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Liberty & Power Archive 10-26-03 to 10-31-03


A lot of discussion in the blogosphere today about the deplorable lack of civility in modern discourse. All of which put me in mind of certain famous commentators from the past... Some wit from writers of a kind we could sorely use today, to enliven your Friday evening. Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Posted by Arthur Silber at 08:10 p.m. EST


This time, I mean the headline literally:

"Religious organizations can, in fact, discriminate according to religion under federal law. But until now they haven't been able to take money from the federal government if they do.

"President George W. Bush is changing that. Thanks to new regulations he is pushing, groups can get Uncle Sam to pay for jobs barred to Jews, Catholics, Muslims or anyone of a disfavored faith. A constitutional court fight may be inevitable."

For example:

"To get a job at the Orange County Rescue Mission near Los Angeles, you must sign a statement declaring, 'I have received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior' and that you believe those who haven't will suffer 'eternal separation from God,' according to the form provided by the mission.

"The mission's aim is to 'reconstruct' each homeless man and woman it shelters into a 'productive Christian member of society.' To treat addicts, the mission uses 'the actual words of Jesus,' according to the mission's Web site.

"Bush and other administration officials have repeatedly said they find it just plain wrong that under the old rules the Orange County Rescue Mission was denied federal Housing and Urban Development funds because it refused to secularize.

"'Government action like this is pure discrimination,' Bush said in a speech this week in Dallas, again singling out the Orange County mission.

"Ah, but things are changing. ...

"'After the regulations are finalized, groups like Orange County Rescue Mission will be able to apply for HUD funds while maintaining their religious identity,' says a statement posted on the White House Web site."

I disagree with this writer about only one issue, when she says:

"The peculiar thing is that Bush pitches the new rules as if he is curbing religious discrimination instead of rewarding it.

"Regulations that went into effect last month eliminate 'barriers that discriminated against faith-based groups,' asserts the White House Web site. In fact, the barrier the new regulations remove is the one that kept tax dollars away from groups that discriminate against people of other faiths."

What's"peculiar" about this? When Bush tells us that"rising violence in Iraq" directly correlates to"U.S. progress being made there"? Up is down, black is white, A is non-A. Some people just aren't up to date with their PoMo studies. We thus proceed still a bit further into Orwell's world.

Some people may have thought I was exaggerating when I said that those now leading the Republican Party want a theocracy. I wasn't, as this story and others like it demonstrate.

(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)

Posted by Arthur Silber at 04:30 p.m. EST


The talents of two notable writers are on display in Wilson's Crusade and Bush's Crusade by James Bovard. I have highlighted some of Bovard's own very important work in defense of individual rights and freedom in this post, among others.

In the current piece, Bovard reviews a new and very important book by our colleague here, Thomas Fleming: The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I. Here is the opening of Bovard's piece:

"George Bush’s promise to 'rid the world of evil' — which he made in the opening weeks of his war on terrorism — is reminiscent of the 1917 promises of President Woodrow Wilson to 'make the world safe for democracy.' Wilson, like Bush, was leading the nation into war and sought to push the hot buttons in Americans’ idealism. Unfortunately, for both Bush and Wilson, the loftier their promises soared, the deeper the hooey became. Wilson portrayed World War I as a moral absolute. And because the United States was involved in a crusade to do absolute good, any criticism or opposition to government policies quickly became perceived as evil. In his superb new book, The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I, historian Thomas Fleming recreates the political and moral atmosphere of the period when America entered World War I. The parallels to the current war on terrorism are breathtaking. Fleming concludes, 'Worst of all was Wilson’s tendency to utopianism — the truly fatal flaw in his dream of flexing America’s idealized muscles in the name of peace.'"

Friedrich Hayek, of course, had a great deal to say about the fatal dangers in such utopianism, and I discussed some of his observations (as elucidated by another colleague, Chris Sciabarra) in this LOR post. Bovard notes yet another phenomenon which is very similar to the atmosphere that has been created in the"war on terrorism":"Wilson twisted the facts to portray a U.S. war against Germany as a battle of good versus evil. In the same way that Bush portrays terrorists as the worst and most implacable enemies of freedom, Wilson denounced the German government as 'the natural foe to liberty.'" I discussed some additional aspects of this striking parallel here.

