Liberty & Power: Group Blog
On January 10th, the London Telegraph, in a story titled"George W. Bush boldly goes to Mars," hailed Bush’s plans for a manned Mars mission as an expression of"mankind's loftiest ambitions."
Now I'm as big a fan of space exploration as anyone. I long to see Mars and other planets visited, colonised, even terraformed. I've watched the progress of the latest Mars rover with fascination. Indeed, the need to renounce NASA was probably the biggest hurdle for me in becoming a libertarian originally. But I cannot endorse a space exploration program led by an institution both inept and criminal, and funded by extortion.
The Telegraph lectures us:"To begin such an endeavour at a time when the US government is already running a large budget deficit is, in its way, heroic. ... It would be nice if those who habitually dismiss the President as selfish and insular would for once acknowledge his largesse."
The terms"heroic" and"largesse" would apply if Bush were putting up his own money. When instead he proposes to fleece the taxpayers -- taxpayers already cringing in the shadow of Bush’s looming deficits, which dwarf his laughable"tax cuts" -- the appellations seem grossly misplaced.
A nonviolent approach to space exploration is perfectly possible: get the State off the economy's back, thereby freeing up the resources and efficiency of the market sector to fund a cheaper and less militarised private space program. (See the marvelous satire...
I was afraid that pro-war elements in the GOP leadership would target him for defeat but apparently they realized that he was too popular. This may be due to Paul's abundant talent for constituent service, a rare trait for a hard-nosed libertarian.
Ron Paul is a wonderful example of how a principled politician can have his cake and eat it too.
As an irrationally proud and defensive Iowan, I am annoyed by the headline of the top story on the Slate front page. It says:"The Phantom Pollbooth: Why You'll Never Know who won Iowa." (The headline over the story itself reads, cryptically,"The Vanishing.")
The implication here is that there is something wrong with the caucus system, as if there is some one right, especially legitimate, way to choose delegates for a national party convention. There is no poll booth in a caucus, it's just a bunch of people hanging out in a room. And your first preference doesn't necessarily get registered (if your favorite candidate fails to cross a threshold, then you've got to wander over to some other more successful canidate's posse to be counted). And there is no simple constant relationship between the number of people who stand for a candidate at caucus and the number of delegates you finally get.
This all seems to annoy Saletan and Schiller, who apparently think democracy essentially has something to do with adding up raw preferences in order to descry the ding an sich of the general will. They need to get over their journalist's fetishism for polls, and stop thinking democracy is the same thing as an especially big Zogby survey.
We all should know by now that every voting scheme is arbitrary in its own way, and that there's no general will to be expressed. Democracy, if it's worth anything, is only secondarily about counting heads. First, it's about procedures for social choice that diffuse power, that citizens will regard as legitimate, and which contribute to the stable, predictable...
There's been some discussion recently on L...
It looks like Bush is losing the base.Serves him right.
My cousin was employed by the N.Y.F.D. and he died when one of the towers collapsed on him. Therefore on a personal level, I wholeheartedly supported the war in Afghanistan as necessary and just but I do not believe that Saddam Hussein had anything to with my cousin’s death. We must remember that most people in the country do not share my opinion on this. In the build up to the invasion of Iraq the Bush people very cleverly tied 9-11 and Hussein together and this highly unlikely connection remains strong in the minds of most Americans. Now I do not know whether Bush did it for oil profits, his place in history, to uphold his own family’s honor, or because he really believes the nonsense being put forth by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz but I do know that when he invaded Iraq the grief of and justice for my family and all the other families affected by the destruction of the World Trade Center took a back seat in our national policy.
The war in Iraq has cost us global good will, lives, resources, and the focus necessary to combat our real enemies. I urge you to watch and listen to the above link and then ask yourself how can George Bush’s war on terror be considered anything other than a failure as long as Osama Bin Laden and his ilk remain free?
The international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders -- Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) -- has completed its investigation of the US Army's attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad on April 8, '03 in which two reporters staying there died. RSF concluded that the deaths"were not a deliberate attack [by the US] on the media. However, it [RSF] said US soldiers should have been told by their commanders that many journalists were based in the hotel....It was an act of criminal negligence for which responsibility should clearly be established." In short, the accusation is not murder but manslaughter.
But blame is laid at the feet of the Pentagon and military commanders, not soldiers in-the-field who fired upon the hotel. According to story in the UK Independent,"Despite information being available to the Pentagon, the report said `the soldiers in the field were never told that a large number of journalists were in the Palestine Hotel. If they had known they would not have fired. When they did know, they gave and received instructions and took precautions to ensure the hotel was not fired on again'." RSF accuses US authorities of concocting lies to hide what happened and calls their subsequent official `investigation'"nothing more than a whitewash." RSF is calling for the US to launch a formal investigation into the deaths of Ukrainian cameramen Taras Protsyuk (Reuters) and Spaniard José Couso (Telecinco). The report can be downloaded in full [.pdf] from the RWB site.
