Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Robert L. Campbell
Shelby Thames, the tyrannical chief executive of the University of Southern Mississippi, indulges in the comically grandiose rhetoric we have come to expect from university presidents. He never stops talking about"growing" research; he likes to proclaim that USM is a"world class" institution. The cold fact is that most outside observers would rank USM third among the universities in Mississippi.
Thames may believe his own pronouncements; a few of his more gullible supporters may participate in the delusion. But he could not have become President of USM in 2002 , or remain in the job today, without the sponsorship of a majority on the Mississippi Institution of Higher Learning Board of Trustees. (Insiders say that this is a narrow majority, perhaps just 7 of the 12 trustees.) And a world-class University of Southern Mississippi is decidedly not what his sponsors on the Board want. What would be more to their liking is no USM at all.
Demographically and economically, the center of Mississippi has been shifting southward over the past century. Politically, power is still concentrated in northern and central portions of the state. In the state university system, which has been controlled by the present IHL Board since 1932, the University of Mississippi has always come first, Mississippi State (the land-grant, or A and M institution) has come second, then there have been all the rest. For years, in fact, the College Board carried a 13th trustee, who was there merely to vote on matters affecting the University of Mississippi. A lawsuit finally eliminated this particular way of signaling institutional priorities, and cut the number of trustees to the current 12.
Another source of pressure on USM has developed more recently, as community colleges and 2-year tech schools have grown in power in virtually every state. Just four years ago, a major conflict erupted over USM's plans to offer 4-year programs at its Gulf Park campus; this was turf that the community colleges on the Gulf Coast wanted to keep for themselves. Although USM won, the fight was bloody enough that it may have hastened the departure of Horace Fleming, USM's president from 1996 to 2001, and helped to pave the way for Thames' accession.
USM, which grew slowly from a teachers' college into a regular 4-year institution and finally into a university, has a blighted history even by Mississippi standards. As late as the early 1970s, the College Board was under the firm control of M. M. Roberts, an unrepentant White supremacist who blocked campus appearances by speakers affiliated with the Civil Rights movement long after the universities had been compelled to integrate. (USM's football stadium is named after him.) From 1955 to 1975, USM was under the iron control of General William McCain. While USM expanded during the McCain years, its faculty, staff, and students lived under a bizarre autocracy vividly commemorated in a 1982 book titled Exit 13, whose author, Monte Piliawsky, had the misfortune to be a junior faculty member at USM from 1970 to 1972.
Thames likes to pose as a forward-looking thinker, but when he is driven by anything besides sheer narcissism, it is a hankering for the USM of two generations past: a place with narrow horizons, no longer a college but not truly a university. He longs for an institution whose inmates will resign themselves to his tyranny because they are scarcely cognizant of better working conditions anywhere else. Thames learned from General McCain how to suppress dissent and run the faculty through a revolving door. He has fond memories of the day when there was no Faculty Senate, professors so foolish as to think they had academic freedom were quickly made to take their foolishness somewhere else, and the President censored the student newspaper or dissolved a Student Government that displeased him. Amidst the hullabaloo about his Vice-President's inflated resume, Thames no doubt remembers how McCain was caught plagiarizing two Master's theses nearly word-for-word in a journal article on Mississippi history, and got away scot-free.
Roy Klumb (and Carl Nicholson, a die-hard Thames supporter whose term on the Board recently ended) often come across like reactionaries pining for the Southern Miss of the McCain era. When Klumb proclaims, as he did on TV two weeks ago, that Thames was appointed to" clean house" at USM, he reminds the listener of M. M. Roberts longing to" clean house," so no outsiders would be allowed to speak on Mississippi state campuses, and African-American students couldn't write for student newspapers and criticize the administration. But we shouldn't be so hasty... For Klumb is a graduate of Mississippi State. And as two stories in today's newspapers indicate, he insists on the urgent need to get rid of the Athletic Director at his alma mater (over the wishes of Miss State's president), while denying any need to remedy the devastation that Shelby Thames has visited on USM.
Wherever Klumb and Nicholson stand, there can be little doubt about the other 5 (or more) trustees who supported Thames, and have yet to waver. They are not committed to the success of USM. Quite the contrary; they sense a threat to the hegemony of Ole Miss and Miss State. Thames is their best shot at neutralizing that threat: removing it from the scene entirely, or preparing a few interesting remnants for takeover by a favored institution. For instance, Miss State, which fervently resisted certifying Thames' treasured Polymer Science as an Engineering program, might be prevailed on to scoop that fragment up from the wreckage, once Thames is done smashing.
The Board would not have included anyone with Thames' atrocious management record on the short list for the Presidency of Ole Miss or Miss State. McCain allowed Thames to start his Polymer Science unit at USM after he had so thoroughly antagonized his colleagues in Chemistry that they voted unanimously to expel him from the department. Yet Thames was later elevated to a Vice President position, which he was allowed to retain after all but one of the administrators who reported to him gave President Aubrey Lucas their frank judgment that he was incapable of ever becoming a good manager. In 1986, after they had suffered under his yoke for two or three more years, Lucas finally fired him from an Executive Vice President position, on account of a scandal that has always been hushed up. When the Board turned to Thames in 2002, he had not held an upper administrative post for 16 years, and virtually no one at USM considered him fit for one.
