Liberty & Power Archives 8-01-03 to 8-17-03





THE OIL LINE SABOTAGE AND OTHER TROUBLES IN IRAQ 08-17-03

Because many people I respect are bloggers at InstaPundit the Volokh Conspiracy , and Prestopundit, I would be interested in their collective thoughts about the recent setbacks in Iraq, most especially the sabotage of the oil pipeline. What impact do they think this will have, for example, on the the long-term prospects for nation-building and stabilization in Iraq?

Posted by David T. Beito at 11:14 am EST

THE FEDS DECLARE WAR ON CAMPUS SPEECH CODES 08-16-03

Liberty and Power Blogger Wendy McElroy is quoted in an article by George Archibald in the Washington Times. The article begins: “The Bush administration has notified college and university officials that federal civil rights regulations do not justify campus speech codes or other rules that inhibit free expression by students and faculty.”

As a professor at a public university that is now trying to quash free speech by a blanket ban on dorm window displays, I am watching this with great interest.

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:04 EST

Gillette Backs Down on RFID 08-16-03

"W33dz" commented a few days ago on the high-tech SlashDot blog,"Retailers and manufacturers around the world are enamored with the new radio frequency identification, or RFID, devices. The problem? What about when a thief or the police want to find out what you have in your house? Oddly enough, according to a Wired magazine article, the United States' largest food companies and retailers will try to win Dept of Homeland Security approval for radio identification devices by portraying the technology as an essential tool for keeping the nation's food supply safe from terrorists. This will give them blanket immunity from all law suits related to the product." (The companies seeking immunity will undoubtedly argue that they have no control over the abuse of their RFID tags -- which last up to ten years -- to which critics will reply"then don't put them in without clearly telling people you are doing so.") One of the companies pioneering RFID in North America is -- or was -- Gillette. The"shaving company" intended to use a Massachusetts Wal-Mart to test product that had a tiny microchip embedded so that store managers could track stock and order more when supply ran low. But the technology could be used to literally track products from store shelves to homes. Gillette had gone so far as to order 500m chips, known as RFID tags, in January. Apparently privacy advocates were effective in their criticism of the company's plans because Gillette has abandoned its intention to embed chips in product and is now embedding them instead in e.g. the pallets that move stock from factories to storehouses, apparently as an inventory awareness measure. In commenting on Gillette's reversal of policy, the Financial Times observed,"One early test [of RFID] undertaken in Cambridge, in eastern England, by Tesco, the UK retailer, set off a storm of protest last month after it emerged that the store was automatically photographing consumers as they took Gillette razors from the shelf. Customers were secretly photographed again when they left the store with the RFID-tagged products." Although Gillette does not acknowledge the criticism of privacy advocates as playing a role in its shift of plans, Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) have been vigorously promoting a boycott and the company was coming under increased media scrutiny on the issue.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 8:00 a.m. Visit McBlog for more commentary

SLAVES AND THE COMMON LAW 8-15-03

I've recently started an interesting book: Jenny Bourne Wahl, The Bondman's Burden: An Economic Analyis of the Common Law of Slavery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) . It is a Posnerian analysis of antebellum common law as it related to slavery. It argues both that slave law was MORE efficient (excluding of course the welfare of the slaves) than other antebellum law and that slave law anticipated and provided the precedents for many subsequent developments in those other areas. I would appreciate the opinion of my fellow bloggers or others who have read this book.

Posted by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel at 9:07 a.m. EST

PHONE PROPAGANDA FROM STATE OFFICES FOR HIGHER TAXES 8-14-03

Instead of hearing the typical muzak or public service announcements while on hold, callers to state offices in Alabama are now subjected to a propaganda recording which touts Governor Riley's " courageous" massive 20 percent tax increase. How more shameless can they get? This heavy-handed tactic is already backfiring.

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

SCHWARZENEGGER PICKS WARREN BUFFETT AS HIS ECONOMIC ADVISOR 8-13-03

Bad news for friends of small government. Schwarzenegger has recruited statist, country club billionaire Warren Buffett to be his chief economic advisor. God save California!