Here is one more noteworthy excerpt from Bovard's review:

"Fleming drives home how the war hysteria and hatred of Germans that Wilson and his team whipped up quickly led to the suppression of free speech. ...'[L]iberal Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes affirmed the legality of the Espionage Act under the doctrine that in time of war, antigovernment critics can be"a clear and present danger" to victory.' The fans of Justice Holmes — who like to portray him as a hero of civil liberties — usually choose to ignore his role in sanctifying the Wilson administration’s crushing of dissent. Vice President Marshall said every American '"not heartily of the government" should have his citizenship revoked and his property confiscated.'”

More details of this history of suppression can be found here -- and I have also discussed how the intensification of today's atmosphere, where antigovernment critics are also often regarded as"a clear and present danger," can lead to censorship.

One other caution should be kept in mind. As Bovard states:

"Wilson saw the League of Nations as his legacy to America and humanity. During the 1920 presidential election, Wilson urged voters to judge every candidate by one simple standard: 'Shall we or shall we not redeem the great moral obligations of the United States?' After all the bogus moralizing of the war years, Americans rejected Wilson’s scheme for world salvation."

I strongly recommend you read Bovard's entire review, for additional parallels between Wilson's crusade and Bush's war on terror. And Fleming's book is a very worthwhile investment, and deserving of careful study.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 02:00 p.m. EST


I know that there are lots of libertarians out there who swear by the principle of federalism as a means of controlling the growth of government in Washington, DC. But no matter how I try, I just don't understand the logic of those who advocate federalism at the expense of individual rights, including any"right of privacy." Ayn Rand once said:"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy." For one Rand-influenced discussion of the meaning of privacy, see my Free Radical article "Privacy and Civilization".

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 12:20 p.m. EST


Well, it's been just about a week since my New York Yankees lost the 2003 World Series to the Florida Marlins. It's taken a while to shake off this tough Game 6 loss after such an intense post-season. And it's simply not true that the Yanks win every year; from the time I started rooting for the team as a 5-year old child, I had to deal with a 12-year post-season drought (until 1976), and then, an 18-year championship drought (from 1978 to 1996), as I explain here.

But one thing seems to be a perennial baseball fact: The Boston Red Sox always lose. The Yanks may have lost this series, but they still beat Boston to get there. And even when the Red Sox go to the World Series, they still lose. Some blame it on the Curse of the Bambino. Some blame it on the fact that the Beantown crowd just expects to lose. And still others blame it on the fact that Bostonians define themselves not in terms of a positive---that is, their love of the Sox---but on a negative: their hatred of all things New York.

Now I know that the Boston crowd broke out into"New York, New York" at Fenway Park in the aftermath of 9/11/01, a very touching display of solidarity. But this amusing little anecdote, which has made its rounds throughout the Internet, is much more in keeping with the Bostonian spirit:

Two boys are playing hockey on the pond on Boston Common when one is attacked by a vicious Rottweiler. Thinking quickly, the other boy took his hockey stick and managed to wedge it down the dog's collar and twist, luckily breaking the dog's neck and stopping its attack.

A reporter who was strolling by sees the incident, and rushes over to interview the boy."Young Bruins Fan Saves friend from Vicious Animal..." he starts writing in his notebook."But, I'm not a Bruins fan," the little hero replied."Sorry, since we're in Boston, I just assumed you were," said the reporter and starts again.

"Red Sox Fan Rescues Friend from Horrific attack..." he continued writing in his notebook."I'm not a Red Sox fan either!," the boy said."I assumed everyone in Boston was either for the Bruins or the Red Sox. So, what team do you root for?," the reporter asked."I'm a Yankees fan!," the child beamed.

The reporter starts a new sheet in his notebook and writes:"Little Bastard from New York Kills Beloved Family Pet."

