Liberty & Power: Group Blog
I have some follow-up discussion on the capture of Hussein here. In that post to the SOLO Forum, I actually reiterate a point I made way back in February 2003 to the Philosophy of Objectivism list, which Arthur Silber republished on his blog here. There is no mystery as to why Hussein didn't go down in a blaze of glory. Telling his captors,"Don't shoot" is rather typical of a man who sees his own survival as the only barometer by which to measure victory in any battle. As I wrote:
This brings to mind a really wonderful skit from earlier this season on"Saturday Night Live." A group of Islamic terrorists are sent out to die so they can all get the rewards that come from sacrificial martyrdom: X number of virgins in paradise, etc. When somebody asks the Osama Bin Laden character why he isn't fighting, why he hasn't died for the cause, he fumbles over his words, screams out something about Allah, and proceeds to send out another group of martyrs to die—in his place.
We all know why this is the case. [Ayn Rand's villain from The Fountainhead] Ellsworth Toohey provides the answer:"Don't bother to examine a folly—ask yourself only what it accomplishes. . . . It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. . . . The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master." Hussein, Bin Laden, and other leaders of Islamic terrorism are...
But the Geneva protections have already been violated, as Rumsfeld well knows from his experience with the Guantanamo prisoners. 3GC (Article 3) states that POWs must be spared"outrages upon personal dignity,""humiliating and degrading treatment," as well as"insults and public curiosity." Rumsfeld has openly acknowledged that the GCs forbid showings PoWs -- an acknowledgement occasioned by the criticism surrounding widely-publicized photographs of prisoners at Guantanamo. At that time, the defense...
I also hope this improves our chances for a rapid and dignified exit. And maybe now we can work on capturing that other guy, you know, the one that attacked us. As former CIA counter-terrorism chief Vince Cannistraro told ABCNEWS in September, the hunt for Saddam was impeding the hunt for Bin Laden:
"'If you've drawn off many if not all of your Arabic language resources and sent them off to Iraq you're shorthanded in terms of dealing with intelligence collection problem of fixing bin Laden's location,' said Cannistraro. 'So there are fewer resources to deal with in trying to basically find and capture, the principal leader of a terrorist organization that's killing Americans.'"
And so, the US armed forces find this brutal mass murderer cowering in a mud-hole. I understand Sheldon's mixed feelings, especially given the US government's former support of Saddam Hussein. It is therefore my hope that the Iraqis give him the due process he denied others and that his crimes against humanity be fully exposed. There isn't an industrial plastic shredder big enough to make him pay for the enormity of those crimes.
Will this end the unrest in Iraq? I doubt it, because the unrest is deeper than any one man, even the Ace of Spades. We can only hope, however, that it will bring some stability to this region, and that it will hasten the withdrawal of US troops.
So U.S. forces have finally captured Saddam Hussein. Talk about mixed feelings! The murderous bastard deserves to die a long slow death at the hands of the Iraqis he so brutally oppressed. But the thought of U.S. troops hunting down another country’s dictator makes me sick.
You’ve got to sympathize with the campaign-finance reformers. They don’t have it easy. You try removing the appearance of corruption from an intrinsically corrupt enterprise.
P.S.: With respect to Keith Halderman's post: any congressman who admits that he voted for the bill believing it to be unconstitutional while assuming the Supreme Court would kill it has committed an impeachable offense. There may be a separation of powers (in theory), but members of Congress take an oath to uphold the Constitution too. On that matter, there is no division of labor.
When Barr experienced a surprisingly sound defeat in a primary election that featured ads sponsored by the Libertarian Party, which highlighted his stance on the medical marijuana issue, I will admit to being pleased.
However, there are most definitely two sides to Bob Barr. While still in Congress he along with Henry Hyde sponsored some worthwhile reform of asset forfeiture laws. When he left the House he worked with the ACLU to combat some of the more pernicious effects of the Patriot Act.
And, in Saturday’s Washington Times the good Bob Barr out did himself. He wrote an absolutely excellent column on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to eviscerate the First Amendment in the name of campaign finance reform. It is well worth reading. In it he relates how many Republican Congressmen voted for a law they knew to be unconstitutional because of their strong belief that the Supreme Court would never let...
