Earlier this year, President Bush signed a bill setting up a nationwide"Amber Alert" system to help track down abducted children. Tacked on to that piece of feel-good legislation was the RAVE Act, penned by Sen. Joe Biden. Biden had attempted to put the RAVE Act into law last year, but public outcry killed the bill before it could come to a vote. Attaching the RAVE Act to a child abduction bill was a sneaky bit of legislative tomfoolery that virtually ensured its enactment. Woe to the senator with the courage to vote against a child abduction prevention bill in order to oppose a provision aimed at curbing drug abuse.

The RAVE Act basically holds venue and business owners criminally responsible for any drug use that goes on in conjunction with events held on their premises. It's yet another example of how the drug war has stripped ordinary citizens of protections we afford to non drug-related defendants. In this case, if you own an establishment in which patrons are known to use drugs, you could wind up in criminal court, even if you had no part in the distribution or use of the drugs, and even if you took reasonable measures to discourage drug use by your customers.

Biden and the other senators who pushed for RAVE's passage insist that ordinary, law-abiding business owners have nothing to fear. Biden has obviously learned nothing in his twenty-some years in the U.S. Congress. You don't grant federal law enforcement officials power this disquieting in sweep in scope, then trust that they'll use discretion and good judgment when employing it.

So how does this relate to John Clayton?

It was essentially a more provincial incarnation of this year's RAVE Act that put John Clayton out of business. These laws (sometimes called" crack house ordinances"), which exist all over the country, give local law enforcement the power to go after business owners they believe are facilitating drug use in the community, even if there's no evidence of drug use or sale on the actual property of the business owner. Local government can then pass the cost of anti-drug programs onto these business owners by making demands like those made of Clayton, usually under the threat of criminal (and at the very least, civil) liability if they fail to comply.

If state officials have no qualms about bankrupting honest businessmen in the name of the drug war, imagine what they can do when armed with a federal law, and federal resources.

Posted by Radley Balko at 11:16 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: MCKEE MENTIONED, NEW GROUP BLOG, 11-11-03

The blog of new Liberty and Power member, Reid McKee has been mentioned by Ralph Luker. Ralph is in the process of converting over to a group blog format. His new line-up is still a closely guarded secret, however. Liberty and Power made the transition to group status several months ago. Ralph: come in, the water is fine and good luck with the group format!

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:41 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: LIBERTY AND POWER GUEST BLOGGERS, 11-11-03

In shameless imitation of a practice used by our distant cousins at the Volokh Conspiracy , Liberty and Power is initiating a weekly guest blogger series. The first in the lineup is Radley Balko. We our honored to welcome him.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:26 a.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: INTRODUCTIONS 11-11-03

Warm thanks to Dr. Beito for inviting me to guest blog at Liberty & Power. I first saw Dr. Beito and Dr. Davies speak at a Cato University event a couple of summers ago. Both are just as impressive in person as they are in print, so it's an honor to share a blog with them and the other distinguished writers of this site for a week or so.

A very brief introduction: I'm Radley Balko. I'm a freelance writer living in Alexandria, Virginia. I've written for a number of outlets, but I write most frequently for Tech Central Station and for FoxNews.com, where I'm a regular columnist. I also run TheAgitator.com blog, where I and a number of co-bloggers post, and which also hosts links to most of my published writing.

Happy to be here.

Posted by Radley Balko at 8:26 a.m. EST

RADLEY BALKO: THE SOUTH CAROLINA DRUG RAID, 11-11-03

The South Carolina high school drug raid has Jonathan Wilde spewing venom (though articulate, accurate venom). It has Gene Healy penning glib quips (though appropriate and on-the-mark). And it had a few colleagues and I wondering over beers last Friday evening: How terribly incompetent do South Carolina anti-drug cops have to be when, as they're deliberating over which school's students' civil rights they plan to trample on, they pick the one school where they'd fail to find a single joint?

Me, I've succumbed to a kind of numb complacency about stories like this. Yes, it's a disgrace. But what about the drug war isn't disgraceful? When stuff like this and this and this still goes on, pretty much every day, I'm reserved to merely being thankful that when abuses of power like what happened in South Carolina do happen, they happen without adding more names to this list (updated here, and here, and here, and here).

That's what the drug war has reduced us to. Merely being thankful that as our own government again runs roughshod over our liberty, it at least stopped short -- this time -- of killing (another) one of us.

Posted by Radley Balko at 7:26 a.m. EST

KING BANAIAN: CONFEDERATE FLAGS AND COUNTERFEIT ARGUMENTATION, 11-10-03

I posted on the SCSU Scholars about a professor on campus (code named"Miss Median") that repeatedly attacks our local NAS chapter. I thought I would explore on this blog a second post she made wherein she attacks the idea of students hanging Confederate flags. Readers of ASA and L&P have heard about this case already, since it turns on the issue of flag displays at the University of Alabama.

Here's what the divine Miss M had to say:

...what is not at all clear to me is whether Minnesotans in general would really approve of university professors holding meetings to inform students about how & why other students have sued their schools. And what were these ground-breaking suits about? According to the website link provided in a campus NAS announcement a couple weeks ago, students who were asked not to hang Confederate Flags outside of their dorm room doors because it was creating a hostile environment sued over their First Amendment Rights. What a courageous and moral example !!

Do most Minnesotans on or off campus think that faculty should encourage students to hang the Confederate Flag up, wait for the inevitable fuss, and then sue the university? It is my understanding that even southern states are in the process of removing this divisive emblem from their public spaces.

Quite probably, few members of our campus community bothered to open that link to view the photo of that red flag or read the accompanying article, and quite frankly, I had managed to put my reaction behind me until reading the letter of a conservative student who represented himself as a victim of “diversity.”

In my view, there is nothing different between protecting the rights of people to display Confederate flags and the rights of Americans to burn American flags. Nor is there much difference between the southerner having a Confederate flag in his back window and a student of color wearing FUBU="For Us, By Us" clothing.

It's also absurd to think that anyone, anywhere, is encouraging students to set up the possibility of lawsuits, just as it is absurd to think that Minnesotans in particular have a desire to Confederate flags. It's not our symbol; last time I looked, we're still north of the Mason-Dixon line.

And the article she is quoting has nothing of a flag: what was posted was this editorial by Suzanne Fields. So the entire"that red flag" piece is a"red herring".

But this is what passes for the level of discourse on race issues on one Minnesota campus.