I know, I know,"Wait til' next year!" At least that's one attitude this Yankees fan shares with his Beantown rivals.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 12:15 p.m. EST


This just in on Halliburton: The U.S. government is paying Vice President Dick Cheney's former firm Halliburton 'enormous sums' -- $2.65 a gallon -- for gasoline imported into Iraq from Kuwait....Democrats Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan said this gross overpayment was made worse by the fact that the U.S. government was turning around and reselling the gasoline in Iraq for four to 15 cents a gallon....The Iraqi oil company SOMO is paying only 97 cents a gallon to import gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq, they said." News of Halliburton's huge war profits on a"no bid" contract come in the wake of a request from the military contractor's President for"employees to join a 'Defending Our Company'' campaign by writing to newspapers and lawmakers to counter criticism of the firm....Dave Lesar said in the Oct. 17 memo that he is offended by 'those who are distorting our efforts' to restore Iraq's oil industry and provide other services to the U.S. military there." Halliburton is doing such a fine job in Iraq that there was an announcement this Wednesday re: Halliburton, who still pays Cheney deferred salary -- what one paper called "oodles of boodle". It seems that the company needs to have its hitherto $1.5 billion contract extended for some undefined number of months and more money! rather than allow the contract to expire and be put out to bid. Thus -- poof! -- Halliburton's contract extended. What a sugar daddy/good fairy Lesar has in Cheney, who knows which side his bread is oiled. Even the mainstream media is beginning to use the word 'cronyism.' The Houston Chronicle comments,"Major U.S. companies, including Houston's Halliburton subsidiary KBR, have used insider contacts and political donations to help snag more than $8 billion in contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, a watchdog group said Thursday. 'There is a stench of political favoritism and cronyism surrounding the contracting process in both Iraq and Afghanistan,' said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, which released a study on wartime contracting. 'These two wars ... have brought out the Beltway Bandit companies in full force'."

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 10:45 a.m. EST. Check McBlog for more commentary.


In the Wall Street Journal on October 29, Conrad Black struggles to save FDR from revisionist historians. He fails.

He says that “most would accept” that FDR’s farm policies – which featured the destruction of crops and livestock, paying farmers to reduce output, and cartelizing sales – were successful. Hogwash. The only people who would “accept” these policies as successful are dole-dependent farmers and their commissars in Washington.

Most incredibly, Black claims to “know of no serious criticism” of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Social Security, unemployment insurance, workfare schemes, and other New Deal measures. If Black’s claim is true, he has no business writing for your newspaper, much less a book about FDR. These policies have been subjected to withering criticisms for decades. He can e-mail me at dboudrea@gmu.edu for a pages-long list of scholarly books and articles that seriously challenge the unfounded belief that the New Deal was something more than a raw deal.

Posted by Donald J. Boudreaux at 10:15 a.m. EST


The following is from an e-mail I received from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). What they are rather eloquently saying to the Jamaican Parliament also applies in the United States Congress and the legislatures of the various states.

NORML submitted written testimony this week in response to a Jamaican Joint Select Committee's request for public comments regarding the findings of a 2001 federally commissioned report endorsing the decriminalization of marijuana.

"Responsible adult marijuana smokers present no legitimate threat or danger to society, and must not be treated as criminals," NORML wrote."By stubbornly defining all marijuana smoking as criminal, including that which involves adults smoking within the privacy of their own homes, Jamaica is wasting precious police and prosecutorial resources; clogging the courts; filling costly and scarce jail and prison space that would otherwise house violent offenders; undermining drug education efforts; acting against the best interests of public health and safety; engendering disrespect for the rule of law; and needlessly wrecking the lives and careers of tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens every year."

Government commissioned reports in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere have all recommended decriminalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. The Jamaican National Commission on Ganja concluded:"The criminal status of ganja poses a serious danger to society. By alienating and criminalizing hundreds of thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens, and by making the State in their view an instrument of their oppression rather than their protection, the law and its prosecution create in them disrespect for the rule of law."

The Commission recommended that Parliament amend federal law to decriminalize"small quantities" of marijuana for"personal use by adults" and also for"religious purposes."

NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup said,"It is our hope that Parliament approaches this issue as thoughtfully and as diligently as did the Commission, and adopts their recommendation to decriminalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults."

