Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Robert L. Campbell
Back in 1972, right after Nader launched the PIRGs (and gave a speech at Harvard on that very subject), a full-court press began to impose a campus chapter, to be funded by the now-notorious"negative checkoff" system. The feeble forces of Ergo, an approximately weekly Randian newspaper that came out of MIT, and the tiny Harvard chapter of a small, short-lived libertarian organization mobilized against it. I recall Mark Frazier suggesting that students wouldn’t want"Trick" Nixon getting their money for his re-election campaign, unless they filled out a special form to opt out. Jim Muller came up with the alliterative epithet"plundering PIRGies." Meanwhile, I interviewed Hale Champion, a top official in the Harvard Corporation (roughly like the Board of Trustees most other places), for Ergo. I thought maybe we were getting somewhere when Champion said,"We don’t want to put the arm on anyone."
I am sure that the Harvard administration had its own reasons for wanting to maintain an arm’s-length relationship with Nader and crew, so I would not be inclined to exaggerate the libertarian contribution. For little that the Harvard administration was doing then, or has done since then, suggests any libertarian influence... Still, as far as I can tell, Harvard never did go to the negative checkoff system that PIRGs have used at so many other universities. When I checked a couple of days ago, I couldn’t find any reference to a Harvard chapter on MassPIRG’s Web site.
Robert L. Campbell
Gus diZerega’s comments on one of Roderick Long’s entries raise issues that could come up any time, but might as well be thrown open to debate now. Gus seems to be saying that libertarians must ally themselves with the Left; otherwise we apparently have no choice but to be complicit in the worst deeds of W. and his henchmen.
Maybe I read too much between the lines, but I am disappointed by the tendency of many libertarians to identify themselves with a “conservative” movement that is increasingly far removed from the limited government brand of conservatism. Except for LP types and some anarchocapitalists, they tend to identify politically with the right--even to appropriate the general term “right” as the broad kind of ideology they have.
I’ll have to speak for myself here. But since Gus’s comment was made in response to one of mine, he appears to have been saying that I, too, must be identifying with the Right. I do not support Libertarian Party candidates, except very occasionally on a local basis. (I no longer want any connection with the national organization of the LP, for reasons that should make sense to the author of an essay that I rather admire, on Why Organizations Lie.) And while I take the arguments of anarchists seriously, I have never been one.
More to the point, I have long understand libertarianism as an effort to get beyond the false dichotomies and package-deals that both Left and Right-wing designations entail.
To back his claim Gus says:
For example, in an article of mine in the often libertarian oriented New Liberal I attacked the “Radical Right” and a libertarian associated with the Mises Institute (if I remember correctly) took exception.
Maybe one of those folks who calls himself (or herself) a “paleo”-something, and attributes to Pat Buchanan libertarian leanings that remain undetected by Buchanan himself, or by nearly all outside observers? Someone else will have to explain the appeal of that position, because I never got it.
By identifying with the “right” many libertarians have adopted a similarly disdainful approach towards the “left.” Yet I would suggest that today most on the left have abandoned the ideal of socialism and many have even become suspicious of the Progressive Era ideal of management by experts. Given this, on most actual issues of political importance I would argue the left - especially liberals - often comes closer to a libertarian position than the reigning rightists.
I only wish this characterization of leftists were generally true. For the most part I have gotten along fine with leftists who are willing to go beyond the stated intentions and seek after the real reasons for government action. But in my experience such individuals are a minority. At least where I hang out, in academia, there has been a loss of faith in socialism, but it has not widely led to repudiating massive coercion as a solution to social problems. It hasn’t even led to admitting Stalin and Communism as equal in evil to Hitler and Nazism. And faith in rule by experts (a role in which the academically trained do like to cast themselves!) keeps right on unabated. It is so woven into the fabric of academic psychology that in his keynote address at a recent conference Daniel Kahneman (a famous cognitive psychologist, and a Nobel Prize winner in economics) simply presumed that every psychologist wants to shape “social policy” (though we will have to settle for being junior partners to economists, whose whispers in the ears of government agency chiefs enjoy more credibility than ours would). Kahneman also casually presumed his audience’s agreement that only right-wing nuts, caught in the toils of the dreaded Chicago School, would ever oppose a minimum-wage law.
Commensurately, I will note that there are people on the right who wouldn’t mind being subjected to confiscatory taxation, if only they could be assured that no abortions will ever be performed again, that the licenses of “indecent” broadcasters will be yanked by the FCC, that some form of Christianity will be the State religion, and that (their kind of) prayer will be mandatory in every government-run school.