Posted by King Banaian at 8:12 p.m. EST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: FIRE CONDEMNS CENSORSHIP AT SHELTON STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, 11-10-03

The Shelton State Community College censorship case (see here and here) continues to generate controversy. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has issued the following statement of support for Professor John Trobaugh:

"Removing Professor John Trobaugh's display from the photo gallery of Shelton State Community College is utterly inconsistent with an institution devoted to open discussion, free expression, and intellectual freedom. The college has demonstrated a weak commitment to the basic principles of freedom in selectively taking down photos that it had previously approved for display in the gallery, and it should think seriously about the consequences of teaching its students such lessons. The college's argument that the display needed to be censored because children might be exposed to the 'controversial ' art ignores the constitutional principle that adult discourse and expression must not be limited to only 'only what is fit for children.' Such a limitation would reduce the discourse of the academy to the level of the sandbox.

We urge Shelton State Community College to return the display to its original, promised location and to show the community and the country that it respects and values the fundamental principles of academic freedom in higher education. The 'negativity' that Trobaugh's work is alleged to have caused on campus pales in comparison to the harm that might be caused to the entire community by creating an atmosphere of censorship and fear."

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 5:56 p.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: MORE ON THE BUSH SPEECH: RHETORICAL PRAGMATISM, 11-10-03

I expressed earlier contentment with the fact that President George W. Bush, in his November 6th speech on"The Age of Liberty" to mark the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment of Democracy, had admitted certain profound failures of US foreign policy. Rather refreshing on the face of it. William Safire implores us to read the full text of the Bush speech.

While there is much good substance in that speech about the requirements of human freedom, there are also quite a few contradictions and warped rhetorical strategies on display. In the midst of talking about shared"sacrifice"---what politician doesn't use that word at least once daily---Bush mentions the word" communism" three times, and mentions the Soviets five times... and none of it is very flattering. He says that President Ronald Reagan had

argued that Soviet communism had failed precisely because it did not respect its own people, their creativity, their genius and their rights. President Reagan said that the day of Soviet tyranny was passing, that freedom had a momentum that would not be halted. ... In the middle of the 20th century, some imagined that the central planning and social regimentation were a shortcut to national strength. In fact, the prosperity and social vitality and technological progress of a people are directly determined by the extent of their liberty. Freedom honors and unleashes human creativity. And creativity determines the strength and wealth of nations. Liberty is both the plan of heaven for humanity and the best hope for progress here on Earth. ... Communism and militarism and rule by the capricious and corrupt are the relics of a passing era. And we will stand with these oppressed peoples until the day of liberation and freedom finally arrives.

Whatever one's view of heaven's plan, one thing is certain: Bush is right about the blessings of liberty. And he has no problem listing many of those countries that are testing"our commitment to democracy" (forgive the rhetorical bait-and-switch, since"democracy" is a bit different from"liberty," but we'll put that issue aside for the time being). He cites Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe, China, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and"many Middle Eastern countries" as among those who are testing that commitment.

No mention of Pakistan, a member of the nuclear club. Or Saudi Arabia, the soil from which Bin Laden has sprung, and the home of virulent Wahhabism, which is routinely exported to the rest of the Muslim world. Why is that? Why are these two countries not mentioned in this"Age of Liberty" speech? Could it be that their own non-democratic ways are irrelevant, given their alliance with current US interests?

This silence is not something new with Bush. Let's recall this statement by the President to a joint session of Congress on 20 September 2001, in the aftermath of the attacks on US soil, as he turned his attention to the 9/11 terrorists and their supporters:

We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions---by abandoning every value except the will to power---they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies.

Bravo! But when the speech was first given, I remember being amused, but not totally surprised, by the lack of any reference to the failure of communism, which Bush had no trouble mentioning in his speech the other day. I suspected that because he was trying hard to keep Putin on board, he didn't want to bring up a few unpleasant facts about the communist past, a past that has not been fully eradicated in Putin's Russia. But now that Russia is not quite part of the" coalition of the willing" in the folly that is Iraq, Bush can talk more freely about the failure of communism.

He just can't mention the failure of authoritarianism in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. That would be too embarrassing for US"allies."

It may sound a bit Hegelian, but often the absence speaks louder than the presence. I know this every time I pass Ground Zero in Manhattan. But it is no less true when applied to the speeches of Presidents.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 09:00 a.m. EST

KEITH HALDERMAN: SHARED RESPONSIBILITY FOR MASS GRAVES 11-09-03

A headline in today’s Washington Times screams 300,000 IRAQIS MAY BE IN MASS GRAVES. The story goes on to quote the top human rights official in the U.S. led civilian administration. “Hodgkinson said the majority of people buried in the mass graves are believed to be Kurds killed by Saddam in the 1980s after rebelling against the government and Shiites killed after an uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.”

We should take a minute to remember why it was necessary to bury so many people. In the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War the first President Bush got on television and virtually called on the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam Hussein. Bush then sat idly by while the regime brutally put down the revolt that he had instigated. Perhaps if George the first had kept his big mouth shut or followed through on his implied promise of help there would not have been any need for mass graves.

As for those buried in the 1980s their deaths occurred while Hussein was one our best friends.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 6:15p.m. EST

REID MCKEE: INTRODUCTION/WHEN THEOLOGIANS ATTACK!! 11-09-03

First of all I’d like to say thanks to Dave Beito for inviting me to join Liberty and Power. I’ve kept a watchful eye on the blogosphere before the term was even coined, but I’ve never had the time or the guts to start my own. As a result, I think I’ll be perfectly suited to a group blog like this one.

For starters, here’s a little background on me. I’m a former student of Dave Beito’s (B.A. History, University of Alabama, 1997), and I’m currently practicing law in my hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.

While I intend to focus much of my blogging on legal developments, I should add that I retain a significant interest in non-legal matters. I received a Masters in Social Sciences (with a focus in political science) from the University of Chicago before going to law school, and I’m planning on doing some independent scholarly work at some point in the near future.

**********

Now with the obligatory introduction out of the way, let’s get to some real blogging.

Two pacifically-minded Christian theologians, Stanley Hauerwas and Paul Griffiths, recently reviewed just war theorist and Iraq war supporter Jean Bethke Elshtain’s new book in the pages of First Things.

This review and its accompanying response reveal a cavernous division among Christian theologians concerning the Iraqi War which mirrors current political strife over the same subject.

Moreover, the acidic review and response should be instructive to those who think that contemporary theologians and Christian writers in general aren’t willing to drop the gloves every once and a while. In fact, both articles feature more cheap shots than a 1970’s hockey game.

