Liberty & Power Archive 3-05-03 to 7-31-03

Blog Archives

David T. Beito; Stephen J. Davies; Ivan Eland; Constantine Gutzman; Thomas Fleming; Keith Halderman; David M. Hart; Jeffrey Rogers Hummel; Wendy McElroy; John Majewski; Charles W. Nuckolls; Scott P. O'Bryan T. Hunt Tooley.

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Editor's Note: The Liberty & Power blog initially was run by David Beito. On July 30, 2003 it became a group blog.

Click here for the current Liberty & Power blog.


In the wake of the terrible Supreme Court decision approving preferences at the University of Michigan, many conservatives and libertarians have embraced the alternative agenda of"ideological diversity." They reason that because the courts and the Bush administration have now endorsed the goal of"diversity" (in reality biological diversity) the concept should be expanded to include the politically incorrect. The latest example is today's article by Robert Maranto in The Baltimore Sun. Maranto teaches political science at Villanova University. He writes:

"....just as women and minorities are 'protected classes,' conservative college professors should be able to sue on account of discrimination.

After a decade of reform, the University of Michigan could have intellectual diversity to match its ethnic diversity. In academia, shouldn't ideas matter more than skin color?"

Critics of preferences should think twice before they go down this road. While I share their frustrations with the status quo, the"ideological diversity" approach is wrongheaded. If imposed, the actual result would be to foster a sanitized environment in higher education (much like we see today in many high schools) and thus further undermine academic freedom.

The solution to the evils posed by the diversity police is not to replace, or"supplement" them, with another social engineering agenda. Instead, in my view, the University of Michigan decision underlines the importance of reviving the older, but more noble and rewarding, values of merit and non-discrimination.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:30 p.m. EST


With some exceptions, Islam bashing has become rife on the right. While advocates of the ideals of the rule of law and liberty can not deny that Islamic countries have taken the wrong road, they have been remarkably reticent to encourage, or even acknowledge, constructive non-governmental efforts to change the situation. For example, few have considered the uphill battle of groups like The Minaret of Freedom to foster an ideological revolution within Islam.

For more information, check out this Reason Magazine interview with Imad A. Ahmad, the director of The Minaret.

It is worthy of note that, despite his agenda, Ahmad has been a consistent critic of the war in Iraq.

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:33 p.m. EST


Cobden's image of Imperial Britain as a harmless Don Quixote figure is a bit misleading. The consequences of "forcible liberation" are of course bloody destrcution of life and property. As I was thinking about this issue I came across an article in the Guardian by George Monbiot "America is a Religion: US Leaders see themselves as priests of a Divine Mission to Rid the World of its Demons" where the US intervention in Iraq is interpreted as an act by the "chosen people" to bring "liberty and democracy" to the world by force of arms. This is not a new phenomenon of course. Napoleon thought he could end "feudalism" and bring "liberty" to the people of Europe by force of arms. That is, until the Spanish people invented "guerrilla warfare" after the French invasion and occupation of Spain in 1808 and after the Russians refined it in 1812, thus undoing Napoleon's grand scheme of "forcible liberation". The British thought a similar strategy of liberating the world by force of arms could be used against the Russians after the failure of the 1848 Revolutions in Easter Europe. It was this foolish effort in the Crimea which prompted Cobden to call the Empire a "Don Quixote". The current US adminstration's desire to "liberate" and "nation build" in the middle east seems much more Napoleonic than Quixotic in my view, and just as likely to succeed as Napoleon's.

Posted by David M. Hart 1.00 PM Central Time.

David M. Hart : THE DON QUIXOTE OF THE GLOBE 07-30-03

As a fan of Richard Cobden I am repeatedly reminded of the following passage by the shennanigans of the U.S. government in Afghanistan and Iraq (and now it seems Liberia as well). The speech was given in December 1854 when the Crimean War against Russia was underway and more troops were needed on the ground and the other great powers of Europe were urging peace on the warring parties (sound familiar?). Cobden asked the pertinent question in Parliament whether the UK now saw itself as "the Don Quixotes of Europe, to go about fighting for every cause where we find that some one has been wronged." It looks like the US is set to become the Don Quixote of the entire globe, but where is our "Richard Cobden" in Parliament or Congress urging restraint or even abstention from the use of violence in international affairs?

From Cobden's Speeches, Vol. II, "Russian War", Speech 1 in paragraph II.1.8 (We have put Cobden's main speeches online at The Library of Economics and Liberty.)

But I want to know what is the advantage of having the vote of a people like that in your favour, if they are not inclined to join you in action? There is, indeed, a wide distinction between the existence of a certain opinion in the minds of a people and a determination to go to war in support of that opinion. I think we were rather too precipitate in transferring our opinion into acts; that we rushed to arms with too much rapidity; and that if we had abstained from war, continuing to occupy the same ground as Austria and Prussia, the result would have been, that Russia would have left the Principalities, and have crossed the Pruth; and that, without a single shot being fired, you would have accomplished the object for which you have gone to war. But what are the grounds on which we are to continue this war, when the Germans have acquiesced in the proposals of peace which have been made? Is it that war is a luxury? Is it that we are fighting—to use a cant phrase of Mr. Pitt's time—to secure indemnity for the past, and security for the future? Are we to be the Don Quixotes of Europe, to go about fighting for every cause where we find that some one has been wronged? In most quarrels there is generally a little wrong on both sides; and, if we make up our minds always to interfere when any one is being wronged, I do not see always how we are to choose between the two sides. It will not do always to assume that the weaker party is in the right, for little States, like little individuals, are often very quarrelsome, presuming on their weakness, and not unfrequently abusing the forbearance which their weakness procures them. But the question is, on what ground of honour or interest are we to continue to carry on this war, when we may have peace upon conditions which are satisfactory to the great countries of Europe who are near neighbours of this formidable Power? There is neither honour nor interest forfeited, I think, in accepting these terms, because we have already accomplished the object for which it was said this war was begun.

The Crimean War did however produce some unforeseen benefits: Cobden made some great anti-war speeches, an interesting poem was written on "The Charge of the Light Brigade", Florence Nightingale exposed the corruption and incompetence of the British Army's medical service, a young Russian officer by the name of Tolstoy started to become disillusioned with war, and the Russian defeat gave reform-minded bureaucrats an opportunity to urge the abolition of serfdom in Russia which came several months before Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation in the US.

Maybe there is an Iraqi "Tolstoy" somewhere in Baghdad gathering his or her thoughts for the next great anti-war novel...

Posted by David M. Hart 11.40 AM Central Time.


It is my pleasure to announce the birth of a new blog at HNN which will focus on (but not be limited to) the themes of liberty and power. A distinguished group of scholars have agreed to join our little group including Thomas Fleming, Stephen J. Davies, David M. Hart, Charles W. Nuckolls, Scott P. O'Bryan, and Jeff Hummel. Their biographies are shown above. Others will be added soon.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:23 a.m. EST


Signs of progress. John R. MacArthur in an article for In These Times has a dead-on critique of liberal foreign policy interventionism. For once, it comes from the left, not the right.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:23 a.m. EST


In the past 24 hours, five more Americans have been killed in Iraq.....yet many libertarian bloggers remain silent or preoccupied with other issues, such as the nuances of copyright law. C'mon on guys, speak up.

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:51 p.m. EST


My colleague, Charles W. Nuckolls, the director of the Alabama Scholars Association , is getting much local publicity lately (see here and here ) because of his stand defending free speech at the University of Alabama. University administrators have banned all exterior window displays in student residential halls, presumably including American flags, posters showing Malcolm X declare"By Any Means Necessary," or posters of rock stars. The ban does not include displays on hallway doors, however. Why the distinction?

In comments which show an amazing ignorance of the American heritage of free political expression Residential Life Director Lisa Skelton offered the following rationale:"In order to make [the university] more welcolming and in order for us not to be a censor at the same time, we had to say no to everything."