A little known fact: Buffett's father, Howard Buffett, was a libertarian leaning congressman from Nebraska in the 1940s and 1950s who supported the early activities of the Institute for Humane Studies. Warren is not particularly proud of his father's past political record.

Posted by David T. Beito at 3:15 pm EST

THE ALABAMA TAX PLAN AND THE POLITICIZATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 8-13-03

Liberty and Power blogger, Charles W. Nuckolls, has condemned the shameless politicization of Alabama’s institutions of higher learning.

At the University of Alabama, deans and other administrators in their official capacities are organizing one-sided pep rallies to line up faculty support for Governor Riley’s massive and controversial tax increase (now well behind in the polls). These administrators (many merely following orders) have informed Nuckolls that they will not allow dissenting views to be expressed, or even permit questions, at these pep rallies. What happened to the tradition of free and open debate in higher education?

Forty years ago, historians and other scholars spoke out against a similar misuse of higher education for political purposes in Alabama and the rest of the South. Where are they now?

Posted by David T. Beito at 10:08 am EST

Wendy McElroy: Get Out of Iraq! 08-13-03

This Reuters story from AlertNet:"A group of about 600 U.S. military families, upset about the living conditions of soldiers in Iraq, are launching a campaign asking their relatives to urge members of Congress and President George W. Bush to bring the troops home. Susan Schuman, whose son Justin is in the Massachusetts National Guard deployed to Samarra, Iraq, said he shares a small room in a former Iraqi police barracks with five other men. 'They are rationed to 2 liters of water a day and it's 125 degrees (52 degrees C), they haven't had anything but MREs (Meals Ready to Eat),' she told Reuters, adding that uncertainty about when the troops would come home was 'most disheartening.'" I recommend the site Military Families Speak Out which is in the forefront of demanding"Bring Them Home!"

The situation for Iraqi civilians is not better -- indeed, far worse -- as illustrated by conditions in British-held Basra. No reliable electricity, fuel shortages (in Iraq!), food scarcity, no medical supplies, water shut-offs... The prospect of more civilian riots. Conditions in Basra -- Iraq's second largest city -- raise a terrible question. Consider the report on one female resident and her family:"An open sewer runs past their front door and rubbish is piled up on the street. In the small courtyard it is clean and tidy, but stiflingly hot. Since the day before they had not had electricity to power the ceiling fans, and no one in the household - from her 80-year-old father to her grandson of six months - had managed to sleep. She welcomed the arrival of the British with open arms and still values their presence. But she cannot disguise the disappointment at the fact that her life, and the life of her family, is now worse." If the Americans and British do not repair the infrastructure -- and now! -- then the daily life of the average Iraqi may prove to have been better under Saddam than under the so-called"freedom" imposed by occupation forces.

The Americans and British have shown some reluctance to call themselves"an occupation force"...and that's understandable. Here is a look at the main responsibilities of being an"occupier'' under the 1949 Geneva Conventions on humanitarian law, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross based in Geneva.

An occupier must:

• Restore and ensure public order and safety. • Provide the population with food and medical supplies. • Cooperate with aid and relief operations, if needed. • Ensure public health and hygiene. • Faciliate work of schools. • Uphold criminal laws of occupied territory, unless they constitute a threat or contradict international humanitarian law.

An occupier cannot:

• Loot. • Compel residents to serve in its armed forces. • Forcibly transfer residents out of occupied territory to its own territory. • Exploit resources of occupied territory for own benefit.

No wonder the Americans and British wish to define themselves as"other" than occupiers. If they are an occupying army, then they might be liable for human rights violations for the extended denial to Iraqis of the basic human necessities of life, such as medicine. I do not suggest that the Americans and British extend/expand their stay in order to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure nor that hefty, politically-inspired contracts to the likes of Haliburton be continued. I suggest that troops GET OUT and allow what remains of a free market and of Iraqi ingenuity to rise. Let the communities organize and see to their own needs.