Nor would members of the College Board be encouraging letter writers to denounce the faculty of Ole Miss or Miss State as lazy, unproductive, good-for-nothing whiners (as can be seen here, or in the letter by Williamson here). Indeed, the average USM faculty member teaches more Student Credit Hours, for less pay, than the average professor at Ole Miss or Miss State. Yet Shelby Thames has put out an appeal for such letters to the editor through the USM Alumni Association, whose official stand is neutrality on the major controversies of his Presidency. Roy Klumb has further encouraged such activity with his remarks in the media about" cleaning house" and his derogatory references to the"tenure club."
The Board members who favor Thames would not be installing presidents at Ole Miss or Miss State to purge the administration, faculty, and staff, and bark edicts at those they hadn't fired or run off. That is because they want Ole Miss and Miss State to prosper--and they want USM to fail.
Governing Boards of state universities inevitably make decisions on a political basis. Some believe that with 8 component insitutions, the state university system is overbuilt, in relation to the population and wealth of Mississippi. This may be true--but the only way to know for sure whether a state university system is overbuilt is to spin off the institutions and see how well they function, and how they change, after they become private. There is, however, no talk on the Board about letting USM sink or swim on its own, without either state appropriations or Board control. And the Board can't tear USM down unless it maintains control. It is clear, in any event, that the real agenda of the pro-Thames majority will not go over especially well in the southern third of Mississippi. I doubt it would go over well with Shelby Thames, if he could step out of his egomania long enough to appreciate the true nature of his political support.
The Mississippi College Board is meeting today; when its meeting continues tomorrow, it will be hearing a report from Shelby Thames about the"progress" that he is bringing to the University of Southern Mississippi. I will follow, in a day or two, with a report on the Board's response (and other significant events for USM during the week). Till then, check the USM AAUP Web site for the latest news.
Update--Thursday May 20, 9:03 PM. After the College Board heard Thames' report in a lengthy closed session, Roy Klumb, its President, announced this afternoon that the Board was continuing to support him. At this point the damage that Thames has done is clear and frank, and the divisions between him and the USM faculty are irreparable. Apaprently, though, the Board believes that Thames can carry on the rest of his demolition work without drawing too much unfavorable attention from the media. That remains to be seen. I predict that Southern Mississippi is in for a long, hot summer.
David T. Beito
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Gays are getting married legally in Massachusetts, and the dreaded apocalypse didn't happen. Three cheers for the stability of the republic, through social change, war, high oil prices, and presidential politics. We may even have a Triple Crown winner if the never-defeated Smarty Jones wins the Belmont Stakes in New York on the 5th of June! Go Smarty Jones!
Some things, however, speak to the very core of the social fabric. And so, though it pains me as a Yankees fan, I must speak out about the newest sacrilege to affect the Great American Pastime. Forget Spider-Man Logos on the Bases or the reversal thereof.
Recall the first stanza to that memorable American song, forever etched in the minds of seventh-inning-stretching fans across the nation, from L.A. to Chicago to Da Bronx:
Take me out to the Ballgame
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
I don't care if I never get back
Well. It seems that the High Priests in that Holy Cathedral of Baseball, Yankee Stadium, have ended their long-time affiliation with Cracker Jacks. Now, Crunch 'n Munch will be sold in place of Cracker Jacks. It seems that Crunch 'n Munch, produced by ConAgra, passed a taste test (I'll admit that Crunch 'n Munch is richer, though not necessarily better than Cracker Jacks). It also appears that Frito Lay, the producers of Cracker Jacks, moved to bags, rather than the much-preferred boxes. A ConAgra spokesman said:"We'd have no heartburn if Yankee fans started standing up in the seventh inning and singing 'Buy me some peanuts and Crunch 'n Munch'."
Well, we'd have to alter the lyrical line right after that one too, no? How about:"I don't care if I never get lunch." Or:"I don't care if I ever get punched." Or:"I don't care if I don't have a hunch!!!!!!!!!!!"
Cracker Jacks and baseball belong together. It is an internal relationship that constitutes an organic unity! What is wrong with these people!!???
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
For two days, I sat, riveted, watching the 9/11 Commission hearings that took place in the auditorium of the New School, in Greenwich Village, NYC. These hearings were not broadcast on any of the networks nationwide, but there wasn't a single major network in this city that wasn't carrying it.
For all that has been said about yesterday's appearance by former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani, one thing that has not been noted was Giuliani's insistence that the intelligence community needs to depend more on actual human beings to do the work of interpreting the mounds of information collected by a vast technological apparatus.
The problem, he said, was that too much of the government's efforts have gone into the technology of intelligence, but that there is no substitute for human intelligence: actual people who might infiltrate potential terrorist organizations to get the information that enables better, more accurate and effective interpretation of disparate bits of data.