Get it? Ms. Skelton elaborates:

"A floor is a community, and what is displayed in the communty should be a community decision. If they put it on a Burke Hall window, it makes it look like it expressed the entire community's opinion rahter than an individuals."

The controversy became public when Byron Rush White, the professor-in-residence at a residential hall, refused to cooperate with the policy. Professor White deserves the applause of all defenders of academic freedom.

We might have a change to win this one. The most notable development is that the Foundation for Individual Rights has joined the fight against the ban. Stay tuned.

Posted by David T. Beito at 6:16 p.m. EST


Justin Raimondo discusses his recent dust-up with the History News Network and our own Rick Shenkman. I have often enjoyed reading Raimondo's columns and gained much useful information from them. Raimondo's attack in this case strikes me, to say the least, as over the top. Both Rick and the folks at HNN have always gone out of their way to treat me fairly as I express my antiwar and anti-PC heresies.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:16 a.m. EST


Iranian bloggers are criticizing CNN's decision to sit on a video showing an Iranian government attack on student dormatories. According to an article by Gary Metz at Iran va Jahan,"CNN is refusing to air the student's footage, claiming it would endanger the his life. But since they refused to air the footage the story has not received international attention and his life is now in grave danger."

The emerging Iranian revolution is one of the most encouraging developments in the last decade. The media should be far more aggressive in covering it.

It is unfortunate that critics of the Iraq war have been almost entirely MIA on this issue.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:59 a.m. EST


The NAACP's frivilous law suit against the gun industry has been thrown out by a federal judge. It should have never gotten to that stage.

Of course, there is an irony. The historical literature provides overwhelming evidence that blacks have been the leading victims of gun control in American history. Gun control was a staple of such legislation as the slave codes, the black codes, and subsequent laws in the Jim Crow South restricting cheap handguns. Many black leaders, including Ida Wells and Ella Baker, recognized the supreme importance of the right of self-defense. Nearly forty years later, Malcolm X's words still ring true:

"I must say this concerning the great controversy over rifles and shotguns. The only thing I've ever said is that in areas where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend the lives and the property of Negroes, it's time for Negroes to defend themselves. Article number two of the constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a shotgun or a rifle." Malcolm X,"The Ballot or the Bullet," in Irving J. Rein, ed., The Relevant Rhetoric, New York: The Free Press, 1969), 67-68.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:59 a.m. EST


According to an article by Stephanie Armour in USA Today,"Diversity Programs are coming under intensified scrutiny amid a weak economy and new research showing that racial and gender diversity has virtually no impact on bottom-line performance."

The article also has some unflattering information about diversity indoctrination....err training....programs which now plague workplaces in corporate America and countless colleges and universities.

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:22 p.m. EST


As the Iraqi guerrilla war grows in intensity, I can't help thinking of Douglas MacArthur's wise advice in 1949:"Anyone who commits the American Army in the Asian mainland should have his head examined."

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:45 p.m. EST


About a decade ago, academics and journalists made much of H.L. Mencken's alleged anti-semitism. One late-night comedy show even gave the name"Mencken" to a pro-Nazi fictional character. When all was said and done, however, the case against Mencken was weak. His comments about Jews (while sometimes offensive by today's standards) were probably no worse than those he ascribed to other ethnic groups. Just as importantly, when others were silent, Mencken had a long history defending the rights of Jewish intellectuals who were victims of the early-twentieth century American thought police.

More provocatively, during the 1930s, he urged (see Marion Elizabeth Rogers, ed., The Impossible H.L. Mencken: A Selection of His Best Newspaper Stories(New York: Doubleday, 1991), 635-39) that we open our doors to Jewish refugees from Germany. Meanwhile, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who has usually been given a free pass for such actions, was turning them away. Most famously, of course, in 1939, FDR barred the St. Louis (filled with Jews fleeing Germany) from American ports.

Now, new evidence has been uncovered that Harry Truman, another liberal, and often conservative, icon, often made anti-semitic comments which were far more virulent than any uttered by Mencken. In an article for Front Page Magazine, for example, Jason Maoz quotes Truman as stating that when the Jews"have power, physical, financial or political, neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty."

Bess Truman shared these views and acted on them by adopting a lifetime policy (with her husband's assent) of prohibiting all Jews from entering their home in Independence, Missouri.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:45 a.m. EST


Stuart Taylor Jr. has weighed into the controversy over the outrageous violation of Steve Hinkle's free speech rights by McCarthyesque PC administrators at California Polytechnic State University:

"The episode provides a window into the politically correct censorship that polluted so many of our nation's campuses. For seeking peacefully and politely to exercise his First Amendment rights, Hinkle was subjected to a seven-hour disciplinary hearing, from which his lawyer was barred."

As a result, Hinkle was found guilty of"disruption" and ordered to apologize. Fortunately, he has stood his ground and refused to do so. He deserves the enthusiastic support of believers in the First Amendment (left and right) everywhere.

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


During the last week, I have been greatly alarmed by an ongoing, and blatant, PC attempt to impose political censorship at the University of Alabama. It is yet more evidence that the greatest threat to the first amendment today comes from the left, not the right. For this reason, I especially look forward to reading David E. Bernstein's latest book, You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws.

Bernstein already has a fine track record as a researcher and writer. His other recent book, Only One Place of Redress: African-Americans, Labor Regulations and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal, is one of the most provocative and compelling works in black history published during the last decade. A copy should be on the shelf of every specialist in the field.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:54 p.m. EST


In a well-argued op-ed piece opposing the deployment of U.S. troops to Liberia, William F. Buckley Jr. writes:"The nation-changing program in Iraq is going muddily, and it is good news that the Iraqi guerrillas don't have weapons of mass destruction at hand, but rifle fire and an occasional hand grenade serve their political purposes. They aren't enough to drive Coalition forces out of the country, but they are enough to give off a Chechnyan smell of perpetual armed resistance."

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:47 a.m. EST


Alina Stefanescu has called my attention to a new Cato Institute study by Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. which reveals that the Federal Register is now longer than ever. More proof (if any was needed) that Bush is just another big-government politician.

As American soldiers continue to die in Iraq , many, but by no means all, of the libertarian bloggers who I respect remain silent, or virtually silent, on the war. Why don't they speak out? I know from personal experience that their insights can shed much light on this issue.


Seven more American soldiers have been wounded in Iraq with no light at the end of the tunnel, yet Dubya contemplates sending in even more troops. Conservatives angrily dismiss the Q (quagmire) word but few terms can better describe this mess.

On a related world policing note, it is now apparent that thousands of troops will also go to Liberia. Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute has spoken out against this new commitment:"It is unsound strategically to send our military personnel in harm's way when there is no vital security interest at state. Even worse, it is is immoral to risk their lives in such ventures." Well said!

Meanwhile, Howard Dean reveals himself to be a hollow alternative to the foreign policy status quo by supporting the deployment of troops to Liberia as a means to"head off a human rights crisis." Dean lamely rationalizes his stand by arguing that the"situation in Liberia is significantly different from the situation in Iraq."

Through it all, American troops, already spread thin, are caught in the middle as home defense takes second place to endless bipartisan Wilsonian wars of"liberation."

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:42 a.m. EST


Erin O'Connor is now publicizing the case of Mr. Steve Hinkle, an undergraduate and a member of the College Republicans, who was found guilty by the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) at San Luis Obispo on the charge of"disruption" of a" campus event."

Hinkle's crime was that he posted an ordinary flier in a public place advertising a talk by black conservative Mason Weaver, author of It's OK to Leave the Plantation. Some students, who unbenownst to Hinkle were holding an unauthorized meeting while he was posting the flier, found it"offensive" and complained to school administrators.

At a lengthy hearing, Cornel Morton, vice president of student affairs, condescended to offer the following pearls of wisdom to Mr. Hinkle:

"You are a white member of the CPCR. To students of color this may be a collision of experience...The chemistry has racial implications and you are naive not to acknowledge them." In less the forty years, California the state that struck a blow for liberty with the free speech movement, has become a place which empowers the likes of Morton to interpret our first amendment rights.