If you’re gonna ally with anyone, the right today is the farthest from a libertarian position of anywhere in the country. Wolf’s article wasn’t particularly important given all that is going on, and spending so much time sniping at a liberal feminist when rather more terrifying things are happening in Washington DC seems to me giving no aid at all to the cause of liberty.
I don’t fully know how to respond to this kind of exhortation, because I don’t know what Gus thinks the priorities ought to be. For instance: Does Gus think we should stop criticizing university administrators–as several contributors to L and P have been doing–because the president of the University of Alabama doesn’t have his finger on the nuclear button, the way W. does? Or because the president of Clemson can’t have people jailed without trial, as John Ashcroft can? Or because the president of Yale couldn’t have railroaded the USA PATRIOT act through Congress, as a bunch of powerful Republicans did?
I’m fed up with W. and his administration. But I’ve yet to conclude that getting rid of W. and his administration must now trump every other goal or concern. Must it crowd every other item of political discourse off the agenda? Must we now refrain from criticizing anyone else who thinks W. and Dick Cheney ought to go, no matter how illiberal that person’s attitudes may be?
Surely it’s a huge error to suppose that libertarians (all of them, as a bloc) should ally with either “the Left” (all of them, as a bloc) or “the Right” (the whole nine yards of them, as a bloc). Individuals who consider themselves libertarian can make common cause with individuals on the Left–on some issues. The same would apply, I should think, to making common cause with individuals on the Right.
I may have a chance to work with some conservatives, even social conservatives, on measures to break up the government K-12 monopoly. But they will get no aid or comfort from me should they back a constitutional amendment to block marriages for gays and Lesbians, or should they clamor for a militarized border so they can keep Mexicans from immigrating. I may be able to work with some “liberals” or leftists against USA PATRIOT–but they will not get my support should they push for zoning and land-use controls, or should they scratch and claw to preserve the government monopoly over K-12. And though I won’t presume to speak for other libertarians here, I don’t think I’m totally out to lunch expecting that some will agree with me about these things.
Which brings us to Naomi Wolf. Again, I don’t know whether Gus endorses Naomi Wolf’s cry of J’accuse against Harold Bloom and Yale University, and is convinced that only Right- wing culture warriors would ever find fault with it; supports Wolf’s overall views on the matters in question, but wishes she would retire as a spokeswoman for them; or objects to her ideology and her manner of promoting it, while fearing that in 2004 paying any attention to either would be a dangerous distraction.
In any event, I don’t think you have to stand where Gary Bauer or Linda Chavez or Bill Kristol stands to see Naomi Wolf as an illiberal feminist–a preacher of the doctrine that American women in 2004 are members of a permanent victim class.
What’s more, Wolf looks to be a consumingly narcissistic, hypocritical preacher. At the end of her article, she denies presenting herself as a victim, but how else is the reader to make sense of the preceding thousands of words? And in interviews surrounding its publication, she insisted she felt sorry for Harold Bloom, and denied seeking retribution against him. Neither of which exactly came through in the article.
I don’t believe that either holding academic administrators up to scrutiny or taking Naomi Wolf to task will induce libertarians to forget the occupation of Iraq, or neglect the present efforts to prevent gay marriage. There are lots of issues to contend with, and no simple prescription for political alignment is going to offer a satisfactory resolution to them all.
Robert Campbell's post raises all kinds of good questions for discussion. Being somewhat sympathetic to the argument Gus DiZerega made in the comments, I'd like to add a thought or two.
My sympathy for Gus's argument is really about how I see myself: I've always thought of myself as "on the left" but believing that economic freedom was a better means to many of the left's ends than was interventionism or socialism. Perhaps this is the result of being in academia and finding that I'd largely rather hang out with my leftist colleagues than free-market conservatives of the policy world sort. I find too many conservatives less tolerant of difference than I might like them to be; too quick to demonize the left in the very same ways they object to being demonized by the left; and generally too dismissive of the world of academia, both as it is currently structured and inhabited, and as a vocation/avocation. Hayek's classic essay "Why I'm Not a Conservative" captures a few more of my complaints.
In the way that leftists describe libertarians as "conservatives without the sex and drugs hangups," I'd prefer to describe myself as a "leftist without the capitalism hang ups."