When the debate centers around imminent threat or illusion, truth or lies, accurate intelligence can make all the difference between war and peace.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
As my L&P readers are well aware, I've been recommending Nicholas D. Kristof's interesting NY Times series on Iran. Today's installment,"Nuts With Nukes," asserts in its very first line that there is only"one force that could rescue Iran's hard-line ayatollahs from the dustbin of history: us." Kristof argues that a confrontational position on Iran could embolden the mullahs by creating"a nationalistic backlash ... that will keep hard-liners in power indefinitely. Our sanctions and isolation have kept dinosaurs in power in Cuba, North Korea and Burma, and my fear is that we'll do the same in Iran." For Kristof,"regime change in Tehran" is a worthwhile goal, but a confrontational policy will"fail to get rid of either the nuclear program or this regime." He continues:
The only alternative is engagement — the precise opposite of the sanctions and isolation that have been U.S. policy under both Presidents Clinton and Bush. Sanctions are even less effective against Iran than against, say, North Korea, because Iran oozes petroleum and is independently wealthy. Isolation by the U.S. has accomplished even less in Iran than it has in Cuba. So we should vigorously pursue a"grand bargain" in which, among other elements, Iran maintains its freeze on uranium enrichment and we establish diplomatic relations and encourage business investment, tourism and education exchanges.
Kristof argues that a"money flood" of US investment would seriously undermine the theocratic stranglehold on the country. Quoting Hooshang Amirahmadi, the president of the American Iranian Council:"In just a few years, the conservatives would be finished."
All this remains to be seen. But there is something to be said about the intimate connection between free minds and free markets; the spread of the latter both reflects and reinforces the triumph of the former.
David T. Beito
"The federal government’s decision to reopen the Emmett Till murder case has prompted much hope that justice will finally be served. While this optimism is understandable, our three-year investigation has led us to be skeptical about solving the mystery. We found and interviewed several key witnesses, two of whom were later interviewed by filmmaker Keith A. Beauchamp.
The theory that more than two people took part in the crime is not new. The two white defendants at the trial, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, later confessed after they were acquitted. In his testimony at the trial, Willie Reed, a black high school student, stated that he saw Milam and two or three other whites and three blacks (including Till) in a pickup truck in Drew, Mississippi several hours after the kidnapping. Reed stated that the truck pulled in an equipment shed in Drew, Mississippi and that he then heard sounds of a beating." Read the rest here.
David T. Beito
"Ladies and Gentleman, the lower economic people are not holding up their end of the deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.'....They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English."
The following is my attempt to summarize a good deal of what Thomas Szasz has been writing and saying for nearly half a century.
If neuroscientists discovered that mass murderers and people who claim to be Jesus had different brain chemistries from other people, most everyone would accept this as evidence that they suffered from a mental illness/brain disorder (MI/BD).
If neuroscientists discovered that homosexuals had different brain chemistries from heterosexuals, far fewer people would accept this as evidence that they suffered from a MI/BD.
If neuroscientists discovered that nuns had different brain chemistries from everyone else, very few people would accept this as evidence that they suffered from a MI/BD.
If neuroscientists discovered that married men had different brain chemistries from bachelors, no one would accept this as evidence that they suffered from a MI/BD.
Clearly, a difference in brain chemistry per se is not enough to make people believe that someone has a MI/BD. It takes more. Why, then, would a difference in one case be taken as evidence of MI/BD, while a difference in another case would not be? The obvious answer is that people, including psychiatrists, are willing to attribute behavior to mental illness/brain disorder to the extent that they disapprove of that behavior, and are unwilling to do so to the extent they approve of, or at least are willing to tolerate, that behavior. (Psychiatry once held that homosexuality was a mental illness. That position was changed, but not on the basis of scientific findings. Science had nothing to do with the initial position, either.)
In other words, the psychiatric worldview rests, not on science or medicine, as its practitioners would have us believe, but on ethics, politics, and religion. That would be objectionable only intellectually if that were as far as it went.
Unfortunately, it goes further, since the practitioners and the legal system they helped shape are empowered:
First, to involuntarily “hospitalize” and drug people “diagnosed” as mentally ill and thought possibly to be dangerous to themselves or others, and
Second, to excuse certain people of responsibility for their actions (for example, via the insanity defense).
P.S.: Everyone interested in liberty should read Szasz’s forthcoming book, Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices, now available at Laissez Faire Books.
David T. Beito
As the article indicates, the first reflex of UA's president and provost, on issues ranging from window displays to the Alabama Observer, is to ban and restrict any dissenting voice.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
New York City television is currently blanketed with wall-to-wall coverage of the 9/11 commission hearings, which are taking place today in Manhattan. Seeing these images again of the attack on the World Trade Center, listening to a re-creation of the time-line of the events as they unfolded ... well. It's still painful, especially for those of us who lost colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Kudos to the commission chair, Tom Kean, for asking for a moment of silence. All the more reason, today, to continue our discussion of the nature of the current Iraq war, which, in my view, has little to do with the Al Qaeda attack on the United States.
Replying to an essay,"Lesser Evils," written by Michael Ignatieff, Irfan Khawaja asks:"Do We Have to Get Our Hands Dirty to Win the War on Terrorism? And What Does that Mean Exactly?" Khawaja, who is currently participating in a provocative discussion with Gene Healy and Keith Halderman, raises some troubling issues about ends and means, while defending the view that there is and should be no trade-off between"liberty" and"security."