I am convinced after reading the available facts on the case at the website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that it is Mr. Morton, not Mr. Hinkle, who most deserves investigation, though this time it should be on charges of"disrupting" the first amendment.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:38 a.m. EST


In his his article discussing Diane Ravitch's much needed book, The Language Police, John Leo asks the following:

"Which of the following stories would be too biased for schools to allow on tests? (1) Overcoming daunting obstacles, a blind man climbs Mount McKinley; (2) dinosaurs roam the Earth in prehistoric times; (3) an Asian-American girl, whose mother is a professor, plays checkers with her grandfather and brings him pizza. As you probably guessed, all three stories are deeply biased." For why, see here.

While I have not yet read Ravitch's book, somehow I doubt that the PC test writers encountered any protests from the American Civil Liberties Union and/or the National Education Association.

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:08 p.m. EST


My good friend Todd J. Olson has called my attention to a thoughtful piece by John McWhorter, "Blacks Should Feel Insulted," which deals with the Supreme Court decision on preferences. Here is a sample:

"The decision ratifies a practice that black Americans themselves overwhelmingly deplore. Too often lost is that while racial preference advocates coo about the importance of 'diverse' perspectives in classrooms, black students tend not to appreciate being singled out this way....The undergraduate-written Black Guide to Harvard insists:"We are not here to provide diversity training for Kate or Timmy before they go out to take over the world."

Meanwhile, as links provided by Ralph E. Luker show, the fall-out from Maureen Dowd's hate-mongering piece continues. In my blog on the subject, I neglected to include her most infamous line. According to Dowd, the GOP at its nominating convention"put on a minstrel show for the white fat cats in the audience." Can you imagine what would happen to a conservative, such as George Will, if he had used the same language to characterize a Democratic gathering which featured blacks?

The Republicans properly stepped up to the plate by distancing themselves from Trent Lott. Will the Democrats act accordingly and hold the likes of Maureen Dowd to, at least, minimal standards? I am not necessarily an enemy of the fine art of political invective but those who love to throw stones should be at least reasonably consistent, shouldn't they? Don't hold your breath.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:08 a.m. EST


Maureen Dowd's columns usually deserve to be ignored but today she hit a new low in a mean-spirited screed against Clarence Thomas. I have mixed feelings about Thomas, especially on issues related to civil liberties, but he has not done anything to deserve this kind of shabby treatment, simply for expressing his views.

As someone who has researched the history of civil rights in Mississippi, I found Dowd's attack-dog style to be hauntingly familiar. Back in the 1950s, many Southern whites belittled black educators and others who had received Jim Crow privileges (such as official appointments to be administrators or teachers in segregated schools) as"ungrateful" for daring to question the status quo. Many of these educators, in fact, suffered personally after the abolition of these privileges....but, for them, the benefits of desegregation to society made the trade-off worth it.

Now, Dowd angrily lashes out at Thomas for stepping off the liberal plantation and biting the hands (including her hands, of course) that feed him by opposing preferences:"It's impossible not to be disgusted as someone who could benefit so much from affirmative action and then pull up the ladder after himself. So maybe he is disgusted with his own great historic ingratitude."

There are two problems with this crude form of attack. First, Dowd's proposition that talented blacks (and, yes, Maureen he is talented) would have failed without preferences is by no means self-evident. As Stephen and Abiligal Thernstrom point out in America in Black and White , blacks were already breaking down barriers in law and the other professions the 1950s and 1960s, long before the rise of preferences. This trend would have probably continued with, or without, the introduction of preferences.

Let's assume that Dowd is right, however, and that Thomas did indeed benefit from preferences. Does this mean that he has lost his right to criticize such policies? This claim is nonsense on its face and even more so if taken to its logical conclusion. For Dowd to be consistent in her theory, she would have to also criticize all individuals who ever called for the abolition of any special privileges they had received in the past. In Dowd's world, this would mean, of course, that those brave whites in the 1950s and 1960s who fought Jim Crow, even though they had personally benefited from the privileges it gave, were just as"disgusting" as Thomas.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:45 a.m. EST


Robert Novak has another perceptive article on how U.S. troops are increasingly spread thin overseas and the consequent mounting morale problems. A remarkable 70 percent of the army is no longer stationed in the U.S.

It is an open question as to how much longer this can be sustained without adverse consequences such as a dry up in recruitment and, then, pressure for a new draft.

The ultimate source of the problem is a bi-partisan policy of wasting the talents of American forces on world policing operations rather than national defense. If the Democrats really to want to accomplish something in the next election, they will press their candidate to support a fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy towards a Grover Clevelandite approach: home defense and free trade.

The sad truth is that the party who gave us such debilitating foreign entanglements as the UN, NATO, not to mention peacekeeping disasters in Haiti, Kosovo, and Somalia is not likely to do this. To a great extent, Democratic party activists (with some notable exceptions) are blinded by reflexive Bush hating. Some have become mirror images of the Clinton haters (to be fair I am one of those) they once dimissed as paranoid"right-wing anti-government nuts."

For my part, I guess it means one more vote for the Libertarians though I may change my mind if they nominate Harry Browne yet again!

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


As the whiz kids from Washington plunge ahead in their plans to"guide" Iraq toward a"democratic and stable" future they might want to take note of the miserable record of their fellow nation builders in Afghanistan. For the second consecutive year, the restored warlords in that country have produced a "bumper crop" in opium.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:05 a.m. EST


Because so many opponents of war hate" capitalism" and the free market, many subscribe to the belief that wars are"good" for the economy. One of the examples they most commonly cite of alleged"wartime prosperity" is World War II.

Recent scholarship has revealed that this view has remarkably little basis in the historical record. In several articles, including one for the American Economic Review, economic historian Robert Higgs convincingly argued that the"prosperity" of World War II, with its rationing, decline in real wages, increased accident rates, dubious"national income" accounts, and command economy micromanagement, was largely a sham.

The work of Higgs, as well as Richard K. Vedder and Lowell E. Gallaway, indicates that genuine prosperity only returned in the post-war period (after sixteen years of interventionist failure) and was fueled by such un-Keynesian"free market" policies as massive budget cuts, deregulation, and tax cuts.

Advocates of the free market, such as Richard Cobden, William Graham Sumner, and Edward Atkinson, often led or inspired the first significant anti-war movements in the United States and Europe during the nineteenth century. Unlike some of their modern counterparts, they were well aware that wartime prosperity is a chimera.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:30 p.m. EST


As the whiz kids from Washington plunge ahead in their plans to"guide" Iraq toward a"democratic and stable" future they might want to take note of the miserable record of their fellow nation builders in Afghanistan. For the second consecutive year, the restored warlords in that country have produced a "bumper crop" in opium.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:05 a.m. EST


Because so many opponents of war hate" capitalism" and the free market, many subscribe to the belief that wars are"good" for the economy. One of the examples they most commonly cite of alleged"wartime prosperity" is World War II.

Recent scholarship has revealed that this view has remarkably little basis in the historical record. In several articles, including one for the American Economic Review, economic historian Robert Higgs convincingly argued that the"prosperity" of World War II, with its rationing, decline in real wages, increased accident rates, dubious"national income" accounts, and command economy micromanagement, was largely a sham.

The work of Higgs, as well as Richard K. Vedder and Lowell E. Gallaway, indicates that genuine prosperity only returned in the post-war period (after sixteen years of interventionist failure) and was fueled by such un-Keynesian"free market" policies as massive budget cuts, deregulation, and tax cuts.