Of course none of this, I think, changes the substance of my libertarianism. Robert is quite right in describing the substantive issues, and I do agree that there are things equal to or greater than defeating George W. Bush on the libertarian priority list. (Although I will note that if I was coerced to vote and had to vote for one of the two major parties, as of right now I'd vote for Kerry. Bush is the worst of both worlds - fiscal profligacy and bad on civil liberties/rights, not to mention that whole war thing.) Still, I bristle every time someone calls me a "right-winger" or says that libertarianism is "on the right." Yes, it tries to explode the simple binary opposition of left-right (one of the few binary oppositions that sophisticated French-influenced leftist cultural theorists are not passionate about deconstructing), but if I have to choose, I'm on the left.
David T. Beito
Something similar happened in Alabama last year when several prominent conservative leaders on the governor's staff, including the head of the Alabama affiliate Citizens for a Sound Economy, came out for a massive tax increase. The voters felt otherwise and it went down in flames in a public vote. Could the same thing happen in California? Unfortunately, it does not appear to be likely.
A few weeks ago I said that the Democratic presidential candidates would be forced to do some fancy dancing with respect to the same-sex marriage issue so as to navigate between the more radical wing of the party and its appeal to moderates. They have to support gay rights but not gay marriage, however one does that. One reading of Bush's proposed constitutional amendment is that it was a brilliant political tactic to squeeze the Democrats into a corner. If one assumes the amendment allows for state-by-state civil unions (and it's not clear it does), then those who say they oppose gay marriage but favor civil unions, and who also voted against the Defense of Marriage Act because they believed it was unconstitutional now have to explain why they oppose the FMA as a way to fix the constitution such that one state can't "impose" same-sex marriage on the rest. The Bushies are just smart enough to have thought this through. And if you want to see the results, and a very fancy dance indeed, here's John Kerry on the hotseat during the most recent presidential debate thanks to Ron Brownstein of the LA Times:
BROWNSTEIN: Let me ask you, Senator. I want to sort of burrow in a little bit and understand your views of exactly what the role of Washington is, Senator Kerry.
You say you oppose gay marriage. You also oppose the constitutional amendment to ban -- federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Do you think Georgia and Ohio, or any other state, should have to recognize a gay marriage performed in California or Massachusetts? And if not, why did you vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, designed to prevent that, in 1996?
KERRY: I said very clearly -- I could not have been more clear on the floor of the United States Senate. My speech starts out expressing my personal opinion, that I do not believe -- you know, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
But notwithstanding that belief, there was no issue in front of the country when that was put before the United States Senate.
And I went to the floor of the Senate and said -- even though I was up for reelection, "I will not take part in gay bashing on the floor of the United States Senate. I will not allow the Senate to be used...
... for that kind of rhetoric."
BROWNSTEIN: But you also said in that statement...
KERRY: But let me just finish.
BROWNSTEIN: You also said in that statement that you believe the Defense of Marriage Act was fundamentally unconstitutional. And if the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, isn't President Bush right, that the only way to guarantee that no state has to recognize a gay marriage performed in any other state is a federal constitutional amendment?
KERRY: In fact, I think the interpretation -- I think, under the full faith and credit laws, that I was incorrect in that statement. I think, in fact, that no state has to recognize something that is against their public policy.
And for 200 years, we have left marriage up to the states. There is no showing whatsoever today that any state in the country, including my own -- which is now dealing with its own constitutional amendment -- is incapable of dealing with what they would like to do.
And I believe George Bush is doing this -- he's even reversed his own position. He's reversed Dick Cheney's position. He is doing this because he's in trouble. He's trying to reach out to his base. He's playing politics with the Constitution of the United States.
BROWNSTEIN: But let me just nail down one thing very quickly.
So are you saying that, now that gay marriage is on the table in a place like California or Massachusetts, that you would support the Defense of Marriage Act?
KERRY: No, because...
BROWNSTEIN: That it's not...
KERRY: ... the Defense of Marriage Act is the law of the land today.
KING: And you would support it today?
BROWNSTEIN: And you would leave it...
KERRY: ... no votes to take it back. And I think it's more important right now to pass the employment nondiscrimination act, hate crimes legislation, and begin to move us forward so we have on the books those laws that will allow us to protect people in this country.
If he loses the presidency, he can give dancing lessons.