For instance, Hauerwas and Griffiths observe that a statement in Elshtain’s book could be a “could be a sentence lifted from an Al-Qaida training manual,” and refer to her arguments as “mendacious or culpably blind.” Elshtain does her best to respond, calling her detractors “propagandists” and clearly implying that they “loathe” America.

Posted by Reid McKee at 5:37 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: DAUBER CELEBRATES “WILL” OVER “OLD HISTORY,” 11-09-03

In their defense of the Iraq war/occupation, some of our liberventionist friends have shown a regrettable tendency to gloss over the long historical record on guerrilla and foreign wars. One of my fellow historians at Liberty and Power, Keith Halderman, has pointed this out in another context. Until now, however, the liberventionist repudiation of history has been implied rather than explicit.

Cori Dauber at the Volokh Conspiracy, however, finally crosses the line. In comments on a recent article drawing comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam, she openly celebrates the virtues of an ahistorical approach. In its place, she urges that we place our faith in “will” when making foreign policy decisions.

Dismissing the shackles on human action imposed by what she calls “old history,” Dauber writes:

“We will succeed or fail based on whether we decide an old history applies or not. And if we decide it applies we will fail. And if we fail, then we will fail entirely and everything we have done will have been wasted. This is the fact the logic of fighting a war of will. But it is also the logic of having your fate, at least in the long run, in your own hands.”

The belief that a mere assertion of “will” can overcome all obstacles (even practical ones) to governmental action shows yet again that the liberventionists are falling prey to what Hayek called the “fatal conceit." If “will” can accomplish miracles in Iraq, I wonder why they hesitate to recommend it as a basis for more governmental intervention in domestic affairs as well. Perhaps that will be next.

Posted by David T. Beito at 12:06 p.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG:
WHO AM I? WHY AM I HERE?, 11-08-03

Since I joined L&P only last week, I guess I'm a new kid on the block as well. So perhaps a brief introduction is in order.

I teach philosophy at Auburn University (but I work inter alia in both history-of-philosophy and philosophy-of-history, so I also count, sorta kinda, as a historian -- anyway that's my story); my current research focuses on connections between Greek philosophy, ordinary-language philosophy, and Austrian economics. I run a small anarchist think tank called the Molinari Institute, and I do most of my blogging at In a Blog's Stead. For more information about me see here and here.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 05:09 p.m. EST

KEITH HALDERMAN: DEFINE TERRORIST 11-08-03

I have question for Cori Dauber over at the Volokh Conspiracy (see David Beito’s post from yesterday IRAQ, VOLOKH, AND THE AGITATOR, 11-07-03), were the members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who fought during the Spanish Civil War terrorists? After all, they were foreigners.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 2:00 a.m. EST

KING BANAIAN: COSTLY SPEECH 11-07-03

A faculty member at Auburn whose Ph.D. program was eliminated improperly says he is being punished for talking about the case to university trustees. His lawyer claims $25,000 in lost summer support. This after the university president issued a statement to the faculty saying the university"will not take any adverse action against any person who cooperates with the investigation or provides information to the investigator."

(Crossposted from SCSU Scholars.)

Posted by King Banaian at 11:12 PM EST.

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: ONE CHEER FOR G. W. BUSH, 11-07-03

While I am staunchly opposed to the idea of"nation building," I did find one thing to cheer about in George W. Bush's speech yesterday. In urging that the Middle East move toward democracy, Bush made a few rather remarkable admissions about the history of U.S. foreign policy. Here's an excerpt from the Associated Press report:

Bush's speech appeared aimed at complaints in the Arab world that the United States has long tolerated corrupt, undemocratic regimes in return for stability and a reliable supply of oil. Washington began to rethink its policy after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, and the emergence of deep hostility in the Mideast toward the United States. Fifteen of the Sept. 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.

"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe---and in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty,'' the president said.

Considering the US alliance with Saudi Arabia, perhaps we can trot out this statement every so often, to remind our President that"excusing" and"accommodating" is a vital part of currently constituted US foreign policy. Then, maybe, we can remind our President that he too once opposed nation-building in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:20 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: HIGGS,"FDR WAS NO SAVIOR," 11-07-03

David Theroux calls my attention to Robert Higgs’ letter to the Wall Street Journal, “FDR was no Savior,” responding to a recent piece by Conrad Black.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:36 p.m. EST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: PRIVATIZING THE GREEK SYSTEM, 11-07-03

The following is the draft of an article which will appear in the next issue of the Alabama Observer. We believe that this plan also has national ramifications:

“The Case for Privatizing the Greek System,” by Charles W. Nuckolls and David T. Beito.

In the last few years, the University of Alabama administration, as well as the faculty senate, has squandered considerable time and energy on schemes to micromanage the membership policies of exclusive private social clubs on campus. This time and energy could have been better devoted to addressing critically important academic issues such as grade distortion.

The skewed priorities can be traced to a Byzantine and debilitating entangling alliance between the University and the Greek system. The alliance includes a combination of regulations and subsidies. It is based on a decades-long arrangement under which most sororities and fraternities own their buildings while the UA owns the surrounding real estate.

The Alabama Scholars Association has a proposed a plan to permanently end this alliance. It calls for the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama to privatize the sororities and fraternities by selling the real estate to the individual Greek houses for an amount equivalent to closing costs.

Privatization will solve two problems. The first is that it will end faculty interference with the right of free association, a right we believe the Greeks are as much entitled to as the Baptist Church or the North River Yacht Club. Such interference amounts to state control of voluntary organizations and should not be tolerated in a free society.

The second is that it will address the problem of “role confusion,” the result of a failure to recognize the different missions of the University and a private association. The University must be inclusive, its membership based solely on intellectual merit. Private associations can recruit their members in whatever way they like, but they have no place on campus, nor should their mission be confused with that of the University.

Some critics claim that a privatized Greek system would mar the beauty and stability of the physical campus environment. Fortunately, current real estate law provides for a simple and reliable solution. Under privatization, the UA could attach deed restrictions to the sale of property requiring that it be given first right of refusal should the land come up for sale. Deed restrictions could also be used to guarantee that the land would never be converted to commercial purposes or private residents.

With each passing year, it become more apparent that the UA’s meddling in the Greek system is hopelessly impractical and inflexible. It has bogged down both administrators and faculty senators in a time-consuming quagmire with no light at the end of the tunnel.