Khawaja, however, is disturbed by those who use"imminent threat" as a litmus test for military action. He thinks that"imminence" remains either undefined or too loosely defined. He writes:
One difficulty here is that it’s not clear that the concept of imminence can consistently be applied before an event as opposed to after it. It is much easier to say that something was imminent than to say that it is—a serious liability for a concept with the strategic importance that “imminence” has now come to acquire.
The issue of"imminence" is, indeed, an epistemic one. That's why the accuracy and reliability of intelligence and the effectiveness of the intelligence community are so crucially important to our assessment of any risk as a clear and present danger to the lives and liberties of American citizens. In the context of Iraq, the US had to assess the probable existence of weapons of mass destruction, the ability of Hussein's regime to deliver such weapons in a first-strike against"US interests" (something that is, in this day and age, far more difficult to define than the doctrine of"imminence"), and the ties between Hussein's regime and other groups or states that have targeted US interests in the past, specifically the ties (or lack thereof) between Hussein and Al Qaeda.
Part of that assessment would have included Hussein's own testimony, which, as Khawaja argues, could not be trusted. While I agree that Hussein was a"liar" and a"serial miscalculator," as Khawaja observes, one thing seems certain: He put a high priority on his own survival, and boasted that because he survived the first Gulf War, he was actually the victor. It is for that reason that containment under threat of assured destruction works, even with the most irrational of people. Josef Stalin was, by all measures, a paranoid liar, and a more prolific murderer than Hussein, but he was"rational" enough to know that a strike against the US would have been met with massive and catastrophic retaliation.
In the end, however, the US did not have to rely on the rationality or believability of Hussein's claims; it needed to evaluate, as Gene Healy has done, Hussein's track record and the countervailing interests at work in the region, to assess the threat level. Considering the testimony of a parade of disgruntled former Bush administration employees, who have argued that the neoconservative policy-makers were hell-bent on going to war in Iraq, knowing full well that there was no connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attack, one must wonder if claims of"imminent threat" or"grave and gathering threat" were a mere cover for a predetermined course of action.
The US government had information at its disposal, in the days leading up to the invasion, which undermined its own case for invasion. But the administration chose not to place any priority on that information, selecting only those claims that bolstered its favored conclusions, in order to justify the commitment of tens of thousands of US troops to this nation-building folly. Even Colin Powell has said that the intelligence, which drew from Iraqi defectors who had a political agenda of their own, was"inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading."
Tragically, the US government disregarded accurate information or acted on misleading information in the Iraq war, while it ignored or failed to coordinate lots of information about explicit warnings that might have prevented the September 11th attack. That attack represents one of the greatest failures of government—to preserve, protect, and defend—in US history.
Asian Times May 19, 2004
How India funds Bush's campaign
By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI - There is more than one reason US President George W Bush should thank Indians, whether in the United States or India, as the buildup to elections in the US slated for November gathers steam. Indians are contributing handsomely to Bush's campaign funds while, until recently, there was a band of more than 100 dedicated call-center executives who were handling Bush's fundraising and vote-seeking campaign for the Republican Party from the outsourcing hubs of Noida and Gurgaon, which adjoin the national capital Delhi.
While the Internet provides fertile ground for spoofs on Bush's job being outsourced to India, his task is certainly being made a lot easier by Indians. Until recently, HCL eServe, the business process outsourcing (BPO) arm of Shiv Nadar-promoted HCL Technologies, handled Bush's nationwide fundraising campaign over the telephone.
HCL has been very reluctant to provide information about the project, but now that it is over it is more forthcoming, though strictly off the record. According to reports, for 14 months between May 16, 2002, and July 22, 2003, HCL eServe had more than 100 agents working in seven teams soliciting financial contributions for the Republican Party. A report that appeared in the Hindustan Times this Sunday says the task was to mobilize support for President Bush and solicit political contributions ranging between US$5 and $3,000 from legions of registered Republican voters. The report further adds that the voters' database was provided by the Republican National Committee (RNC), the party's premier political organization. The contract for running the campaigns was originally awarded by RNC to Washington-based Capital Communications Group, which provides consulting services to government and private clients for cultural and political networking. For cost and efficiency gains, the company outsourced the work to HCL Technologies, which in turn sent it offshore.
Nobody from HCL BPO Services is willing to go on record to talk about the deal, but sources in the company told Asia Times Online that such a project was under way for a long time, with more than 10 million registered Republican voters contacted for pledging funds. Estimates put the extent of funds pledged due to efforts from India at more than $10 million, with the retrieval of the money being followed up by the RNC. According to the sources, the calling process involved a high degree of automation in order to limit human intervention, with voice recording and recognition technology. In this way the US respondents would not have any idea where the calls were coming from, with foreign-accented instead of Indian voices being used.
HCL eServe also ran at least seven other campaigns to gauge voter moods, including simple yes-or-no polls on such issues as abortion rights. Though HCL executives are tight-lipped, there is a possibility that there are still some projects on hand, with respondents being asked about their views on the war in Iraq.