Posted by Wendy Mcelroy at 7:20 a.m. EST

KEITH HALDERMAN: MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION 08-11-03

Quotations from the Shafer Commission

The thirtieth anniversary of the Shafer Commission Report occurred on March 22nd of 2002. Shafer Commission is the short hand name for the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. In order to get an omnibus drug act passed its proponents had to agree to a commission for the purpose of studying drug use. An amendment to the Public Health Service Act created the Shafer Commission on 27 October 1970. It took its name from its chairman Republican ex-governor of Pennsylvania, Raymond Shafer. The panel had on it two congressmen, one from each party, and two senators, one from each party, as well as, nine people appointed by Richard Nixon. These included such persons as the dean of a law school, the head of a mental health hospital, and a retired Chicago police captain.

They issued their report, after the most extensive and comprehensive investigation ever done by our government concerning the subject of marijuana use, on 22 March 1972. They recommended that personal use of marijuana be decriminalized.

The Commission had on it nine people who were put there because it was thought that they would reach a different conclusion than the one that they did. They were not supposed to find that it should be decriminalized. Now, why did they do that? Could it be that they were honest men who saw the truth and reported it?

Page numbers come from the white covered paperback edition of the commission report, titled Signal of Misunderstanding.

page 3"President Nixon has frequently expressed his personal and official commitment to providing a rational and equitable public response."

page 7"Isolated findings and incomplete information have automatically been presented to the public, with little attempt made to place such findings in a larger perspective or to analyze their meanings."

page 23"An accurate statement of the effects of the drug is obviously an important consideration, but it is conclusive only if the effects are extreme one way or the other."

page 29"We ask the reader to set his preconceptions aside as we have tried to do, and discriminate with us between marihuana, the drug and marihuana, the problem."

page 36"No valid stereotype of a marihuana user or non-user can be drawn."

page 41"The most notable statement that can be made about the vast majority of marihuana users - experimenters and intermittent users - is that they are essentially indistinguishable from their non-marihuana using peers by any fundamental criterion other than their marihuana use."

page 42"Young people who choose to experiment with marihuana are fundamentally the same people, socially and psychologically, as those who use alcohol and tobacco."

page 44"The most common explanation for discontinuing use is loss of interest."

page 61"No significant physical, biochemical, or mental abnormalities could be attributed solely to their marihuana smoking."

page 67"That some of these original fears were unfounded and that others were exaggerated has been clear for many years. Yet, many of these early beliefs continue to affect contemporary public attitudes and concerns."

page 73"In sum, the weight of the evidence is that marihuana does not cause violent or aggressive behavior; if anything marihuana serves to inhibit the expression of such behavior."

page 75"In short marihuana is not generally viewed by participants in the criminal justice community as a major contributing influence in the commission of delinquent or criminal acts."

page 77"Some users commit crimes more frequently than non-users not because they use marihuana but because they happen to be the kinds of people who would be expected to have a higher crime rate."

page 78"Neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety."

page 79"The few driving simulator tests completed to date have generally revealed no significant correlation between marihuana use and driving disabilities."

page 79"Recent research has not yet proven that marihuana use significantly impairs driving ability or performance."

page 84"No reliable evidence exists indicating that marihuana causes genetic defects in man."

page 88"No verification is found of a causal relationship between marihuana use and subsequent heroin use."

page 92"Concerns about marihuana use expressed in the 1930s related primarily to a perceived inconsistency between the lifestyles and values of these individuals and the social and moral order."

page 93"Concerns posed by an alternate youthful lifestyle are extended to the drug itself."

page 96"Most users, young and old, demonstrate an average or above-average degree of social functioning, academic achievement, and job performance."

page 102"It is unlikely that marihuana will affect the future strength, stability, or vitality of our social and political institutions."

page 112"The salient feature of the present law has become the threat of arrest for indiscretion."

page 130"Marihuana's relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it."

page 130"We suspect that the moral contempt in which some of our citizens hold the marihuana user is related to other behavior or other attitudes assumed to be associated with the drug."

page 151"In general, we recommend only a decriminalization of possession of marihuana for personal use on both the state and federal levels."

page 167"Recognizing the extensive degree of misinformation about marihuana as a drug we have tried to demythologize it. Viewing the use of marihuana in its wider social context, we have tried to desymbolize it."

page 167"We would de-emphasize marihuana as a problem."