The Bush adminstration's love affair with the media is starting to crack and be...
Will's post below is right on the money, especially this bit:
Conservatives tend to see the feminist movement and the so-called sexual revolution as perverse, willful repudiations of the sorts of regulative convention that make civilization possible. Yet here we are; civilization remains. And they fail to relate these cultural shifts to the ongoing development of capitalism, which, in other moods, they are only too eager praise. The increased economic autonomy of women, of which the feminist movement is as much a response as a cause, fundamentally alters the terms of sexual and marital relations, and thereby fundamentally alters the social meaning of man- and womanhood
This is a point I've tried to make in other contexts: pining for a world where markets are free and vigorous and the culture remains untouched is asking for the impossible. Conservatives just seem to miss this entirely. It is the very wealth, technology, and resources devoted to education that capitalism has made possible that has been largely responsible for the profound changes in gender roles that we've seen in the last 35 years. To claim to support free markets yet to expect that these sorts of changes can be prevented, stopped, or reversed is just not possible. You can't stand athwart the market and yell "stop." This is one reason why I really like Virginia Postrel's work. She gets the dynamism of the market-culture interaction.
Will is also quite right to note that the feminist movement is "as much a response as cause" of the increased economic independence of women. If you look at the data on female labor force participation, it was...
Senator Rick Santorum was in a pedagogical frame of mind:
A Republican senator delivered a blistering attack yesterday against Democratic Presidential hopeful John Edwards, describing North Carolina’s junior senator as an “empty suit” who lacks understanding of how government works.I assume this is the same Rick Santorum who said the following:
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania made his remarks yesterday afternoon, in an interview with senior editors of The Union Leader. His lengthy attack against Edwards came in response to a question asking about Santorum’s impression of the Democratic primary field and particularly his three Senate colleagues in the race. ...
“The basic perception in the Republican caucus was that [Edwards] is just an empty suit, that he just simply doesn’t understand,” Santorum continued. “My feeling is that he’s a nice guy, he makes a very nice appearance, but I don’t think he has the understanding, and the depth of understanding, of how government works and how these kinds of things affects the everyday person."
[I]f the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold - Griswold was the contraceptive case - and abortion. And now we're just extending it out. And the...
In his latest post, he writes"I'm teaching the Civil Rights Cases (1883) tomorrow which invalidated the Civil Rights Act of 1875's prohibition of discrimination by inns, public conveyances, and places of public amusement, as beyond the Congress's power under the 13th and 14th Amendments. In debates over Lochner and constitutional protection of economic liberty more generally, liberal scholars will sometimes refer to the Civil Rights Cases as an example of the evils of of constitutional protection for economic liberty, arguing that the Court upheld economic libery at the expense of civil rights. As I read the Cases, however, the majority's opinion is solely based on federalism and has nothing to do with economic liberty or property rights." Read the whole thing .
While the debate over the yet-to-be-found Iraqi WMDs continues, let's not forget that one of the other prime reasons for the US invasion was alleged evidence of"ties" between Al Qaeda and the Hussein regime. Because there were networks of Al Qaeda and Iraqi interests, some Bush administration officials suggested a full-fledged alliance was afoot.
I've no doubt that there were informal networks and, perhaps, even a few formal meetings between various Iraqi and Al Qaeda representatives. I didn't realize, however, that the existence of such networks would be a pretext for an invasion. Back in December, a Yemeni cleric was arraigned on charges that he had funneled $20 million in terror aid to Al Qaeda from a Brooklyn mosque. The cleric, Al-Moayad, allegedly bragged of two meetings with Bin Laden, to whom he"personally delivered" money and resources. Since the money came from a Brooklyn network, I fear it's only a matter of time before my hometown faces a US ground assault.
In the meanwhile, there is lots of evidence piling up to show that the hatred between Bin Laden and Hussein—which many of us noted in our debates with pro-war advocates—remained a real obstacle to any genuine alliance between them. Earlier this month, another one of those Bin Laden tapes surfaced, wherein the voice of Al Qaeda referred to the secular Saddam as the United States'"previous comrade in treachery, a hireling of America."
Now comes this news about Hussein's profound opposition to the jihad-loving Islamicists, an opposition that has not waned, even though Hussein is out of power. James Resin of the NY Times writes:
Saddam Hussein warned his Iraqi...