Advocates of the free market, such as Richard Cobden, William Graham Sumner, and Edward Atkinson, often led or inspired the first significant anti-war movements in the United States and Europe during the nineteenth century. Unlike some of their modern counterparts, they were well aware that wartime prosperity is a chimera.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:30 p.m. EST


An article today by Peter N. Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, shows yet again that college administrators are probably the leading enemies today of academic standards in higher education:

"Surveys commissioned by Professors Stanley Rothman and Seymour Martin Lipset (whose own regression analysis undercuts UM's articulated rationale in support of preferences), and reported in The Public Interest, highlight college administrators' fervent support for preferences. For example, whereas 67 percent of students strongly agree with the statement,"No one should be given special preferences in jobs or college admissions on the basis of their gender or race," only 26 percent of college administrators concur."

In addition, Kirsanow points out that advocates of preferences have failed"to address the underlying problem: abysmal K-12 education and family environments not conducive to academic competence. This is where the focus should be, not on the latest admissions gimmick offered up to the diversity gods."

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


Representative Ron Paul of Texas has parted ways again with the Republican majority by speaking out against the proposed flag-burning amendment. For those who love liberty and oppose centralized power, Ron Paul is a gem, especially when compared to his power-loving colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The fact that voters in his district continue to reelect him, despite his courageous stands on the war and many other issues, is a sign that there is still hope.

Posted by David T. Beito at 12:10 p.m. EST


Harry Browne offers a spirited defense of Martha Stewart . The crux of his argument is that"insider trading" is a victimless crime.

Interestingly, Stewart is also charged with perjury. Those who devoted so much time and energy to lamenting the"persecution" of Bill Clinton because he was charged with lying under oath, take note. Martha needs you.

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:28 p.m. EST


In a rare show of prudence and good sense, the occupation authorities have reversed their ban on the private ownership of automatic weapons ownership in Iraq . The British and American soldiers who would have enforced the ban are not so free in their home countries. In Britain, despite a new levels of gun violence from criminals, the right to keep and bear arms is almost defunct. Most recently, serious proposals have been raised there to ban air rifles! Less than a month ago, the Bush administration, as part of a cynical backroom deal to win Democratic support for the tax bill, renewed the ban on the sale of semi-automatics holding magazines of 10 rounds or more.

The reversal of the prohibition in Iraq by U.S. and British occupiers stemmed from simple realism, rather than love of the right to keep and bear arms. Enough of them realized that a concerted campaign to break down doors and rip open tent flaps to seize these weapons would not only fail but produce new enemies. Moreover, as an article notes, business owners and other Iraqis"needed the weapons to defend themselves from looters and organized criminal gangs." The U.S. occupiers certainly were not up to this task! Significantly, most of the looting was directed toward government facilities and homes of the elite, not private businesses or mosques which were widely protected by private weapons.

I have mixed feelings about the private ownership of automatics (restricted, though not banned, in the U.S. since the 1930s through federal licensing). Because they fire multiple shots each time the trigger is squeezed, automatics, like tanks, mortars and other heavy weapons, are more likely to kill indiscriminately. The semi-automatics covered by the Bush ban, by contrast, all fire only a single shot each time the trigger is squeezed. A right to keep and bear arms does not extent to using weapons that by their very nature harm innocent third parties. Of course, even the most ardent liberals admit that other Constitutional rights, including the first amendment, are governed by similar"time, place" and other restrictions. Having said that, the Iraqis should be allowed to determine their own firearms policy. Just as importantly, few people in the world have a more obvious need for a means of self-defense in a time of chaos and disorder.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:38 p.m. EST


Even many of the ardent pro-war conservatives at Free Republic are having difficulty swallowing President Bush claim that two mobile labs are "proof" that the U.S. has found WMD.

As a rock-ribbed critic of the war, I must admit that I am surprised by the failure to come up with these weapons. I, for one, never believed that the existence of WMD represented a necessary or sufficient justification for a war of conquest. They may be found yet. Even so, the fact that site after site has come up dry after more than a month of unrestricted searching undermines the credibility of Rumsfeld's pre-war self-confident statements.

Perhaps I am a hopeless optimist but I sense that more conservatives are starting realize that Dubya, much like Clinton, is a typical politician. As a politician, he will chose the argument that sells. In justifying the Kosovo war, Clinton falsely proclaimed that there was genocide in Kosovo on a Hitlerian scale. Along the same lines, Dubya and his advisors chose to emphasize a clear and present danger because of WMD.

What was the real reason for launching this war? While there were many factors, I suspect that it was primarily to create a counterweight to Saudi Arabia and to take the heat off of Israel. Unfortunately, for the Bush administration these reasons, when taken alone, would have have never persuaded the public to support the war.

Were Dubya, Rumsfeld, etc. deliberatly lying about WMD? I don't think they were....not exactly. A more likely explanation is that they trumped up dubious allegations of WMD because such a claim was more likely to"scare" possible skeptics in the Republican heartland.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:33 p.m. EST


During the last week, nine American soldiers in Iraq have been killed . It has become painfully obvious that further pursuit of the utopian dream of"nation building" in this Bosnia writ large will only continue the slow bleed of American lives. But the response of the Bush administration is to send even more troops!

Saddam has been deposed and the search for WMDs has hit a dead end. Why not take advantage of this rapidly closing window of opportunity to declare victory and leave Iraq to the Iraqis?

Posted by David T. Beito at 12:48 p.m. EST


The National Association of Scholars (a much-needed voice for the defense of higher academic standards and academic freedom) now has a blog. The most recent entry further explains the nefarious methods used by PC administrators and faculty at CUNY Brooklyn College to deny tenure to Professor K.C. Johnson despite his distinguished teaching and publication record. Although the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees eventually overruled the denial, the smears against Professor Johnson have continued.

While on vacation, I had the opportunity to read Roger G. Kennedy’s provocative Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana, and the Louisiana Purchase. The author’s environmentalist approach is not always convincing but he raises critically important issues.

Kennedy faults Jefferson for his failure to apply his anti-slavery/pro-yeoman farmer vision in the realm of practical politics. This is not a typical"revisionist" attack piece, however. In fascinating detail, Kennedy reveals how Jefferson fumbled several golden opportunities to stop the spread of slavery before, during, and after his administration. Particularly impressive is the lucid discussion of how the federal government, with Jefferson’s assent, fostered slavery through land policy. Jefferson's administration worked through a private company, The Firm, to use the debts of individual Indians as a pretext to get control of tribal lands and then sell these lands at a discount to aspiring planters. In the process, promising efforts to populate the Southern states with black, white, and Indian yeoman farmers were smothered in the womb.

Like Jeffrey Rogers Hummel in Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War, Kennedy's evidence shows that historians make a mistake when they imply that slavery was a purely “capitalist” institution based entirely on"free market" forces of supply and demand. Slavery was probably the most subsidized industry in the period of the early republic. Had the subsidies not existed, such as slave patrols, the Fugitive Slave clause, and cut-rate prices on land, the institution may have collapsed long before the Civil War.

Posted by David T. Beito at 12:44 p.m. EST


As the Jayson Blair scandal takes on more steam, the supporters of preferences continue to be in denial. The scandal provides more evidence that the the civil rights movement has lost its way by abandoning its original agenda of merit and non-discrimination. Social engineering, cookie-cutter"diversity" is ultimately a dead end. Conservatives have shown signs recently of falling into the same trap by embracing the unrealistic and Un-American goal of imposed"ideological diversity." Perhaps the Blair scandal will lead to much needed soul searching on both sides.

My blog will not be an updated for several days because I will be on a road trip to visit my mother in Minnesota. Have a great week.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:44 a.m. EST


Well...not exactly but in a thoughtful and nuanced article Chris Sciabarra shows that the founder of objectivism had considerable misgivings about a world policing foreign policy.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:57 a.m. EST


Scholars have known for years that the often-cited statistic that women on average earn 76 cents for every dollar men earn is misleading. An article by Professor June O'Neill in the latest American Economic Review confirms again that men and women who have the same work histories generally get the same pay. Kate N. Grossman of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that O'Neill"attributes the gender gap in pay to more basic cultural realities [not employer discrimination] such as the fact that women are more likely than men to step back from their careers to care for children."