Despite this, Ralph Luker of Cliopatria reports that the powers-that-be in the AHA apparently did not think twice about the prospect of “giving Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia its inaugural Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Award for Civil Service...Byrd is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who was still using the word ‘nigger’ on national television without a wince as recently as two years ago.” Somehow I don't think that the membership of the AHA would show a similar tolerance if the name of the recipient was Trent Lott rather than Robert C. Byrd.
I've enjoyed the dialogue between David Beito (here and here) and Lutheran pastor Allen Brill on Martin Luther: Randian Hero? Of course, Rand and Luther had greatly divergent beliefs. But I've got an odd tidbit to share with my colleagues.
In an earlier manuscript version of the classic novel, The Fountainhead, Rand had written a longer speech for architect Howard Roark, who is busy defending himself in a jury trial toward the end of the book. Roark opens that speech on the"soul of an individualist" with the famous line:"Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light."
Interestingly, Rand scholar Shoshana Milgram tells us that"Rand originally had Roark provide a list of creators and an inventory of their suffering." Here's what Rand wrote, even though she later decided to delete this list from the final version of the novel:
Socrates, poisoned by order of the democracy of Athens. Jesus Christ against the majority of [indecipherable] crucified. Joan D'Arc, who was burned at the stake. Galileo, made to renounce his soul. Spinoza, excommunicated. Luther, hounded. Victor Hugo, exiled for twenty years. Richard Wagner, writing musical comedies for a living, denounced by the musicians of his time, hissed, opposed, pronounced unmusical. Tchaikovsky, struggling through years of loneliness without recognition. Nietzsche, dying in an insane asylum, friendless and unheard. Ibsen [indecipherable] his own country. Dostoevsky, facing an execution squad and pardoned to a Siberian...
Gene Healy's post on neoconservatism and the doctrine of unintended consequences was deliciously ironic. But what do we do when administration officials seem to embrace intended ignorance as a raison d'etre?
In a new Reader's Digest interview, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice reportedly states the following... ostensibly about her personal life, but, in my view, the perfect embodiment of the administration's Iraq policy:
There's nothing I am worse at than long-term planning. I have never run my life that way. I believe that serendipity or fate or divine intervention has led me to a series of wholly implausible steps in my life. And I've been open to those twists and turns because I don't have a long-term plan.
However, according to Justin Raimondo's column today , the pro-war effort to root out and expose commies is conveniently selective. Many of the same bloggers who effusively praised the demonstrations earlier this week in Iraq, for example, were completely silent about the significant role played by the Communist Party in bringing them about. The Communists were highly visible at the rallies. Scores of them proudly marched with flags depicting the hammer and sickle. In the past, conservative websites have often highlighted photos of similar demonstrators carrying pro-commie signs and banners at antiwar rallies, but strangely not in this case. Apparently, for some on the pro-war side, red-baiting is only a one way street.
"Neoconservatism is an ... attitude that holds social reality to be complex and change difficult. If there is any article of faith common to almost every adherent, it is the Law of Unintended Consequences. Things never work out quite as you hope; in particular, government programs often do not achieve their objectives or do achieve them but with high or unexpected costs. ... [A] neoconservative questions change because, though present circumstances are bad and something ought to be done, it is necessary to do that something cautiously, experimentally, and with a minimum of bureaucratic authority."
Given our current plight in Iraq, the irony is painful. That appreciation of social complexity and human fallibility certainly seemed to desert the neoconservatives in the run-up to war. But now that we're stuck trying to engineer the Iraqi Great Leap Forward from a backward tribal despotism to a modern liberal democracy, we're learning a lot about"high [and] unexpected costs."
My comparison was a limited one and not intended to be revisionist history. I was arguing that Luther, like a Randian hero, was a rare example of an individual who showed integrity by risking all to stand up for an unpopular cause. I would not pretend to argue that Luther was a"Randian" in other respects. He certainly was not. As the proud grandson of Rev. Gudbrand Gudbrandson Beito of Rolling Forks Lutheran Church in Rolling Forks, Minnesota, I am fully aware of the differences.
As I grow older and observe the chocolate-eclair like pliancy and complacency of so many of my colleagues in higher education, I have come to appreciate more than ever just how rare it is for people of good will to swim against the tide of conformity. The question of whether I agree with them in all other respects seems less important, at least in that context.
Arthur and Chris: comments?