While it seems that the fundraising contract was called off because most Republican voters had been covered, sources also say that the backlash against outsourcing in the United States as well as pressure from the anti-outsourcing lobby within the Republican Party might have also contributed to the cancellation. It may be recalled that the Indian BPO sector has seen exponential growth over the past few years, with estimates that the information-technology-enabled sector will exceed $20 billion by 2008.
Bush's India connection, however, does not end with the call centers. There's also a lot of money being contributed by Indian-Americans.
It was former US president Bill Clinton who actively sought to build bridges as well as cultivate the Indian community in the United States, recognizing their numbers - more than 2 million - as well as their immense money-power as global information-technology (IT) pioneers. The 2004 US elections are witnessing Indian-Americans reaching out to Republican Bush as a reaction to the virulent anti-outsourcing campaign being orchestrated by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Further, given the strides that Indo-US relations have taken under Bush, politically, economically and militarily, the Indian community feels much more comfortable in maintaining this continuity. Bush has himself indicated his pro-India proclivities by promising that he will visit the country next year if he wins re-election. Although India has been unhappy with some of the recent steps taken by the Bush administration, including the granting of special non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) status to Pakistan, India's relations with the United States have been by and large on the ascent.
In an interview to the Economic Times before the results of the elections in India were declared, Sharad Lakhanpal of Texas, a doctor and president of the American Association of the Physicians of Indian Origin who is one of the biggest fundraisers for Bush, said:"Indo-US relations are at an all-time high under the current administration. There has been good chemistry between President Bush and the [Atal Bihari] Vajpayee government. President Bush told me himself that [Prime Minister] Vajpayee has been a good friend and is a good man.
"The current administration has appointed several Indian-Americans to high positions. The fundraising will pay dividends for the Indian-American community and for Indo-US relations if the president wins ... re-election. Indians are increasingly recognized in the mainstream US politics," Lakhanpal added.
Although business has reacted with alarm at the Sonia Gandhi Congress-Left combination taking over from the Vajpayee dispensation, there isn't likely to be much of a rollback in the economic reforms program in India. After all, the man tipped to be finance minister, Manmohan Singh, is the original architect of India's liberalization agenda.
Though Indian-Americans have been seen as close to the Democrats, it is estimated that the community has already raised more than $500,000 for the Bush campaign. Bobby Jindal, Republican candidate for Congress, raised more than $800,000 in the first quarter ending March 31, and has $760,000 cash on hand. More than $575,000 of the contributions came from Louisiana donors. A Republican rally in that state that raised more than $1 million for the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential ticket late last year had several prominent Indians in attendance.
In a speech widely quoted in India, Congressman Joe Wilson recently praised Lakhanpal and Narender Reddy, a doctor from Georgia, for raising more than $100,000 each for the president and categorized them as Bush pioneers. He said longtime Bush supporters Zach Zachariah and Raghavendra Vijayanagar from Florida each raised more than $200,000, calling them the"Bush rangers"."These leaders have rallied the Indian-American community behind Bush," Wilson said.
Dr Vijaynagar serves as chair of the Indian American Republican Council, while Mammen Zachariah, a cardiologist at Holy Cross Hospital in Florida and Zach's brother, is a big fundraiser. Zach co-chairs Bush's Florida re-election campaign and his connection to the family dates back to George Bush Sr, for whom he organized several successful fundraisers. Zachariah also raised more money for Bush's 1992 campaign than any other individual. Florida Governor Jeb Bush appointed Mammen to the Florida campaign, while Zach helped found the Indian American Policy Institute, a think-tank to promote Indian-American interests, and chairs the Florida Council on Economic Education.
While praising the Indian community, Wilson, who co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, said:"I am proud of the Indian-American community for their loyal support to President Bush."
It all augurs well for India if Bush is re-elected. If he is not, there will remain a bunch of call-center executives who will always be informed about the Republican way of electioneering.
Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Meanwhile, in response to the charges of those who argue that Al Qaeda is in Iraq, as if this were proof of a link between the Hussein regime and Bin Laden, I posted the following comments:
There is no doubt that Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-aligned groups are now in Iraq. But there was no evidence of any formal relationship between Hussein and Al Qaeda; those Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-aligned terrorist groups that did exist in Hussein's Iraq, were centered not in the Sunni triangle or the Shi'ite dominated South; they were found mostly in the Kurd-dominated Northern sections of the country. It is only now, in the chaotic aftermath of the invasion, that Al Qaeda-aligned groups are becoming more prevalent in Iraq. With the Al Qaeda-described"infidel," Saddam Hussein, now in US custody, a power-and-ideological vacuum exists, attracting all sorts of savagery.
But this is not an illustration of the simplistic"magnet theory": that by stationing thousands of US forces in Iraq, Iraq will become a"magnet" for terrorists, and the US will have simply brought the war to them, rather than being the battleground itself. Al Qaeda is not in one place at one time. And there is something far more insidious than the existence of Al Qaeda or an Al Qaeda-aligned network, and that is: the spread of Al Qaeda-ism. And therein lies the horrific scope of the problem: as this particular shade of militant fundamentalism takes root throughout the Muslim world (which has virtually no geographic limitations, since it stretches from the Middle East to the Asian Pacific to North America), Osama Bin Laden will matter less and less, except, perhaps, as a symbolic"leader" of this maniacal sect. The decentralized cells of a poisonous ideological movement will be more self-motivated to undertake localized strikes against the Great Satan.