And let it not be said I don't give props where props are due. Shortly afterward, here's Al Sharpton on the same issue:
SHARPTON: I think is not an issue any more of just marriage. This is an issue of human rights. And I think it is dangerous to give states the right to deal with human rights questions.
SHARPTON: That's how we ended up with slavery and segregation going forward a long time.
I, under no circumstances, believe we ought to give states rights to gay and lesbians' human rights. Whatever my personal feelings may be about gay and lesbian marriages, unless you are prepared to say gays and lesbians are not human beings, they should have the same constitutional right of any other human being. And I think that that should be...
(APPLAUSE)BROWNSTEIN: How would you effectuate that? How would you do that?
SHARPTON: I would say that they have the constitutional right to do whatever any...
KING: So you would have another amendment?
BROWNSTEIN: You would have a constitutional amendment?
SHARPTON: No, I wouldn't -- first of all, I think we've got to deal with a lot of constitutional amendments. If Bush wants to deal with it, let's get to ERA. Let's deal with a lot.
Of course he manages to avoid giving a concrete answer that demonstrated some knowledge of how Washington works (anyone see his answer to the question about the Fed a few debates ago?). Still, he's right on target with this one from my view.
More dancing to come, that's for sure.
I have been through the lengthy and deeply immoral history of government deception in wartime before. As far as I am concerned, a recent and detailed article is the final nail in the coffin of the entirely false case for war with Iraq. The lying went on through two administrations, those of both Clinton and Bush II, and numerous government officials peddled what they knew to be utterly false statements repeatedly and endlessly, before the entire world.
Here is the key excerpt from the case, detailed in this essay:
In February 2003, as the worldwide debate over war was just reaching a crescendo, Newsweek reporter John Barry obtained a classified copy of the original U.N. transcript of Hussein Kamel's 1995 debriefing by Rolf Ekeus and his UNSCOM colleagues. [Hussein Kamel was the"son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and head of Iraq's weapons industries."] Barry, a veteran of the Iraqi WMD beat, wrote up his scoop in a little item, a mere six paragraphs long, that appeared in the magazine's"Periscope" section. Although it received virtually no notice at the time, what Barry wrote seemed to turn the whole Iraq story on its head:If you ever wondered what evil looks like, this is its face, exposed in its naked, terrible and unforgivable heinousness to all the world.
"Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein's inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that [in 1991] after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.
The stocks had been destroyed to hide the programs from the U.N. inspectors, but Iraq had retained the design and engineering details of these weapons. Kamel talked of hidden blueprints, computer disks, microfiches and even missile-warhead molds.
Still, the defector's tale raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist."
When the story failed to win exposure in the media, a handful of writers and analysts on both sides of the Atlantic (including this writer), viewing the news as a major bombshell, took it upon themselves to publicize it. One of the group, Glen Rangwala, a Middle East specialist at Cambridge University, managed to obtain a copy of the transcript himself. He immediately posted it on his website.
A fifteen-page typewritten U.N. document stamped"SENSITIVE," the transcript made it clear that almost everything the world thought it knew about Iraq's WMD was wrong. It was minutely detailed and often quite technical, a cross-examination of one specialist by another. And although Kamel used different words at different points in the interview, his story was always the same. He stated it most simply on page 13:
"All weapons -- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed." The destruction took place in the summer of 1991.
What about chemical weapons?
"I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons."
An inspector inquired about anthrax."Were weapons and agents destroyed?"
How about the 819 Soviet-made missiles Iraq was known to have purchased in the 1980's?
"Not a single missile left, but they [kept] blueprints and molds for production. All missiles were destroyed."
In other words, the defector who had been cited time after time, over eight years, by two presidents and their cabinets, as the source that proved Saddam was still hiding a deadly arsenal of chemical and biological weapons -- that defector had actually said the opposite: Not only did the weapons not exist, they had been destroyed before Clinton was even elected.
Take, for example, the"5,000 gallons of botulinum. 2,000 gallons of anthrax, 25 biological-filled Scud warheads and 157 aerial bombs" -- the weapons Bill Clinton had listed in 1998. Or consider the"26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulin, one and a half tons of nerve agent VX, 6,500 aerial chemical bombs" -- the weapons rattled off by Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer as the U.N. was inspecting Iraq in 2003.
"We don't know where those [weapons] are," Fleischer claimed."We have yet to see any accounting for all of these." In fact, it was these very stockpiles that Kamel attested had been destroyed in 1991.