It is unlikely that this study will put the pay gap myth to rest. Theories that can be used to reinforce victim status, true or not, have great staying power.

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:45 p.m. EST


While I opposed the war with Iraq, I was always more than a tad uncomfortable being on the same side as France. Many of that country's politicians and leading intellectuals often strike me as smug and more than a little elitist. I oppose the boycott of French products, much like I opposed other politically oriented boycotts such as the one several years ago that tried to shut down Dr. Laura, but this campaign doesn’t particularly bother me either. Now, I know why I feel this way, yet again.

An effort is afoot in France to prosecute Brigitte Bardot for “racist propaganda,” in an Orwellian “corrections court” no less. Her main alleged crime is that she deplored the “Islamization of France.” Apparently, such views are forbidden by the French thought police. Michel Tubiana, the head of the misnamed Human Rights League, pontificates that “saying, for example, that Muslims can’t be French – that’s a real problem – or that Muslims are invading France...This type of generalization is unacceptable.” While I hold no brief for many of Bardot’s views, she has a right to express them. Certainly, a tin-pot PC Comstock like Michel Tubiana has no right to silence her through the force of law.

I profoundly disagree with our foreign policy but I thankful that (in contrast to many Europeans) we still have meaningful free speech rights. My friends in the anti-war movement should think twice before they uncritically praise such foreign models of intolerance as France, the EU, and the UN (which recently selected Libya to head its Human Rights Commission).

Unfortunately, even in the U.S., the precious values of free speech and open debate are under constant assault. Today, college administrators on many campuses are enforcing their own miniature versions of French thought reform in the form of speech codes and one-sided mandatory diversity training.

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


Sometimes in the spirit of hyperbole, I get carried away. In my blog of May 9, I wrongly generalized that the left has been"missing in action" in opposing the use of eminent domain to subsidize developers. One of my legion (ah...hmmm) of readers, David Salmanson has provided a much needed corrective. He wrote:"You ask, 'Where is the left?' In the Atlantic City tunnel case [mentioned in the May 9 blog], they were organizing marches, and the other usual stuff. In particular, the ultra-lefty Kensington Welfare Rights Union was very much in presence."

Since I am engaging in mea culpas, it should also be pointed out that conservatives are often in the forefront of such property seizures. John Sophocleus, the recent Libertarian candidate for governor of Alabama, has informed me that our current GOP governor has quite a reputation in that regard.

Kudos to all activists against pro-developer land grabs everywhere, left and right.

Posted by David T. Beito at 12:24 p.m. EST


A study by the Diversity Research Network has been unable to find any relationship between workforce diversity and greater efficiency. The study also revealed that expensive, coercive, and one-sided mandatory diversity indoctrination errr..."training" programs"have little impact on performance."

Even on its own terms, of course, the diversity mantra is disingenuous. Those who are the loudest in repeating it also bear the most guilt for the remarkable ideological (e.g. left-wing) ideological uniformity on college campuses.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, perhaps it is time for colleges to drop the Balkanizing goal of"diversity" and return to the original ideals of the civil rights movement: merit and non-discrimination. Unfortunately, some conservatives have made the mistake of abandoning these ideals in favor of self-defeating proposals to mandate"ideological diversity" on college campuses.

An effective challenge to the diversity sacred cow will only happen if more tenured professors have the courage to speak up and support such worthy organizations as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the National Association of Scholars . Isn't that what is tenure is for, after all?

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


A report from the Institute for Justice (as described in a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor) has catalogued some startling abuses of eminent domain. The report shows that the fifth amendment, which was supposed to set strict limits on the takings power, is now almost a dead letter. It has become routine for local and state governments to take land for purely private benefit, rather than public use. The Institute found that governments have seized over 10,000 properties in recent years and then handed them over to private developers. The chief excuse of those bringing the taking in most cases was that new ownership would serve to raise the tax base. Of course, the original conception of the takings clause (as described by Richard A. Epstein and others) had nothing to do with this goal

Leaving that aside, the"raise the tax base" rationale often fails even on its own terms. The report revealed that many of the previous owners were putting the land to productive use. For example, the victims of eminent domain have included an entire middle-class black neighborhood (demolished to build a tunnel for a casino which was never finished), a family home (taken so it could be the house of a golf club manager), and the long-time residence of an elderly woman which later was given to an automobile dealer.

Where is Jesse Jackson? Where is the left? The usual self-proclaimed critics of" corporate power" seem to be missing in action on this issue.

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:42 p.m. EST


Blogger Erin O'Connor has performed a great service by publicizing the outrageous treatment of history professor Robert K.C. Johnson at Brooklyn College. Johnson's troubles started when he dissented in an active way from the PC consensus on his campus. For example, he urged that a proposed teach-in after 9-11 include diverse points of view and (more shockingly) he had the temerity to propose that a candidate in his department be hired on the basis of merit. His reward? He was denied tenure for"lack of collegiality."

Fortunately, the CUNY chancellor overturned this decision. Now, O'Connor informs us that the harassment of Johnson continues. Most recently, the head of the faculty senate falsely claimed that he had not published a single article or book since he came to Brooklyn College when, in fact, he has published a book and seven articles or book chapters.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:40 a.m. EST


Thanks to unrelenting pressure by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education , Donna E. Shalala, the president of the University of Miami, has reversed an egregious anti-free speech policy on that campus. Throughout this semester, the Committee on Student Organizations had repeatedly denied recognition to the Advocates for Conservative Thought (ACT) as an official student group.

It claimed that ACT did not deserve this status because its work would only"replicate" that of the College Republicans. The leftists who dominate the Committee on Student Organizations, and their administrator co-conspirators, apparently subscribe to the theory that all conservatives are generic thus only one token group should be allowed.

Of course, the University of Miami did not apply this anti-duplication rule to the many leftist student organizations on campus. Kudos to FIRE for this great victory in the lonely fight for academic free speech.

Posted by David T. Beito at 1:50 p.m. EST


Prior to the war, I had often argued that Bush would be well-advised to select Condoleeza Rice for vice president should Cheney step aside in 2004. As a candidate who can make inroads into the black vote, without selling out to the left, she is the dream choice for the GOP. Moreover, Rice is a thoughtful and determined woman who thinks for herself and does not fit predictably into conservative, liberal, or moderate categories.

Because of her family's first-hand experience that private ownership of guns reinforces civil rights, for example, she describes herself as a"second-amendment absolutist" (few conservatives would go that far). She has also shunned hard-line social conservatives on issues such as abortion.

A UPI story today gives yet another reason to tout Rice's possible virtues as veep. According to the article, Rice helped to block proposed"hot pursuit" air strikes against Syria stating that she opposed any new"military adventures." Terms such as"military adventure," of course, are considered sacrilege by the neo-Wilsonians who brought us Gulf War II.

Posted by David T. Beito at 7:04 p.m. EST


The United Nations (so beloved by the antiwar movement and) continues to show that it does not deserve to have additional powers. Just weeks after Cuba arrested and imprisoned 75 dissidents (some for terms of 28 years), that nation was unanimously elected to the UN Commission on Human Rights. Cuba will now take its place on the Commission with such great defenders of liberty as Zimbabwe, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I rarely agree with Ari Fleischer but he was absolutely right when he compared this action to"putting Al Capone in charge of bank security."

As long as the UN continues such behavior, it will have little hope of restoring its increasingly diminished credibility with the American people. Congress would do well to seriously ponder Rep. Ron Paul's bill to end our complicity in this travesty and withdraw the U.S. from the UN.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:59 p.m. EST


The long overdue counterattack against campus speech codes has finally begun. These Orwellian codes pose the most alarming threats to academic free speech today. In its opening salvo, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) just filed suit in U.S. District court against Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. Shippensburg's academic thought police must have been working overtime when they dreamed this up. One of the code's provisions, for example bans"suggestive or insulting sounds, leering [and] whistling." As Alan C. Kors, the president of FIRE, notes, most"stand-up comics - whether feminists or male chauvinists -wouldn't last a day at Shippensburg."

