Saturday, June 07, 2003

It's obvious what the U.S. should do with Iraq's oil, isn't it? Pump lots of it, to destroy the OPEC cartel and bring oil prices down to market levels, with the side benefit of destabilizing Iran (it would destabilize Arabia do, which would be less likely to work out well than destabilizing Iran; on the other hand, without gobs of oil money, S.A. becomes just another Third World basket case, no threat to the U.S.)

The Times has a piece today on the coming USSC confirmation war. Here's hoping that Bush confounds the opposition by appointing a libertarian-oriented conservative like Alex Kozinski, Morris Arnold, or Jerry Smith, who won't fit the stereotype of a social issues right-winger. It's long been forgotten, but a key to Clarence Thomas's confirmation was that the ACLU stayed neutral. The ACLUers (correctly) believed that Thomas would be more libertarian on at least some civil liberties issues that a Scalia or Rehnquist type.

If Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction, why did he bother to obstruct the UN inspectors? Why not just give them free and unmitigated access to everything? The fact that this question does not seem to even occur to those so willing to believe that the whole WMD issue was just made up is troubling. I don't put it past the government to lie, and lie egregiously, but Saddam's obstinancy certainly suggests he had something to hide.

Friday, June 06, 2003

This is lame: "The Justice Department has barred a group of employees from holding their annual gay pride event at the department's headquarters, the first time such an event has been blocked by any federal agency, gay rights leaders said today."

Justice justifies its action with some mumbo-jumbo about presidential declarations, but far more likely it's another example of Ashcroft attempting to turn Justice into a bastion of "traditional values". Ashcroft can refuse to attend the event. He can refuse to endorse it. He can even denounce it. But what appropriate purpose is served by preventing it from taking place, other than to kowtow to a fundamentalist constituency? If I were in charge of the Human Rights Campaign, I'd file a FOIA request demanding all documents relating to this decision, and, if I could show that the presidential declarations business was a mere pretext for a content-based refusal to allow the gay pride event, slap Ashcroft with a First Amendment expressive association lawsuit.

Charles Krauthammer disputes the notion that anything resembling progress was made at the two summits in the Middle East this past week. We will soon get a chance to find out, because Arafat belittled the Aqaba summit, and Hamas has now rejected any talk of a ceasefire. Will other Arab states and Europe isolate Arafat and cut off his funding? Will Abbas go after Hamas? I wouldn't hold my breath.

Jim Miller complains that the Pew study of international public opinion regarding the U.S. has been widely misrepresented, focusing on a decline in support for the U.S. since 2000, instead of on the favorable trend in such support since the end of the Iraq War. (Via Instapundit). Perhaps, but if that is misrepresentation, then Pew itself is guilty of misrepresentation. Check out the first paragraph of its press release, and note the emphasis on the negative aspects of the report:

"The speed of the war in Iraq and the prevailing belief that the Iraqi people are better off as a result have modestly improved the image of America. But in most countries, opinions of the U.S. are markedly lower than they were a year ago. The war has widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world, softened support for the war on terrorism, and significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era -- the U.N. and the North Atlantic alliance."

This sort of thing happens all the time; a study with ambiguous implications comes out, and the tone of coverage is dictated by the accompanying press release.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

One wonders why the Palestinians blame Israel, rather than Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aska Brigade, for the checkpoints, roadblocks, etc. After all, before suicide bombs, tens of thousands of Palestinians worked in Israel. There were no checkpoints. No roadblocks. It's a joke when campus activists put up mock "checkpoints" and compare Israel to South Africa. Again, there were no checkpoints before there were suicide bombs. This can't be emphasized often enough, though judging by their performance on the talk shows, Israeli spokespeople haven't figured this out.

Along the same lines, just once when Hanan Ashrawi states on a debate show that the suicide bombings are caused by the "occupation," I would like to see the Israeli side point out that Barak offered to end the "occupation," and give the Palestinians first 90, then 97% of the relevant lands, plus land in the Negev to make up for the other 3%, and was met with consistent violence.

Finally, I'd like to see Israeli authorities point out that Israel didn't have much of an opportunity to help create a Palestianian state for the first two decades after the Six Day War because the only Palestinian organization worth talking to, the PLO, was officially and unofficially committed to Israel's destruction. Not exactly an organization you'd welcome as rulers of neighboring territy.

These are three points that should be repeated over and over, but simply are not. It makes one wonder if Israeli officials are required to do any media training.