The reporting about the just-upheld campaign-finance law has been confusing, probably because the law itself is so confusing. At any rate, yesterday I stated, apparently erroneously, that issue ads which implicitly target candidates were banned in the 60 days before an election and 30 days before a primary. It seems that the law only heavily restricts such advertising by imposing rules on how the money for it can be raised and spent. But the ads are not banned. See? The state isn’t so bad after all.
[Cross-posted at In a Blog's Stead]
I have a problem with both sides in the debate over Lt. Col. Allen West.
West's defenders say his actions were justified because they resulted in information that helped to avert an attack on his unit. Let's think what that means. If such a defense is correct, then why should it apply solely in this particular case? Wouldn't it follow that torturing prisoners of war is justified whenever it might result in information that could prevent an enemy attack? (And if you think beating a bound prisoner and discharging a gun near his head isn’t torture, ask yourself whether you'd feel the same way if Iraqis had done it to an American soldier instead of vice versa.)
Are we really prepared to toss out the window this most basic protection for POWs, this hard-won victory of the party of civilisation over the party of barbarism? If so, to what principle can we appeal when our own soldiers receive abuse from enemy captors?
Those who defend such conduct are fond of saying"This is war!" – as though this were some sort of unanswerable, blanket license for suspending the requirements of morality. But if folks in the inter arma silent leges crowd really do regard morality as a mere human contrivance, to be discarded whenever it grows inconvenient, the self-righteous moralising tone of their pronouncements seems a bit incongruous.
But I have a problem with many of West's critics as well. What West did was wrong, but there's little justice in letting punishment fall on him while giving a pass to the authorities who put him in such an untenable position in the first place. (And the Army's weaselly...
It didn't work. Instead, politicians used the newly created regulatory bureaucracy to escape scrutiny or criticism. After all, they said, it's a matter of"following the rules." And they found it fabulously successful: Americans are easily whipped into submission by any petty bureaucrat waving"the rules" in from of them.
A case in point is the University of Alabama, which recently banned from on-campus distribution the publications of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Alabama Scholars Association (ASA), and the Federalist Society. Why? The real reason is that administrators do not like the ASA. The AAUP and the Federalist Society are simply collateral damage.
How do you ban things these days? You cite"postal regulations." That's right: the post office and its rules are being used to defeat the first amendment. We are told that the University would be violating"postal regulations" if it allowed distribution of our materials. Faculty who would object to any outright attack on their constitutional rights shut up and tuck their tails between their legs when"regulations" are mentioned. After all, they say, it's"the rules."
That's how you defeat deliberate democracy and constitutional rights in America today.
The film was really quite good. Of course, there is plenty of room for complaint: Luther’s dark side is almost completely avoided and a subplot involving a handicapped child misfires (though my wife liked it).
Still, I chose to overlook any flaws for the larger message which is not so much about faith as it is about the importance of individual conscience, a rare quality in higher education today. The character Luther, in many ways, comes across as a Randian hero (Chris and Arthur please note) who shows integrity in standing up for his beliefs against incredible odds.
The performances are top-flight including Joseph Fiennes in the title role and Peter Ustinov (one of my childhood favorites). Despite Ustinov's considerably advanced age, he nearly steals the show as the relic-collecting German prince who is won over by Luther’s critique of the Catholic Church.
I wrote recently on SCSU Scholars about a graph I saw in a recent copy of Investors Business Daily. It was of spending per capita on higher education in the OECD countries. Unlike primary and secondary education, where we’re quite ordinary, the U.S. spends 2.7% of its GDP on higher education, a full percent more than the OECD average. IBD notes approvingly:
Americans are disappointed with their elementary and secondary schools, which use a lot of money but underperform other nations' school systems. Our university system is another matter. Americans spend more than any other nation on university and college education. It's a key part of our productivity edge.One of the things I did note in reading the data was that the difference was almost entirely due to private spending on higher education; we’re approximately average (on a share of GDP basis) within the OECD. And as an export service higher education does very well, as the thousands of international students on even middling Midwest state university campuses will attest. So I wondered aloud whether its the private/public sector mix that is giving US higher education a comparative advantage.
Perhaps, says Jon Sanders at the Goldwater Institute. I would avoid the regression analysis he shows -- it looks for an immediate effect of higher education spending on state economic activity, whereas the usual arguments are about long-run effects of increased human capital -- but...