There is now little doubt that Kamel was telling the truth. The strongest evidence -- evidence so unimpeachable it invites the word"proof" -- came in the form of a captured Iraqi document obtained in January by Barton Gellman of The Washington Post. The memo was composed five days after Kamel's defection, on August 13, 1995, and its author was Hossam Amin, Iraq's chief liaison to the U.N. inspectors. It was addressed to Qusay Hussein, Saddam's son.
The letter was a piece of damage assessment. Kamel was expected to blow all Iraq's cover stories to the inspectors, and the regime needed to prepare itself for the fallout. So Amin proceeded to lay out for his boss, in minute detail, two separate storylines: The version Iraq had told the inspectors about each weapons program, and what the truth was. (Or, as the memo itself put it:"the matters that are known to the traitor and not declared" to the U.N.)
Among the memo's statements of fact was that"destruction of the biological weapons agents took place in the summer of 1991" In a comprehensive evaluation of the evidence, Gellman stood Kamel's 1995 briefing to the U.N. against the real story laid out in Amin's memo. The comparison, he concluded,"suggests that Kamel left little or nothing out."
Iraq had eliminated all its weapons of mass destruction by the summer of 1991, and the U.S. had been told of it in 1995.
For these unending lies, approximately 550 Americans have died to date, an unascertainable number of other Americans have been grievously injured, our economy has been profoundly damaged for decades to come, and we are mired in Iraq for the indefinite future. And more Americans will die -- and for precisely nothing.
Nothing. Think about that. They knew the truth, they knew it in 1995, and they lied about it, over and over and over again.
And innocent Americans are dead, together with countless innocent Iraqis. Or rather, I should say, uncounted Iraqis, since we don't appear to even want to be bothered counting the corpses of the people we were supposed to be"liberating."
The only remaining justification that the hawks have is their delusion of"remaking the Middle East," a delusion I discussed here, and in many other entries. It is a complete, hallucinatory fantasy, there is no support for it anywhere in history, and all those people who subscribe to it might as well believe in little green men from Mars.
These are the results of"The Roots of Horror," and this part of my current essay is especially relevant to these particular issues.
As far as I am concerned, every single government official who took part in this policy of deception is beyond forgiveness, and beyond redemption. Each single, individual human life represents a supreme and irreplaceable value. When genuine threats appear that would harm us, we must deal with them, of course. And any lives lost in such justified enterprises are deeply tragic, but unavoidable.
But to cost innocent Americans and innocent Iraqis their lives, for a policy which was a lie from beginning to end, is beyond my comprehension. I simply cannot understand how people can permit themselves such evil. I understand the mechanism involved, which is why I am discussing it at such length in my current series, but on a certain very deep level, I cannot fully grasp how people can allow themselves to act in such a manner -- and to condemn completely blameless human beings to death.
There is no forgiveness possible to such people in my view. They have written themselves out of the human race. If such a punishment could be made real, they would deserve eternal torment. And I would expect everyone who is basically decent, and who gives a damn, to feel exactly the same way.
As I said once before, They Are The Damned. And so they are.
David T. Beito
David T. Beito
I have a question that perhaps an expert can answer. If Greek was the language of the common people (including presumably the Roman army) why do so many European peoples have Latin-based languages including Romanian, Italian, Spanish, etc.? What were the common people in those areas speaking at the time? If it was Latin, then it would seem to make perfect sense that at least some of the Romans (many of them originally from these areas) stationed in Judea would have been speaking it to each other.
The US State Dept. just issued its annual human rights report including criticizing China for"backsliding.” The report, of course, did not mention the 10,000 Iraqi civilians estimated by private human rights groups to have been killed as the US brings the Blessing of Liberty to the Middle East.
If we really wanted to bring pressure on the Chinese, why did our government approve GE cutting a deal which offers China advanced technology as reported in the WSJ yesterday. Our moralistic, finger-wagging, and other kinds of intervention makes more enemies than friends.
While I am no defender of China’s Commie Clique, the Chinese reply is printed below:
China Daily 2004-02-27
China opposes US report
By Sun Shangwu
China yesterday expressed its"strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition" to the annual human rights report of the United States, which accuses China of"backsliding" on human rights.
The so-called country report of human rights record in 2003 issued by the US State Department defied basic truth and made indiscriminate criticisms on China's human rights record, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said at a regular news briefing yesterday.
"China hopes the United States will give up its double standards on this issue and stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries on the excuse of human rights," she said.
