Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Aeon J. Skoble
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
While many Kerry-supporting"blues" are blaming evangelicals for Kerry's loss (as if the social-conservatives were the only reason for the Democrat's denouement) and some Bush-supporting"reds" are busy denying that religious-right voters have any real electoral power (I still find it odd calling states backing the party of Joe McCarthy"red") ... it is certainly true that the Culture War is heating up. In this regard, the election was only a symptom, not a cause.
There are many ironies in this culture war. Some conservatives of a pro-war vintage are claiming that the"blues" are fear-mongers for focusing on the evangelicals; they suggest that Bush's war stance is the reason for his victory. Such a writer as Christopher Hitchens, in fact, has so downplayed the dangers of domestic fundamentalism, that he's recrafted Bush's re-election as a"secularist victory." Secularism is relative, I suppose, given that Hitchens does note correctly another irony: that some antiwar advocates, who are incensed over the domestic fundamentalists, are too busy downplaying the dangers of fundamentalism abroad.
Now, granted, the sword-wielding Islamic fundamentalists, who seek to cut off the head of licentious Western civilization, may share something with the domestic fundamentalists. But these jihadists make our domestic variety look like pansies by comparison.
Still, despite the vast differences between them, fundamentalists of all stripes seek to use the power of the state to bolster their own particular vision of morality. Jerry Falwell has already spoken of reconstituting his Moral Majority for the 21st century (yes, that's 2-1, not 1-2). Criticizing some of his conservative compatriots for belittling the fundamentalist electoral achievement, Falwell was elated that"more than 30 million evangelicals 'voted Christian' [on] Nov. 2, when 116 million Americans cast ballots. He predicted the number of evangelical voters will jump to 'at least 40 million' in 2008." And Bob Jones 3rd, president of the college bearing his name, wrote a letter to President Bush saying:"In your reelection, God has graciously granted America—though she doesn't deserve it—a reprieve from the agenda of paganism."
What is being heralded is a"moral revolution" that is attacking American"indecency" and"perversion," the kind of"perversion" that Falwell once said was a critical factor in bringing about the tragedy of 9/11 (something with which the jihadists might agree).
Nevertheless, if this were just a revolution requiring a battle over ideas, we'd all stand a better chance if we debated the issues rationally, while barring all groups from using state power to forge their ideological battles.
One of those battles took place yesterday. Last night, as I reported,"Saving Private Ryan" was to be preempted in various markets because ABC affiliates feared indecency fines from the Federal Communications Commission. Initially, it was reported that 65 ABC stations, in markets as large as Boston, Dallas, and Cleveland, would refuse to air the film. As it turned out, a little more than 20 ABC affiliates declined to show"Ryan." All of this is a long-term consequence of the FCC's war on"vulgarity" in American media, following the Janet Jackson nipple controversy. (At least some people have retained a sense of humor through all this: Dolly Parton, in concert last night at the Theater at Continental Airlines Arena, actually cautioned that she could be a lot more nasty than Miss Jackson:"If I pull a Janet Jackson, I'm gonna take out about four rows.")
Ironically, Brent Bozell, of the Parents Television Council, who mounted the post-Super Bowl protest and who applauds the FCC's fining of the indecent on TV, himself protested against this"Ryan" blackout.
Too bad Bozell! You rubbed the FCC bottle, the genie popped out, and now, you're not likely to stuff it back in. This is now creating a stultifying atmosphere for American media that is far worse than any possible fines the FCC can levy trying to force people to be"decent" and"moral."
But you can't force anybody to be moral. Genuinely moral choices are moral because they are choices, not decisions forced on people at the point of a gun. The precondition of any moral revolution is a simple maxim, one that must serve as a basic minimum for any rational discussion of values:"Leave your guns outside." As Ayn Rand said in For the New Intellectual, even people who disagree over the nature, function, and purpose of moral values must stop equating"the power of physical compulsion with the power of persuasion." That's not likely to happen, however, as long as groups, of whatever value orientation—be they right-wing religious fundamentalists or left-wing"secular" do-gooders—choose to ram their agendas down our throats.
Visit Not a Blog.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Ever since Nipplegate (the fiasco at the Super Bowl when Janet Jackson flashed a breast to a rather large TV audience), the TV networks have been a little apprehensive about violating FCC"decency standards." Well, today of all days, on the occasion of Veteran's Day, comes this report from the NY Daily News. Richard Huff tells us in his article,"Fear over 'Private' Parts," that, tonight,"a handful of ABC affiliates will not air Steven Spielberg's critically acclaimed war film"—"Saving Private Ryan."