Posted by Keith Halderman at 7:42PM EST

THE GRADE INFLATION EPIDEMIC IN BRITAIN 8-11-03

Alina Stefanescu has called my attention to a fascinating article on grade inflation in Britain. Because of a proliferation of A's, British employers are complaining that grades no longer provide a reliable means for weighing the relative qualifications of job applicants. Their American cousins should take note.

Posted by David T. Beito at 4:47 p.m. EST

WENDY McELROY: PLAYING DIRTY 8-11-03

As though in the belief that syllables define reality, the Bush Administration and its attendant agencies are playing word games...and playing dirty.

1) Sometimes they use Clintonesque tactics with language, reminiscent of"It depends what 'is' means." For example, the Pentagon's denial that napalm was used in Iraq. It seems that"napalm" is a brand name, like Kleenex, and the US military is not using that particular brand of fuel-gel mixture in its bombs but another fuel-gel mixture that does the same thing. In the light of confirmation of use by marine pilots and their commanders, the Pentagon has reversed its non-denial denial.

2) Sometimes they silence"unacceptable" words. In an article entitled"Pentagon may punish GIs who spoke out on TV", the San Francisco Chronicle commented,"soldiers of the Army's Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division found [this] out after Good Morning America aired their complaints....The retaliation from Washington was swift." But the exhausted soldiers -- many of whom have had their tour of duty extended three times now -- keep speaking out. In an article entitled"We don't feel like heroes any more," Isaac Kindblade explains,"I am a private first class in the Army's 671st Engineer Company out of Portland. I just wanted to let you know a little bit of what we are up to, maybe so that you can have another opinion of what's going on over here in Iraq...The task is daunting, and the conditions are frightening. We can't help but think of 'Black Hawk Down' when we're in Baghdad surrounded by swarms of people. We are outnumbered. We are exhausted. We are in over our heads. The president says, 'Bring 'em on.' The generals say we don't need more troops. Well, they're not over here." The influential blog TomPaine observes,"Now that the Pentagon is limiting media access to troops in Iraq will the brass come down on Private First Class Isaac Kindblade?"

PR week reports,"After several troops made some highly publicized negative comments to the media about the war effort in Iraq, the Pentagon has taken steps to keep the frustrations of both soldiers and their families out of reports. According to a story in the July 25 edition of Stars and Stripes, the military appears to be curtailing its much-touted embedded-journalist program, which has allowed reporters almost unfettered access to military units throughout the war and occupation." The so-called"unfettered access" was always in exchange for Pentagon control of what was said and what was seen so that the military would look good to the home folk. If the Vietnam War taught the White House anything it was that truly unfettered journalism means the horrors of war and the brutality of American soldiers (who are no more brutal than any other military in an untenable situation) will spill out into the livingrooms of average Americans who are worried about the safety of their sons and daughters. The wrong descriptions will be read by average Americans who have good hearts and wince over innocent child killed in crossfire, maimed by bombs, orphaned... Journalists on the front lines of Vietnam played a key factor in changing the hearts and minds of Americans on the war. Americans at home watched the tragic debacle as they ate their TV dinners and the scroll of America dead that day became the way many news channels ended their broadcasts. The way many people ended their days before going to bed. I remember seeing one such scroll as a young child when my family was on vacation in the States. It terrified me and remains my most vivid memory of that trip. How many Americans with sons and other family in Vietnam leaned into the screen every night, biting their lips and holding their breath, just in case they saw a familiar name? The Bush administration was determined to prevent a replay of this journalistic role. In Iraq, the embedded (in-bed) journalists were"bought off" with access, prestige, and the ease of reporting. The problem is keeping journalists bought in the face of the overwhelming discontent of troops"in the field" and of the continuing death toll during this period of"peace."