It is time to cut the Gordian knot once and for all. Privatization will not only enable the University to concentrate on academics but will foster an environment of student leadership, free choice, and competition. Hence, it is no surprise that two privatized sororities on campus, Delta Xi Phi and Alpha Delta Sigma, have achieved far better records as promoters of genuine integration that the combined ranks of UA administrators and faculty senators.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 10:26 a.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: IRAQ, VOLOKH, AND THE AGITATOR, 11-07-03

As six more American soldiers die, Rick Weininger at the Agitator assess the merits of withdrawal while Cori Dauber at Volokh is preoccupied with the question of what noun the media should use to classify the attackers.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:26 a.m. EST

KING BANAIAN: NEW KID ON THE BLOCK 11-06-03

I am pleased to join Liberty and Power.  As I told David when I was invited, there are several writers on this list whose work I've admired for some time.  It's awfully flattering to be invited to join such an august group.  I hope I can hold up my end of the bargain.

I author the majority of my blogging work at SCSU Scholars.  SCSU is St. Cloud State University, my employer, which National Association of Scholars president Steve Balch once described as"ground zero" of the battle against political correctness in Minnesota.  The Scholars blog grew out of a desire to have a way for people opposed to the infantilization of our university's curriculum, the curtailment of free speech, and the continued poor governance by both the administration and a faculty union. 

I am hoping to bring a couple of items from there to the readers of L&P, but more to the point I'd like an opportunity to expand my writing beyond issues in higher education.  I will write often on international political economy and central banking (these are my areas of expertise).

Posted by King Banaian at 4:50 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: BOUQUETS FOR AL SHARPTON?! 11-06-03

I intend to weigh into the Lochner controversy soon but, in the meantime, here is some surprising good news.

Regarding a proposed filibuster on the nomination of Judge Janice Brown, Al Sharpton declares: “I don’t agree with her politics. I don’t agree with some of her background. But she should get an up-or-down vote.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:06 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: WILSON,"THE MISSIONARY", 11-06-03

Ronald Steel's insightful review of several books dealing with Woodrow Wilson appears in the November 20th issue of The New York Review of Books. Some excerpts:

During the past dozen years the image of Woodrow Wilson has undergone a remarkable transformation. The saintly idealist inspired by utopian visions of global brotherhood has been given a new identity as a crusading imperialist warrior. To the chagrin of his old liberal admirers and the applause of his new neoconservative celebrants, Wilson has been invoked as the patron saint of the Iraq war. ...

Liberals and neoconservatives may both be correct in considering themselves to be Wilsonians. In truth they are more alike than they admit in their ideological ambitions and their moral justifications. But this should not be surprising, for some of today's neoconservatives were yesterday's liberals. In practice the difference between the interventionist liberals and the interventionist neoconservatives is more a matter of degree than of principle. It rests on how much exercise of military power the liberals will rationalize, and how much deference to liberal cliches the neoconservatives will tolerate. ...

Since the late 1940s we have embraced Wilson's intoxicating rhetoric for remaking the world according to American values. His plan for a new world order, he told the senate in January 1917, rested firmly on"American principles." These were not negotiable, he maintained, for"they are the principles of mankind and must prevail." This is why Wilson is honored today not as a failed idealist but as an imperial figure for a nation in the flush of an imperial age.

Definitely worth your attention.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 09:10 a.m. EST

ARTHUR SILBER: I TOLD YOU SO, 11-05-03

In a post today about the Pentagon's recruitment efforts for local draft boards, I say this:

In the posts linked to above, I have explained why I consider the reinstitution of a draft and censorship to be the two single greatest dangers to the United States today. Both represent the most fundamental violation of individual rights that can be imagined.

I have also explained why I might vote for a Democrat for President next year, if only to assure a division of labor between the parties, with a Democrat in the White House and a Republican-controlled Congress. At the moment, it appears that gridlock may be the only impediment to a final slide into a mongrel socialist-fascist dictatorship.

But if the Democratic candidate for President, or the Democratic Party itself, comes out in favor of reinstituting the draft, I will never vote for any of them. This is not a negotiable issue in my view.

My life is mine, not anyone else's. It does not belong to the Democrats, nor to the Republicans, nor to anyone else. Ever. I don't give a damn what" crisis" people may drum up which convinces them that they have the"right" to dispose of other human beings as if they were cattle.

And if some politicians can't understand the supreme, ultimate importance of this issue, they do not deserve anyone's vote, and they will never get mine.

You can read the entire entry here.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 05:00 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: “LIBERVENTIONIST” CALLS ANTIWAR LIBERTARIANS"UN-AMERICAN,” 11-05-03

Thank you to Eric Garris for calling attention to Jack Wheeler’s attack on libertarian non-interventionists as “Anti-American.” Jesse Walker has written a cogent response. Garris and others at www.antiwar.com blog are using the term, “liberventionists” to characterize Wheeler and his allies. Spot on guys!

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:40 p.m. EST

SHELDON RICHMAN: THE PEOPLE SEE THE LIGHT, 11-05-03

A Washington Post-ABC News poll says that only one in seven Americans believes Iraq is central to the so-called war on terror. The American people are paying closer attention than I thought. Now when will they realize the war on terror is a fraud and a usurpation?

Posted by Sheldon Richman at 11:35 a.m. CST

IVAN ELAND: CUT LOSSES, LEAVE IRAQ , 11-05-03

The brazen missile attack on the Rashid hotel in Baghdad, a recent spate of suicide bombings and the downing of a Army helicopter illustrate that anti-American violence is increasing in frequency, sophistication and deadliness. Moreover, a recent poll by an Iraq research center showed fewer than 15% of Iraqis see U.S. forces as liberators, down from a tepid 43% six months ago. That's an ominous sign that popular discontent over a prolonged occupation could cause anti-U.S. attacks to snowball.

The only way to let the air out of the resistance is to quickly turn Iraq back to the Iraqis and withdraw U.S. forces. The violence arises primarily as a reaction to the invasion and occupation by a foreign superpower.

To provide for security after U.S. forces leave, the Afghan model could be adopted. Kurdish and Shiite militias could be used to police their own sections of the country. Baghdad and other problem areas could be policed by an international coalition. If the United States were to relinquish control over Iraq's reconstruction, foreign nations would be more likely to commit their military forces for peacekeeping.

Even if such a plan did not work, stability in Iraq never has been vital to U.S. security interests. The threat from Saddam Hussein's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction was overstated. And economists from across the political spectrum always have been skeptical that Persian Gulf oil needs to be secured militarily. Yet their views have been ignored by vested interests in U.S. national security bureaucracies.

In the wake of an ill-advised U.S. invasion, the Bush administration does not have many good options. Few foreign forces will be attracted unless the United States gives up control over the reconstruction; even then violence will continue as long as American forces remain. Throwing even more U.S. troops into the fray would belie the administration's claim that security is improving. As a presidential election approaches, such a move could be political suicide.