The film is one of my favorite war films; fortunately, I live in New York City, where we, apparently, have no decency standards, so I won't have to deal with this censorial travesty. But Raymond Cole, president of ABC's affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, remarks:"We regret that we are not able to broadcast a patriotic, artistic tribute to our fighting forces like 'Saving Private Ryan.'" Cole
cited concerns that the film would not meet the Federal Communications Commission's decency standards."Can a movie with an 'M' rating, however prestigious the production or poignant the subject matter, be shown before 10p.m.?" Cole asked."With the current FCC, we just don't know." ... Station managers are concerned that the FCC, which has stepped up its indecency investigations after Janet Jackson's breast was bared during the Feb. 1 Super Bowl, will go after"Saving Private Ryan," as well.
Since the movie has"many intense battle scenes" (that opening sequence is, in my view, one of the most harrowing battle sequences ever filmed), and much frank language, all the viewer warnings in the world won't quell the anxieties of some of the affiliates in this post-Nipplegate atmosphere. Initially, back in June 2002, the FCC"found no problems" with the film; but that was a different time, even if it had come just a few months after John Ashcroft spent $8,000 in taxpayer funds to cover the breasts of the Statue of Justice.
The Parents Television Council assures us that it won't file a complaint against the"Ryan" telecast, but ABC is still going to double"the number of on-air warnings about the movie's content"—in those markets where the film is actually shown.
I have only one response to all this: FUBAR.
Aeon J. Skoble
Aeon J. Skoble
I would now like to address the Iraqi people, and I’ll be very brief. We’re leaving. Tomorrow morning, all US troops will be withdrawing from Iraq. Before you start firing guns in the air, which NRA safety guidelines discourage, take a moment to contemplate your situation. Until very recently, you were subjects of one the worst tyrannies in recent history. Now you are not. I had hoped you would embrace your freedom and institute a pluralistic, democratic republic, but I see that you have been slow to embrace this. It’s also started to seem like you actually resent our presence here, so we’re going to leave. I implore you, though, don’t throw away the opportunity. We got rid of Saddam for you, but only you can make a free society. In a couple more days, the only people here with guns will be you. What will you do with them? Will you use them to kill those of a different faith or tribe? Or will you put them away, reserving them for defensive purposes, and set about the business of figuring out how to live together? If you need advice about how to set up a constitutional regime, we stand ready to advise you – via email. If you want to attract businesses and investors, you’ll have to create your own peace and stability. If you’re going to take hostages and cut off heads, you’ll find no one wants to open an office here. So, please, take a day off in thoughtful contemplation – we call tomorrow “Veterans Day”; you can do the same if you like – and the day after that, we’ll be gone, and you’ll be on your own. The choice will then be yours – build a free, stable, and peaceful society, or commence a bloody civil war. We’ve removed the tyrant, the rest is up to you. We’ll be going now. Goodbye, and good luck. Call if you need anything.
Aeon J. Skoble
David T. Beito
It was Gonzales who undercut Ted Olsen in the University of Michigan case and persuaded the DOJ to issue a report endorsing"diversity" as a factor in admissions.
For more, see here
Roderick T. Long
An interesting economic demographic from Charles Johnson: contrary to much Democratic hand-wringing and Republican gloating, it appears that Kerry won the working-class vote, even in the red states; and the wealthier a voter was, the likelier she apparently was to vote for Bush. Degree of economic benefit from the existing system may thus be a better predictor of Bush support than fundamentalist religious convictions are (though I agree with Chris Sciabarra that the religious issues are relevant).
In other words: perhaps"it's the plutocracy, stupid!" After all, it's the economic élite who have traditionally been the chief boosters of the corporatist-imperialist state. (See, e.g., Roy Childs' Big Business and the Rise of American Statism; Walter Grinder and John Hagel's Toward a Theory of State Capitalism; Chris Sciabarra's Understanding the Global Crisis; Joseph Stromberg's Political Economy of Liberal Corporativism and The Role of State Monopoly Capitalism in the American Empire; and Kevin Carson's Austrian and Marxist Theories of Monopoly Capital.)
These two wars now effect almost all aspects of our lives, from the most mundane events such as how much humiliation someone must endure in order to board an airplane to serious issues such as whether someone must live the rest of their life in constant pain because no doctor wants the DEA to come down on them for prescribing a disfavored medicine that would help. In comparison to questions of war or peace all other issues have, in my mind, considerably less significance. Therefore, I worry very little about the divide between red states and blue ones because both sets of states voted overwhelmingly in favor of war, domestic and foreign.