3) When it is not possible to smooth the situation by making non-denial denials or by silencing dissent, the powers-that-be punish those who speak out as examples to the rest of us. Consider the case of Joseph Wilson, a State Department veteran who was was sent to Niger to check out the validity of the infamous uranium documents. Over a year ago, he reported that the evidence was not credible. When the scandal surrounding the faux documents eruptedsome weeks back, Wilson went public in the The New York Times and Washington Post and, so, stripped the Administration of the excuse that it didn't know the documents were forged at the time of Bush's State of the Union address which included reference to them. Now, in what appears to be a revenge move,"senior administration officials" have leaked the"fact" that Wilson's wife was an undercover operative for the CIA to the media -- specifically to Bob Novak Novak whose July 14, 2003, column included the sentences:"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the allegation." Journalist David Corn has pointed out that if she was an operative, then it would treason on the part of the White House to disclose the fact. The relevant statute states:"Sec. 421. - Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources (a) Disclosure of information by persons having or having had access to classified information that identifies covert agent Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both." This morning, for the first time, I heard coverage of this scandal on CNN so it is not clear whether this act of potentially indictable"treason" by the White House can be hushed.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 11:30 EST. For more commentary, visit McBlog

Visit my home page and blog at drop by ifeminists.com For photo (05/02/02)

WENDY McELROY: BRING US HOME 08/09/03

Bring Us Home!...these three words are replacing Bush's public taunt to Islamic militants -- "Bring 'em on" -- as the new mantra of"Iraq-Nam" -- a term that likens Iraq to a desert Vietnam. The theme"Bring Us Home" comes from the emails and Internet postings of soldiers who are in Iraq and who present a starkly different picture of conditions than is seen through the sanitized media accounts. One of the key transmission routes of the"Bring Us Home" message is David Hackworth, co-author of the"Vietnam Primer" which has been called"the fighting man's bible for guerrilla warfare in Vietnam." It was published by the Pentagon and used as a training manual during that War. Hackworth's site posts messages such as the following: a recent letter written by the Command Sergeant Major of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment Airborne to Senator Warner explaining why he is retiring earlier than planned. It is a sombering and articulate accounting of the state of our military. The Sergeant Major writes, in part,"We are losing many of our very best in large numbers and potential recruits are not beating the doors down. This is not good and we can't afford it. I have a daughter serving in the Army and her mother and I have advised her to get out when her enlistment is up." Hackworth currently features an email from the front in which a solider complains,"I do know there are people living in areas with running water and A.C. That, of course, is not us... although my COL lives like that. I do believe he was shielded from the reality by his staff for a while. As we crammed 50 soldiers in to two medium frame tents near a pond of dead fish which was also infested with mosquitos and there was absolutely no field sanitation support for miles, he was living in his own room inside an air conditioned building, had his own king size bed, his own bathroom, his own refrigerator, and his cappuccino machine. It was two weeks before he came down to see where the soldiers were living and that was only after the S4 and CSM kept blowing me off... so, I had to get the Corps Surgeon involved for sanitation reasons." I do not advocate making the military presence more comfortable -- I think the US should get out of Iraq immediately and completely -- but it is a morbidly fascinately process to see George W. Bush actively alienating the troops upon which his success depends.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the morale-killing picture, passions have been heating up in Iraq with native Iraqis erupting in understandable anger against what has become an occupation army -- whether Armerican or British. In Basra, British troops have come under attack by protesters in Basra rioting over fuel and electricity shortages. Several thousand people burned tires and lobbed rocks at British troops, who responded by firing rubber bullets to disperse them. The riots continued into a second day. The US response to protests and potential danger has been a bit less muted than rubber bullets. The current (UK) Independent carries the story of a harmless family killed because US troops panicked and fired randomly. The story begins,"The abd al-Kerim family didn't have a chance. American soldiers opened fire on their car with no warning and at close quarters. They killed the father and three of the children, one of them only eight years old. Now only the mother, Anwar, and a 13-year-old daughter are alive to tell how the bullets tore through the windscreen and how they screamed for the Americans to stop. 'We never did anything to the Americans and they just killed us,' the heavily pregnant Ms abd al-Kerim said. 'We were calling out to them Stop, stop, we are a family, but they kept on shooting'." To the message"Bring Us Home," I add my own voice:"Get Them Out of There."