A couple hundred thousand Jews have moved to Germany from the former Soviet Union since free emigration commenced late in the Gorbacheve era. Another million have moved to Israel. Several hundred thousand more have come to the United States. I remember when I was a senior at Brandeis, one of the students active in the peace movement (last name Solomon, I think) took a propaganda tour to the Soviet Union. He was thoroughly taken in. He came back and wrote an article for the school paper stating that the Jews of the Soviet Union want to stay there, so long as there was no longer official anti-Semitism. Two years later, 400,000 fled to Israel within a few months when the doors were opened.


Eugene over at the Volokh Conspiracy is bragging that new Conspirator Randy Barnett adds some Gentile diversity to the largely Jewish Conspiracy (hmm, bet I'll get some hits from nutty people doing Google searches for that one!) Except that Randy is actually Jewish. In fact, he's on this (scroll down) Internet list of prominent libertarian Jews (the list is missing Julian Simon, Thomas Szasz, and Ludwig Von Mises, of those I can think of offhand). I can't blame Eugene, Barnett is not a very Jewish-sounding name. On the other hand, Cato's David Boaz, who has a very Jewish-sounding name (a member of the Israeli cabinet, in fact, was named David Boaz a while back), is most definitely not Jewish. Anyway, if you thought all Jews were socialists or at least sympathetic to socialism, the list of libertarian Jews, including Von Mises, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, Frank Chodorov, Robert Nozick, Richard Epstein, and Murray Rothbard, shows that the anti-Socialist side would be much, much weaker without its Jewish component.

Of couse, none of this makes any difference to anti-Semites. Jews have been hated for being capitalists and for being socialists; for being atheists and for being religious; for being Jewish nationalists, native country nationalists, and internationalists; for being conservative and radical; and for all sorts of other contradictory things. Anti-Semitism, of course, is not a product of reason.

Israel is becoming overlawyered. The US has about 1 million attorney for 290 or so million people, or one lawyer per 290 population. Israel, with a far less litigious legal system, has 30,000 attorneys for 6 million people, or one lawyer per 200, half of them admitted to the bar in the last five years. This doesn't bode well, as more lawyers inevitably leads to pressure for more law and more lawsuits.

Roger Baldwin, founder and longtime leader of the American Civil Liberties Union, was for many years at best an apologist for Soviet crimes, and at worst an open sympathizer with Stalinism. Upon returning from a trip to the Stalinist Soviet Union in 1928, Baldwin criticized the "bourgeois mind" concerned with "individual liberties" instead of the economic freedom purportedly enjoyed by Soviet peasants, "a freedom vastly more real to the average worker than shadowy intellectual liberties." Roger N. Baldwin, Liberty Under the Soviets 24 (1928). In 1934, when millions of Soviet citizens were dying in government-engineered famines, Baldwin defended the Soviet dictatorship on the grounds that "the Soviet Union has already created liberties far greater than exist elsewhere in the world." Quoted in Cletus E. Daniel, The ACLU and the Wagner Act 82 (Cornell ILR Press 1980).

Soviet communism lost its luster among many American leftists, including Baldwin, when Stalin formed a pact with Hitler in 1939. The following year, the ACLU board of directors voted to expunge all communist influence from the organization, and for several decades thereafter, the ACLU was largely devoted to expanding the protection of freedom of speech from government. Nevertheless, Baldwin's reputation deserves to be tarnished by his flirtation with Stalinism, making him complicit with some of the great crimes of the century. Ironically, however, recent Baldwin and ACLU biographers have focused their criticism not on Baldwin's romance with communism, but on the ACLU's later determination to exclude communists from the organization. Would someone please explain to me why anyone would expect a civil liberties organization to allow members of a totalitarian movement to gain influence within it?