FIRE is a wonderful organization which has stood firm against never-ending attempts by PC faculty and administrators to limit the free speech of faculty and students. As the president of the Alabama Scholars Association , I am proud to announce that we are taking this opportunity to mount a fight against speech codes in our state.

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


The evidence that"Bowling for Columbine" is rife with misrepresentations and outright falsehoods continues to mount. If even a few of these charges are true, Michael Moore's Oscar should be confiscated or, at the very least, moved to the fiction category.

I have always had a fond place in my heart for the brilliant, but sometimes erratic, Alan Keyes. For this reason, I was glad to hear that he has joined the ranks of conservative and libertarian skeptics of the Iraq war. Keyes asserts, quite rightly, that a"war of liberation" does not qualify as a legitimate use of U.S. power. Representing a much older conservative tradition of prudence and realism, Keyes finds that such wars are only justified if they are for national defense.

My only quibble is that Keyes expresses entirely too much faith in the bumbling and thoroughly anti-liberty United Nations. That institution is certainly not fit to"rule" anybody. In my view, the most realistic policy is to abandon the misconceived Garner regency and allow the Iraqis to set up an interim government as soon as possible. Once that has been accomplished, U.S. troops can be withdrawn on a fast time table and Iraq will be perfectly free, if it so chooses, to call on the UN for help.

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:55 p.m. EST


Sometimes hypocritical behavior becomes so obvious that it almost rises to the level of high comedy. A case in point is the claim of administrators and faculty hiring committees to have"encouraged diversity" on college campuses. A recent study of party registration of faculty at Ithaca College in New York shows that an amazing 94 percent are registered Democrats or Greens while the rest are Republicans or Conservatives. Studies of party registration on other campuses in the United States have revealed similar patterns. If ideological uniformity of this breathtaking magnitude is so often the end result, then perhaps diversity has never been the real goal after all.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:33 p.m. EST


Yesterday's "self-rule" meeting in Nassiriya brings to my mind Thomas Jefferson's famous statement about slavery:"we have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither safely hold him, nor safely let him go."

Unfortunately, the United States is setting itself up for a similar dilemma on the very different issue of postwar Iraq. The statement of a White House envoy at the meeting that the U.S. has"no interest, absolutely, no interest, in ruling Iraq” is contradicted by the plan to install an interim authority under retired General Jay Garner. Garner’s regime will include a fairly elaborate ruling bureaucracy of U.S. military officers. The question of when and how this authority will be handed over to Iraq still has not been answered, much less addressed.

One of the worrisome aspects of the self-rule meeting was the boycott by representatives from the Shi’ite majority. The main reason for the boycott was to protest the proposed administration by Garner.

In retrospect, of course, we know that Jefferson was wrong about slavery. The “wolf by the ears” comment, though an accurate statement of a practical quandry, proved in the end to be an excuse for inaction and failure to make a clear choice on the leading moral issue of his day.

The Bush administration must also make a choice, and make it quickly. If it truly wants self-rule by the Iraqis, and hopes to avoid a quagmire, it should abandon the dead-end plan of a U.S. military administration and allow immediate creation an Iraqi (and only Iraqi) interim government. Then, it should turn over authority to that government. The U.S. troops should then be withdrawn on a quick timetable. Such an approach will hopefully reassure skeptical Iraqis to participate in such a government.

Hopefully, the Iraqis will choose the model of a representative, decentralized federal republic which protects the rights of each ethnic and religious group (perhaps on the successful Swiss model of autonomous cantons) but this should not be a matter for the either the U.S. or the U.N. to decide.

Once established, an Iraqi interim government should be free to ask international and regional organizations such as the United Nations or the Arab League to help supervise elections. Otherwise, both the U.S. and the U.N. should stay out completely.

Finally, I cannot resist commenting on the recent controversy over Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. While I largely agree with the antiwar stand of both actors, I find it a bit hard to stomach their self-righteous pronouncements of outrage about pro-war boycotts. Only two years ago, Sarandon took a very different stand when people on the left used boycotts and other pressure to try to force Dr. Laura off the air. In endorsing, for example, Sarandon proclaimed that Paramount was "wasting the airwaves" on Dr. Laura's show. Perhaps some humility should temper her statements of outrage.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:34 a.m. EST


A broad left/right coalition ,including Bob Barr, the Eagle Forum, the Libertarian Party, and the American Civil Liberties Union, is mobilizing against the proposed"Son of Patriot Act." All opponents agree that the proposed legislation will further undermine American civil liberties.

Let's hope that this coalition can succeed despite the current tendency by the GOP Congress to empower big government. Ironically, at least from the perspective of many pro-war advocates, the demise of Saddam's regime may help the opposition because it deprives the anti-civil libertarians of one of their favorite pretexts for further chipping away at our constitutional rights.

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:54 p.m. EST


The war is drawing to a close and the Iraqis are coming out from the shadows to show their hatred of Saddam. This should be a happy day for all those who love liberty. Does the anti-war movement have egg on its face? On the whole it does not. Contrary to the claims of many pro-war folks, the more thoughtful voices of the anti-war movement (with some exceptions) did not argue that Saddam's regime would hold out long. My own overly optimistic view was that there would be a coup in Baghdad as soon as the tanks started to roll.

In any case, the main danger stressed by critics of the war applies now more than ever: the pitfalls of attempting a long-term occupation of Iraq and the futility of imposed nation-building. It is essential that the U.S. allow the Iraqi opposition to set up an interim coalition government without further delay. Perhaps it is now time to also recognize the reality of the situation and let the Kurds declare independence in the north. The risks of doing this are great but the risks of pretending that the Kurdish lamb can lay down with the Shi'ite lion (or vice versa) are even more utopian.

Whatever the decision on the Kurds, once the remaining pro-Saddam pockets of resistance have been quashed (and we have no choice but to quash them now that we are in), the U.S. should turn over authority to this new interim Iraqi government as soon as possible. It is doubtful that such a government would remain democratic for long but that matter should not be for us to determine.

It would be the worst mistake to attempt a MacArthur-style regency. Iraq simply doesn't have the same tradition of democracy as either Japan or Germany to build on for such an enterprise to succeed. The same Iraqi Shi'ites who helped topple the statute this morning will start turning their anger against us if we do. On the other hand, I am (almost) as dubious about the possibilities of a U.N. administration. The U.N. has a remarkably poor track record in this regard. Kosovo (which is now under its control) is a haven for organized crime and ethnic strife.

The failure thus far of the U.S. to allow the Iraqi opposition to set up such a government has been a great mistake. Hopefully, Rumsfeld's comments this morning indicate that this will change. Rumsfeld stated that the U.S. has no desire to become a long-term occupier and that he wants Iraq to be governed by the Iraqis as soon as possible. While there are many reasons to doubt him, the rhetoric was encouraging. Let's hope he means it.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:05 p.m. EST


Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is lending his voice in support of a lawsuit against handgun manufacturers. He promotes this campaign as"just another example of the NAACP's continuing fight for equal rights of all Americans." There is a grisly irony here.

The history of handgun control is permeated with racism against blacks. Some of the first handgun controls were enacted as part of the black codes and subsequent legislation in the South to deprive the freedmen of their right to self-defense in the face of white terror. Ironically, many of the first laws were aimed against cheap handguns because those weapons were most affordable to poor blacks. It is often forgotten that the term"Saturday Night Special" originated as an ugly racial slur by whites.

During the 1950s and 1960s, many black civil rights workers in Mississippi, Alabama and other states often were able to ward off white attackers only because they were armed. Bayard Rustin once commented that the headquarters of the Montgomery Improvement Association seemed like an arsenal.