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 11:30 EST, Visit my personal blog

Visit my home page and blog at drop by ifeminists.com For photo (05/02/02)

CHARLES W. NUCKOLLS: THE FIX IS IN: HOW UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATORS AVOID TAKING RESPONSIBILITY, 8-8-03

Does your university make available its grade distribution data, so that you can tell if there is inflation or not? Perhaps they pull tricks, like the one described below, to prevent access. One can only marvel at the endless capacity for artful dodges, cooked up by overpaid administrators to avoid accountability at all costs.

Here is the story: Administrators of the University of Alabama refused this summer to release grade distribution data, citing"workload issues."

Since 1990, the data has been collected and printed by the Office of Institutional Research (OIR), directed by William Fendley. Last year, members of the ASA consulted the OIR data to compile a report on grade distortion and grade inflation (at the bottom of this page.) Our report documented truly alarming statistics, revealing, for example, that some programs (e.g.,"Women's Studies,) routinely award 80% A's to their students. Our study was published in the Alabama media, including the Tuscaloosa News, the Birmingham News, The Strip, and The Crimson White. It also became the focus of discussions in the Alabama legislature.

Senior administrators did not like our report. Instead of taking steps to correct the problem, they chose to deny, conceal, and obfuscate. We attempted this summer to review data collected since our 2002 report, to see whether or not last year's discussion had any effect on grade inflation. Fendley and the OIR refused to supply the information. In fact, Fendley revealed that he terminated the 13 year-old program of data collection and publication. There is now no way to obtain it.

The message is clear. University adminstrators are embarassed by a problem they themselves have helped create. Under the Open Records Law, they are required to provide access, even to data that are embarassing. But here's the catch: If they refuse compile the data in the first place, then there is nothing to"open." We cannot force them to provide access to data that don't exist. And they know that. It is a deeply cynical ploy, and one we believe will backfire.

When the voters of Alabama are being asked to consider new taxation -- in return, we are told, for great accountability -- how will the university's action be received? Should the University be rewarded for a cover-up? Or should it be compelled to return to the practice of the last 13 years, and publish the grade data, even if it means revealing gross negligance in maintaining the value of its currency -- the grade transcript?

For more information, see the website of the Alabama Scholars Association.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 7:23 p.m. EST

STEVE DAVIES: THE SUDDEN REVIVAL OF IMPERIALISM AS AN IDEOLOGY, 8-06-03

One of the most noteworthy events of the last decade in general and the last two years in particular has been the sudden reappearance of ideological imperialism. In other words as well as the thing itself we now have an elaborate body of argument that seeks to justify and defend it. Until about the time of the bombing of Kossovo historical imperialism had almost no defenders or apologists among historians, and none among political commentators and journalists. To actually make the argument that it was a good thing today and a suitable policy for the United States to pursue would lead to a rapid appearance of the men in white coats.

How things have changed! Now you cannot open certain journals without coming across articles in praise of the British Empire or suggesting that it really is time for the U.S. to “take up the white man’s burden” that those enfeebled cousins let go all those years ago. (A particularly delicious variant is articles by Brits offering the advice of experienced empire-runners to those newbies in DC). The crucial point is this: these arguments are not only or even primarily made on pragmatic or prudential grounds. Instead they are defended on an ideological basis, specifically that an imperial hegemon (once the British, now the U.S.) is needed to provide international order and to take forward the process of modernization. In other words it is the responsibility and duty of certain powers to rule and govern other peoples on a tutelary basis, until they are fit to enjoy the benefits of civilization.

This all sounds very familiar to anyone acquainted with the debates over imperialism that raged in Britain and the U.S. in the 1890s and 1900s. Max Boot reads like J. L. Garvin reborn, but with a less elegant prose style. Another interesting similarity is the sudden appearance of “liberal” or “left” imperialists such as T. Blair. This should not surprise us. Most socialists and progressives from the earlier period were ardent imperialists and saw ‘benign’ imperialism abroad as the natural counterpart to the welfare state at home, just as Blair does now. The really interesting question is why so many libertarians are persuaded by this sanctimonious guff.