It is obvious to all that China has made progress in the human rights arena, Zhang added.
The Chinese Government has always been devoted to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedom and China's significant achievements in this regard has been recognized by the whole world.
The report, criticizing human rights situation in other countries and regions, also blamed the Hong Kong government for failing to announce a timetable for public consultations on moving towards full democracy.
Zhang said that the issues of Hong Kong relate to China's internal affairs and China opposes any country interfering in Hong Kong affairs.
The United States did not sponsor a resolution against China last year.
But Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Lorne Craner told reporters the United States was heading in the direction of proposing a UN resolution on China's human rights record.
Zhang said that Chinese Government always advocates for holding human rights dialogues on an"equal and mutually respected" basis.
In past years, China and United States held frank and sincere talks on human rights, which have been proved to be good for strengthening mutual understanding and reducing differences, according to Zhang.
She hoped the two countries can resolve differences on human rights through dialogue.
At the briefing, Zhang also expressed her appreciation for Spain's adherence to the one-China policy.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it would continue to support the one-China principle and reject the so-called"Taiwan referendum."
Spain said in a communique that the approval for holding a referendum in Taiwan had been a serious mistake which should have been avoided and which would affect the region's stability.
Zhang said the"open and clear opposition" of Spanish Government to Taiwan authorities' practice is good for deepening Sino-Spanish mutual understanding and promoting friendly co-operation.
The spokeswoman also revealed at the briefing that the Chinese Government has decided to provide 5 million yuan (US$607,000) emergency humanitarian aid materials to Morocco, which suffered a strong earthquake in that country's northeastern Alhucemas province. The temblor killed nearly 600 people.
And the Red Cross Society of China also provided US$30,000 aid to its Moroccan counterpart, according to Zhang.
President Hu Jintao has sent his condolences to Moroccan King Mohammed VI, and a Chinese medical team in that country has also taken part in rescue work, said Zhang.
Roderick T. Long
I'm not sure what was the case during Jesus' time, but a couple of centuries later Greek was the common language of the eastern part of the Empire (including the Middle East and thus Judea) while Latin remained the common language of the western part (including western Europe).
What bugs me is that the Roman soldiers appear to be speaking ecclesiastical Latin rather than classical Latin. When Pilate tells the crowd"ecce homo," he pronounces the" cc" soft, as in medieval Latin and modern Italian. But during that period the" cc" would still have been pronounced hard --"eck-ay" rather than"etch-ay." Gibson makes his Romans sound like Catholic priests!
This would seem a minor glitch to most people, but to a classicist it's like Washington crossing the Potomac in a motorboat.
He won't be missed. But his sentence is as good an occasion as any to ponder whether we haven't worked ourselves up into an unnecessary frenzy over the chem/bio threat.
I'm as guilty as anybody of that. Go far back enough in the archives of my blog and you'll find me talking about ordering a gas mask and staying off the metro in the run-up to the Iraq war. But the popular view of chem/bio as these sort of James-Bond-supervillain weapons is much overblown.
As wacky as the Aum cult was and is, they had over a billion dollars to work with and access to some highly competent scientists. Their biggest hit was the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995, which killed a total of 12 people. Their anthrax was a complete dud. Thus far, fertilizer bombs and car bombs are more worthy of the name weapons of mass destruction than chem/bio.
What we know of Al Qaeda's chem/bio capabilities does little to suggest that they'd do any better. Their programs seem to be entirely a homemade affair, capable of poisoning a few dogs, but little more. And there was never any evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein contemplated passing off whatever he had to them.
It’s almost certainly not true despite what the president argued in his pre-Iraq state of the union, that “one vial smuggled in could bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.”
This isn't a counsel of complacency. It's a call for balance. Al Qaeda's in the business of terror. Terrorize yourself, and you're doing their job for them.
The popular libertarian response to the"what amendments would you add" question is that we really only need to add one more, which would say,"and we mean it."
I agree with Boortz on repealing the 17th Amendment. I'd also repeal the 16th. I'd probably add something in the language of the repeal of the 16th that would forbid government on any level from income withholding. There's really no reason for government to know how much money we make. And it's outright theft that government should be able to earn interest on our income by collecting our taxes early.
I like the Bricker Amendment, and the eminent domain and forfeiture amendments, too.
I have two others:
1) An amendment forbidding the delegation doctrine. That is, Congress can't delegate its lawmaking power to federal agencies. Make Congress vote on every federal regulation which carries the force of law. Maybe then we can begin to cut down on those 10,000+ pages in the Federal Register.