Lately I've had my eye out for stories that illustrate what a collosal joke the Bush administration has been. Here are a couple:
Describing the president's plan to build a moon base, an unnamed administration official says:"It's a national unifying thing, it's a world unifying thing." Plus it's good for aerospace contractors, as Karl Rove, who was in on all these discussions, surely pointed out.
But probably my favorite is in the following profile of conservative guru Grover Norquist from Monday's WaPo, in which Norquist is seen pleading with the administration's budget flack for the daily spin:
When Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, came, Norquist asked,"For those of us on the outside, when someone sticks a mike in our face and says, 'Spending is up! You guys on the right are failing,' what are the talking points?"
Bolten rattled off the budget statistics that he could use.
Yet under Bush, the largest budget surplus in history has become the largest deficit in history. In the past, Norquist has said he wants to shrink government"down to the size where you could drown it in a bathtub." Now, glancing up at Bolten, Norquist ventured politely:"Is there a single agency you want to get rid of? It would be really helpful for us to say, 'This administration wants to get rid...
By far the funniest of these was a young lady from our state, who described herself as a college student and a Republican who wants socialism and doesn't think Bush can deliver it. Medved, obviously amused, asked her what she meant by socialism, and she replied that she wants to go to college for free and thinks everyone else should be able to go without paying tuition, too. Now, obviously this young woman has not yet been schooled in the art of demanding socialism by proclaiming it as a selfless and noble system under which every person is given equal distribution of resources, and so on; she took the breathtaking and refreshingly honest course of telling us it would benefit her directly. Medved then asked if she thought a janitor working two jobs to put his own kids through a technical school should be forced to pay for her college education. She said,"Oh, I'm not asking him to pay for it, the government should pay for it." When asked where she thought the government got the money, if not from taxpayers, she said,"Well, it just should be free."Walloworld thinks this is endemic in our culture.
I think this young lady's comments reflect a worldview that eschews personal responsibility, seeks to avoid discomfort, and essentially wants the proverbial"free lunch." It is reflected in the current debate over digital piracy of music and movies: I routinely hear file swappers suggest that what they're doing isn't a problem...
Terence O. Moore is worried that manhood is ailing, and that our culture now produces only barbarians and wimps. While there is some truth to his complaints, my issue with this kind of conservative social criticism is its utter lack of imagination. The world has changed, and despite Moore's loathing of whiners, all he seems to manage is a mannered, whining lament for classical"thumotic" masculinity. One hopes for more from social critics. Moore's essay is a perfect example of the kind of rote conservative judgment that I complained about yesterday in a post about the films of Whit Stillman. Moore just can't seem to accept that there are new conventions, for better or worse, and so cannot bring himself to think critically and usefully of what it means to live a life within those conventions, rather than bleat impotently about the lost world.
Conservatives tend to see the feminist movement and the so-called sexual revolution as perverse, willful repudiations of the sorts of regulative convention that make civilization possible. Yet here we are; civilization remains. And they fail to relate these cultural shifts to the ongoing development of capitalism, which, in other moods, they are only too eager praise. The increased economic autonomy of women, of which the feminist movement is as much a response as a cause, fundamentally alters the terms of sexual and marital relations, and thereby fundamentally alters the social meaning of man- and womanhood.
What we need is a rethinking of what it is to be a man when women don't need us economically, don't require our paternalistic care, don't conceive...
This is just nauseating. The New York Times reports that the Bush administration is planning to provide"$1.5 billion for training to help couples develop interpersonal skills that sustain 'healthy marriages.'"
This is apparently what compassionate conservatism comes to: the intrusion of the state in even the most personal spheres of life; social engineering through therapy.
"We know this is a sensitive area," Dr. Horn said."We don't want to come in with a heavy hand. All services will be voluntary. We want to help couples, especially low-income couples, manage conflict in healthy ways. We know how to teach problem-solving, negotiation and listening skills. This initiative will not force anyone to get or stay married. The last thing we'd want is to increase the rate of domestic violence against women."
I'm sure the government will soon come around to the view that single people need listening skills too!
And it's nice to be assured that the state will stay its healing hand and won't force us into riveting 50 minute sessions down at the community center with besweatered, milquetoast PsyDs anxious to tell us how to live our lives.Imagine:
"In order to increase your compassion for one another, you need first to have greater compassion for nature. Try not eating meat for a week, and see if you don't find yourself more sensitive to your partner's feelings!"
"The first thing we've got to talk about is Jesus. Is Jesus in your life? There's no reason NOT to beat your wife if you don't accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. I like to say that family that prays together stays together."
Link to cartoon here.