Posted by Steve Davies at 10.55 a.m. BST

Hunt Tooley: Peace in a Desert 08-05-03

We, the last men on earth, the last of the free, have been shielded till today by the very remoteness and the seclusion for which we are famed. We have enjoyed impressiveness of the unknown. But today the boundary of Britain is exposed; beyond us lies no nation, nothing but waves and rocks and the Romans, more deadly still than they, for you find in them an arrogance which no reasonable submission can elude. Brigands of the world, they have exhausted the land by their indiscriminate plunder and now they ransack the sea. The wealth of an enemy excites their cupidity, his poverty their lust of power. East and West have failed to glut their maw. They are unique in being as violently tempted to attack the poor as the wealthy. Robbery, butchery, rapine, with false names they call Empire; and they make a desert and call it peace.

Calgacus, a chieftain of the Caledonians, as reported by Tacitus, in Agricola

I am fascinated lately by this passage from Tacitus, especially the line about the twin motivations of the Romans: both cupidity and lust for power. Calgacus (or Tacitus) means that no one is safe from such an imperial juggernaut--neither rich nor poor.

Though I am not suggesting that history somehow"repeats" itself, a popular song of a few years ago notwithstanding, these imperial patterns do recur. The only rational interpretation of American foreign policy these days is that we have used a position of power to make rapid strides in an imperial project which reaches back to the mid-nineteenth century. The immediate" cause" of the war, as given continuously in Orwellian fashion by the administration, has of course been discredited: at this writing, no weapons of mass destruction have beeen found or even fabricated.

The irony of the three separate wars against Iraq (1991, 2003, and the"Materialkrieg" against Iraqi civilians prosecuted by economic embargo and contant bombing from the"end" of one war to the"beginning" of the other) is really the irony pointed out by the Caledonian chieftain in Tacitus's telling. We have mounted this years-long assault on Iraq because Iraq was"rich" in mineral wealth and strategic position. But we have also done so because Iraq is poor.

More on this anon, as Natty Bumpo used to say, but one example should suffice. Up until the attack of the 101s Airborne on two men and a child gave us an intimate idea of what a dead Iraqi looks like, one of the few news photos of dead Iraqis reaching the United States tastefully showed only the shoes of the Iraqi KIA. The soldiers shown in this short series of photos were clad in old, worn-out loafers. Our magnificently equipped troops, with high-tech equipment and clothing, armed with weapons touted as the most advanced infantry weapons system ever seen, were fighting men wearing cheap loafers.

Whatever else contributed to the American victory against Iraq this spring, we possessed an overwhelming superiority of a kind described by Calgacus. It was a war of absolute disparity in the capabilities of the two sides, and we celebrated this disparity chiefly in marveling at the"fanaticism" of the Iraqi resistance and at the"arrogance" of the ruling regime.

Calgacus said that the Romans make a desert and call it peace. We have fought--and are fighting--a war for peace in a desert.

Posted by Hunt Tooley at 1:45 p.m. EST

TOM SPENCER GETS IT WRONG ON CLINTON 08-05-03

I often agree with the blogs of Tom Spencer but I find it hard to understand how he could have written the following: “Regardless of what you think of Clinton, I don’t think anyone would believe that Clinton would take us into a war disingenuously for largely political reasons.”

Plenty of people have good reasons to believe precisely that. When Clinton and his advisors took us to war in Kosovo, it is hard to escape the conclusion that it was in great part to divert attention from his scandal-ridden administration. In justifying this crusade which had nothing to do with national defense, they relied on hysterical claims that the Serbs in Kosovo were engaging in atrocities on a Hitlerian scale. Journalists and investigators have shown that most of these claims were false. The Serbs could be a brutal lot but the"Hitler comparison" (later used by Dubya) was a disingenuous excuse to get us into a needless and ultimately counterproductive war.

Did Clinton know the truth behind these lies? He was incompetent if he didn't. The most tangible result of the war (which has been ignored by Clinton) was the massive reverse ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo which occurred under his watch and continues to occur.

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

2000 ELECTION IN FLORIDA 08-04-03

In his comments on the California recall Jesse Walker refers to Florida in 2000 saying that, “My take on Florida 2000 was that both sides were trying to steal an election.” Now, I have absolutely no use for George Bush. He is, in my opinion, a terrible president whose policies are endangering our lives, our prosperity and most importantly our freedom. However, he did not in any way shape or form steal the 2000 election. He did not have to he won it.