George Bush got us into the bloody quagmire that is Iraq but all John Kerry ever promised was to involve more people. George Bush, despite his past illicit drug use, has fought as unrelenting a jihad, against people who use drugs not profitable to pharmaceutical companies, as his father did. John Kerry chose as his chief foreign policy advisor one of the architects of Plan Columbia, which includes the spraying of toxic chemicals on dirt poor peasant coca farmers, their families, and their food crops. While in the Senate, Kerry sought a government key to everyone’s computer in the name of fighting drugs, as well as, expanded use of asset forfeiture. And, just as Madison predicted, expand this drug fighting tool has, into all sorts of areas that have nothing to do with drugs.
Awhile back, too long ago for a link to be available, I referred to my friend Jeffery Stonehill’s idea of “America’s Drug of War” when I wrote, “Some of them need it for the material gain that will come their way. Pundits, politicians, prison guards and contractors all reap benefits. However, many if not most supporters need the war narcotic for their pride, for the rush they get out of feeling superior to other human beings.” Whatever the cultural reasons for America’s addiction to war they clearly exist in all states, red and blue, because in each of these states 98 to 99 percent of the voters chose a candidate whose actions in office and campaign had been one long repudiation of peace.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Just a note to direct attention to Kenneth Pollack's NY Times Op-Ed piece,"What the Mullahs Learned From Their Neighbors," which deals with the problem of Iran. Readers will remember that Pollack, author of the immensely influential book, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (Random House, 2002), backtracked from his support for the Iraq war. He has said, in quite a few articles, that he"made a mistake" in his advocacy of that war, based on"faulty intelligence." He also believes, at this time, that an Iran with nuclear weapons is possible, and that we should not assume that the Iranians would deal these weapons to Al Qaeda, a group to which it is vehemently opposed.
In today's essay, Pollack details the ways in which the international community might deal with Iran. Given my own interest in this subject, I found Pollack's essay a good read.
Roderick T. Long
As a follow-up to my earlier post on the disenfranchisement of the world under American hegemony, check out this site. (Thanks to Cameron for the link.)
Telling the world"sorry" is fine, but what next? Most of the opponents of our Prince President don't fundamentally question the electoral system itself. They've been taught that the only alternatives to"democracy" (and by"democracy" they mean this ritual whereby the populace gets to pick between two marginally different doofuses every four years) are various forms of dictatorship. Few of them yet recognise that there are -- to put it somewhat paradoxically -- forms of political order more democratic than"democracy." As long as the"other 49%" still accept the basic legitimacy of the electoral system, their expressions of regret, however sincerely meant (and I do appreciate the"Sorry, Everybody" site -- particularly as a counter to the prevailing international tendency to view the entire American populace through the lens of that blood-red electoral map), will ring objectively hollow.
Herbert Spencer argued for the citizen's right to ignore the state. Now that"democracy" apparently means that 51% of the American electorate gets to rule the other 49%, plus the rest of the planet, what the world most urgently needs is the right to ignore the United States.
Donald J. Boudreaux
First I offer here a letter that I just sent to the WSJ in response.
9 November 2004
Editor, The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty St.
New York, NY 10281
To the Editor:
David Frum criticizes Americans who criticize the war in Iraq, and seeks bipartisanship as a means of quelling this internal criticism (“A New Style Mandate,” November 9th). He opens his case by asserting that “As commander in chief, the president bears the responsibility for waging and winning the nation's wars.” Not quite right.
The Constitution reserves “the power…to provide for the common Defense” to Congress. Also reserved to Congress is the power to declare war, and to raise and support an army and navy. And while it’s true that the President is Commander in Chief, the large role given by the framers to Congress, along with freedom of speech and of the press, is surely meant to encourage open debate over the awesome responsibility of waging war – and even to encourage open and vigorous dissent whenever the reasons for war are dubious.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Frum presumes that much (most?) of the objection to the war in Iraq is due to a lack of sufficient bipartisanship. If only the administration would talk openly to more people, and if only more people would listen in good faith to the administration, the bulk of dissent over the war would (in Frum's view) disappear. In short, the problem, as Frum sees it, isn't with the war itself -- he presumes it to be noble, justified, worthwhile, etc. -- but with petty partisan postering and failures to communicate.