Posted by Keith Halderman at 12:10 a.m. EST


Since I feel that I, like many others, have been falsely accused during the often contentious debates about foreign policy matters, I have decided to ask for the intercession of St. Raymond Nonnotus. All is explained here. However, since it is evening now, you might prefer cultural fare instead. I wrote this entry today about the sad passing of tenor Franco Corelli, and reflected on some of my memories of the many performances I saw with Corelli and other operatic legends from the 1960s.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 09:00 p.m. EST


Here's an excerpt from a recent post of mine at my Light of Reason blog:

But there is one tactic the hawks ought to give up at this point. They should stop saying, as one of the commenters to my earlier post did, that none of those who opposed the war with Iraq are offering" constructive" proposals at this point. This is remarkably offensive for several reasons. First, it wasn't the opponents' policies that created this horrible dilemma. It was the hawks' policies. They are responsible for this nightmare, and no one else. They shouldn't expect -- and often demand -- others to offer solutions to the daunting problems that their policies have created. Where is the justice in that? Or even the common sense? They got us all here; they ought to show some intellectual responsibility and creativity of their own, and get us out.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Arthur Silber at 06:30 p.m. EST


Unqualified Offerings and SCSU Scholars have rallied in defense of academic freedom at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. For more on this case, see this account.

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 10:51 a.m. EST


Two U.S. soldiers were reportedly killed in Iraq two days ago,"taking the combat death toll among U.S. troops in Iraq since the war higher than the wartime total." (Of course, Iraqi casualties are never widely reported by the American media. According to the UK Guardian,"As many as 15,000 Iraqis were killed in the *first* days of America's invasion and occupation of Iraq...Up to 4,300 of the dead were civilian noncombatants. And that number reflects only the first days.)"Bring 'em on" Bush sees nothing but cause for optimism in the rising death toll. The Washington Post (10/28/03) reports,"President Bush yesterday put the best face on a new surge of violence in Iraq as his top defense aides huddled to discuss additional ways of thwarting the anti-American rebellion there before it becomes more widespread. The president, speaking after attacks on police stations and a Red Cross facility in Iraq killed at least 35 people, said such attacks should be seen as a sign of progress ..." Apparently, the US *really* has the terrorists worried and on-the-run or else they wouldn't be hitting back so desperately. And, if the slant of the Bush reaction changes 180 degrees in the next few weeks, the White House has that contingency covered. As the Australian newspaper The Age explains,"The White House website effectively prevents search engines indexing and archiving material on the site related to Iraq. The directories on a site which can be searched by the bots sent out by search engines can be limited by means of a file called robots.txt, which resides in the root directory of a site. Adding a directory to robots.txt ensures that nothing in that folder will ever show up in a search and will never be archived by search sites....These changes were noticed and proved by readers because Google had archived them before the changes were made." As the DC spin-jocks work overtime -- sometimes spinning, other times deleting or editing former statements -- here's one of stories you *won't* be hearing from the mainstream US media. Robert Fisk in One, two, three, what are they fighting for? provides on-the-street reporting from Iraq:"No wonder morale is low. No wonder the American soldiers I meet on the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities don't mince their words about their own government. US troops have been given orders not to bad-mouth their President or Secretary of Defence in front of Iraqis or reporters (who have about the same status in the eyes of the occupation authorities). But when I suggested to a group of US military police near Abu Ghurayb they would be voting Republican at the next election, they fell about laughing. 'We shouldn't be here and we should never have been sent here,' one of them told me with astonishing candour. 'And maybe you can tell me: why were we sent here?'" Words like Halliburton come to my mind. Meanwhile, American soldiers are alienating the Iraqi public, e.g. by" confiscating" money from the Iraqi homes they search. The practice has become sufficiently common that"In one Iraqi city, for example, the 'Coalition Provisional Authority' - which is what the occupation authorities call themselves - have instructed local money changers not to give dollars for Iraqi dinars to occupation soldiers: too many Iraqi dinars had been stolen by troops during house raids." Another story you won't be hearing from mainstream USA, especially in the wake of the acute embarrassment the Bush administration experienced from its substandard treatment of injured soldiers returning from Iraq to a medical"holding center" at Fort Stewart, Georgia: UPI reports,"More than 400 sick and injured soldiers, including some who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, are stuck at Fort Knox, waiting weeks and sometimes months for medical treatment, a score of soldiers said in interviews. The delays appear to have demolished morale -- many said they had lost faith in the Army and would not serve again -- and could jeopardize some soldiers' health, the soldiers said.... [One soldier's] knee and wrist injuries were severe enough that he was evacuated to Germany at the end of July and then sent to Fort Knox. His medical records show doctor appointments around four weeks apart. He said it took him almost two months to get a cast for his wrist." Why won't you be hearing more on this and related story? One reason:"A UPI photographer working on this [the foregoing] story without first having cleared his presence with base public affairs officials was detained for several hours for questioning Tuesday and then released. He was told he would need an Army escort for any further visits to the base. He returned to the base accompanied by an Army escort on Wednesday.This reporter also was admonished that he had to be accompanied by an Army public affairs escort when on base. The interviews had been conducted without the presence of an escort." In other words, the media will be given no access to injured soldiers that is not severely controlled by authorities. Unlike WWII, when bedside interviews with wounded soldiers was commonplace, the voices and faces of those wounded in Iraq -- if seen or heard at all -- will be filter, sanitized, so that all you hear is the official line of"Go Team America!" I have only one first-hand story to contribute. In the course of writing my weekly column for FOX News, a few months ago, I received a letter from a woman serving in Iraq who was outraged at the sexual molestation scandal that was then hitting the Air Force Academy. She made some interesting points that cast the legitimacy of the claims of rape and other abuse made against"the system" into question. In short, she was defending the military and its treatment of women. Because her position was both informed and counter to everything else I was hearing in the media, I wanted to interview her for my column and -- given that FOX is well regarded by the military -- this prospect seemed bright. Two months later, I had jumped through hoops, talked to PR officers, been bumped up the ranks of people to" clear" me, etc., etc. Everything still seemed bright and in place for an eventual interview...except for me. How much bureaucracy and time delay did I have to go through to write one 850-word column which, arguably, cast the military in a good light? How much truth was likely to emerge from that kind of process? I just f*cking gave up. And, yes, my use of obscenity is appropriate.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 10:45 a.m. EST. Check McBlog for more commentary.