2) An amendment that would sunset every law on the books five years after it's passed, unless Congress voluntarily sunsets the law in a shorter period of time. Make every federal agency, program, handout, regulation and law come up for review -- if not, it expires. There's no way Congress could keep up the laws already on the books and still pass more laws at the same time. Thus, only the most important laws would get reviewed and repassed. The others go away. Fewer laws. More freedom.
David T. Beito
In the area of promotion, while de facto banning the importation of news and opinions from objectionable areas of the world, the US is using taxes to export its own worldview. Michael Young explains in a Reason Magazine article entitled"Pay up, for the 'free one'":"In mid-February, the United States government began its latest effort to change hearts and minds in the Arab world, as its new Arab-language satellite news station, Al-Hurra, began broadcasting to a mostly dubious Middle East. ... Almost immediately, critics in the Middle East dismissed the station as a propaganda tool of the United States. Some observers pointed out that the station merely repeated a pattern of American public diplomacy efforts that had already been shown to fail. Indeed, the State Department last year launched a radio station, Radio Sawa, and an Arabic-language lifestyle magazine titled Hi, to offer Arabs a friendlier image of America. The magazine in particular was met with crushing indifference." Censorship is not facilitated by merely suppressing some voices; it is also served by the official sanctioning and funding of others.
For more commentary, please see McBlog.
Well, now we have some more evidence, see below, as to why the Senate has long been referred to as a"Millionaires Club." And, in the meantime, the government goes after Martha Stewart! It might be suggested that Senator Hillary Clinton brought her Futures advisor with her from Arkansas, but the Senate insider corruption predates the Junior Senator from New York. Ain't life in the American Empire a grand thing, as Mr. Dooley might put it. Sounds a lot like the good old Roman Senate of two millennia ago.
Financial Times February 24 2004
Senators' stocks often outperform market
By Deborah Brewster in New York
US senators' personal stock portfolios outperformed the market by an average of 12 per cent a year in the five years to 1998, according to a new study.
"The results clearly support the notion that members of the Senate trade with a substantial informational advantage over ordinary investors," says the author of the report, Professor Alan Ziobrowski of the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University.
He admits to being"very surprised" by his findings, which were based on 6,000 financial disclosure filings and are due to be published in the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis.
"The results suggest that senators knew when to buy their common stocks and when to sell."
First-time Senators did especially well, with their stocks outperforming by 20 per cent a year on average - a result that very few professional fund managers would be able to achieve.
"It could be argued that the junior senators most recently came out of private industry, so may have better connections. Seniority was definitely a factor in returns," says Prof Ziobrowski.
There was no difference in performance between Democrats and Republicans.
A separate study in 2000, covering 66,465 US households from 1991 to 1996 showed that the average household's portfolio underperformed the market by 1.44 per cent a year, on average. Corporate insiders (defined as senior executives) usually outperform by about 5 per cent.
The Ziobrowski study notes that the politicians' timing of transactions is uncanny. Most stocks bought by senators had shown little movement before the purchase. But after the stock was bought, it outperformed the market by 28.6 per cent on average in the following calender year.
Returns on sell transactions are equally intriguing. Stocks sold by senators performed in line with the market the year following the sale.
When adjusted by the size of stocks, the total portfolio returns outperformed by 12 per cent a year on average. The study used a total market index as the benchmark for comparison.
The study took eight years to complete because there was no database of information and the documents had to be gathered and examined manually. Stocks held in blind trusts are not included in the disclosure documents.
Just a quick thought to add to William's post about senatorial stock portfolios: Yes, some of that might be explained by senators trading on superior information, but consider a different argument. It could also be that if Senator X buys a particular stock, and if her purchase of said stock becomes known, investors assume that the industry in question, if not the particular firm, might be the benefit of favorable legislation, thus leading to a speculative politically-based run up. So what we see is not superior information causing a run-up in price, but senatorial purchases being signals about the possibility of legislatively-generated profits.
I think both explanations are in play, and that neither one is very comforting. The United States: Crony capitalism here, and abroad.
David T. Beito
Grade inflation is not only an Ivy League problem, however. As our study for the Alabama Scholars Association has found, it is rampant at the University of Alabama where, for example, A's constitute about 55 percent of the grades in entry level Education courses and nearly 80 percent in entry-level Women's Studies courses.