But the most bizarre item in Frum's op-ed appears when he blames those who object to the war for the Bush administrtaion's missteps in prosecuting it. Here's Frum:
"In every war, there will be mistakes, often very grave ones. It's essential to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them. But in this war, the Bush administration knew that any attemp to identify and fix errors would be savagely exploited by domestic opponents. Burdened by that knowledge, the administration has often succumbed to denial and intransigence when learning and improvement were most called for."
Oh, now I see why the Bush administration is to be trusted to wage war!
I put together a thorough, line-by-line rebuttal that ran on Tech Central Station last week.
Roderick T. Long
"Dr. Salih al-Issawi, head of the hospital, said he had asked U.S. officers to allow doctors and ambulances go inside the main part of the city to help the wounded but they refused. There was no confirmation from the Americans.
"'The American troops' attempt to take over the hospital was not right because they thought that they would halt medical assistance to the resistance,' he said by telephone to a reporter inside the city. `But they did not realize that the hospital does not belong to anybody, especially the resistance.'
"During the siege of Fallujah last April, doctors at the hospital were a main source of reports about civilian casualties, which U.S. officials insisted were overblown. Those reports generated strong public outage in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world, prompting the Bush administration to call off the offensive."
Congratulations to the courageous invaders. Applause for the new Crusaders against Islam who wield high-tech machine-guns rather than swords, who ride atop tanks rather than horses. With only 10,000+ troops the brave Crusaders have managed to break down the doors of a neutral hospital, to prevent doctors from treating those in need, and to handcuff patients for interrogation. Admittedly, they fall one step short of the old tried-and-true method of medieval Crusaders who killed the innocent indiscriminately and then"let God sort them out" from the guilty. But the invasion is still young; give them time. More than anything else, however, the Americans have aggressively shut down an embarrassing source of information on the human costs of their invasion. Now the only"facts" to emerge on matters such as civilian casualties will be the ones sanitized by American military filters. Or, at least, that's what they hope for. Military"truth", military"music", military"justice", military"intelligence"...none of them bear any relationship to the real concepts.
What bravery will be next? Is there an old folks home the Crusaders will occupy? How about an orphanage? The mosques go without saying.
For more commentary, please see McBlog
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Last February, I wrote about The Exorcist Experience in Iraq."The Exorcist" is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, so the thought that they were giving tours of the site where the movie's opening sequence was filmed was quite fascinating to me.
Well, I've just learned that the troops in Iraq, awaiting orders for the blitz of Fallujah, have needed another Hollywood diversion: running chariot games right out of"Ben-Hur," which just so happens to be my favorite film of all time."The First Annual 'Ben-Hur' Memorial Chariot Race" has provided the troops with some much-needed entertainment.
I can't wait for the day that the U.S. armed forces re-enact another film:"The Great Escape."
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
I've written quite a bit about the"Conservative Crack-Up." David D. Kirkpatrick, in yesterday's"Week in Review" section of the NY Times revisits his April 2004 topic, telling us all how"The Antiwar Right Is Ready to Rumble." Kirkpatrick writes:
The euphoria of Mr. Bush's victory postponed the battle, but not for long. Now that Mr. Bush has secured re-election, some conservatives who say they held their tongues through the campaign season are speaking out against the neoconservatives, against the war and in favor of a speedy exit. They argue that the war is a political liability to the Republican Party, but also that it runs counter to traditional conservatives' disdain for altruist interventions to make far-off parts of the world safe for American-style democracy. ... On Thursday, Paul Weyrich, founder of the Heritage Foundation and chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, issued a call to conservatives for a serious debate about the administration's foreign policy."The consequences of the neocons' adventure in Iraq are now all too clear," he said."America is stuck in a guerrilla war with no end in sight. Our military is stretched too thin to respond to other threats. And our real enemies, nonstate organizations such as Al Qaeda, are benefiting from the Arab and Islamic backlash against our occupation of an Islamic country." ..."A lot of the antiwar conservatives had to hold their tongue during the campaign because the No. 1 goal was to get Bush re-elected," said Stephen Moore, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and an important conservative fund-raiser. ...
One wonders why that should have been the No. 1 goal in the first place. I suppose they all thought it was a relative question; Mr. Bush has not been much of a traditional conservative in fiscal or foreign policy matters, but Mr. Kerry offered little hope for a rightward shift.
Ugh. Like I've said before:"A Pox on Both Their Houses."
Check out Not a Blog.