Probably the most famous example is Robert Williams , the head of the Monroe, North Carolina chapter of the NAACP. Williams and other members of the chapter so valued the right to keep and bear arms that they also formed an affiliate of the NRA. Mfume should re-read the writings and speeches of earlier champions of civil rights, including Ida Wells and Malcolm X, who recognized the importance of this right.

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:37 p.m. EST


There is a spirited discussion about grade inflation on Erin O'Connor's fine blog, Critical Mass. Everyone is invited to join in.

I only have one quibble. In my view, the term"grade inflation" is somewhat misleading. A far better general label in most cases would be "grade distortion", a term which was recently coined by my colleague Professor Charles W. Nuckolls. Grade distortion can be used to describe not only grade inflation (the rate of increase in overall GPA's over time) but also grade disparity (the disparity in GPA's between particular departments and colleges).

Grade distortion exists, for example, when the introductory courses in one department award 80 percent A's while those in another give 10 percent A's. This type of grade distortion would still be present even if neither department had increases (or inflation) in average GPA's over time. This problem can be found at the University of Alabama and I suspect many other schools.

Massive disparities of this magnitude only short-change the better students who take more challenging courses and unduly reward those who take in easier courses. Grade distortion (especially as manifested by disparities) deserves far greater attention than it has received.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:45 p.m. EST


Some of my antiwar friends fear that once Saddam's regime in Iraq is defeated, the U.S. will launch similar invasions of Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea, and other"rogue states." While this is entirely possible, one countervailing factor is the cost. Estimated costs of the current war are 70 billion dollars (not to mention the deployment of nearly 300,000 troops in the region). At 70 billion or more a pop, I suspect that the taxpayers and Congress will be far more reluctant next time. Their reluctance might become even greater once they remember the overly optimistic pre-war predictions of Dick Cheney, Richard Pearle, Ken" cakewalk" Adelman, Christopher Hitchens, and others.

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

MORE ON FRUM 03-26-03

Even many conservative backers of the war are rallying to defend Robert Novak. As noted below, David Frum wrote an article for National Review implying that Novak belongs to a cabal of rightwing, protectionist, antisemites and racists.

David Keene, who boasts impeccable conservative and pro-war credentials, has written a particularly effective defense of Novak.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:47 p.m. EST


With the style and grace of a seasoned professional, Robert Novak effortlessly demolishes David Frum's shameless (see below) attempt to imply that he and other conservative and libertarian antiwar critics belong to a vast rightwing conspiracy of racists and anti-semites who want to undermine their country.

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:47 p.m. EST


A ugly little smear piece by former Republican speechwriter, David Frum, is making the rounds. Using a crude McCarthyite approach, Frum implies that the entire conservative and libertarian opposition to the war is racist, anti-semite, and America hating. He knows better but does it anyway!

Frum tries to consign courageous and thoughtful anti-war critics, like Robert Novak and Paul Craig Roberts, to the same boat as discredited racists such as Sam Francis. Of course, he reflexively and indiscriminately plays the"anti-semite card," thus showing that he has much in common with the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who do the same on the race issue. The editors of National Review have fallen to a new low in irresponsible journalism by publishing this article

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


As U.S. troops roll to likely victory, many defenders of the war, including Bill O'Reilly have cited Clinton's Kosovo intervention as a case study in the success of U.S."wars for democracy." It is hard to understand how anyone can defend this view. A stronger case can be made that the Kosovo war represents a depressing illustration of the unintended consequences of"nation building” and the dangers of trusting in the official version of events. For example, post-war investigations (both by journalists and officials) have completely refuted claims of the Clinton administration and the media that prior to the war Serbs killed 100,000 Albanians. The Serbs ran a brutal war effort but probably killed less than 2,000, many who were men of military age.

Just as importantly, attacks by terrorists, many of them motivated by the vision of a Greater Albania, have carried out a gradual reverse ethnic cleansing of what is left of the besieged Serb minority. Has Clinton’s vow to bring the “rule of law” to Kosovo been implemented? Five years later, Kosovo is an unsustainable UN colony and a haven for organized crime and terrorism. Instead of illustrating the benefits of U.S. hegemony and paternalism, the Kosovo example points to the opposite conclusion.

Posted by David T. Beito at 2:10 p.m. EST


I would like to thank Justin Raimondo for reminding me of this quotation from Garet Garrett. Although it was first written in 1952 in reference to the Korean War, it is even more apt today:

"We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night; the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: 'You now are entering Imperium,' Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: 'Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.' And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: 'No U-turns.'"

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:20 a.m. EST


As war with Iraq becomes a foregone conclusion, it is time for the antiwar movement to start pondering how to react to the post-war world. While anything can happen, if past experience in Iraq is any guide, the war is likely to be quick and come with minimal loss of life. It will probably be followed by a brief honeymoon of deceptive calm and eventually a long quagmire of futile nation-building by U.S. occupiers.

Assuming that this scenario is true, how should the anti-war movement respond? The so-called “direct action” strategy should be rejected out of hand but unfortunately will not. Efforts to “shut-down” the country by blocking traffic and other disruptive activity, such as was recently attempted in San Francisco, will backfire in today’s pro-war climate.

As Justin Raimondo points out in his recent column, the direct action approach will not only provide an excuse for Ashcroft to crack down but will “alienate most everyone. From an antiwar point of view, it was utterly pointless to go into downtown San Francisco and tie up traffic for hours, making everyone late. Working class people stuck in traffic, had plenty of time to brood on the question of what makes people behave like total jerks.”

The best strategy for the antiwar movement is to demand a rapid exit from Iraq once Saddam’s forces have been defeated. It should relentlessly oppose any attempt by the U.S. to engage in long-term “nation building” or establish permanent bases.

Such a strategy, if pursued carefully, has some hope of winning allies on the right over the long haul. Critics of the war often forgot that pro-war conservatives are divided in their vision of the post-war world.

The neo-conservatives, represented in the administration by Paul Wolfowitz, currently represent the most visible faction. They have no intention of leaving Iraq. The leading neo-cons, including William Kristol and the Weekly Standard crowd, are single-minded in their dream of a quasi-Wilsonian “benevolent hegemony”. They never met a war they didn’t like. In contrast to most conservatives, for example, almost all of the neo-cons supported Clinton’s Kosovo War.

The second faction of conservatives is more diverse and less easily characterized. At this point, it is difficult to determine the level of its support in the Bush administration. Despite their blind attitude of revenge and thirst for war, many of these conservatives are skeptical of nation-building and world social engineering. Prominent in their ranks are zealous unilateralists who hate the neo-cons almost almost as much as they hate the United Nations. Most of these conservatives opposed the Kosovo and Haiti interventions under Clinton.

Despite their jingoism and thirst for war as expressed on websites such as Free Republic, these conservatives have given little thought to the post-war world. When push comes to shove in the months ahead, they may well recoil from utopian plans to “create a Democratic Iraq.” For this reason, they are the antiwar movement's best hope to build alliances for a quick exist strategy. Is it willing to try?

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:45 a.m. EST


This blog entry is co-authored with Charles W. Nuckolls

One of the worst examples of the race to the botton in American higher education is the “No Credit System.” At the University of Alabama and some other universities in the United States, it is impossible for students in most 100 level introductory Mathematics and English courses to fail! Students in those courses who would otherwise get D's or F's receive “NC” (or No Credit) instead. They can repeat the courses an unlimited number of times until they receive a C- or higher. NC is not calculated into the GPA.

NC not only undermines standards but it is arbitrary. A student who would get a D or F in a required 100 level history course, for example, would get a NC for the same level of work in most 100 level Mathematics or English courses. Policies such as NC are far more likely to be promoted by career administrators who regard the retention of fee paying students as their main priority.