To preserve U.S." credibility" nearly 40 years ago, American policymakers pursued an escalated war in Vietnam - when cutting their losses and getting out sooner would have ultimately salvaged more world esteem. The same is likely to be true in Iraq.

Posted by Ivan Eland at 11:35 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: WAR, DRUGS, AND PRINCIPLES, 11-05-03

I'm sure that over time, certain differences among L&P bloggers will be very clear, because we value the diversity among us. But there's nothing like agreement, and I'd like to return the praise to Keith Halderman for his very fine post on "America's Drug of War". And not just because he quoted me. :)

F. A. Hayek tells us in his classic Road to Serfdom that"the most important change which extensive government control produces is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people." This is a social-psychological corruption that spreads insidiously."The important point," writes Hayek,"is that the political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much the effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives." This is a reciprocal connection between social psychology and politics that cannot be ignored. For each sphere tends to promote mutually reinforcing social practices that undermine individualism and self-responsibility.

The ultimate casualties of increasing government intervention, then, are the very principles at the foundation of freedom. When principle is sacrificed to pragmatism, the results are neither principled nor pragmatic. Note, for example, how the US fought for"regime change" in Iraq, to destroy Saddam's reign of terror (despite encouraging that reign when Iraq fought Iran)?ut it ignores the House of Sa'ud's reign of terror on its own population, because Saudi Arabia is a US"ally." Note too how the US fights a"war on drugs," unless those drugs happen to be in Afghanistan. As Eric Margolis writes:

"The Taliban, according to the United Nations drug agency, had almost shut down opium-morphine-heroin production. America? ally, the Northern Alliance, has revived the illicit trade. Since the U.S. overthrew the Taliban, opium cultivation has soared from 185 tons a year to 2,700. The Northern Alliance, which dominates the Kabul regime, finances its arms-buying and field operations with drug money. President George Bush? war on drugs collided with his war on terrorism?nd lost. The U.S. is now, in effect, colluding in the heroin trade."

So much for principle.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 06:52 a.m. EST

KEITH HALDERMAN: AMERICA? DRUG OF WAR 11-05-03

In his blog,"CONTEXTUAL" OR"DIALECTICAL LIBERTARIANISM," IT ALL COMES DOWN TO CULTURE 11-03-03 Chris Matthew Sciabarra wrote: For me, libertarianism demands nothing less than a full revolution across cultural, ethical, political, social, and economic boundaries. This is why I see an inseparable link between foreign and domestic policy, and why I believe that the fight against foreign intervention is equally a fight against domestic intervention." I very much agree with this passage and it reminded me of something a friend of mine, Jeffery Stonehill, used to talk about at NORML and Drug Policy Foundation conferences. In fact, he performed a monologue on America's Drug of War.

It is no accident that most of those who favor the war on people who use certain kinds of drugs also favor the war on the Iraqi people. And, make no mistake about it, the war is against the Iraqi people, we have taken their country away from them. Those who support these actions need their drug of war.Some of them need it for the material gain that will come their way. Pundits, politicians, prison guards and contractors all reap benefits. However, many if not most supporters need the war narcotic for their pride, for the rush they get out of feeling superior to other human beings.

What else but pure unadulterated hubris can explain the arguments that locking a person away in a dank prison cell because they use a disapproved but arguably less harmful drug than the approved ones is somehow a favor to the prisoner or that occupying a country for years with foreign troops is a boon to the people living there?

The task of the libertarian revolution, to which Sciabarra refers, is to turn our country away from such prideful and ultimately soul-destroying actions. We must break America? addiction to both foreign and domestic wars.

Posted by Keith Halderman at 1:45 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: DEATH TOLLS IN IRAQ, 11-04-03

I wanted to share a point I made on Arthur Silber's blog, a fine post of his called Reality Check. It seems that Cori Dauber at Volokh Conspiracy questions those who have claimed that one soldier per day has been killed in Iraq. The truth is that 376 troops have lost their lives since the conflict began, and that 238 of these deaths (approximately 1.27 deaths per day) have occurred since May 1.

It is said that only 138 of these post-May 1 deaths were combat-related. But combat or non-combat related, the fact is that 238 men and women have died in a conflict that had nothing to do with protecting America against imminent threat. The fact is that more than two thousand men and women have been injured, their lives shattered, in this folly.

Dauber asks,"did September 11th change our way of thinking about the risks we face and the way we will face them, or not? I do not mean that as a glib and facile question, but as the most important foreign policy debate we have to face in today's world."

It is certainly one of the most important questions we face today. All the more reason for the US to have preserved its fighting force for the real war against Al Qaeda terrorists, rather than to have created a situation which is most assuredly manufacturing more terrorists. All the more reason for the US to have minimized its risks by not fighting a war in a country hopelessly mired in tribal conflict when that war had nothing to do with preserving US security.

I want to also bring your attention to another superb Arthur Silber post about the failure of the pro-war side to understand the financial and human risks of this Iraq conflict: For So Few to Have Been So Wrong About So Much.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 06:30 p.m. EST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: BANNED AT SHELTON STATE, 11-04-03

The officers of the Alabama Scholars Association have sent the following letter to the president of Shelton State Community College protesting his censorship of the art of Professor John Trobaugh. For more details on the case, see here.

November 4, 2003

Rick Rogers, President, Shelton State Community College, Box #198, 9500 Old Greensborough Road, Tuscaloosa, AL 35405

Dear President Rogers:

On Wednesday, October 29th, we met with Professor John Trobaugh. Because our organization, the Alabama Scholars Association, is dedicated to the preservation of academic freedom, we asked him about reports that you had censored his art.

Professor Trobaugh informed us that you had personally ordered that his display be removed from the photo gallery of Shelton State Community College. He further stated that members of your administration had proposed an “alternative” under which his art would be displayed in a former classroom.

The ASA is greatly alarmed by your decision to censor an already-approved display of drawings and photos simply because it might be controversial. We regard the proposed alternative of showing the art in a former classroom to be a totally unacceptable form of de facto censorship.

It is your legal and ethical obligation as the president of a publicly funded college to protect freedom of speech and academic freedom. Your action in this case violates that obligation.

We call on you to issue a formal apology to Professor Trobaugh and to restore his artwork to display exactly where it was before you intervened.

For your information, the Alabama Scholars Association (www.alabamascholars.org) has chapters on nine campuses in Alabama and is the state affiliate of the National Association of Scholars (www.nas.org).