The Cato Institute, which is publishing my forthcoming book, You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws, just sent me a list of those who have agreed to write a blurb for the book. I don't know if publishing etiquette permits me to name them now and without the content of their blurbs, so I'll refrain. But it's a very high-profile, impressive and well-published group, from within and without academia. I'm tickled.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I think it's outrageous that state and federal governments are cracking down on companies that help facilitate Americans' abilities to buy drugs from Canada. Drug prices are regulated by the government in Canada, and are cheaper there. But why should Americans pay more for drugs than Canadians, and in effect subsidize Canadian consumers? If the pharmaceutical industry thinks that Canada offers inadequate pricing drug companies should refuse to sell their drugs there. That would certainly stop Americans from importing drugs from Canada. What obviously needs to happen is that American drug prices need to come down a little, and Canadian (and Mexican, Australian, etc.) drug prices need to go up a lot. Americans aren't going to tolerate having their health care costs subsidize foreigners protected by their governments, and it's hard to think of why they should. If Americans are paying full price plus and in doing so are subsidizing world drug consumers, then Americans are patsies. If the pharmaceutical industry doesn't find a market-oriented way of resolving this, it is going to wind up with regulated prices in the U.S., and we will all be worse off as pharmaceutical research grounds to a halt. Perhaps a world treaty on drug prices, with the wealthy nations directly subsidizing the poor nations, is needed. Meanwhile, I know that if I needed an expensive drug not covered by insurance, I'd get it from Canada (I have already imported drugs from Australia and England that weren't yet approved here). I'd feel a little bad about getting the drugs at a below-market price, but, again, why should I be the sucker who pays full price when everyone else around the world is getting lower prices at my expense?

Brandeis and Republicans update: Blogger Laura Gleason recently wrote here (scroll down to June 1) about the more recent travails of non-liberal students at Brandeis. An open-minded liberal, she wanted more conservatives on campus.
Update: This story suggests that Brandeis hadn't changed much fifteen years after I attended. The worst part about being an active non-liberal at Brandeis was not the crap you took from fellow students, but that the administration either stayed neutral when it should have helped you (under its own rules), or, worse yet, piled on. Just one example: An administrator threatened me with suspension for passing out literature inside an auditorium where a speech was soon to take place. When I got back to my dorm room, I read the relevant handbook and discovered that under university rules, I had the right to hand out literature anywhere and any time so long as I was not disrupting an ongoing event, which I surely had not been.

Judeophobia in Britain:

Judeophobia in contemporary Britain is also not an
organized conspiracy. It does constitute,
however, an opportunistic coalition of interest
for the new left, the far right and radical
Islamists. It includes human rights campaigners
and activists, who, while perhaps more
well-meaning than others, in their singular
obsession contribute to Israel's demonization,
and by extension, to all Jews. Israel is now the
new cause celebre for the liberal left
intelligentsia, educated in the days of student
action, anti-Vietnam war protest, the
anti-apartheid movement, and the polarized
politics of the Cold War. Many of this 1968
generation now occupy senior positions in the
universities, media and established churches. For
them, Israel represents an outpost of what they
most abhor about liberal western democracy.

In retrospect, this new metamorphosis of
Judeophobia was predictable as soon as Jews
asserted themselves as equals in Western
societies or alternatively on the international
stage as a nation state. As the perceived - and
in most cases, loyal - supporters of the State of
Israel, Diaspora Jewish communities inevitably
have become the target of anger and hostility,
catalyzed by world events. Few would have
predicted, however, that in this toxic mix, it is
the progressives who appear so keen to put the
Jews back where they belong - in the ghetto.

The advantage of hindsight is that it makes even
the surprising look predictable. Thus it becomes
clear that the current animus is rooted in
Soviet-style anti-Zionist doctrine that provided
the ideological foundation for the British left.
It has a clear Marxist provenance which rejects
the notion of Jews a nation and sees them only as
a class. Their nationalism is therefore
illegitimate. In Stalin's "classless" Soviet
Union, any form of alternative religious
authenticity was likewise taboo. Its ultimate
goal is not biological, but cultural and

Read the whole thing.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Laci Peterson killed by Satanists!!! (Or maybe defense lawyers just have a bit of a problem with avoiding making claims that know are false)

A couple of my colleagues object to my criticism of federal district judge and Fifth Circuit judicial nominee Pickering for soliciting endorsement letters from attorneys who will likely appear before him in the future. I noted that these attorneys will obviously feel pressured to provide the letters, raising issues of both coercion and at least the appearance of unfairness to attorneys who find themselves litigating before Judge Pickering in the future but who refused to provide the letters. The response I've received is that Judge Pickering's behavior is permitted by the rules of professional responsibility for judges, and that should be the standard. I rejoined:

There are all sorts of actions I could take with regard to students that the university handbook does not ban, but that I don't engage in because I think they would be unethical. It's an outrage that state judges who run for elections are permitted to take money from future litigants, and then are not required to recuse themselves when those litigants appear before them. But I can't blame an individual judge for doing so, because even if he doesn't, his opponent will. On the other hand, Judge Pickering, it seems to me, is not merely fighting fire with fire. I am not aware that there is anyone on the other side of the aisle who is behaving in an analogous fashion, i.e., putting attorneys in the position of publicly opposing Judge Pickering or potentially incurring the wrath of other Fifth Circuit judges. Pickering's choice to solicit the letters is an escalation and an unwelcome one, moving the federal appointments process closer to the abysmal ethical standards of state judicial elections.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