On Wednesday, October 29th, representatives of the Alabama Scholars Association visited John Trobaugh, whose art was recently censored by Shelton State Community College president Rick Rogers. Trobaugh is adjunct professor of art. His highly acclaimed work can be seen here.

Drawings and photographs by Trobaugh depict scenes that could be construed as homosexual in orientation or theme.

The exhibit had been approved by the chair of the Art Department for display in the entrance to the Bean Brown Theater at Shelton State. The day after the exhibit went on display, President Rogers personally contacted the department chair and told him that the art would have to be removed. He had received" complaints," he said. A day later, and under orders from the president, the art was taken down.

The ASA is deeply concerned by the decision of President Rogers to censor an already-approved display of drawings and photos simply because it might be controversial. It is the legal and ethical obligation of Shelton State, like any university, to protect freedom of speech and academic freedom. President Rogers' action violates that obligation.

The ASA calls on Rick Rogers to issue a formal apology to Professor Trobaugh and to restore his artwork to display exactly where it was when Rogers intervened.

We cannot help noting that Rogers justified his censorship by saying that theater-going families might be offended by Trobaugh's works. The play currently in production is"Arsenic and Old Lace," a play about serial homicide and poisoning.

For newspaper coverage of the case, see here

Posted by Charles W. Nuckolls at 6:21 p.m. EST


Our own Ivan Eland has a new piece on the attack which almost killed Wolfowitz. Meanwhile, Bill Kauffman, via Jesse Walker , has a provocative article on why pro-family conservatives should oppose the Iraq war.