We will never live in a risk-free world. All the more reason to embrace long-run policies that minimize the points of political and military contact, while maximizing the points of cultural and social contact, with the Muslim world. Nothing less than an ideological and cultural revolution abroad (and at home) will do.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Roderick T. Long
The latest issue (Summer 2004) of the Laissez Faire Books catalogue carries, on p. 46, a condensed version of my article"Roads to Fascism: Sixty Years Later." For the complete version, see here or here.
Lew Rockwell reminds us that while attention focuses on the Iraqi prisoners mistreated at Abu Ghraib, the thousands of Iraqi civilians slaughtered by U. S. troops pass unremarked in the press.
I'm off to London tomorrow -- back in a week!
Warhawk triumphalism aside, this development hurts, rather than helps, the case for war. It underscores the point that, in the main,"WMD" is a misnomer as applied to chem/bio. Moreover, it shows that, if you are worried about so-called WMD, it would have been much smarter to leave them in the hands of the dictator who had repeatedly, exhaustively, despite every opportunity, demonstrated that he had no intention of using them on Americans. Like I've been saying.
Yesterday in the Preakness,"Smarty Jones" blew away the field winning by 11 and a half lengths, a new record."Imperialism" finished out of the money.
Now the Question of the Day is, did Bush, Rummy, Wolfie, Condi & all the Neocon tooters for Empire bet on their nag Imperialism, or even go out to Maryland to see him run?
Robert L. Campbell
At the University of Southern Mississippi an uneasy stalemate now prevails, as just a few days remain until the next meeting of the Mississippi College Board. On May 19th and 20th the Board is slated to review the performance of President Shelby Thames.
Thames has sustained a series of losses over the past two and a half weeks:
- The Board, via retired Judge Reuben Anderson, required him to accept a settlement that prevented him from firing Professors Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer.
- An email from Thames'"Director of Risk Management," Jack Hanbury, ordering academic deans to violate the state Public Records Act, was leaked to the press. Almost immediately, Attorney General Jim Hood, who has supervisory authority over attorneys for state universities, fired Hanbury, depriving Thames of his Chief Hatchet Man.
- Thames' testimony at the hearing for Glamser and Stringer revealed how heavily he was relying on intercepted emails to and from the professors, and his use of some of those emails to make it appear that Frank Glamser was bribing Rachel Quinlivan, the editor of the USM Student Printz, alienated many in the local media.
- The USM Faculty Senate passed resolutions demanding Thames' resignation, an end to his surveillance of faculty and student email, and an investigation by the state Auditor of his administrative hiring practices.
The good news for Thames over that period was twofold:
- The Mississippi College Board did not hold an emergency meeting to review his performance before Saturday May 8, when his longtime sponsor Roy Klumb took over the Board Presidency.
- Despite persistent rumors to that effect, Thames' henchman Mark Dvorak, the Director of Human Resources, was not ousted. My apologies for reporting that he was; for several days, I could not obtain reliable information on his status. Mark Dvorak is the husband of Angie Dvorak, the Vice President for Research who remains at the center of the storm. And Mark Dvorak's predecessor, Russ Willis, has had to be brought back in an Associate Director capacity to keep the unit functioning. So while he is eminently vulnerable, Shelby Thames isn't feeling enough pressure, yet, to induce him to get rid of a crony in an effort to keep his job. The Hanbury firing was obviously not his idea.
Over the past week Thames has been cranking out press releases, in order to produce the impression of remaining in control. On Monday May 10 he issued a challenge to the USM Faculty Senate, which he had stopped talking to altogether after it first voted no confidence in him back in March. Thames sent FS President Myron Henry the following memo:
Dear Dr. Henry:
With the end of the spring semester nearing, I know the Faculty Senate is making plans for the upcoming academic year. As you make those plans, I am requesting that you develop and provide me your mission, vision, goals, and strategies for the upcoming year. Please include with your goals and strategies how you plan to assist the University in working with the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning and the Legislature to increase salaries of University employees, to implement a more equitable funding formula and to maximize our student recruitment efforts.
Knowing the Faculty Senate's goals and objectives as well as plans to reach them will allow us to pool our resources and enhance our effectiveness, thereby enabling timely and improved results in the execution of our University mission.
Please have this information to me no later than Monday, July 5, 2004. As the new fiscal year begins, I ask that the new president provide me with a written monthly update regarding the Faculty Senate's progress in meeting their goals. Additionally, the Faculty Senate representative will be asked to give an update at all Cabinet meetings so that the entire University community can be informed of your successes.
If you have any questions or need any clarifications regarding my request, please feel free to call me at 266-5001.
Shelby F. Thames
This is a truly remarkable request. University presidents far less autocratic than Thames jealously reserve strategic planning to themselves and their upper administrators. And the mere thought of the Faculty Senate making plans to lobby the state legislature, or presenting proposals to a system Board of Trustees, makes a state university president reach for the sleeping pills. Presidents also prefer to withhold the data that would be needed to make well-informed decisions about such matters. It is a safe bet Shelby Thames has no genuine interest in any strategic plans that might emanate from the Faculty Senate. Apparently he crafted the memo to project a semblance of cooperation where none is truly intended. Perhaps, too, he expects to be able to denounce the Faculty Senate for failure to produce a strategic plan, when it comes time for him to disband that body.