On the subject of intolerance of Republicans, my father e-mailed me a reminder of an incident that happened to him and my mother a couple of years ago. One of the members of the small Jewish congregation in the small Summer community where my parents were vacationing managed to persuade a bigshot in Jewish Republican circles to present a lecture to the congregation during the Friday night service. As my parents were sitting down to the Oneg (reception) after the service, a young couple sat down next to them. My parents, making small talk, remarked that the lecture was very interesting. The couple replied, "We don't see how any Jew could in good conscience be a Republican, or why such a person should be invited to speak here." My father responded, "we happen to be proud Jewish Republicans." At which point the other couple, without even excusing themselves, grabbed their plates, rose, and walked over to another table and sat down there.

While on a short vacation, I read David Frum's How We Got Here: The 70's: The Decade That Brought You Modern Life--For Better or Worse. I highly recommend it, especially for those, like me, who grew up in the depressing 70s (energy crisis! Watergate! Fall of Vietnam! hostage crisis! gas lines! malaise! Jimmy Carter!) and were too young to understand what was going on, much less put it in perspective. The basic them of the book is that the big turning point in American cultural life--the sexual revolution, women's rights, the rise of Christian fundamentalism, distrust in government, lawsuit-happiness, public susceptibility to conspiracy theories and bogus public health scares, and more--were mainly products of the '70s. To a large extent, he makes a persuasive case. Moreover, the book is well-written, filled with interesting and appropriate quotes and anecdotes from the decade, and shows a great deal of knowledge of everything from pop culture to free market economics. The book is about 50 pages too long, and the hardback edition I read needed much better proofreading, but hopefully many of the errors and omissions were corrected in the paperback. Also, Frum has a somewhat inexplicable fondness for the Progressives. But those are minor quibbles regarding a book well worth reading.

Instapundit, Eugene Volokh, and other bloggers have commented on this article discussing prejudice against Republicans. Among other anecdotes, the (Jewish) author recounts his experiences on a first date with a Jewish woman in New York. After the author revealed that he was one of the "Asshole Republicans" that his date scorned, the following conversation ensued:

Then she smiled, as she finally grasped the situation. "Oh, you're kidding, right?"
"No, I really am a Republican."
"What? Nobody told me."
I tried to blunt the blow. "I'm actually not terribly interested in politics." This is, in fact, true.
No matter.
"Well, look," she said as she pulled her purse out from under her seat. "I'm sorry but I can't deal with this. Please don't think me rude, but I really think it would be best if I just left."

This sort of thing happens to Republican, conservative, libertarian, and even moderate Jewish men all the time (Jewish men, for some reason, being far more likely to be non-liberal than Jewish women). And it reminds me of the story from my sophomore year of college at Brandeis University. In those days, I was much (much!) more active and interested in partisan politics, and was much more of a mainstream Republican. I was walking with my girlfriend (now a doctor in New Jersey) in the Usdan student center, when a campus radical Dan Weintraub spotted us holding hands. Completely ignoring my existence, and apparently incredulous that any woman would date a known Republican, Dan approached my girlfriend and asked her, "Are you David Bernstein's girlfriend?" A bit taken aback, she acknowledged that she was. Dan then asked in a conspiratorial tone: "Do you realize that he's a Republican?" My girlfriend, who was basically apolitical replied, "Yeah, so?" I stood by, both amazed at Dan's chutzpah, and appreciative that he was giving my girlfriend some indication of what I had to routinely put up with at Brandeis, where it was simply assumed that all decent, thoughtful people were to the left of Michael Dukakis.

In a sense, this and other Brandeis experiences are great advertisements for intellectual diversity at universities. As a mostly Jewishly-populated, liberal arts school in Massachusetts in the the pre-William Weld days it was literally true that many of my classmates had never met a Republican before, at least not one who would admit it. And their imaginations about what Republicans must be like ran wild. My class at Brandeis had the most active Republican group in the school's history; amazingly, until 1980, there had never been three students (all you needed) at Brandeis at one time interested enough to start a Republican club, and the 1980 club died out until the campaign of 1984. There was also a sprinkling of libertarians (who often joined the Republican club out of despair) and Objectivists. I'm sure being forced to confront non-left-wing ideas benefited those students who chose not to ignore them (some of th em even told me so). I know that I learned a lot by having my ideas challenged from the left.