Fortunately, members of the Alabama Scholars Asscociation and others have proposed a resolution the Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama to replace NC in Mathematics and English with the standard A through F grading system used in all other required introductory course. We hope that it will be the beginning of a national trend.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:45 a.m. EST


The website of my friend and fellow blogger Tom G. Palmer is always worth visiting. Yesterday, Tom recommended a thoughtful and well-argued policy analysis, "Why the United States Should Not Attack Iraq." The authors, Ivan Eland and Bernard Gourley, who wrote the study for the Cato Institute, offer a compelling, but thoroughly pragmatic, case against the coming war. Fortunately, they do not waste space defending the UN's Monty Python-esque and untenable “inspections regime.”

The antiwar movement has been far too trusting of both the efficiency and morality of the UN. Recently, this august organization confirmed its irrelevancy yet again by appointing Libya to head the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:15 p.m. EST


This blog entry is co-authored by Charles W. Nuckolls

Two resolutions, are now before the Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama. If implemented, they will reduce the influence of career administrators on academic programs and return power to the teaching faculty where it belongs. One of the resolutions imposes five-year term limits on all future deans, provosts, and academic vice residents. It would not apply to departmental chairs or the president. The other requires that these positions be normally filled from the ranks of the tenured faculty at the University of Alabama. These resolutions should be adopted, not to punish administrators (many of whom are hard-working and creative individuals), but to restore integrity and meaning to the concept of faculty governance.

Administrative term limits and hiring from within are not untried or radical innovations. Princeton and the University of Chicago have had informally followed these policies for years. Both limit the terms of administrators and usually hire them from within. The end result has been to empower the faculty (who, after all, are on the front lines or teaching, research, and service) and to foster an environment of academic excellence. Too often, by contrast, the all-consuming goal of career administrators is to add more retaining fee-paying students to the rolls even if it means the sacrifice of academic standards.


Little noticed in the current debate is the small, but growing, conservative and libertarian anti-war contingent. These diverse critics of going to war with Iraq range from Pat Buchanan on the protectionist right to Camille Paglia, a self-described libertarian. Their ranks also include such well-known free traders and supply siders as Paul Craig Roberts and columnist Robert Novak (who also opposed American participation in Gulf War I).

Two of leading anti-war conservatives in Congress are Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Rep. John Duncan of Tennessee. Without a doubt, however, the most persistent and consistent of them all is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Few (on either the right or left) can equal Paul's tenacious record of opposing military crusades. Paul was a vocal critic, for example, of Clinton's interventionist fiascos in Somalia, Haiti, and Kosovo.

Conservative and libertarian anti-war websites include that of the feisty Randolph Bourne Institute and of the"united front" oriented Stand Down: The Left Right Blog Opposing an Invasion of Iraq. Thoughtful commentary is never in short supply at the well-researched site of blogger of Alina Stefanescu.

Although most current anti-war leaders are leftist, they could learn a thing or two from their counterparts on the right. Conservatives and libertarians present a rarely considered, but effective, critique of one of the left's favorite sacred cows, the United Nations. The recent selection of Libya to head the UN Commission on Human Rights seems only to confirm the potential dangers of entrusting that organization with additional power.

The prospects for left/right anti-war cooperation seem increasingly promising. A case in point in the Historians Against the War which has adopted an inclusive statement of principles which can appeal to Americans regardless of where they are on the political spectrum.


This blog segment is co-authored with Charles W. Nuckolls.

Throughout the last year, the issue of grade inflation has often been in the national media spotlight. Shocking revelations about the skyrocketing rise in the percentage of A's and the promiscuous granting of Honors awards at Harvard University especially have fueled debate. Despite this, some teachers and parents choose to console themselves with the theory that grade inflation is limited to the Ivy League or other elite private colleges. They would be wrong to do so.

According to the recent study, Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities, the grade inflation epidemic has infected many state-funded institutions which do not cater to an academic elite. A survey which we conducted for the Alabama Scholars Association reveals that it has taken hold in our own institution, the University of Alabama.

In our view, grade inflation must be examined as one component in a larger phenomenon: grade distortion.

We define grade inflation as the increasing percentage of high letter grades awarded to students over a defined period, unrelated either to improvements in student abilities or changes in instructional quality. A second subset of grade distortion is grade disparity. In some ways, it poses a far more serious threat to educational quality and basic fairness in grading. The level of grade distortion can be measured by calculating the differences between units internal to the university (colleges or departments) in the percentage of higher letter grades awarded to students in a defined period.

First, let us consider the best known component of grade distortion: grade inflation. The earliest available statistics for the University of Alabama from the early 1970s reveal that grade inflation was already well underway. An average taken of all four full semesters between the fall of 1972 and the spring of 1974 show that A's represented 22.6 percent of grades in all undergraduate courses. This was considered so high that the Office of Institutional Research at the University of Alabama warned at the time that"the percentage of A's and I's awarded has been steadily increasing" especially among undergraduates.

These warnings fell on deaf ears and grade inflation accelerated to new highs during the next three decades. Today, it has reached crisis proportions. In the last full semesters (fall 2000 to spring 2002), the percentage of A's in all undergraduate courses has risen to 31.1 percent, a startling 37.6 percent increase since 1974. One of the worst offenders is the College of Education where A's now constitute 55 percent of all undergraduate grades.

What has caused grade inflation at the University of Alabama? In 1996, the Office of Institutional Research attributed it to the"admission of better prepared high school graduates." There is little evidence for this claim. In the last 30 years, the average ACT scores for entering freshmen have increased by relatively little (from 22.9 to 24.5). According to Bob Ziomek, director of ACT program evaluation, this small rise"doesn't explain the whopping increase in A's being awarded."

Now, let us turn to the more serious component of the problem. We call it grade disparity. To view the issue in isolation, we have focused on the percentage of A's in the departments of the College of Arts of Sciences. In addition, we have limited our analysis to 100 and 200 level courses, the so-called gateway courses for freshmen and sophomores.

Because such courses are of an introductory nature, a traditional goal is to winnow out students before they can advance to more advanced courses. Thus, the percentage of A's in gateway courses is generally, or should be generally, lower than in 300 to 500 level courses. If the percentage of A's consistently exceeds 20 percent at this level, we believe that a serious grade inflation problem exists.

The disparities between departments in 100 to 200 level gateway courses are striking. The most inflationary department in the College of Arts and Sciences is Women's Studies. In the last two years, the average percentage of A's in that department averaged an almost unbelievable 78.1 percent. Other inflationary departments are Theater/Dance (51.4), Religious Studies (48.5) and Music (48.1). The five least inflationary departments are Biological Sciences (11.1), Geography (13), Geological Sciences (14.2), Math (14.6), and Anthropology (14.8).

Extreme grade disparity of this magnitude serves to undermine educational quality and standards. It also shortchanges the best and hardest working students. When grade disparity is rife, the overall Grade Point Average can no longer be said to adequately reflect comparative abilities. The grade of the A student in the course which demands little effort is placed on an equal plane with the student who has to struggle to earn the same grade in a more difficult course. The system creates perverse incentives for students to"shop around" for professors who have reputations for giving"easy A's" and thus degrades the efforts of those students who might otherwise take"harder" courses. The end result is that the student transcript loses its value a source of information for potential employers who need to judge the comparative qualifications of graduates.

What can be done to reduce grade distortion? Members of the Alabama Scholars Association supported a proposal that all student transcripts not only include the grade for the class, but also the average grade for all students enrolled in the class. Prospective employers could then get a better idea of whether that A- is to be admired or ignored, and the students would be less prone to shop for easy grades.

Unfortunately, the Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama rejected even this modest proposal. Indeed, it failed (and continues to fail) to take action of any kind. The University administration had proved equally unwilling to act. For this reason, we believe that the Alabama State Department of Education needs to publish an annual grade audit. Such an audit will serve to publicize grade distortion by showing the comparative levels of grade inflation and grade disparity in Alabama's high schools and colleges.

By Charles W. Nuckolls, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama and David T. Beito, Associate Professor, Department of History. Both are members of the Alabama Scholars Association.

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:05. EST

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