Yet the memo affords major opportunities to the USM Faculty Senate, which can now plausibly demand large amounts of additional data from Thames and his administrators, on the grounds that they are needed to do the planning. The Senate can also produce concrete plans to cut administration, targeting specific positions for elimination and showing how much money will be saved by doing so. For instance, they can now propose eliminating the Director of Risk Management position, which has been vacated by Jack Hanbury, and redirecting the $140,000 expended on Hanbury's salary into three faculty positions. A well thought-out response will make Thames regret dreaming up his memo.
On Wednesday May 12, Thames convened the first meeting of his President's University Council, which consists of 18 faculty, student, and staff representatives hastily chosen by the deans. The much-ballyhooed council consumed an agenda-less hour, which was taken up with communication workshop exercises, directed by a functionary from Human Resources,and films about the need to accept organizational change. Here is how a visitor to the meeting described it on the Fire Shelby message board:
Her talk was about - you guessed it - communicating. She promptly asked for two volunteers from the mostly stone-faced membership of PUC. After some hesitation and additional nudging - yes, just like in the kindergarten - two people stepped forward and received brief whispered instructions on what to do. One volunteer left the room and the second started approximately like this:"Turn your notepad to an empty page. Now take a pencil and draw a horizontal rectangle about 1.5" by 2.5" in the middle of the page, a little to the left. Now connect the upper left corner with the lower right corner and then do the same with the other two corners. So you will have a kind of X sign in the rectangle. Now draw a vertical rectangle, about 1 by 3, on the left side of the horizontal one, so that they touch." It would be too draining to go through the details. At the end we were supposed to have about 4 or 5 rectangular shapes in some kind of pattern. My guess is that this was supposed to show the importance and - at the same time - lability of verbal communication (the volunteer was not allowed to use hands, just words).
Attempts by a couple of the representatives to bring up real concerns were deflected by a Thames supporter as"rehashing old issues." The best one-sentence summary came from another message board contributor:"This meeting sounds like something fit for Saturday Night Live."
It is possible that USM's genuine problems will get discussed at a subsequent PUC meeting, but no one ought to bank on it. Seen purely as a public relations move, it was a mixed success. The Biloxi Sun Herald published a credulous treatment; the Hattiesurg American countered with a skeptical editorial.
On Thursday May 13, the Thames administration announced the formation of Noetic Technologies, a private company under exclusive contract to the university to market patented inventions developed at USM or given to it by corporate donors. The venture is described as the"marketing arm" of the USM Research Foundation, which in turn is controlled by Angie Dvorak.
The issues raised when universities get into the intellectual property business are serious and complex, and really need an extended discussion of their own. So do the conflicts of interest that arise when full-time, permanent employees of a university open profit-making businesses that market products related to their work for the university. But what makes Noetic Technologies stand out is that its principals are not researchers. All three are full-time administrators, hired since Thames took over.
Les Goff, the President and CEO of Noetic Technologies, is also the Director of Innovation and Business Ventures at USM, reporting to Vice President for Research Angie Dvorak; Goff's wife, Sarah Morgan, is an Assistant Professor of Polymer Science, also recently hired under the Thames regime. Kelli Booth, another principal in Noetic, is the Coordinator for Marketing Development in Polymer Science; her husband, Ken Malone, holds multiple offices under Thames, mostly prominently as"Chief Operating Officer" at the Gulf Park satellite campus and Chair of the Department of Economic Development. The third principal in Noetic is Vance Flosenzier, the recently hired Director of Process Technology in the Department of Economic Development; his wife Diana Flosenzier is a Grant Proposal Specialist in Polymer Science. Vance Flosenzier is also one of several administrators whose salary and source of funding Thames recently refused to disclose to the Faculty Senate.
Friday May 14 was graduation day at USM. Protests weren't loud, but they did take place. Some students refused to shake Shelby Thames' hand after receiving their diplomas. One of the many faculty members now leaving USM unfurled a"No Quarter" banner; derived from a statement by William Lloyd Garrison, this has become the leading anti-Thames slogan.
In my next entry, I'll try to answer a question that brings sorrow to nearly everyone in the USM community, and puzzlement to outside observers: Given his long track record of alienating colleagues, and performing disastrously in upper administrative positions, why did the Mississippi College Board pick Thames as President in 2002? And why is a slim majority on the Board still supporting him, despite the pounding he is now taking in the media, and the major damage he has inflicted on the university?
In the meantime, follow the breaking news on the Web site of the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
David T. Beito
As we (David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito) said in our longer piece for HNN which describes our investigation of the case, we doubt that it will.
Sowell goes on to suggest that it would have been better to wait until after those responsible had been punished before making the pictures freely available. He asks the question, ”If a colonel is conducting a court martial and the generals over him are publicly denouncing those on trial, will that be considered a fair trial whose verdicts will stand up on appeal?”