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


This New York Daily News article brings attention to a story that is getting a lot of play here in the NYC metropolitan area. Some high school football players from Bellmore, Long Island allegedly sodomized younger players with various objects at a preseason camp in Pennsylvania. This inspired a group of eight protestors from Kansas---including Margie Phelps---to descend on Bellmore to blame the crime on a general atmosphere of Godless immorality and rampant homosexuality. Young Kansan kids held up signs that boasted:"God Blew Up the Shuttle,""God Hates America,""God Hates Fag Enablers," and my personal favorite:"Thank God for Sept. 11th." As a libertarian, I'd defend anybody's right to speak their mind---especially if they do it on their own property. But the battle for a free society is as much about culture as it is about politics and economics; it is a battle, in my view, that can only be won when the intolerant fundamentalists of all stripes are relegated to the dustbin of history.

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 11:00 p.m. EST


Clint Bolick makes a strong case for Judge Janice Brown. It won’t be easy, however. The long knives are already out.

Posted by David T. Beito at 12:41 p.m. EST


Interesting email from a friend, who writes:"I've had news.google.com as my browser home page since it was first published. It was a fantastic thing for a busy professional to see headline events lumped and summed in a rational, and one supposed, value-neutral fashion. Over time, though, I have been seeing and hearing evidence that calls that assumption of objectivity into question. Over the past several months, I have noticed a pattern when comparing the articles making front page headlines (arranged by subject) with advanced Google News searches on key word or words describing that subject. One would expect that in the case of an objective distillation, the appearance of a main page headline group would reflect the number of recent stories on the subject, and that the headline selected to represent the group would reflect the majority"slant" of that group of stories. Google's methods for determining the presentation of this information is of course secret. My unscientific conclusion is that someone is manually manipulating selected items to satisfy some concealed agenda of their own, or of some person or group they hope to please. For example, at the beginning of the Iraq"postwar" period, a subject group would commonly appear under a headline that was counter to the Bushie neo-con take on the issues. On the next refresh of the main page, that headlined story would get buried in favor of one that was administration-friendly, and that set up would last for a day or two (the typical persistence of a subject group). On examination of the articles composing the group, however, it appeared that a large majority conformed with the viewpoint expressed in the original headline. I tracked this apparent phenomenon several times on both the Iraq war and the domestic totalitarian initiative popularly known as the Patriot Act. Each time the results were similar. Now I see indications that the very presence of subject groups on the main page are perhaps being screened. Between the weekend and Monday, I noticed that suddenly subject groups about Iraqi resistance to occupation were absent. That struck me as odd, since these had been a fairly constant feature for a month or more. This morning, wondering if the source media themselves had been cast under some kind of pall by Ashcroft & company, I went to the advanced page and did a search for articles published in the last 24 hours containing"iraq". There were 2870 hits. Could I be mistaken about Google? Sure. It is in my nature to be suspicious of those wielding power, whether they be agents of the State, or owners of popular services in an ubiquitous medium. But I am confident enough in my analysis to move my own web searches to another site."

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 6:15 a.m. EST. Check McBlog for more commentary.


Many thanks to fellow HNN blogger Ralph Luker for his blog on the University of Alabama’s ongoing effort to close off the Alabama Scholars Association's access to campus mail via an arbitrary and selective"recognition policy" for faculty organizations. Ralph compares UA's stance to that pursued by Duke University against the youth branch of the NAACP in 1961.

On this matter, my colleague, Charles W. Nuckolls has finally completed the thankless task of organizing and posting the entire correspondence between ASA officials and various low-level UA functionaries. Charles also quotes from the Provost’s new proposed, loophole ridden and vague, “recognition” policy for campus organizations.

Posted by David T. Beito at 6:10 p.m. EST


Perhaps it is my cynicism speaking -- it *does* tend toward loquaciousness -- but I see stage-setting behind Sen. Joseph Lieberman's threat to take the Bush Administration"to court"...so to speak. The threat springs from the belief by members of both parties that the White House is"stonewalling the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by blocking its demands for documents despite threats of a subpoena." I do not doubt that Lieberman is extremely frustrated and sincerely outraged by attempts to block the investigation which he was instrumental in organizing. I also do not doubt that a major Bush scandal that happens to break open shortly before the Presidential election would make wonderful stage decoration for the Democratic Party platform. Lieberman declares,"If they continue to refuse [to turn over documents], I will urge the independent commission to take the administration to court," said Lieberman, who is running for president."And if the administration tries to run out the clock, John McCain and I will go to the floor of the Senate to extend the life of the commission." Let's see...that would continue the commission's investigation well into the active campaigning period. It is always nice when one's principled stands co-incide with one's vested political interests.