Sincerely,

David T. Beito, President, Alabama Scholars Association

Charles W. Nuckolls, Director, Alabama Scholars Association

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 4:18 p.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: ON TRANSFER TUBES, 11-04-03

The media continues its blackout on wounded American soldiers and on the ones who are not so"lucky" -- the ones returning to their broken-hearted families in body bags. Oops...returning in "transfer tubes." That's how desperate the Bush administration is to hide the bodies of Americans who die making Iraq safe for Halliburton's profits; there are no more"body bags," only"transfer tubes." And, if you want to read how Americans like Charles H. Buehring finally came home you have to read independent or foreign new sources, like the Toronto Star. It reports on Buehring:"He arrived at the air force base in Dover, Del., in the middle of the night, in an aluminum shipping case draped in an American flag....America never saw Lt.-Col. Buehring's arrival, days after a rocket from a homemade launcher ended his life at age 40 in Baghdad's heavily fortified Rasheed Hotel last Monday. Americans have never seen any of the other 359 bodies returning from Iraq. Nor do they see the wounded cramming the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington or soldiers who say they are being treated inhumanely awaiting medical treatment at Fort Stewart, Ga. In order to continue to sell an increasingly unpopular Iraqi invasion to the American people, President George W. Bush's administration sweeps the messy parts of war — the grieving families, the flag-draped coffins, the soldiers who have lost limbs — into a far corner of the nation's attic. No television cameras are allowed at Dover. Bush does not attend the funerals of soldiers who gave their lives in his war on terrorism. Buehring of Winter Springs, Fla., described as"a great American" by his commanding officer, had two sons, 12 and 9, was active in the Boy Scouts and his church and had served his country for 18 years. No government official has said a word publicly about him."

Traditionally, American war-dead have been honored with ceremony; their families have been" comforted" by officials, both military and political. Now the dead are hidden, like embarrassments, in order for the Bush administration to continue passing the"Dover test" -- shorthand for the American public's tolerance for wartime fatalities. What the public doesn't see, doesn't exist...or, at least, it doesn't have emotional impact. The cold-hearted armchair-warriors who send young men and women to die in a godforsaken desert certainly don't suffer from emotional backlash because of their unique access to information about the wounded. As Bridget Gibson explains,"It is taking an act of Congress to stop the Pentagon from charging our wounded military $8.10 a day for their meals while they are hospitalized. Will it take another to supply the toilet paper that must be bought during their incapacitation also?"

The only way to learn about the dead and wounded from mainstream sources is to read between the lines. For example, the Associated Press reports:"A new, $30 million military mortuary was dedicated at Dover Air Force Base on Monday, a gleaming, brightly lit, state-of-the-art facility....The new mortuary was built with efficiency in mind. Air flowing through its ventilation system is turned over 15 times an hour to ensure that odors and chemical fumes don't cause problems for workers. It has almost 200 linked computer stations, about 10 times the number of computers at the old facility....The new mortuary has rack storage for 380 caskets and is equipped with 24 autopsy/embalming stations, compared to four permanent stations at the old facility."

BTW, the casualty figures do not include American civilians -- the" contractors" who now abound in Iraq. As Mother Jones comments,"Contractors' deaths aren't counted among the tally of more than 350 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. No one is sure how many private workers have been killed, or, indeed, even how many are toiling in Iraq for the U.S. government. Estimates range from under 10,000 to more than 20,000 - which could make private contractors the largest U.S. coalition partner ahead of Britain's 11,000 troops."

And, in case people believe I am overblowing the angle of"profits for Halliburton" (and other war profiteers), consider merely one news item:"House Nixes Anti-Profiteering Penalties in Iraq Spending Bill." The report reads,"From the The final version of the $87 billion spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan is missing provisions the Senate had passed to penalize war profiteers who defraud American taxpayers. House negotiators on the package refused to accept the Senate provisions. 'Congress is about to send billions and billions of dollars to a place where there is no functioning government, under a plan with too little accountability and too few financial controls,' said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) 'That's a formula for mischief. We need strong disincentives for those who would defraud taxpayers, and removing this protection is another major blot on this bill'." And the Bush administration refused to accept the $87 billion unless anti-fraud provisions were removed. Like I said...making the world safe for Halliburton et. al.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 11:20 a.m. EST. Check McBlog for more commentary.

DAVID T. BEITO: FEELING A DRAFT, 11-04-03

The Selective Service system has issued an advertisement urging Americans to apply for positions on local draft boards. Hmmmmm...

10:06 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA:"THE LARGEST EMERGENCY SPENDING BILL EVER SOUGHT BY A PRESIDENT"... APPROVED, 11-04-03

So, after all the political arm wrestling and posturing and the statements of"principle," after all the debate over whether the US should be providing loans, rather than outright taxpayer assistance to Iraq, only six members of the US Senate were present for an unrecorded vote to approve President Bush's $87.5 billion request for emergency occupation spending in Iraq. The House passed the bill last week (in a recorded vote of 298 to 121 in favor), and the President will sign it soon. Yes, it's"the largest emergency spending bill ever sought by a president," according to the NY Times. For a dose of reality, read Senator Robert Byrd's reflections on all this. The Senator was the lone voice of vocal dissent during the vote.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 07:15 a.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG:
SENSE OF DEATH OBJECTIVISTS?, 11-03-03

I see that on the Sense of Life Objectivists website the poll is currently running 2 to 1 in favour of mass murder of civilian targets.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 09:48 p.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA:"CONTEXTUAL" OR"DIALECTICAL LIBERTARIANISM," IT ALL COMES DOWN TO CULTURE, 11-03-03

In light of the important points about culture that have been made recently by my fellow bloggers, Arthur Silber and Roderick Long, I wanted to quote from an interesting book by Cass R. Sunstein, a professor of jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School. The book, published by Harvard University Press, is entitled Why Societies Need Dissent:

"The free-speech principle is mostly about law, not about culture. A legal system that is committed to free speech forbids government from silencing dissenters. That is an extraordinary accomplishment, but it is not nearly enough. As we have seen, people often silence themselves not because of law but because they defer to the crowd; we can now add that people are often unheard even if they speak. ... A well-functioning democracy has a culture of free speech, not simply legal protection of free speech. It encourages independence of mind. It imparts a willingness to challenge prevailing opinion through both words and deeds. Equally important, it encourages a certain set of attitudes in listeners, one that gives a respectful hearing to those who do not embrace the conventional wisdom. In a culture of free speech, the attitude of listeners is no less important than that of speakers."