In the first place, it is extremely doubtful that anyone would have had a court marital without the release of the photos. There may have been some low level non-judicial punishment done quietly but those responsible, those who gave the orders, would have had nothing to fear. Because these photographs have garnered so much attention it will be much more difficult to summarily penalize the enlisted personnel and stop there. After all, the media is talking about over 1800 photographs and that is not the work of a few rogue guards that is the work of a system. Also, while we are worrying about fair trials for the guards let us take a moment to remember that none of the Iraqi participants in the naked pyramids had any kind of trial, impartial or otherwise.
Sowell asserts, ”it is not too much to ask of the rest of us back home to act like adults and put things in perspective.” Well, what about the perspective of the nude Iraqi prisoner attached to a leash in the hands of a female guard? And, I would venture to say that a large percentage of the people being held at Abu Ghraib prison are there for one of four reasons: they were a government employee, they had the wrong associate, they angered an American soldier at a checkpoint, or they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Consider the possibility that the reason the military had to go to such lengths to get information out of these detainees is because many of them do not really know anything.
It saddens me to read such partisan drivel coming from the pen of Thomas Sowell. As a corrective, I am going to recommend that he go back and reread one of his own works, the brilliant and very insightful The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. On page 8 of the hardback edition Sowell talks about patterns of failure and he maintains that, ”A very distinct pattern has emerged repeatedly when policies favored by the anointed turn out to fail.” He lists four stages the crisis, the solution, the results, and the response.
In the case before us, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction provided the crisis. Sowell argues that ”a situation is routinely characterized as a ‘crisis’ even though all human situations have negative aspects, and even though evidence is seldom asked or given to show how the situation at hand is either uniquely bad or threatening to get worse” During the entire build up to the war I never heard one reporter or public official ask the anointed George Bush why would Saddam Hussein, a man obsessed with his own personal survival, attack the most powerful nation on earth? In addition, when we consider the weapons Hussein had at his disposal in 1990 and the absence of WMDs found during the current occupation we must conclude that the situation, called a crisis, was actually improving.
As far as the solution and results stages go, the anointed promised us happy grateful Iraqis peacefully working with us on their new democratic paradise. Instead, we got 700 plus and counting dead American soldiers, a beheaded American civilian and no end to the violence in sight.
In the response stage the critics of the policies have their arguments dismissed out of hand, they retain the burden of proof. However, as Sowell points out, ”No burden of proof whatever is put on those who had so confidently predicted improvement.” The anointed imperialists who argued that the country’s safety hung in the balance, have never had to prove that their invasion has somehow made America safer. It is a good thing for them too, because they could not do that.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
As many of my L&P readers know, I have been extremely critical of a number of Randian commentators who have not shown enough sensitivity to the enormously complex issue of bringing"freedom" to the Islamic-dominated countries of the Middle East.
So it is only fair that I highlight an essay with which I do agree, in large measure. Edward Hudgins of The Objectivist Center has written an insightful essay that asks the following question:"Are the People of the Middle East Fit for Freedom?."
While Hudgins addresses the horrors and scandal of Abu Ghraibgate in fine fashion, he also argues that the"governments of most Middle East countries to varying degrees abuse and repress their own citizens, and have few mechanisms to redress abuses. Citizens of those countries who act to reform their governments often find themselves censored, jailed or worse." Hudgins sees, quite correctly, that politics is an expression of culture:
These governments reflect the values and cultures in those countries. ... The most active opponents of repressive governments often are radical Islamists who want to establish even more repressive dictatorships. Many individuals in those countries give their first loyalty to a tribe, ethnic group or religion, not to universal principles that apply to all people and at all times. Outsiders are viewed at best with suspicion and at worst as worthy of nothing but painful death.
Hudgins goes on to cite a number of surveys regarding attitudes toward arbitrary violence in the Middle East; an overwhelming majority of those surveyed in even"moderate" Arab countries believe that suicide bombings against Americans and Israelis are justified; and over 63 per cent favored Saudi Arabian, Syrian or Egyptian dictatorial models of government, rather than a US model.
Bush has argued that those who believe that the people of Iraq are unfit for freedom are a bit elitist, or maybe, even"racist," in their assumptions. (Arthur Silber demolishes"The Racist Smear," as part of his continuing examination of"The Roots of Horror," here.) While Hudgins applauds Bush's view that each individual deserves freedom, he asks, quite directly:"Are the people of Iraq and other countries in the region fit for freedom?"
For Hudgins, this is not an issue of race. It is an issue of culture, precisely what I and others have been arguing now for over a year. Hudgins writes:"Any given Iraqi, Arab or Muslim might well want to live in peace with his or her neighbors, foreign and domestic. But can we really expect limited governments that respect individual liberty and ban arbitrary force to be established in countries in which those principles are not written in the hearts and minds of ... enough of their citizens?" While Hudgins applauds those seeking to establish free societies in these countries,"we must understand," he explains,"that the people of these countries ultimately must create for themselves modern, civil societies and governments in their own cultural and historical contexts. If we fail to appreciate the limits of the ability of we Americans—the outsiders—to transform dysfunctional countries, we will only slow rather than hasten the day of those countries' true liberation."
To which I must add: Amen.