Posted by Wendy McElroy at 9:30 a.m. EST. Check McBlog for more commentary.


My friend David E. Bernstein offers a spirited defense of Judge Janice Brown who was recently blasted by a New York Times editorial. While I don’t know much about Judge Brown, if she is truly the defender of Lochnerian jurisprudence that her critics allege, she would be a God-send to the federal bench. As Bernstein has pointed out in his book, Only One Place of Redress , Lochnerian jurisprudence provided much needed protection for the economic liberties of blacks and other oppressed groups.

HNN blogger Thomas Spencer, taking an all-too predictable partisan line, contends, on the other hand, that she is a reactionary nut.

Posted by David T. Beito at 8:55 a.m. EST


Check it out.

Posted by David T. Beito at 5:40 p.m. EST


I wanted to mention an article from last week's New York Times"Week in Review," John Tierney's essay,"Another Challenge in Iraq: Giving Up Food Rations," archived here. Tierney points out that in America, those on welfare"were defined as the underclass. In Iraq, they're the entire nation"---or, by some estimates,"60 percent of the population."

Saddam Hussein kept the" culture of dependency" alive for political purposes, since he was seen by the populace as the source of largesse. After sanctions were imposed on Iraq, he used"300 government warehouses and more than 60,000 workers to deliver a billion pounds of groceries every month---a basket of rations guaranteed to every citizen, rich or poor." The occupation seeks to replace"rations with cash payments or some version of food stamps," aiming to move Iraqis to the practice of"shopping for themselves." Barham Salih, prime minister among the Kurds in northern Iraq, states:"This culture has become one of the biggest obstacles to rebuilding Iraq."

One hopeful sign, perhaps, is that many who receive the rations engage in resale of the items they don't want, contributing to the proliferation of gray markets. But free markets are being resisted by those in power, and some argue that the transition to direct cash payments will have to be accompanied by price controls and central planning. It makes the introduction of market prices and personal decision-making that much more difficult.

Building a"nation" based on liberal democracy---on free markets, civil liberties, and procedural fairness---is not something that can be achieved by mere writ. It requires a fundamental cultural change. All of this brings to mind an important passage from volume 3 of Hayek's Law, Legislation and Libery. Most important in this passage is Hayek's emphasis on the tacit dimension, which is 'embedded', if you will, in traditions, beliefs, and cultural practices, a dimension that forever threatens the articulated designs of central planners of any sort---be they current socialists or former ones (e.g.,"neoconservatives"). Hayek writes:

"[V]ery few countries in the world are in the fortunate position of possessing a strong constitutional tradition. Indeed, outside the English-speaking world probably only the smaller countries of Northern Europe and Switzerland have such traditions. Most of the other countries have never preserved a constitution long enough to make it become a deeply entrenched tradition; and in many of them there is also lacking the background of traditions and beliefs which in the more fortunate countries have made constitutions work which did not explicitly state all that they presupposed, or which did not even exist in written form. This is even more true of those new countries which, without a tradition even remotely similar to the ideal of the Rule of Law which the nations of Europe have long held, have adopted from the latter the institutions of democracy without the foundations of beliefs and convictions presupposed by those institutions.

"If such attempts to transplant democracy are not to fail, much of that background of unwritten traditions and beliefs, which in the successful democracies had for a long time restrained the abuse of majority power, will have to be spelled out in such instruments of government for the new democracies. That most of such attempts have so far failed does not prove that the basic conceptions of democracy are inapplicable, but only that the particular institutions which for a time worked tolerably well in the West presuppose the tacit acceptance of certain other principles which were in some measure observed there but which, where they are not yet recognized, must be made as much a part of the written constitution as the rest. We have no right to assume that the particular forms of democracy which have worked with us must also work elsewhere. Experience seems to show that they do not. There is, therefore, every reason to ask how those conceptions which our kind of representative institutions tacitly presupposed can be explicitly put into such constitutions."

Posted by Chris Matthew Sciabarra at 12:40 p.m. EST