I make a point along similar lines in my book, Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism, about the prospects for the achievement of freedom in a formerly slave society:

... in Mauritania, 500 years of bondage has created a culture of obedience. There are 90,000 slaves who have been freed, but who remain slaves. They do not rebel and do not protest their lot. They continue “to haul water, herd animals, cook, sweep and reproduce.” ... [T]hey remain slaves in their own minds, even though they are “no longer technically indentured to anyone.” As the descendants of generations of slaves, with no salaries or education, with no understanding of the concept of emancipation or individual autonomy, they are “perched between slavery and freedom.” There is nothing in the custom or culture of the country ... that “has ever awakened [their] ability to dream.”

I conclude that simply imposing a libertarian principle of nonaggression on Mauritanian society will not yield freedom—not when slavery is a state of mind.

Whereas Silber calls his approach" contextual libertarianism," I call mine"dialectical libertarianism"—with much the same effect. Because I define dialectics as the"art of context-keeping," I believe that one must provide a broader context if freedom is to survive and flourish—that is, one must seek to actualize those conditions that are necessary to the achievement and sustenance of freedom. For me, libertarianism demands nothing less than a full revolution across cultural, ethical, political, social, and economic boundaries. This is why I see an inseparable link between foreign and domestic policy, and why I believe that the fight against foreign intervention is equally a fight against domestic intervention.

And that's why I've been so upset with so many pro-war libertarians: They advocate a policy of foreign intervention that requires a garrison state at home. They advocate the imposition of"free markets" abroad without grasping either the extent to which the"imposer" (the United States of America) has eschewed freedom in favor of crony capitalism or the extent to which the"imposee" (Iraq) offers a tribalist culture that is inimical to the growth of freedom.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 04:30 p.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG:
IN DEFENSE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, 11-03-03

HNN advertises that it carries commentary"from Both the Left and the Right." We libertarians, of course, like to say that we are neither left nor right; we even have a chart to prove it. Yet as Murray Rothbard was pointing out back in 1965, there is a tendency for libertarians to identify themselves more closely with the right than with the left, giving their positions in many cases a problematic conservative slant.

It wasn't always so. In the 19th century, the most radical members of the libertarian movement were also the ones most likely to identify with the left. (See fellow L&P blogger Wendy McElroy's book The Debates of Liberty: An Overview of Individualist Anarchism, 1881-1908.) Perhaps it was the triumphant advance of socialism (in both its totalitarian and democratic forms) throughout most of the 20th century, driving libertarians into an antisocialist alliance with conservatives, that helped exert a conservative pull on so much of libertarian thought.

Different aspects of conservative thought have been influential in different instances, however. For example, many of my libertarian friends at the Volokh Conspiracy take a rightward turn in embracing the current U.S. policy of globalist militarism; many of my libertarian friends at LewRockwell.com take a rightward turn in embracing a socioculturally conservative"paleolibertarian" populism. In this case neither group is likely to be tempted by the other group's specific version of rightward deviation, but both are rightward deviations nonetheless; in my judgment, the first threatens a free society’s political requirements and the second its cultural requirements.

Even among libertarians who are neither hawks nor paleos, the tendency to veer rightward is by no means absent. One instance is the knee-jerk reaction among libertarians against those concerns of the academic/cultural left that go by the name of"political correctness." For a (qualified) defense of"PC" concerns as worthy of libertarian respect, see my column One Cheer for Political Correctness.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 02:58 p.m. EST

ARTHUR SILBER: A RECORD FOR UNRAVELING, 11-03-03

This is intriguing to me:

"President Bush is losing public support for his war and economic policies, according to a new poll which for the first time shows that a majority of Americans disapprove of his handling of Iraq.

"A slim majority, 51%, disapprove of his Iraq policy, while 47% approve, according to the ABC News-Washington Post poll released Sunday.

"Most Americans, 54%, continue to believe the Iraq war was worth fighting, but that's down from 70% in April. A new high—62%—say the level of U.S. casualties is unacceptable.

"Fewer than one in 10 Americans say Bush has made the nation more prosperous, while 58%—a new high—say the president fails to understand their problems.

"The economy remains a major issue, with 45% of Americans approving of the way Bush is handling the economy and 53% disapproving. By a wide margin, 62% to 35%, the public sees the economy as a more pressing problem than terrorism."

The poll was conducted October 26-29—before last Thursday's economic news, and before the bloody day in Iraq in yesterday. So perhaps those two items will roughly balance each other; that will be interesting to watch in future polls.

But here is what I find fascinating. I've repeatedly emphasized that my focus is on long-term consequences—what the results of policies followed today may be in five or ten years, even decades from now. I expected that, in time, the full negative consequences of our current foreign policy would reveal themselves—as they did after World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, among others.

But the negative consequences of this administration's policies seem to be coming out at record speed, in historic terms. At the moment, I'm still thinking about this phenomenon, and I don't have an explanation for it yet. Anyone have any thoughts about it?

(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)

Posted by Arthur Silber at 02:50 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: BERNSTEIN AND HIS CRITICS, 11-03-03

The critics of David E. Bernstein’s brief in favor of Lochnerian jurisprudence in Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal are attacking in full force. See here , here, and here . As many of you know, I am a big fan of Bernstein’s book (which I suspect many of his critics have never read) and often assign it in my classes.

I may not be able to respond today but my fellow bloggers at Liberty and Power are more than welcome to weigh in.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:16 a.m. EST

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: SPEECH CODES UNDER ATTACK, 11-03-03

Erin O’Connor discusses today's lengthy article from USA Today on the rising tide of resistance to campus speech codes.

The story briefly mentions the successful fight to protect free speech in residential halls at the University of Alabama. The Alabama Scholars Association strongly defended the rights of students to display flags and other material in their windows. As has been mentioned here, the tide turned in favor of victory when residents began to display American flags.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 9:46 a.m. EST

ARTHUR SILBER: IN PRAISE OF CONTEXTUAL LIBERTARIANISM 11-02-03

Here's an excerpt from a new post at The Light of Reason:

We do not grow up or live in a vacuum; we grow up and live in a particular society at a particular time. All of us are influenced in countless ways by the world in which we live. To maintain otherwise, one would have to advocate a psychologically untenable degree of repression or denial. I further think this point is so obvious that it doesn't even merit a lengthier defense or explanation.

For many libertarians, however, it appears that these cultural dimensions are not worthy of attention---and more than that, they appear to think that paying any attention to them constitutes a positive danger. They could not be more wrong in my view. While these cultural aspects may not alter the basic political principles one advocates---which they do not for me, despite my attention to them---they are crucial to understanding the world in which we live. If one wants to understand the specific manner in which policy debates are being conducted, and if one wants to understand why people think and act as they do in this or any other society, one has to understand the overall cultural context in which these issues arise.