First off no one ever even alleged fraud on his or his campaign’s part. There were no missing or suspicious votes. There were x number of votes that were supposedly not counted. Yet, if these did not get counted, how come we knew how many of them there were? The machines counted the votes, including the ones that did not register, twice and when Katherine Harris certified the results, she did the correct thing because the machines do not care who wins. People do care which candidate wins and I know this from spending way too much time watching the hand recounts on CSPAN. Whether a vote that the machine did not register should be credited to a particular candidate more often than not depended upon what party the hand counter belonged to. That is why we went to machine counting in the first place. The only thing “wrong” with the 2000 election was that it was close. The Gore campaign exploited that fact and used the same argument that they put forth in many situations, people are not responsible for their own actions. If some careless voter does not push his or her chad though all the way so the impartial machine can register it, how is that George Bush’s fault? As far as the Butterfly Ballot goes, it was designed by a Democrat who had no interest in stealing the election for Bush. Also, it would be much easier for me to believe in an organized effort to keep Blacks from voting, if the number of Blacks voting in Florida during the 2000 election had not been a record high.

It must be remembered that every time an aspect of the election went into the lower courts in Florida, where evidence had to be presented, a Democratic judge decided the issue. In each case the Bush campaign prevailed. The State Supreme Court, which only heard argument, was the sole place where Gore managed to win and the judges on that panel, appointed by a Democratic governor, did not get to be there with out knowing which side of their political bread is buttered. I would argue that lower court judges are more concerned with fact and therefore a more reliable barometer of the truth.

Those who attack the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended it all make an absurd claim. They say that body should have deferred to the Florida Supreme Court because it was a state matter, as if people who live in Maryland, like me, have no interest in which the leader our country should have. The people who asserted an equal protection argument made the right point. Why did someone’s vote Broward County deserve special treatment that other votes did not get? No one did back flips to find out if I left a hanging or three quarters chad.

In addition, there are some who maintain that the election is illegitimate because Bush did not win the popular vote but their argument is with the Constitution not with the Bush campaign. So, I would ask those classical liberals and liberals, who see the damage George Bush is doing, to spend more time attacking his policies and less time attacking the democratic process. The latter endeavor only undercuts needed credibility.

Posted by Keith Halderman 9:50PM EST

THE CALIFORNIA RECALL DUST-UP 08-03-03

Thus far, I have been rather indifferent to the recall in California but Jesse Walker's comments started me thinking. He describes the recall as"a salutary burst of populism -- and with the Republican vote likely to be split among several candidates, it’s hardly certain that it’s going to end up pushing the state to the right...this saga could conceivably end with California getting a Green governor." After surveying the situation, Walker concludes that"just about anyone, left or right, would be an improvement over the sleazy bastard running things now. Yes, even Larry Flynt."

There is one problem with this analysis. At least now, Gray Davis has to contend with truculent and reinvigorated Republicans in the legislature as he tries to raise taxes. If a Republican candidate for governor won, on the other hand, higher taxes would probably carry the day over only token opposition. In my own state of Alabama, for example, a conservative Republican might soon be able to do something a Democratic governor could have never accomplished: raise taxes by a bone-crushing 20 percent.

Posted by David T. Beito at 9:27 p.m. EST

IDEOLOGICAL DIVERSITY: REACTIONS 08-01-03

In the comment section, fellow blogger Alina Stefanescu offers yet another reason to oppose the emerging crusade for “ideological diversity." She asks the following: “Isn’t it exciting to have classical liberalism be the radical strain on campus, rather than the institutionalized norm. It is a consistent impetus, and one that maximizes creativity at that.”

Along these lines, I suspect that any sustained attempt over time to impose ideological diversity would actually tend to squeeze out classical liberals and libertarians, institutionalized or otherwise. The academic world would probably become a stale duopoly much like the current two-party system. Radicals of any stripe, right or left, would have little place in such a duopoly.

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



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