The failure of many (if not most) libertarians to do this consistently is, I think, one of libertarian's greatest failings---and one of the key reasons that libertarian ideas have not had greater success in appealing to many people. Many libertarians treat political principles in the manner of Plato's Forms: as abstractions floating in the ether, unconnected to the particulars of this world. But that is not the manner in which anyone lives, despite the protestations of many libertarians to the contrary. As a result, many people write off many libertarian ideas as"impractical," or"idealistic," or"unworkable." That is a mistake in my view, but given libertarianism's failing in this regard (speaking generally), it is a very understandable mistake.

You can read the complete entry here.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 02:40 p.m. EST

DONALD J. BOUDREAUX: GEPHARDT'S"INTERNATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE," 11-02-03

In demanding an "international minimum wage” to protect American workers from lower-cost foreign workers, Richard Gephardt unwittingly helps to reveal the unsavory origins of America’s own domestic minimum-wage. Far from being an attempt to help low-paid workers, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was sought by owners of northern textile mills and their unionized employees as a means of stifling the competition that was then emerging from southern textile mills with access to lower-cost labor.

Posted by Donald J. Boudreaux at 2:12 p.m. EST

DAVID T. BEITO: THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY AND THE FATAL CONCEIT OF LIBERTARIAN CENTRAL PLANNERS 11-02-03

Cori Dauber, a new blogger at the Volokh Conspiracy, has the following to say on this bloody morning: “Is democracy possible in Iraq? Will the war accomplish anything? It is, and it already has.”

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:32 a.m. EST

CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA: WHO BOTCHED THE OCCUPATION? 11-02-03

So asks David Rieff in his article, "Blueprint for a Mess" in today's NY Times magazine. The picture that emerges is not unlike what we see in most other government-directed projects: competition among political actors within the government to set the agenda. And what emerges from the rivalrous political competition is no part of anyone's intention, it seems. As Rieff observes:"Bush had come into office strenuously opposing 'nation building,' and in the early months of his presidency the neoconservatives' interventionist view was by no means dominant. But the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave the movement new energy. Within days of the attacks, Wolfowitz was spearheading efforts to put on the table a plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein.""Key policy disagreements" among members of the State Department and the Defense Department have shaped the process. Rieff writes:

"The State Department itself was of two minds on this question. One prewar State Department report, echoing the conventional wisdom among Arabists, asserted that 'liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve' in Iraq and that 'electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements.' The C.I.A. agreed with this assessment; in March 2003, the agency issued a report that was widely reported to conclude that prospects for democracy in a post-Hussein Iraq were bleak. In contrast, the neoconservatives within the Bush administration, above all within the Department of Defense, consistently asserted that the C.I.A. and the State Department were wrong and that there was no reason to suppose that Iraq could not become a full-fledged democracy, and relatively quickly and smoothly."

Surprise, surprise. We now have a"long, hard slog ahead"---but Rieff's point is that this struggle is partially the by-product of the competition between these departments. An interesting implication, however, is one that Rieff doesn't quite get: that there is really no such thing as" central planning." The" central planning" of the occupation is no different than other attempts at" central planning." For even at the height of the Soviet Union's power, Five-Year Plan edicts were continuously revised in the competition among political actors within the various Soviet departments, and between these departments and actual producers, who continuously adjusted their economic"targets" to claim"success."

Right now, however, the only"targets" that require adjusting are the bull's eyes on American servicemen and women, who are being killed on a daily basis. This morning, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld (on"This Week with George Stephanopoulos") discussed the killing of 15 additional US troops in an attack on a helicopter by a surface-to-air missile, making Sunday, November 2nd, the deadliest day of the US occupation thus far. Stephanopoulos questioned Rumsfeld about the"amazingly bloody week" that was, where there are now an average of 2-3 dozen attacks per day in Iraq. Rumsfeld said, and I would agree, that, ultimately, the US needs to"win the battle of ideas" in that region of the world, but"there is no way to measure" that victory---given what is being taught in radical cleric schools.

And it is because of this persistent cultural and intellectual problem that it will be very difficult to transform Iraq. The Defense Department that Rumsfeld heads should have thought about that before committing thousands of US troops to the impossible task. On"This Week," Terry McCarthy also reports on"where things stand": with approximately 70% unemployment in Iraq, even major in-roads in the North and the South have been unable to alter the focus of (in)security at the"political reference point," which is the center---Baghdad. But no change will come to that"reference point" or other points in Iraq without the cultural changes upon which political transformation must depend.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 10:20 a.m. EST

ARTHUR SILBER: SPEAKING AS THE (ALLEGED) MORAL EQUIVALENT OF A BABY-RAPING, MACHETE-WIELDING, ANIMAL-TORTURING PSYCHOTIC... 11-01-03

I vehemently protest.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 04:25 p.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG: DEFICIENCY OF VISION?, 11-01-03

For those who missed libertarian philosopher Irfan Khawaja’s critique of and subsequent debate with influential Middle East analyst Daniel Pipes from last May, it’s still worth reading. Khawaja argues that Pipes’ writings on militant Islam betray a “deficiency of vision” that has “repeatedly led Pipes to snap judgments; to playing fast and loose with evidence; to dabble in rumor, innuendo and defamation; and to a stubborn inability to admit mistakes, sometimes egregious ones.”

For the initial exchange between Khawaja and Pipes, click here; for Khawaja’s reply click here. There has been no further follow-up from Pipes’ side as far as I know.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 04:16 p.m. EST

RODERICK T. LONG: SKIRMISH OVER SPENCER, 11-01-03

English philosopher-sociologist Herbert Spencer was one of the 19th century’s great defenders of peace, liberty, and civilisation. Check out, for example, his savage critique of warmongering “patriotism” here, and Richard Ebeling’s recent discussion of Spencer’s relevance to contemporary US foreign policy here.

Spencer is also a thinker much maligned. A couple of months ago I wrote a review of Edwin Black’s book War Against the Weak, a history of the American eugenics movement; in the review I criticised Black’s egregious misrepresentations of Spencer’s ideas. Black recently responded with a bizarre letter accusing me of “defaming” him. Click here for my original review, and here for my subsequent exchange with Black.

Posted by Roderick T. Long at 03:32 p.m. EST


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Jay Abraham - 1/19/2004

You say the security ministries in Iran are still controlled by undemocratic forces but hasn't that changed a bit?

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